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Alina Shelley-Wayne Meets the Batfamily

Chapter Text

Alina hummed as she kicked her legs back and forth, sitting patiently in a wooden chair. It was a nice chair. It was weird to think, 'cause all chairs were nice, but this chair just seemed more… fancier. Maybe that's 'cause she was currently in a big, fancy mansion, so everything just seemed bigger and fancier.

A big, fancy mansion that was her new big, fancy home. With her new big, fancy family.

"Here you are, young Miss Alina," the kind old man named Alfred said as he placed down a plate of cooked vegetables and cut-up steak. Don't tell other kids this, but she actually really liked vegetables. Carrots were her favorite.

"Thank you, Mister Alfred." Alina smiled up at him, placing her prized Batman doll down in her lap and grabbing the fork beside the plate.

"Just Alfred is quite alright, young miss." Alfred smiled back at her.

"But you're so polite and nice and formal. I have to be polite and nice and formal too," Alina explained as she put some carrots and peas in her mouth.

"I assure you, you are polite and nice and formal enough, young miss. Perhaps the most well-behaved kid I've had in this house," Alfred answered. Alina smiled bigger at him as she swallowed the food in her mouth.

"The carrots are really tasty," she complimented. "I wanna learn how to make stuff like this one day. I can only make Mac and Cheese, and sometimes brownies if my mom is helping."

"Well, I can teach you how to cook a variety of meals one day, if you'd like me too."

Alina nodded eagerly. "Mhm! I wanna learn how to make those fancy layered cakes!" She shoved a piece of steak into her mouth and started chewing, kicking her legs again in excitement.

Alfred let out a short, warm chuckle. "Those certainly aren't my expertise, but no harm in learning and trying."

There was a welcomed lull in conversation as Alina continued to eat her dinner. Her thoughts kept bouncing from one thing to another. New family, her mother, how delicious this food was, what happened with the Joker, her new house, learning to make new food…

"So, young Miss Alina, are you prepared to meet your siblings tomorrow? They can be quite a lot," Alfred spoke.

Alina hesitated for a moment, tilting her head as she thought.

Then her face broke out into a big grin. "Yes."

Chapter Text

"Legit you couldn't do that, it wasn't allowed."

 

"Where did it say on the box that I wasn't allowed to steal your money because you were dicking around on your phone and not paying attention?"

 

"I was reading a message from Conner about a mission!"

 

"Texting your boyfriend is not an excuse."

 

"Not an excuse to what?! Not get stolen from?"

 

"Tt. You are arguing about a board game you played three days ago. Grow up."

 

"Says you , demon spawn! I recall someone throwing a tantrum just because they didn't win Uno!"

 

The voices of four arguing guys were what greeted Alina as she walked to the dining room that morning. Her new bedroom- which was nice but still kinda weird and big- was close to the dining room, just so she wouldn't get lost, which seemed very easy in a big house like this.

 

She timidly approached the door way, peaking around the corner. Three people were sat at the table with three different breakfasts before them. One was a kid, or young teen, kinda short, with sharp green eyes and little faded scars that made his scowl and glare at the boy across from him much more scarier, in Alina's opinion. Said boy didn't seem affected though. He was pale, very pale, like vampire freakishly pale, and kinda lanky and skinny with long limbs but somehow still the second shortest in the room. He had dark bags under his blue eyes, and ruffled, messy hair. He was doing a mix between a glare and a deadpan stare at the scary kid.

 

The guy sat between them was a stark contrast to the pale guy. He had dark skin, and pretty obvious muscles, but he was still kinda lean. He didn't have the muscles and wide shoulders and bulk like her father, Bruce, did. He had a small smile on his lips as he glanced between the two arguing kids, amused but still a bit wary. Was kids the right word? Alina wasn't sure. The pale guy seemed to be a young adult, maybe, and the other one was scary for a kid. But they were bickering like kids.

 

There was a fourth guy, standing beside the table, with his arms crossed and lips pouting as he tried to get the two to stop arguing. He was definitely an adult, despite the pouting lip, because he had that disapproving parent look on his face too. He had a nice face, with bright blue eyes that seemed very warm and friendly. He was tall, but not super tall, and muscle-y too, with tanned skin.

 

Alina thought she was being very quiet as she lightly stepped into the dining room, but the blue eyed man immediately whipped around to face her with a big toothy white smile, previous engagement forgotten. The others paused in their argument as the man's focus left them.

 

"Alina!" He yelled happily. He took a few bouncy steps towards her. "Hi! I'm Dick, your eldest brother. I'm so, so, so sorry I wasn't here to greet you when you first came here. And that I couldn't help with the whole, ya know, Joker thing. Not very big brother-y of me, I'm sorry. But I'm happy to be here now. Can I hug you?"

 

Alina blinked at the word vomit, slowly registering his fast words and open arms. She could see the pale guy snicker while the smiling guy just gave her a sympathetic smile and a slow shake of the head. The teen just scowled and glared silently.

 

"Uhm, sure." Alina was engulfed in a tight hug the next second, feet lifted off the ground. Alina's mother always gave her those side hugs, and sometimes a big hug similar to this hug when she was really upset, and she had an old school friend that moved away that loved giving her sneak attack hugs, but nothing could have prepared her for a Dick Grayson hug.

 

It was very… huggy. And squeezy. And warm. And strong, 'cause Dick had muscle-y arms. It was nice, because Alina liked being hugged, but also kind of a lot, 'cause she had only just met this man who was now her older- oldest- brother.

 

But he seemed very friendly, so overall, Alina thought she liked him. He looked like a good big brother. He looked like a good dad , too. Was he a dad? Did he have any kids? If he did, would Alina be an aunt then? Woah. It would be weird to be an aunt when she was only just turned nine.

 

Dick (Didn't her mom tell her that was a bad word? Someone's name could be a bad word?) finally let go of her, and her bare feet touched the cold ground again. Dick kept a hand in her shoulder as he smiled down at her.

 

"Sorry for all the…" He waved a hand in the air. "Suddenness of this. I know it's weird. We're a weird family full of weird circumstances and weird people. But we all love each other, and we hope you'll come to love us too."

 

The pale guy gave a snort, mumbling some comment about "so dramatic" to the- his brother?- beside him, who gave a short, silent laugh.

 

"It's okay," Alina answered Dick. Her mother said she had a very big, trusting heart, so she was pretty sure she'd grow to love her new family too. She knew she loved Bruce, and Alfred, and she would probably love Dick too, but it was a lot. She hoped she'd get there, though. She wanted to love them.

 

"Let's meet your brothers!" Dick chirped, turning around to walk back to the table. Alina trailed after him with wide, cautious, but curious, eyes. "This is Tim-"

 

The pale guy waved, blinking tiredly as he put a mug to his lips and drank the brown liquid- coffee? Her mother liked coffee.

 

"If you ever need something in the middle of the night, just find him, 'cause I guarantee he'll be awake when he's not supposed to." Dick gave Tim a small glare, that disappointed dad look back on his face. Tim returned it with a smile and a half-shrug. Dick gestured to the smiling guy next.

 

"And this is Duke! He's the nicest of us, most of the time."

 

Duke smiled with teeth this time, giving a quick wave. "Why thank you. And hi, Alina. Nice to meet you."

 

"Nice to meet you too," Alina said back with a wave of her own.

 

"And this is Damiaaaaaa- aaaand he's gone. Great. Okay, when did he vanish?" Dick had moved with great flourish and dramatics to gesture at where the scowling kid previously was, the only thing left of his presence an empty plate and chair.

 

"When you hugged her," Tim helpfully supplied.

 

"And you didn't stop him?" Dick frowned.

 

"No. Why would I?" Tim raised an eyebrow.

 

Dick opened his mouth, then closed it, then turned to Duke. "And you didn't stop him?"

 

Duke shrugged apologetically, smiling sheepishly. "He was glaring too much. I didn't want to stop him when he's in a mood."

 

"He's always in a mood," Tim said.

 

"No he's not," Dick rebutted.

 

"Name one time."

 

"When he's sleeping-"

 

"He sleep-fought me one time, Dick. He gave me a bloody nose."

 

"Well, he still wouldn't have been nice anyway," Duke interrupted. "If he was here, in a mood or not. He'll be around later."

 

Dick let out a huff, before turning to Alina with an easy smile. "Well, the other kid was Damian. He's the youngest- well, youngest before you came along, of course."

 

"Which he should be happy about," Tim muttered under his breath.

 

"But I don't think he is," Duke quietly finished. Maybe they thought they were speaking too quiet for Alina to hear, or something. But she could hear them.

 

Did her youngest older brother already hate her? Or was it a 'hates everyone' situation?

 

"Anyway," Dick said, loudly. "Why don't we get to know each other, Alina? Like, what's your favorite cereal?"

 

"Cereal isn't the only food, Dick."

 

"It is in my heart!"

 

Dick walked around to Duke and Tim's side of the table, pulling out a chair beside Duke for Alina, then sitting in the one next to that. Alina hesitantly followed and sat down as Dick and Tim continued to bicker, with Duke's occasional input.

 

"You have no right to judge me considering your eating habits, Timothy!"

 

Alina fidgeted in her seat, glancing at their empty or half-eaten plates, including Damian's.

 

Duke leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Don't worry, Alfie will bring you your breakfast in a moment. I saw he was making you pancakes."

 

Alina smiled at him. Yeah, perhaps she could grow to love her new family.

Chapter Text

Alina yawned as she rubbed her eyes, Robin-themed blanket trailing behind her. There was soft light coming from the living room (the family living room- apparently they had multiple living rooms, which Alina could not fathom), and she was to it like a moth to flame.

 

Dick, she decided, was a very good big brother. He was also, after much deliberation, a very overwhelming big brother. She guessed he was making up for not being there during the whole Joker fiasco, or something. He didn't leave her side the entire day, until when he had to go to work, which, oddly, was around the same time Damian had to go to work. Alina hadn't seen Damian since that morning, but Dick had told her he worked too. Alina thought he was only like twelve or thirteen, and she didn't think twelve or thirteen year olds worked normally, but maybe here that was different. Or maybe Damian was just different.

 

Aside from Dick, Alina only saw Bruce, Alfred, Tim and Duke all day long. Bruce had tucked her into bed, Alfred had fed her, and Tim and Duke had disappeared for the majority of the afternoon- something about "day patrol"?- but popped in once or twice.

 

Really, Alina was very, very tired from playing and talking with Dick all day. But she couldn't sleep.

 

She slowly pushed the door to the living room open- one of three doors anyway, peeking her head in.

 

And when she couldn't sleep, Dick said Tim would probably be awake too.

 

And he was.

 

He sat criss-cross applesauce on the couch, hunched over his laptop as he click-clacked away with apparent purpose. There were random paper files and a coffee cup on the side table, and he had the TV on some news channel, but the sound was off and subtitles on.

 

He seemed very focused…

 

But also very tired. Like her.

 

"What are you doing?" She asked, voice a bit raspy from talking all day. She wasn't normally very talkative, but Dick could sure force it out of you.

 

Tim jerked upwards, eyes glossed over in mild panic and confusion, before he glanced over at her and her voice registered. He gave her his best smile, which wasn't very good or convincing. Just tired.

 

"Working."

 

"It's late," Alina said. Her mother would never let her stay up this late. Tim might be an adult, but he was still young. "You should be sleeping."

 

"So should you," Tim replied. "Your bedtime was way sooner than mine."

 

"I can't sleep," she told him plainly. She shuffled around the couch, plopping down beside him. He tensed, fingers hovering over the keys of his laptop. She peered at his screen. Her vision was too blurry to make any words out, but she got the gist of it, which was that it was very wordy. No pictures. "What are you working on?"

 

"Uh, a report," he answered. "You should go to bed."

 

"No," she said. "What's the report about?"

 

"...Criminals?" He said hesitantly.

 

"Oh." Since she was too tired to care, she leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. He was still tense. "Cool."

 

"Uhm. Yeah." He rested his fingers back on the keys, tapping lightly, but not actually typing.

 

"..."

 

"You should really get back to bed," Tim told her with a frown.

 

"Are you?"

 

"What?"

 

"Are you gonna go back to bed?"

 

"Uh… no?"

 

"Then I'm not."

 

Tim frowned at her as her eyelids drooped, but remained open enough to stare at his laptop screen. He finally typed a few more words out, but slowly, not with the speed he had before.

 

"...You're cold," Alina told him after a moment. His typing stilled again.

 

"It's warm in your room," he informed her. "You should go to it."

 

"It's warm in your room, too. You should go to it too," she rebutted.

 

"I have work to do. I'll go to sleep later." He shifted slowly, trying not to disturb her.

 

"I'm not going to sleep until you do. And then in the morning when we're both all sleepy and tired, dad and Alfred are gonna be soo mad at us."

 

Tim nibbled at his lip, brows furrowed, before he sighed, tension dropping from his shoulders. "Fine. Okay. We'll both go to sleep, okay?"

 

Alina grinned victoriously. She hoped the effect wouldn't be ruined by her missing baby tooth. "Okay!"

 

She watched as Tim saved and exited out of everything he had opened- which was a lot . Actually, he didn't even exit out of everything he had opened. How many tabs did he need for his 'work'? He closed his laptop and placed it on top of the paper on the table, then grabbed the remote and shut the TV off. The room went dark without all the artificial light.

 

Tim sat up slowly, offering a hand to help her jump down from the couch. She took it gladly. As he turned to grab his stuff, he hesitated, as if wondering what to do with the little girl beside him now. Just leave and hope she got back to her room? Walk back with her?

 

Alina made the decision for him, raising her hands. "Carry me?"

 

He smiled down at her as he effortlessly picked her up, holding her close. Woah. He seemed pretty skinny, but he was super duper strong. Alina told him so.

 

He chuckled. "I work out."

 

"That's cool," Alina mumbled into the crevice of his neck and shoulder.

 

Alina had to direct him a bit to get to her bedroom, but they got there pretty quickly. Tim shifted her weight to one arm and opened the door with his other. Woah. He really must work out. Bruce and Dick seemed very strong too. Did her whole family work out? That was cool.

 

He placed her down on her bed. "There ya go."

 

"Tuck me in?" She asked as she grabbed her Batman plushie and placed it next to her.

 

Tim blinked in surprise, before a light seemed to enter his eyes, twinkling brightly. "Oh! Okay. Erm."

 

He grabbed her blanket and pulled it over her as she layed back down. There was a certain hesitance and awkwardness in his movements that told her he wasn't used to it, like, at all. Her mother did it so quickly all the time, and Bruce only hesitated for a second before the movements came natural to him.

 

"Why are you so happy?" Alina asked quietly. Tim, again, blinked, tilting his head.

 

"What?" He said back just as softly.

 

"You got really smiley and happy when I asked you to carry me and tuck me in," she whispered.

 

She could barely make out his cheeks pinkening as he glanced away. He murmured, barely audible under his breath, "I always wanted a little sibling."

 

It was her turn to blink and tilt her head. "What about Duke and Damian?"

 

Tim grimaced, and, if possible, glanced away harder. "That's… different."

 

"How?" Alina asked as she toyed with her Batman doll.

 

"Damian and I…" Tim sighed. "Got off on the wrong foot. In fact, you could say we chopped each other's feet right off, that's how bad it was. It's better now, but… he's still a brat." Tim took in a slow, sad breath of air before letting it out. "And Duke… He's not much younger than me. And he's still new, too. Like you."

 

Alina hummed as her eyelids started to become too heavy to keep open. "I promise I'll be a good little sister."

 

"You already are," Tim's smile was the last thing she saw as she drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

"Hey! New kid!"

 

Alina blinked at the blonde sitting at the table with her new family. Tim and Duke were sitting on either sides of her, and then Damian was in his spot two seats away from Duke, while Dick sat a few seats away from Tim, right next to Bruce who was reading a newspaper. Alfred was placing down their plates for breakfast. Alina assumed the plate placed at the empty spot next to Dick was hers. It looked like the egg breakfast stuff she didn't really like, but she didn't want to be rude and complain, so she just sat down. Her attention was on the blonde girl anyway, even as Tim smiled brightly at her and Dick squeezed her shoulder.

 

Well, that, and the way Damian started glaring at her the moment she sat down next to Dick.

 

"Hi?" Alina said nervously.

 

The girl's lop-sided smile became bigger, her blue eyes sparkling with what Alina assumed was mischief.

 

"Hello, newest kid to the flock. I am the one and only Stephanie Brown, friend to the crazy lunatics known commonly as the Waynes, basically one of Bruce's hundred children, and your new big sister, second only to Cass, who you'll meet soon!"

 

Alina blinked. She had as much energy as Dick. Alina didn't know yet if that was a good or bad thing. Maybe both.

 

"I do not have a hundred children," Bruce mumbled, which had Alina blinking again at her father as she picked at her egg omelette thingy with her fork.

 

"Yeah, more like a bajillion," Stephanie corrected herself with a smug smile.

 

Everyone around the table laughed and chuckled, except for Damian, who Alina watched as he shoved the last of his granola bar into his mouth before he silently pushed his chair away from the table and left, scowling the entire way. Alina glanced around to see if anyone else noticed. Duke caught her gaze and just shook his head with a tiny smile.

 

"Can't even blame your adoption problem on empty nest syndrome at this point, B," Dick joked, eliciting another, shorter round of laughs and a huff from Bruce, although his lips kept twitching.

 

"Do I actually have a bajillion siblings?" Alina asked quietly. "My mom only said you had six kids, dad."

 

Bruce's lips seemed to curl up harder when she called him dad, she noticed. He should let himself smile more easily, instead of fighting it, she thought.

 

Steph answered for him. "Yeah, you only legally have six sibs, but, like, there's a bunch of other close family friends that we just kinda consider Bruce's kids. You'll meet them all eventually, I'm sure. They come in and out of here like a- like a rotisserie chicken."

 

"Like a rotisserie chicken?" Tim snorted. "What?"

 

Steph punched him, hard, in the arm, but Tim only let out a small 'ow' and rubbed his arm, smiling.

 

"Shut up," Steph hissed, but not meanly. "I was thinking of those rotate-y doors but I could only think about food."

 

" Rotating doors?" Duke offered with a raised eyebrow. Steph turned a half-hearted but still dark glare on him.

 

"Don't you start too, mister." Duke raised his hands up in surrender.

 

Steph turned back to Alina, rolling her eyes. "Well, anyway. Some of these family friends are like siblings, some are more like cousins. And you've got a few aunts and uncles sprinkled in there too. It's a weird family."

 

"Oh." It had always just been her mom and her, and then her grandparents would visit once or twice, but they were always yelling, and sometimes they'd go to her aunt's house and she'd get to play with her cousins, but not that often. Now she had a dad, a grandpa, four brothers and another she hadn't met yet, and a sister she still hadn't met yet, a family friend slash sister, and a bajillion family friends she hadn't met yet.

 

That was… a lot. She knew her dad had a big family- and her mom often told her it wasn't even by blood, she would go on rants about it and all- and she had prepared herself for many rowdy and maybe even rude siblings like her cousins were but… this was not at all what she expected. She liked Dick and Steph, she really liked Tim, and Duke seemed cool, and Alfred and Bruce were awesome, she wished Damian would talk to her, and she had so many more people she had to get to know?

 

What if they hated her? What if they liked her too much but she didn't like them all that much and she felt bad about it?

 

She felt someone place a comforting hand on her own that she had resting on her knee. She startled a bit, glancing up at Dick who smiled down at her. She smiled back up at him timidly.

 

At least so far everyone was nice. Well, except for Damian. But he hadn't been outright rude, so she guessed he wasn't all that bad.

 

"Don't worry," Steph said after she swallowed a piece of her waffle. She smiled at Alina reassuringly. "I know we're go big or go home here, and we always go big, but one day it's not gonna seem so big to you. I mean, the Manor's huge but I know this manor better than my own house by now."

 

"You got lost in the west wing last month, and managed to lock yourself in a broom closet that didn't even lock." Tim raised a skeptical eyebrow at her as he shoved a piece of his own waffle into his mouth.

 

"Yeah, well, not my fault I was just super good at Hide and Seek."

 

"I thought I banned Hide and Seek in the Manor after what happened last year?" Bruce asked, but in that way that wasn't a question, but a statement.

 

"Oh, my bad. I meant, Disappear and Locate," Steph said smoothly.

 

"Stephanie," Bruce said, trying to be stern, but his tone was really too light to work, so Alina was pretty sure it wasn't that big of a problem.

 

"I won that game," Duke, once again, supplied helpfully.

 

"Only 'cause you cheated," Dick shot at him.

 

"I didn't cheat, the Batcave-"

 

"Kids," Bruce said sharply, and they immediately all shut up, which Alina didn't think was possible, as Dick and Steph seemed like too big of chatterboxes to ever shut up. All of their eyes flickered to Alina and they tensed up but tried to make themselves seem relaxed. Alina frowned. She wasn't sure why they all got really nervous all of a sudden, but she would place a bet that it had to do with " the Batcave."

 

'Do they know Batman?' s he wondered, briefly, before she shrugged off the thought.

 

"I mean, yeah, maybe I did cheat a little bit," Duke stumbled over himself, cheeks lightly dusted pink.

 

"Anyway," Steph said loudly, tapping her chin. "I had a point. What was my point?"

 

"Something about the Manor being super big?" Dick offered.

 

"Right!" She cleared her throat after she took another bite of waffle. "So, yeah, this manor, this family, super big. You'll get to know everyone in the family, but the Manor… well, you'll know what's important. Nobody can remember every place in the Manor."

 

"Alfred could," Tim chimed in.

 

Everyone else nodded, almost in sync, with a few hums of "Mhm"s and "Yeah"s.

 

"One day I'll know every nook and cranny," Alina stated confidently. That way she could be the best at "Disappear and Locate", and not get locked in unlockable broom closets.

 

Steph smirked, raising a challenging brow. "You sure, newbie?"

 

Alina felt the heat of the challenge wiggle underneath her skin. A little secret about her, she was quiet and patient and soft-spoken, but she had a competitive streak. At her (old?) school, she played soccer just to win.

 

She smirked in response, raising her head proudly. "I'm sure."

Chapter Text

Duke had snuck away from everyone else after breakfast when Dick, Tim and Steph started some argument and dragged Bruce into it.

 

Alina had snuck away after him. He was scrolling through something on his phone- Bruce had got her a phone, but she'd never had her own phone before, just a kids tablet, and she didn't know what to do with it.

 

To Alina, Duke seemed quiet. And peaceful. And not loud and drag-you-around like Dick. And she didn't want to risk getting dragged around by Steph today like Dick did yesterday, so she opted for following polite Duke.

 

It wasn't until they got to his room (Alina had never been in this part of the house before) and started opening the door did he notice she was behind him.

 

She wasn't sure how he noticed him, he just suddenly jumped and then his eyes flew to her in the next second.

 

"Oh! Hi, uh, Alina. Do you need something?"

 

She shook her head. "No."

 

He fidgeted, glancing to his door and back at her. "Are you… sure you don't need anything?"

 

She shook her head again. "No. Just wanted to see what you were doing."

 

He blinked, glancing behind him again. "I was just gonna work on some stuff before I have to p- have to go to work."

 

Her family sure was obsessed with work.

 

Her mom was too, but she was more stressed and freaking out over it, worrying about bills and rent. She always said that her dad's family didn't need to worry about bills and rent because they were rich. So why did they need to work so much?

 

What were their jobs, anyway?

 

"Can I watch? I'll be quiet."

 

"It's not gonna be very fun. It's just sorting through a bunch of police files and reports, and browsing through news and updates, organizing data, that kind of stuff. Very boring," Duke explained, scratching the back of his neck.

 

"That's okay. I don't mind. I just want some quiet."

 

Duke blinked, understanding entering his features. "Well, I mean, okay then. If you really want to." Alina smiled up at him and nodded. Duke turned and pushed his door open, gesturing for her to follow. "Come on in, then."

 

Alina hopped after him, light on her feet. She used to want to be a ballerina, but she felt bad having her mom pay for classes. She quietly seated herself on the edge of his bed while he sat down in his computer chair- one of those fancy, soft and comfy ones that spun on wheels. He had a nice, but simplistic, computer desk too. His computer was way better than Alina's was. Hers was old school and slow, his was slim and fast.

 

He had a really soft bed too. Alina's was soft too, but she was more used to hard mattresses so she normally preferred them. But Duke's bed- it was nice. The blanket was fuzzy too, nice to run her fingers through. She was tempted to lay her head down on his feathery pillows, but she didn't want to push the boundaries.

 

His room was filled with hues of yellow and white and some blue and black. A few oranges too. It was nice to look at. Aesthetically pleasing, she believed it was called. He had a few pictures on the walls and shelves too, with mostly people she didn't know, but a few with her new family. Her favorite was the one where Steph had basically pushed him out of frame, flipping the camera off with her tongue stuck out too, but he looked like he was laughing too much to care. Her second favorite was the one with the whole family.

 

(Except her, of course.)

 

(But the photos filled her with hope that she'd one day be in them too, laughing and loving.)

 

(Tim said Duke was new too, right?)

 

(It gave her hope.)

 

She had seen many different versions of family photos around the house, some missing a few people, others with too many people to count. This one was just the siblings, Stephanie, a red-haired girl, Bruce and Alfred. The guy with the white streak in his hair (the brother she hadn't met) looked like he was pretending he didn't want to be there, but he really did. You could tell. His lips turned up just too much, and his brows weren't furrowed enough.

 

He had scars on his face, just like Damian. All of the family had scars on their face, their whole bodies it seemed, but his and Damian's were the most noticeable. Scars weren't uncommon in Gotham, Alina knew, but she still wondered why they had so many.

 

Her eyes drifted back to Duke. He didn't seem to have that many scars. She only saw him with a busted lip- it had stopped bleeding by the time she saw it- and a bruise on his arm, just yesterday.

 

Now, today, he was sorting through the same stuff Tim must have been doing last night. Police reports, reports written in some form of Google Docs, pictures of evidence. Alina noticed him open a file of pictures, before immediately closing it with a worried glance back at her and her watching eyes.

 

It was a decapitated dead man with a twisted arm, bone jutting out, Alina saw just briefly, too brief to make out any major details. Duke must be worried about her seeing the gore. Which, she wasn't eager to see by any means, but…

 

She was a Gotham kid, born and raised. She had been kidnapped by the Joker. She had stabbed the Joker with his own venom.

 

A little gore wouldn't hurt her, especially if it was for what Alina assumed was evidence for police (and vigilantes?) to sort through. To find the criminal and put him in jail.

 

Or kill him, depending on the crime. She didn't support murder as a way to end crime, but she hadn't live all that far from Red Hood's territories. Although she was pretty sure he hadn't killed in like a few months, or something. The last guy he killed was a rapist anyway, so no real harm done.

 

But, still. It was nice of Duke to worry about her. She could have like, PTSD, or something, and that could have been a trigger. So it was good of him to worry. Good thing she didn't though. She was a tough cookie, her mother always said.

 

He strayed away from picture files after that, sticking to a bunch of reports and adding little notes and writing a few of his own reports it seemed.

 

Was he a detective? She wasn't really sure what- or how, really, detectives did stuff. But this seemed sort of detective-y. Or he was just the guy who took notes.

 

Duke glanced back at her nervously a few times over all, while she was just content to watch him work. The bed was a bit away from the computer, and he was blocking half of her view, but she caught a lot of interesting words, or names, rather. And by that she meant bigwig supervillains, including but not limited to: The Riddler, Killer Croc, Penguin, Scarecrow, The Joker himself…

 

"Do you…" Duke broke the silence, clearing his throat as he tapped his fingers against his desk. "Do you maybe wanna watch some cartoons, or something?"

 

Alina tilted her head. "Don't you have to work?"

 

"Well, yeah, but, I can always do this later. I- I wouldn't mind watching a cartoon, it's been a while since I've watched some cartoons. We can watch them on my computer, if you want?" He offered with a struggling smile.

 

Alina debated this. She liked watching him work. It seemed very important, and watching him add notes like they were pieces to a puzzle was fun. If anything, she wanted to sit down and study what he was doing more, but…

 

She hadn't watched cartoons in a long while either. Not since before the Joker.

 

She smiled. "Sure."

 

Duke's nerves seemed to leave him as he relaxed. "Okay, cool. What do you want to watch?" He closed a few tabs and opened up Google. "We have Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Max, and a Cartoon Network subscription Bruce got. Well, Bruce got it for Dick, who wanted it for Damian to force him to watch cartoons, but Tim ended up using it the most. Basically, we have everything. Just not everything on my computer."

 

Alina thought for a moment, then excitedly said, "The Amazing World of Gumball!"

 

Duke grinned. "Good choice." He quickly pulled up the Cartoon Network website, logged in, and put on Gumball. He got up and pushed his chair out of the way. He grabbed two beanbags, one yellow, one blue, from the ground and threw them up beside Alina on the bed.

 

He climbed onto the blue one, and Alina did the same for the yellow one, pulling the fuzzy blanket up to cocoon around her. "Why do you have beanbags?"

 

Duke shrugged. "'Cause I like beanbags. I ended up getting a whole lot more than just these two 'cause apparently everyone loves to crash in my room."

 

Alina nodded as the first episode began to play. "It's very nice in here."

 

"Thanks." He grinned at her. "You can crash here anytime you want to too, you know. If you ever need a break from our siblings, or just need some quiet."

 

Wasn't that why she was here in the first place? She grinned back at him. "Thanks."

Chapter Text

Alina was watching TV with Dick, Tim and Stephanie when she heard unfamiliar voices talking loudly down the hallway. It was only moments later that a head popped in around one of the doors in the living room (the one with three doors- the head popped in from the door behind and to the left of the TV).

 

“Hey guys!” The young woman spoke. She had very cool hair, with long bangs but semi-shaved sides. And it was blue and purple. Her eyes were blue too. There were a lot of blue eyes in this family, assuming this was another one of her family friend family members. She also had a leather jacket, and a belt with holsters holding presumably guns, so that was very cool, and also a bit scary.

 

“Harper!” Her brothers and sister greeted eagerly, Dick and Steph jumping up to move towards her. Tim smiled, but stayed seated beside Alina, a quick glance in her direction. She had curled up against his side, wrapped in a blanket, but she straightened up when the newcomer came.

 

Newcomer s , she corrected, as Harper entered the living room, a brown-haired boy trailing after her with a more tame smile. He was definitely a young teen, and was taller than Damian, so Alina guessed he was maybe fourteen or fifteen.

 

“What are you two doing here?” Dick asked amiably, with his usual warm smile.

 

“Ah, dropped off some evidence in the ‘Cave, thought we’d pop up while we’re here,” Harper explained.

 

The four continued their conversation normally, with excitement and inside jokes, while Tim tensed and glanced at Alina, frowning a bit, worry clear in his eyes.

 

Alina just shrugged in response, because she was sure he was worried about the fact they’d mentioned “the ‘Cave” again, which Alina assumed was referring to the BatCave. So maybe they did know Batman. It would make sense for Batman to have detectives working for and helping him, assuming some of her siblings’ occupations were detectives. Duke and Tim, at least, and maybe now Harper. Or maybe she was just the errand girl? No, she didn’t look like a simple messenger. She had too much muscle, confidence and pride to just be a messenger. Although being a messenger for Batman would be pretty cool.

 

Or, alternatively, her siblings could be big Batman fans and have their own secret hideout that they called the BatCave for fun. Didn’t Dick mention they had a cow named Bat-Cow? Who named their cow that except for Batman fanatics? Unless the cow was eerily bat-like. Alina wanted to meet their pet cow one day, because the fact that they had a pet cow, when they weren’t even on a farm, was mind boggling to her.

 

“Hey,” Tim called out, interrupting their conversation and turning Harper and the boy’s attention to them.

 

“Hey,” Harper said in response, but her focus was now on Alina. “And who’s this?”

 

Alina smiled timidly, pulling the blanket closer to her and curling in on herself a bit. She suddenly felt shy. Harper just seemed very cool, and Alina didn’t know what to say.

 

Luckily, Tim answered for her. “This is Alina! The new kid.”

 

Recognition lit in Harper’s eyes. “Ohhh! The kid Bruce had with that one woman, right?” Harper blinked and then sort of winced, bringing her hand up to scratch behind her neck. “The woman now in a deadly coma… Err, sorry. My bad. The way I worded that sounded kinda rude. Sorry.”

 

Alina just softly shook her head, even as the weight of her mother’s current state weighed heavily on her, thoughts nearly dark enough to make her cry. But she was strong. And her mom would be fine, one day, with Bruce Wayne paying for her hospital treatment. She silently thanked her dad.

 

“It’s okay,” she whispered. A moment of awkward silence followed before Steph quickly jumped in.

 

She gestured to Harper. “This is one of those family friends I mentioned. She’s a sister!”

 

Harper grinned again, walking towards Alina and holding out her hand. “I’m Harper Row, nice ta meetcha.”

 

Alina, not wanting at all to be rude to the cool lady, tentatively grabbed her hand and shook it. She had a strong grip. She seemed very strong. Like, maybe stronger than Tim. And Bruce and Dick, and everyone else in her family. Why was her family so strong?

 

Harper ruffled her hair next, which Alina kinda liked, but not really, ‘cause no one had ever really done that to her, except Bruce a few times and Dick like once. But she had actually seen a lot of hair ruffling, so she guessed it was her family’s, like, favorite way of showing affection, right under shoulder pats. So it was kind of nice, in that way. Made her feel a part of the family.

 

“If anyone’s picking on you, kid, just call me and I’ll beat the shi- snot right outta ‘em,” Harper informed her, puffing out her chest and placing her hands on her hips, aka right on her holsters. Did… were guns allowed in the Manor? Her neighbor at her mom’s apartment had guns. She didn’t like that man. Her mom said he was probably one of Two-Face’s lesser goons.

 

“You don’t need to do that, Harps,” Dick scoffed, rolling his eyes before he smiled smugly and crossed his arms over his chest. “‘Cause we’d do it first.”

 

“Yeah,” Steph agreed, mimicking his pose. Harper, Tim and the unknown boy laughed at them, with Tim mumbling something about how ridiculous they were.

 

Alina smiled. She wondered if they would actually beat someone up for her, and then immediately thought that, yes, yes they would. They seemed like the overprotective types, if she was honest. Maybe Tim and Duke wouldn't, though. They had the muscles for it, but they both seemed like sweethearts.

 

She wasn't sure she wanted someone beat up on her accord unless it was the Joker, but she figured if Batman and Robin beat up bad guys all the time, maybe her siblings beating up one bully wouldn't be so bad.

 

Harper waved a hand towards the boy standing beside her. "This is my little bro, Cullen."

 

Cullen smiled and waved. He seemed much more tame, like Duke, but he had a scruffy look to him, with messy hair and loose-fitting clothing. His blue eyes sparked with interest as he observed her. "Hey."

 

"Hi," Alina mumbled back, shifting to move her blanket off of her shoulders. "So, your my sorta-brother then?"

 

He cracked a toothy smile while Harper let out a short laugh beside him. Dick snorted, "Yeah, he is."

 

"It's good to finally meet another normal kid!" Cullen said excitedly, eliciting another round of short laughs and chuckles, secret knowing looks being shared. Alina was a bit confused at the inside joke she didn't get, but she supposed maybe it was because Damian was, supposedly, not that she'd seen him enough to make a good assumption of his character, a big brat?

 

"So, what's it like living in the Manor? Harper and I crash here from time to time, but we'd never dare live in it."

 

"We've heard the horror stories." Harper shuddered exaggeratedly.

 

"What, like ghosts?" Alina asked, a bit nervous. She wasn't scared of ghosts, because she had been kidnapped by the Joker and nothing was scarier than that, but they still spooked her.

 

"Worse," Cullen said.

 

"Your own siblings ," Harper finished, stage-whispering in horror.

 

"They're horrible . They wake you up in the middle of the night to ask you if you want the Cheetos they just stole."

 

"And they constantly hide in the chandeliers to avoid getting in trouble even though they're thirty and everybody already knows they still hide in the chandeliers."

 

"Hey!" Dick shouted indignantly. But everyone laughed at his misfortune, and his own lips were twitching up too. Huh, her eldest brother hiding in a chandelier… That was an amusing thought, something she’d like to see but… How did he event get up there? The chandeliers were so high up, on the unnecessarily high ceilings, and she was so far down, she couldn’t imagine… But Dick was taller, tall enough to jump up to the chandeliers…?

 

Did he do parkour? A lot of people did parkour in Gotham, ‘cause of superheroes. And running away from supervillains. Her mother didn’t want her learning parkour because she didn’t want her to put herself in any dumb risky situations. Alina thought parkour was cool, but actually doing even a backflip kinda scared her.

 

“Do you do parkour?” Alina blurted out, her curiosity getting the better of her. At her siblings’ confused looks, she clarified, “To get onto the chandeliers? They’re super high up.”

 

Dick blinked, then beamed his bright white teeth smile. “I’m an acrobat, born and raised!”

 

“Yeah, definitely born. ” Cullen shook his head. “You’re lucky you haven’t seen this guy bend yet, ‘lina.”

 

“Bend?” Alina echoed.

 

“Want me to show you?” Dick immediately offered, only to be shut down by a chorus of “No!” s. "I won't do anything dramatic. Look-" The moment he started to move his arm, he was tackled by Steph and Harper simultaneously on both sides. He let out an indignant squawk that turned into a hearty laugh.

 

"We must protect the Innocent Child's eyes!" Steph cried.

 

"She doesn't need to see you turn every bone in your body backwards!" Harper shouted.

 

"Guys, guys, stop- don't tickle me, okay, alright, stop!" They did not, in fact, stop their attack even as Dick kicked at them. Her oldest brother looked like a little child, laughing as the two girls tickled him and howled at him for daring to show their new baby sister such horror.

 

Alina watched on in half-amusement, half-awkwardness. She wasn't really sure what to think, or do. Was this normal among siblings? Her cousins were sometimes like this, but never the oldest one. Her auntie said her oldest had to be mature and responsible and watch all the other kids, not play with them.

 

"Don't worry," Cullen said nonchalantly to her. "They do this a lot. And Dick bending isn't actually as bad as we make it out to be, but it's still freaky."

 

Alina smiled at him, shifting away from Tim as he joined in yelling at their big brother. "I sorta thought you meant, like, airbending, at first."

 

Cullen's eyes lit up. "Like from Avatar: The Last Airbender? You've watched Avatar?"

 

Alina grinned. "Yeah! My friend showed me it last year. I liked it. I liked Momo- he's so cute!"

 

"He is! What kinda bender do you think you'd be?" Cullen asked her excitedly.

 

"I dunno. I like airbending most but I think maybe I'd be a firebender since my birthmark reminds me of Zuko's scar." She pointed to the patch of darker skin around her left eye.

 

"Oh cool! I used to want to be an earthbender like Toph, but now I think I'd be a non-bender."

 

"A non-bender? Why?"

 

"Well-"

 

As Cullen launched into his explanation, Harper and Steph finally stopped their attack on Dick, Tim having to help pull them off. Harper glanced with a smile at Alina and Cullen chatting, then commented jokingly to the others, "You know, that kid's too innocent to be one of Bruce's. Especially compared to how Damian turned out."

 

There were shared looks between the three as they frowned. Dick took a few steps back, gesturing for Harper to come closer as he too glanced at the eagerly chatting kids. He lowered his voice into a barely audible whisper.

 

"That's the thing, she's not Bruce's kid- by blood, anyway. She's actually… the J-o-k-e-r's," Dick said, and Harper's eyes went wide in surprise. "That's just what he's telling the media and lawyers to have custody. Even faked a DNA test."

 

Harper blinked once, then shook her head, and firmly said, "Well, doesn't matter, Bruce is still her dad, and he's ours too."

 

All of them nodded with sounds of agreement.

 

"Of course," Steph said. "Blood doesn't matter- just those you'd be willing to bleed for."

Chapter Text

Alina watched nervously as her new family greeted the black-haired woman exitting the fancy car Alfred was driving.

 

"Cass!" Stephanie eagerly screamed, jumping forward to envolope the woman in a tight hug. Cass laughed softly and wrapped her arms around her, swinging her in a circle effortlessly before plopping her back down. Dick quickly gave Cass his own hug before backing away to let the others crowd around her.

 

"How did it go?" Harper asked her, Duke and Cullen beside her.

 

"Good," Cass responded simply with a smile as she reached out to pat Damian on the head. To Alina's surprise, Damian just grumbled and huffed, but didn't protest any further.

 

"Get any good pictures while you were there?" Tim asked while Bruce gave Cass's shoulder a squeeze.

 

Cass grinned, handing her phone over to Tim. "Some. The sunset was pretty."

 

Tim smiled, unlocking her phone and scrolling through her photo app. "These are nice, good scenery and angles."

 

Cullen moved around to peak at the phone. "What's that?"

 

Damian too glanced at the screen. "That's a Great Heron. Why was there a Great Heron in Hong Kong?"

 

"Someone had it as a pet. Illegally." Cass shrugged. "Now it's free. Saved it."

 

Damian nodded approvingly.

 

"Nice," Harper added her own approval. "I busted an illegal exotic animal smuggling ring last month. Fuckin' cruel."

 

Duke nudged her roughly in the side and she shot him an annoyed but confused look. He nodded behind him, and Harper glanced back towards where Alina was nervously hovering at the front door. A few others glanced her way too. It made Alina feel even more out of place and awkward. She wished she had stayed inside. But she wanted to meet her sister…

 

"Oh!" Dick chirped, moving to stand beside Cass. "You should meet our new little sister! She's great- she likes dancing!"

 

Alina blushed a little as Cass's gaze turned onto her, curious and watchful. Alina did like dancing, but she didn't know how to, and she had really only mentioned that in passing to Dick, so why did he think it was important to mention? Unless Cass was a dancer? A professional dancer? Alina couldn't match up to that…

 

Damian's glare wasn't helping Alina's nerves either, but at least he just huffed and turned away, looking like he wanted to leave, but couldn't, since Alina was blocking the door.

 

"Hi," Alina managed to mumble out, but she wasn't sure if Cass heard her. There were so many stares on her… They might be her new family, but they weren't really family yet…

 

Cass weaved around her siblings (semi-siblings? Steph, Harper and Cullen weren't actually her siblings) and father, walking towards Alina confidently, but also slowly, her movements easy to track.

 

"Hello, new little sister," Cass greeted her. "Always wanted a little sister. Little brother and baby brother aren't the easiest little siblings." She sent a smiling glance back at Tim and Damian, the former smiling back while the latter huffed again and rolled his eyes.

 

"Tim's nice," Alina mumbled. She wanted to say Damian was too, but… he really wasn't. So far, anyway. "Uhm, I'm Alina."

 

"Alina." Cass tilted her head thoughtfully as she tested the name on her tongue. "Beautiful name. I like it. Mine's Cassandra."

 

"You have a nice name too," Alina complimented.

 

"Thank you." Cass beamed, flashing her white teeth.

 

"So, uhm… Where were you?" Alina asked, curious. Hong Kong? But why?

 

Cass smiled mischievously as she leaned down conspiratorially. "Secret mission."

 

Alina noticed the family tense behind Cass, sharing worried glances. Again. Whatever secret they were keeping, they were bad at it.

 

But… secret mission? Like… Like a-

 

Alina gasped, "You're a spy?!"

 

Cass grinned. "Maybe. Secret." She placed a finger on her lips and winked.

 

"I won't tell anybody, I promise, not a single soul!" Alina stage-whispered to Cassandra, bouncing on her feet lightly.

 

Cass patted her head, just like she did with Damian, and said, "Good. You will be safe."

 

Alina nodded excitedly, giving an overeager hop on her tippy toes. "You're the best big sister-spy ever!"

 

Cass grinned proudly, standing back up, while Steph let out a bellied laugh. "See? I knew Cass would easily overtake my place as the best big sister!"

 

The others, with the exceptions of Damian who just scowled and Bruce who just smiled, laughed along with her. Alina smiled at their laughter. She knew she'd be laughing alongside them too, someday, it was too contagious not to.

 

Cass rested a hand on her shoulder as she addressed them all. "Let's go inside and talk." She leaned her head down and whispered to Alina, "Maybe I'll tell you about one of my secret missions if you're really good."

 

Alina excitedly promised she'd be the best behaved she'd ever been.

 

Cassandra had easily just secured her place as Alina's favorite sister.

Chapter Text

Cassandra had managed to sneak Alina off to the side and tell her about a secret mission she had been on (swooping in silently and defeating a group of human traffickers with ease!), before Dick had managed to wiggle her away and Cass went with Bruce and Tim to go discuss something (her secret mission in Hong Kong?).

 

Alina really wanted to hear more about her cool sister's missions, but she supposed she shouldn't keep her from more missions- assuming Bruce and Tim were aware of said missions and helped her with them. Was her whole family really involved in spy stuff? It would definitely explain all their Batman-esque accidental mentions, 'cause Batman was like a spy. Or a detective. Detective spy crime fighter of the night.

 

Batman was the coolest, always had been and always will be, especially ever since he saved her from the Joker.

 

(And complimented her for using the Joker's own tricks against him. Definitely her most favorite memory in the history of ever, despite the fact she had to be kidnapped by the Joker and her mother put in a coma for it to happen.)

 

Anyway, hanging out with Dick, Duke, Harper and Cullen for half of the day wasn't so bad. Duke and Cullen had left early on though since it was a school day, presumably with Damian too. Alina was going back to school soon too, but her father wanted to give her time to adjust first. She had been worried she wouldn't be going back to her old school, but he assured her she would. She missed her friends, but was also nervous that they might think differently of her after being kidnapped by the Joker and adopted by the Bruce Wayne.

 

Dick had to leave to go back home (or his other home, as he put it, since the Manor was his home too) to Blüdhaven, to his wife and daughter. He quickly explained that to her- their names were something like Cory and Marie but Alina wasn't sure how they were spelled and they definitely weren't names she had ever heard before- and he assured her she would meet them soon and that they would love her.

 

Which meant Alina was an aunt. At age nine. How old was her… niece? Harper told her Mary(?) was like two or three but that she honestly didn't remember. Harper had laughed with her about the absurdness of it all, and then dropped the bomb on her that she had nieces older than her . Adopted by her other siblings ("Or, well, sibling and sorta-sibling, I guess," Harper had corrected herself.).

 

Alina at that point felt her mind crash, and after Harper left, she Googled the Wayne family tree .

 

Looking at it made her head hurt with so many names she didn't know (Thomas and Martha Wayne were her grandparents; deceased) , so she stopped.

 

She had sat down and watched TV for a bit to clear her mind, as well as downloaded some apps from the game store onto her new phone. She choose only the free apps, but apparently there was money already on her account so if she wanted to buy, like, MineCraft Pocket Edition, she could.

 

She did end up buying one game, eventually. Dog Sled Saga. It was more her speed. The little pixel dogs were cute.

 

Some time before dinner (which was always a different time, but usually around 6-10pm, not that she was allowed to stay up until 10- Alfred served her earlier), she decided to head into the kitchen, to talk to Alfred, or just watch him cook, or something.

 

Instead, she was greeted by Cass and Steph chatting with another new face while Alfred cooked in the background, occasionally adding his own two cents to the casual conversation.

 

Alina quickly wracked her mind for any red-headed, green-eyed, white-skinned, glasses-wearing woman that might have been mentioned in the Wayne family tree , but none fit the description only seeing as this woman had a wheelchair, and Alina was fairly certain Dick's wife (red-haired, green-eyed) would have been mentioned to have a wheelchair.

 

"Hello," Alina greeted immediately this time, more just to alert the others to her presence. And also because the woman looked very pretty and polite. And also because maybe Cass could tell her more secret mission stories if she got acquainted with this new family member(?) quickly.

 

"Hello, Miss Alina," Alfred greeted her back first, not turning around from where he was doing something on the oven. "Dinner will be ready at 7:30 pm sharp."

 

"Okay," Alina said, and then added, "Thank you."

 

"Hey Alina!" Steph said, grinning, with an over the top wave. Cass smiled and nodded in acknowledgement towards Alina.

 

The woman with the wheelchair smiled at her too. "Hello. You must be Alina. I've heard a lot of good things about you. How are you?"

 

"I'm good," Alina answered. 'Just a little overwhelmed from all these randomly appearing family members,' she thought privately.

 

"I'm Barbara Gordon, but you can call me Babs. It's nice to meet you. I've been a close family friend of the Waynes ever since Dick was the only kid in this manor," Barbara explained.

 

Alina nodded seriously as she said, "Sorta-sister."

 

Steph burst out laughing (she did that a lot) while Cass, Alfred and Babs all smiled. Steph whiped an imaginary tear away, and said, "Thatta girl. Already taught you well. You've got this family thing on lockdown."

 

Alina decided not to mention that she, in fact, did not have this family thing on lockdown.

 

"So she is our sorta-sister, then?" Alina asked, just for clarification. Steph was her sorta-sister too, if that was the case. Alina kept forgetting she wasn't actually legally her sister.

 

"Yep!" Steph said, popping the 'p'. "The eldest of us sisters and sorta-sisters."

 

"More like a sorta-mother to me," Cass added.

 

"Oh, well, yeah, she's very sorta-mothery to us Baaaaaat- us girls, she's very mothery to us girls, ya know, seeing as we don't have a mom in the picture. Well, I do, and you do too, 'lina, but." Steph shook her head and restarted. "She's basically our mother hen, is what I'm trying to say."

 

Babs snorted and rolled her eyes. "If you want to talk about mother hens, talk about Dick. Damian is literally staying with him tonight, like he does basically every weekend."

 

Steph and Cass both laughed at that, although Alina didn't get the joke.

 

"He's so bad, he was even a mother hen with Tim back when- back in the day," Steph corrected herself again. "But he's even worse with Damian."

 

"I mean, understandable, considering he did raise him for a year and then some," Babs said.

 

"But now he mother hens us all , like he doesn't have a kid and a psuedo-brother-child to take care of," Steph finished with a groan.

 

"I'm surprised he didn't swoop Alina up and take her with," Babs joked. Alina scrunched her nose up at that. She wasn't sure she was ready to be 'swooped up' and meet her baby niece and Dick's wife and also apparently be staying with Damian too.

 

"Alfred is like a mother too," Cass stated.

 

"Oh definitely! Our grandpa-slash-mother!" Steph said. Alfred raised a brow, but he was smiling, so it ruined the effect.

 

"Ever imagine that that being a butler would end up getting you a huuuuge family that refers to you as their grandpa-slash-mother, Alfie?" Babs asked him.

 

"Not in my wildest imagination," Alfred responded back blandly. "Nowadays it is hard to imagine it any other way, though, Miss Barbara."

 

"That's true. Try as I might to separate myself from this crazy family, I got too attached to really leave," Babs said fondly.

 

Cass nodded. "Once you're apart of the family, you can never leave."

 

They all shared another short laugh, before Steph turned to Alina. "Basically, what all of our babble was about, is that this family has a lot of mothers who are actually non-mothers. Selina's like the only one for the actual mom position, Bruce is just too much of a pu- coward to make it official." She corrected herself (again) at Alfred's glare with a sheepish smile.

 

Alina didn't even want to ask who Selina was. There hadn't been a Selina on the Wayne family tree. But maybe there would be soon if "Bruce stopped being a coward aka pussy," or something? Augh, headache. She needed to update that Google Doc she had keeping track of everyone. Sneak some pictures too (or just look them up on Google), so she could match faces to names.

 

Barbara shook her head. "This whole family is so weird."

 

"The weirdest families are the best," Alina stated faux-confidently. Or so she heard. So far, weird families were just big and large and gave her headaches. But they were fun, too, she supposed. And cool, if they were Cassandra.

 

"Hell- heck yeah they are!" Another of Alfred's glares had Stephanie correcting her language again. Alina had heard way worse, but she supposed it still didn't do good to teach a kid to swear.

 

"Well," Alfred started. "They could be a little less weird to help out my dear, poor old heart."

 

The three girls chuckled, with Babs saying, "I'm trying to get them to be less weird, but it's not working, Alf. They just get weirder ." Cass grinned proudly at that while Steph smirked. Alfred let out a sigh, shaking his head, but there was a fondness to it.

 

"And we'll never stop!" Steph said triumphantly.

 

Alina's attention got distracted by a gleam of light reflecting off of Babs's wheelchair. She blurted out before she could stop herself, "I like your wheelchair."

 

Babs started a bit, blinking, before smiling and saying, "Thank you."

 

"It's a pretty color," Alina told her, just in case it was weird or rude to say you like someone's wheelchair without a reason.

 

Barbara raised an eyebrow. "It's black?"

 

Alina shrugged. "Black is a pretty color."

 

"It is," Babs agreed.

 

Alina fidgeted on her feet, glancing down, not sure how to continue the conversation without being awkward. She hated awkward. Cass spoke up, "You want to ask something?"

 

Alina blushed. If it weren't for the fact that Cass was a spy, she would wonder how she could read Alina's mind like that. Alina mumbled incoherently. She didn't want to be rude.

 

"It's okay," Babs reassured her in a soft voice. It was kind of motherly.

 

"Uhm, where did you… get the wheelchair from?" Alina asked as politely as possible.

 

"The hospital?" Babs said humorously.

 

Alina's cheeks reddened further. "No, uhm, like… why?"

 

Babs hesitated, eyes flicking to the side thoughtfully, while Alina worried she had overstepped her boundaries.

 

"The Joker," Babs answered honestly. Alina glanced up in surprise. "He shot me in the lower back. I lost mobility in my legs."

 

Alina scrunched up her nose again, eyebrows furrowing angrily. The Joker… was an asshole. But saying that around Alfred wouldn't fly, so instead she said very pointedly, "Joker sucks."

 

She was very proud to initiate a round of laughs from her sisters.

 

"He's an asshole."

 

"Miss Stephanie!"

Chapter Text

Alina squeezed her Batman plush close to her chest as she walked down the hall to the breakfast table (different from the dinner table, aka the normal dining room). Voices were chatting loudly, voices which were still hard for her to differentiate but they sounded familiar. Breakfast was always a wild card. Sometimes people slept late and didn't have breakfast until it was lunch time (unfathomable to Alina). Some people just showed up during the middle of breakfast that certainly weren't in the house before, yet Alfred always seemed prepared for them (assuming they didn't make their own breakfast like a few did- usually the late risers). Sometimes her dad would be there, sometimes he would be a late riser, but he always had the newspaper for whatever reason. It was always a mix and match group of people at the table, never the same, although Duke seemed like the only one always there, as well as Tim when he wasn't a late riser.

 

Entering the breakfast dining room slash kitchen (but not the big kitchen- actually there might be a third kitchen too that Alina hadn't seen yet), she recognized Stephanie, Cassandra, Barbara and Duke chatting with a newcomer. Unlike the others, Alina had actually done her research on this one-

 

Her final brother.

 

Well, legal brother anyway. She was sure more would pop up here and there.

 

Anyway, this one was the infamous Jason Peter (she even knew his middle name, look at that!) Todd, the boy who maybe died, maybe faked his death depending on who you asked. According to her mother, he was a rich kid looking for attention and he found that by faking his death. Alina grew up agreeing with her, just because, well, what else was she supposed to think? But now, looking at him, and his rough, chiseled face, dark eyes that somehow had this green glow to them, the unnatural white streak in his black hair, and scarred arms… He was almost scary enough to believe he had actually died.

 

It was Gotham, after all. It's not like people coming back from death or near death or being presumed dead but weren't actually was unheard of. But Jason was one of the first.

 

(Of the Wayne family, anyway. Apparently her family was a hotspot for dying but not actually they just went missing for an extended period of time, or so they would always say? Wasn't her dad one of those "dead no sorry just missing" people at some point? That was slightly concerning.)

 

(She remembered her mother looking awkward as she sat her down and explained that the father she had never met but always saw on the news was dead. Alina had been heartbroken at her father's death, but she had never really met him, so she didn't really mourn him either. And then a year later he had come back, just kidnapped or some excuse, and her mother had gotten all huffy and angry at rich people and their love of faking deaths. "Why can't they ever just stay dead?" She had complained. "Save us the headache.")

 

Jason noticed her entering immediately, bluish green eyes locking onto her. They were… surprisingly not unkind? Not openly friendly, but the look in his eyes didn't scream "I'm gonna murder you!" like the rest of him did. Must just be the style for zombie people.

 

His lips quirked up as he studied her, eyes flicking to the Batman plushie briefly. "Ah, and this must be the newest stray Bruce's taken in?"

 

"Jason," Babs said warningly. "Don't be insulting."

 

Jason just rolled his eyes. "Alina right?"

 

"Mhm." Alina nodded her head. She stared as calculating and coldly as she could at him, letting her next words drip with barely concealed venom. "And you must be the actual stray dad took in?"

 

Everyone seemed to recoil at her words, even if mostly out of shock in her change of tone rather than the actual mediocre at best insult. Duke glanced immediately at Jason, eyes filled with clear worry, but whatever he seemed to see, it calmed him down and his worry went away. Cass did similar, although she didn't seem as panicked as Duke, just curious and a bit wary.

 

Jason's eyes were wide for a second, then his smirk overtook his face. Dare Alina say, he looked impressed? Proudly, he stated, "The one and only. You know I died, kid?"

 

Warning looks were sent his way along with a strangled, hissing gasp from somebody. As if she wouldn't know about his so-called death when the rest of Gotham did. She was nine , not ignorant.

 

Alina just calmly hummed. "Or so the news says. My mom always complained about that."

 

"Wow. And with the way everyone was describing you, I woulda thought you'da been a pretty little princess. But you've got Crime Alley attitude. You from there? Or the Narrows?" Alina could tell from his rougher street accent that he was.

 

Alina shook her head. "We lived in Crime Alley for a little bit, but we moved away." She glared heatedly at him. "And don't call me princess. Joker called me that, and he sucks." She puffed out her chest with pride. "I stabbed him."

 

Jason let out an impressed laugh, deep and guttaral, but short. "No kidding?"

 

"With his own venom. Threw the antidote out a window."

 

Jason let out a low whistle. "Damn. You've probably come closer to killing him than Batman."

 

Alina frowned, holding her Batman doll closer to her. "He deserves to die. But I don't want to kill anybody. Batman doesn't kill."

 

He tilted his head, eyeing her plushie again. Was it just her, or did his eyes glow? "Batman fan, are you? Whatdya think about the Red Hood?"

 

Steph shot him a look, reminding Alina about the others currently in the room. They were watching Alina and Jason interact, curious, but tensed in case anything happened.

 

"Really?"

 

Jason just smirked at Steph's deadpan comment. He shrugged, saying, "Curious 'bout her opinion on the guy."

 

"Curious whether or not she'll feed your ego, is more like it," Babs muttered under her breath, causing Cass to smile beside her while Steph snorted amusedly and Duke's lips twitched.

 

Alina replied with ease. "He keeps us safe." Every Bat and Bird did. "I live- or, well, my mom and I lived near his turf."

 

He squinted at her, mumbling, "You do look kinda familiar." He cleared his throat, speaking up. "I live in Hood's turf too. It's pretty nice once you get passed the screams."

 

Alina's lips twitched at the inside joke shared between Gothamites in the rougher patches of the city. She nodded in agreement, the last of the tension in her shoulders bleeding away. Jason was safe.

 

"Well then, aside from ol' Batsy, who's your favorite Bat?" Jason asked her.

 

She tilted her head head thoughtfully, toying with the toy in her hands. "I dunno. I've never really met anyone besides Batman and Hood…" Robin? No, too generic. Besides she heard the newest Robin was rude. Signal? She had seen him up close once in passing, but she didn't know all that much about him. Black Bat? Nightwing, Batwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Red Robin, Bluebird…? "Spoiler, I guess. She seems fun."

 

Steph immediately brightened up at that. "Really?!"

 

Jason snorted. "Well now who's egos getting fed?"

 

"Oh, shut up," Steph hissed as she punched him hard in the gut. Jason barely blinked. "Also, shut up ." She pointedly gestured with her head towards Alina. Wow. Real subtle.

 

Jason rolled his eyes, as if he too saw how totally unsubtle Stephanie was and couldn't be bothered to deal with it. Regardless, he asked, "So who's your favorite sibling, then? It's Cass, isn't it?"

 

Alina's nose scrunched up. It was Cass. But she also didn't want to say that outloud out of some weird kind of spite. So instead, she opted for, "Favorite sister, maybe . My favorite brother is…" She tilted her head with false thoughtfulness. "A tie between Tim and Duke."

 

Duke blushed, flustered as he ducked his head. Jason's eyes widened. " Not Dickiebird? He's always the little kiddos' favorite. At first, anyway."

 

Alina shook her head. "He's too much."

 

All of them laughed in agreement. Babs softly shook her head, saying, "Isn't that the understatement of the day?"

 

Jason humphed. "He pushes us into 'familial bonding' waaaayyy too much. I can only stand to see you guys like twice a month at most, and that's pushing it."

 

"Aww," Steph crooned. "You know you love us, Jay."

 

"We love you too," Cass said with a smile, and Duke nodded with a timid but playful grin on his face.

 

He huffed and rolled his eyes again. "And this is why I can't stand you guys more than a day. And why Timmy's my favorite brother too." He smirked. "Doesn't try to talk about feelings, and soooo easy to tease."

 

Alina nodded in agreement, even though she hadn't teased him nor talked about feelings with him. "He's nice."

 

"Nice for now, at least. He can be a grade A a-hole sometimes," Jason snorted. "Idiot will hack your phone to play frickin' Gummy Bear all week- the entire album . I didn't even know Gummy Bear was an album ." Alina noted how he wasn't really swearing. She would have expected it from him, but she guessed he had a 'No Swearing Around Kids' policy like most of the others seem to have. 

 

"I'm sort of ashamed to know that fact," Duke mused, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don't know how, but I managed to listen to the, like, Valentine's version before I found the original."

 

Alina had heard of the Gummy Bear songs before, but she had never really listened to them, so she just stayed silent and watched them talk about which song was worse. Stephanie mentioned something called Crazy Frog, and then the Hamster Dance, which Alina knew neither of.

 

"Remember Parry Gripp ? I listened to Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn non-stop as a kid. Annoyed the shit outta my dad," Steph said. Alina made a mental note to look up who Parry Gripp was, just so she could understand the references in case they popped up again.

 

When the conversation started to die down, Alina, just to test the waters, casually said, "You know, you kind of remind me of Red Hood."

 

Jason started a bit as he turned back to her. He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Really? How so?"

 

"Intimidating. Big. Scary. Not a Batman fan. But nice to kids," she explained.

 

Barbara too raised an eyebrow. "Really? You think he's being nice?"

 

Alina nodded earnestly. "Yeah." Nicer than Damian, at least. "He's somehow managed to keep the No Swearing Rule better than you guys." 'And he could give two shits about keeping secrets.'

 

"Has he now?" The British accented voice of Alfred called out as he entered the room. He made the third person to have a raised eyebrow in the last minute. "My, well isn't that a surprise?"

 

Jason snorted. "Come on Alfie, you know I don't swear around kids."

 

"You taught Master Damian to swear."

 

"You assume that's from me?"

 

"I don't seem to recall anyone else dropping five f-bombs in a row just because they stubbed their toe."

 

"I would pay millions to see the baby brat swearing over a stubbed toe."

 

"Millions of Bruce's money?" Steph asked.

 

"Of course- who else?"

 

Alina let herself fade into the background as she took her seat at the breakfast table, surprisingly only two seats away from where Jason choose to sit. It was always amusing to watch her older siblings' bicker like little kids. Made them seem more… relatable, she supposed. Not some distant idea that her mother told her about and, 50/50, also complained about.

 

And that night when she went to bed, she was only a little surprised to find Red Hood and Spoiler dolls seated beside her Batman one.

Chapter Text

When Alina walked into the Wayne Enterprises Tower, she was kinda scared, to be honest. It was big, and important, and full of big and important people, and she was just…

 

Some kid. Really. Who cares if she was the daughter of Bruce Wayne or not? She was also the daughter of Mariah Shelley, a nobody (but she was an everybody to Alina). Bruce Wayne had a thousand kids, they'd always say. What's one more? Anybody could walk up and claim to be his kid, and he'd probably just adopt them. He was just some airheaded billionaire playboy (Alina didn't know what that was, just that it was an insult) with an adoption problem.

 

And wasn't Alina exactly that? Just walked up, claimed to be his kid, got adopted (after being kidnapped by the Joker, but really, hasn't everybody been taken hostage by the Joker these days)?

 

(Some people thought that was a ploy to get Bruce Wayne to pity her more, so he'd be more likely to take her in. Why else would the Joker take special interest in her, they said. But why would her mother willingly work with the Joker when it put her in a deadly coma and her daughter in danger, Alina wanted to say back.)

 

She had a phone, she could read the news, even if she didn't want to. Did a DNA test really prove anything, if nobody saw the results?

 

She didn't even really look like him. She was all her mother.

 

So, again, walking into the building of her father's company- very scary. But at least she had Tim's hand to hold onto. And her Batman doll. She liked to think Batman was always watching over her, as ridiculous as it sounded. That maybe she was just a tiny bit special.

 

She could have been at the Manor right now (it wasn't home yet, but it was slowly becoming home). They had realized nobody was going to be home in the middle of the day to watch her (Alfred was grocery shopping; Damian and Duke at school; Dick in Blüdhaven; the others just MIA), and Bruce would have been happy to get someone to babysit her (many, many family friends to choose from), but she wanted to be with him. She wasn't with him all that much, between her bouncing around her siblings (so many) , him being at work, and all that. When he was there, he was a good father though- tucking her in, reading her books, asking how her day was. It was nice.

 

Her mother used to do that a lot before work started getting too much for her. Before rent became too much and she finally decided to reach out for child support. So that Alina would have three meals everyday, and new clothes, and even electronics like any normal kid these days.

 

She missed her mother.

 

Anyway, now she found herself scared and a little sad as she hopped into the elevator of her dad and older brother's workplace. She knew Tim was like a… CEO? Ex-CEO? ...Some kind of leader guy in her father's company. She knew that because it was in the news a lot- "Young CEO takes over Wayne Enterprises!" or something like that. She didn't know if he was still whatever a CEO was or not though.

 

She also knew Bruce wasn't often at his company nowadays, just because he had other people like his son who he trusted to run it all, but that he still had to attend meetings, like he was today. She wondered what it was like, being a big, important businessman. She imagined it was very scary, all that pressure on you. Being surrounded by idiots, her mom might describe it as. Unfortunately important idiots.

 

She held onto Tim's hand tightly as the elevator ding ed and they stepped off. They walked past... cubicles, Alina believed they were called. She was scared of the people busily working at them. Scared they might judge her. It was stupid, 'cause her mom always told her nobody could judge you but yourself, but she was still worried. And she couldn't stop worrying. It was easier not to worry when she was surrounded by loud and noisy but welcoming and warm siblings who didn't even think to judge her (except for Damian).

 

Tim squeezed her hand back and gave her a comforting smile. She smiled back out of the habit of not wanting to be impolite, and the small action made her more aware of her surroundings than just panicking.

 

Nobody was looking at her. Well, they glanced, but they didn't stare too long. Even if the heads of their company were walking right past them, they didn't even seem to notice. Or just didn't care.

 

She had been to a few of her mom's boyfriends' workplaces that were similar to this, but they were always more… rude. Angry. Desperate. Overworked. Judging.

 

It was still very busy here, but it was less… well, all of what she described above.

 

She observed all of the workers as they passed by, heading towards one of those conference rooms with glass doors. It was empty save for three people.

 

"Lucius!" Bruce greeted as they entered. The elder man at the table, black-skinned and gray-haired, looked up from his papers and waved.

 

"Bruce! Tim," he called. "Good to see you. And you have the little one with you."

 

"Alina, right?" The woman, black with dark brown hair, said. Alina guessed she and the other young man were related to the guy named Lucius. His children, she assumed?

 

"That's her," Bruce confirmed. "She wanted to come with. You don't mind watching her when we head to the meeting, do you, Luke?"

 

"Course not, B. What else am I here for?" The younger man, Luke, responded with a smile from where he sat on the table.

 

Lucius stood up and walked over to the three Waynes (although Alina didn't really classify herself as a Wayne). He crouched down and held a hand out to Alina.

 

"I'm Lucius Fox, I work with your father. It's nice to meet you," he said the simple pleasantries, and for the first time Alina wondered if she was meeting an actual family friend and not a "basically your sibling" family friend. If not, Alina would place him as a… sorta-uncle, maybe? An old uncle. Older than Bruce. He definitely was not a sorta-brother.

 

Alina reached out and shook his hand. "Hi," she said shyly.

 

"This is my daughter, Tam, and my son, Luke." Lucius gestured towards the two young adults. Her sorta-cousins, then. Unless they also classified as sorta-siblings. She'd have to wait and see.

 

"Hey," Tam greeted as she walked over to Tim (one letter off names!), who gave Alina's hand a final squeeze before letting go. She was okay with that. These people seemed nice and non-judgemental.

 

Luke swung himself around on the table and hopped off, jogging over to Alina. "How long have you been with the fam?"

 

"Uhm," she paused to think. "Almost two weeks, I think." It felt like an eternity, but also not that long at all. She still woke up expecting to be back home, to the sounds of her mother getting ready for work. Instead she was in a quiet, too big room with a single nightlight, in a too soft bed, with too cozy blankets. At least she had her Batman doll. And a few other suspiciously Batfamily themed dolls and plushies that kept mysteriously appearing.

 

"Ah. What's it like in the Manor? Too big? It's ridiculously big, isn't it," Luke said conversationally.

 

Alina tilted her head as she thought of a response, but she was also buying for time so she could listen to the taillends of Tim and Tam's conversation as they left the conference room.

 

"...living with somebody who doesn't know the big secret?"

 

Tim shrugged. "Weird. I never realized how much we talked about that stuff until I suddenly couldn't anymore. Plus she likes watching us work, which is…"

 

And the door closed, cutting off their conversation. Dang. Bruce and Lucius's conversation was much more boring. Well, none of them would be revealing any more secrets anytime soon then. She'd have to catch Cass or Jason later, if she could. They were much more willing to talk about any secret missions they may or may not have gone on.

 

So Alina responded to Luke's question. "It is ridiculously big. And it's weird 'cause sometimes it's super quiet and then other times no matter where you go you can hear the screams."

 

Luke raised an eyebrow. "The screams?"

 

"My… siblings fighting." Well, that was the first time she had ever called them all her siblings. It felt… weird on her tongue. She was an only child all her life, even if she was aware she had siblings. Adopted siblings, and a half-sibling. "They argue a lot or just kinda die scream-laughing at dumb jokes."

 

They also argued over very, very dumb things. Like whether or not cereal was a valid pizza topping.

 

Cereal.

 

And it wasn't even Dick the cereal-addict who started that argument. He wasn't even present for the argument, but he ended up dragged into it via FaceTime.

 

Alina worried for the sanity of her siblings, especially if they were also secretly professional spies and detectives and also maybe vigilantes.

 

Luke gave a sympathetic nod. "I've gotten roped into a lot of their more… less smart arguments. Lemme tell you, if you hear them start arguing about who really killed Abraham Lincoln, run the other way."

 

Thankfully, Alina was apparently too "young and inexperienced in the flavors of pizza" to get roped into arguments. But she would take Luke's advice incredibly seriously.

 

Except, though, if she was honest, a teeny tiny part of her wanted to join in those arguments. It was almost like they were less serious and not genuine arguments on purpose. Like they were there to lighten someone up on a bad day, or to make someone forget about something worse, or just to have family bonding. Strange family bonding, but family bonding.

 

For everybody's complaints about Dick getting them into family bonding activities, they sure did seem to do a lot of family bonding on their own, in their own special ways.

 

Her family... was weird. But that was nothing new, of course.

 

"Why don't we leave the old guys to do their super important business stuff," Luke told her as he guided her towards the door. Alina swore she heard a mumble of "I'm not old" from Bruce, and a laugh from Lucius.

 

"You know," Luke started. "I have two little siblings close to your age. Tiffany and Timothy. We could always set up a playdate with them, if you want."

 

Alina already had friends close to her age that she could have playdates with. And she would be seeing them in a week when she went back to school. And hopefully they would still be her friends. So, she just gave a non-committal hum of agreement.

 

"We have a daycare for the workers' kids here. We could go there if you want, but if you don't want to, I can take you on a tour around the offices," Luke offered.

 

"Will people mind?" She didn't want to disturb anyone while they were working. Working was very important when you were stressed and underpaid. Although, she didn't think the workers here were underpaid. Stressed, maybe, but Bruce was super rich, and seemed like a nice boss, so she didn't think he would underpay his workers. At least, she hoped not.

 

"Nah." Luke shook his head. "Unless you suddenly decide to start screaming like a banshee, we'll be fine."

 

Alina glanced behind her towards the disappearing conference room, the figures of her father and Lucius Fox still talking. "When will Br- my dad’s meeting be over?"

 

"Ehh, it's gonna be one of what Bruce would call the 'surrounded by idiots' meetings. 'Cept for my dad, of course. So he's gonna wanna end it early. Plus, he knows you're here, and he always ends his meetings early whenever his kids are here. Everybody knows that. Sooo, I'd put it at…" He made a show of counting on his fingers, each new finger lifted filling Alina with dread and disappointment. Then, he said, "One hour tops."

 

Relief flooded through her and then annoyed amusement as Luke smirked at her. "Scared ya, didn't I?"

 

Taking a page out of her siblings' book, she punched him in the side. Not hard, 'cause she was nine, but still. She put as much power as she could into it.

 

Luke just laughed.

Chapter Text

The sound of arguing echoing through the hallways had Alina heading towards her father’s office, where said argument seemed to be coming from. It wasn't a silly argument between two siblings about cereal or presidents. Alina could hear the heat behind the words. It was a real argument between two adults. And it scared Alina. Normally whenever her mother would scream at someone she would hide in her room, but Alina found herself moving toward the noise despite herself.

 

She wanted to- well, she wasn't sure, but she wanted… to see what their… real arguments were like. And if they were… bad. Because there were arguments about leaving their dirty trash on the  floor, and there were arguments about cheating. And not the test and homework kind.

 

It was a little hard, finding the office, since she had only been to it about two times before. But enough backtracking and playing hot and cold with the voices got her there eventually, holding her Batman plush tight to her chest. Her idea had been to press her ear against the door like they do in the movies, but she was stopped by a new face lingering outside the door already.

 

Alina immediately braced herself for meeting another new sorta-sibling. She hadn't seen any new faces in a few days and she was almost hoping that there were no new family members to meet. She prepared herself to get ready to either fake a smile or have to defend herself.

 

They were leaning against the wall, one foot up against it, and their arms folded as they stared down at the ground with a frown. They were, presumably, a she, with short reddish brown hair, wild and unstyled. She was wearing plain clothing, just a red t-shirt and baggy jeans, definitely not, uh, designer, Alina believed fancy clothes were called, like most of the rest of her family wore. And the new clothes that she was given were.

 

She didn't seem to notice Alina lingering at the corner of the hallway, staring blankly at the ground, fingers twitching against her arm. A part of Alina just told her to turn around now, and pretend she had never even seen the other girl. It would be easier, definitely. In fact, Alina was beginning to agree with herself, and made the motions to turn back around.

 

"-JUST STAY OUT OF MY BUSINESS YOU FUCKING PARANOID ASSHOLE-"

 

"-trying to-"

 

The girl and Alina both jumped as the easy-to-identify voice of Jason screeched at his father, the argument quickly derailing from any hope of proper discussion and compromise. The girl glanced at the door fearfully, before her gaze dragged around, spotted Alina, and she jerked back. Her hand went to her pocket immediately, gripping something, before she paused. She slowly blinked at Alina, pursed her lips uncomfortably, and went back to the position Alina first found her in, if not more tense.

 

Alina could still turn away and pretend she never saw the girl. She didn't seem to have any interest in Alina. Alina didn't have any in her. But now she felt like there was a small amount of obligation.

 

Fiddling with her Batman doll, she eventually let out a small, "Hi."

 

The girl glanced up at her quickly, before her dark blue eyes darted back to the floor. "Hi."

 

"-I DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE 'WORRIED', IT'S NOT YOUR FUCKING CONCERN WHAT I DO-"

 

"Jason, I'm-"

 

"SHUT IT!"

 

Again, Alina could leave. But, well, the girl looked like she needed a distraction. Alina guessed she could be that for a little bit before she went to go hide in her room for the rest of the day. Or until dinner time, since Alfred would be upset if she missed it.

 

"Who are you?" Alina asked softly, just loud enough to be heard over the arguing.

 

Sasha glanced at her again, fidgeting and twitching, moving from foot to foot and scratching her arms. "I'm… Sasha P-... Uhm, Todd. Sasha Todd." She glanced at the office door. "Jason- he… sort of adopted me, I guess."

 

Alina scrunched her nose. "Which makes me your aunt. That's weird."

 

Sasha laughed, short and dry, without any real feeling behind it. She looked up at Alina with thin lips. There seemed to be scars on her face, specifically near the edges of her face. "Yeah, it, uh, it is. Look, I'm not- I'm not really a part of this family, so you don't have to like… worry, about me being your legal niece, or whatever."

 

Alina nodded. "Okay."

 

One less person for her to remember. Although now Alina just felt a little more interested in who exactly Sasha was.

 

Sasha returned to looking down to the ground while Alina fiddled with her Batman doll.

 

In the next few moments, the door to the office flung open and a red-faced, snarling Jason stormed out of it with his middle finger up. He slammed the door after him, with Bruce's last words being an offended and pitiful, "Jason!"

 

Jason's eyes went immediately to Sasha waiting beside the door and his shoulders relaxed. His eyes darted next to Alina waiting at the end of the hallway. "Hey, 'lina."

 

Alina gave a small, shy and semi-fearful wave. "Hi, Jason."

 

"Come on, Sash. We're going to Roy's," Jason said in his rough voice, a hint of a sneer at the end as he glanced at Bruce's office. Sasha lit up though, with an automatic smile. Jason shoved his hands in his pockets and walked down the hallway, Sasha tailing him like a happy dog on a leash. As he passed Alina he gave her a quick pat on the head, and then he and Sasha were gone.

 

Alina took a steadying breath, squeezing her Batman plush close to her. She had her out now, to go back to her room and hide. Or maybe go to Duke's and hide. He would be back later today, so they could watch cartoons, maybe with Tim too. They had managed to drag Damian into it once, although he just sat in the corner quietly and glared, with a snip and sneer once or twice at Duke and Tim.

 

But she remembered when her mother broke down crying one day after an argument with her ex-boyfriend. Alina had been six, and hadn't seen her mother cry like that ever before. She had done what her mother did for her and hugged her until she stopped.

 

Her dad seemed too big and untouchable, almost like Batman, to break down crying. But she had thought the same of her mom, too.

 

So, she timidly walked to the office door and pushed it open, peaking in. Bruce had his head in his hands, palms pressed against his eyes and fingers in his hair. He was taking deep breaths, the same way her mom always instructed her to do.

 

"Dad…?"

 

Bruce jerked up at her whisper, staring at her with red- but not crying- eyes. It seemed like she took a moment to register in his mind before a small, maybe forced but Alina wasn't sure, smile curled at the corner of his lips. "Alina." His voice was a bit rasper than normal, but not too bad. "Do you need something?"

 

"Can I hug you?"

 

Bruce seemed taken off-guard, blinking. "...Of course?"

 

Alina wasted no time in walking over to him, wrapping her arms around him best she could. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her tight, just like she did earlier to her plushie. He lifted her up and onto his lap, where they stayed hugging for a minute or two before Alina pulled back. She shifted around to stare at the laptop and papers on his desk, curious.

 

"What are you working on?" Alina asked.

 

Her dad let out a little chuckle. "Just finances and paper work. Nothing as interesting as you've seen your siblings doing."

 

Alina felt a tiny smirk curl at her lips.

Chapter Text

Alina made it a habit to pop into her dad's work office every once in a while. She loved watching him work, even if it was far more boring than what she observed her siblings doing, but they had started to stop letting her watch them work, or just pretending to work on something different. Alina was already thinking of ways to weasel her way back into watching them do detective stuff, because that stuff was really cool. At least Cass and now Steph had started telling her about their secret spy adventures (she was pretty sure Steph was exaggerating a lot of stuff though). She hadn't seen Jason or Sasha since last time.

 

As she walked down to his office again, she noticed the door was completely open. Not too odd, but normally the door was half-cracked, or completely closed if someone else was in the room. There was a woman, black-haired and tall, standing in the doorway, back turned to Alina. She was speaking animatedly to Bruce as the conversation ended.

 

"Well, it was good to see you again."

 

"Yeah! Hopefully I'll see you in two weeks if the mission with the Birds goes smoothly."

 

"Hopefully."

 

"Anyway, gotta get going. Bye dad!" With a swift wave, the woman turned around, and closed the door behind her, the taillends of Bruce's goodbye muffled. The woman spun around and walked forward with a smile. Alina backed up while the woman stumbled, blue eyes widening as she saw her.

 

"Oh, shoot, sorry! Didn't see you there," she apologized.

 

"It's okay," Alina said, studying the woman. Her eyes looked a lot like Bruce's, and maybe her nose did too. She had broad shoulders too, but otherwise she had a semi-typical slim build. White skin, blue eyes, black hair- Alina wouldn't put it past her to be one of her siblings, "sorta" or not.

 

The woman hesitated, studying Alina too, as she slowly asked, "Are you… Alina Wayne? Or do you prefer Alina, uh… Shelley?"

 

"Either's fine," Alina said softly. In all honesty, she preferred Alina Shelley, but she supposed she had to get used to being a Wayne eventually, especially if her mother never… if her mother… didn't. Make it. Besides, her… legal name- the ones written on the papers- was Alina Shelley-Wayne now anyway.

 

The woman gave a forced, stiff smile, eyes uncertain, but spoke conversationally. "Hi, it's nice to meet you." She extended her hand, crouching down. "My name's Helena. With an H." There was a curl to her lips, a glimpse of a real smile.

 

Alina shook her hand. "Alina with an A." She tilted her head. "Are you my sister?"

 

Helena's eyes widened and darted to the side. Her words stumbled out, "Oh! Uh… Maybe? Yeah, sort of."

 

"Are you a family friend, then?"

 

Helena winces a bit, biting her lip. "Sort of. It's… a weird situation."

 

Alina shrugged indifferently. "It's a weird family."

 

Helena gave a tiny smile. "Yeah, it is, isn't it?"

 

"It is," Alina said confidently. Helena paused, squinting at her. She opened her mouth and then closed her mouth, thinking better of it. Alina continued. "Shouldn't you get going? You have a mission, right?"

 

Helena's eyes went wide. "How much of that conversation did you hear?" There was a note of fear in her voice.

 

Alina shrugged again. "Not that much. Just that bit." But now she wished she had heard more. Her family was just one big pile of secrets, weren't they?

 

Helena let out a half-relieved, half-strangled sigh. "Good. I mean-... How much do you, uh… know?"

 

"I know that there's something I shouldn't know that I really want to know," Alina answered honestly. Helena's lips twitched and her eyes twinkled in amusement.

 

"How old are you again?"

 

"Nine," Alina answered proudly, puffing out her chest.

 

Helena shook her head softly, a fond remembrance in her eyes. "Kids these days are too observant for their own good, huh?"

 

Alina's mind flashed to something her brothers' and sisters' had said more than once. "It's the trauma."

 

Helena choked over a surprised laugh, putting a hand over her mouth. "That sounded like Tim. Same delivery and tone and everything."

 

Alina smiled. "He says it the most."

 

"Oh my god. That's awesome. Alina, I'll pay you to say that in front of da- Bruce. He'll be so horrified. None of his kids are normal," Helena laughed lightly. She pulled out her phone. "I have to text Tim this. I'll see you later, okay, Alina?"

 

Alina nodded. "It was nice meeting you, maybe-yeah-sorta-sister."

 

Helena chuckled, giving her shoulder a squeeze in the same way their father did. "You should become a comedian, kid." Alina felt her chest fill with warmth and pride. Maybe she could be just as funny as her siblings. "Well, goodbye. I promise I'll stop by again- two weeks, as you already know, cheeky." Alina smirked. "That way we can properly get to know each other. One fellow 'lena to another."

 

"Yeah," Alina agreed. Helena gave her shoulder another squeeze before she waved goodbye and left.

 

A moment later, Alina's phone buzzed, and she pulled it out.

 

From Tim (rlly pale no sleep one) : DONT tell B u learned that from me

 

From Duke! (nice one best bro): please tell B you learned it from Timmy :D we can watch cartoons all nighttt

 

From Duke! (nice one best bro): or until your bedtime at least I don't want Alfred to yell at me

 

Alina smiled, feeling the first real buzz of sibling excitement she had since she got to the Manor. They reminded her of her friends, in a way.

 

To Tim (rlly pale no sleep one): i dunno can I watch u work if I dont?

 

From Tim (rlly pale no sleep one): ...Cass has spoiled u


From Tim (rlly pale no sleep one): fine yes but if B yells at me again it's Cass's fault

Chapter Text

Alina kept her gaze staring out of the window as the car drove on. She was finally going to see Dick’s wife and kid. Alina wasn’t sure how to feel about it, but then again she wasn’t sure how to feel about her whole family really. She had started thinking of her siblings as her real siblings now. She hadn’t had siblings before, ever, so she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to treat them or how they would treat her, but she saw that they acted like close friends would. They always said your best friends were like family, but for her, it was like her family was her best friends. Well, not best friends, of course, and perhaps they never would be (although she hoped they would be). But they were at least normal friends. Family.

 

But the “extended family” bit- like Sasha, and Barbara, and Luke, and all of them… she wasn’t exactly sure they felt like family yet. She thought the best way to describe it was that they were like those classmates you knew pretty okay but didn’t invite to your birthday party. But at least with some of those extended family and family friends and sorta-siblings she thought she could one day become “invite to your birthday party” friends with- like Helena. Tim had given her Helena’s number and she loved texting her. Alina didn’t text anybody too much past Helena, Tim, Duke, and Steph, and of course she was delighted to finally be able to text her school friends on something other than her mother’s phone. Nell had been spamming her every day.

 

Anyway, the car ride to Dick’s home in Blüdhaven was mostly quiet, but only because Damian- who was sitting in the front passenger seat- was giving short responses to all of Dick’s chatty questions. Dick, of course, tried talking to Alina too, but eventually her responses shortened themselves too. She was a little uncomfortable talking with Damian in the car. It wasn’t that she felt threatened by him, but she just didn’t… know how to act around him. And he was a little scary. But all of her new family was a little scary, to be fair.

 

It was also a little weird glancing beside her to the empty kids’ car seat on the right back passenger seat.

 

As the car finally pulled up to a house (it was nice- not another huge manor, just a nice suburban home as her mom would always describe them- the houses she wanted to live in.... Alina had no idea what a suburban was), Dick asked Damian, “Can you go check if everything’s good, Dami?”

 

Alina had no idea how Dick got away with calling him ‘Dami’. Steph had called him that once and he yelled at her, then tackled her when she started taunting him. Harper had laughed and her brother who’s name she had forgotten but it was something like Colten had groaned before trying to convince Damian to stop, to no avail.

 

Damian didn’t respond, just unbuckled himself and then effortlessly ducked and jumped out the window. He bolted like a racehorse to the house and was gone before Alina could blink. Dick just sighed and grumbled, “Coulda just used the door like a normal person…”

 

He parked the car and got out, opening Alina’s door and offering a hand. She accepted it as she unbuckled and hopped out of his car. Dick asked her, “You still okay with this, ‘lina? I know it’s a little weird being, ya know, nine and an aunt.”

 

Alina gave a nod that was more certain than she felt. “Better now than never, right?”

 

Dick gave a little chuckle. “Yeah, guess so.”

 

He led her to the front door- left open by Damian- and they walked inside. The noise of a television sounded from a few rooms away, along with the happy squealing of a little girl. Alina felt the thought jumble around her head one more time- she was nine. And an aunt to her thirty-year-old brother she only recently met’s three or something year old daughter, who was called something like Mary or Maerie but Alina still wasn’t sure. She thought it was French, maybe. That’s what the TV shows always said- if it sounds fancy, then it’s French.

 

She and Dick were immediately greeted by his wife, Kori. Alina had looked up pictures of her beforehand, which felt a little weird, and she also misspelled it a whole bunch first before she just searched “Dick Wayne wife”. Also, it turned out, Dick’s last name wasn’t Wayne? To be fair, siblings like Jason’s weren't either, but she only realized that after she realized Todd wasn’t his middle name. She guessed hers wasn’t just Wayne either, but rather Shelley-Wayne now, so it made sense. It also explained why Damian always called him Grayson.

 

Kori had that same bubbly, bright smile she had in nearly every photograph online. She had very pretty green eyes; “As bright as emeralds,” the news articles would always say, and Alina agreed. Her black skin stood out amongst the white-skinned rich, although Alina wouldn’t classify her as a snobby rich person anyway (she had come to realize none of her family was, despite what her mom always said about the selfish rich). Alina loved her curly, poofy red hair too. It looked so warm, like a sunset had been washed over it, and it made Alina wish she had cooler hair instead of just plain old short, straight brown hair.

 

Kori hugged Dick tight, enough to rival Dick’s own infamous hugs, but he didn’t mind at all, just grinned like an idiot. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she let go of him. Kori turned and smiled down at Alina, extending her hand. Her nails were painted the same color as her hair- reddish orange, like a fire. Alina had never been one for painting nails, but she knew Steph and Cass liked to, and seeing Kori’s nails just made Alina want her nails painted in all shades of the rainbow.

 

“So you’re the new nestling I’ve been hearing so much about. How are you settling in?” Kori spoke kindly, with an unidentifiable accent (not that Alina knew what many accents sounded like anyway), and a certain hop to her voice.

 

Alina accepted her handshake meekly, giving a timid smile as she answered, “I’m fine.” ‘Just tired from memorizing all these new names and people and what they are to me…’

 

Kori’s lips curved into an understanding smile, green eyes twinkling. “That’s good. I’m sure your siblings have given you enough trouble?”

 

Alina nodded. “Yeah.” She should have brought her Batman plush. Or even her Red Hood one. She wanted something to squeeze nervously. Kori was very nice and friendly, but sometimes friendly was just as stressing as rude.

 

“Do you want to go meet your little niece, or do you want a few seconds to yourself?”

 

Alina thought for a moment. She would like a few seconds to get herself ready, but she’d also never really… been given that option before? Would it be awkward if she waited? She was already here, wasn’t she? She’d had so, so long to think about her sister-in-law and niece. She didn’t need anymore time to think, even if she kind of wanted to. “Uhm, meeting her is… fine.”

 

“Okay, if you are certain. I know it might be overwhelming, little one. Feel free to remove yourself from the situation whenever you want, okay, sweetie?”

 

Alina gave another nod. Kori reached out for her hand, and Alina let her take it. Dick squeezed her shoulder comfortingly and she flashed a quick smile up at him. She let Kori lead her to the living room, glancing into the other rooms as they passed.

 

The moment they stepped foot into the living room, Maerie(?) immediately whipped her head around and yanked herself out of Damian’s hold (Damian? Holding a small child? Non-threateningly? That didn’t compute with what Alina knew of him, but then again, how much of him did she really know?). She screamed happily as she jumped towards Dick. Impressively so, that Alina wasn’t even sure a three-year-old was able to jump like that.

 

“Daddy!” She squealed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and nuzzled against him. Alina already knew that between Dick and Kori, little Maerie was going to be a hugger, and a vicious one at that.

 

Dick laughed and hugged her just as strong back, giving her a quick twirl. “Good to see you too, starshine.” He kissed her on her forehead as she giggled. He leaned his head down to her ear and whispered. “Stay grounded, okay? Can you stay grounded for me?”

 

Maerie nodded eagerly, whispering back loudly, “Okay.” She wiggled herself out of her father’s hold and landed on the ground like a cat landing effortlessly on its feet. Her eyes caught on Alina next. She had the same eyes as her mother, just as shiny and bright.

 

“Hi! Hi! Who’re you?” Maerie chirped away as she bounced over to Alina, swinging a toy chicken in her hand as she went.

 

Alina blanked for a moment, before she hesitantly answered, “I’m Alina.” Did she say she was her aunt? No, that was too weird, wasn’t it? Well, Damian was her uncle, and he was only thirteen, so maybe it wasn’t all that weird? Would a kid as young as Maerie even understand, anyway?

 

The little girl just plowed on, unconcerned. “I’m M-A-R-apossotrphy-I! Mar’i!” She cheered as she spelled her own name. Well, that certainly cleared things up. Although Alina had never heard of someone with an… apostrophe in their name before. So, it really must be French, then.

 

“Hi, Mar’i,” Alina greets her, testing her name on her tongue. It was sort of pronounced like Mario but without the ‘o’.

 

“Spell yours? Can you spell Ah-lina?” she asked excitedly.

 

Dick chuckled fondly as he told Alina, “She’s been obsessed with spelling lately. Keeps writing on the walls all the time, you little monkey.” Mar’i squealed as her dad leaned down and ruffled her hair.

 

Alina smiled at the sight, remembering all the times her mother would laugh and call her a little monkey, little rascal, little princess (oh how that had been tainted… fucking Joker). She noticed Damian looking not unhappily at the sight too before his gaze turned to her and soured, his typical glare upon his face.

 

Mar’i let out her last giggles and turned to Alina expectantly with bright eyes. Alina happily obliged, spelling out her name slowly. The little girl was quick to copy her, “A-L-I-N-A! Ah-lina!”

 

“Excellent job, my little bumgorf,” Kori praised and Mar’i lit up. Alina had never heard the word bumgorf before- it sounded silly- and she wondered what it meant. She supposed it was just another way of saying little princess or little genius or something. Was it French too?

 

“Yay!” Mar’i cheered with a bounce on her heels. Without warning, she thrust the chicken toy into Alina’s hands who fumbled to hold it. She turned around and bolted back over to Damian, who didn’t even flinch at the sudden turn of attention.

 

“Dami!” she screeched. “DamiDamiDami! Daaaamiiiiiaaaaannn!” She latched onto his hand, tugging on it almost exaggeratedly. To Alina’s surprise and Damian’s credit, he just scoffed and let her pull him along. To Alina’s even more surprise, his lips were twitching, like he was forcing himself to not smile. Mar’i shoved Damian onto the couch, grabbed the game controller on the arm, and thrust it into his hands.

 

“Plaayyyyy! Play Zella, play!” Mar’i told him as she crawled up beside him. The television quickly loaded up Legend of Zelda on the screen as Damian followed the “little bumgorf”’s commands willingly. Alina watched, a bit awkwardly as she just stood there, but amazed and intrigued at this new side of Damian. The side everyone (or, well, almost everyone- Tim said he was a demon child no matter what) always said was there, just locked behind a “fuck ton of walls”, as Steph had put it, before correcting it to “a lot of walls” at Dick’s offended glare.

 

Kori leaned down beside Alina. She whispered, “Do not worry. He will come around to you eventually. He still gives me the eye of stink daily, and he likes me.” Alina just nodded, more willing to believe it after seeing him interact with Mar’i.

 

“Mar’i’s pretty used to seeing a lot of people,” Dick piped up. “New and familiar. There’s just so many of us, you know?” He grinned. “She gets babysat so often since all our friends and family love her so much.”

 

“She seems very nice,” Alina said, because that was what you tell parents about their child. And Mar’i did seem very nice anyway.

 

“She is! Thank God, because I couldn’t take raising another bastard child.” He sent a teasing grin towards Damian. Damian sent a quick glare his way before he focused back on the video game, Mar’i eagerly pointing out what he needed to do, and yelling “Horsie!” a bunch too.

 

Alina had heard a lot about that- Dick raising his precious baby brother Damian like a son for a few years. She was never really quite sure what that meant, or how that worked, but her whole family was weird so she didn’t think about it too much.

 

“You good with staying the night?” Dick asked her gently. “I understand if it’s too much. I can take you back to Gotham, I don’t mind.”

 

Alina thought for a moment. She wasn’t really sure. She had started to get used to her big room and its soft blankets and darkness and many vigilante-themed plushies. She didn’t really want to sleep in an unfamiliar place. But, on the other hand, she thought maybe it was a good chance to get to know Damian (and her niece, and sister-in-law) better, or at least see him in a happier light as she doubted he was going to want to talk to her much. Damian seemed to really like Dick and Mar’i, and Kori too, and that made Alina want to really like them as well. Damian was her big brother, after all, and she wanted to know him.

 

So, she answered, “I’m okay. I can stay here for tonight.”

 

Dick placed a hand on her shoulder and Kori smiled warmly at her. “Well then,” Dick said. “Make yourself right at home, Alina! Aunt Kate’ll pick you up in the morning to head back to Gotham, okay?” His lips curved as he smiled wider. “It’s time you met Aunt Katie.”

 

And just like that, Alina was wishing she chose to go home.


Not more new people...

Chapter Text

“Mar’i, no, put that down! That’s not food and you know that!”

 

“Anything’s eddie-bull once! Unkie Tim told me that!”

 

“Okay, well, Uncle Tim has horrifyingly terrible eating habits, so don’t listen to him.”

 

“You have horrifyingly terrible eating habits, Grayson.”

 

“Just because I choose to eat cereal and granola bars rather than cook a meal doesn’t mean I have Tim-level horrifyingly terrible eating habits! And don’t think I don’t know that you sneak way more candy into my house than you do at the Manor, Damian.”

 

“Tt. That’s because I know I can get away with it. You gave me that horrendous sweet-tooth after all.”

 

“That wasn’t only me! Jon got you addicted to cotton candy.”

 

“I haven’t had cotton candy in months.”

 

“Liar.”

 

“Cotton canny! Can I have cotton canny? I want cotton canny!”

 

“Mar’i, starshine, we don’t have cotton candy.”

 

“Why not? I want cotton canny!”

 

“If she wants cotton candy, Grayson, then we shall get cotton candy.”

 

“No! Don’t encourage this. We’re supposed to be having breakfast right now.”

 

“Cotton canny and mustard?”

 

“MAR’I NO! Of all the things you had to inherit from your mother, why the mustard!”

 

“Mustard is quite splendid.”

 

“Kori, babe, no matter how many times you try to convince me of that, I will never believe you, ever.”

 

Mar’i, in response, just giggled gleefully while Damian directed her to her seat. She climbed up onto it, and started kicking her feet while drumming her fingers against the table. Kori and Dick bickered some more, good naturedly in a way Alina wasn’t exactly used to seeing, living- err, having lived with a single mother and her occasional boyfriend. Damian grabbed plates out of the cabinet as one of two waffle makers beeped angrily at them. Kori pushed the maker towards him (was it not hot???) and he popped it open, placing a waffle onto the plate.

 

“Yay! Waffle time, waffle time, it’s waffle time!” Mar’i cheered eagerly.

 

“Yes, waffle time,” Damian agreed simply. He grabbed the syrup, a bottle of mustard, and a fork and knife out of the drawer. He walked over and placed the plate and items in front of Mar’i while Kori poured in the next batch of waffle mix into the waffle maker. The other waffle maker started beeping, perfectly timed, and Damian moved to place that waffle on the plate. Dick quickly snatched the syrup bottle out of Mar’i’s hands as she attempted to pour it in her hands.

 

“No, no, no, you know not to do that. Why are you always such a little gremlin in the morning?” Dick sighed dramatically.

 

“Damian,” Mar’i responded without hesitance. Damian shot her a glare.

 

Dick and Kori laughed, with Kori saying, “Quick to throw him under the bus, I see.”

 

"Probably also learned to do that from him too," Dick added with a smile. His phone buzzed and he picked it up to check his message. "Kate's on her way here. She's bringing Bette."

 

"Oh, I have not seen her in a while. Are they bringing anyone else?"

 

Dick shook his head. "Nah. Beth's with Julia right now, and Maggie went to visit her daughter. Kate couldn't go with 'cause of a case."

 

Kori nodded. "Very well. We did not plan for a big breakfast, so that is good."

 

"Pffft, do we ever plan, Star?" Dick smirked at her.

 

The two continued their conversation as Damian placed a plate at an empty seat. To the surprise of the silent observer of this domestic family interaction, he turned around and stared Alina down directly in the eyes, simply stating, "Sit."

 

And then he moved to tend to the next waffle. Dick helped Mar'i cut her waffle while chatting with Kori, who was helping Damian. Not a thing in their easy breakfast routine changed even as Alina timidly approached her seat.

 

Damian hadn't even glared or scowled at her yet (unless you counted his kinda scary stare as a glare). He had plenty last night, when he couldn't avoid her, but now he didn't seem to… mind her presence? She thought perhaps it was too early in the morning for Damian to remember he didn't like her.

 

Soon enough, the Grayson family was sitting down and eating, chatting and arguing loudly among themselves. It was honestly not all that different from breakfast and dinners at the Wayne Manor, just with an added messy, squealing little kid.

 

“It’s been years. Why does this still bother you?” Kori asked with an amused expression.

 

“Why wouldn’t it! I got used to the ‘just straight-up drinking it’ part, and even the putting it on pizza part… but on waffles? Waffles, Kori?! Steph would be so upset if she knew you defaced her precious holy waffles with mustard.”

 

“Brown has tried many strange and unusual toppings on waffles to decide whether said toppings are worthy of being on a waffle. Perhaps we should let her try it with mustard and see if it truly belongs or not?” Damian suggested.

 

“No! We shouldn’t!” Dick protested. “Mustard does not go on waffles!”

 

“You only deny my suggestion because you fear it would prove what you detest,” Damian said regally, and Alina understood not a lick of what he said, but she knew it was cool. Dick opened and then closed his mouth with a childish huff.

 

“Mustard! On! Waffles!” Mar’i cheered as she shoved her syrup-mustard waffle combo into her mouth noisily.

 

“The princess has spoken,” Kori said with a teasing grin towards her husband. Alina winced as her mind flashed back to the Joker. “Mustard on waffles.”

 

Mar’i giggled, content with the decree, while Dick sulked. “Damian, I just don’t understand why you support mustard on waffles.”

 

Damian raised an eyebrow. “Why would I not? I have lived almost four years with a family that, aside from Pennyworth and Todd, have no idea what actual food tastes like and instead shoves their mouth with things as disgusting as goldfish in milk, ketchup and soy sauce in soda, and peanut butter ice cubes, to name a few. And they all have human tongues capable of properly tasting human food. Mustard on waffles, while it does not fit my likings, is nothing out of the ordinary.”

 

“He’s right,” Kori agreed. “Dick, sweetie, you have eaten the most ridiculous of things that even I would not condone.”

 

“But most of those were for dares!”

 

“No one was daring you to eat pickled strawberries we found in the middle of nowhere, Grayson.”

 

“Well no one wasn’t not daring me either!” Dick turned desperately to Alina, who wasn’t all that startled to suddenly be included in the conversation. Her siblings did that a lot in order to try and win pointless arguments such as this one. “Alina, at least you agree that mustard should not go on waffles, right?”

 

“She’s never had mustard on waffles before. How can she make a proper judgement on this?” Damian rebutted, which did surprise Alina. Normally, at the Manor, he would have been gone by now, unless Tim had somehow roped him into a screaming match (or Damian had roped Tim into one, either way it was the same result). So it was… weird, in a nice way, to just hear him speak and be just like the rest of her siblings- pointlessly argumentative.

 

“You don’t know that! Maybe she’s secretly had mustard on waffles and it was the worst experience of her life,” Dick argued back. Alina would have argued back that the worst experience of her life was finding out her mother was in a coma and probably never, ever waking up. Getting kidnapped by the Joker was a close second.

 

But Alina did not get a chance to argue back, as the sound of a door slamming open followed by the scream of “WHERE IS THE CHILD?!” boomed throughout the house. Nobody at the table flinched, not even Mar’i, who just grinned and started chanting “The child is here! The child is here!” In the next moment, two women, one red-haired and one blonde, bounded into the room undeterred. The red-haired one immediately grabbed Mar’i and hugged her. Mar’i screeched and giggled playfully.

 

“Oh, your hands are all sticky! No, don’t touch my hair, you’ll get it all sticky!” The woman told the little girl, who then immediately aimed for touching her hair.

 

“Katie, why did you have to teach her that,” Dick said exasperatedly, although his lips were curled into a smile.

 

“What? The ‘where is the child’ thing? Because why not,” the woman- Aunt Kate?- replied with ease.

 

“It’s kinda creepy.”

 

“I think it’s cute,” Kori said.

 

“Why not creepy and cute?” The blonde woman smirked.

 

“We can never be a normal family, can we?” Dick let out his second dramatic sad sigh of the day.

 

“Nah,” the woman replied. “Dunno what made you think that when half your family’s nocturnal and you married a literal a-”

 

“Angel!” Dick cut it. “She’s a literal angel.” The blonde looked at him confused before he gestured to Alina. Her eyes widened with an ‘ohhh’ expression as Dick continued on. “You haven’t met Alina yet, have you?”

 

“Nope. New sister right? ‘Cause you aren’t in the adopting kids biz yet?” The blonde joked with a smirk.

 

“Debatable,” Damian said. He stood up from his chair. “Greetings, Kanes.” The blonde rolled her eyes and mouthed the word ‘Kanes’ mockingly. “You have disrupted a peaceful breakfast with your unnecessarily loud entrance.”

 

“It wasn’t unnecessarily loud,” Kate defended herself as Mar’i wiggled out of her grip. “It was the normal loud.”

 

Kate, technically, was right. Damian himself had been much louder in the brief glimpses Alina had caught of him speaking and screaming. Her entire family liked to be unnecessarily loud, which made it extra creepy whenever one of them just silently appeared behind you.

 

“You didn’t break the door this time, did you?” Dick asked them.

 

Kate shook her head. “Nope.” She paused in thought. “Well. Probably not.”

 

“Kaaatttttieeeee,” Dick whined.

 

“Whaaaat? Your own wife has broken that door way more than me. Actually, Damian and Mar’i have probably broken that door more than me. You’ve probably broken that door more than me. I think you just need a better door.”

 

“The door’s fine! I just live with door-slamming maniacs!”

 

As they bickered the blonde woman moved around the kitchen table to snatch a waffle off the waffle maker, grabbing a plate for herself. She moved to stand between Damian and Alina, presumably not sitting due to every other chair already being claimed. “How’s life been, little demon?”

 

Damian, characteristically, sneered. “Better when you weren’t here.”

 

“Knew you were gonna say that,” the blonde said with a roll of her eyes again as she shoved a piece of waffle into her mouth. She turned to Alina and spoke around a mouthful of food. “How’ve you been, newest kid?”

 

“Uh,” Alina said, not really sure how to answer. She hadn’t spoken yet today, and hadn’t been expecting too. “Good?”

 

“Like good-good or fake-good?”

 

Alina stared blankly at her. What was she supposed to answer? Both… good-good and fake-good felt like correct answers.

 

Damian answered for her. “Stop annoying us with your presence and leave, Kane.”

 

‘Kane’ (which Alina assumed was not her real name because Damian never called anyone by their first name, for some reason) just smirked. “Unfortunately new kid’s gonna have to be annoyed by my presence a little longer- we’re going to get smoothies later.” She shoved another piece of waffle into her mouth, reminding Alina of the fact she hadn’t eaten hers. She didn’t really want to, for some reason.

 

“We are?” Alina blinked. She didn’t even know this woman?

 

Damian curled his lip at her, a certain gleam in his eye that Alina couldn’t quite place. “Good for you.”

 

‘Kane’ gave him a quick smirk before responding to Alina. “Yeah, kid. There’s this awesome smoothie place on the way back to Gotham that I’ve had my eye on for awhile. I managed to convince Aunt Katie to let me take you there. You like smoothies?”

 

Well, Alina certainly wasn’t opposed to smoothies. And she hadn’t had much dessert passed ice cream or popsicles from the freezer (that she didn’t think she was supposed to go in, but literally everybody was encouraging her to ‘steal’ from it, and so far Alfred nor Bruce had yelled at her). So, smoothies sounded good… Maybe. The part where she had it with two literally complete strangers was a bit iffy, but at least her family seemed to trust them. Or at least, all of her family except Damian, but Damian was Damian and probably didn’t trust anyone aside from, like, Dick. She did wonder if Kate was actually her aunt, as in she was Bruce’s sister (he didn’t have a sister listed on the Wayne family tree though), or if that was just another random title like “sorta-sister” that was given to her.

 

“Smoothies are fine,” Alina replied quietly. And who was this ‘Kane’ woman to her? Also her aunt? Another sorta-sister? A sorta-cousin? Or just a family friend? A part of her wanted to just stay quiet, but a bigger part just wanted to get the confusion over with, and that part spoke bluntly, “Who are you?”

 

“Oh!” The woman startled. “Right. I’m Bette Kane. The woman currently wrestling a baby out of Dick's hands is Kate. We're both cousins of Bruce- your dad, right?" She looked at Alina for confirmation.

 

Alina nodded, glad Bette at least seemed a bit confused on what Alina was to her too. Maybe that was the normal of this family. Not exactly know who they were to you, but just knowing you were family despite it all. That sounded kinda nice and poetic.

 

"So you're my aunt then?" Alina asked her.

 

Bette looked surprised for a moment before lighting up and laughing. "Oh my gosh, yes, technically, yes. It's just- nobody's called me aunt except Mar'i. It's always been, like, 'Aunt Kane and cousin Bette'. But you're right! If Kate's an aunt, then I am too! Why did no one say anything?! Damian, I'm your aunt now!"

 

Damian, predictably, sneered at her. "You are not. You are younger than Grayson, who, by your logic, you would be the aunt of. You had a crush on him. "

 

Bette blushed a polite red. "Hey! I was young and dumb back then and also didn't know he was my, like, adopted cousin-slash-nephew. Cut me some slack."

 

“You’re still dumb,” Damian said.

 

“Wow, real mature, little nephew,” Bette teased, deadpan, but amusement glittered in her eyes.

 

“I am not your nephew!” Damian snapped. “And I’m more mature than you’ll ever be.”

 

“Says the cranky thirteen-year-old to their very mature aunt.”

 

“We are, if anything, first cousins once removed. Nothing more,” Damian growled, eyes glowering with his typical seething hatred. “And I am seconds away from once removing your arm with a knife.”

 

“Fine, fine,” Bette relented, rolling her eyes again and holding her arms up placatingly. “You’re my cousin. Okay. Alina, you’ll still be my niece, won’t you?”

 

Again, Damian answered for her. “That can’t work. She can’t be your niece and I your cousin if she and I are siblings.” A part of Alina bubbled happily at being acknowledged as his sister. The other part just watched the argument with detached, slightly confused amusement as she always did.

 

“Uh, yeah, she can,” Bette said, putting her hands on her hips and cocking an eyebrow. “You think of your older brother as a dad, you hypocrite.”

 

Damian’s checks flushed lightly, and he huffed, “No, I view him as someone who raised me.”

 

“Sooooo,” Bette drew the word out. “A father?”

 

“No,” Damian replied stubbornly.

 

“Fine then. A mother?”

 

“No!”

 

“Right, your mothers are Kori, Selina and Talia. My bad.”

 

Damian let out an impressively realistic growl, low and guttural as he clenched his fists. Bette did not seem the least bit affected. In fact, she seemed to take pride in riling up her… cousin.

 

“Face it, demon child, this family’s fu- fricked up. There’s too many of us to count. Like, I just learned Babs’s has a daughter? But, not really, of course. I don’t even think she’s actually adopted her. Her name's like Charlie or something. And she’s been a ssss- in our family business longer than me! And she’s younger than me!” Right in that moment, Alina had never related to someone more. “So, she’s like my, what, cousin’s kid, in this weird family?”

 

“First cousin, twice removed,” Damian replied. “You would know that if you paid attention in school.”

 

“You’re still in school. Shut up.”

 

“I have a niece older than me,” Alina piped up, because she really needed to talk to someone about that because it was even weirder than being an aunt to a three-year-old at nine. And Bette seemed to understand her confusion.

 

“Woah, wait, really? Who?” Bette asked her, eyes wide.

 

“Sasha.”

 

“Sasha…” Bette tilted her head as she wracked her brain for names and faces. “That’s… Jason’s kid, right? I think I met her. She's got a temper rivaling Damian's."

 

"She was nice," Alina said. She hadn't seemed angry at all, just quiet and awkward. Maybe a bit irritated. Jumpy.

 

"Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong kid." Bette shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time."

 

"You're thinking of the right child. Todd's… daughter has as many anger issues as him."

 

"Pffft. Child. She's older than you." Bette frowned. "I think. She's like, what, fourteen?"

 

"Fifteen," Damian corrected.

 

"So definitely older than you." She smirked. "And taller than you."

 

Without warning, Damian sucker punched Bette in the gut and then resumed standing politely like he had done nothing at all. Bette let out a wheeze as she bent over, clutching her stomach, but she was laughing too.

 

"Owww," Bette whined. "You asshole."

 

"Language," Damian chastises. "There's a child."

 

"Yeah," Bette said. "You."

 

Damian scowled at her, but didn’t get a chance to rebuke as Kate popped up beside them. “Hey you two. Ready to go?”

 

“If the demon spawn’s done being a brat, then yes, my new niece and I are totes ready for smoothies!” Bette exclaimed smugly.

 

Totes ?” Damian mocked. “What are you, a high school girl with an Instagram addiction?”

 

“Maybe a little bit,” Bette said with a grin.

 

Kate smiled at them, but raised an eyebrow. “Can we go back to the ‘my new niece’ part? When did you decide she was your niece, Bette?”

 

“Uh, because if we’re both the cousins of Bruce, and you’re Aunt Kate to them… why am I not Aunt Bette?”

 

“Because you were more your ‘nephews and nieces’-” she air-quoted the words, “-age and more like their cousin. You call me Aunt Kate too most of the time anyway.”

 

“‘Cause that’s what everyone called youuuuuu,” Bette whined. “This family’s so weird. I mean, you’re kinda like my mother or a really cool older sister since my parents sucked at raising me, but I call you Aunt Katie, but you’re actually my cousin.”

 

Kate shrugged with an amused smile on her lips. “You get used to it, Bets.”

 

Bette huffed, but in good-nature. “Well, at least I get to be an aunt to Mar’i and now Alina. Finally claiming my rightful place.”

 

“Your rightful place is in a trash can,” Damian muttered under his breath. Bette swatted at him and he dodged effortlessly.

 

“Alright, alright, enough family bonding. You’re going to make Dick explode.” Kate gestured to where Dick was watching them with a pleased twinkle in his eye, and also stuffing a waffle into his mouth while Mar’i sat on his shoulders, babbling at Kori. “You ready to get smoothies and go home, Alina?”

 

Alina nodded. She liked Bette, Kate seemed fine, she really wanted smoothies, and she really really wanted to go back to the Manor. Sort of. She would be fine with staying here or going to the Manor. Damian seemed to be opening up finally, even if it wasn’t directly to her. But she also did want to keep watching the Owl House with Duke, and she couldn’t do that from Dick’s house. Plus, she did need to go back to school, which was in Gotham and not Blüdhaven. She had started school last week, and she was excited to be with her friends again.

 

“Alright then. We’ll be heading off.” Kate moved over to Dick and Mar’i, ruffling Mar’i’s hair as she giggled. “See you later, you little munchkin.”

 

“Awwww, you leaving?” Mar’i said with a sad pout.

 

“Yes. I gotta take Alina home, Mar-Mar. I’ll come back soon, promise!”

 

“Noooo, I come with! I can come withhhh!” Mar’i whined. “Auwnt Katieee!”

 

“You gotta stay here and make sure Damian doesn’t get in trouble, starshine,” Dick told his daughter. Mar’i huffed, but tilted her head thoughtfully.

 

“And you can play with Silkie again,” Kori said. Mar’i perked up immediately.

 

“Okay! Okay!” Mar’i raised her hand up and Kate high-fived it softly. “Bye-bye Auwntie!”

 

“Bye-bye, sweetheart,” Kate said with one last hair ruffle. This family and hair ruffles… Alina smiled at the sight, remembering every hair ruffle, shoulder squeeze and pat on the head her father and siblings had given her.

 

She really was growing to love her new family, however big and strange it was.

Chapter Text

Alina was exhausted after school, kickball in gym class having taken everything out of her. She had plopped herself unmoving on the couch for about an hour with Tim and Duke watching cartoons beside her. She could hear the sound of Damian’s pencil moving against paper, but she had no idea where he was in the room.

 

Her lazy potato time was interrupted by the buzz of someone’s phone. It wasn’t Duke’s or Tim’s, because she had become familiar with their ringtones. Duke had mostly basic, default ringtones, while Tim’s ranged from a gentle buzz to goats screaming to Kahoot music remixes.

 

Alina didn’t think too much of it, though, until Damian’s typical cold voice piped up from somewhere, saying, “The corn cobs are here.”

 

Tim jerked up immediately from his spot lounging upside down, twisting around and popping up on his feet with a smile. Duke, sat like a normal person beside Alina, blinked and sat up straighter. “Why are they here?”

 

“They wanted to meet Alina, duh,” Tim said. Alina wiggled from her spot, sitting up straight too. “I didn’t know they were gonna be here today.”

 

“Who all is it? Just Clark or?” Duke asked.

 

“No idea. Jon, at least, since he texted Damian. Kon said he’d be there, though,” Tim answered.

 

Duke nodded. He stood up and offered a hand to Alina, which she accepted, jumping off the couch and landing with a bounce. “You good with meeting more people?”

 

Alina shrugged. “Meet so many already. What’s one more?”

 

Duke chuckled. “I feel ya there, sister.”

 

Alina smiled and then moved to take Tim’s hand as her brothers led her out of the living room. Damian was nowhere to be seen, although Alina noticed his black dog- Titus, she learned his name a few weeks ago, and she got to pet him a few times- walking a certain direction, so she assumed he was heading the same way. The other dog they had, Ace, an old German Shepard with a gray muzzle, laid on a fluffy bed as they passed by. He wagged his tail as Alina scratched his ear real quick, but made no move to follow them. Alina, unlike with Titus who always was wherever Damian was and therefore not where Alina was, saw Ace nearly every day. She loved petting him and laying against him, and one time she even got to play fetch with him. He was a good dog, just very old.

 

Alina prepared herself to meet new people. The names weren’t unfamiliar- Clark, Kon and Jon were all names that got tossed around often, as “friends”, “teammates”, “brothers from another mothers”, “best friends”, “partners”, “boyfriends”, “future husbands”, “basically husbands”, and any variations of those. They weren’t the only names to fall into those brackets either, others being Roy, Wally, Colin, Bart, and so so many others that Alina couldn’t keep track of. Not only did she have a lot of family, but all of her family had friends , and it just complicated the mess further. Especially since she had no idea if they were just friends or dating. When she told her school friends about it, Nell had said they all seemed “very gay and were probably all dating, like a dating ring or something.” Alina didn’t know if you could date more than one person at the same time, so she thought maybe some of them were clingy ex-boyfriends like her mom had.

 

She wondered if maybe it was an inside joke she didn’t get, like with how she could scream “THE CRICKETS ARE ATTACKING!” and her friends would die of laughter while everyone else just looked on in confusion.

 

When they got to the “front room” (Alina wasn’t sure what to call it- it being a room or two away from the front door and was kinda set up like a living room but just without a TV in it), her dad and Damian were already chatting with three black-haired guys with glasses. The oldest one she immediately recognized as a guy she’d seen in the news a few times, but she wasn’t exactly sure who he was. The one in a black Superman shirt was maybe around Tim’s age, wearing earrings and bracelets and grinning. The youngest seemed a few years older than Alina, just going off his babyface and bouncing feet, but he was taller than Damian, so maybe he was actually older than Damian. Said kid had launched himself at Damian, wrapping him in a hug. Damian snarled at him to get off, but the boy remained unaffected, just laughed and let go of him.

 

“It’s been so looooong!” The boy whined with a smile and bright blue eyes.

 

“We saw each other at school today, Kent. Or did you get brain damage between then and now? It wouldn’t be surprising,” Damian replied with a judgmentally raised eyebrow.

 

“No, I meant it’s been so long since we’ve hung out outside of school!”

 

“We hung out two weeks ago.”

 

“Too long!”

 

Damian huffed and rolled his eyes. “Fine. You know what has been ‘too long?’ Since the last time we’ve been at our base. It’s going to waste and I won’t stand for it.”

 

The young boy lit up, bouncing on the toes of his feet. “Yes! This weekend?”

 

“Will Friday and Saturday work for you?”

 

“Of course!”

 

Alina tilted her head curiously at them, letting go of Tim’s hand as he walked over to the guy his age. A base? ...Did they have a secret clubhouse, or something? She didn’t think Damian was the type, but the other kid definitely seemed like a person to have a clubhouse.

 

The guy punched Tim in the arm, grinning. Tim rubbed his arm, saying, “Rude.” The other guy just laughed boisterously.

 

Bruce, meanwhile, was chatting warmly with the man. Duke stayed beside Alina, giving her a reassuring glance, small smile on his face. She didn’t have to stand awkwardly long, though, before the man asked her father with a smile, “Enough pleasantries. Where’s my new niece?”

 

Even though his gaze had turned to Alina, clearly knowing and recognizing she was his new niece, he waited for Bruce to move to introduce her. “This is Alina.”

 

“It’s good to finally meet you, Alina. I’ve heard wonderful things about you,” Clark said, extending his hand to her. She shook it, watching Clark in a mix of cautiousness and curiosity. “I’m a close friend of your father’s. You can call me Uncle Clark!”

 

“A very close friend,” Tim murmured to his friend with a smirk.

 

Alina had heard a lot of those types of comments in regard to Clark, almost as much as she heard them in regards to some woman named Selina. “Hello. I’ve heard a lot about you too.”

 

“Oh?” Clark smiled. “All good things, I hope?”

 

“I think so?” Alina scrunched up her nose, tilting her head.

 

“I’ve heard you’ve been more of an angel than Cass,” Tim’s friend spoke, walking towards her. “That’s quite a feat. How’d you manage it, and when are you planning on turning into the second demon child?”

 

“Don’t encourage my daughter to become a brat,” Bruce said sternly with a frown. “I have too many of them already.”

 

“And don’t encourage her to try and take Damian’s title. He’s too proud of it to share it,” Tim said with a smirk. Damian glared at him while the boy beside him giggled, placing a hand over his mouth as Damian turned his glare to him.

 

"Ignore them," Clark said, but with a fond smile. "These are my sons, Conner and Jon." He gestured towards them.

 

Conner gave her a salute. "Heyo. You can call me Kon, with a K."

 

"Every kiss begins with K," Tim sang, grinning. Conner- or Kon, she guessed- grinned back at him, bumping his shoulder with his own. Alina hadn't seen him this freely happy and non sleep-deprived in a while.

 

Damian muttered an insult under his breath at his brother, while Jon moved forward to shake Alina's hand, eyes shining. "Hi! It's nice to finally meet Damian's new little sister!" Damian glared at him, again. "How rude has he been?"

 

“Uh,” Alina stuttered, not knowing how to reply. “N-... Normal? Amount? I think?” He wasn’t avoiding her as much as before, but he still wasn’t… friendly, she guessed.

 

Her family chuckled while Damian just glared, although it wasn’t a glare specifically aimed at her, so she took it as a win.

 

“Don’t worry! He’ll get better. He’s like a cat, you know?” Jon explained. “Mean and hissy but secretly a cuddle bug under all that puffed up fur.”

 

“I am not secretly a ‘cuddle bug’,” Damian, keeping up to the cat analogy, hissed at him, air-quoting the words ‘cuddle bug’. Even the way his shoulders raised defensively reminded Alina of a puffed up cat. Jon was right. How had she not seen this before? “And I’m not a cat either!”

 

“You are though!” Jon chirped. If Alina had to pick an animal for him, she’d pick either a dog or bird.

 

“Cuddle cat?” Duke offered, watching the two kids argue with a smirk.

 

Thomas ! You stay out of this!” Damian screeched at him, cheeks beginning to flush red.

 

Jon just gasped and then cheered. “Cuddle cat! Cuddle cat!”

 

“You are a cuddle cat, little demon,” Tim said with a devilish smirk, clearly taking great joy in antagonizing him, but there was brotherly affection hidden in his eyes.

 

“I am not! That sounds ridiculous !”

 

“Tim might be the idiot who falls asleep anywhere including but not limited to during a shooting,” Kon started. “But I’ve heard some stories about you that definitely prove you're secretly a cuddle cat who enjoys falling asleep on people. You know, like a cat.”

 

Damian let out an undignified screech, face darkening. Alina wasn’t really sure why he was so embarrassed by being a cuddle cat, but it was funny to watch her cold and sharp brother turn into a floundering mess.

 

“I mean, we always end up cuddled together after we watch movies,” Jon added.

 

“You do?” Duke asked, eyes widening.

 

“He does!” Tim said excitedly. “I have photos!”

 

Damian’s face turned as red as a tomato. “You won’t soon!”

 

“Oh my gosh, I thought he only did that with Dick!” Duke grinned, also delighted in tormenting his younger brother.

 

“No- and get this- he did it with me once! He curled into my side when we were watching Wreck-It Ralph . Steph took pictures!” Tim gestured with his hands sporadically.

 

“THAT NEVER HAPPENED!” Damian screamed with all the power in his lungs. “That was- I was tired! It was a boring movie with a terrible plot! And you’re exaggerating! I leaned against you! We did not cuddle !” Damian tried to sneer over the word, make it sound like it was poison itself, but instead his voice decided to crack, further cementing him into misery. Alina had never seen his face so red.

 

“Oh my Rao, this is amazing,” Kon whispered in amazement as everyone else burst out laughing.

 

“Shut up!” Damian growled.

 

“Never.” Tim smirked.

 

“Ever!” Jon added with a bounce on his feet, unphased as Damian whipped his glare back to him, the one who started it all.

 

Alina couldn’t help but watch in amusement as her youngest older brother glared and blushed like a cornered kitten lashing out. Despite herself, she let out a little whisper, “Cuddle cat.”

 

Damian whipped around to face her, jaw slack and mouth as wide as his eyes. He looked utterly betrayed, as though he had thought Alina was on his side just because she had been silent.

 

“And so, the demon spawn has been lessened to nothing more than a cuddle cat,” Duke proclaimed. Damian let out a strangled noise, an attempted growl that came out more as a whine.

 

“Alright, enough teasing,” Clark spoke, moving forward to stand beside Damian, placing a hand on his shoulder that he briefly glared at. “I brought some fresh apple pie and it’s getting colder by the minute.”

 

Alina lit up immediately. “Apple pie?!” She loved apple pie! Her cousin would make a bunch of pies for family gatherings and Alina always loved her apple pie best. “Can we have some?”

 

Clark rumbled a low laugh. “Of course! Why else would I have brought it? Just to tease you?”

 

Alina bounced on the balls of her feet, hands waving slightly at her sides, wishing she had one of her plushies to toy with. “Can we have some now?

 

“So we’ve found her favorite dessert. We’ll have to tell Alfred,” Duke said, smiling.

 

“I’m sure he somehow already knows,” Bruce responded, his lips curling up as he watched Alina fidget restlessly.

 

“That man scares me sometimes,” Kon added with a theatrical shiver. “He’s more all-knowing than Oracle- and she knows my search history!”

 

Oracle?

 

“Yes, we can eat it now. I said it was gonna get cold.” Clark smiled at her.

 

“Yes!” Alina squealed and gave an excited hop. She bolted to the door she knew led in the direction of the kitchen, pausing at it. She turned to the others. “Are we going?”

 

“Yep, lemme just go grab it. Y’all can go ahead,” Clark told her, giving her a quick wave as he turned around to walk towards another door. Bruce followed him, while the kids (two adults, two teens, a pre-teen, and one kid, technically) started walking with Alina to the kitchen, although Jon had to tug on Damian’s arm to get him to follow. Titus followed after Damian. Alina bounced like a rabbit the entire time, overjoyed.

 

“So, just to make sure, apple pie is your favorite dessert?” Duke asked her.

 

“Yes!” Alina answered, before slowing down her pace and tilting her head thoughtfully. “Well, maybe. I also like pumpkin pie and pear pie. And Nell gives me her caramel popcorn at lunch- I really like that. And I had this, like, minty ice cream but in a chocolate cake at my cousin’s birthday once that was super good. And-” She suddenly snapped her mouth shut and blushed. “Sorry, I’m talking too much. I like all desserts.”

 

“No, no!” Duke quickly rushed to reassure her. “You’re fine. You can talk as much as you want.”

 

“Yeah,” Jon agreed with a nod. “It’s good to talk.”

 

“Okay…” Alina said hesitantly. She just didn’t want to talk over them, or anything. Or be annoying. She knew she was a little kid and that meant she didn’t always understand what the older kids and adults were talking about. Plus she was also the new kid so she didn’t understand their jokes… She didn’t wanna ruin anything or look dumb.

 

“You know, we can start giving you some caramel popcorn and other snacks for lunch so you don’t have to share with your friend. In fact, we could probably give you some to share with her, if you wanted to,” Tim told her. His eyes were watching her with some emotions she didn’t quite understand. Like he was studying her, but like, in a curious way and not a mean way. “What’d you say her name was? Nell?”

 

“Mhm.” Alina nodded. “Danielle.”

 

“Is she your best friend?”

 

“Yeah,” Alina answered. “Her and maybe Alysia.”

 

“And you mentioned your cousin earlier. Do you see your cousin often?”

 

Alina scrunched her nose a bit, wondering why she suddenly felt like she was being… what was it called…. enti-ro-gated? “Only on like birthdays and holidays and stuff. They live out of Gotham.”

 

Tim hummed contemplatively, tilting his head. He looked a bit lost in thought. Kon nudged him (hard) in the side. “Dude. What’s with the sudden interrogation?”

 

Tim blinked and then gave a sheepish grin. “Sorry. Just realized we didn’t know much about her family and friends outside of us.”

 

They entered the main kitchen-slash-dining room area, with Alina immediately running over to her seat and sitting down, kicking her legs. Duke followed her to the table, but didn’t sit down. Tim and Kon moved to grab utensils and plates from the cupboards. Damian stayed by the door, back to being his normal glaring self as he watched Jon pet Titus. The dog wagged his tail and butted his head against Jon’s arm playfully, letting out a few barks. Damian didn’t say anything that he usually would, like “Titus, don’t play with Drake, he painted my suit pink because I sabotaged the coffee maker last week” or “Titus, don’t fetch that ball, Brown forced me to go shopping at the mall a month ago”, so Alina assumed he wasn’t all that upset over Jon teasing him. Or maybe Jon had special dog privileges for some reason.

 

Jon noticed her gaze on Titus, tilting his head at her. She glanced away, trying to pretend she hadn’t been watching. Jon leaned down and whispered something in the dog’s ear. Titus tilted his head for a moment, ears flopping, before he perked up, barked, spun around, and then bolted towards the table. Or, rather, towards Alina specifically. She squeaked as Titus rammed his head into her calf, and then reached his head up to gently grab her hand. He tugged with a low whine. Alina was frozen, glancing up at Damian who was still just glaring, and then her eyes flickered to Jon who was smiling, and then back to Titus.

 

“He wants you to play with him,” Duke told her. She glanced at him, then back to Titus, who wagged his tail and tugged on her hand softly again. She looked back at Damian. It was his dog.

 

He just stared at her for a moment before scoffing, rolling his eyes and looking away. “You can play with him.”

 

Alina brightened up, moving a hand to scratch behind his ears. Titus barked, deep and sharp, happily. He moved back a step and then spun around again, crouching down playfully. Right as Alina was wishing she had a ball or toy for him, she heard Jon say, “Alina! Catch!”

 

She jerked up, eyes catching on the small blue ball with a Superman logo on it. She jumped out of her seat and reached for it. The ball hit her fingertips and fell to the ground. Titus yapped and then lunged at it, grabbing it first with his paws and then his mouth. His tail wagged a mile a minute as he turned to Alina, waiting patiently. She hesitantly grabbed the ball from his mouth, and then looked back towards Jon, who held his hands out. She understood and threw the ball towards him. Titus immediately chased after it. Despite her less than perfect aim, Jon caught it and Titus circled around him with a few short barks. Jon threw the ball back to her, and Alina smiled as she caught on.

 

The game went on for a few minutes while Tim and Kon placed the plates on the table, before Duke commented, “You know. Maybe it’s not the best idea to be playing monkey in the middle with a Great Dane in the kitchen.”

 

“Why not?” Damian raised an eyebrow, a glimmer in his eye saying he almost looked offended. For… some reason. “Titus is well-trained. He won’t break anything. Kent is too.”

 

Jon gaped at Damian with his own offense. “Hey! I’m not a dog.”

 

“If I’m a cat, then you’re a dog,” Damian said with a mock disdainful sniff.

 

Jon looked ruffled for about a second before it switched into a smile with a shrug. “Okay. Fine. Dogs are cool.”

 

“Okay, well, aside from that,” Duke started. “Titus might be your specially trained attack dog and all that, but he does have a tendency to ‘Chase ball, ask questions later’. We have plenty of broken vases to prove it.”

 

Damian shifted a bit. “I’ve trained that out of him.”

 

“You said that last time, and the time before that.” Tim raised an eyebrow and smirked. “I’m beginning to think you haven’t actually trained it out of him.”

 

“I have!” Damian huffed. “You people just keep training it back into him.”

 

“He does have you there,” Kon said. “I recall a SnapChat involving a ball, a dog, and a broken window to a certain black car.”

 

“Shut up, Bruce yelled at me for that for weeks ,” Tim groaned.

 

Titus barked angrily at Jon, who had been holding the ball for the conversation. Jon gave the dog’s head a quick scratch before throwing the ball. Alina caught it effortlessly this time.

 

“So we’re just gonna go back to throwing the ball? Okay,” Duke said.

 

“Hey, at least we don’t have Krypto here too. He’d wreck the place,” Kon amended with a grin.

 

“Who’s Krypto?” Alina asked curiously as she threw the ball again. It sounded like a pet name, and she’d love to meet more pets.

 

“My dog,” Jon told her as he caught the ball. “He's a really smart white lab. You can meet him sometime!”

 

Alina nodded. “I’d liked that.”

 

“Have you met Bat-Cow yet?” Jon asked her.

 

“Uh.” Alina fumbled to catch the ball, Titus happily picking it up for her. “No?” She knew Bat-Cow and the… turkey lived in a barn in their backyard, but their backyard was huge , and Alina had barely even explored the Manor. Plus they were Damian’s animals, and she’d need his permission first… She had barely even pet Alfred the Cat, although she often saw the black and white tom lounging about.

 

“You should! I swear she’s way smarter than any other cow I’ve met.” Jon smiled. “You know, you have nearly as many pets as you do siblings. If you count Selina’s cats, anyway. Have you met Selina?”

 

Alina shook her head. “Dad’s girlfriend?” she asked with uncertainty, her voice raising to make it a question.

 

“Yeah,” Tim said. “Basically his wife, he just has serious commitment issues and emotional constipation.” Alina had… no idea what either of those things met. Except she thinks she learned about constipation in science but maybe she doesn’t because she didn’t think Bruce had constipation? She hoped not, anyway. That’d be bad.

 

“This house is gonna be overrun with cats if Selina ever does become his wife,” Duke murmured, to which Tim and Kon both laughed.

 

“I think that’s the only reason Damian would ever let Bruce marry Selina,” Tim joked. “He’d have infinite cats.” Damian huffed from his spot by the door while everyone else laughed. Alina smiled too. She wouldn’t mind having a lot of cats, although she definitely prefered dogs. Actually, her favorite animal was wolves.

 

“Do you know all the pets you have?” Jon asked her, and man, was he very chatty. Alina didn’t mind though. At least, not that much.

 

“Uhm. Two dogs, a cow, turkey, and… some cats?” She asked with a scrunched nose. Was Alfred (why did they give him the same name as their grandfather?) their only cat, and did this Selina woman’s cats count as theirs?

 

“Jason also has a dog,” Tim told her. “He just says it's not his dog, but we all know it's his dog.”

 

“What’s its name?”

 

Tim hesitated. “Dog.”

 

Alina paused, mind blanking for a moment. The ball dropped to the ground as she failed to catch it and Titus eagerly picked it up, barking at her. She took it from him and threw it. “It’s… named Dog, or it, uh, doesn’t have a name?”

 

“Her name’s Dog,” Duke said, eyes lighting with amusement. “Jason named her Dog.”

 

“Not- not even, like… Bat-Dog?” Seeing as they had a cow named Bat-Cow , she would have assumed Bat-Dog would be a likely name for one of their dogs. But, apparently, not.

 

Tim snorted with a smile. “Jason would sooner kill all of us than name his dog Bat-Dog. He nearly shot us when we started calling her Red-Dog and Hood-Dog.” ...Like the Red Hood? Well, okay. She hadn’t thought about Jason and Red Hood in awhile, but just between you and her, she was pretty sure he was the Red Hood or someone close to him. And some of her other family was probably also involved in Red Hood and/or Batman-esque stuff.

 

“He even ignored all my hard-thought out suggestions!” Damian stated with an annoyed noise, throwing his hands out exasperatedly. “Like Ophelia! Or Brutus!”

 

“Even Sparky the Second would have been a better name than Dog,” Tim added.

 

“Sparky the Second? What happened to Sparky the First?” Kon asked, a bit apprehensively.

 

“Oh, that was Jason’s childhood dog,” Tim explained. “Before Bruce adopted him.”

 

They all continued on chatting after that, about whatever they liked, and Alina faded back into her normal place of silent observation. It only lasted a little bit though, as Jon started his own conversation back up with her, even as the others chatted simultaneously about the state of the government and the “lovechild of Vine and Musical.ly” TikTok.

 

“My mom will probably want to meet you soon too,” Jon was saying. “Lois Lane. She’s a great mom but she always knows whenever I’m lying and it sucks.” Alina nodded in agreement. Her mother always knew when she was lying. She wondered, did her mother know she was lying now, even in her coma? “My dad- well.” He cracked a smile. “He’s super. But for all that he’s super, he can never get anything past mom either.” He chuckled a little bit before straightening up brightly while Alina continued scratching Titus under the chin. “And if you want to, you can meet my adopted brother, Chris! I don’t seem as often as Kon, but he’s awesome. You’d love him. And there’s my cousin who’s like a cool older sister- actually, I have two of them, Kara and Karen. Karen hangs out with Helena a lot- have you met Helena?” He paused his ramble that Alina had honestly been zoning out on, looking at her patiently.

 

“Uh,” Alina blanked. “No?” Wait, no, Helena was- she texted Helena, she was maybe-sister in her phone. “Yes?”

 

“I’ll take that as a maybe,” Jon chuckled with a smile. “Don’t worry. To be honest, I’m not even sure who’s who in your family either. I don’t think anybody does. I only knew about Helena because Karen’s always with her. Even then, I don’t really know her.” Alina gave another half-listening nod. “Anyway, do you wanna meet the rest of my family? We could hang out with them- we as in me, you and Damian.”

 

While the idea of hanging out with Damian more was tantalizing, Alina immediately noped. She shook her head viciously. “No. One huge family is enough, thank you very much.”

 

Jon laughed, loud and bubbly. Titus barked at him and he gave him a quick scratch on the head. Before he could respond, Clark and Bruce walked into the kitchen, both holding pies and chatting. Alina’s attention was shifted to the pies, and she bounced over to them, Titus yapping and bolting after her.

 

“Can we have the pie now?!” Alina asked excitedly, clasping her hands together beggingly in front of her, trying to give her best puppy eyes.

 

Clark laughed, the same laugh as Jon’s just deeper. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

Alina was curled up on the couch in a blanket cocoon, bleary eyes watching the TV screen. Should she be in bed? Maybe. She had school tomorrow. But did she want to go to sleep? No. Maybe Tim was rubbing off on her, maybe it was just that sometimes her dreams started warping into nightmares. But she didn’t wanna think about that- the Joker, her mom, and even things unrelated to getting kidnapped (one of her mom’s exes that hit them with glass, another that constantly insulted the birthmark on her face and her weight, a woman next door who’d always yell at her for stuff that wasn’t her fault, her grandmother who would tell her she was a mistake every time they met, kids at school laughing at her, mean articles about her on the internet that mysteriously got blocked on her phone, some weird constant pain from when she was younger that disappeared but the treatments for it left her mother struggling with money, and so so much more).

 

So she just watched cartoons. When she was younger, she would always curl up on the couch (the only one they had) whenever she had a nightmare and her mom wasn’t home, and she’d watch cartoons. It always calmed her down, and when she fell asleep, she’d end up back in bed, her mom having carried her.

 

But now, a little part of her felt like something was missing. Maybe it was that she knew her mom wouldn’t be there to carry her back to her bed, give her a little kiss on her forehead and tuck her in.

 

Maybe it was that now she always watched cartoons with Duke or Tim or Steph, and they weren’t here watching with her.

 

Maybe it was both.

 

Alina just stared at the colors on the screen, watching them move but not really knowing what was happening. It was My Little Pony, so she guessed something about friendship and magic, but she didn’t really care to know. It was all just sparkles and glitter and bright rainbow colors anyway.

 

Which, maybe, was why she didn’t really notice when pink sparkles glittered behind her. But she did notice when a loud, chipper voice started speaking. Alina jerked up, stuck in her cocoon, her heart racing at the sudden, unfamiliar voice. She whipped her head around, staring at the red-haired girl with a mask, cape, vaguely Bat-shaped M on her T-shirt, a yellow belt, jean shorts, and short leggings.

 

“Hi Alina!” The girl chirped. Superhero? Vigilante? Supervillain? If she had a bat symbol on her chest, then Alina was inclined to guess vigilante, but the fact she knew her name was creepy and unsettling. Did she know her? Or was it just a ‘Bats know all’ thing? “I’m Charlie Gage-Radcliffe, but right now I’m Misfit, just don’t tell anybody, ‘kay?” Even though Alina did not answer, Charlie- or Misfit, she guessed- continued on. Misfit scrunched up her nose and studied her for a second. “You look sad.” Again, she didn’t give Alina a chance to answer as she spoke. “Do you know where Gramps is?”

 

Okay. Well. There was like a fifty-fifty that Gramps meant Alfred… or it meant Bruce, because sometimes her siblings called him old. And nobody ever really asked where Alfred was, unless they were talking about the cat, but in both cases said Alfreds found you first. So…. Bruce it was, she guessed.

 

“He was… reading in the library earlier with me,” Alina answered. It was weird that they had a whole-ass library in their home. “But then he had to go to work and I had to go to bed.”

 

“Which you are not,” Misfit said with an amused smirk. “Honestly, same. So, is it Bat-work or normal-work he had to go to?”

 

Alina stared for a second, mouth dumbly hanging open, before the cogs turned in her head, and something clicked. “I have no idea? ...But it is nighttime, sooo.”

 

“So Bat! Got it, bye!” And then Misfit vanished in a puff of pink sparkles. Alina barely had time to process before Misfit teleported back. “Oh, and I’ll send him your way if he’s not being grumpy! Anyway, bye again! Thanks!”

 

Alina just blinked as she disappeared again. Her mind took a moment to process what all just happened, and what she now knew (someone in her family that she does not know is 100% a Bat with superpowers, meaning Jason was most definitely Red Hood and Stephanie was probably Spoiler, and also her dad was a Bat too, although which one she wasn’t sure yet). Then she just shrugged and turned back around to the TV, cuddling back into her blanket cocoon.

 

She found she was still not focusing on the cartoon, but that she was no longer thinking about nightmares. Rather, she thought about who in her family might be a vigilante or superhero, what Bat or Bird they might be, and if her dad, quite possibly, had been there for her more than she thought.

 

Even though earlier it felt impossible with her draining thoughts, she found herself slipping off into slumber, dreaming of unicorns and pegasi rather than smiling clowns and crying princesses locked alone in towers. She was barely conscious when she felt strong arms wrap around her and her cocoon, carrying her away.

 

She was just barely awake enough to feel warm lips kiss her forehead, and just awake enough to give a ghost of a smile before her dreams overtook all her consciousness.

Chapter Text

The woman leaned down to be almost eye level with Alina, smiling softly. She had short black hair, tanned skin, dark emerald green eyes, and plush lips that Alina knew her mother would say would just “pop” with some red lipstick. Alina just knew she was the type of woman her mother always longed to be. Beautiful, confident, wanted. Even in casual clothing- a too big sweater and leggings- Alina knew this was a woman that ‘made heads turn’ as she heard it described. Alina had seen this woman in photos- both around the house, on other peoples’ phones, on her family’s social media accounts, and in news articles. But up close she realized some features looked familiar. Someone else had to be her sister or cousin or daughter or something, and Alina had met them.

 

Alina clutched her Batman doll- recently washed, courtesy of Alfred- closer to her chest as she stared back timidly at the woman. Her eyes flickered to Bruce, standing a little behind the woman with a reassuring smile.

 

“So this is the infamous new little daughter I’ve heard so much about,” she said.

 

Alina ducked her head a bit. Her voice was like silk, soft and pretty. “Hi.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you finally. Your father was too nervous to let me meet you any earlier.” She smirked as she sent a playful glance back at Bruce, who rolled his eyes, although Alina was starting to recognize the little signs of nervousness in him. Just a small clenching and unclenching of his fingers, like he wanted to make a fist. “I’m Selina Kyle.”

 

“Alina Shelley,” Alina mumbled in response automatically, her mind whispering ‘Wayne’ with a weirdly bitter taste. “But, uhm, you probably already knew that…”

 

“I did.” Selina kept giving her a kind smile as she tilted her head. “But I don’t know much about you past that. Like what your favorite color is.”

 

Alina toyed with the cape of her Batman plushie for a moment, before answering, “I kinda like purple most, but I like blue too.”

 

Selina’s lips curled up, eyes open with free expression. “I’ve always been a fan of blue too.”

 

Alina was silent for a short moment, before she hesitantly asked. “Who are you?” She blushed, ducking her head. “I mean- who are you, like, t-to my family?” If this was the same Selina that her siblings often mentioned, then she had a feeling she already knew.

 

Selina raised an eyebrow and glanced back at Bruce. Her father made a jerky movement with his shoulders- not by much, like they were stuck between tensing up or shrugging. “I’m a close friend of your father’s.”

 

Alina rolled the cloth of the doll’s capes beneath her fingers, finding comfort in its familiar softness, however dulled by the years. “Oh…” She didn’t know why she found it weird to think about Selina. She seemed very nice. And it wasn’t that she thought Selina couldn’t be Bruce’s girlfriend or wife or “close friend”- after all her mother had had plenty of boyfriends and even a girlfriend. Although she did often have dreams about having a perfect family of just her, the father she never knew until now, and her mother living happily together, she knew reality wasn’t that kind. Gotham told her that everyday. And the Joker showed her that. But… a part of her worried that.... having a new mom meant her old mom- her real mom- was… gone. Forever.

 

But she wasn’t! She was just in a coma! She would be fine with all the doctors and Bruce’s money and Alina’s love for her! She just had to believe that. Believe that the Joker couldn’t have taken everything away from her and that having a new bigger family didn’t mean anything. And that- and that her new family would never replace her old. Even if her old was just her mother, and sometimes her cousins, and her best friends.

 

She would do anything to make her mother wake up.

 

(Often, she wondered if having this new family was worth it. Worth getting kidnapped by the Joker. Worth her mother being in a coma. Worth having people judge her everyday. Worth having to sit and smile like she was fine when she wasn’t but didn’t want to be rude.)

(Often, she thought that no, no it wasn’t.)

 

Alina gave Selina a nervous smile, trying to cover up the dark but hopeful thoughts wiggling beneath her skin. “So you’re like my sorta-mother then?” Or would be, like Stephanie had said so, so long ago, if Bruce stopped being a pussy.

 

Both Bruce and Selina’s eyes widened, although Selina’s was more in amusement while Bruce’s was in worry. Selina let out a boisterous laugh. The lightest hint of pink dusted her dad’s cheeks while a tiny smile curved his own thin lips. He mumbled, “Selina…”

 

Selina mocked brushing a tear away as her laugh faded. “Yes, yes, I guess I am you’re sorta-mother.” Something hesitantly unpleasant curled in Alina’s stomach. “That’s what all the other kids jokingly call me, anyway. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, though.” Selina smiled reassuringly at her and Alina felt a little better. At least this woman was nice and not like the guys who tried to force themselves to be her dad just ‘cause they were dating her mom. “I’m your dad’s girlfriend. Sometimes.”

 

Alina tilted her head. “Sometimes?” Did they have a bad break-up before getting back together, like her mom did with a few of her boyfriends? Alina never liked those ones. They were always so mean, but in a way that made you feel like the mean one.

 

Selina raised her hand and made a ‘so-so’ gesture. “We’re on-and-off. Sometimes we’re together, sometimes we aren’t. But we still love each other. Right, Brucie?” Selina smirked as she looked back at him. His light pink cheeks turned a shade darker.

 

“You shouldn’t tell a nine year old about this-”

 

“Naw,” Selina huffed. “She’s old enough to understand, trust me. You may have raised, like, a dozen kids but you always sucked at this stuff.” She turned back to Alina. “You’re a big girl, aren’t you?”

 

Alina nodded, feeling a bit irked by the phrase, but understanding nonetheless. “Mhm.” She fiddled with her plushie again before deciding to continue. “My mom had lotsa boyfriends. I get it.”

 

“Oh?” Selina tilted her head curiously. “Well then, you picked the right time to join the family. Your dad’s finally backed off on the playboy persona.”

 

Bruce gasped. “Selina!”

 

Selina rolled her eyes at him. “Whaaaat? She’s fine.” She turned to Alina. “You’re fine. Those dirty, sinful words that dare leave my mouth haven’t corrupted you, have they?” She grinned playfully at her.

 

Alina shook her head. “Nuh-uh. I don’t even know what those words mean. Besides, Tim said fuck earlier.”

 

Bruce’s eyes widened then narrowed. “Oh he did , did he? Well, don’t repeat him. Or anything else your siblings’ say. Especially Jason.”

 

“Why Jason? He’s never sweared around me,” Alina said. Well, not purposefully. But, she knew exactly what she was doing. Getting the ‘bad kid’ in good graces and the ‘good kids’ in bad ones. A classic tactic used by her and her classmates for some (mostly) harmless fun.

 

“He hasn’t?” Bruce raised an eyebrow.

 

“He never swears around kids. You’ve seen him with Lian and Mar’i before. Practically trips over himself trying not to swear,” Selina said.

 

“Yes, but he swears around Damian and Sasha all the time.”

 

“Because they already swore.”

 

“Damian didn’t.”

 

“Damian swore in Arabic. Now he just knows how to swear in English.” Selina smirked. “I’d say he did the kid a favor. Adds some flavor to his professional way of speaking. Throw a fucking bitch into his rant about you being too incompetent to understand basic trigonamitary.”

 

“Selina!” Bruce looked aghast at her. “Don’t swear in front of her!” He blinked as Selina snickered. “Wait. That example was too specific. Did Damian call you that?”

 

“While ranting about how incompetent I am not to understand trigonamitary even though I didn’t take school past like 7th grade? Yes.” Selina still wore an amused smirk.

 

“Wha-” Bruce looked a mix between startled, angry and confused. “And you just let him ? You didn’t tell me?”

 

Selina waved a hand dismissively. “Bruce, it was fucking hilarious . That’s why I didn’t tell you. This was like two years ago. He still didn’t grasp swears at that time, and he really only knew them from Jason being angry and Tim, Steph, and Dick making jokes. You know how humor is these days. He was joking, he just didn’t know how to. Honestly, it was adorable, in his own weird, demon child way.”

 

“Selina, you’re still swearing,” Bruce reprimanded her with his typical disapproving dad frown.

 

She laughed shortly. “Alright, alright, that’s my last swear, okay? I’m done. No more swears for me today. All outta ‘em.” Bruce raised an eyebrow and Selina chuckled softly as she shook her head. “Anyway, mind giving me a moment with little ‘lina?”

 

Bruce hesitated, and Selina rolled her eyes. “I’m not gonna steal her, geeze. You can go yell at Damian for calling me a bi- b-word oh-so long ago if it makes you happy.”

 

Bruce frowned, then looked at Alina. “You okay with being alone with Selina?”

 

“I don’t bite,” Selina said with a smile. She paused. “Well.” She glanced at Bruce with a smirk and narrowed eyes. “Only handsome men. So you’re safe, kiddo.”

 

Bruce blushed with a cough, turning his gaze away. “Selina,” he said in a low, warning tone of voice. Selina just smirked more, amused.

 

As their gazes turned back to Alina, she fidgeted on her feet a bit. “‘M fine with that.” Not really. But. Probably better to get whatever Selina wanted to talk about over with sooner rather than later.

 

“Okay,” Bruce said slowly with a nod. He sent Selina a quick glance, both questioning and warning. Then, he walked past them, giving Alina’s shoulder a quick squeeze for comfort. Alina watched him exit the living room, door clicking behind him. She held her Batman plush close to her chest and turned back to face Selina.

 

Selina stood up and walked over to a couch, sitting down on it and patting beside her as an invitation to sit. Alina hesitantly took a few steps towards her, but didn’t sit down, eying Selina with a mix of wariness and curiosity.

 

Selina was quiet for a moment, watching her, before she spoke, clear and calm, “I know it’s been a big adjustment for you. Going from just your mother to having all these crazy people- and crazy is an understatement- claiming to love you and be your family. I wouldn’t trust it either, and, if I’m honest, I definitely wouldn’t be handling it as well as you.” She paused, giving Alina a chance to respond. Alina just shrugged, rocking back and forth on her feet while toying with her doll’s cape. She kept her gaze just to the left of Selina. “I can only hope these idiots have been treating you well. Heaven knows how many problems they’ve had in the past- and still do. They’re not a perfect family, not by any means. They all come from vastly different backgrounds, even if they do have a common theme of being orphans. Different backgrounds mean different world views and ideals and personalities, and that means they clash a lot. Argue and fight. There were times where it seemed like they’d rather see the other person dead, even if they had to kill them themselves. But I can tell you this, Alina.” Selina leaned forward, hands clasped together lazily. Alina tore her gaze away from a random spot on the wall and looked at Selina’s sharp green eyes, given a warm orange hue by the lights above.

 

“This is a family that would go to the ends of earth and back for each other. A family that has gone to the ends of earth, beyond, and back for each other. And I know that might be scary for you, Alina, because you might be thinking that you could never do that. That you could never match up to that.” Selina stopped for a moment, intense gaze softening with a smile. “And that’s okay. You don’t have to match this family step to step. Everyone goes at their own pace. Just know that your family’s always willing to help you with every step you take.” Alina’s eyes averted again, not sure what to think. “I know, it’s all a lot. This family is always a lot, and sometimes they don’t even realize it. Or sometimes they just don’t care.” She shook her head with a fond curve to her head. “Honestly, I can’t believe I stuck around after the fourth child. And I’m not even sure who the fourth child is. But there’s a certain bond of loyalty in me that just never let me walk away, as much as I wanted to.

 

“I suppose I got attached to the little kids flocking around me, chatting with me, helping me tease their father, asking me for advice, playing with my cats… I didn’t realize it, but I became a mother figure to them.” Alina’s eyes strayed even further from Selina. “Alina, you’re a smart cookie, I know you know what I’m getting at. So I’ll make it short. I am not replacing your mother. At all. She was important to you, and I’d never even suggest I try and take what you had with her away from you. But I will always be willing to be there for you. I will always be willing to be a mother for you. Not your mother, but a mother.” Selina let silence blanket the conversation. Alina squeezed her doll nervously. She might be a ‘smart cookie’ but… she wasn’t really sure what the difference was between being a mother to Alina but not being her mother? She knew that some people had multiple mothers- step-mothers, adopted mothers, foster mothers, but… This was different. Her mother was… gone, not completely, but she wasn’t here right now, and here was another woman- however kind- trying to be her mother. It felt… weird. But she guessed it wasn’t… bad.

 

“How much do you know about your siblings’ pasts?” Selina asked her. Alina just shrugged. She knew some stuff, like with Jason, but otherwise she hadn’t researched much. “Most of them were in similar positions to you, you know. Like Dick. He was the first one, same age as you, and still reeling from his parents’ unfortunate deaths. He didn’t want Bruce to replace his father. But eventually he began to think of Bruce like a dad, and realized having Bruce as a father didn’t replace his birth father. Now, that may not be the same thing that’ll happen for you and me. I might never be another mother to you, and that’s okay. But you could always talk to your siblings’ about how they adjusted to having a new family. I’d suggest talking to Duke if you want to vent about how big and weird the family is. And if you feel like you weren’t chosen?” Alina’s brows furrowed and looked up at Selina at the weird phrasing. Chosen? What, like a hero in a book?

 

Selina smiled at her confused look. “Most of your siblings’ were adopted into this family. They aren’t biologically related to Bruce at all. I’ve often heard them being called the ‘chosen’ ones. The ones Bruce chose to be in this family. The ones that weren’t just ‘dumped’ on him for being his bio-kids. But let me tell you this, Alina. If Bruce didn’t choose you, then you wouldn’t be here, in his house, with his last name, as his kid, right now. And if you ever feel like you weren’t? Talk to Damian. He understands.” Her smile deepened. “He’s just prickly about it, so be careful. I would say he’s like a rose, with thorns, but he’s more like a cactus.”

 

Alina’s lips twitched a bit at the joke, but her mind circled around the thought of Damian being in a similar scenario to her. He was the “blood son” as she’d heard him called often- or, now that she thought about it, she’s pretty sure she’d only ever heard him called that when he was being mocked. She had no idea where or even who his mom was, although she remembered hearing a name mentioned a few times by her siblings. Honestly, a part of her thought Selina might be his mom, but she thought that would have been mentioned by now. She would say maybe he never knew his mother, but he had mentioned his mother a lot during many arguments.

 

Despite her thoughts, Alina slowly said, an attempt at humor like her siblings’ often did during serious moments, “He can’t be a cactus if he’s already a cuddle cat.”

 

Selina raised a brow. “ Cuddle cat ?”

 

Alina nodded. “It’s what we’ve been calling him for a week now. He hates it. It’s fun.” Alina moved, seating herself on the couch a little bit away from Selina. She curled up, hugging her plush close to her.

 

“Cactuses certainly are difficult to cuddle. I think the metaphor still sticks,” Selina mused.

 

“Cacti,” Alina corrected her.

 

“What?”

 

“Cacti. That’s the, uhm, plah- plurr- uh, multiple form of cactus. Like octopus is octopi.”

 

“Plural form?”

 

“Yeah, that.”

 

Selina laid back against the couch, smiling. “Well, I was right when I called you a smart cookie. How did you know that? About cacti and octopi?”

 

Alina shrugged. “Read it in a book.”

 

“You read books often?”

 

“Sometimes. It was a fun fact book.”

 

“If you get into any bigger literature, talk to Jason. He’s a book nerd. Or Duke. He likes poetry.” She paused a moment, studying Alina again. “As for fun facts… would you like to hear one?”

 

Alina tilted her head, thinking. “I guess.”

 

“Our mothers share the same name.”

 

Alina blinked. “Really?”

 

“Yep,” Selina popped the ‘p’. “Well. Almost. Your mother has an ‘h’ at the end.”

 

“What’s your father’s name?”

 

Selina snorted, moving her hand to her face as she smiled. “It wasn’t Bruce, with or without an extra ‘h’, I assure you.”

 

“What was his name, then?”

 

Selina thought for a moment. “My adoptive father’s name was Brian, but my birth father’s name was Rex, and for a time I thought my dad might be a guy named Carmine.”

 

Alina perked up curiously. “You had three dads?”

 

Selina shook her head. “Not really. Brian was the one who raised me, Carmine was never really my father, and Rex was… somehow the nicest of the bunch, but I’ll never really think of him as a father.” She leaned forward towards Alina, and spoke in a whisper. “I know I told your father I was all outta swears earlier, but just between you and me, all of those guys are assholes .”

 

Alina gasped, gaze filling with concern as she whispered back, “Did they hit you?”

 

Selina looked a bit hesitant before she slowly nodded. “Brian did.”

 

Alina immediately launched herself towards Selina, wrapping her arms around her. “Nobody will ever hit you again! Promise! That’s mean.” Selina chuckled as she wrapped her arms around Alina too, giving her a light squeeze. Alina showed Selina her Batman toy. “Batman will protect us.”

 

Selina smiled, green eyes glowing with fond warmth. “Of course he will. And hey, Alina? If anybody ever hits you, tell your dad, okay? Or tell me, or any of your siblings. We’ll all protect you too.”

 

Alina nodded. “I will.”

Chapter Text

Alina had realized early on that no matter how big and long the halls were or how many halls there were, you would always, always have a chance of crashing into somebody when you walked the halls. It was a dangerous game, but one you had to play to get literally anywhere (unless you wanted to crawl in the vents). Alina had learned to stick to the walls and just let her siblings fly past.

 

So she really shouldn’t have been surprised that she ended up colliding into an unfamiliar teen when walking in the middle of the halls.

 

To be fair, nobody was supposed to be home right now except for Alfred. Alina got out of school earlier than Damian and Duke.

 

To be fair, somebody was always at the Manor when they weren’t supposed to be. She still remembered the last time Harper and her brother Cullen just randomly appeared in the Manor when it was (for once) quiet and nearly gave her a heart attack. Stephanie loved doing it on the daily to the point that it didn’t phase Alina anymore.

 

Alina stumbled backwards as she was slammed into. A panicked voice of “Oh shhh-sugar snap peas!” cried out as someone snatched her arms and steadied her.

 

“Oh my God, I’m sososososo sorry! This is like the fifth time! I never learn!” The girl rambled on with a moan. She had short pale red hair and green eyes (a combo almost as common as black hair, blue eyes in this family), but the eye catching thing was that she was wearing a black leather suit with a neonic green bat on her chest as well as hot pink on the palms of her gloves and the stripe of her boots. Her mask-hood-thing (cowl?) was down, with pink accents on it and green goggles. “I have no idea who you are but I promise there is a reasonable explanation for this I just have to think of it so please just keep-”

 

“Hi,” Alina cut her off. “I’m Alina.”

 

The girl paused mid-sentence, mouth open. Then she blinked, turning her face back on. “Oh! The new kid! Oh shoot, you don’t know- erm.” She placed a hand to her forehead and then walked in a circle a few times. “Hi. Hi. Uhm. I’m-” She stopped, nervously grinning and holding a hand out to Alina. “I’m Carrie Kelley! Big fan of, uh-” Alina eyed her hand as the other girl dropped it. “Big fan of Batman and the Batgirls, you know!” She gave a big, toothy smile. “Robins, too, of course! Just a big fan of that whole family, you know? That’s why, uh, why I like cosplaying as them from time to time.”

 

Alina just stared blankly at Carrie as she rambled on. She didn’t know much about the newest Batgirl- apparently only Batgirl for a few months now (like a month before Alina joined the family, she believed?). This Batgirl was easily identified by her brighter colors splashed against black, contrast to the normal dark theme most of the Batfamily had.

 

Alina slowly smiled. “Are you a family friend of the Waynes?” If she was, then her BFF Nell would be super stoked to know she knew a Batgirl…. Well, if Alina could tell Nell, which she couldn’t because secret identities were supposed to be secret. She didn’t want to get in trouble revealing secrets she wasn’t even supposed to know.

 

That got Carrie to stop and reset again as she said, “I mean- ye-yeah, I am, a little bit, I guess. I have, uhm, I’m a part of the girls’ group chat, at least.” She was? Alina wasn’t. But to be fair she didn’t even know about the group chat, and she muted the family one she got put into because the buzzing annoyed her. The one with her school friends, though, that was great.

 

“So you’re another sorta-sister!” Alina said, smiling wider. Normally, meeting more family members would stress her out, but Carrie looked young, fun and new, so Alina wasn’t gonna miss the opportunity to befriend her. “Hi, how old are you?”

 

Carrie gave her a small, confused smile, brows furrowing slightly. “Uh- just turned fifteen.”

 

“Cool, I’m nine!” Alina chirped. “We’re close in age.”

 

Carrie raised an eyebrow. “Not really. There’s like a six year age gap.?”

 

Alina sighed a tiny bit. “Yeah, but you’re younger than everyone else! So far, me, you and Cullen are the youngest.” And she didn’t get to talk to Cullen a lot, between him always shadowing his sister wherever she disappeared to, and Alina forgetting his name ninety percent of the time.

 

Carrie cocked her head to the side. “What about Damian? He’s younger than me. He’s thirteen.”

 

Alina jutted out her lower lip and crossed her arms, pouting. “Yeah, but he doesn’t talk to me. And I don’t see him that much anyway ‘cause he’s always hiding.” He had gotten better, for a little bit, but now he was always out of the house with friends. On missions. Which she didn’t know if they were actually like vigilante missions, or if that was just what he called hanging out with friends.

 

“Oh…” Carrie blinked and then smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, our, uh, brother can be like that sometimes. He’ll come around.” Or so everyone had been saying. “He’s still coming around to me- especially me.” She winced, a sad glimmer in her eyes before she smiled again. “Heck, he’s still coming around to Tim .” Carrie grinned. “Don’t worry. He’s a softie underneath those glares, I’m sure.”

 

Alina nodded slowly, unsurely, sadly. “I guess.”

 

Carrie studied her for a second with a frown of her own, before she grinned, lighting back up again. “Hey, I know!” Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “Wanna go play some games on his consoles while he’s out? Tim can hack past his passwords in a heartbeat.”

 

Alina lit up too. Playing on Damian’s consoles implied they’d be sneaking into his room, and Alina hadn’t been in his room yet. So far, she’d only been in her own, Bruce’s, Duke’s, Dick’s “old” room, and Steph’s “guest” room which was just Cass’s room, but something in her really really wanted to hit everyone’s rooms. Especially Damian’s. “Yes!”

Chapter Text

The next day, Carrie came over again. They ate an afterschool snack together and chatted with Alfred for a bit before Carrie dragged her away to play video games, this time in the “gaming room”, which was sort of like another living room but dedicated to games. It wasn’t like an arcade, more like… a stereotypical gamer’s set-up but if it was, well, in a living room, as in it had couches and bean bags and tables and other living room-y things.

 

They were playing Minecraft, which Alina had played once before at a classmate’s house and had watched a few YouTubers play. Other than that, she didn’t have much experience with Minecraft. Carrie didn’t either, but she had started a creative server with mods to build a zoo on, which she was eagerly showing Alina (who was on Duke’s account) around.

 

Carrie was currently proudest of her horse stable, and let Alina spawn in her own horse for the stable. Alina thought for a moment before promptly naming the horse Bat-Horse, which Carrie looked caught between horror and amusement for. Carrie told her they could make her horse into an actual Bat-Horse, and that started the struggle of Carrie looking up tutorials on how to do just that. Alina just smiled and watched her new friend slash sorta-sister struggle. Carrie was very fun to watch. She was expressive, energetic, loud and it was like every other sentence she said was a joke, even if Alina didn’t get all of them.

 

“I swear, it was with an essence or something- unless they changed it? Ugh, Minecraft has updated so much. Is this even- I have like three different horse mods- is this even the right kind of horse?”

 

“Hey.” The unfamiliar voice startled them both, Carrie more so as she jumped, nearly dropping her controller, and spun around. Alina, used to unfamiliar interruptions by now, just moved her body so she was looking over the back of the couch. A light black-skinned woman with a cool shade of greenish brown eyes and short brown hair was peaking through the door. “Y’know which direction Bruce’s office is in? I keep gettin’ lost in the halls.” She had an accent Alina didn’t really know, but she’d describe it like French but rougher.

 

“Uhhhh,” Carrie looped dumbly before shaking her head. “I have no clue. I don’t- I don’t even think I’ve been in it before.”

 

“Y’r a new kid, then?” The woman asked.

 

Carrie hesitated before nodding. “Yeah. Me and Alina both.” She gestured towards Alina, who ducked her head down shyly.

 

The woman clicked her tongue as she looked at Alina. “Alina, huh? Heard about ya. Y’know where B’s office is?”

 

Alina shrugged timidly. “Not from here. But, uhm.” She cleared her throat, raising her voice. “From the breakfast room it’s almost straight from the, like, door closest to the kitchen but not the kitchen door. Once you get past all the rooms, there’s like a painting with a weird man on the corner- just turn there.” She didn’t know how clear her instructions were, but she hoped they helped.

 

“Alright, thanks girls.” She gave a quick salute before closing the door. Alina and Carrie both stared for a moment, before Carrie shrugged and turned back to playing Minecraft.

 

“Did you know her?” Alina asked her as she settled back down, grabbing her own controller and moving her character in circles.

 

“Nope.” Carrie popped the ‘p’. “Never seen her in my life. But that’s not unusual around these parts.”

 

Alina blinked, curious to meet someone else who didn’t know everyone in the family. She hadn’t seen Bette in awhile so she hadn’t been able to talk to her about new people. “Who have you met?”

 

Carrie snorted. “Gonna have to be more specific. Give me a name and I’ll say if I have or haven’t met ‘em.”

 

“Dick?”

 

Carrie rolled her eyes with a smile. “Yeah, well, obviously. Some harder ones, ‘lina.”

 

Alina tilted her head, thinking back to a few days ago. “Selina?”

 

Carrie scrunched up her nose as she thought. “I’ve met her a few times, but it’s like that thing where you’re in the same room as someone a lot, so you sort of know who the other is, but you’ve never really talked to each other.”

 

Alina nodded in understanding. “What about Bette?” It’d be nice to hang out with Carrie and Bette so they could all not know people together.

 

“She’s in one of the same group chats as me, but I’ve never actually met her. I’ve met Katie once though.” Carrie stuck her tongue out as she pushed Bat-Horse into a hole. Alina’s character followed behind her, albeit jaggedly.

 

“Mar’i?”

 

Carrie shook her head. “I haven’t met her or her mom. But I really want to! The pictures of her are sooo cute.”

 

Alina searched for more names. “Uh, Uncle Clark?”

 

Carrie frowned. "Unfortunately, no. But I have met his son, Jon. He's a nice kid- can't believe he's best friends with Damian , of all people.

 

Alina, personally, agreed. "Helena?"

 

"Which one?"

 

Alina paused, mouth opening in shock. "There's more than one? "

 

"Oh." Carrie blinked, turning her attention off of the screen to look at Alina. She smiled. "Yeah, Bertinelli and Wayne. But I guess my answers' the same for both of them- met them like once."

 

"Harper? Cullen?"

 

"Ye- Well." Carrie paused, thoughtful. She spun her character around once. "I've talked to Cullen a few times, but weirdly I've only seen Harper. Does texting count? We're in the same girls' group chat."

 

"I guess," Alina replied. "What about…" She searched her brain for a name even she could barely remember. "... Luke?"

 

Carrie frowned. "Never heard anyone called Luke. Unless you've recently forgotten Duke's name."

 

Alina shook her head. "No." She hopped onto Bat-Horse and jumped out of the hole Carrie put her in. "What about Sasha?"

 

"No?" Carrie furrowed her brows. "Wait, actually, yes, I think I have! She's, uhhh, I don't know, Jason's friend?"

 

"Daughter," Alina corrected.

 

Carrie's eyes widened. "Oh, dang, really? I had no idea. Shoulda guessed that. They both have the same tempers."

 

Alina fidgeted with her controller, watching as Carrie's character flew around the field of the horse stables. She tried thinking of anyone else, but she couldn't put any names to faces. "I dunno anymore."

 

"Me neither," Carrie said. "Wanna try and guess who that woman was?"

 

Alina tilted her head. "How?"

 

"Just say a bunch of names until we get one that just… sounds like what her name would be."

 

Alina watched her character jump around as she thought. “Penelope.”

 

“Oooo, that’s a fancy name. I was thinking, like, Brooke, or Hannah, or maybe just Anne, or something.”

 

“Mary Anne?” That was a French name, right?

 

“You like fancy names, huh?” Carrie grinned at her.

 

Alina shrugged. “They sound pretty. I wanna name my daughter Darla.”

 

Darla? ” Carrie repeated, tilting her head as she sounded out the word. “Huh. I can’t imagine a baby as a Darla. Darla is like a middle-aged, rich woman name.”

 

“Darla will be middle-aged at some point,” Alina said, then added after a moment of thought, “and she’ll probably be rich.”

 

Carrie nodded while her lips curled up into a smile. “Guess she will, won’t she? Well, anymore name’s for our Mystery Woman?”

 

“Jolene?” Alina thought as she found a wolf egg and spawned one in. Carrie threw bones at her. “Janet? Julia?”

 

Carrie suddenly jerked forward, eyes going wide. “JULIA! That’s it, that’s her name! Oh my gosh- of course, I’m so dumb.” Alina blinked and stared at Carrie as she rambled. “Penny-Two! I was literally on comm with her last week, my God- OH SHOOT- I mean, I wassssss- on a call with her! Like, you know, comm is slang term for call, if you didn’t know that already, heh.”

 

Alina felt her lips twitch, wanting to smile. Instead, she just nodded. “Yes, I know.” Oh, she knew, alright.

 

Carrie let out something caught between a nervous laugh and relieved sigh. “Good. Good. Anyway, I was throwing those bones at you because you need to tame the wolf with them.”

 

“Oooooh.”

 

“Yeah- and you can dye their collars! Look!”

Chapter Text

Alina and Carrie had been playing Minecraft for almost two hours straight now, with only one interruption from Bruce, who was curious to see where Alina was (whenever he got home and it was a school day, he checked on her, Damian, Duke, and whatever other kid happened to be in the Manor at the time). Alina conveniently left out the fact that she had homework.

 

When they were nearing the two hours thirty minute mark, another person logged onto the server, one FourleafClover2 . Carrie immediately brightened up, grinning big. She typed into the Minecraft chat a quick, enthusiastic ‘Hi!!!!!’ , and then in all caps sent ‘DISCORD’ . On a computer screen next to the TV screen, Carrie pulled up an app, and then went to some group chat’s voice room. She waited with a bouncy leg while Alina watched on curiously.

 

And then when another person’s icon popped under the voice room with her, Carrie let out a loud, “HEYO CLAIRO!”

 

In response she was given a small, “Hey.”

 

“I have Alina with me! Say hi Alina!”

 

“Hi.”

 

“She’s the new kid! Well, the new, new kid!” Carrie chattered on.

 

“Is she on Duke’s account?”

 

“Yeah! Figured he wouldn’t mind. We’re at the stables right now, come find us!”

 

“The horse stables?”

 

“Yeah? What other stables are th- OH, yeah, the dragon and wyvern stables. Alina, I need to show you those! The wyverns are so cool!” Carrie’s character flew up into the air. “I SEE YOU! Claire, over herrrrrrrrrrrrre.”

 

“I’m coming, I’m coming… You named a horse Bat-Horse?”

 

“No, Alina did. Do you know how to make him into a, like, bat pegasus?”

 

“Her,” Alina corrected.

 

“What?” Carrie blinked.

 

“Bat-Horse is a girl.”

 

“Of course she is! We love her for that. Anyway, how do make Bat-Horse bat?”

 

“Hell if I know,” Claire answered.

 

“Aw dangit.” Carrie slouched down against the couch. “I guess Bat-Horse is forever more horse than bat.”

 

“What a shame.”

 

“Hey!” Carrie perked up. “You should come over, Claire! To the Manor. You haven’t been here in foreverrrrrr.”

 

“Carrie, we have school tomorrow, and it’s almost six, and the drive to the Manor from my house and back is too long.”

 

Carrie was silent for a while. “We have school tomorrow?”

 

“...It’s Thursday, Carrie.”

 

“I THOUGHT TODAY WAS FRIDAYYYYYYYYyyyyyyyah,” Carrie whined, wiggling like a worm as she pouted.

 

“How did you ever survive school without me?”

 

“I… didn’t.” Carrie smiled sheepishly even though Claire couldn’t see it. “I skipped a lot of days. Alina, don’t be like me. Be like Claire, and get good grades.”

 

“...I skipped school for like, nearly a whole year last year. And I used to skip school all the time with my- with my brother…” There was a squeeze to Claire’s voice near the end, her voice going quiet, but Carrie carried on cheerily.

 

“Nevermind! Don’t be like either of us! Be like… Be like…” She frowned as she searched for somebody. Then, she gave up with a huff. “Just be yourself! You haven’t skipped school, have you, ‘lina?”

 

“Uhm.” Alina tilted her head. “Does- does… I didn’t go to school for a little bit, but I’m back in school now. That’s not skipping, is it?”

 

“Nah, that’s an excused absence ,” Carrie said with a weird emphasis and accent to the words. “Unless you're from my school, in which they don’t care if it’s an excused absence, because you’ve ‘already missed so many days’ .” Carrie mocked her teacher with a voice, rolling her eyes. “Like, I know my signatures are all forged, but come on! It’s excused!” She gave another huff, slumping against the couch, her eyes never leaving the Minecraft game though.

 

“Aquinas does suck. But it’s better than Gotham Academy.”

 

“Yeppers! I’d rather be in public school than deal with all those prestigious rich kids…. No offense to the prestigious rich kids I’m now friends with and whose house I am currently playing Minecraft in.”

 

Alina had paused in playing Minecraft, registering Carrie and Claire’s words. “You go to Aquinas?”

 

Carrie blinked, glancing at her. “Yeah. Why?”

 

“...I go to Aquinas Elementary School…”

 

“DUDE!” Carrie jerked upwards, mouth hanging open in shock. “No way! I mean- that’s crazy, I know it’s like thee public school of Gotham, but I thought Bruce woulda transferred you to Gotham Academy or to Damian’s school- what is it? West-Reeve? Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we go to the same school!” She slumped, pouting. “Awwww, but we’ll never be in, like, the same section! I’ll be graduated before you even reach high school.”

 

Alina watched her character move on screen, visiting the pig farm, as she thought. It was weird to think some of her sorta-family went to her school. School had always just been for teachers and friends. Although, she supposed it didn’t matter much as Carrie and Claire were older than her, and as Carrie said, “not in the same section” as her. But, still, it reminded her of her classmates who had older siblings. Their siblings always messed with them in the halls, and one of her classmates had a twin, but they were in the other fourth grade class. It seemed nice. Annoying, maybe, but nice.

 

“Hey, C, can you still pick me up tomorrow? I’m gonna be at the Manor.”

 

“If I didn’t, you’d just sleep in.”

 

“Heyyyy! Would not! Alfred wakes me up when I’m at the Manor. Even when I don’t want him to,” Carrie whined. Alina thought privately that she was like the opposite of Tim- wouldn’t stop sleeping. “Oh- hey, why don’t we take Alina with us? You can drive her to school too!”

 

“Uhhh, sure, I guess. If she’s okay with it.”

 

“Are you, ‘lina?”

 

As much as she liked having Alfred drive her to the bus stop (she panicked when Bruce told her she wouldn’t be riding the bus- she had never not rode the bus), she didn’t want to bother him. He already did a lot. So she guessed having Claire drive her there instead wouldn’t be so bad. She’d just have to tell them to drop her off there instead of school. Which would be fine, she hoped. Unless it was weird to do that.

 

For now, though, she just nodded and hummed.

Chapter Text

“Is cuddle cat still a thing, or are we back to demon child for you?”

 

“There is no we , Kelley. You are not a part of this family.”

 

“Damian, be nice.”

 

“I am, Father! I’m merely just stating the truth.”

 

“You’re doing it in a very rude way, cuddle demon .”

 

“Shut up, Brown. You’re not a part of this family either.”

 

“Awwww, I know you love me, Baby Bat! I’m your biiiiig sister.”

 

“You’re a big annoyance.”

 

“Why thank you!”

 

“Everything’s bigger than you, demon brat.”

 

“You stay out of this Drake!”

 

“Yeah, Timbo, everything’s taller than you, too.”

 

Alina watched her family bicker back and forth as she hung towards the back. Carrie kept jumping between chatting with her and the others. She seemed keen on teasing Damian despite all of his responses being harsh and tempered. She thought Damian hated Tim, but he wouldn’t stop glaring and basically snarling at Carrie whenever she was close. He looked like he hoped his glare would turn into lasers and melt her to slush. Alina had to give props to Carrie though, because she was undeterred. Mostly. A few comments seem to hit hard and she’d back off, walking back to Alina, while Steph and Bette yelled at him. Despite that, the family as a whole seemed unphased by Damian’s harshness, just moving on past it into their typical banter without batting an eye.

 

They were at a fair with some fancy name. ‘They’ as in Alina, Carrie, Damian, Stephanie, Cass, Duke, Tim, Bette, Kate, Selina and Bruce, which was a lot of names. The names kept tumbling around in her head so much she was surprised she knew who was who. And Dick, Kori and Mar’i would be coming later, plus Tim said Jason planned on ‘crashing the party’ too. While Alina had seen a lot of people, she had been spared the terror of dealing with them all at once… until now. Chaotic breakfasts and dinners had been one thing. All of them running around and screaming with other strangers watching them? That was an entirely different, scary thing. At first she had stuck to Bruce’s side, but then Selina and Kate started teasing him about one thing or another. Then she clung to Cass and Duke as they chatted quietly away from the liveliness of their siblings, before they got dragged into it by Bette. She had turned to Tim, but that only lasted a few minutes before Damian started insulting him because Carrie had wound him up. Carrie had walked with her for a bit after that, almost apologetically, but, like Alina said earlier, she started switching between talking to Alina and poking the bear that was Damian while hiding behind the protection of Big Sisters Steph and Cass.

 

Carrie circled back to Alina, grinning proudly as Steph, Bette, Duke and Tim started ragging on Damian. “See any booth you like yet, ‘lina?”

 

Alina shook her head, squeezing her Batman doll close to her chest. She had been too busy watching her siblings and feeling the eyes of other people watching her and her family to look at any booths or festivities. She had been out in public a few times with her family, but not in this big of a group. It was just Bruce, Dick, Tim, and/or Duke taking her out to get fast food, or Alfred taking her shopping for new clothes, or Steph and Cass taking her shopping also for new clothes but they always got distracted and ended up eating ice cream after hitting the arcade. Those were small, and just her and one to three other people. This was… a lot. Which is how she described her family, well, a lot.

 

“I heard there’s a petting zoo somewhere in here- or at least, that’s what they told Damian. Keep an eye out for it, ‘kay?” Carrie smiled and Alina nodded.

 

“Hey! Carebear!” Steph called out to Carrie. Carrie looked up and immediately got smacked in the face with a prize somebody won near the start of their outing. Carrie gave a tortured squeal.

 

“Vengeance!” She roared, bolting forward to tackle Steph. Steph laughed and dipped out of the way. Duke, seconds before, had moved behind Bette and Cass. While Cass sidestepped, Bette got slammed into by Carrie. “Sorry not sorry!” Carrie untangled herself from Bette and leaped at Steph again. Steph stuck her tongue out at her and then ran away laughing as Carrie screamed like a banshee, chasing after her into the crowd.

 

“Hey, wait, I deserve vengeance too!” Bette called, proceeding to chase after them too.

 

“This is gonna be good,” Tim said with a grin, and then followed after them.

 

Duke and Cass exchanged looks before Duke shrugged, saying, “Might as well make sure they don’t burn the place down. Steph, Carrie and Bette are a dangerous trio, especially with Tim just watching the world burn.” Cass nodded with a smile, and the two of them trailed after their siblings (and cousin).

 

Alina watched them run, quickly losing them in the crowd, although she could hear their yells. She felt bad thinking it, but she was embarrassed by them. Fairs were loud and noisy, but somehow her family was louder and noisier. She didn’t like everyone staring at them. Or at least, she assumed people were staring, but she was too scared to check. But she could feel someone’s eyes on her. She squeezed her Batman plush, fiddling with the cape and trying to feel calmed by its familiar softness between her fingers.

 

Bruce watched his kids run off lazily, turning back to his conversation with Kate and Selina with a half-smile that you could see in his eyes more than his mouth. Alina wanted to hurry to catch up with them- she was getting further and further behind, but… Damian. He hadn’t followed after the others like Alina expected him too. Instead he kept pausing and glancing back at her. Alina didn’t know if that meant anything, and she was too afraid to speed up and ask.

 

Had she done something wrong? Or maybe he’s just uncomfortable around her? Maybe… he doesn’t like her seeing a ‘vulnerable’ side of him- getting picked on by his siblings? She knew he wasn’t one for weakness.

 

Someone bumped into Alina and she yelped as she tumbled, dropping her Batman doll to the ground as she used her hands to stop herself from face-planting. The guy who ran into her just kept on walking without so much as a glance back. She stared after him for a second as he melted into the crowd before remembering some people were just that kind of rude. It was why she hated large crowds. People always bumping into you, people yelling, people staring… And something about the sudden touch of a stranger’s hand or shoulder, even when accidental, just made her want to scream and bite and scratch, especially after the Joker.

 

But she was a good kid, who didn’t scream and bite and scratch unless the person was the Joker. So she stood up, brushed the dirt off her pants (they were expensive now, and she felt bad getting rich stuff dirty) and searched for her doll. It didn’t land too far away, just near the crack in-between two booths. She slipped past somebody, sparing a glance towards her dad and the others just to make sure she knew where they were. They were further away now, but still close enough that Alina didn’t think she’d lose them.

 

She reached to grab her doll, when another hand shot out and snatched her wrist. She tried yanking back but to no avail, her mouth opening in a scream that didn’t get to start as she was pulled forward and another hand slammed over her mouth. She kicked out as she was lifted into the air, pressed against someone’s chest with an arm squeezing over hers painfully tight. The small crack in-between the booths turned into a dirty alley full of nothing but shadows. She thrashed against her captor, while another stood in front of her and another rounded a corner. She had no idea what the person holding her looked like, but they felt really strong, and their breathing was raspy. The person in front of her held a gun, that was the first thing she noticed. Not pointed at her, but it looked ready to fire. It’s owner was a woman, with long brown hair, black clothing, and a mask over her face. The third person was the same guy that had pushed her from earlier.

 

“I’d stop wiggling, kid,” the woman said, voice hard and cold as steel. “I’ll have to shoot you if you don’t, and neither of us want that, do we?” Alina struggled a moment more before stopping, eyes stuck on the silver gleam of the gun. “Don’t worry sweetheart, this should be a quick gig. We just want the money, and Wayne’ll want his kid.”

 

Alina felt tears prick to her eyes as she stared at the woman. Her breathing was speeding up in her panic, but the hand over her mouth just made her face hot and breathing hard. The edges of her vision were blurring, and all she could focus on was the woman and her gun. But not really, because all Alina could think about was the Joker and her mother and “my little princess” and the Joker and-

 

She nipped at the flesh of her captor’s hand, wanting to breath. They let out an “Ow, you brat!” but didn’t move their hand at all, just holding her tighter.

 

‘Batman will save me Batman will save me he always does he has to save me Batman will save me-’

 

But it wasn’t Batman who saved her.

 

It was a blur dropping from above onto the woman, snatching the gun and chucking it at the head of the guy. Alina wasn’t really sure what they did, it was too quick and, while her vision was working perfectly fine, she couldn’t register anything. But the woman got slammed into the ground groaning at some point, and the other guy was slumped against some boxes. And then the person holding her was dropping her and trying to run away, but in the next moment Alina heard a thump behind her.

 

And then someone was in front of her, speaking with a familiar harshness, but it was weird, not directed at her, and it made her blink and actually focus. ...Damian?

 

Damian was standing in front of her, demanding she focus on him as he raised one hand to press a button on his watch. He held out a hand. “Are you unharmed?”

 

Alina breathed in and out as she registered his outstretched hand. She slowly reached out to grab it, letting him pull her up. He asked a question. Was she… not harmed? “I’m- I’m- f-fine.” Everything was fine. Joker wasn’t here. Batman wasn’t here, either, but… Damian was. Her brother was.

 

Damian nodded. “Good. Our father will be here shortly.” Our father. That was the first time Alina heard him say that. It was always my father.

 

Damian walked behind her, kneeling down and picking something up before turning back to her. He held out the object to her. Her Batman doll, dirtied and stepped on, but still in good condition. Alina gently grabbed it from him, absentmindedly curling the cape around her finger.

 

“Everyone in our family has gotten kidnapped at least once. It’s almost a requirement. A requirement you already met and do not need to repeat,” Damian spoke with certainty, which made Alina believe him, even though she had no idea what a ‘requirement’ was. “Those simple-minded criminals will know not to mess with you from now on. They should have already, knowing my siblings and I’s history with them.”

 

He offered her his hand again. She timidly reached for it, but once she was holding his hand, she clutched onto it like her life depended on it. She leaned close to his side as he guided her out from behind the booths. “Despite our efforts, I suppose we won’t always be there to protect you. It might be a good idea for me to start training you to defend yourself. Tt, it shouldn’t be too hard to get Father to agree.”

 

She nodded with a little hum. Clearing her throat nervously, she asked him softly, “Do you… hate me?”

 

Damian’s green eyes widened, and then he ducked his gaze down. “No. I do not. But I can… understand why you’d think that. I am sure you have heard the others talk about how… disagreeable I am. I… apologize for making you feel I hated you.” He looked at her and Alina cocked her head as she listened, deciphering what he said. “I am not used to having a younger sibling. Well, a non… toddler younger family member. I have been with this family for almost four years now, but for ten years before that, I was raised in a completely different way. It is hard to adjust, even now.”

 

“I’z okay…” she mumbled as she rocked back and forth nervously on the heels of her feet. “I’m having a hard time… add-just-ting too.”

 

“You’re adjusting far better than I ever have. For example, you haven’t tried to murder anybody,” Damian told her. She scrunched up her nose. Did he mean that literally, or was that, like, a joke? She could never tell with her family.

 

She didn’t get a chance to ask him, as a cry of “Alina!” followed by a sudden hug disrupted her conversation with Damian. Alina tensed for a moment before realizing it was just Carrie. Damian shot a venom-filled glare at Carrie before it vanished, turning to face the rest of their family as they ran over to them with faces stuck between worry and relief. He kept his grip on her hand.

 

“Are you okay?” A multitude of them asked, the only ones distinctly reaching Alina’s ears being Duke, Tim and their dad’s.

 

“Mhm,” she said with a nod. As okay as she could be. She was still a little scared, but she had her big brother now, and the rest of her family.

 

“The bodies are still behind us. I trust someone called the police?” Damian asked.

 

“Donezo,” Carrie said, still hugging Alina, although now more loosely, with her chin resting on Alina’s head. “Steph called.”

 

“We should have given you a watch. I can’t believe I forgot that,” Bruce groaned, looking angry as he rubbed his palms over his eyes.

 

Alina blinked. “A watch?”

 

“Yeah, we all have one for when we’re out like this,” Tim explained. What did ‘like this’ mean? In a big group? ...Not as superheroes? “It’s got three buttons for three different levels of danger. An ‘I can handle this but come quickly’, a ‘back-up needed but don’t worry’, and a ‘I can do nothing in this situation and need help immediately.’ Once a button is hit, it sends out a signal to an app on our phones.”

 

“Oh,” Alina said. “Cool.”

 

“Yeah, cool ,” Bette repeated. “Carrie and I need one of those watches too, now that I think about it.”

 

“And the rest of us need to actually start wearing ours… Who else here is not wearing one?” Steph asked. Duke and Tim hesitantly raised their hands.

 

“I don’t have one but I don’t think adults get one,” Selina commented.

 

“They do. I just… keep forgetting mine as well,” Bruce murmured.

 

“So we need another lesson in that, then,” Kate said. “And we need a lesson in remembering not to stupidly forget that not every kid we add to the fold is a ninja kid.”

 

Bruce sighed. “Yes. Yes we do.” He cleared his throat. “We can leave, if you want to go back home Alina. I know it can be… hard.”

 

Alina shook her head, best she could with Carrie’s head on hers. “No. ‘s fine. I’m not gonna let one bad ex-pear-e-unce ruin the rest of the day. We have a petting zoo to find.” She heard Carrie chuckle drily from above her. “Besides, Damian can protect me!” She swung their joined hands, watching as he blushed pink despite his stony expression.

 

“Awww. Alina has a guardian demon now. How cute,” Tim crooned, and Steph, Cass, and Bette giggled beside him.

 

“Shut up Drake! I am just doing my duty,” Damian snapped.

 

“Now baby brother knows how we feel when we want to protect him,” Cass added, and the others all nodded. Damian huffed and turned his head away as if to try and hide his reddening cheeks.

 

“Don’t worry, ‘lina,” Carrie said as she gave Alina another squeezing hug. “I won’t leave your side either. You’ll have a guardian devil and an angel!”

 

“You are not an angel, thief,” Damian growled.

 

“You say, when there’s a literal mastermind thief right there.”

 

Alina, inwardly, sighed. Hooboy, this was going to be a long day at the fair, wasn’t it? Carrie and Damian were going to bicker over her head the entire time. Well, then, she supposed it was better than getting kidnapped.

 

And, true to their word, both Damian and Carrie never so much as took a step away from Alina’s side the entire time.

Chapter Text

Some time ago, Alina remembered Tim jokingly telling Damian to take Alina with him to wash his demon pets, and Damian had snapped at him and said he’d only let the worthy clean his pets. Alina had pretended like it hadn’t hurt her, and she tried to convince herself it didn’t because she didn’t know what he meant by worthy. But it did, because she wanted to do something with her big brother so badly even though he was so rude. And she wanted to see the pets too. Since that moment, even though Damian had not been talking directly to her or about her, Alina had been hesitant to play with any of the animals in or around the Manor. She hadn’t even seen the infamous Bat-Cow, and she had been with the family for just a little over two months now.

 

So, it surprised her, and made her really happy when Damian casually asked her to come wash his pets with her. She had been too startled to really say anything, so she just nodded and followed him. They had stopped to collect Ace and Alfred (the Cat), who both followed him obediently when he whistled, which Alina thought was super cool. Then, they headed out into the backyard. Damian told her they were going to the barn.

 

It wasn’t a stereotypical big red barn like she thought it was going to be. It was a simple structure with a few stables in it, only one occupied. It had a lot of hay on the ground, and smelled bad, but Damian didn’t mind at all, so Alina wouldn’t either. As they entered the barn, Ace laid down outside next to a mud-covered Titus who had greeted Damian and Alina eagerly. Alfred followed them inside and hopped onto the railing of one of the stables, sitting on it and watching them.

 

“This,” Damian said, with a grand gesture towards the occupied stable, “is Bat-Cow. We rescued her from a slaughterhouse and she has been loyally serving us since.”

 

It made sense immediately why they named her Bat-Cow. She was mostly wite with golden brown patches, the most notable one on her face, in the shape of the outline of a bat. Her tail waved back and forth lazily as she munched on some hay Damian had offered her. She glanced at Alina curiously, ears perking, before she went back to eating. Damian laid a hand on her head and scratched her between the eyes and down to her nose.

 

“She enjoys being scratched,” Damian told her as he removed his hand and walked over to a shelf built into the wall. “So you are allowed to pet her.”

 

Alina stood up on her tippy toes as she reached up, Bat-Cow meeting her halfway as she leaned down her head. She placed her hand on her muzzle. Her fur didn’t feel the same as a cat or a dog’s at all. It was rougher, dryer, shorter. She curled her fingers and scratched at her best she could, a bit afraid she’d somehow hurt the cow, despite Bat-Cow being much bigger and stronger than her. Petting a cow felt weird. Kinda nice, but Alina didn’t think she’d make a habit of it. “She’s very pretty.”

 

“She is,” Damian agreed as he brought three brushes over. “She doesn’t need a full wash, but I’m sure she would appreciate a brushing to get the dust and dirt off.” He handed one to her. Alina took it carefully, rubbing the bristles with her fingertips. Damian placed the other two on the railing as he unlatched the stable door. As it creaked open, Bat-Cow didn’t immediately bolt out like Alina feared. She stayed, patient and calm. Damian entered the stable and patted her shoulder, grabbing a brush. “You can come in. Bat-Cow is very tame.”

 

Alina timidly walked into the stable, listening to the crunch of hay under her feet. She placed a hesitant hand on Bat-Cow’s shoulder. She placed the brush against Bat-Cow but didn’t know what to do. She glanced at Damian best she could around the cow, although it was very hard, as she was smaller than Bat-Cow and Damian was only just taller than the back of Bat-Cow.

 

Damian seemed to understand, though. “Brush in the same direction as the fur. You can see the waves, right?”

 

Alina stared for a few seconds before slowly nodding. “Mhm.”

 

“Good. Don’t be afraid to press down. You have to get in deep to get all the dust off.”

 

“‘Kay.”

 

“Do you think you can handle it on your own? I need to get the hose ready for Titus, and locate Jerry. He doesn’t need to be bathed as he preens his own feathers, but he enjoys the attention.”

 

“Mm, I guess?”

 

“You’re doing fine. Just brush harder. I will go ready Titus and Jerry. Yell for me if you need help.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Alina watched as Damian set down his brush next to the other one (what did that one do? It looked different). He gave Bat-Cow a quick scratch on the nose before leaving her and Bat-Cow alone. Well, mostly alone. Alfred the Cat had come closer, now sitting next to the brushes and sniffing at the air. Bat-Cow didn’t seem to mind him.

 

Alina let out a low hum as she brushed Bat-Cow. She wasn’t sure she was doing it as good as Damian said she was. She was too afraid to brush rougher. But Bat-Cow didn’t seem to mind at all. Alina liked that. She had seen horses and cows before, but never really up-close, as far as she can remember. She had been scared of how big they were, with their stomping hooves, but Bat-Cow was so docile that Alina wasn’t really afraid of her.

 

She wondered if they milked Bat-Cow. Maybe she should ask. It could be fun, but probably weird.

 

She stayed brushing and petting Bat-Cow (and Alfred once, although he didn’t very much like the cow brush) until she heard Damian call out to her. “Shelley!” It was weird to hear him call out her last name (half of her last name?), but at the same time, it made her feel like Damian really had accepted her. He called everyone else by their last names too. “I have found Jerry. Would you like to come meet him?”

 

“Yeah!” she called back excitedly. She placed the brush down and then gave Bat-Cow a few friendly pats, telling her goodbye and that she’d see her later. She closed the stable door, glad the latch was just a hook in a loop and not something fancy and difficult. She pranced down the hall to the outside, Alfred following her.

 

There, Damian was waiting with a turkey in front of him. Alina had never seen a turkey before. She paused by the entrance of the barn, staring at the big brown bird. He was very round and plump. He looked like a ball with feathery spikes coming from behind him. A little red thingy wobbled against his beak and neck as he glanced around. He made a little clucking noise before shaking his feathers and deciding to hobble around.

 

“This is Jerry the Turkey. We rescued him from Penguin. He is very picky about everything, so just let him adjust to your presence before approaching him first,” Damian told her. Penguin? Like the supervillain? Why would a guy named Penguin have a turkey?

 

She watched as Jerry strut around like he owned the place, walking right up to Ace who wagged his tail happily in greeting to his bird friend. Jerry stared at him for a few seconds before promptly sitting on top of him. Ace let out a whine, tilting his head, before deciding to accept his fate and lay his head down. Titus barked and circled around them, mud still clumped on his coat.

 

“Titus!” Damian whistled, and the black dog stopped in his tracks, turned around and obediently ran to his master’s side. He sat down, waiting with a softly wagging tail. “Titus, we are not going to freak out at the hose this time, okay? It is not a snake nor a playtoy. We are going to wash you.” Titus yapped, tilting his head and letting his tongue loll out. Damian pulled the hose up beside him and Titus immediately jumped up, going into a playful stance with his butt in the air. He barked rapidly, tail wagging a mile a minute. “Titus! Sit back down.” Titus whined and made a movement to comply with Damian’s command, before he jolted back up again and ran in an energetic circle. Damian let out a defeated sigh. “Fine. If this is how you want to be, so be it.” Damian turned on the hose and Titus jumped straight into the water before bolting away.

 

Alina giggled as she watched Titus go between running in circles to avoid the water and attacking it like he thought he could bite down on liquid. Alfred sat down next to Ace, who watched Titus running with perked ears, and Jerry, who looked almost angry as he glared with beady eyes at the scene. Alina slowly moved closer to the trio, trying not to startle Jerry. When she was close enough, she kneeled down and pet Alfred, who purred appreciatively. Jerry swivelled his head around to glare at her. He let out a few displeased clucks, shaking his feathers, but he didn’t attack Alina, so she took that as a plus.

 

Damian yelled at Titus as he discovered the actual hose and grabbed onto it. “Drop it!” Titus paused, staring up at Damian, before his tail slowly began wagging. “Titus. No.” Titus let out a muffled bark before trying to run off with the hose. Instead, he tripped over his own paws, tumbling to the ground. “Why do you make this so difficult?” Despite Damian’s outward annoyance at his dog, his lips were curling into a smile, and his eyes were warm, not cold.

 

Titus howled as he got back up to his feet. Ace let out a few rough, low huffs as if he wanted to join in. Alina let out her own little howl, quiet so Damian wouldn’t hear her. Ace turned his head to stare at her curiously. His tail flapped against the ground and he let out a gruff bark. Alina giggled softly and scratched him behind his ears. Jerry jerked his head almost offendedly as Alina pet Ace. Alina hesitantly offered an open palm to the turkey. Jerry tilted his head, red thing bobbling. He moved his head down to her palm and then pecked at it with his beak. “Ow.” Alina curled her hand as she pulled it back. “Sorry, I don’t have any seeds, Jerry.”

 

“Titus!” Damian yelled again as the dog yanked the hose out of his grip. He bolted off again, smiling happily as Damian chased after him. “Titus, stop!” Titus ran past where Alina and the others were sitting, spraying them with water. They all jumped up, Alfred bolting back into the barn while Ace shook his wet coat out. Alina squealed while Jerry angrily flapped his wings, bawk ing loudly. He chased after Titus, reaching out with his long neck to nip at his haunches. Titus yelped and raced away, the turkey bounding after him, although Titus was clearly faster. The Great Dane even paused and looped back, taunting Jerry.

 

Damian sighed as he walked up next to Alina, folding his arms as he stared at Titus and Jerry’s game of ring around the rosy. “My apologies, Shelley. Titus has a habit of making bath time much more chaotic. He’s normally so well-behaved, but our brothers’ have tricked him into thinking certain times are playtime when they aren’t.”

 

“It’s okay,” Alina said, smiling as she squeezed water out of her sleeve. “I’ve never seen a turkey chase a dog before.”

 

“It has become a common occurrence for us, but I suppose it is absurd,” Damian hummed thoughtfully as he watched Titus circle around Jerry, spraying the upset turkey in the face. Alina laughed as Jerry screamed and leaped using his wings at Titus. The Dane let out a startled bark, dropping the hose and trying to hop backwards. Jerry gave a victorious cry as he landed on Titus’s shoulder. Titus yapped, bucking like a horse to get his turkey rider off.

 

Alina smiled as she watched them, a part of her wishing she had her phone so she could record this and send it to her group chat with her friends’. She hadn’t sent a lot about her new life to that group chat, afraid she’d be seen as bragging or they’d suddenly hate her for living with famous rich people as her siblings. She didn’t want to lose her friends.

 

There was a loud sound behind her, the inhaling of air like a sniff, that had Alina jumping, startled. She whipped around at the same time Damian hissed, “Goliath, no!”

 

Sanctioned upon the roof of the barn, a giant, fuzzy red beast with huge bat ears and red wings curling against its sides had its big head leaning down, smaller gray nose sniffing curiously. At Damian’s yell, it lifted its head, ears perked up, and let out a low croon, thick tail behind it slowly slithering back and forth like a snake. Its yellow eyes glowed as it glanced between Damian and Alina.

 

Alina, much to her credit, did not immediately scream or bolt away. Damian wasn’t, so she wouldn’t. But, she was very, very much terrified out of her mind by the humongous lurking beast. Her body had frozen like a deer caught in headlights, stiff and tensed, her heart hammering as she watched the beast with wide eyes.

 

Goliath ,” Damian growled, eyes narrowed and body tensed too, but he didn’t look afraid. The animals all paused in what they were doing, Titus barking and running up beside the two kids, tail wagging. Goliath’s tail lifted and wagged in response. Jerry just gobbled and pecked angrily at the hose, left behind by Titus. Ace, too, walked up to greet the beast with a wagging tail, while Alfred peeked his head out of the barn with a small meow. “Stay.”

 

Goliath let out a rumble at Damian’s command, having reached a paw(?) down, Titus running up to lick at one of his gray claws while Ace just sniffed the paw. Damian sucked in a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and then let it out, turning to Alina with thin lips and furrowed brows. It reminded Alina of an expression Bruce often wore when he was thinking about something he had to explain to her or her siblings.

 

“This… is Goliath. He is friendly, despite his size. Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you. I promise,” Damian told her as her eyes flicked between him and Goliath. Goliath let out a low groan. “And he promises too.”

 

“Oh,” Alina stuttered over her breath. “Oh-Oh-k-kay…”

 

“Here.” Damian lifted his hand, palm out, towards her. “Give me your hand.”

 

Alina slowly placed her shaky hand in his. He moved closer to her, placing his other hand on her shoulder to help guide (or gently push, really) her forward. He moved her hand into that typical Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon palm-out pose. Goliath slowly placed one paw and then the other down on the ground, his back paws curling into the side of the roof. He leaned his head down and sniffed at her fingers. Her fingers twitched, wanting to pull away, and Damian loosened his grip to let her, but she stayed where she was. If Damian said he was friendly, then he was friendly. And if he wasn’t, then Damian would protect her.

 

Goliath pushed his fuzzy head against Alina’s hand, and she was surprised at how soft and fluffy it was. She could feel some dirt and grit in his tangles, but for the most part, he was as well-groomed as a cat. She let out a nervous breath as she ran her fingers down his beard. The beast rumbled appreciatively. Opening his mouth, a pink tongue darted out to lick at her fingers, making her squeak. She pulled her hand back, but stared at Goliath with wonder, a healthy dose of fear still in her.

 

“He’s… your pet? What is he?” Alina asked curiously, slowly lifting her hand towards Goliath again. He butted his head against her hand again with another low rumble. Was it a purr? Titus whined and slipped over to Alina’s side, pushing his head against her other hand, and she absent-mindedly scratched at his ear.

 

“We call him a Dragon Bat,” Damian answered. “Although I don’t know what his species is actually called.” He hesitated for a moment before he continued to speak. “And he isn't ours. He’s… Robin’s. The superhero’s.”

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked. “He isn’t?” She glanced at Damian. Ever since she figured out Jason was Red Hood, Stephanie was Spoiler, Charlie was Misfit, Carrie was Batgirl, and her dad was maaaybe Batman, she had wondered if anyone in her family was Robin. It seemed possible, and now that she thought about it, it seemed even more possible…

 

“Yes.” Damian nodded seriously. “We take care of Goliath for him. We have plenty of property to hide him on. He has a cave out here too, although sometimes he spends his nights sleeping with Bat-Cow and Jerry in the barn. He’s a very social creature.”

 

“That’s cool,” Alina remarked as she studied Damian. It was a skill she picked up from practically all of her family. He had been so flawless when he saved her from her would-be kidnappers… And they said the current Robin had a temper. And pictures Alina had seen of Robin had stances eerily similar to Damian’s. Plus, they both had spiky black hair, and similar tanned skin colors…

 

Huh. Well, honestly, with foresight, it wasn’t that surprising. But it was pretty cool.

 

“We’ve taken care of other, uh, people in the ‘super’ profession’s pets before too. Including Harley Quinn’s hyenas. They were actually over here three days ago,” Damian explained to her.

 

“Harley Quinn has hyenas?” Alina knew Harley had hyenas, but she didn’t think they were actually her pets. Just random hyenas she had for a bit. Harley was a bit of an idol for her. Not that she wanted to become a supervillain, former supervillain, ‘anti-hero’, or otherwise. Just that Harley always seemed like a really cool woman. Her and Poison Ivy. And after what happened with Alina and the Joker, the woman who avidly despised Joker the most was definity a person Alina admired.

 

Damian nodded. “Three.”

 

“Are they friendly?” Alina asked, watching as Goliath rubbed his head against Ace, who gave him a lick on his gray nose. Alfred padded out from the barn to seat himself on one of Goliath’s claws.

 

Damian hummed as he thought, giving Titus a few quick pats. “Not the friendliest to strangers. But for hyenas, they are surprisingly tame. They listen to commands like stay and sit, and they get along well with the other animals. They try to eat Jerry upon occasion, but that is to be expected from wild predators in the same room as wild prey.”

 

Goliath slowly dropped himself down completely from the roof, crooning softly as he leaned forward to lick Damian on his head. Damian let out a startled noise, mixed between a squeak and a yelp, which were both noises Alina never thought she would hear from her big brother. “Goliath!”

 

Goliath growled lowly, nuzzling his face against Damian’s head. “Yes, yes, I missed you too, you big oaf.”

 

Goliath rumbled, pleased, and walked around Damian, furry bat ears perked. He sniffed Jerry and then the hose the turkey was attacking. He turned his head towards Damian, tilting it like a puppy.

 

“You’ll have to fight Titus and Jerry for the hose,” Damian warned the beast. Goliath let out a deep, rumbly bark, tail waving back and forth. Titus barked in response, prancing over to him and nipping at the hose. Goliath grinned, surprisingly human, and grabbed the still spraying hose with his claws. Titus yelped and Jerry clucked as they both sprinted away, now allies instead of enemies. Goliath flapped his wings excitedly, standing on his hindlegs as he turned his body around, spraying all of them with a cascade of water.

 

“Goliath!” Damian roared as he shook water off his hands, absolutely drenched.

 

Alina just grinned happily as the water soaked her clothes.

Chapter Text

“The power fluctuated this morning on our side to an all time high. It didn’t change any on yours?” The deep voice of her dad’s reached her ears as she walked towards Bruce’s office after school. She needed a permission slip signed, for the first time, and it was weird going to Bruce instead of her mother, but she tried not to think about it too much.

 

“No. It’s the same steady pulse as it has been.” Another voice answered him, unfamiliar, but a similar deep tone to Bruce’s.

 

“Has anything passed through to this side?” A second unfamiliar voice spoke, younger and less deep than the other one.

 

Bruce answered, “No. We’ve been monitoring it day and night. Nothing has been happening aside from the power and energy increasing.”

 

“Still no leads on what created it?” The young voice asked.

 

“None of my usual suspects have the capability of making something like this for an extended period of time, nor the reason too,” Bruce sighed. “If this was time travel, I might have had a different answer… Helena and Karen were reassigned to the case. They’re wondering if the portal might be able to go to other worlds, like their own, or if it’s just connected between ours.”

 

“It only seems to be connected between ours. It hasn’t sent us anywhere else when we’ve passed through,” the first unfamiliar voice spoke.

 

Alina had been waiting outside the door until she felt like she’d been awkwardly eavesdropping on them for too long. She prepared herself with a deep breath, before she timidly opened the door. She was greeted by her father sitting in his chair, a white guy with Black Hair, Blue Eyes ™ leaning against a shelf with his arms crossed and one leg up, and a teen with black hair but green eyes lounging on the couch. Both of them straightened up, startled at her appearance and glancing at Bruce, who only seemed mildly disturbed at best. He just smiled (a Bruce smile) at Alina and greeted her. Alina gave him a polite nod, gaze stuck on the two unfamiliar guys. She liked that they seemed more alarmed than she did. It was a nice change of pace.

 

“Terry, Matt, this is my newest kid, Alina. I adopted her shortly after your last visit,” Bruce introduced her with ease. Which, after having like, a bunch of kids, she supposed that sort of introduction came with practiced ease.

 

Terry gave her a quick hello and moved away from the shelf, towards Bruce, while Matt gave her a friendly wave. “Hey, newest kid. How’s it going?”

 

“Good,” she said simply. She slipped her permission slip over to Bruce. “This needs signed. ‘S for a museum for history.”

 

Bruce clicked his pen and signed it swiftly. “Do you need a chaperone?”

 

Alina scrunched her nose. “A what?”

 

“An adult to go with you? Some schools require or ask for a chaperone.”

 

“Oh.” She tilted her head. So that’s why Nell’s mom always came on the field trips. Alina’s mom never did. Never could . She shrugged. “I dunno.”

 

Bruce grunted. “I’ll call the school and see.”

 

“‘Kay.” She rocked back and forth on her heels as she grabbed the permission slip from him. She looked at Terry and then Matt. “So how do you know my dad?”

 

Terry was whispering something Alina barely caught to Bruce, something about something not existing in his word, so Matt answered her. “Oh, we’re family friends. Friends of the family.” He grinned, one leg bouncing as he remained casually leaned against the sofa.

 

“So more sorta-brothers then? Hi, sorta-brothers,” Alina re-greeted them, enjoying their looks of further surprise as they both blinked and sent glances at each other. Both of them had identical smirks curve up their lips.

 

Matt chuckled, “Well, she’s not wrong.”

 

“Hey, sorta-sister,” Terry re-greeted her too, with an amused smile. “Good to meet you.”

 

Alina straightened her posture. “It’s been pleasant to meet you too, but I must go paint with my big brother Damian now. It’s urgent .” She had been super excited when Damian had said yes to her when she asked. She didn’t want to be late- Damian would hate that.

 

Terry blinked at her, sending a glance at Bruce, his lips curling into a smile. “Aight. See ya later, then.”

 

Alina nodded. “Bye.” Matt repeated her bye as she slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her. Despite her insistence of urgency, she paused, waiting just outside the door. Damian wasn’t even home yet, although he would be in about thirty minutes, give or take. She just knew they wouldn’t talk about anything secret with her standing there.

 

She leaned against the door, eavesdropping once more.

 

“She’s picked up some of Damian’s speaking patterns recently. I’m not sure if she’s doing it on purpose or if it’s an unconscious thing,” Bruce was saying. Alina smiled. It was on purpose. Damian spoke all fancily, and Alina wanted to impress him... and mock him a little bit like their siblings did.

 

She heard Terry snort, while Matt jokingly said, “Uh-oh. One was already enough to handle.”

 

“He’s bad enough in the future,” Terry added. “Or, well, our future.”

 

“Try and teach him to tone it down. Save the us of this world a headache,” Matt mused.

 

“A migraine,” Terry corrected.

 

Alina scrunched up her nose as she listened. So they were from the future? Or… a different universe? Well… that wasn’t too far fetched with all that's happened, or that she’d heard happen, in the superhero world. Who’s to say Batman didn’t have friends from an alternative future?

 

The conversation lulled between the three guys, quieting down to the point Alina was only catching a few words. She waited a few more moments before leaving her place against the door, trotting down the halls and smiling as she thought of being able to paint with Damian.

 

Don’t tell Tim or Duke, but Damian had become her favorite big brother.

Chapter Text

Alina patted Titus’s head as he walked beside her, tongue lolling out of his mouth, panting. The moon shone silver as it started to rise over the horizon, the white stars dotted on a dark blue sky. Titus followed the pathways, more beaten and used than Alina thought they should be.

 

But, hey, this family had a known history of death. It only made sense that the graveyard was often walked.

 

Her family had never explicitly told her not to go to the graveyard, but they hadn’t exactly wanted her to go, she could tell. They never talked about it in front of her, but she heard the whispers between each other, telling one other that so-and-so was at the graveyard, when they’d just tell her they were “out somewhere.”

 

Her eyes focused on each tombstone as she passed. At first, it started off with names she didn’t know, with wilted flowers at the bases. A few Waynes here and there, but none she knew. She had been to a graveyard once or twice before, and she hadn’t particularly cared, because she was young, and didn’t really understand. If she was honest, she still didn’t understand, not completely. There was a disconnect. Logically, she knew these were the graves of people long passed, or maybe recently. They were dead. Gone. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like it.

 

Not until she reached the first one with a familiar name.

 

Richard Grayson.

 

She paused, reading it over a few times. Behind the tombstone, she noticed… not tombstones, exactly, but more like a… memorial, she thought, maybe was the name? A small stone, more clean, newer perhaps, with flowers, still bright, around it. A framed picture stood atop it, and two names were carved into it.

 

Mary & John Grayson.

 

Her eyes dragged to the graves of familiar names, some with unfamiliar names on memorials behind or beside them.

 

Jason Todd. Catherine Todd. Stephanie Brown. Cassandra Cain. Damian Wayne. Lance Bruner. Janet & Jack Drake. Connor Kent. Donna Troy. Wally West. Gabrielle Kane. Beth Kane. Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne.

 

Her eyes stopped on two graves, almost the center of it all.

 

Martha Wayne. Thomas Wayne.

 

Names she had only seen on the Wayne family tree. Bruce’s parents. Her grandparents.

 

Titus whined, brushing up against her side as he trotted over to their graves. He sniffed at Martha’s before slowly settling down beside it, resting his head on his paws. Alina slowly followed him, sitting down criss-cross applesauce on the dirt in front of Martha’s tombstone.

 

“Hi, grandma,” she whispered so softly she barely heard herself. “It’s… nice to meet you.” Did talking to a grave count as meeting someone? She didn’t know. Her mother always said people’s spirits could still hear you when you spoke to their grave. After knowing most of her family died/maybe died and came back, she wasn’t really sure what she thought about death and spirits anymore.

 

She picked at the teeny tiny pebbles on the ground. “You… have a very big family. Do you know that? They say, uhm… They say you died when Bruce was just a kid, like, my age, and stuff… Did you… really die?”

 

Her answer was silence.

 

“Or… have you… just not come back yet?”

 

She pushed a pebble deep into the ground before plucking it out and making a new hole with it. “I… hope my mom doesn’t die. I don’t want her to die. I don’t… want to grow up without my mommy. Like- like Bruce did. I don’t- I don’t know that if she- if she… if she dies that she’ll come back or not. Everyone else’s parents didn’t… You didn’t…. Or haven’t, I guess… I dunno…”

 

Titus gave a shrill whine, shifting his paws and lightly wagging his tail as he looked at her with big, sad puppy dog eyes. Alina smiled at him, flicking a pebble away. She glanced at Thomas’s tomb. “At least you can be with grandpa. That’s good, I think.”

 

She drew a circle in the dirt. “I know we never met but… I… I miss you. I’ve… always wanted a nice grandma before. They… say you were very kind.” She wasn’t really sure who ‘they’ was. The news? Her family? People she’d heard talk about them before? People… didn’t talk about Martha and Thomas that much, really. Just to say that they were the dead parents of Bruce.

 

She had no idea if her grandmother was kind or not. But she liked to think she was.

 

Titus slowly crawled over to Alina, resting his head on her thigh. She scratched his ears and he tried to lick her palm. She gave a half-hearted giggle. She sighed as she read the writing on the grave again. She leaned down to hug Titus, resting her chin on his head. He gave a low whine, wagging his tail. They sat in silence for what felt like hours, but was probably only minutes.

 

She patted his shoulder. “Let’s go, boy.”

Chapter Text

Alina held her mother’s hand, a hand that didn’t squeeze back and reassure her, although Alina hoped it one day would again. She rested her head on the side of the hospital bed. “Hi, mom.”

 

Alina didn’t like the silence that greeted her. At the Wayne Manor, silence never greeted you.

 

And the fact that she’d grown used to silence never greeting her scared her too. It reminded her of how long her mother had been in a coma. How long she’d been living away from her mother and her apartment.

 

Three months.

 

It wasn’t like Alina never visited her mother. No, on the contrary, she did almost every week. But it was getting… harder, as the months dragged on, and she feared her mother would never wake up again.

 

But she couldn’t think like that. People died all the time and came back. Her mother wasn’t even dead. So surely she had to come back.

 

It was only three months. That wasn’t long for a coma, right?

 

It felt like it had been forever.

 

“I have a really big family now. You said it was big, but you didn’t realize just how big it is.” She was running out of things to tell her mom. She was saying the same thing she had every visit- how school was going, what her family was like, wishing she’d come back… “It’s great. Sometimes it isn’t, but it’s fun.” She smiled. “I went to a museum for a field trip. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything, but I was in a group with Nell, Alysia, Alan and Olivia, so it was super fun. Dad got to chaperone us! Alan was freaking out about that.” She had been worried, at first. Excited, of course, to have her dad there, but her dad was Bruce Wayne, and sometimes her classmates weren’t the nicest about that.

 

Alina closed her eyes, silent for a few moments. “...I wish you were here to see my family. I know you said you didn’t like them, but I’m sure you would, if you could just meet them.”

 

Alina swore she could have fallen asleep there, with the white walls of the hospital around her, nothing but the sounds of the beeping of machines, the whirring of the fan, and the soft breaths of her mother. Maybe she could have slept forever, right alongside her mother.

 

But a firm, heavy hand placed itself on her shoulder, and she opened her eyes to look up at her father looking down at her with blue eyes mixed with sorrow, understanding and comfort. “Do you want to go home now?”

 

Alina stared longingly at her mother, trying to will her to just open her eyes and greet her daughter. Of course, Alina knew reality would not be so kind. She nodded, grabbing her dad’s hand.

 

Bruce squeezed her hand, then guided her down the halls of the hospital that Alina had sadly memorized, even though she only ever stared at her shoes as she walked. She perked up, a teeny bit, when she got in the car, always having enjoyed them (and trying not to think about how her mom’s coma was because of a car crash because of the Joker ).

 

(She thought about a lot of things anyway, like the fact the hospital was called the Thomas Wayne Memorial Hospital , and that Thomas Wayne was Bruce’s dead dad, and did that mean her mother was destined to die, and if she did, would she get a memorial hospital too?)

 

“Do you want to get some ice cream?” Bruce asked her, snapping her gently out of her circling thoughts. Alina blinked. Bruce always said that, so she was expecting it. Sometimes she said yes, but most times she said no. It didn’t feel right eating ice cream, knowing her mother couldn’t have any.

 

Today though, felt like an ice cream day.

 

So they got ice cream, with Alina getting her favorite, mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone. By the time they got back to the Manor- home , Alina was finishing the last few bites of her cone. She hopped out of the car, feeling a little bit better since the start of her day (waking up from a nightmare was not fun, even if Duke had been there to comfort her).

 

She waited for her dad by the door, even though she knew it wasn’t locked and she could open it. He smiled and ruffled her hair, eliciting a small giggle from her. He opened the door and Alina followed him in. Usually, she would follow him to his office and watch him work, other times, her siblings would intervene.

 

Today was definitely one of those “other times” day. It was Duke who greeted her first, most likely having just got off “work” (his daytime job’s hours lined up conspicuously with that of daytime vigilante Signal’s patrols).

 

“Hey, Alina! How’s it goin’?”

 

“‘S fine,” she answered simply, watching as Damian bolted after Tim in the background. She could hear high-pitched screaming in a room nearby, which was par for the course in this house.

 

“We’re- well, we were playing Mario Party.” Duke rolled his eyes with a fond smile. “Care to join us? If we can get Damian to stop chasing Tim- would you believe me if I said Tim was the one who started it this time?- and Carrie and Steph to stop screaming… They’re not even screaming at each other. They just decided to start screaming.”

 

“Sounds chaotic,” Alina said, having learned the word the moment she first stepped into the Manor. It was a word tossed around a lot. She grinned. “I want in!”

 

“In on the game, or in on the screaming? Because if it’s the second one, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to not join.”

 

“Too late!”

 

“ALINA!”

Chapter Text

The cool breeze of the midnight halls chilled Alina’s skin even under her pajamas. Her vision blurred with sleepiness as she walked the halls, the majority still unfamiliar, but the paths she walked before already ingrained into her feet. She pondered going to Damian’s room as she passed it, but she already had a goal in mind.

 

Pretending to be asleep on the couch after school let her know that Batman wouldn’t happen to be on patrol that night- “benched because he’s an idiot like the rest of us who can’t admit to our injuries”- and coincidentally her father would be, or was supposed to be, getting some rest.

 

Her Batman plushie was tightly squeezed to her chest, her other Batfamily dolls having to sleep alone tonight. She had nearly collected the whole set. Or, well, she had nearly been given the whole set.

 

She stopped in front of Bruce’s bedroom door. She had only been in here one other time, just out of curiosity. Bruce wasn’t very often in his room, more likely his office, or the living room watching his kids, or in the kitchen talking to Alfred, or in the library silently reading, or, most often, just not in the Manor.

 

It was very… intimidating, as Damian might say instead of scary, looking at his door. She didn’t know why. But it just felt… like a big decision. One she should turn back around for. Her dad was a big man, and he had scars, and cold eyes, but she had seen him be small, and have smile wrinkles instead of scars, and his eyes turn warm with love, pride, and affection.

 

Gathering her courage, she grabbed the knob of the door, turning it and pushing it open, glad his door was not a creaky one. She poked her head through, catching Bruce’s eyes right as he looked up from reading underneath the light of a lamp.

 

“Alina,” he asked, a bit surprised at her appearance. He put his book down on his bedside, without a bookmark. “Everything alright? Did you have a nightmare?” She wondered if her siblings ever went to him when they had bad dreams. It was hard to imagine Damian shuffling over to their father, maybe with teary eyes like how she awoke from her nightmares now, asking if he could sleep in his bed to fend off the scary- intimidating- monsters of his own imagination.

 

“‘M fine,” she murmured, too quiet at first before she cleared her voice. “I’m fine. I just wanted to see you.”

 

“Oh,” Bruce said. “May I ask why?”

 

Alina slipped into the room, half-closing the door behind her. “I wanna thank you.”

 

Her dad blinked, straightening. “Thank me? For what?”

 

Alina slowly walked to his bed, climbing on top of it. Alina looked at her Batman doll. “For everything.” She placed her doll down gently, then turned and opened her arms. Bruce raised an eyebrow, but opened his arms too. Alina lunged forward to wrap him in a hug, tight as she could, even if her arms didn’t reach all the way around him. Bruce wrapped his arms loosely around her, smiling down at her.

 

“My mommy always said I should be thankful for what I had,” she continued. “And I’m thankful that you have such a big family that loves you, ‘cause now I have a big family that loves me.”

 

“Alina,” her dad murmured, softly surprised. His eyes were almost mistful.

 

“Thank you for being my dad too,” she added. Meeting her dad was all she ever wanted in her life. Having a happy family (although nowhere near this big) was all she ever wanted.

 

“Of course, Alina,” Bruce whispered, holding her closer. “You’re my daughter.”

 

Alina bit her lip, resting her head against her father’s chest. “Uhm. I.” Memories of whispers flashed through her head. She cleared her throat. “I know… I might not be, like, yours , like… birth- birthally, like by birth, I think, but, just ‘cause you’re not birthally my dad, it doesn’t matter, ‘cause you are my dad.”

 

She felt her dad stiffen and then shift as she spoke. She tensed up, worried what his response might be. Slowly, he offered, “By birthally , do you mean… biologically?”

 

“Uhm, I think?” she said timidly.

 

“Did somebody tell you that?” her dad asked, voice a mix between soft and harsh, like he couldn’t decide which he wanted to be.

 

Her body tensed further. Oh shoot, she wasn’t in trouble was she? “Uh.” Her mind thought back to so long ago when Dick and Steph were whispering to Harper and Cullen. The memory was honestly blurry for her by now, the exact words hard to remember. They hadn’t mattered much to her, mostly because they had confused her at first. But they hadn’t been the only people she’d ever heard whisper about her. “Just… people. Uhm, talking about it.”

 

Bruce was silent for a moment, and Alina nibbled on her lip worriedly, fingers itching for her Batman doll. Then, he spoke, “Did they say anything bad about you?”

 

Some did. Most weren’t… rude, she guessed. “N-... uh, not, not really?”

 

“If anybody ever does say something mean to you, don’t listen to them alright?” Bruce laid his hands on her shoulders and pushed her back slightly, staring her seriously in the eyes. “You’re my daughter. No matter what. Biologically or not. Whatever they say about you, just know I- I love you, okay?” He stumbled over the words, his voice softening as he said them.

 

Alina smiled, giving a tiny nod. “Mhm. I love you too, daddy.”

 

Bruce initiated the hug this time, pulling her close. “Thank you for being my daughter. For being so open and loving and patient.”

 

“I try my best,” Alina half-joked, curling up on his lap, eyes drooping as she finally let her tiredness win its fight against her. Bruce hummed, rubbing her back for a little bit, before shifting them both under the blankets. Alina gratefully snuggled up against his side. She murmured a goodnight to him, that he returned just as quietly.

 

She missed her mom.

 

But she loved her dad.

Chapter Text

Alina chattered with Nell as they walked to their lunch table, giggling at a joke her best friend made. Alina shoved a bag of caramel popcorn into Nell’s hands, who smiled appreciatively. They sat down together, Nell immediately pointing to a pin on her lunch bag’s flap.

 

“Look, look! My mum bought me a Batgirl pin!” Nell excitedly squealed.

 

“Oooo,” Alina said as she opened the lunch Alfred made for her. She was used to getting lunch at school- hot lunch- but getting to help pack her own lunches like she knew Nell and her dad did was too fun to pass up. Alfred somehow made the best PB&J sandwiches too. “Which one?”

 

“Uh, the best one!” Nell exaggeratedly waved her hands. “The blonde one! She’s so cool. She knows my naaaame!” Everyone in school knew Nell would never shut up about that time she met the blonde Batgirl. It was basically her one defining feature: Batgirl fangirl. Or, Batfangirl9 , as her user was on Instagram, not that she was supposed to be on Instagram- her mom banned it until she was thirteen- but it’s not like anyone had to know. And Alina really hoped nobody in her family realized she had made her own Instagram account at Nell’s insistence too.

 

Blonde hair signified Alysia, the last of the trio, sitting down on the other side of Nell. “I heard blonde Batgirl is actually Spoiler. They’re both all purple-y.”

 

“That’d be so cool! Spoiler’s super awesome too! Oh my gosh, last week, I saw Spoiler decked this guy on a roof!” Nell grinned, stars in her eyes.

 

“Decked?” Alina scrunched up her nose. “What does that mean?”

 

“I dunno!” Nell said energetically. “But I heard her shout that she decked him!”

 

“Was it a bad guy or just some guy?” Alysia asked curiously, putting her fork into the green beans on her tray.

 

Nell shrugged. “He was wearing red.”

 

“Red Robin?” the boy, Micheal, sitting beside Alina suggested. “He’s with Spoiler a lot. I think they’re dating.” The boy scrunched up his nose in disgust, sticking out his tongue. Alina would have to disagree. She’d heard Stephanie complain- or praise herself- about being single enough times to know she was, in fact, single.

 

“Maybe, I dunno,” Nell said. “I don’t pay attention to the Robins.”

 

“Yeah, you only like the Batgirls,” a girl, Brooke, snided across from Alysia.

 

“Of course! They’re epic!”

 

“I like Bluebird!” some kid chirped, eliciting a response of “I like, I hate”s from the table.

 

Nell huffed, crossing her arms. “They’re all cool, but the Batgirls are just the best.”

 

“You’ve only met one Batgirl, so you can’t say that,” Brooke argued.

 

“Well, yeah, there’s only, like, one Batgirl at a time! Then they stop being Batgirl and be something else.”

 

“I think all of the Batgirls just take turns,” another kid piped up from across the lunch table.

 

I’d like a turn!” Nell sighed dreamily. “Imagine being a Batgirl!”

 

“That’d be fun,” Alysia agreed with a nod.

 

They died off into murmured conversation at the table as they all took to eating their respective lunches. Alina finished her banana and moved onto her PB&J sandwich as she contemplated something. It had been three months since she started living in Wayne Manor, and she hadn’t had any friends over, even though Bruce said she could. She was afraid they’d judge her for living in such a big, fancy house. But now that she knew her family had at least one Batgirl in it (Carrie), and maybe two if Spoiler was formerly a Batgirl and therefore Steph was too… It would be fun to make her best friend’s wish come true and let her see her idols, even if she wouldn’t know they were her idols.

 

“Hey, Nelly, ‘lysie,” she said in a low voice, not a whisper, but not wanting to drag attention to her. Nell paused in trying to steal Alysia’s food, both of them turning to look at her.

 

“Yeppers, ‘linnie?” Nell hummed.

 

“Do you wanna maybe go to my house after school?”

 

Nell’s eyes immediately widened. In a ferocious stage-whisper, she said, “And meet the Waynes ?!” Ah. Alina had forgotten she was a fan of the Waynes too. She had always been one of the few who believed Alina when she said she was Bruce’s daughter, way back before it was broadcasted over the news. Alina always thought it was because Nell thought it’d be super cool if Alina was secretly a Wayne. ‘...Guess she was right,’ Alina thought.

 

“Yes, yes, of course, ‘lina! That’s gonna be so awesome! You have like, super high ceilings right?! And a giant library? Oh my gosh, there’s so many super fun places in your house, that’s so awesome!” As Nell word vomited, Alysia frowned, brows knitting together.

 

“I don’t think I can,” she said sadly. “My mom doesn’t let me go places if she doesn’t know about it, like, a week before.”

 

Setting up playdates with Alysia had always been hard, so Alina wasn’t surprised. Nell pouted, “Aww, that sucks. We’ll have a big sleepover at Alina’s new house soon then! For my birthday, maybe!”

 

Alysia nodded. “That’d be cool. If Alina’s m- uh, dad allows it.”

 

“Her dad’s Bruce Wayne! Why wouldn’t he allow it?” Nell whispered a little too loudly. Alina winced as some of their classmates glanced at her. She was glad they glanced back away just as quickly as they glanced at her. At least it was becoming normal now that her dad was thee Bruce Wayne. Save for a few kids like Brooke who’d glower daggers at her at any mention of her father.

 

Alysia shrugged. “I dunno. He has a big fancy party he needs to go to?”

 

“Alfie could watch us,” Alina suggested. “Or one of my siblings.”

 

“Who’s Alfie?” Nell asked.

 

“My grandpa!” Alina said happily.

 

“Oh, that’s the guy you said makes your lunches!” Nell gasped. “That’s cool.”

 

“Is he nice?” Alysia asked softly.

 

“The nicest!” Alina told her. “And he’s super fancy, but like, in a fun way.”

 

“Kids,” a lunch supervisor told them. “Eat, then talk. Recess is in ten minutes.”

 

“Oh, right,” Nell said, turning back to her food and grabbing a handful of caramel popcorn, swiftly shoving it into her mouth. “Recess!”

 

“So you can come over after school, Nell?” Alina asked.

 

Nell raised a closed fist. “Yeppers! I’ll text my mum.”

 

Alina smiled and returned her first bump. She pulled out her phone- even though they weren’t allowed at lunch- and discreetly texted the family group chat she so often avoided.

 

To The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): whos home today

 

From Duke! (nice one 2nd best bro) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): I will be at 5

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): mesa

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): whyyy whats up baby sis?

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): i think this is the 1st time ive seen u on this gc lina

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): also r u texting during school

 

From Babs? on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): She is, but it should be lunch time for them.

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): mmmm thin ice Alina

 

Alina figured she shouldn’t tell them she wasn’t allowed to have a phone during lunch.

 

To The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): is it ok if my friend comes over

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): do whatever the frick u want alina

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): ofc lina!!!! Wed love to meet ur friends!!!!

 

From Duke! (nice one 2nd best bro) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): Yeah! Which friend is it?

 

To The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): Nell she likes popcorn and batgirls

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): OH she does does she?? Babs u HAVE to come over 2day then, legally

 

From Babs? on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): I’ll be there lmao. It’s Nell Little, right?

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): NELL LITTLE??

 

To The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): yea

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): YO I KNOW HER

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): i mean like she wont recognize me but i met her once lol haha

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): i wont be there wouldnt wanna spook ur friends by seeing a dead man walking

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): jay stfu we’re all dead (wo)men walking

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): urs is like a half-death so u stfu

 

From Duke! (nice one 2nd best bro) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): GUYS

 

From Babs? on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): I should add automatic censoring for whenever one of you guys mention your deaths. Specifically you two. You two either make jokes about it all the time or fight each other over it, no in-between.

 

From Duke! (nice one 2nd best bro) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): That's not what I was “guys”ing about vsdkf

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): what

 

From Steph (blond) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): OH

 

From Jason (red) on The Heckhole (let me say heck, B): i knew i just didnt care

 

“Alina!”

 

She jolted in her seat, guiltily turning to stare as the supervisor yelled at her. “Sorry…”

 

“Give it here.” The supervisor held out her hand.

 

“I won’t do it again!”

 

“No excuses.”

 

Alina sighed and gave her phone to the supervisor. It… wasn’t the first time she had gotten her new phone taken away. It was just so easy to get distracted by a text message or a game notification when she had never had that luxury before.

 

Nell frowned and glared at the supervisor in her honor. “That sucks. The high schoolers get phones during lunch. We should too.”

 

Alina shrugged. “It’s fine. Anyway, my siblings said you can come over.”

 

“Siblings? Shouldn’t your dad be the one you asked?” Alysia questioned, confused.

 

“Whoever’s home,” Alina replied.

 

“Wait, so who’s gonna be at your house today?” Nell asked around a mouth full of apple.

 

“Ummm, Steph, uh, Babs, and Duke said he’d be there later. And Damian should be.”

 

Nell and Alysia stared blankly at her, before Nell bluntly said, “I have no idea who half of those people are. I know Damian Wayne, duh, but like… Steph- you’ve mentioned her before, I think- but who are Babs and Duke? Or did you mean, uhm, the guys who name we can’t say?”

 

Alina shook her head. “Nope. Duke and Name-We-Can’t-Say are two different people.”

 

“But that’s like the same name! It’s like…” Nell paused, eyes following her finger as she wrote in the air. “D-... D-U-C-K… That’s one letter off!”

 

“That’s duck,” Alysia corrected her.

 

“Shoot, it is?” Nell frowned. “How do you spell Duke?”

 

“Ummm. I was gonna say D-O-K, but that feels even wronger than you.”

 

“D-U-K-E,” Alina told them, glad she had passed her spelling test last week.

 

“Ooooh, nice,” Nell said.

 

“Kids! How many times do I have to tell you to eat first, talk later?”

 

“I’ve eaten!” Nell argued back.

 

Alina, once again guiltily, turned back to her food, mostly untouched save for the banana and a few bites. She shouldn’t let Alfred’s food go to waste.

 


 

Nell stared at the tall ceilings, mouth agape and eyes wide. “What person is tall enough to reach the top of that?”

 

“I dunno, but I’ve seen Tim and Carrie race to the top before.”

 

“Okay, I think I know who Tim is, but who the frigg is Carrie ?”

 

“Did somebody say my name?”

 

Nell screeched, twirling around in a startled panic, while Alina just watched in amusement. Rule one of Wayne Manor is that you always get snuck up on when you least expect it, to the point it isn’t least expected anymore.

 

“Sorry, sorry!” Carrie quickly apologized, holding up her hands in defense. Alina was a little disappointed she wasn’t accidentally wearing her batsuit again. “I thought you knew I’d been following you since the last corner.”

 

“No!” Nell yelped, glancing at Alina. Alina just shrugged. She hadn’t known either, but, refer to rule one.

 

Carrie grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, I’ll be louder next time. You’re Nell, right?”

 

“Uh,” Nell stuttered, collecting herself. “Yeah, uhm, hi.”

 

“Hi! Nice to meet ya.” Carrie stuck out her hand. “I’m Carrie Kelley!”

 

“Oh, hi,” Nell repeated, warily reaching out to shake her hand. “Are you Alina’s sister?”

 

Carrie scrunched up her nose before shrugging. “Sorta-sister, I think, is what we’re calling ourselves.”

 

Alina nodded. “Yep.”

 

“S-... sorta…? Like, not really? Like, you aren’t actually sisters? Like le-gack-eeg-iacally or something?” Nell furrowed her brows. Alina had thought it best not to torture her friends about the whole “maybe your sibling, maybe your cousin, maybe a family friend” thing by calling everyone her sibling, but now that they were gonna meet her new family, she supposed there was no sparing them from the confusion.

 

“Ye-” Carrie let out a short chuckle, before cutting it off. “Yeah, basically!”

 

“What,” Nell said uncomprehendingly.

 

“Anyway!” Carrie clapped her hands together with a wide Carrie-characteristic grin. “Babs and Steph are in the public living room, do ya wanna head there?”

 

Alina looked at Nell, waiting for her answer. Nell tilted her head as she thought. “Steph is the one you said I’d like, and Babs is…” She glanced at Alina for help.

 

Alina shrugged helplessly. “I dunno. I haven’t seen her in like a month. I think she’s the smart one, though.”

 

Carrie nodded seriously, then ominously said, “She is all-knowing.”

 

“Oh.” Nell blinked. “Then I guess… let’s go meet them?”

 

“Great! Letsa goooo!” Carrie turned and bounded down the hall with her neverending energy. Alina smiled, caught Nell’s gaze, and rolled her eyes, following leisurely after her sorta-sister. Once Nell got past the awe of being in a manor, and the confusion that was the Wayne family, she was sure she’d get along amazingly well with Carrie. They both were very energetic and loud individuals.

 

Nell glanced at every painting, photo, and suspicious hole and scratch on the wall as they followed Carrie. It reminded Alina of the first time she came to the Manor. It felt like so long ago, but it really was only three months, wasn’t it? It felt like so much had happened, but maybe that was just because she’d met so many new people…

 

She hadn’t heard her mother talk or felt her hug in three months.

 

The telltale sign of a girl’s voice teasing an angry boy’s voice told them they were near the public living room, the one Alina hadn’t gone into too often. It was too fake, in her opinion. Less homey. What was home, though, was the smile that formed on her face as she distinguished the voices as Stephanie’s and Damian’s.

 

Carrie kicked the door open without hesitance. “WHAT’S UP BEACHES!”

 

“Taxes!” Steph yelled back while Damian looked at Carrie with a lip of curled, undisguised disgust. Alina followed with ease after Carrie, glancing back at Nell as she trailed behind them nervously. Her eyes flickered from person to person.

 

“Preach, sister,” the voice of Babs mused from where she lounged on the couch, wheelchair beside said couch. A black and white furry blob laid on the back of the couch beside her head. The red-haired woman smiled kindly at Alina and Nell. “Hey, Alina. And you must be Nell?”

 

Nell nodded, standing with shifting feet behind Alina. “Who are you?”

 

“Barbara Gordon, but you can call me Babs,” Babs told her.

 

“I’m Stephanie!” Steph jumped in front of Alina and Nell, holding out her hand as she studied Nell with hopeful and curious eyes. Nell slowly reached out to shake her hand.

 

“Hi.”

 

Steph grinned. “And the brat over there,” Steph jerked her head towards a scowling Damian, “is Damian.”

 

Titus barked deeply from where he stood beside Damian loyally, sniffing the air as he stared curiously at Nell. Nell stared back at the dog with intrigue, before her eyes shifted back to Babs.

 

“Like, daughter of the Com- Commishee-on-er, Gordon? Batman’s friend?” Nell asked.

 

“Batman’s friend,” Babs repeated, amused, raising an eyebrow. “Yes. That Gordon.”

 

“Oh. Cool.” Nell turned to look at Damian next. “And you’re Damian Wayne?”

 

Damian’s posture straightened, face ridding itself of any emotion aside from ‘thin mouth and furrowed brows of mild annoyment’. “Yes, I am.”

 

Nell’s eyes flickered back to Titus. “And that’s Titus, right? Your dog?”

 

Damian blinked, surprised. “Yes. How did you know that?” Well, Alina had sent a bunch of pictures of the pets to her friends, especially since Damian let her play with them now. But, aside from that…

 

“I follow you on Twitter,” Nell admitted with a timid smile, caught between being proud of the fact or embarrassed that she was actually meeting a sort-of-celebrity she followed online. Damian, much like their father, was not super expressive. It was the little ways his face moved or body twitched that revealed his emotions most of the time. But he seemed genuinely caught off guard by Nell’s admission, mouth opening a tick. “And Instagram. The pics of your dogs are super cute!”

 

Damian gave a small nod. “That they are.”

 

“But you don’t follow me on Twitter or Instagram?” Steph pouted, crossing her arms.

 

‘She definitely follows the official Batgirls account,’ Alina thought privately. While Nell knew she was meeting the son of Bruce Wayne and the daughter of the Commissioner, she had no idea she was meeting her favorite Batgirl. Alina wished she could tell her.

 

Nell shrugged, smiling helplessly. “You can tell me your user, I guess.”

 

“No, no, I see how it is. I’m not as famous or popular as mister rich kid over there.” Steph placed a hand over her heart and the other over her forehead dramatically.

 

“She doesn’t follow me either,” Carrie added.

 

“This is truly the worst!”

 

“You two are inferior to me. It only makes sense,” Damian stated. Normally, Alina would have thought he really meant that (and maybe he did with Carrie; Alina still wasn’t sure), but now she knew he was just joking, playing up his ‘better-than-you’ character.

 

Nell, on the other hand, stared hopelessly at the three, not used to their dramatics, nor probably even knowing what ‘inferior’ meant (Alina only did because of how often Damian used it- she learned more words from Damian than from Language and Spelling classes). “I follow him for the dogs.”

 

“Not even the cats? I think Alfred would be very offended,” Babs said, moving her arm back to pet the black and white blob beside her head. Said blob’s fur rippled as it stretched, letting out a yawn, revealing itself as Alfred the Cat.

 

Nell blinked, glancing at Alina. “I thought Alfred was your grandpa?”

 

Alina shrugged. “They have the same name.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Dunno.”

 

“Yeah, why is that?” Carrie asked, raising a perplexed eyebrow. “I mean, I guess if I squint the white on Alf’s chest kinda looks like a bowtie, but otherwise, I don’t see the resemblance.”

 

“The resemblance is that they are both dignified and graceful,” Damian explained, deeply offended as he glared at Carrie.

 

“Alfred the Cat licks his butt,” Steph said. “I don’t think that’s dignified.”

 

Damian bristled, much like a cat, shoulders rising. “It’s dignified to a cat!”

 

“What’s dig-a-na-fied?” Nell whispered to Alina.

 

“No idea,” Alina whispered back.

 

“It’s something these idiots don’t understand,” Babs told them, smirking at the three.

 

Damian snapped around to glare at her, while Steph let out a protesting, “Heyyyyyy….”

 

Carrie just nodded. “That’s fair.”

 

“Ummmm.” Nell glanced puzzled between them. “So do you still want me to follow you?”

 

“Of course! Then I can follow you back,” Steph said, whipping out her phone with a grin. Nell slowly did the same. “You ready?”

 

Nell ‘umm’ed for a while. “Instagram or Twitter?”

 

Steph shrugged. “Eh. It’s the same username.”

 

Alina watched Nell tap on Twitter and open the search bar. Nell looked up expectantly at Steph. Steph recited easily, “ SpoiledEggplants . Do you need help spelling that?”

 

Nell fumbled for a moment, before hesitantly admitting, “Yes.”

 

Steph spelled it out for her, then beamed brightly. “Alright! I’m following you back now. Batfangirl, huh? Gotta agree there.” Steph smirked. “This is your gateway to fame, Nell. Now we just gotta get the others to follow you too.” Nell looked a little shellshocked, like she had just realized basically-a-daughter-of-Bruce-Wayne had just followed her Twitter account.

 

“I can follow her! And Babs can hack into Damian’s account to make him follow her too,” Carrie offered.

 

“She will not ,” Damian snarled, glaring at Carrie and sending an almost fearful glare at Babs, who just lounged leisurely on the couch with a smirk.

 

“Consider it done,” Babs said. Damian curled his lips back, but offered no protest, to Alina’s surprise. Titus yipped and nudged his owner’s hand, tail wagging.

 

“Yo, you already follow Bruce and Cass? I mean, Bruce isn’t too unexpected, but Cassandra ?” Stephanie looked up curiously at Nell, who was trying to hide her blush at all the attention.

 

“I dunno, she’s like… She’s cool. And her, like, uhm, replies to stuff is funny. I like it,” Nell mumbled sheepishly.

 

“You had me at ‘she’s cool’, ” Steph agreed with a grin. Carrie nodded with her own grin as well.

 

“You follow my dad?” Alina scrunched up her nose. “That’s weird.”

 

“Well,” her friend said. “You could get a Twitter too, and follow my mom! Her stuff sucks though.”

 

Babs raised an eyebrow. “Alina already has an Instagram. I think that’s enough for now.”

 

“Don’t micro-mom-age her. Dick’s already got that position filled,” Carrie told Babs, while Steph exclaimed, surprised, “You have an Instagram?!”

 

Alina, feeling guilty for the third time that day, ducked her head down, cheeks dusted with red. She mumbled, “Sorry… I didn’t know if I could.”

 

Nell’s eyes widened, panicked that she had gotten her friend into trouble. “I told her to get Instagram! It’s my fault, I’m more sorry-er.”

 

“No, no, it’s fine!” Steph raised her hands, waving them left and right. “Look, look, I’ll even follow you on Insta!” She fumbled with her phone. “What’s your user?”

 

“Er,” Alina stuttered, caught off guard. “ alina.shellbell . With a, uhm, dot after my name.”

 

“Alright. A-L-I-N-A….” Steph muttered under her breath before brightening up. “There! Donezo.” She smiled at Alina and Alina smiled timidly back.

 

“Great!” Carrie bounced on her feet, giving Titus a few pats on the head despite Damian’s scowls. “Now, why don’t we do something fun like… Mario Kart?”

 

Steph gasped. “Oh my gosh, yes .”

 

Babs argued, “Oh my gosh, no. Why would you even suggest subjecting Alina and Nell to that torture? You’re going to scare them into never coming to the Manor again. And Alina lives here. She’ll have to stay with Dick. Or Katie. Or me .”

 

Damian huffed, “It’s only torturous if you lose , and I am not a loser.”

 

“Shut up, you’ve won one round total,” Steph said flatly.

 

Damian bristled and Babs, although she looked amused, quickly interjected, “ Okay , why don’t we play something calm like Stardew Valley?”

 

Alina and Nell glanced at each other, Nell looking lost and slightly afraid, while Alina just shrugged and smiled. “Stardew Valley sounds fun.”

 

“And so she has spoken,” Babs said. “We’re playing Stardew Valley and not murdering each other via blue shells.”

 

Steph and Carrie whined, and so did Damian, but in a Damian-way, but they eventually relented… for all of about ten minutes.

 

They ended up playing Mario Kart.

 


 

Alina hugged Nell tightly as the chilly weather snaked around them. “Bye, Nelly.”

 

“Yeah.” Nell pulled back, grinning at her and waving at her siblings behind her. “Talk to ya later, ‘linnie.” She hopped a few steps out of the gate, then ran to her mother’s car, slipping into the front seat. Alina’s mom never let her sit in the front seat… Bruce did.

 

“She’s a nice kid,” Duke mused. He had come home at five, just like he said. Nell had stayed for thirty minutes after he arrived, but they still managed to rope him into playing some game called Quiplash that Carrie seemed to really like.

 

Alina nodded, rocking back and forth as she watched the car drive away. “She’s awesome.”

 

“She should come over more! She was super fun to hang with,” Carrie exclaimed. “Her answers were hilarious!”

 

“Of course you would find a nine-year-old’s sense of humor enjoyable,” Damian sneered. It had been difficult to get him to participate in Quiplash after his devastating loss in Mario Kart. To be fair, Alina and Nell wouldn’t have gotten ahead of him if it weren’t for Steph and Carrie simultaneously agreeing to red shell only him.

 

Carrie wasn’t the least bit insulted. “Yeah! Funny is funny.” Damian rolled his eyes at her.

 

Babs rolled her wheelchair closer to Alina. “It took you awhile to invite Nell over. You know your friends are always welcome here, right?”

 

Alina nodded. “Mhm.” Didn’t make it any less scarier, or weirder. “I just thought I should have her over now ‘cause she’s always wanted to meet all the Batgirls.”

 

Shocked silence greeted her. They all glanced at her nervously, as though they had misheard her or she had misspoken. Then, Babs burst out laughing, leaning backwards with a hand on her gut. “Of course you know! Why wouldn’t you? Never can have a normal kid in this house.” She let her laughs die out, although Duke’s lips twitched as though he wanted to join her. “For being the world’s claimed best detectives, they suck at hiding things.”

 

Damian glared offendedly at her, while Steph and Carrie let out respective chuckles and smiles. Carrie’s cheeks reddened as she mumbled out, “That’s my fault, isn’t it? That you know.”

 

“Of course it’s your fault,” Damian growled, heatedly glaring at her.

 

“You don’t even know what I did!”

 

“Doesn’t matter. I know it was foolish.”

 

“What did Carrie do?” Babs asked, interrupting their squabble.

 

Carrie ducked her head down shamefully. “...I literally ran into Alina in my Batgirl suit…”

 

“And you didn’t tell anyone of your idiocy?”

 

“Didn’t you show her Goliath?” Steph snided with a smirk.

 

Damian’s own cheeks colored with blush. “He showed himself! And you’re one to speak, Brown. You slipped up at the start!”

 

“Bro, I probably did, but I don’t even remember that!” Steph argued, half-heartedly, though, as a smile was on her face.

 

“Okay, okay, guys, we all messed up. Even I did. It’s whatever. She knows now, not much we can do about that,” Duke mediated, standing in between the three.

 

“Except make sure she doesn’t follow in literally everyone else’s footsteps,” Babs added.

 

Steph nodded in agreement, smiling. “Yeah. Let’s have her follow Cullen’s footsteps. Be a good kid. Don’t fight crime at night in a fursuit.” She glanced at Duke. “Or day. You can do that, right, Alina?”

 

Alina smiled, nodding. She didn’t have any crime fighting ambitions just yet, although she wouldn’t mind punching the Joker a few times here and there.

 

“Good,” Damian praised. “Better to have one less variable to keep track of on the field.”

 

“You’re just glad she won’t be taking Robin from you,” Carrie teased with a timid grin. Damian’s shoulders jerked up and he stared venomously at her.

 

“And maybe you’re just glad she isn’t taking Batgirl from you , since you can’t seem to hold onto anything original, Catgirl !” Damian snapped at her. Carrie winced, jerking backwards.

 

“HEY.” Steph moved in front of Carrie protectively, directing a small glare at Damian. “Let’s not start this now. Both of you.” She turned to Alina with a smile, and dead inside eyes that said ‘Why do I have to be the grown-up right now.’ “You know, if you want Nell to meet all the Batgirls, she’ll have to meet Cass, Helena, Charlie and Bette too.”

 

Alina only had the vaguest memory that she knew who Charlie was, and it took her a moment to recall who Bette was. And Helena, well, Alina thought of her sorta-sister first, but apparently there were multiple, so... “Cass was a Batgirl too?”

 

“Only the best!” Steph grinned, proud for her sorta-sister. She faltered. “Er, I mean. Second best, of course, under her greatness Barbara Gordon!” She bowed to Babs, who rolled her eyes.

 

“I was the first Batgirl, ‘lina,” Babs told her with her own pride glimmering in her eyes as she smiled fondly at the memories.

 

Alina blinked, awed. “No way. They say the first Batgirl was killed ‘cause she just vanished.” All the other Batgirls and Robins had other superheroes pop up after they ‘vanished’. The first Batgirl just disappeared, with no new superheroine fitting her description appearing.

 

Babs smiled. “Almost. But I’m still sitting.” She patted her wheelchair. The others all smiled and chuckled. Alina didn’t understand the joke, but smiled anyway.

 

“That’s so cool,” Alina whispered. Nell had always hoped that the first Batgirl was still out there, alive and well, and had prayed that if she wasn’t, she had fallen with honor defending Gotham. “I wish I could tell Nell…”

 

“But you know you can’t,” Duke said with sympathetic, warm eyes.

 

Alina nodded solemnly. “Yeah…”

 

Carrie grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “It’s okay. You’ve got all of us!” Alina smiled up at her.

 

“You promise you won’t be as imprudent as Kelley and reveal our secret?” Damian asked her, eyes cold and body tense.

 

Alina had no idea what ‘imprudent’ meant, but she agreed with a nod and a hum. There was a moment of silence, as though no one knew what to do or say next. Then, Steph grinned and bumped Duke in the shoulder.

 

“Well, at least we lasted three months this time. That’s gotta be a record, right?”

Chapter Text

Damian claimed he didn’t want a birthday party, but he hardly resisted when Dick started planning it. Apparently, Damian had friends outside of Jon, as loathe as Damian was to admit it.

 

She couldn’t really remember who was who, mainly because one of their names sounded like Cullen’s, and two started with ‘M’ or maybe it was ‘N’, and the another one was quiet, and the blonde one was super loud. They were like another mini-family, but just for Damian, if Alina had to describe them. They teased him, punched him, got punched by him, chatted with him, joked with him or forced him to joke with them, glared back at him, argued with him, and seemed to like him just like their family did. But they were more polite and calm when they talked with the other members of the Wayne family, sometimes even shy and awkward.

 

The party itself wasn’t much aside from two cakes, a few streamers, and a Happy Birthday song Damian hated, but there were a lot of people. Most just dropped by to wish him a happy birthday or give him a present, but their siblings and a few sorta-siblings stayed, as well as the parents and older siblings of Damian’s friends. Seeing some of Damian’s presents, Alina felt bad that all she’d gotten him was a painting she’d made.

 

Damian had been teaching her painting here and there, and she always marveled at how amazing his paintings and drawings were. Her painting wasn’t very good, just a black blob that was supposed to be Titus. She felt embarrassed when she handed him her present, unwrapped because the blobs of paint had taken too long to dry. But she could tell he liked it by the way his lips curled up in that way he did when he so often tried to hide a smile, and he gave her an approving nod, telling her she had improved since her first attempt.

 

Alina hung near the back for most of the party. There were too many people, and she felt out of place. She loved her big brother, now that she knew him, but she didn’t really know him super well. Not as much as everyone else here did. She’d only known him for almost four months.

 

Now that everything was calming down, she found herself lingering near Damian and his friends. Dick, Kori and Mar’i had lingered too, before they went to chat with Bruce, Selina, Alfred, Kate, Clark and his wife, Lois, in another room. Once they were gone, Alina felt awkward just watching Damian and his friends. Like she was an outsider again. Nell and Alysia hadn’t been able to come over today, so Alina couldn’t go to her room and chat with her friends like Tim, Steph, Jason, and the others did.

 

To Alina’s surprise, Carrie had stayed behind, chatting lively with Damian’s friends. Cullen, too, had stayed behind, laying casually on a beanbag. Carrie was currently teasing the shy guy with black hair.

 

“We almost got Damian’s cousin to attend, you know, Soar.” Carrie bumped his shoulder with a grin. ‘Soar’ ducked his head, cheeks pink. Alina, meanwhile, wondered who Damian’s cousin was. Did they mean Bette, maybe, or someone else she had never met?

 

“Can we drop that? I only said she was cute,” the guy protested.

 

“Never!” Carrie cheered.

 

“You having a crush on Mara is only the cutest thing ever, Suren,” one of the girls with the ‘M’ name said, with black hair and green eyes.

 

“I don’t…” Suren muttered weakly.

 

“You do~!” The blonde girl sang in a bright, peppy voice.

 

“Everyone who thinks Suren has a crush on Mara say aye!” Carrie said. Everyone quickly said aye, save for the victim and the grouchy birthday boy.

 

“Damiiii, why didn’t you agree? Is it ‘cause it’s your cousin?” Jon whined with his own grin at the end.

 

“I will not partake in such childish things,” Damian said haughtily, despite laying belly down on a green beanbag with his legs crossed and swinging gently behind him like a schoolgirl.

 

“What, crushes? Don’t you have a crush on me , Dami?” The other ‘M’ girl teased, a little yellow flower resting on her head of brown hair.

 

“I most certainly do not! And you two must cease calling me that incessant nickname at once,” Damian growled at the girl and Jon, glaring daggers that were weakened by his burning cheeks. Suren looked pleased to have the attention taken off him.

 

“Dami’s got a cru-ush!” The blonde girl continued to sing, quickly joined in by the flower girl, Jon, and Carrie. “Dami’s got a cru-ush!”

 

Alina could already guess what was going to happen when they edged him on. Damian flew at the person singing closest to him, unfortunately the blonde girl. She laughed as he tackled her to the ground, unfazed. She kicked at his legs, and he pulled a fist back.

 

There was a cry of, “Not in front of the child!”

 

Damian paused, lowering his fist as the blonde continued to giggle. Jon, meanwhile, huffed and glared at Cullen from atop a dark blue cushion seat. “I’m not a child! I’m eleven!”

 

“No, not you,” Cullen explained, rolling his eyes as he remained lounging on his pale blue bean bag. “And you sound like Damian when you say that. Stop hanging out with him, he’s corrupting you.”

 

“I’m corrupting no one!” Damian protested as he got off of the blonde, who jumped up and clambered onto the orange bean bag the black-haired ‘M’ girl was on, forcing the ‘M’ girl to scoot to the edge, much to her annoyance as her complaints told them.

 

“Wait, what child, then?” The red-haired boy who had been watching in silent amusement beside Cullen asked, blinking.

 

Half of them looked confused, but a few glanced at Alina, having known she was watching them for a while. Cullen jerked his head in Alina’s direction, dragging the others’ eyes toward her. Alina felt herself squirm under their gazes, ducking her head and blushing. Carrie bounded towards her. “Hey, ‘lina! Looks like your ninja sneaking skills have improved.”

 

“I wasn’t sneaking…” She was just kind of standing there. Awkwardly.

 

Carrie nudged her in the shoulder, and Alina looked up at her bright eyes and big grin. “Come and hang with the group, ‘lee. They don’t bite! Well.” She sent an accusing glance at the group. “Most don’t.”

 

“I don’t!” Jon called. He hit Damian in the shoulder. “He does.” Damian glared at him, lips curling.

 

“I know that,” Alina said.

 

“You do ?” The black-haired ‘M’ girl gasped. “When did he bite you?!”

 

“I did not bite her!” Damian cried, outraged. “I was simply in a scenario where Todd foolishly covered my mouth with his hand, and his hand ended up with a few bite marks to warn him from ever doing it again, and Shelley happened to be watching. And Drake, as well, and he was laughing, so I decided to give him a warning too.”

 

“I thought you had grown out of the whole biting people thing!” The red-haired boy laughed.

 

“I didn’t know he actually bit people.” The blonde girl looked agape. “I thought we said that to make fun of him for being so feral!”

 

“I am not feral!” Damian claimed, indignified. “I have been trained since birth to wield my anger!”

 

“Well, you failed! Like, hardcore!”

 

Carrie smiled and grabbed Alina’s hand, tugging her towards the group as they all argued. Alina followed obediently, her own smile twitching hesitantly on her lips as she watched Damian’s friends berate him. Carrie plopped down on a mound of blankets that were probably stolen from a combo of Duke, Steph and Cass’s rooms, and Alina slowly sat down criss-cross applesauce beside her.

 

The group all giggled and laughed as Damian steamed angrily, sitting back down on his own bean bag with his arms crossed and eyes seething with unconcealed hate. As the laughter died down, Alina timidly asked, “What are your names?”

 

“Oh!” The flower girl blinked. “Right. Sorry. I forgot you didn’t know us. Heck, we don’t know you either.” She bounced up from her spot, stretching out a hand. “I’m Maps Mizoguchi! Pleased ta meet cha!”

 

Alina shook her hand. “I’m Alina.”

 

“Uhm,” Suren ducked his head as he called attention to himself, “not to sound dumb, but like, who- uh, who are you exactly? Like, how do you know Damian?”

 

“I’m his sister,” she replied.

 

“Wait, really?” Suren blinked. He glanced at Damian. “When did you have a little sister?”

 

Damian shrugged. “She’s recent.”

 

Suren glanced around the group. “Am I- am I the only one who didn’t know this?”

 

The blonde girl shrugged too. “I mean, I didn’t either, I just kinda guessed.” She grinned. “I’m Kathy, B-T-Dubs. And this gal beside me is Maya.” She laid her head on the black-haired, dark-skinned girl beside her, a stark contrast to Kathy’s bright blonde hair and pale skin. Maya rolled her eyes, and gave Alina a quick, “Hi.”

 

“I’m Jon!” Jon greeted energetically. “But you already knew that. And you know Cullen too, right?” At Alina’s nod, Jon pointed at the red-haired boy next to Cullen, then at Suren. “That’s Colin! And that’s Suren. Great to have you here, ‘lina!” The others all nodded and let out murmurs of agreement.

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted them all again. She studied them for a moment. Some of them had scars, and she swore she had seen Kathy jump in the air and stay there for far longer than she was supposed to… “How did you guys become friends with Dami?”

 

Damian scoffed. “I would hardly call them my friends. Just people I loathfully have to associate with.”

 

“Yeah, and invite to your birthday party,” Maya snarked smugly, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Bold of you to assume you were invited,” Damian snapped back.

 

Kathy jerked up. “Ah! I got that one! I got that reference! Wait, is it a reference? Whatever- I’m learning! I’m the absolute best at English slang.”

 

“Bold of you to assume you’re the best at English slang when you literally just said ‘B-T-Dubs’ like a minute ago,” Colin said judgmentally.

 

“Why? What’s wrong with it!” Kathy protested. B-T-Dubs meant something? Alina had thought that was her last name.

 

“Nobody says that except for movies trying to poorly imitate teenage white girls,” Colin explained.

 

“Which is where I’m assuming you learned it?” Cullen added, with a smirk at Kathy.

 

Kathy pouted, puffing out her cheeks. “I have the right to remain silent.”

 

“Yes,” Damian said. “You do. So maybe you should use it more often.”

 

“Hey!” Kathy leaped up to launch herself at Damian, but Maya grabbed her by the scruff of her shirt, jerking her back down.

 

“Didn’t we just say, ‘not in front of the kid’?” Maya scolded her.

 

“Speaking of ‘the kid’,” Maps said, air quoting. “She asked a question, and we haven’t answered it.”

 

“We get derailed quick,” Suren replied. “You know this.”

 

“What was the question again?” Jon asked.

 

“Uhm,” Alina paused, having been content to watch them talk. “How did you meet Dami?”

 

“Not to derail the conversation again,” Carrie interrupted. “But can I just say this is the second time she’s called him Dami, and he hasn’t so much as twitched a muscle to yell at her for it? Why is she allowed to call him that?”

 

“Yeah!” Kathy agreed. “That’s so unfair!”

 

“Because she does not irritate me with her idiocy like all of you do- especially you, Kelley,” Damian answered simply. “Now answer her question.”

 

“Okay, Wayne ,” Carrie muttered, rolling her eyes and snuggling down into her blanket mound. Damian glared sharply at her. Carrie tossed a blanket at him.

 

“Well,” Colin started, dragging the attention to him before Damian and Carrie could get into a fight. “We all kinda just met each other, from like, school, and stuff.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Alina said, noticing how nervous he was, and how he had more scars, attempted to be hidden, than the others. “You can tell me the real stories. I know.”

 

Cullen blinked. “Wait, you know?” He glanced between Carrie and Damian with a frown. “Was anybody gonna tell me she knew?” Both of them just shrugged.

 

“Didn’t seem important,” Carrie said.

 

“I think it’s plenty important, but okay.” Cullen raised an eyebrow, leaning back on his bean bag.

 

“You know? Like, know what?” Maps asked with a confused frown, tilting her head.

 

“Kelley idiotically played a hand in revealing our secret identities,” Damian explained haughtily.

 

“Hey!” Carrie yelled. “We agreed we all played a part in that, Mister Showed-Her-A-Dragon !”

 

“Goliath?” Maya questioned. “You showed her Goliath?” Damian bristled defensively, but Maya went on. “Man, I miss that fuzzball. We should go see him later!”

 

Damian smoothed his ruffled feathers, nodding his head. “Of course. He would be glad to see you.”

 

“Can we tell the stories of how you all met now?” Carrie asked before the conversation could get derailed again. “I haven’t heard, like, any of them.”

 

“Same here,” Cullen agreed. “Although I’ve heard a few things that are slightly concerning.”

 

Slightly ?” Suren mocked. “Try, a lot .”

 

“I think my story’s pretty tame,” Colin said. “Plus, I met him first, so I’ll go first.”

 

“Your story is not pretty tame,” Jon argued. “Nobody’s is.”

 

"Mine is definitely not," Maya said with a smirk.

 

Jon looked exasperatedly at her. "You know what I meant."

 

“Maps and I’s meeting is probably the most tame,” Damian offered. “But, regardless, it would make sense to go chronologically.”

 

“Alright,” Colin started, clearing his throat and shifting to straighten up. “So, I, uh, I guess to give you some context, I had like an origin story of sorts with Sc- Scarecrow, but I don’t wanna talk about that, but basically, it gave me kinda like… Hulk-like powers? Where I get bigger and stronger? So, with them, I decided to fight crime, you know, like anybody would these days when given powers. I started off with just robberies, but, uh-” He stopped, eyes flickering. “I stumbled upon something bigger, and I ended up teaming with Damian, or Robin rather, to defeat a fighting ring that was abusing children. Oh! My superhero name is Abuse, by the way-”

 

“B-T-Dubs,” Kathy whispered, but Colin continued on over her.

 

“We kicked Mr. Zsasz’s a- butt, and Damian gave me a bicycle because he said I looked stupid.”

 

Carrie choked over her laughter while Cullen smiled. “That’s very on-brand for him.”

 

“It was a trike ,” Damian said. “And you did look stupid.”

 

“Yeah,” Colin said. “A bike.”

 

“A bike has two wheels, a trike has three,” Damian explained condescendingly.

 

“Four-ke!” Maps cheered.

 

“You mean a car,” Maya corrected pompously.

 

“Or a wagon! Don’t correct me! I’m smart,” Maps fought back.

 

“If you were smart, you’d know it’d be quad-ke next,” Colin told her.

 

Maps blinked. “Oh my gosh, you’re right! I am dumb!”

 

“We’re getting off track again,” Suren said. “Colin, continue with your story.”

 

“Uh, that was kind of the end. I mean, we had a few more adventures, and then I was his only friend-” Damian glared at him, “-for like, ever, until he met, uhhh, Maps?” He glanced at the girl with a flower on her head.

 

“Actually, I met him before her,” Maya said. “During his Year of Blood repentance thingy. I’d call us friends then, but he would have called us begrudging allies or something. We weren’t really friend-friends for a while.”

 

“So, howdja meet him?” Alina asked.

 

Maya faltered. “Uhh… Damian was on, like, a quest of sorts, and I punched his tooth out, among other things." Kathy snickered beside her. "It’s not really a story for little kids’ ears… How about the time I met Jon?”

 

"How is that story any better?" Jon asked.

 

"Well, it doesn't involve murder!"

 

Jon hesitated, settling back down. "Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Carry on."

 

"Yeah, so, Damian called me up to go stalk Jon so he could kidnap him, basically," Maya explained, deadpanned.

 

"You phrased that in the worst way possible," Damian said, just as deadpan.

 

"I phrased it as the truth," Maya argued back. "After that, I got- well, Goliath and I, actually, got snatched by some idiot who forced us to fight Jon and Damian. Fun times." She threw her arms over the back of the beanbag, and over Kathy's shoulders. "My super name is Nobody, by the way."

 

Nobody and Abuse. Those were… unique names. Not even, like, Nobody-Girl and Abuse-Boy.

 

“So, am I next?” Maps said excitedly. “Or did Suren meet you before me?”

 

“I think so,” Suren said. “It was before he went to Gotham Academy, I’m pretty sure. I’m not sure when we met exactly, I was kinda focused on, uh, other stuff.”

 

Damian nodded. “It was.”

 

“Okay so, uhm.” Suren shuffled on his cushion, crossing his legs as he readied himself. “Mine’s, uh… similar to Maya’s story. So let’s just, uhm, say, he saved me from a cult?”

 

Maya quietly murmured, “Damian murdered our dads squad.” Damian quickly jumped up to punch her in the shoulder, hissing at her to shut up. She and Kathy both giggled and Suren smiled timidly. Alina frowned, not quite understanding. Damian didn’t actually murder their dads… did he?

 

“Yeah, I was kinda, like, raised in a death cult, and Damian saved me from that, thank not Lucifer.” Suren’s lips twitched at his own joke, and a few others giggled appreciatively. “Other than that, he, Maya and I went on some adventures together. I don’t really have a superhero name, but I guess Damian’s accidentally gotten me dubbed Darga to the public.”

 

“Pffft, hasn’t he for all of us? I wish we could just shout Wayne , and get him known as that, but unfortunately that’s a well-known name and would be identity compromising ,” Kathy mocked Damian near the end.

 

“We could do al Ghul instead, but I feel like that’s gonna attract some of the wrong attention,” Colin added.

 

“Ugh, Damian, why don’t you have any normal, generic last name!” Carrie complained, flopping on the floor, still cocooned in her blankets.

 

“We could try Grayson,” Jon suggested faux innocently.

 

“Yes!” The others immediately brightened up, eager to tease their friend.

 

“No!” Damian shouted, cheeks slowly coloring with red. “That is still a commonly known name! It would be-”

 

“Identity compromising,” Kathy mimicked again. She rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes, we knowwww. You know, maybe you shouldn’t be shouting our last names all the time and we wouldn’t have any identity compromising problems.” Damian reached over Maya to punch Kathy, but she wiggled downwards, dodging his fist.

 

“We’re getting sidetracked again,” Cullen reminded them all. Damian huffed and pulled his fist back, glaring at a grinning Kathy.

 

“It’s my turn now!” Maps exclaimed heartily. “So, I’ve been going to Gotham Academy my whole life, and I created the Detective Club with my brother, best friend, and some of my schoolmates. Sometimes we call it the Pizza Club, but, basically, we liked to investigate mysterious happenings around the school, especially the mystery that surrounded my best friend-”

 

“Cut to the part when you meet Damian, please, Maps,” Maya interjected exasperatedly, but she was smiling, amused.

 

“Right! So, I was thinking about how to get another of my classmates to join the Detective Club when all of a sudden this new kid tackles my classmate and I’m like WOAH! WHAT THE HECK!” Maps flared her hands out exaggeratedly, eyes practically sparkling as she spoke. “That was super cool. Later, my teacher told me the new kid was DAMIAN WAYNE, so then I was like DOUBLE super cool! After that, I KNEW I had to make him a new member. Well, maybe didn’t know - he had to be interested in detective stuff, which, I didn’t know at the time, but he is THE Robin, so of course he is!” Maps paused to catch her breath and then continued on. “Anyway, I was writing in my dairy, and then the weirdest thing happened, because apparently my quill was enchanted with the avian flu or something, and it possessed us to start HOLDING HANDS! Which is the craziest thing! Which is what the avian flu was supposed to do! Be crazy! Well, anyway, one of my friends ended up pushing us out of a window-”

 

“Wait what, why?” Carrie asked, only to get hopelessly plowed over as Maps continued talking.

 

“So Damian was forced to tell me about the grappling gun in his pocket, and then he let me use it, and then we met my brother and some others, and they were all possessed, and we had to tie them up, and GAH- it was just so awesome. Then, Ham caught the bird that stole my quill- did I mention that? A bird stole my quill- and then we got our problem- although, I wouldn’t call it a problem- fixed, and Damian gave me a Batarang that I still have! And then he got expelled.”

 

There was silence from the group, with Damian blushing profusely in embarrassment. Then, Jon slowly broke the silence, “How did ham catch a bird…?”

 

Maps scrunched up her nose, looking at him funny. “Uh, jumping at it, I guess?”

 

Damian huffed, shaking his head. “Ham is a dog.”

 

“Ohhhhh!” Jon, and a few others, all said. “That makes more sense.”

 

“Yes, because the whole ‘hand holding because of the avian flu’ thing made complete sense,” Maya sarcastically said.

 

“To be fair, there’s been weirder,” Suren pointed out.

 

Maya nodded. “True.”

 

“Wait. So that’s the end of that story? Damian got expelled, and you guys became friends over that?” Cullen furrowed his brows, puzzled.

 

“Well, no, I also snuck into Wayne Manor, and I licked his hand-”

 

“OKAY, so maybe Maps’s story can be over, because, honestly, I was expecting another ‘This story is not for Alina’s ears because it’s full of incredible violence’, not the absolute puzzling case that is Maps constantly getting into weird situations with Damian,” Carrie suggested, waving her hands.

 

“He gave me a Robin mask!” Maps concluded happily. “I still have that, too.”

 

"So, who's next?" Cullen asked.

 

"Me!" Jon cried out. He sat up on his cushion. "Damian and I met after he kidnapped me."

 

"I did not kidnap you," Damian protested indignantly.

 

"Oh? Then what did you do that involved me being knocked unconscious and strapped to a table?" Jon crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow cockily.

 

"I abducted you," Damian corrected, an air of smugness around him.

 

"My apologies for using the layman's term." Jon rolled his eyes.

 

"Wait, was this the same kidnapping Maya helped with?" Carrie questioned.

 

"Yes, yes it was," Jon said, sending a glare Maya's way, but it was half-hearted, Alina could tell.

 

Maya just sheepishly smiled and shrugged. "Without me, you two never woulda met, so you should thank me, really."

 

"I would have found other ways. I could have asked Suren," Damian said easily.

 

"Uh, no you could not have," Suren responded.

 

"Then I'd have done it myself."

 

"Jeez, you really wanted to kidnap Jon, huh?" Maps said teasingly.

 

Light pink dusted Damian’s cheeks. “I had my reasons.”

 

“Ah, yes, of course,” Maya said. “Damian reasons. The best reasons.”

 

Jon pouted, “I just wanted a Christmas tree. That was my reason.”

 

Maps gasped, “He kidnapped you on Christmas?!”

“Well not on Christmas- you wouldn’t get a Christmas tree on Christmas Day- but yeah, I still got kidnapped during holly, jolly Christmas spirit time,” Jon explained, sighing at the end.

 

“You need to get over that,” Damian sneered. “Noone was hurt.”

 

“Our dads fought!”

 

“Exactly. Your dad’s invincible, my dad’s the closest to invincible a mere human can be.”

 

“Nuh-uh! He gets hurt like all the time.”

 

“Okay, we’re getting distracted again,” Cullen said. “Is Jon’s story done?”

 

Jon shrugged. “I mean, yeah, that’s basically our first meeting. Got kidnapped, dads fought, then we had to team up to get our costumes-”

 

“Uniforms.”

 

“-back. After that, our dads kinda forced us to hang out and be friends. I didn’t mind much too much except for the part where Damian kidnapped me and also was incredibly rude all the time. I think Dami minded a lot at first, but now we’re best friends!” Jon beamed. Damian scoffed but said nothing, and the others all smiled, sharing glances.

 

“So that just leaves Kathy,” Carrie said. “How’d you meet Damian?”

 

“I choked him in mid-air with my mind,” Kathy answered easily, uncharacteristically straight-faced. Maya struggled to keep her giggles contained beside Kathy, shaking with concealed laughter and a bitten lip.

 

“Jesus… I’m glad I just, like, met him, like a normal person,” Cullen murmured. They all laughed and added their agreements that Cullen was of the lucky few.

 

Alina, meanwhile, was still reeling from Kathy’s statement. Looking at everyone here, they looked like normal kids. Colin said he had powers, but the others hadn’t said anything about their own, aside from Kathy apparently having the Force. “You… can do that?”

 

“What?” Kathy said, turning her attention to her.

 

“You can choke people? With your mind?” Alina said, caught between shock and awe.

 

“Oh, yeah, among other things. See, watch!” Kathy lifted a hand, and a cushion flew up into the air, twirling a bit.

 

“Woah,” Alina breathed out. There was something that made her feel like she wasn’t in her body anymore. Her, simple Alina Shelley, now Wayne, formerly a nobody until only about four months ago, now sitting here at the famous Boy Wonder’s birthday party, with his superpowered friends, in thee Wayne Manor, which was presumably right above thee Batcave?

 

“Show off,” Damian remarked. Kathy glared at him, then smirked, and the cushion went flying towards him. Jon, sat next to Damian on his own cushion, jumped out of the way, while Damian simply leaned to the side, letting the cushion fly past. It took Alina a second to register in her mind that Jon had not only jumped up, but was now floating in the air.

 

“Your aim was off,” Damian, again, remarked, this time more snootily.

 

“Your FACE was off!” Kathy expertly insulted back.

 

“Ohhhh!” Maya, Maps, Jon and Carrie all sang at once.

 

Damian shook his head, lip curled in disgust. “You all are so immature.”

 

"Your FACE is immature!" Kathy yelled.

 

"Okay, Charlie the Unicorn, that's enough," Carrie mused with a smile.

 

"Who the hell is Charlie the Unicorn?" Kathy furrowed her brows.

 

"He's a unicorn," Carrie answered.

 

"Yeah, well, duh," Kathy said. "But I don't get the reference."

 

"Of course you don't," Carrie replied.

 

Suren raised his hand. "I don't either."

 

"Same," Maya agreed.

 

Carrie, mouth agape, exclaimed, "You guys haven't seen it?!"

 

"I haven't," Colin added.

 

"Neither have I, but it sounds ridiculous, so I don't care to know. Unless it is a real unicorn, in which case, I would care to meet him," Damian said.

 

"Oh my god." Carrie looked like she was about to have a seizure, wide eyes and spasming in her blanket cocoon as she wiggled upwards. "I forgot I'm surrounded by children deprived of their childhoods. Oh my god."

 

"I've watched it!" Maps said happily. "My childhood hasn't been deprived yet!"

 

"After this, we are watching Charlie the Unicorn, and the fu- fricken llamas too, I don't care what you guys say, you have to. Legally," Carrie told them sternly.

 

"Yay!" Maps cried joyfully, pumping her fists into the air.

 

Alina watched them argue over whether or not they should watch whatever Charlie the Unicorn was, meanwhile, she was still stuck on Jon casually floating in the air and Kathy’s powers. When there was a pause in their conversation, Alina quickly interjected, “Can you do anything else? Kathy? Besides making things float?”

 

Kathy turned her attention back to her with a grin. “Oh, sure. I’ve got flight just like mister Superboy over there.” She pointed at Jon, who timidly waved at Alina, seeming to realize he had been floating this whole time. Alina became more stuck on the fact that he was apparently Superboy, son of Superman.

 

‘Wait,’ Alina thought. ‘If Jon is Superboy, and his dad is Uncle Clark, then that makes Uncle Clark Superman .’

 

Kathy gave Alina no time to ponder that revelation, as she continued on. “I can also read minds!”

 

“Really?” Alina looked at her wide-eyed. “What am I thinking right now?”

 

“Well, you’re thinking about the fact that I can read your mind,” Kathy mused with a smile. “But a moment ago you were thinking about Clark being Superman. Also, how super impressed you are with me, because I’m just awesome like that.” Alina felt her cheeks rise with blush, but she couldn’t find it in herself to be too embarrassed.

 

“She is not,” Damian scoffed, glaring at Kathy.

 

“She is!” Kathy argued, grinning happily.

 

“I am,” Alina confirmed breathlessly. Damian sent her an angry glare too, and, if Alina was focused on him, she’d guess he was probably jealous, but right now, she was too focused on Kathy. “Do you read minds all the time? What’s it like? Does it hurt? Is it loud?”

 

Kathy paused thoughtfully. “No, not all the time. I learned to block them out. But sometimes they accidentally slip through. And I’d say it’s more like a… wall made of jelly than of bricks, because I can still sorta hear your thoughts, but just not that clearly.” She tilted her head. “Reading thoughts honestly depends on the person. Some people think more in words, some more in pictures, and some just in feelings. Plus, if they’re thinking in a language I don’t know, then it can get really confusing for me. Sometimes I also read people’s minds incorrectly.”

 

“Incorrectly? How?” Alina inquered, tilting her own head like a curious puppy.

 

Kathy struggled for words for a moment, toying with her fingernails. “I don’t know. Like, sometimes people think really fast and I can’t keep up and I only hear things that make me think the wrong thing about them, or they think too slow and I get bored and lose focus and I miss what they were actually thinking. Some people just don’t think… co...herently, I think, is the word. Like, all in these scrambled little thoughts that I can’t piece together- like a puzzle- but they can.”

 

“That’s cool,” Alina told her, in awe. Who cares if you didn’t understand the thoughts? You were reading people’s minds! Alina didn’t even know people had all those different types of thoughts. Did she think in words or pictures more? She didn’t even know!

 

Kathy smiled. “It is. I’ve been training to control my mind reading powers better with Martian Manhunter and Miss Martian, but we read minds differently because we’re different, uh, species, I think is the word. So it’s a little difficult. But it’s fun!”

 

“Don’t you-” Alina cut herself off, about to ask why she didn’t ask her parents, who were surely the same ‘species’ (was Kathy not human?) as her, but then her mind flashed to her own mom, and then to all the tombstones in the graveyard. Quickly, she shifted questions, hoping Kathy wasn’t still reading her mind. “Can anybody else read minds?”

 

“Of us? Nah,” Kathy answered, glancing around the group with a smile. “Bet they wish they could, though!”

 

Maya raised an eyebrow. “And be tormented by these idiots' thoughts? No way.”

 

“That’s very Damian of you to say, Maya,” Suren joked.

 

“My name is not an adjective, simpleton,” Damian growled.

 

“Case in point.” Colin smirked. Damian glowered at him.

 

“Who else has superpowers?” Alina asked, intrigued.

 

“I don’t have superpowers, but I have a suit that makes me invisible. I don’t have it on me now, though,” Maya answered.

 

“I know magic, kinda like Zatanna,” Suren said. “But I’m not as good as her yet.”

 

“Oh!” Kathy exclaimed. “My superhero name is Beacon, by the way.”

 

“You mean, B-T-Dubs?” Colin corrected her with a smirk.

 

Kathy glared at him. "I will choke you."

 

"Now that's very Damian of you to say, Kath," Cullen mused.

 

"No, Damian would have said he'd kill you," Maps giggled.

 

"And he'd try to, too!" Carrie added. They all laughed, like it was a good joke to have your friend try and kill you frequently. Alina wasn't too surprised, honestly.

 

Alina hesitantly asked through their laughter, looking at Carrie, "Do you and Damian have a meeting story?"

 

Carrie immediately winced. "Let's not talk about that for another few years until we can look back on it and laugh."

 

Damian growled, "I can assure you, we will never look back on it and laugh."

 

Kathy rolled her eyes. "You guys are so dramatic. I choked him and some of us tried to kill him! He tried to kill us. A little costume stealing isn't that bad."

 

"Uniform," Damian automatically corrected. "And it is. Robin is my title."

 

"I know a few other Robins who would argue otherwise, but go off, I guess," Kathy said.

 

"Besides, all the other Robins do look back on it and laugh. And you know what they say, history repeats itself!" Maps chirped.

 

Damian glowered dangerously, looking like Death incarnate himself. Jon laughed, saying, “Guys, guys, let’s cut him some slack. Robins have never been known to share like us Superboys do.”

 

“At least us Robins can come up with something creative, and not just name ourselves Batboy !” Damian spat back.

 

“Oh, are you saying Batgirls are dumb, or something?”

 

“Not as dumb as Nobody!”

 

“Hey! Why are we dragging me into this!”

 

“Because Nobody sucks!”

 

Alina giggled to herself, smiling and snuggling up against Carrie's blanket cocoon as the group argued mindlessly on, enjoying their laughter and warmth.

Chapter Text

Jason fiddled with his keys before he slotted one into the keyhole, unlocking the door. Mar’i bounced on her feet beside Jason, her hand holding Sasha’s, who looked a bit awkward to be doing so, body stuck between tensing and relaxing. Alina hung at the back, watching them with a mix between curiosity and hesitance.

 

He pushed open the door, letting Mar’i bolt inside, screaming, “Doggy, doggy!” and subsequently dragging Sasha along with her. Jason turned to Alina with a grin, gesturing towards his apartment. “Mi casa es su casa! Make yourself at home.”

 

Alina slowly walked into his apartment, eyes scanning around. His apartment was no manor, but it definitely wasn’t as cramped as the apartment Alina and her mom lived in (had lived in?). The living room was directly attached to the kitchen, no wall dividing them. There was a small hall that had four rooms, one of them presumably the bathroom, and two others bedrooms for Jason and Sasha.

 

The walls were decorated with a few paintings, and a few bullet holes. One wall in the living room had a fancy shelf built into it, with squares and stairs and mismatched platforms, filled to the brim with books. The living room also had a long, curving couch and a big chair in front of a TV that wasn’t as fancy as the ones in the Manor, but wasn’t like the box Alina had living with her mother.

 

Her eyes were dragged to Mar’i as she tackled a Pitbull mix with pale grayish brown, short fur. The dog barked, deep and powerful, and began licking Mar’i’s face rapidly, eliciting happy giggles from the little girl who’s fourth birthday was fast approaching. Sasha kneeled down, scratching the dog behind her small, floppy ears.

 

Jason closed the door behind them, calling out to Mar’i, “You can drop the cloak, Mar.”

 

Mar’i pulled back from hugging the dog, moving her hand to a tiny watch on her tiny wrist. She pressed a button on the side, and the top of the watch popped up with a click. Mar’i twisted it, then pressed it back down with another click. Immediately, a wave seemed to ripple down her, and she seemed to get brighter. Alina blinked, and then was staring at a Mar’i that looked practically the same, save for orange-hued skin and black hair now glossy and shiny. Was her hair moving? It looked like the ends of it were rippling like calm waves of water.

 

It took Alina a moment for the dots to connect. It wasn’t until Mar’i glanced back, with eyes completely green with no white, that Alina realized, ‘Oh. She’s an alien.’

 

She really thought maybe somebody should have taken the time to tell her that.

 

She guessed that meant Mar’i’s mom, Kori, was an alien too. Then, Mar’i would be a half-alien, actually, if Dick was her biological dad and she wasn’t adopted.

 

Jason walked on past her into the kitchen, checking a pot he had on the stove. Sasha moved to grab the remote off the arm of a couch, turning on the TV with ease. Mar’i jumped up into the air, flying over to Sasha, “Paw Patrol! Paw Patrol!”

 

“We’ll be there on the double,” Sasha sang under her breath as she typed in the channel numbers for the kids’ channels.

 

The dog yapped, short tail wagging as she chased after Mar’i, before pausing. She sniffed the air, then turned towards Alina, tongue lolling out. Slowly, she padded over to Alina, who crouched down and held out a hand. The dog stretched out her neck, snuffing noisily at her fingers. She bumped her head against her hand, huffing.

 

“Don’t worry, Dog’s a sweetheart,” Jason told her, leaning against his kitchen counter. Right, her name was Dog. ‘Well,’ she mused, ‘what would you expect from a person who wears a red hood and calls themselves Red Hood…’

 

Huh. It was weird to think she was in the Red Hood’s house, right now. With his daughter (her niece because Red Hood was her brother because they were the kids of Batman ), and his dog, Dog. And Nightwing’s daughter he had with an alien. (She was pretty sure Dick was Nightwing, anyway. She hadn’t actually asked.)

 

She scratched at Dog’s ears, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, leaning her head against Alina’s hand with closed eyes and a slobbery tongue. When Alina pulled her hand back, attention turned to the cartoon dogs running around on the TV screen, Dog whined, butting her head against her hand again.

 

Alina tapped her finger against Dog’s black nose. “Boop.”

 

Dog blinked, then barked, trotting backwards on her paws until she dropped down into a crouch with her butt in the air, tail wagging.

 

“Alina,” Jason called. Alina jerked her head towards him, right as she saw something fly towards her. “Catch.”

 

Alina snapped her arms forward just in time to catch the object. It was a dog’s toy- or, well Dog’s toy. A rope with a knot in the middle. Alina smiled, watching as Dog shimmied excitedly on the ground, bouncing from paw to paw. She held out the toy, and Dog lunged forward, teeth snapping around the other end. She pulled angrily, then paused as the toy slipped out of Alina’s hands. She waited patiently as Alina grabbed the other end, then started tugging again, with low, playful growls.

 

Alina giggled, pulling the rope towards her as Dog pulled backwards.

 

“Good Dog,” she heard Jason say, and Dog’s tail wagged even faster, ears perking up happily as she played with Alina.

Chapter Text

“Can we get Batburger?” Mar’i asked for the umpteenth million time.

 

“No, Mar’i, we’re eating at Roy’s,” Jason responded, also for the umpteenth million time.

 

“Can we eat Batburger at Unkie Roy’s?” Mar’i asked.

 

Jason sighed, and Sasha smirked at him. “Keep asking, Mar’i. He’ll eventually break.”

 

“No, I will not.”

 

“I’ve gotten you to break before.”

 

“That time where you started crying does not count.”

 

“Hear that, Mar’i? Start crying.”

 

“No- Mar’i, don’t- we’re already here, anyway.”

 

The drive had been pretty long- they weren’t in Gotham anymore so Batburger was definitely out of the question, but now they were pulling into an apartment complex. As the car rolled to a stop, Dog perked up her head, staring out the window. She let out a low bark as Jason stopped the car, unclipping his seatbelt, her tail thumping against the seat.

 

Jason exited the car and opened Mar’i’s door, quickly unbuckling her while Dog whined, waiting for Mar’i to move out of the seat. Alina opened her own door, getting out at the same time as Sasha. Dog noticed Alina’s opened door, and bolted out of it with a yap. Alina panicked a bit, worried she’d just let the dog out to run away, but Sasha didn’t seem worried. In fact, Dog just circled around the car and bumped her head against Jason’s leg as he lifted Mar’i down, placing her on the ground.

 

“Dog, sit,” Jason said, and Dog wiggled a bit before obediently doing so. Then, Jason pulled out a leash from his pocket and Dog barked, jumping and dashing away. “I know you hate it, but you need the leash. They don’t allow pets without leashes in the building.”

 

“Doggy!” Mar’i called. “It’s okay. Silkie hates the leash too.” She reached out for Dog, who slowly walked back, staring intently at Jason, distrust alight in her black eyes. Mar’i let out a few cooing, squirrelly noises, holding out her fingers like she had a treat. Sasha walked behind Dog and nudged her forward. Dog hesitatingly obliged. Mar’i darted forward, placing her hands on either side of Dog’s head, smushing her face.

 

Mar’i whispered, repeatedly, into her face, “You’re a good doggy.” Dog let out a muffled woof, tail wagging. Meanwhile, Jason snuck around her and clipped the leash to her collar. Dog barked, betrayed, as she jumped back, tugging on the leash. Mar’i laughed merrily.

 

“Yay! Mission complete!” she cheered, pumping her fists into the air.

 

“I don’t wanna know if you learned that from video games, or from your dad saying that after every boring patrol,” Jason said, deadpanned. Mar’i giggled.

 

“Can I walk doggy?” she asked eagerly.

 

“No,” Jason answered, and she pouted. “ Doggy doesn’t like the leash. She’ll pull.” Dog let out a low growl that turned into a whine, looking up miserably at Jason. “We’ll take it off soon. C’mon, Dog.”

 

Jason tugged Dog along, who eventually gave up and trotted compliantly beside him. Mar’i hopped alongside them, while Sasha hung back, glancing at Alina. As Alina slowly started to follow after them, briefly startled by the beeping of the car that signified it’s locking, Sasha turned and walked after them too.

 

Alina gazed around at the apartment building, noting how much different it felt than Jason’s or Alina’s mom’s… than Gotham’s. She didn’t go outside of Gotham much, just to visit her aunt’s and other extended family. And now to visit Dick in Blüdhaven, she supposed. She did go to Metropolis once, when she was very little, but she didn’t remember much past eating some ice cream at a really bright white shop, and hating the sun’s heat blazing unfilteringly down on her.

 

A quick hop onto the elevator, and they were swiftly at Roy’s door. Jason used his own key to open the door, not bothering to knock. Mar’i squealed, running into the room, while Jason unclipped Dog’s leash, letting her run after the small child.

 

“Unkie Roy! Lian! Lian!” the girl cried happily.

 

Alina heard someone get tackled by the half-alien girl before she saw him, a loud ‘omph!’ erupting from him. “Mar’i! Jesus, kid, you’ve gotten big.”

 

She followed Jason and Sasha into the living room, peering around the corner into the kitchen where a scruffy, long-banged, orangish red-haired man was holding Mar’i in a tight hug- or she was holding him in one. Dog barked, lolling her tongue out as she looked up expectantly at the two.

 

“Hey, Lian!” The man, presumably Roy, called out, turning his head. “Sasha and Mar’i are here.”

 

There was a small thud as someone most likely jumped off their bed, then the door to a room opened and a similarly red-headed, although slightly darker, and green-eyed girl ran out of her room, smiling brightly. Mar’i, giving a quick press to her watch and decloaking, wiggled away from Roy, flying unhesitatingly over to Lian, who eagerly returned her hug, twirling her around. Sasha walked over to them with a grin.

 

Lian beamed a borderline Dick Grayson-smile at Sasha. “Hey, Sash!” She glanced over at Jason. Alina silently moved behind him, nervous. “Hey, Jay!”

 

Jason waved at her. “Hey, Li.”

 

Mar’i flew out of Lian’s hug, giving Dog a pat on the head before bolting over to the couch in the living room. Lian and Sasha smiled at each other, letting out giggles and low whispers as they trailed after the flying girl. Dog trotted around the house, sniffing at corners and occasionally licking at crumbs.

 

“Don’t break the remote again, girls,” Roy told them, a playful warning in his voice. Sasha gave him a salute while Lian nodded, but Mar’i’s eyes lit up and she darted downwards, grabbing the remote and flying back up.

 

“Mar’i! No, drop it!” Sasha said, reaching up to snatch the remote from her, but the half-alien just flew higher, giggling.

 

“No! No one gets the remote!” Mar’i lifted it into the air above her head.

 

“Don’t drop it!” “Drop it!”

 

Sasha and Lian yelled out conflicting orders, but Mar’i just grinned, giving a little flip.

 

“If she drops it, it’ll break!” “If she drops it, I can catch it!”

 

Once again, they overlapped each other. They glared at each other, Lian with a confident smile. She climbed onto the arm of the couch and reached upwards towards Mar’i, who pressed herself against the ceiling. “Drop it, Mar, I can catch it!”

 

“No, you can’t! You dropped my phone!” Sasha grabbed Lian’s shirt and started pulling her down, but Lian wouldn’t go down without a fight, kicking her in the stomach.

 

“Once!”

 

Twice!

 

Alina watched as the girls fought with each other and Mar’i laughed with glee, remote held tightly in her grasp. Jason moved past Alina, smiling as he watched his daughter argue with Lian. He stopped next to Roy, giving him a friendly punch to the arm, as was, seemingly, Batfamily custom right next to shoulder pats and hair ruffles.

 

Roy’s gaze drifted to Alina, and she was glad Dog chose that moment to run up to her, pushing her wet nose into Alina’s hand and licking her fingers. Alina slowly scratched at Dog’s ears and neck, giving her a few pats too.

 

“So, that’s your new sister, huh?” Roy asked Jason inquisitively.

 

Jason nodded, gaze flickering to her and Dog before returning to the three other girls as Sasha managed to grab Mar’i’s foot, who proceeded to squeal like a pig caught on wire. She dropped the remote and Lian squarely managed to catch it, tumbling to the ground as she dived after it. “Yep. For all of about, mm, four months now.”

 

Roy turned his gaze back to the girls. Sasha was now trying to pry Lian’s arms apart as she curled around the remote protectively. Mar’i happily attempted to join in, gripping at Lian’s arms.

 

“Ow, ow, ow, superstrength, superstrength!”

 

“Must be weird to have a sister younger than your daughter,” Roy mused. Alina, as she scratched Dog’s flank, thought, ‘It’s weird to have a niece older than me.’

 

Jason shrugged. “Damian’s younger than Sasha too.”

 

“True.” They watched as Mar’i wiggled the remote out of Lian’s grasp, only for Sasha to snatch it from her hands. The TV buzzed to life in the commotion. “Yeah, Connor Hawke’s not all that older than Lian, and he’s like my brother too, so I get it.”

 

“How is the new Speedy holding up?”

 

“Same as any new Robin, Aqualad, Wonder Girl, or Kid Flash,” Roy answered easily. “He’s working with his Teen Titans team pretty well now.”

 

“Thank God Damian stopped bossing around the Titans and moved onto his own friends. He gets along much better with them.”

 

“Yeah, Connor hated him, since he hates being bossed around, especially by a younger kid. It’s why he didn’t hang with his team much. He likes the Allen twins though. And AJ.”

 

“AJ’s the current Aqualad, yeah?”

 

“Yep,” Roy popped the ‘p’. “Jackson, I believe the kid’s name was, left the role a few years ago, actually.”

 

“Man, no big superhero’s family can just be normal, can they? They’ve all got adoption problems, really,” Jason scoffed. “We say Batman’s got permanent empty nest syndrome, but the rest all got so many fuckin’ kids flocking after them too.”

 

“Guess kids just look up to them enough that they decide to do something dumb,” Roy said. “Like steal a guy dressed in a Batsuit’s tires.”

 

Jason scoffed but grinned proudly, puffing out his chest. Alina didn’t catch what he said next as Mar’i suddenly flew towards her, screeching, “AH-LINA!”

 

She bulldozed into her, and Dog scrambled away. Alina’s hand flew backwards to steady herself as Mar’i latched onto her. As Alina stood back up, Sasha and Lian were already running towards her, although she could see hesitance in their eyes as they came to a stop in front of her, unsure how to interact with her.

 

Mar’i twisted her head around, sticking her tongue out. “Bleh! I win!”

 

“Alina,” Sasha began slowly. “Drop Mar’i right now.”

 

“No, no!” Mar’i shook her head. “ We win!” She punched Alina’s chest with a tiny fist, which surprisingly hurt. It was then Alina realized Mar’i was clutching the remote between them, channels flashing on the TV as the buttons were squished down.

 

Sasha and Lain exchanged glances, eyes narrowing, before Lian suddenly lurched forward. Alina jumped backwards instinctively and Mar’i squealed, letting go and flying behind Alina. She grabbed her shirt and tugged. “Run!”

 

Alina followed orders without a second thought, bolting away as Lian immediately chased after her and Mar’i. Dog barked repeatedly as she joined the chase too, although it was unclear who’s side she was on. Sasha looped around the couch, expertly blocking off the path Alina planned on taking. She backtracked, bumping into Mar’i as she floated behind her. Mar’i dodged an attempted grab by Lian, then shoved the remote into Alina’s hands as she flew at Sasha, stopping her. Alina quickly took to running across and over the couch, leaping over it with ease thanks to a few helpful lessons from Damian.

 

Jason hummed as he watched the girls play together. After a moment, he said, “My teen daughter, kid sister, baby niece and friend’s kid all in one place. Never thought this is how my life would go some years ago when I was being beaten to death with a crowbar.”

 

Roy, too, watched the kids tussle with observant eyes. A smile slowly split across his face. “Neither did I.”

Chapter Text

Alina was sitting in Duke’s room, curled up in his warm blankets on his bed, and watching a cartoon on his computer while he did his homework beside her, when it dawned on her.

 

She’d never been to the Batcave before.

 

Granted, she didn’t know if she was allowed to go to the Batcave, but…

 

She wiggled in her blanket cocoon, taught to her by Carrie, as she turned to face Duke. His face was deep in thought as he stared at his homework, pen unmoving.

 

“Can we go to the Batcave?”

 

He blinked, eyes moving from the paper to her. “What?”

 

“Can we go to the Batcave?” Alina repeated.

 

“Oh.” He placed down his pen, pushing himself up into a sitting position. “I mean, I guess? I don’t know if there’s… like, a rule, against it? I mean, you know, right?” Alina nodded. “So, yeah, I guess you can go to the Cave.” He put his homework on his bed stand, moving to stand up. “Just, don’t like, put on a Robin costume or steal a Batmobile and run off, or something.”

 

“I dunno how to drive,” Alina said, slowly unravelling her cocoon.

 

“Hasn’t stopped others,” Duke replied as he walked over to his computer, pausing the cartoon, but not shutting down the computer. “C’mon.” He offered his hand out to her, and she grabbed it, hopping off his bed as energy started to run through her. She was going to the Batcave! Batman’s home! Well, sort of, because Wayne Manor was actually his home, but she always thought Batman lived in the Batcave. She wondered what it was like. She always imagined it as a big, spooky cave, with bats, but she didn’t know if a cave would be the best place to, like, do superhero stuff with computers and training and fighting and detectiving. It’d be very dark, and she didn’t think her dad or siblings had night vision, even though she used to think the Batfamily did.

 

Alina followed Duke as he led her to the main library, stopping in front of an inconspicuous grandfather clock. Popping open the glass front of the clock, Duke slowly turned the two arrows on the clock until they hit 10:47, or maybe 10:48- Alina never was good at reading clocks. The clock made some kind of clicking noise, then opened up like an automatic door. Alina’s eyes widened as she was greeted by stairs heading down into darkness, and a cool burst of air brushing against her skin.

 

She bounced on the balls of her feet, fingers twitching as she curled her hands into fists to keep them from waving about with excitement that threatened to burst out of her like a jack-in-a-box.

 

“It’s a little chilly at first, but it gets warmer. We forced B to add more heaters after the incident,” Duke said with a tamed grin, walking down onto one stair and offering a hand to Alina. She had no idea what an incident was, but she hoped it didn’t happen again. She wasn’t a fan of the cold. It was cold, with the Joker.

 

She grabbed his warm hand and hopped down beside him, shivering a bit at the coolness of the cave. She gazed up at the ceiling. She had been in a faux cave, at a museum, and it was similar to this, but this was so much more real and detailed, all shades of blue and black rather than the ugly brown the museum had depicted. She continued walking down the stairs, careful as she stepped, one hand on the railing and the other in Duke’s hand. He was right; it was getting warmer. The warmth was welcomed. The winter months were approaching, and it was chilly enough outside already.

 

Her ears strained to listen to anything, but all she could hear was their own footsteps- Alina’s much more noisier than Duke’s even though he was bigger and heavier- and the soft sound of scuttling claws against stone. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, lights illuminated the actual cave itself.

 

It was big. So big that she couldn’t even see everything. She never thought it was this big. Then again, she never realized how big the Manor was until she was standing in it either. The ceilings stretched so unnecessarily high, and there was so much empty space in large rooms. The Batcave had a high ceiling, and a lot of space, but the space was definitely not empty. It was filled with strange objects she had not at all thought would be in the Batcave. She expected bats , not a giant penny, Joker-themed (ew) card, and- was that a dinosaur?!

 

“Is that a dinosaur?!” she screamed excitedly, startled by the way her voice echoed throughout the giant cave. The shuffling of tiny claws grew louder overhead, accompanied by squeaks and chatters. Duke grinned at her as she let go of his hand, bolting towards the grand green statue(?) dinosaur.

 

Her run was short-lived, though, as she heard the combined sudden cry from Duke of, “Look out!” and the animalistic shrieks above her. Next thing she knew she was being swarmed by black, brown and gray, the feeling of tiny paws like little spiders crawling all over her. She leaped backwards, screaming, trying to swat the blackness away. Luckily, Duke was already there, swatting away the bats in front of her face and prying away the other ones clinging to her arms.

 

“Oh shit,” he swore. “I forgot they do that. Shit.”

 

Most of the bats flew away after Duke shooed them, but a few persistently clung to her arms. She whimpered, not sure if she should flap her arms to get them off or if that would anger them further.

 

Duke apologized as he grabbed one of the bats and tugged it gently off her, releasing it so it could fly back up to its colony. “I’m so sorry, I forgot they were trained to do that. Don’t worry, they aren’t going to hurt you- or they shouldn’t, sh- shoot. They’re pretty nice after the initial, uh, attack.” As he tugged at one that dug its claws into her shirt, threatening to break through her skin too, he muttered harshly under his breath,  “Let go, ya stupid bat!”

 

“Tolmai!” A sudden familiar voice boomed commandingly. “Retreat!”

 

The last of the bats squeaked and fluttered away from Alina and Duke, flying back up to the cave ceiling. Alina let out a choked sigh of relief, wrapping her arms around herself and backing up into Duke, who squeezed her in a comforting hug. Damian was bounding towards them with a scowl, but Alina knew it wasn’t an angry scowl, but a worried one, the same one he had worn when he saved her from the kidnappers. He was wincing slightly too as he walked, but trying to hide it and his limp.

 

“Shelley, are you alright?” he asked as he approached, stopping in front of them. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, just black shorts, and his side was wrapped in bandages. They looked fresh, mostly a snow white, save for a few darker spots near his lower side.

 

“‘M f-fine,” Alina mumbled, eyes glancing up fearfully in case the bats attacked again.

 

“My apologies. I trained them to attack invaders who come into the cave. They weren’t aware you weren’t an invader,” Damian explained.

 

“This is why you shouldn’t have trained them,” Duke argued.

 

“Nonsense,” Damian defended himself, shoulders squaring up. “They’ve been trained not to bite young kids.”

 

Duke raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “There’s no way you’ve had the time to train all these bats to do that.”

 

Damian glowered at him for a moment, before his shoulders relaxed, and he admitted, “I’ve only taught the Tolmai’s not to bite. But the other’s rarely bite anyway- they’re too used to humans giving them food. They don’t bite the hand that feeds, as the saying goes.”

 

Duke rolled his eyes, but smiled. He glanced down at Alina. “You still okay, ‘lina? Do you want to head back upstairs? It’s okay if you do.”

 

She glanced at Damian, then at the bats crawling around above. She whispered nervously, “They’re not gonna attack me again, are they?”

 

“No,” Damian affirmed her quickly. “Not unless I give them the command too, which I promise you I won’t. And if for some reason they attack you, you can trust me that I will see to their punishments.”

 

“Geeze, that makes it sounds like your gonna torture them or something,” Duke remarked uneasily.

 

“I will simply deny them their treats and refuse to give them any belly rubs,” Damian said with the utmost seriousness. “They are quite needy and spoiled; they’ll pout like children when they don’t get what they want.”

 

“Of course they are,” Duke agreed, a curl to his lips. “What Baby Bat isn’t?” Damian opened his mouth to seemingly agree, before the joke registered, and he narrowed his eyes dangerously.

 

“Watch yourself, Thomas,” he warned. “Remember who those baby bats listen to.”

 

Duke just laughed, and Alina glanced between her two brothers, wondering what the joke was that she wasn’t getting. Those kinds of jokes happened a lot. Duke turned back to her, a warm smile on his face to match his bright eyes. “So, you wanna stay here or head back?”

 

“Stay here,” Alina decided slowly, glancing from the bats to the dinosaur statue. There was so much to look at and explore. She couldn’t leave now. She wasn’t afraid of some bats! Not when she’d faced the Joker!

 

Her energy and excitement from earlier slowly came back to her, rejuvenating her. She bounced forwards, tugging on Duke’s hand, not quite feeling safe enough to let go. He followed her obediently, smiling as he and Damian walked her down another short set of stairs. She gazed around her as she pranced towards the dinosaur, but her gaze got caught on Damian’s bandages.

 

“What happened?” she asked curiously. Some epic fight against space monsters? Saving a baby jaguar from assassin smugglers? A riddle from the Riddler gone wrong?

 

Damian glanced down at his own wound as they walked on, his eyes almost dismissive. Casually, he said, “A Joker henchman I thought was unconscious managed to shoot a bullet off. He was lucky enough to hit me, but unfortunate enough not to hit anything vital.”

 

“Yeah, and then you disregarded literally everyone’s order to rest for a day, went out in the cold as it was raining , then got an infection and a fever,” Duke remarked, disappointment clear in his voice, marred with both underlying worry and dry humor. Alina frowned at her big brother, whose shoulders raised defensively, but he turned it into a shrug.

 

“I saved Drake from getting his leg crushed by doing so. I’d say it’s a fair trade- prevent something permanent and get something temporary in return,” Damian explained.

 

“Or you could have let Batgirl handle it. She’s not incompitant, you know,” Duke suggested, with a warning in his voice.

 

Damian huffed. “Kelley would have been too slow.”

 

“She was literally right there!” Duke argued. “She- you know what.” He paused, taking a calming breath. “That doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is showing Alina all the cool places in the cave, and then you returning to bed rest and not running off to get even more sick, right?”

 

Damian nodded in agreement, although his brows furrowed on the last bit. “Of course. The dinosaur is always a favorite. There’s an opening on its bottom that Superboy and I often utilize.”

 

“You mean you and Jon hang out in the dinosaur’s butt?” Duke grinned teasingly. Damian scoffed, but didn’t disagree.

 

Meanwhile, Alina’s attention had solely turned to Damian’s wound, frown deep and concerned. Not just his wound, actually, but all the scars on him that she normally just glazed over. In Gotham, scars were the normal. In her family, that many scars was the normal, too. But she hadn't really thought about how the scars were. Where they were from, sure- fighting criminals and supervillains and monsters. But how painful they were, how close they left her family to death, how many had nearly killed them, how many had left them bleeding no matter what they did, how many had bad memories attached to them-

 

How many had been the scar that killed them?

 

Jason had died, that much had been confirmed over and over. Stephanie, too, had died or almost died or something. Her dad had been gone for a year, maybe dead- she didn’t know. And Dick had a grave in the graveyard, and Cass, and so did so many others… So did Damian.

 

Did… did Damian die too? If so, which scar killed him?

 

Did it hurt? Did he cry, was it quick, was it some grand, heroic death, or did he die all alone and miserable? Did a big supervillain kill him or a simple mugger-

 

Could the shot from that Joker henchman had killed him- could still kill him, if he did something stupid like run off in the rain again?

 

If he died, would he come back again? Or were people only allowed to come back from death once?

 

“Alina?” The soft, worried voice of Duke broke into her thoughts. She jerked her head from Damian’s scars to his concerning, frowning face. They stopped walking. “You okay?”

 

She glanced at him and Damian, who was scowling in his concerned way again. She didn’t know what she looked like, but she did know that in the next moment she threw herself at Damian, wrapping her arms around him, careful not to touch his bandages, and hugged him tight. She buried her face in his chest.

 

“Don’t do stupid stuff!” she yelled at him, muffled. “You could die! Again!

 

She felt Damian stiffen, his arms hesitantly and awkwardly wrapping around her, glancing at Duke for help, who offered none but a pointed look. 

 

“You… know that I’ve died?” he said apprehensively.

 

“I’ve seen your grave,” she sniffled, looking up at him with wet eyes. “You can’t die again! What if you don’t come back? I just got to know you!”

 

“I-” He cleared his throat nervously. “I’ll try not to?”

 

“No!” She glared at him, nose scrunched up as tears blurred her vision and ran hotly down her cheeks. “You gotta promise not to do dumb stuff! Don’t get sick ‘cause you ran in the rain! Stay home! You were hurt. That was dumb!”

 

“I… did that to save someone,” Damian softly explained. “I had to.”

 

“Nuh-uh, dummy! Save yourself first.” She placed her chin on his chest, staring up at him sadly. “Or else you can’t save others, and you also make other people worry that they gotta save you.”

 

“That is… true,” Damian conceded. “I apologize for making you worry.”

 

She sniffled angrily, trying to hold back her tears as she wiped them away. “Not just me.”

 

Damian’s eyes flickered to Duke, who stood with arms crossed.

 

"I apologize for making the rest of my family worry as well."

 

Duke smiled, and Alina tried to too, but she was too upset to manage. Instead, she let go of Damian and finished whipping her tears from her eyes and snot from her nose. Now she felt like a crybaby.

 

She stared at Duke, noting a scar, small and healing, on his lip. "You'll be smart, too, right?"

 

"Of course," Duke promised. "And I'll make sure the rest of our family doesn't do anything dumb either." He sighed. "But they all are very prone to doing dumb things."

 

"Even you," Damian added, a mix between quiet and stern.

 

Duke nodded solemnly, a flicker of guilt in his eyes. "Even me."

 

"Okay," Alina said, resolute despite her shaky lip and wet eyes. "Then I'll be the one who makes sure everyone else stops doing dumb things."

 

Duke chuckled lightly. "That's a big task, 'lina. How 'bout we split it?"

 

Alina tilted her head, thoughtfully. "Why don't we all stop each other from doing the dumb things?"

 

Duke and Damian exchanged looks. Duke said, "I think we've tried doing that. For some reason, someone still ends up doing the dumb thing."

 

"Well," Alina huffed, rubbing at her eyes, even though her mother told her not to do that 'cause she'd make them all red and irritated. "We try harder. Yeah? For each other?"

 

Duke and Damian looked at each other, but this time, they spoke together, "For each other."

 

"Okay," Alina said, rubbing the last of her tears away, a wobbly smile making its way to her face. “We can see the dinosaur now.”

 

“Alright,” Duke agreed, offering his hand. She took it again, gently swinging their interlocked hands back and forth as they walked to the dinosaur, only a few steps away. Eagerly, she raised a timid hand to touch it, shocked at how cold it was. She moved her hand down, feeling the texture of bumpy plastic skin beneath her fingers. She stared up at the dinosaur, marvelling at how big it was.

 

“Woah,” she breathed, awed. “Issa t-rex, right?”

 

“Tyrannosaurus rex,” Duke said with a big grin.

 

“Tyrannys… Bat-rex,” Alina simplified with a smile.

 

Duke held back a snort, hand flying to his face. “No-”

 

“B-rex,” Damian shortened.

 

Alina brightened. “B-rex!”

 

Duke sighed in defeat for a battle he barely fought. “I know it was only a matter of time until the t-rex got dubbed something like Bat-osaurus… But I did not expect the combined efforts of Damian al Ghul Wayne and a bubbly little girl to name the dinosaur, B-rex .”

 

“I will concede that it is a ridiculous name,” Damian said. “But it is it’s name now nonetheless.”

 

As Alina giggled, she heard the familiar flapping of bat wings, making her tense up. A little bat landed on the claw of the t-rex, squeaking noisily. It stared at them for a moment before jumping off the claw. Alina jumped backwards a bit, squeezing Duke’s hand, but the bat landed on Damian’s outstretched hand, who remained unfazed.

 

“It wants treats,” Damian told them, looking at Alina. “Are you alright if I feed it?”

 

“Uhm,” Alina stuttered perplexed, studying the small brownish black bat. “Yeah?”

 

Damian hummed, placing the bat on his shoulder. It stayed there obediently, but continued to complain loudly into his ear. Damian hopped down a ledge, walking over to the giant computer at the… back or front or even middle, depending on how you looked at it, of the cave. Alina watched curiously as he opened a cabinet and pulled out a container. He grabbed a handful of treats from it, and quickly made his way back to the dinosaur. Alina was curious as to how exactly he managed to jump up the slight ledge with a bat on his shoulder and food in one hand, but, then again, her big brother was super cool like that.

 

He placed the treats on the ground, an assortment of meat strips Alina would guess was chicken and fish, as well as a few green bits that she guessed were some kind of vegetable. The bat on his shoulder eagerly climbed down to the treats still in his hand and began munching away.

 

Duke tugged on her hand, and she stepped closer to him, letting him wrap a comforting arm around her. She heard the rustling of the bats above, before a few more descendant down to the pile of treats on the ground, or to swarm on Damian, clinging to his arms as he fed them.

 

She stared, first in fear, then in wonder at them.

 

“We call these ones the Tolmai,” Damian explained to her, not taking his eyes off the bats as he fed them. “They are the bats near the clock entrance of the Cave. I’ve trained them the most out of any colony.”

 

“Why do you call them the Tolmai?” Alina asked, voice soft, afraid to spook the bats or bring their attention to her.

 

“Have you ever watched Nemo?” Duke asked her. She blinked up at him, confused. What did Finding Nemo have to do with the bats?

 

“Yeah.”

 

“The fish named one half of the eggs one name, and the other half another name, right?” Duke said. Alina honestly couldn’t remember, but she nodded anyway. “Well, we did that with the bats. So each group of bats has a different name.”

 

“And Tolmai is the name of the father of Bartholomew, who was nicknamed Bat,” Damian explained further.

 

“Cool,” Alina said as she watched the bats flutter around.

 

“Or so Google told us,” Duke mused humorously. “Tim just looked up names meaning bat, and that’s what Google told us. We never actually fact-checked it.”

 

Alina smiled. “Itsa cute name. Toll-my .”

 

“It is,” Damian agreed as he scratched the chin of a grayish bat. “Would you like to feed one?”

 

Alina thought for a moment, watching the bats nibble on their food. They were kinda like kittens, but they could fly, and were kinda scary. “Yes. I’d like to feed one Toll-my.”

 

She felt Duke chuckle soundlessly behind her. Damian murmured a command to the bats, and they all hopped, flew or climbed off him. He kneeled down to grab one small brown one, curling it up into the palm of his hand. It was smaller than his hand.

 

“This one is still a baby,” he told her as he approached her. He placed a piece of fish in her hand. It felt cold and slick. He held his hand with the baby bat out, and it perked up it’s little nose, curiously sniffing the air. She gingerly held the fish out, and watched as the baby leaned forward. It started to nibble at the fish, and Alina watched on in amazement. “You can pet it. Gently.”

 

Alina let the bat pull the fish onto Damian’s hand, munching happily away. Alina timidly placed a finger to the top it's furry head, brushing it as softly as possible.

 

“They’re kinda like mini-Goliaths,” she whispered.

 

"He is from a mutated form of bats," Damian agreed.

 

"It's so cute," Alina crooned as it waved it's little head around, ripping a tiny chunk off the fish treat. "Can I hold it?"

 

"It might fly away or try to climb you," Damian warned.

 

"That's okay." A little scary, but it was so cute. Like Damian! He was scary but cute.

 

"Here." Damian held his hand above her two and gingerly dropped the baby bat into her palms.

 

Her eyes were wide in pure fascination. It reminded her of Nell's pet hamster as it scuttled around in her hands, munching merrily away. She raised it closer to her face, but kept it at a safe distance in case it did decide to suddenly fly away.

 

"Don't tell the other Tolmai this," she whispered. "But you're the best one."

Chapter Text

Alina sniffled as she kicked her legs out from the top of the hospital bed. Her nose felt stuffy and runny at the same time and she hated it. She wanted to be home, asleep, and unable to feel the heat on her face, the throbbing in her head, and the rude coughing that kept erupting from her. But, most of all, she wished she was home so she didn’t have to think about the fact her mother was in the same hospital she was right now, but Alina wouldn’t be able to visit her, in fear of passing her fever to her.

 

The fever wouldn’t go away, despite all the medicine, and she’d had it for three days. It hadn’t been too bad the first day, and she’d made it through school just fine. She’d thought resting would make it go away. That’s what her mom always told her. But, the next day, she couldn’t even get out of bed. Everything was too bright, too hot, and too loud, and her body was so tired.

 

She wished she had her mom to hug her and feed her soup while she was sick. Alfred’s soup was the best, and Bruce did give her a hug before tucking her in last night, but it just wasn’t the same. She missed her mom.

 

The doctor was handing Bruce a box filled with medicine. He eyed it suspiciously. “This is the same medicine you gave me for Damian.”

 

“Yes,” the doctor, who had silverish hair, said simply. “It’s the same fever.”

 

He frowned. “She hasn’t been near Damian.”

 

The doctor raised her eyebrow in response, clearly disbelieving, glancing at Alina. “Have you been near your brother recently?”

 

“He’s been in the B- basement the whole time; he hasn’t even gone to school,” Bruce argued.

 

The doctor looked at Alina again. “Have you been near Damian?”

 

“...I was in the basement,” she answered hesitantly, glancing warily at her father. She wouldn’t get in trouble, would she?

 

His eyes widened and his lips pursed. “The basement with bats?”

 

Alina slowly nodded. “Yeah.” Guiltily, she added, “More than once.” But, in her defense, she didn’t know Damian’s fever was that bad! Or that she would catch it! Or that she maybe wasn’t allowed in the Batcave…

 

“More than once? ” Bruce repeated, shocked. “How did I never notice?”

 

It might have been in part because her siblings would always conveniently have her out of the Cave by the time Batman got back, but she honestly wasn’t sure if that was on purpose or not. She had only been in the Cave three times over the course of a week.

 

“Truly, you are the World’s Greatest Detective,” the old doctor drawled out with a smirk. Bruce shot her a look, but it wasn’t a glare, just an exasperated, worn-out look, like he had dealt with this a lot ( this either being the doctor’s sass or children figuring out his identity).

 

He turned back to Alina. “How long have you known that- ... well, you do know I’m Batman, if you have been to the Batcave, right?”

 

He was just saying it outright? ...She guessed the this might be leaning more towards the children figuring out his identity one.

 

She nodded. “Mhm. Since- uhm… I’m not sure when really. I guess maybe after a little bit of living in the Manor.”

 

“Living in a Manor full of emotionally strained, stubborn, and oxymoronic vigilantes who have been so since children, it does tend to be hard not to notice odd happenings,” the doctor mused. Alina nodded in agreement.

 

“Nobody told you?” Bruce asked her.

 

“Umm,” Alina thought, finding it hard to think past her headache and stuffy nose. “Not like, die-recked-ally.”

 

He furrowed his brows, pursing his lips thinner. “Who did you tell that you knew first?”

 

She tilted her head, breath stumbling over a cough. “I think it was Stephie, Dami, Duke, and Carrie?” Who else was there…? It took her a moment to think passed her fever. “And Babs.”

 

“And none of them thought to inform me of this…? Stephanie, I expected, but-”

 

The doctor cut his murmurings off, saying, “Save your interrogations for later, until after her fever has passed.”

 

He straightened up. “Right. Of course.” She could tell he was thinking about something else- thinking of doing something later. His brows were knitted together in that slightly angry thinking face he often had. She hoped nobody got in trouble because of her. “I suppose we should be getting home, then, Alina?”

 

Alina brightened up, hopping off the hospital bed. Around a cough, she yelled, “Yay!”

 

She hopped over to Bruce with as much energy as she could (which was not a lot), and grabbed his hand. He and the doctor shared a few more quick words that Alina didn’t care to listen to, before Bruce was finally saying bye to her.

 

Alina waved to the kind doctor. “Bye, Dr. Th-thhh...om…”

 

“Dr. Thompkins,” she finished. She smiled warmly. “But you can call me Leslie.”

 

“Bye Dr. Leslie!”

 

Alina followed Bruce out of the building and into the car, not really caring to look at anything or think of much. Mainly it was the fever’s heat and headache bothering her, but also it was the thought that she was leaving the hospital without saying goodbye to her mother. She slumped against the seat of the car, not bothering to ask for ice cream since she just wanted to go home.

 

As Bruce started driving, she knew she couldn’t fall asleep, so she pulled out her phone. Noticing the family group chat was active, she opened it.

 

From Dad on Batosaurus rex: So was anybody going to tell me Alina knew or was I just supposed to find that out on my own?

 

From Steph (blond) on Batosaurus rex: yes

 

From Jason (red) on Batosaurus rex: yes

 

From Cass (cool) on Batosaurus rex : yes

 

From Dukosaurus on Batosaurus rex : yes

 

From Karrie (batgirl?) on Batosaurus rex : yes

 

From Babs? on Batosaurus rex : yes

 

From D!ck on Batosaurus rex : ALINA KNOWS???

 

From D!ck on Batosaurus rex : was anybody gonna tell ME??

 

From Steph (blond) on Batosaurus rex : no

 

From D!ck on Batosaurus rex : Oh so you all just hate me

 

From Jason (red) on Batosaurus rex : yes

 

From Harpar? on Batosaurus rex : hey i didnt know either tbf

 

From Dad on Batosaurus rex: I would think you would at least tell me my child knew I was the Batman and had been to the Batcave on multiple occasions.

 

From Steph (blond) on Batosaurus rex: suffer B

 

From Dad on Batosaurus rex: I don’t think this constitutes as me suffering. This is a need-to-know thing that could have caused problems if I didn’t know.

 

To Batosaurus rex: arent you a detacteve

 

From the corner of her eye, Alina watched Bruce jerk upwards in his seat, glancing towards her. She didn’t try to hide her smirk.

 

From Harpar? on Batosaurus rex : OHHH

 

From Jason (red) on Batosaurus rex: OH SHIITAKE

 

From Steph (blond) on Batosaurus rex: DRAG HIM ALINA

 

From Dad on Batosaurus rex: ALINA, you are in the car beside me! You couldn’t even say that to my face?

 

She giggled.

 

To Batosaurus rex: mabe dont text and drive

 

From Cass (cool) on Batosaurus rex : slayed

 

From Steph (blond) on Batosaurus rex: ABSOLUTELY DESTROYED

 

From Karrie (batgirl?) on Batosaurus rex : murdered on the spot!!! Alina ur a monster!

 

From Helina with an h!! on Batosaurus rex : just opened the gc to see B getting ROASTED by a CHILD

 

From Babs? on Batosaurus rex : is that not Batman’s entire life?

 

Alina smiled cheekily at Bruce as he glared playfully at her.

 

“You’ve done this,” he said mock-menacingly.

 

“You did this to yourself,” she replied, words slightly slurred by her fever.

 

He stretched his arm over to her, ruffling her brown hair. She squeaked, giggled, then coughed, swatting his hand away.


From Tim (insumneack) on Batosaurus rex : So was anybody gonna tell me Bruce knows the “was anybody gonna tell me” meme, or was I just supposed to find that out myself when I opened the gc today?

Chapter Text

“Don’t put that in your mouth!” Alina yelled at the small boy stuffing toy soldiers in his mouth. She grabbed his wrist and jerked it away. “No, no!”

 

The little boy, no more than maybe two, puffed his cheeks out at her, babbled something angrily, and proceeded to stuff the toy soldiers right back in his mouth. Alina scowled at him, tugging on his wrist again. The toddler refused to budge on his soldier eating crimes.

 

“Here, I got this,” a confident voice said as a black girl who was about twelve strutted past Alina. She kneeled down in front of the toddler, grabbed his sides, stared him dead in the eyes, and then proceeded to mercilessly tickle him. The boy squealed, taking his hand and therefore the toy soldiers out of his mouth as he attempted to swat her away. He rolled onto his back and kicked his legs out at her. He let out a string of babbles again, which Alina thought he was saying “Nose” over and over again at first, before realizing he was saying “No”, just with an added ‘s’.

 

“I’ll stop if you don’t eat any more toys!” The girl promised, raising her hands and releasing the kid from her grasp. The boy glared at her for a moment, sitting back up. Then, he grabbed a toy soldier again and went to shove it back in his mouth.

 

Quickly, the girl’s fingers moved to his sides. The toddler screamed at them, dropping the toys and swatting at her. “Every time you eat the toys, I’ll tickle you!”

 

The boy gave her a scowl that rivalled Damian’s, before he huffed, angrily babbled something, and began crawling away. The pre-teen grinned victoriously, standing up and crossing her arms as she watched him crawl away.

 

“Thanks, Tiffy!” Alina grinned at the peppy girl.

 

Tiffy turned around to face her with her own grin. “Just doing my job!”

 

“Iz not your job,” a young, high-pitched voice squeaked out with clear annoyance and a slight slur to his words. “You don’ get paid!”

 

“It’s been my job since you were a baby!” Tiffany argued with a smile, turning to face her upset little brother. “I had to save you from choking on toys aaaallll the time then.”

 

Her brother puffed out his checks much like the toddler had, but instead his also turned a light red. “Nuh-uh! I didn’n eat toys. Toys are yucky.”

 

“Well, you had to eat them first to learn they were yucky!” Tiff pointed out. Her brother opened and closed his mouth, unable to argue, and settled for glowering at her. Tiffy just grinned and rolled her eyes.

 

“I still chew on toys,” another voice popped up as Alina’s best friend, Nell, entered the scene, munching on a Rice Krispies Treat casually. “But mostly pencils.”

 

“Or food,” Alina added, staring at her Rice Krispies Treat enviously. Nell smirked as she took another bite.

 

“Iz not snack time yet!” Tiffany’s little brother complained. “You can’t have food.”

 

Nell huffed haughtily, saying, “Well I’m the birthday girl, so I get snacks before snack time!”

 

“You mean, one-day-after-your-birthday girl?” Alina corrected.

 

“It’s my birthday week!” Nell said, taking another big bite.

 

I didn’n get an extra snack after my birfday, so you don’ get one!” the boy stated vexedly.

 

“We didn’t have daycare after your birthday,” Tiffany pointed out. “It was a Sunday, and we ate at a restaurant.”

 

He pouted again, face splotchy with angry red, “But I still didn’n get an-other snack, so iz not fair! I’ll tell mom.”

 

“Your mom’s the one who gave me the Rice Krispies,” Nell explained, pointing at the two’s mother, Tanya Fox, as she chatted, smiling, with the daycare workers at Wayne Enterprises.

 

“Well,” the boy struggled to find an argument. He blew out an irritated breath. “Whatever! I’m gonna go tell still.” At that, he spun on his heels and marched over to his mom.

 

“Get me a snack too, Timmy! Goldfish, please,” Tiffany called out to him.

 

“No!” he yelled back.

 

Tiffany giggled at her little brother, turning back to Nell and Alina with a big, toothy grin. “He’s such a little gremlin.”

 

Alina nodded in agreement. “I think he’s what my big brother was like when he was younger.”

 

“Damian?” Nell asked around a mouthful of Rice Krispies. “Yeah, totally. Except Damian’s cooler and more mature-er!”

 

“I don’t think Tim’s gonna be more mature when he’s older,” Tiffany said. “He’s so bratty and always leaves my door open when I ask him to close it.”

 

“I know, like, four Tims and it’s weird,” Nell said. “There should be less Tims in the world. And less Johns. I only know two Johns, but I don’t like either of them.”

 

“I know five,” Tiffany added. “One of them’s an alien. But I only met him once.”

 

Alina straightened, her eyes widening. Excitedly, before thinking, she said, “I know an alien named Jon too!”

 

“You know aliens ?!” Nell gaped at them, then glared at Alina. “And you didn’t tell me?”

 

“Uh,” Alina stuttured. “I wasn’t supposed to?”

 

“Were they Krypto-nee-an, or Martian, or Tam-a-rain-ee-an, or like an alien monster?” Nell asked her, excitement lighting in her eyes. “Did you meet Superman?!

 

“No,” Alina quickly said. ‘Just his son...s.’ “And I’m not supposed to say.”

 

“Okay, don’t tell me who they are, but, like, was it Superman? Martian Manhunter? One of the Superboys? Supergirl? Miss Martian? Starfire?” Nell leaned eagerly forward.

 

“Uhm-ah,” Alina stammered, thinking of what to say. “I can’t say-” Besides, she’d only met the Superboys hadn’t she? ...No wait, she’d met Superman… And didn’t someone mention something about Kori being Tamaranean, which meant she was Starfire, right? Shoot. How many aliens had she met? How many superheroes had she met and not realized?!

 

“I won’t tell anybody!” Nell promised.

 

“But she can’t tell,” Tiffany interjected calmly. “Or she’ll get in trouble. You don’t want to get her in trouble, right?”

 

Nell blinked, opening her mouth, then closing it. She scrunched up her nose. Finally, she relented, “Okay. But when you won’t get in trouble anymore, tell me!”

 

Alina nodded, relieved. “I will.” She couldn’t keep secrets from her best friend.

 

Nell turned to Tiffany with a grin. “Will you get in trouble if you tell me?”

 

“Yeah,” Tiffany said. “If I tell you anymore. Besides, I only met him for a little bit!”

 

Nell pouted out her lower lip. “Fiiine. I’ll just live a boring life.” She took her last sad bite out of her Rice Krispie, curling the wrapper into a ball.

 

“Didn’t the Batgirls visit you a lot?” Alina asked, hiding a sly smirk.

 

Nell perked up. “They did! Oh my gosh- like, a different one every night for a weekish or something. Each of ‘em said something like they had moved onto other names, but that they hop around as Batgirls once in a while! They were so cool! The blonde one gave me waffles.” Her eyes had stars in them. “The one with green and pink told me maybe one day I could be a Batgirl. Those two visited me a few times after too. Oo, also, apparently, one of the Batgirls had superpowers! Gaaah!” Nell squealed, waving her hands back and forth. “They’re amazing!”

 

“That’s so cool,” Tiffany said, awed. “I’ve met a few of the Batfamily too.” She looked knowingly at Alina, just briefly. Alina blinked, shock rippling through her. Did Tiffany know? “Batwing mostly.”

 

“Nice!” Nell chirped. “I haven’t even seen him, but then again, he’s not out too much.”

 

“What are you talking about?” The sharp voice of Timothy cut in as he walked up to them with a scowl, snacks held in his hands. He shoved a bag of goldfish into his sister’s hands.

 

“Thanks,” she said, ripping the bag open with glee.

 

“You’re not welcome,” he answered rudely. He held out a granola bar towards Alina, who smiled and took it gratefully. He opened his own fruit snacks, popping one into his mouth.

 

"We're talking about how awesome superheroes are," Nell gushed.

 

"Superheros are oh-vah-rate-edd," Timothy scoffed.

 

"You don't even know what that means." Tiffany raised a brow.

 

"Yes I do!" he protested hotly. "It means… not cool!"

 

"Okay, 'othy," Nell said, bemused.

 

"Nell, you don't know what it means either," Alina said, deadpanned.

 

"Neither do you!" Nell snapped, pouting.

 

"I know it better than you! It means the… it's like rated, but it's over, so… more rated?" Alina guessed, scrunching her nose.

 

Tiffany chuckled. "It means too many people like it so it's not cool."

 

"So I was right!" Timothy boasted, puffing out his chest. “I’m smarter than you two!”

 

“You were only half-right, ‘othy,” Tiff reminded him. “And Alina was on the right track.”

 

“Why are you guyses calling me ‘othy! T’at’s not my name,” he whined

 

Tiffany shrugged. “I dunno. I did it because Nell did.” She turned to Nell curiously. “Why are we calling Timmy ‘othy?”

 

“Because there’s too many Tims in the world!” she exclaimed. “So now we’re gonna solve that by calling him by the other half of his name.”

 

“No, we ain’t!” he complained. “My name’s Tim!”

 

“‘othy!” Nell finished a grin.

 

“No!”

 

“Submit to your fate now, ‘thy, and you might be spared,” Tiffany warned her brother ominously.

 

He glared at her, darkened cheeks puffed. “I don’ even know what you said!”

 

“Theo!” Alina cried. “We can call him Theo.”

 

“No, we can’t!” newly-dubbed Theo protested.

 

“With a Y!” Tiffany added eagerly. “His name is spelt T-H-Y, so it should be, T-H-Y-O! Thyo!”

 

“It’s Tim!”

 

“Thyo, Thyo, Thyo!” the three girls mercilessly chanted.

 

“I’m telling mom!” Thyo cried, spinning around on his heels to his mother, squishing the fruit snacks in his grasp.

 

Alina felt guilty then, not sure if she was being mean or if Timothy was being bratty. Nell looked bashful, but Tiffany just grinned and followed after her little brother. Nell trailed after her, and Alina hesitantly did the same.

 

“They’re calling me names, mommy!” Timothy whined to his mother, who had a patient smile on her face. Alina felt sadness stir in her stomach uneasily, remembering her own mother.

 

“What kind of mean names?” she asked sweetly, sending a warning glance at her daughter, who just smiled wider.

 

“They’re calling me Thyo,” he told her, furrowing his brows and scrunching his nose in the utmost offended look he could manage.

 

“Thyo? Now, why are they doing that?” Tanya looked up at the three girls perplexedly with a raised eyebrow.

 

Alina ducked her head, blushing shamefully, but Nell answered confidently, “There’s too many Tims in the world, so we gotta get rid of some.”

 

Tanya’s eyebrow raised higher, her lips curling up into an amused smile. “Well, that’s certainly one way of doing that. My friends called me Nancy for one reason or another when I was younger, but it wasn’t ‘cause there were too many Tanyas.” She looked back down at her son. “Do you like being called Thyo?”

 

Timothy shook his head. “Nuh-uh. Iz mean.”

 

“Okay, then, kids,” she addressed the three girls, who stood to attention. “Don’t call him Thyo if he doesn’t want to be called Thyo, alright?”

 

Alina and Nell nodded seriously, while Tiffany raised two fingers to her head, then saluted her mother. “Aye, aye, mama.”

 

Tanya smiled. “Alright then, you four play nice. I’m gonna go get the rest of the kids here snacks, okay?”

 

“Okay,” they all echoed. Tanya squeezed her son’s shoulder, and gave her daughter a fistbump as she passed, walking over to the caretakers and the children bouncing eagerly around them. The ache in Alina’s heart grew worse, painfully calling out for her own mother. She ignored it best she could, reminding herself she had her dad, and her siblings, family, and friends. She smiled at Nell.

 

Tiffany leaned down close to Timothy’s ear, and slowly whispered, “Thyo.”

 

Timothy screeched, and leaped at his sister, punching her in the arm as hard as his little arms could. Tiffany laughed joyfully, grabbing his hands and pushing him away. He just yelled harder, kicking out with his legs. Tiffany jumped away from him, and he pounced after her.

 

Alina smiled at the two as she and Nell watched the siblings duke it out. It reminded her of her own siblings teasing and fighting with each other. And, unlike with her mother, she didn’t have to yearn or mourn for them. They would still be there when she went home today. In fact, her brother Tim was in Wayne Enterprises right now.

 

He’d be driving her and Nell home too, and she was already forming the idea of convincing Tim to get them ice cream because it was Nell’s birthday week.

 

Then again, she was pretty sure her big brother would just get her ice cream anyway.

 

It’s why she loved her siblings.

 

They were wrapped around her little fingers.

Chapter Text

“She! Gave! Me! Popcorn ,” Nell was squealing for the fiftieth time that day. She hadn’t shut up all of today, no matter how much the teachers told her to shush. And she probably wouldn’t shut up all of tonight or Saturday morning. “How did she know ? Is she stalking me?” Nell gasped excitedly. “That’d be so cool!”

 

“I don’t think you should be excited that you’re being stalked,” Alina said with a raised eyebrow, staring amusedly at her friend from her blanket pile on the floor. Her friend just bounced on the couch, vibrating restlessly. Their third friend, Alysia, moved herself onto the arm of the couch to avoid being bounced off the couch.

 

“By a Batgirl !” Nell flew her arms up in the air. “Who wouldn’t wanna be stalked by a Batgirl?”

 

“Being stalked by a Batgirl norm-ah-ly means you did something bad,” Alysia told her.

 

Or it means they think you’re cool!” Nell protested. “And you guys think I’m cool, so Batgirl thinks I’m cool.”

 

“You’re the coolest!” came a shout from the couch beside the three girls, where Steph had sprawled out across the laps of Cass and Tim.

 

Nell grinned brightly. “I am!” Spending time with the Batgirls and the Waynes had certainly been an ego-booster for Nell. Alysia, on the other hand, had been too nervous to really chat with Alina’s siblings, instead just keeping to herself and her two friends, adding her own comment once in a while. Alina sorta wanted her siblings and sorta-sister to leave so Alysia would feel more comfortable, but at the same time, Nell really liked Steph, and this was her birthday weekend sleepover. “That’s why the Batgirls visit me.”

 

“It must be nice,” Alysia said softly. “Batman crashed through my neighbor’s window once, but I didn’t get to talk to him.”

 

“You got to talk to Nightwing once, though! That’s super cool, even if he’s not as cool as the Batgirls.” Nell puffed out her chest, preening her metaphorical feathers.

 

“That’s what my mom tells me, but I don’t really remember. I was, like, four,” Alysia murmured, slowly shifting back onto the couch as Nell had stopped bouncing.

 

“You were a hostage!” Nell exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air with jazz.

 

“That’s not something to be excited about,” Alina replied, trying to stay humorous so she wouldn’t dampen the mood, but her tone still came across too dry and bitter. Maybe if you were the hostage of the Riddler, but being kidnapped by the Joker? Not exciting.

 

Nell winced. “Sorry, ‘linnie.” She gave her a wobbly smile. “But, hey, you got to be saved by Batman! How cool!”

 

‘Batman’s my dad,’ Alina thought, desperately wanting to tell Nell so. ‘And he’s awesome, but he also only has Green Lantern-themed mugs because we stole all the other ones, and Jerry slept in his bed for a week straight and he didn’t complain or find it weird.’ In fact, there was a picture of her father, casually sipping from a Green Lantern mug as he read a book, with a turkey tucked under his arm and pecking seeds out of a bowl taken by none other than Alina herself.

 

Instead, she just nodded. “It was.”

 

"You guys are so lucky," Alysia spoke wistfully.

 

Alina shuffled upwards so she was sitting on her blanket pile instead. She glanced pointedly at Steph and Cass. "Maybe the Batgirls can visit you too."

 

Steph's eyes lit up. "Of course they can!"

 

“Who knows,” Tim said, with a shrug. “Maybe Red Robin will come crashing through your window.” Cass giggled at her brother.

 

"That'd be fun," Alysia agreed sadly. "But it probably won't happen."

 

"Never say never!" Nell cried, turning to her friend. She squished her cheeks between her hands. "Next time a Batgirl visits me, I'll have them take me to your house and then Alina's so we can all hang out together!"

 

Alysia blinked. "Really?"

 

"Yes, really!" Nell affirmed, nodding her head seriously. Alina glanced at her siblings as they watched amusedly, trading their own knowing glances. If only Nell and Alysia knew they were already hanging out with two Batgirls… and a Red Robin.

 

"I dunno if Batgirl can do that, like just kidnap us?" Alysia said hesitantly.

 

“It’s not kidnapping if we go willingly!” Nell threw her hands in the air again excitedly.

 

Alysia tilted her head, brows furrowing. “It isn’t?”

 

“Nope! ‘Cause kidnapping is when they force you to go when you don’t want to,” Nell explained.

 

“Does that mean when my mom makes me go to church, I’m being kidnapped?” Alysia asked.

 

“Well,” Nell hesitated, mouth opening and then closing as she frowned. “No? I mean, you’re… you’re supposed to be there… and you didn’t get in a white van, or get offered candy, and it wasn’t a stranger, so I don’t…” Her face scrunched up in furious, puzzled thought.

 

“I didn’t get in a van or get candy,” Alina piped up. “I dunno if the Joker-” her lip curled in disgust; her stomach curled in dread, “-is a stranger ‘cause everybody knows him though.”

 

“Okay so,” Nell decided. “I guess that means going to church is getting kidnapped.”

 

“And going with the Batgirls... isn’t kidnapping?” Alysia finished, confused.

 

Nell nodded proudly despite her own logic contradicting her. “Right!”

 

“As amazing as it is to watch you guys kid-logic this out,” Tim interjected, tone bemused. Steph and Cass both had entertained smiles on as they watched the three girls discuss. “Going to church with your mom isn’t getting kidnapped because it’s your parent taking you to a public space. Sending you to school even when you don’t want to go isn’t kidnapping right?” The three exchanged glances as he continued on. “Kidnapping is not just not wanting to go somewhere, it’s the deliberate act of stealing a kid away from their families or home.”

 

‘Of Joker stealing me away from my mom,’ Alina thought resentfully.

 

“As for getting kidnapped by the Batgirls,” Tim started, drawing it out a bit. “It’s technically kidnapping, because you are being taken somewhere by a technical stranger without your parents or another trusted adult’s consent.” He paused, then elaborated, “Er- without them knowing.” He shifted in his seat, attempting to push Steph’s legs off him, but to no avail as she just kicked his arms. He frowned at her.

 

“But we know the Batgirls! Everybody does,” Nell argued. “We can trust them.”

 

“Yes,” Tim agreed with a nod. “We can. But what if someone was pretending to be a Batgirl? Or mind controlling them?”

 

Nell blinked, and she and Alysia exchanged startled glances. “But-... They don’t seem mind controlled?”

 

Tim shrugged. “I don’t think they are, but you never know.” Steph leaned up and socked him in the shoulder. He yelped as he jerked away from her with a glare. “Ow! What was that for?”

 

“Stop making it seem like the Batgirls are bad!” She glowered at him, and Cass nodded in solemn agreement.

 

“I wasn’t-”

 

“Shut up,” Steph cut him off. She turned to the girls with a big grin. “So, maybe, sometimes they can be mind controlled, so make a secret code word with them, or something! Besides that, if you were in danger, and a Batgirl came to help you, and you decided not to go with them, because they might be mind controlled, you could end up really hurt!” She glared at Tim again. “So don’t listen to him and listen to the Batgirls instead.”

 

“Yeah!” Nell agreed eagerly, pumping a fist into the air. “We can always trust them!”

 

Alysia let out a small, timidly quiet “Woohoo!” of agreement.

 

“See,” Steph whispered to Tim with a grin. “We don’t have to corrupt every child ever with our paranoia.”

 

Tim raised a skeptical eyebrow, but his lips twitched into a smile even as he said, “There’s such thing as a healthy dose of paranoia-”

 

“Brother,” Cass said, simply, with her own smile. “Shut up.”

 

Tim puffed his cheeks out and crossed his arms childishly, pouting as he slid half-way down the couch, finally free from Steph’s legs. The two older girls laughed at his act, and he grinned at them. Alina smiled at their antics, and her friends too as they chatted animatedly about a possible Batgirl sleepover.

 

(Alina would have to work a little harder to pull the strings for that, but she was sure with enough puppy dog eyes she could make it work.)

 

“Hey,” Steph interrupted, tone trying to be casual, but hues of hesitance leaked through. “So, you said earlier, Alysia, that you didn’t like going to church. Why’s that?” Tim sent her a cautious glance, while Cass’s gaze moved to study Alysia.

 

Alysia, caught off-guard, blinked at her before the question registered. She flinched, curling in on herself and looking at the corner of the couch. Alina frowned and sent a glare in Steph’s direction.

 

“Uh- uhm,” Alysia stuttered. “I just don’t- it’s not very fun. But I understand it’s very important.”

 

“No worries,” Steph quickly reassured her, keeping her tone light and breezy. “I was just wondering if- well.” Steph hesitated, eyes flickering to Cass, who gave her a nod. She cleared her throat. “Some churches out there aren’t very nice to people who… don’t conform to the binary. And by that, I mean, does your church not like that you identify- or… call yourself a girl?”

 

Alysia shuffled uncomfortably, gaze stuck on the corner of the couch. Nell frowned, glancing warily at Steph before scooting closer to her friend. Alina felt defensive anger bubbling inside her as she glared at her sorta-sister. “Alysia feels better when we call her a girl. She likes being a girl.”

 

Steph raised her hands placatingly. “And that’s one-hundred percent alright- I’m-” she glanced at Tim and Cass beside her. “ We’re concerned that her church might hate that she likes being a girl.”

 

Alina glanced at Alysia, feeling her anger cool down. Slowly, she answered, “We have to call her Aaron in class, at her house, and at church even though she doesn’t really like it that much. She’s kinda okay with that, but she says being a boy makes her feel weird.”

 

“Do we have to call her Aaron here too now?” Nell asked, a mix between cautiously tentative and irritatedly exasperated.

 

“No,” Steph confirmed, tone hard and stern. “She can be called whatever she wants to here, and if that’s Alysia, then she’s Alysia.”

 

“Have you ever heard of trangender?” Tim asked them calmly.

 

Nell and Alina exchanged glances. Hesitantly, Alina answered, “No?” She thought, maybe she did, but she couldn’t really remember.

 

Softly, scaredly, Alysia spoke up, “My mom says only dumb people who hate God are transgender.”

 

Alina watched the upset scowls splash across her siblings' faces, the same righteous anger they had whenever Alina had mentioned someone being mean to her because Bruce Wayne was (or wasn’t) her father.

 

“Your mom’s wrong,” Steph stated simply. “Any person who loves, hates, or doesn't care about God can be transgender.”

 

“Transgender people are people,” Cass said firmly, conviction shining strong in her eyes and showing through the thin line her lips had become. Alina knew that if Cass said it, then it was true.

 

“Right,” Tim agreed with a nod. “Transgender just means you’re a different gender than the one you were born as. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or dumb, or anything else.”

 

Alysia slowly tore her eyes away from the couch and the ground, looking up at Alina’s siblings with hesitantly hopeful brown eyes. “Is- are- are you… sure? M-my parents and church all say it go-... goes against God’s wishes.”

 

“And how do they know what God wishes?” Steph challenged. “Even if God himself came down to me and told me that being transgender was wrong, I would call him a transphobic idiot and punch him in the face.”

 

Alysia looked mildly aghast at that, while Nell grinned with admirance at Stephanie. Tim elbowed Steph. “Tone it down a bit with the blasphemy.”

 

Steph rolled her eyes, but smiled kindly at Alysia. “It doesn’t matter what they think. It matters what you feel , Alysia. Do you feel like you’re a girl?”

 

Alysia gave a hesitant nod.

 

“Then you’re a girl!”

 

“Congratulations,” Tim murmured with a small smile. Steph elbowed him in return, but gave him a cheeky grin.

 

Alysia timidly smiled, although her eyes still shimmered with worry and fear. “Does that mean I’m transgender?”

 

Steph shrugged. “That’s up to you, really. I mean, I’d say yes, but it’s your label- or, your… gender. You get to choose how you identify- uh, call it. What matters is that you’re comfortable.”

 

“You are you,” Cass told Alysia softly, and her hands moved too, which Alina knew meant she was signing. Cassandra had taught her some words in sign language- the important ones, like food, and thank you, and dad , and you are an idiot. 

 

Alina wished she knew how to sign “Thank you for being kind to my friend,” but she didn’t, so instead, she settled for a wobbly, “I love you, sister.”

 

Cass smiled warmly at her, and quickly signed back, much more smoothly and confidently than Alina, “I love you, sister.”

 

“Okay,” Alysia said, voice barely above a whisper, as she responded to Steph. “I guess… I dunno. I guess I’m transgender?”

 

“It’s okay,” Steph reassured her. “You don’t have to make that decision now, if ever. Just… be a girl! Be you. Be Alysia.”

 

Alysia smiled and nodded, drumming her fingers against her leg. “I will.”

 

“Wow,” Nell said, blinking. “I didn’t know about that stuff.” She tilted her head. “I always thought it was like how people call me Nell instead of Danielle- ‘cause it’s like, my nickname. And I like it better. How do you know you’re… transgender?”

 

“It’s different for everybody,” Tim explained. “Some people have always known they were a different gender, other people think they might be, but aren’t sure. But if you feel like you might be a boy, and you feel comfortable as a boy more than as a girl, then you might be trans. It doesn’t mean you are, but you might be.”

 

“Ohh,” Nell said. She grinned. “Well, I like being a girl because I have the two bestest girl friends ever!” She launched herself at Alysia, who squeaked as she wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug. Alina threw her blankets off her and leaped at her friends, wiggling her way into the middle of the hug. They all giggled, then broke off into screams as Nell proceeded to tickle Alina and Alysia. Alina kicked at her and flung herself off the couch while Alysia climbed over the back of the couch. Nell lunged first for Alysia, then took off after Alina.

 

“I still have cheese touch!” Nell cried as she chased after Alina.

 

“Chase Alysia! Chase Alysia!” Alina yelled back at her as she ducked behind a coffee table.

 

“No!” Nell roared back, speeding after Alina. Alina screeched, half broken by giggles, as she bolted away from her friend, who, unfortunately, happened to be the fastest girl in class. Alina scanned around for Alysia, but couldn’t find her, which meant she either left the room or was hiding behind the couches. Alina, in a split decision choice, with Nell breathing down her back, dived towards her siblings. Tim yelped as he caught her, proceeding to lift her away from Nell as she jumped for Alina. Steph laughed as Nell tried to scramble up the lanky man.

 

Nell pouted, then her eyes lit up with an idea. Grinning, she turned towards Steph and slammed her palm against her chest, then zoomed away, screaming, “Steph has cheese touch, Steph has cheese touch!”

 

Steph looked shocked, briefly, before it morphed into a wide grin. She jolted an arm out towards Tim, but he was already off of the couch, still holding Alina, who clung onto him and grinned over his shoulder. Steph turned to Cass next, who smiled innocently up at Steph.

 

“Come on, Cass, let’s make this easy. You’re never it. Don’t you wanna be it?” Steph asked her pleadingly. Cass tilted her head, lip jutting out thoughtfully. Steph slowly inched her way over on the couch, closer. Just when Steph started to lift her arm up to touch her, Cass sprang off the couch with a backflip, paused to grin at Steph, then ran away laughing as the blonde let out an enraged cry.

 

Steph looked behind the couch, and said, “I know you’re there, Aly! And I won’t hesitate!”

 

Alysia screamed playfully and bolted away as Steph just barely missed her with an outreached hand. Steph jumped over the couch and chased after her.

 

Alina giggled as she watched her friends and family play. She looked up at Tim, who had stopped running and was waiting patiently by the wall for when Steph turned to him. With as much innocence as possible, Alina asked her big brother, “You’ll protect me, right?”

 

Tim glanced down at her, then up at Steph as Alysia led her towards them. He smirked, looking down at Alina and tightening his hold on her. “Naw, you’re the human shield.”

 

Alina gaped at him in betrayal, then screamed as Alysia and Steph neared, trying to kick her way out of his grip. Tim just laughed at her, holding her out as Alysia dipped right of them and Steph approached them. Alina scowled at him and then promptly bit his arm. He yelped, caught off guard, and dropped her. She grinned proudly as she ducked behind his legs.

 

“Damian taught you that, didn’t he!” Tim accused, right as Steph punched him unnecessarily hard in the shoulder. Steph and Alina both laughed at him as they ran away.

 

Alina smiled as Tim turned to chase Nell and Cass, happiness bubbling warmly inside her.

 

This is why she loved her family.


And, days later, Red Robin did come crashing through Alysia’s window. Luckily, it was open.

Chapter Text

Alina stared at the weird pink… slug… bug as it… snored?... on the couch. Nobody else was bothered by it, which told her it was supposed to be there. Everybody else was chatting and laughing and playing together. It was Mar’i’s birthday party, after all, and everybody was eager to celebrate the sweet little girl’s fourth birthday.

 

Alina had been tailing Damian, Carrie and Cullen around the party, and then Lian and Sasha, but now she stood by the couch, leaning against the wall, as she watched the five play monkey in the middle with birthday girl Mar’i (she didn’t think any of them had the heart to tell her flying was cheating). She wanted to join, a little bit, but mostly she was fixated on the slug-bug on the couch.

 

So, presumably, it was allowed in the house, but was it allowed on the couch? It was drooling an abnormal amount from its… strange, big, circular mouth, and getting the couch all wet. Should she pick it up and put it on the floor? Or would it get mad if she touched it? Was she allowed to touch it? ...What would it feel like if she touched it? Slimy? It’s…. tail… boomerang-looking tail seemed spiky. And it had these little, stubby, point legs, too. What was it?

 

Alina tried to flick on her detective brain. She was living with superheroes and vigilantes who had been on some pretty insane adventures. Was there ever any report of slug-bug monsters attacking Gotham? Blüdhaven? ...Metropolis, Star City, Key City, Jump City? She frowned. She was pretty sure a bug-something had appeared in all of those cities. How was she supposed to know which were the slug-bug monsters, if there even were slug-bug monsters? Maybe the slug-bug was an alien creature. Kori was a Tamaranean, after all. Maybe this was her pet from back home… Was she from… whatever her planet was called, or was she born on Earth? Did her planet get destroyed like Superman’s?

 

Wait, if Superman was her sorta-uncle Clark Kent, did that mean Superman was raised on Earth? She always thought Superman was… well, always Superman. Not sometimes Clark Kent. Or was Clark sometimes Superman? She thought Superman came from the planet of Krypton, and lived in the Fortress of Solitude. Did Clark grow up on Krypton then, before it was destroyed, or had he always been on Earth? Did he live in the Fortress of Solitude? Did Jon live in the Fortress of Solitude with him?

 

She shook her head clear of those thoughts. She was getting off track. She needed to think about what the strange pink bug might be, and where it came from. Maybe someone made a caterpillar bigger, slimier, and pinker? There were a lot of funky mutations, she believed they were called, that happened all around the world. Most of it was very sad, when they forced animals or people or even kids to be mutated, but some of it was kinda cool. Like Colin! Damian’s friend. He was sorta-mutated and now he was a superhero. Alina didn’t really remember his superhero name, just that it was something kind of cool, kind of strange.

 

All of Damian’s friends were kind of cool, kind of strange, really. She had only met them a… fingerful amount of times since Damian’s birthday party. Maya had hung out with her and Goliath for a little while, right before Maya had turned invisible to prank Damian. Then Damian had banned Maya from ever talking to Alina again after the prank backfired and spooked Alina instead. Jon had dropped by or dropped Damian off at the Manor a few times here and there. Colin and Suren had hung out at the house once, without Damian around, and chatted with the rest of the Batfamily. His other friends, Kathy and Maps, if she remembered, she hadn’t seen since his party. Other than that, she hadn’t seen much of them. Then again, it was entirely likely they had been in the Manor even more than that and Alina had just not noticed. The Manor was really big, after all.

 

Dangit! Alina huffed, curling her hands into fists. She got off-track again!

 

Maybe she should just ask somebody. She was sure her family wouldn’t mind answering. They liked telling her tales of their adventures, although they always seemed to skip the gory parts like they forgot she was a Gotham kid, born and raised. So what if she hadn’t seen a guy split in two in front of her? She’d read about it in the news more than once.

 

Although, she guessed the gory parts of stories weren’t her favorites. She liked the parts where the princess became the knight, defending herself from the nasty dragon. Or when the princess got rescued.

 

It was still kind of hard to hear the word ‘princess’, without flinching and feeling her stomach turn twenty times over, or not to feel anger and fear flash beneath her skin, hot like lava. It was really hard, listening to cartoons on TV, some of which used to be her favorites, which suddenly all seemed to be focused on pretty princesses and damsels in distress and friendship is magic.

 

Well, My Little Pony was still fun to watch. Just a bit hard, what with all the pony princesses.

 

...the bug. She was supposed to be thinking about the slug-bug!

 

‘Okay,’ Alina thought steely to herself. ‘What are my options?’

 

From most to least likely, it was: that it was an alien pet, a mutated animal saved from a horrible villain, just a really big caterpillar, or pet slug-bugs had always existed and Alina had simply never heard of them before.

 

...in all honesty, Alina was starting to lean towards the last one.

 

“Silkie!” The cheery voice of Mar’i startled Alina out of her thoughts. She watched as the little girl zipped over to the pink bug, grabbing it a large hug. Alina was surprised that a little girl who would only be starting preschool next year had enough strength to lift a creature just as big as her. No offense to the bug, but it looked very fat, and therefore very heavy. Then again, Mar’i probably just had some cool alien superstrength. “Come on! You gotta blow out my candles with me.”

 

The bug just gargled out a few weird grumbley noises, although it seemed happy as Mar’i carried it away, towards where her mother and father were waiting with some of the less extended family, like Bruce, Selina, Alfred, and Jason, in the kitchen.

 

(Alina hadn’t thought about it before, but it was strange that her father was already a grandfather, and Alina had only just met him five months ago. He seemed both old and weary, and young and strong at the same time, and it was just hard to wrap her head around.) 

 

The rest of the family and sorta-family and family-friends were scattered about the house, or outside in the yard, but a quick yell from Dick had them all scrambling towards the kitchen to watch the birthday girl and her pet bug blow out the candles.

 

Alina straightened quickly as a thought hit her.


Silkie. Mar’i’s pet, the one she had mentioned plenty of times before. ...Alina had thought it was a dog. She smiled, shaking her head. Of course the half-alien had an alien pet. That was the only logical solution. Alina followed after the crowd heading towards the kitchen- which was definitely not big enough to fit everyone- as Mar’i and Silkie went to go blow the candles.

Chapter Text

Alina timidly peaked out through the door of Selina’s apartment as she followed her… step-mom… inside. It was strange to think of her as such- she wasn’t married to Bruce (yet, as her siblings would always say), and she didn’t know if they were engaged (not that Alina really understood what engagement was, just that it came before marriage), but she was her dad’s girlfriend (she was pretty sure? No one had confirmed that, and Selina had said they were on-and-off, but whenever she called Selina “dad’s girlfriend” no one corrected her), so she thought maybe she should get used to calling her her step-mom. Alina wasn’t really sure she wanted a step-mom, but Selina said she wasn’t replacing her real mom, no matter what, and Alina found herself trusting the woman and her nice laugh and devilish smirks.

 

It was the only reason she agreed to “hang out with” or “be babysat by” (depending on who you asked) Selina in the first place. Maybe it would be fun to get to know her. Damian said she had cats, and he liked her cats a lot, and, while Alina was more of a dog person (or turkey person, really, Jerry was super fun to play with), she liked cats too.

 

And cats she saw, almost immediately. Three darted under Selina’s feet, while others poked their heads out from behind corners, furniture and cat towers. Alina was startled. She was expecting maybe five cats not… however many this was. At least double that amount. Selina leaned down to scratch at an orange cat’s chin, while a siamese one curiously trotted over to Alina, who quickly shut the door in fear of the cat bolting out.

 

The siamese meowed, staring up at her with crystal blue eyes and erect ears. Alina kneeled down, offering her hand for the cat to sniff. It did so before smashing its face against her fist, purring. She hesitated before slowly running her hand down his back, enjoying the softness of his fur. He rubbed up against her as she scratched at his neck.

 

“That’s Otto,” Selina told her, holding a small orange tabby while another orange and white cat with dark stripes pranced around her. A dark gray cat sat by her feet, staring straight at Alina with unblinking eyes. “He’s friendly, but he’s also a lazy fatso. He’ll lose interest once he realizes you don’t have any food.”

 

Otto meowed up at Alina, placing his paws on her knees. Alina rubbed behind his ears, and he leaned into her touch with a loud purr. “Sorry, Otto. I don’t have anything.”

 

“If you did, don’t give it to him! He’s spoiled enough,” Selina scolded the tomcat, who glanced back at her with a protesting meow. Otto wiggled his way upwards, pushing against her arms until Alina was forced to hold him. Alina staggered as she stood up, fat cat in her arms. She stuck a leg out to regain balance, looking at the cat who glanced innocently up at her. He felt heavier than her!

 

She heard Selina chuckle as she walked into her living room, dumping the orange kitten onto the couch. Alina wobbled after her, before giving up and dropping Otto. He meowed once more before trotting off and hopping up to a window sill, curling up and staring out without a care in the world. A big white cat hopped up beside him, scratching at the window.

 

“Aww, do you want out, ya big baby?” Selina crooned as the cat looked back at her to meow needily. The small orange cat leaped up to join the other two at the window. The white cat looked mildly annoyed, glancing at the orange one with a low growl and flipping his ears back. Selina smiled at them, then at Alina. “Normally I keep a window open so they can sneak out and back in, but Slinky’s a little troublemaker, so now I can’t. Don’t think the others are too happy with that.”

 

Alina glanced around at the cats. “Which one is Slinky?”

 

Selina pointed towards the window cats. “The little ginger kitten. He’s almost full-grown now, but I think he’ll always be on the shorter side.”

 

“Oh,” Alina said, cautiously moving through the living room towards the window of cats while Selina went into her kitchen, her keys jingling as she placed them and her purse on the counter. The dark gray cat leaped up onto the counter, settling down beside them. Alina reached out a hand towards the three cats on the sill. The white cat hissed angrily, then dove downwards, running away until he was beside a black and white cat lounging on a sofa chair. Otto glanced at her before continuing to stare out the window. The kitten backed away at first, before slowly reaching a paw out to bat at her fingers while he sniffed them.

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted Slinky. Slinky mewed back, high-pitched and sharp. He bumped his head against her hand, and then proceeded to step too far and slip off the window sill. “Oh!” Alina tried to catch him, but he was already on his paws and shaking off his fall like it was nothing. He hesitantly sniffed at her shoes, then jumped at her shoelaces. She ran a hand down his back as he played with her shoelace.

 

“He’s the clumsy cat,” Selina said, walking behind Alina. “I call him Bruce’s cat, actually. He was abandoned on the streets by his momma, had maggots in him and everything, and Bruce found him. Instead of heading to a veterinarian or a shelter, he dropped the cat off at my house.” She rolled her eyes. “I got him warm and fed, then took him to a vet.” She smirked. “Bet the Bat thought I was gonna keep the little guy so he didn’t have to. He was right, but now Slinks loves him to death. I’m getting him into the Manor one way or another. My other cats too. There’s so much extra space there, I’m sure they’d hardly notice if I dropped a cat or two off there.”

 

‘If you marry my dad, you and your cats can live with him,’ Alina thought.

 

Instead of asking her why Selina didn’t do so, she asked, “How old is he?”

 

“Oh, nearing eight months, I think,” Selina answered, kneeling down to pet a siamese with faded spots as they passed by. A fluffy black cat with orange flecks and gray whiskers padded over to Selina, plopping down onto the ground like a pancake. Selina grabbed her and stood up, the tortoiseshell letting herself hang lifelessly. “You ever read Warrior Cats, I believe it’s called?”

 

Alina blinked, tilting her head, eyes watching a brown tabby roll over in its cat bed. “Uhm. No?”

 

“It’s a book series Damian likes, although you ask him that, and he’ll claim he’s insulted you’d ever think he’d read that inconsistent and poorly written garbage,” Selina chuckled in amusement as she scratched the head of the old tortoiseshell. “The kittens in that book become… apprentices, I think, when they’re six months old.” She kissed the head of the tortoiseshell, who mrrw ed appreciatively. “I can’t imagine little Slinky at six months old becoming a fierce warrior. He’s too small.” She ruffled the neck fur of the cat in her hold. “Anyway, Damian said Slinky looked like a character named Firestar. He wanted to name him Rusty after him. No idea how Rusty and Firestar correlate, but I thought it was cute.” Her lip curled up again. “But then our little Slinky kept tripping over his feet and falling off everything, so Slinky it was.”

 

Alina filed away Warrior Cats as something to read later. Maybe she could get Bruce to help her read it so she could surprise Damian with her Warrior Cats knowledge.

 

“What’s that cat’s name?” Alina pointed at the cat Selina was holding while she rubbed Slinky’s belly, only to be attacked by his teeth and claws.

 

Selina smiled, gently petting the tortoiseshell’s forehead. “This is Miss Kitty. She’s an old gal. Older than Ace. I’ve had her since I got my first apartment. Not technically, she was more of an alley cat, but I took her with when I moved, and she’s been with me ever since.” She tilted her head. “‘Cept for one time when I left her with Bruce. I wasn’t doing the best, and I couldn’t support her, but I knew Bruce would take care of her when I couldn’t. Even if he sucks with cats.”

 

Alina glanced around at all the cats again, still petting the kitten. “Why do you have so many cats?”

 

“It wasn’t the plan,” Selina said with a shrug. “But I grew up with a bunch of cats. My mother-” she paused, emotions flashing in her eyes before she continued on with a sigh. “My mother loved her cats as though they were her real children. I know she loved me, my sister and my brother, but she loved those cats to death. In fact…” Selina looked down at Miss Kitty, petting her softly. “She did die. I took care of her cats the best I could, but it was hard. My step-father didn’t care for them. He abused them. My sister hated the cats because she hated that our mom loved them more. And my brother was too young to do much.”

 

Alina frowned, staring sympathetically. “I’m sorry.” She said it to Selina and those mistreated cats. No animal should be abused.

 

Selina smiled lightly. “It’s in the past. I’ve taken care of every cat I could, even if I didn’t keep them. When I first lived on my own, I didn’t have much to spare for cats, or anything or body else. I’m glad I can care for them now.”

 

Alina nodded, watching as the brown tabby raised its head. It hopped off its bed, trotting over to Selina, sitting down and meowing repeatedly.

 

“Oh, you’re so needy,” Selina complained, sighing. She placed Miss Kitty down, who the brown cat growled at, but Kitty just plopped down on the ground while Selina picked up the brown cat. She scratched at the cat’s chin, who lazily leaned into the touch.

 

“What’s his name?” Alina asked curiously.

 

“Her name’s Eartha,” Selina explained as another cat, the spotted siamese, wove around her ankles. “She was named after a… friend, of sorts.”

 

Alina looked at the siamese. She was so pretty, with crystal blue eyes, creamy fur with dark brown paws and face, but with added mottled spots dashed across her pelt. “What’s her name?”

 

Selina smiled down at the siamese as she started to lick her paw. “Hecate the Second. One of my favorite cats- just don’t tell them I have favorites- was named Hecate. She was this sweet, fluffy black girl, who just loved to cuddle. She and Miss Kitty were best friends, too. Her old owners abandoned her, so she took a while to warm up to me. Unfortunately, Hecate got hit by a car. She wobbled her way home the best she could but…” Selina shook her head. “She didn’t make it. I was so upset when I found her body.” Her eyes glimmered, but not with sadness, rather something more akin to amusement or fondness. “Coincidentally, a day later, a little siamese kitten- a very expensive siamese kitten- showed up in a box at my friend Holly and I’s apartment.” Selina’s lips curled up, caught between a smile and a smirk. “I have a feeling a certain Bat was involved.”

 

Selina dropped Eartha and picked up Hecate instead. Alina watched as Slinky got bored of her, prancing over to the two big tomcats watching Alina warily from the shadows of the couch. The white cat hissed at Slinky, moving out from under the couch and darting to the shadows of the sofa chair instead. The black and white cat slowly followed, swatting at the kitten, who swatted back playfully.

 

“What are their names?” Alina asked, pondering what their stories were.

 

“Khan and Kun, the twins,” Selina answered. The two perked up at their names, before growling as Slinky tried to play with them again. “Khan’s the black one, Kun’s the white one. They’re sweethearts underneath those glares. They just like hiding, galavanting outside and bullying other cats.” She shifted how she was holding Hecate, who stared at Alina with wide, beautiful eyes. “My friend and I took care of them at our old apartment. They lived in the alley since they were babies, and I never saw their mother, but she had to have been around for them to have lived so long. When I moved, I didn’t take them with me at first, but I was doing my rounds when they jumped out and yowled for me. They followed me, and I just decided, what the heck, might as well solidify my role as the crazy cat lady, and took them home. When I got Eartha, later on, they hated her. Wanted her dead. They’re fine now, but the twins are the only one Diablo tolerates besides Miss Kitty.”

 

“Diablo?” Alina inquered, tilting her head.

 

“The mean cat,” Selina replied, voice low. “And when I say mean, I mean mean.” She turned around, scanning her apartment. She pointed to a cat tower that nearly reached the ceiling. Two amber eyes glared out of one of the dark holes. “That’s him. He won’t attack you unless you get too close. Slinky learned the hard way, poor thing.” Alina glanced at Slinky, who most certainly hadn’t learned his lesson with Khan and Kun as they batted him around, vexedly hissing. “He isn’t a sweetheart, but he’s got his moments. He doesn’t like to be pet, but he’ll eat around me or sit nearby, and that’s how I know he trusts me.” Selina smiled kindly.

 

“Where’d you get Diablo?”

 

“I stole him.”

 

Alina blinked at Selina’s casual admittance. “Wuh… Why?”

 

“His old owner beat him and threw him across the room. So I stole him.”

 

While that was a valid reason, that didn’t really answer Alina’s implied question. “ How?

 

Selina raised an eyebrow, looking at her in mild puzzlement, before understanding spread across her face. “Oh, nobody told you, did they?” She chuckled bemusedly. “I’m Catwoman.”

 

Alina stared at her for a second, then the cats, then scrunched her nose, and said, “I should have known that.”

 

Alina leaned down to pet a long-haired orange and white cat as he passed by. The tom paused, then turned and erupted into purring as loud as an engine. He waited expectantly for Alina to pet him, which she quickly did, running her hands through his long, tangled fur, watching as the dark stripes waved.

 

“That’s Rajah,” Selina answered her unspoken question. “Named after the tiger from Aladdin. He used to be a really quiet kitten, but now he’s a ball of fluff, and as dumb as any other orange cat.” Rajah rumbled steadily and loudly as Alina untangled his fur. “Robin- Damian- and I rescued him from a messed up animal breeding and mutation facility that wanted to get domestic cats as close to big cats as possible.”

 

Selina’s eyes looked around the room again while Alina nodded. “I have a cat that likes to disappear sometimes. Her name’s Midnight. She came in last night so-” She broke off as a slender gray tabby with black spotted stripes slipped into the room from another room that Alina assumed was Selina’s bedroom. Midnight padded silently into the living room, sitting down next to Miss Kitty, with her tail curled around her dainty paws. She stared at Alina almost piercingly. Selina let out a swift, amused but dry chuckle. “And there she is. She’s the strange one. Like I said, has a habit of appearing and disappearing. We always found her just standing over d-” Selina hesitated, before continuing on, “dead bodies and injured people at crime scenes. She’d run off, but she let me pick her up once, and then she just… became my cat, I guess.” Selina placed Hecate on the ground, leaning over to scratch Midnight on the ears, who didn’t react much, aside from a flick of the ears and her tail rising. “She’s a smart cat, freakishly so, but, honestly, in Gotham, that isn’t so surprising.” Selina smiled. “She’s not as smart as my prized little kitty, Isis, though. Isis!”

 

At her call, the dark gray cat from earlier came bounding over, standing at Selina’s heels with obedience and grace, her tail and head held high. Selina ran her hand along her spine. “This little kitty is just as much a thief as I am. I got her sometime after Bruce gave me Hecate the Second. I’d been caring a bit for her mother, an alley cat, but when the mom gave birth, she died. I gave the other kittens away, but I kept Isis. She always had a knack for knowing how to get herself more food, more treats, whether it be by stealing them, complaining hard enough, or teaching herself tricks. So I taught her some of my own tricks, and she’s been the smartest cat on the block since.” Selina grinned proudly, and Isis let out her own proud mrrow . “My true partner-in-crime.”

 

Alina’s eyes widened. She had heard rumors that Catwoman used cats to help her steal stuff- and, of course, help save people, because Catwoman was both a thief and a hero, something Alina always found really cool- but hadn’t realized they were true. Of course, it wasn’t farfetched to think Catwoman was a metahuman with cat-controlling abilities, but Alina always thought if she really did have them, she’d use them more. But now Alina knew she had trained a cat as her… apprentice . And that was…

 

“That’s so cool!” Alina breathed out, amazed. Rajah looked a little upset that she was no longer paying him any attention.

 

“Yep,” Selina agreed. “Isis, can you do a flip, sweetie?”

 

The cat perked her ears, before crouching down. She wiggled his hips, jumped forward, then pushed backwards with her paws. It wasn’t a perfect backflip, because she twisted in the air, landing the opposite direction she was originally facing. Still, it was pretty epic.

 

“Woah!” Alina gasped. She trained her cat to do that?! And steal stuff?! Eager to hear the next cool story, Alina turned to Otto as the cat slept away on the window sill. “How’d you get him?!”

 

“Oh, Otto? He’s adopted.”

Chapter Text

Alina lounged upside down on the couch as she watched TV, cats curled up on either side of her. Slinky rested, purring, on her chest. The position was starting to hurt, but her siblings did it all the time, and it reminded her of a bat sleeping upside down, so she wanted to learn how to do it so she could be more like her siblings. She’d only been with Selina for a little over an hour now, the morning sunlight from outside still shining strong. Alina was still full from Alfred’s pancakes, eggs and bacon, but Selina hadn’t eaten breakfast so she was making herself some toast and eggs in the kitchen.

 

“My friend Holly texted me,” Selina’s voice said before she appeared, walking around the couch with her plate of toast and eggs, placing it on the arm of the couch precariously. Alina remembered doing that all the time when she lived with her mom. Now, Alfred wouldn’t let her do that. Selina plopped down on the couch after scooching Otto out of her spot. “She said she wanted to come over for lunch. That okay?”

 

Alina, finally fed up with trying to be a bat, wiggled her way into an upright position, much to Slinky’s dismay. He quickly relocated to her lap, though. The words were already out of Alina’s mouth, so used to meeting no people that she honestly didn’t care too much, before she thought about it, “Yeah.”

 

Selina nodded. “Alright.” The two of them settled into a comfortable silence, the only sounds being that of the TV, a cat clawing a scratching post, and Selina munching on her toast.

 

Alina watched Selina eat from the corner of her eye. She tried to imagine her mother, Mariah, there instead. Would it be the same? Her mother didn’t often sit down and eat beside her while watching TV. She and her mom didn’t watch TV together too much except when her mom came home from work at night and Alina was still awake. She’d fall asleep on the couch so her mom could take her to her bed.

 

The thought of her mother left her hollow and hopeless. She loved her new family, but she’d trade them all for her mom. At the same time, it would feel weird to just go back to living with her mom again, not waking up to Damian and Tim arguing or Duke laughing at Carrie’s jokes or Stephanie wrestling with Harper in the halls. Not waking up to eat Alfred’s delicious breakfast or to hug the dad she never knew. To instead jerk awake to the sound of her neighbors’ fighting or her mother struggling to hide her tears after a nasty break-up or getting fired from another job.

 

“You know,” Selina began as she finished her toast, moving onto her eggs. Alina blinked, turning to look at her as she ran her fingers through Slinky’s fur. “I have a daughter who’d be around your age now.”

 

Alina blinked harder that time. “Where is she?”

 

“Dunno.” Selina shrugged as she chewed a bit of scrambled eggs. “I could find out. Just ask Bruce or Babs, any Bat really, and they could find her.”

 

“You dunno where she is?” Alina tilted her head, confused. “Did you lose her?” Alina knew it couldn’t have been as simple as that, just losing a child, especially if Batman could easily find her. But she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to ask instead.

 

“Sort of,” Selina answered somberly, eyes trained on the TV. “More like I had to give her up.”

 

Alina waited a moment for her step-mother to continue, but when she didn’t, Alina hesitantly prompted, “Why?”

 

Selina sighed. “It’s never been particularly safe to raise a child when you masquerade at night in black leather, calling yourself a cat, and going around robbing banks… or stealing from mafias.” She shook her head. “I made mistakes. I made enemies. They stole my baby, I stole her back, but I realized one day she might be stolen forever if I didn’t get her away from me. It was hard, but… I faked our deaths and put her up for adoption. I made sure I didn’t know anything about where she was going- what orphanage, who adopted her, when she was adopted, if she’s even still alive. None of it. I even wanted my memories of her to be erased so I could never put her in danger again.”

 

“‘M sorry,” Alina mumbled, shuffling in her seat and trying to nudge Slinky towards his owner.

 

Selina smiled, glancing at her, although her eyes were glazed with sadness. “Don’t be. I’m glad she’s safe now, with the chance at a normal life. Besides, in a way, I’ve gotten her back, in more ways than one.”

 

Alina tilted her head. “How?”

 

“You’ve met Helena Wayne, right?”

 

Alina slowly nodded. “Mhm.” She texted her every once in a while, although Helena wasn’t around too often at the Manor.

 

“Well, funny thing about that, she’s actually my and Bruce’s daughter, but from an alternate universe.” Selina’s lips quirked up, eyes twinkling with amusement. “It’s a whole story.”

 

Alina blinked, only slightly surprised. Those one two guys she met way back were from an alternate universe too. It wasn’t that strange.

 

Selina continued on, “It wasn’t exactly the same. Helena didn’t just suddenly replace my baby, even if they had the same name. Not only was she her own, unique person, but she was also already an adult. It was… scary, in a way, staring at another version of my daughter. Her being an adult almost helped- I knew she could take care of herself, and I wouldn’t have to worry that I’d put her in danger. She was already a vigilante anyway. But.” She let out a deep breath. “But I still worried anyway. About what I had missed in her life. About what I still might be missing, because I wasn’t really her mother. Her mother was in another universe, and dead. But I still tried to be a mom, or at least a friendly face, to her.” She smiled. “And it worked. She even asked me to legally adopt her… Even if she was already an adult.”

 

Selina looked back at Alina, smiling brightly. “And I knew, by then, she’s not the only one I’ve ever been a mom too. I love all of Bruce’s kids as though they were my own. And having you here, Alina, has made me realize it all over again. I keep looking at you, and wondering if my baby would have been like you.”

 

Alina ducked her head, cheeks going rosy. She didn’t know why, but she felt almost embarrassed. Maybe because earlier she had been trying to imagine Selina as her own mom…

 

“I’m not your replacement mother, and you’re not my replacement daughter, I know that, but… I’d like you to be my daughter, and I’d like to be your mother,” Selina offered softly.

 

Alina thought about her mom. Would her mom feel upset if she accepted Selina as her step-mom? She hadn’t spent too much time with Selina, but the times that she did, Alina felt like she already was her step-mom. She somehow managed emotions, humor, and caring for her all way better than her new family did (they often focused on humor more than the other two, avoided emotions when possible, and took care of her with hesitance, like they weren’t sure how to, or that she was fragile glass about to break). Better than her mom did too, as loathe as Alina was to admit it…

 

She fiddled with her fingers, squeezing her legs and then running her hand through Otto’s fur. She kept her gaze down until finally, she looked up at Selina’s patient gaze, and timidly said, “I think you already are.”

 

She wanted to add a ‘mom’ to the end of her sentence, trust her, she did, but she just couldn’t force it out. Not yet. Mariah was still her mommy. It was still too hard to associate the word mom with anything but her birth mom. But Selina… well, Alina knew she’d be a good step-mom.

 

Selina smiled, lifting her arms out. Alina smiled, a small one where the corners of her lip curled, before she launched herself at Selina in a big hug, looping her arms around her. Otto and Slinky scrambled away with startled meows, and Miss Kitty perked her head up, mildly alarmed, from where she rested on the back of the couch.

 

Selina let out an oof before laughing warmly. “Watch the plate, watch the plate! I still have some eggs left.”

 

Alina just giggled.

Chapter Text

Alina was half-snoozing on the couch, lovingly covered in cats from head to toe, as she watched some reality TV drama on the screen lazily. Selina was wrangling Diablo to give him some medicine- apparently he hurt himself and got an infection or something- when there was a knock on the door. Alina jerked from her drowsy slumber, blinking wearily as she turned her head towards the door. The cats laying on top of her- Slinky, Miss Kitty, Rajah, and Otto- popped their heads up curiously. While Otto kept his fat butt on Alina’s legs, the others scrambled off her, with Slinky darting towards the door, mewing curiously all the way. Miss Kitty calmly padded after him while Rajah seated himself like a sentry on the arm of the couch.

 

“That must be Holly,” Selina called to Alina, over the hissing of an angry Diablo. “Alina, do you mind opening the door for her?”

 

“Uhm,” Alina stuttered. ‘A little bit.’ “No.”

 

She shoved Otto off of her, much to his protests, and swung her legs over the bed. They felt numb, and her whole world spun as she stood up. She took a moment to let the spinning go away before she walked towards the door. Slinky was scratching at it, and she heard amused laughter from the other side. Cautiously, she grabbed the knob and turned it, pulling it open.

 

Slinky immediately tried to dart out, but a hand snatched him by his scruff. “No you don’t, Slinkster! Wow, you’ve gotten big, little guy.” Alina scrambled out of the way as a black-haired woman- Holly- entered the apartment and placed Slinky on the ground, shutting the door closed behind her. Holly glanced at Alina, then nodded with a small smile. “Hello.”

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted shyly.

 

Miss Kitty distracted Holly next, trotting up to her and looking up expectantly, meowing. Holly brightened, leaning down to pet her. “Miss Kitty! Long time no see, old friend. How are you, old gal?” Kitty purred as she rubbed her head against Holly’s palm, soaking up all the attention, much to Slinky’s distraught. A few other cats padded towards the door, watching Holly with interest. Khan and Kun strutted up to Holly as she walked into the living room, tails high.

 

Holly greeted them just as eagerly. “Hello, my little babies! Awww, did you miss me? I know, I know, I missed you too. I’d love to take you with me, but Karon’s allergic, and Selina’s selfish.”

 

“Am not!” Selina yelled as she opened the door of the bathroom. Diablo ran out with a screech, darting into her bedroom and vanishing into the darkness.

 

“Are too!” Holly accused back at her with a smile. “You have, what, eleven cats? You could spare to lose a few.”

 

“And deprive me of my babies?” Selina gasped, mock-offendly as she placed her hand over her heart. “How dare you!”

 

“Khan and Kun like me better than you,” Holly argued. “They’re my babies more.”

 

“Well then, maybe next time you can get a girlfriend that isn’t allergic to cats and buy an apartment that allows pets.” Selina crossed her arms, raising an eyebrow faux smugly.

 

“Your apartment only allows up to three small animals!”

 

“Good thing they think I only have three,” Selina replied with genuine smugness.

 

“Or good thing you have a sugar daddy that just pays them off,” Holly stated dryly, raising her own eyebrow. Alina frowned, confused. Sugar daddy?

 

Selina laughed. “Touch é .” She smiled warmly at her friend. “So, what brings you to my humble abode?”

 

“Besides the cats?” Holly grinned as she scratched Khan under his chin. “Arizona’s stopping into Gotham in a few hours. She’s staying with Karon and I for a few days.”

 

Selina brightened up. “She is? That’s great- I haven’t seen her in so long. Gosh, more than a year by now, huh? She’s always welcome to stay over here, too!”

 

“I think that was her plan, but she wants to avoid any of the vigilante drama,” Holly explained.

 

“Fair enough.” Selina nodded. “We should all still go out for lunch together. Will Karon have a lunch break by then?”

 

Holly shook her head. “Yeah, but she’s eating at work today.”

 

“Dang, she’s still on an odd schedule, huh?” Selina frowned.

 

“Yeah, but she’s the breadwinner, ya know.” Holly grinned. “And we went on a date on Thursday- God, it was so perfect!”

 

“Ooo, do tell,” Selina asked, waving Holly over to sit down on the couch as she plopped down on the couch herself. Holly complied while Alina hung awkwardly by the wall behind them, distracting herself by petting Hecate, who had decided to come over and sniff her.

 

“She took me to this one restaurant- you know I don’t care much for fancy places, but the food was just so good , that I didn’t care if everyone was dressed up like they’ve never only lived off pennies. The steak was perfect , and the waiter wasn’t even homophobic!” Holly gushed. “And the food wasn’t the only thing looking good- Karon had her hair down, and she stitched up her old suit from that one date with the mud I told you about-”

 

Alina listened as Holly chattered on about her… girlfriend, she thought Karon was? Tentatively, she asked, “Who’s Karon?”

 

Holly stopped, blinking, and glancing backwards at Alina, who scooped Hecate up to hold her close in an attempt to wave off her nerves. Holly smiled at Alina as she shuffled closer. “Karon is my fianc é e.”

 

“What’s a fee-on-say?” It sounded familiar.

 

“It’s some who’s been proposed or proposed to someone else to get married, but they haven’t officially gotten married or had a wedding yet,” Holly explained. She tilted her head thoughtfully for a moment. “It’s like a promise.”

 

Quickly, Alina whipped her head to stare at Selina, lounging beside Holly on the couch with Miss Kitty on her stomach. “Are you my dad’s fianc é e?”

 

Selina laughed, bubbly and hearty. Miss Kitty startled as her human-bed rumbled. “No, no. We were, once.” She smirked, then winked at Alina. “This time, I think I’ll propose.”

Chapter Text

It was almost two hours later, technically past lunchtime, when the person Selina and Holly had been talking about showed up. Deviating from the normal, she was blonde rather than raven-haired, hair thick and bouncy, with dark brown eyes, a warm smile, and wore a blue skirt over light leggings and a white and baby blue shirt. She placed her purse on a table as she entered, welcomed by Selina, Holly and the cats equally.

 

“Hello, Midnight, Isis,” Arizona greeted the two cats as they rubbed up against her.

 

“Oh, so you greet her but not me, huh, Midnight?” Holly scowled at the silver tabby, who looked up at her naively, meowed, and ran away towards the bedroom.

 

“And there she goes,” Arizona chuckled. “Never to see the light of day again.” Isis meowed her agreements as she rubbed up against Arizona’s legs one more time before letting Rajah and Eartha take her place.

 

“It’s good to see you again, Ari!” Selina pulled the blonde woman into a hug, who returned it eagerly.

 

“You too, Selina,” Arizona parroted, giving Selina a pat on the back as they broke off. Arizona’s gaze turned to Alina, who had paused in playing with Hecate and Slinky by a cat tower. “And who’s this?”

 

“Bruce’s newest kid,” Holly answered. “She’s cute.” She smiled at Alina, who blushed. “Definitely more well-mannered than the rest of the little birds he’s brought into the nest.”

 

Arizona nodded, not seeming too interested in anything Holly was saying. “Nice to meet you then. My name’s Arianne, but you can call me Arizona.”

 

“I’m Alina,” Alina told her quietly.

 

Arizona smiled, then turned to Selina and Holly. “By newest little bird, do you mean newest Robin?”

 

Selina shook her head. “Nah. This one’s stayed out of the super biz so far.”

 

“Ah.” Arizona looked back at Alina. “Good. Keep staying away. I used to be, well… in the supercriminal business more than the superhero one. You know Catwoman?”

 

Alina nodded, eyes flickering to Selina. “Yeah.”

 

“She knows everybody’s identities,” Selina added.

 

Arizona hummed, then smiled. “Well, I was Catwoman’s… sidekick, I guess, for a bit. After Selina took me in and let me live with her. Definitely the most insane time of my life until I could stand on my own feet. I’m an artist, now.”

 

“And I’m proud of you for it,” Selina said, placing her hand on Arizona’s shoulder. “Your artwork is amazing, sweetie.”

 

Arizona rolled her eyes like she was annoyed, but she was struggling to hold back a pleased smile. “Alright, thanks, mom .” She said the word mockingly, but Alina couldn’t find any real irritance in body language, the way Cass was trying to teach her too. Selina and Holly chuckled and smiled too, even as Arizona continued dismissively on, ”Anyway, can we head to lunch now? I’m starving.”

 

Selina smirked, then spoke in a wise voice, “Ah, the ole starving artist trope. I’m familiar.”

 

“Shut up, and pay for our meal with your boyfriend’s money, Selina,” Arizona sniped back, and the two black-haired women laughed.

 

“Will do,” Selina agreed. She smiled back at Alina. “You good with getting lunch, ‘lina?”

 

Alina nodded, glancing warily at her… sorta-step-sister before smiling. “Yeah.”

Chapter Text

Six months had passed since Alina had joined the Wayne-slash-Batfamily, and now it was starting to snow. Halloween was fast approaching, then after that Thanksgiving, then after that, Christmas. It was crazy to think about, that it had only been six months, yet it has also been six whole months . A lot had happened, from learning she was an aunt to a four-year-old kid, to finding out her family was the Batfamily, to becoming friends with Tiffany and her little brother, to gaining a new mom, to just becoming a sister to her million siblings.

 

Alina was sure she was going to catch a cold, frolicking alongside her big brother, Duke, in the snow, even if she had a coat and gloves and hat and scarf. Her nose felt frozen already. But she always caught colds when the snow started falling, so she wasn’t too worried about it. Sure, they sucked, and sometimes it felt like she was dying, but she was always fine eventually.

 

Besides, she wanted to focus on being a good little sister to her brother. She didn’t get to hang out with him much outside of the Manor. He was always at school or on patrol, which you’d think would conflict his schedule, seeing as school was in the daytime, and he was Signal, the daytime vigilante. But instead he just patrolled in the morning or right after school, and on the days where he had nothing super important, he’d skip his study hall and the math class he had right after it, despite dad telling him not to. The Batfamily also had an adjusted schedule now, too, where sometimes one of the others would patrol daytime, solo or with him.

 

Duke gestured for her to come over to him, and she hopped up a curb, the tiny piles of snow crunching under her feet, although it was more frost than snow right now. She walked over to Duke’s side, grabbing his warm, gloved hand with her own cold, gloved hand. He guided her over to the small, brown house he had parked in front of. It wasn’t anything special, not as well-kept and beautiful as Dick’s house, or even her friend Alysia’s house. She’d say it was more like Nell’s house, or the house Alina and her mom lived in when Alina was around four, almost five, although Alina didn’t remember it much.

 

Alina was only a little nervous. After meeting so many new people, you kind of know what to expect, but it was still a little nerve wracking. Especially because she was meeting Duke’s girlfriend. Alysia often talked about her sister always bringing over her boyfriend, and practically being another brother to her, and it had made Alina wish she had older siblings’ who brought over their partners so Alina could bond with her future siblings-in-laws… And it looked like she got that wish, because she had met Dick’s wife, Tim’s maybe-boyfriend Kon (nobody had confirmed it, but they called him his boyfriend), and now Duke’s girlfriend.

 

Duke rang the doorbell, while squeezing Alina’s hand. He glanced down at her with a smile. “You still good?”

 

Alina rocked back and forth on her heels. “Mhm.”

 

“Izzy’s nice. You’ll like her,” Duke told her.

 

Alina heard the sounds of thudding footsteps within the house, and then the doorknob turned, and the door followed in opening. A little girl with dark skin, green eyes, and brown hair peaked out hesitantly, then smiled when she caught sight of Duke. Before Duke or Alina could say a greeting, the girl turned around and yelled up the stairs that faced the front door.

 

“Izzy! Your boyfriend’s here.” The little girl looked back at Duke with a grin, eyes flickering to Alina a bit more timidly, before she wandered off into a room on the left side of the stairs.

 

There was a yell back, from upstairs, maybe something like “‘Kay!”, while Duke tugged Alina into the house and shut the door behind them. Alina welcomed the warmth of the house. Duke started taking off his shoes, placing the side of his foot against the heel of his other. Alina quickly copied him, although it took her a few tries to get it right.

 

The sound of a toilet flushing sounded, followed by running water- a sink- before footsteps signalled Izzy coming downstairs. By then, Duke and Alina had pulled their gloves and hats off and stuffed them in their pockets. Duke grinned and greeted Izzy with a hug as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

 

She smiled at Duke. She was like her little sister, dark skin and short, brown hair, but she had beautiful brown eyes, a silver piercing under her lip, and wore a backwards hat and baggy clothing. Alina could see why Duke liked her- she was very pretty.

 

“You arrived at just the right time- my dad’s still at work and my mom just left for groceries, and I got left with babysitting duties…” Izzy smirked. “Now you can take over and I can go hang with my friends!”

 

Duke laughed and rolled his eyes. “No way. Besides, Riko and Dax have that marching band event today.”

 

“Fine,” Izzy relented, crossing her arms. “We can both babysit her.” Her lips quirked up and her brown gaze turned to Alina. Alina ducked her own gaze shyly. “Speaking of babysitting- you’re Alina, right? Duke said he was bringing his baby sis.”

 

“Hi,” Alina said.

 

Izzy smiled. “I’m Isabella Ortiz, but you can call me Izzy.”

 

“Hi, Izzy.”

 

“My little sister’s just a few years older than you. Her name’s Mia. She’s a little shy, but I’m sure she’d love to play with you,” Izzy told her kindly. “She’s just in the other room if you wanna go talk to her.” Izzy pointed to the room Mia had ran into, down the hall and left of the stairs. “Duke and I’ll probably catch up to you after we catch up first.” She smiled slyly at Duke who’s cheeks darkened lightly, but he smiled warmly, gaze watching Izzy and Alina patiently.

 

Alina slowly nodded. “Okay.”

 

“Just yell my name if you need me, ‘lina,” Duke said.

 

She gave him a salute, copied from her siblings, and walked away as he and Izzy chuckled. She hesitantly slipped into the open door of what she assumed was the living room. The young girl was curled up by the arm of the couch, playing on a white Nintendo DSi. The light of the screen illuminated her face, switching colors with her game, although she seemed to have her volume off. The TV was on too, some random talk show on, but the sound was also off. Her green eyes, flecked with brown, flickered up to Alina before focusing back on her game.

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted quietly, a bit hesitant. She’d been pretty used to people introducing themselves to her . It’d been awhile since it was the other way around. “I’m, uhm, I’m Alina Shelley. I’m Duke’s sister.”

 

“Hi,” Mia’s voice, much softer than it had been earlier, barely more than a whisper, spoke. Her eyes didn’t leave her DSi screen.

 

Alina tried to channel all of Nell’s confidence into herself as she asked, “What are you playing?”

 

“Uhm.” Mia fidgeted in her seat. There was a pregnant pause before she answered, “Nintendogs…”

 

“What’s that?” It sounded familiar, like a game Nell or Alysia or one of her other classmates played, but Alina couldn’t remember exactly.

 

Mia glanced up at her, timidly straightening herself. “Uh. It’s- It’s a game where you train dogs.” She turned her DSi to show Alina, but she was too far away for the images on the screen to be clear. So Alina took it as an invitation to slowly sit down on the couch beside Mia.

 

“Oh, they’re cute,” Alina commented, looking at the dalmation, husky and beagle puppies running around on the screen.

 

“Yeah,” Mia agreed nervously. “I’m- I’m Mia, by the way. I’m Isabella’s sister.”

 

Alina smiled at her. “I have a DSi too. Or, did, I guess. My dad bought me a 3DS and Switch. I still have the old one. But I don’t play with any of them much.”

 

Mia nodded as she pet the dalmatian with her stylus. “That’s cool. Uh, I… I got my DSi from my brother…” She trailed off at the end, eyes focusing off to the side rather than on her DSi.

 

Alina frowned, confused at her somber tone. Regardless, she continued on, determined to make a new friend, “What do you train the dogs to do?”

 

“Uhm.” Mia jerked back into focus. “Well, there’s three, uh, competitions.”

 

When Mia didn’t continue, just fed her dog a treat, Alina prompted, “What are they?”

 

“There’s tricks, like sitting,” Mia said. “Uh, Donner.” The dalmatian on the screen seemed to perk up, face turned to look at Mia. “Sit down.” Donner tilted his head for a minute, then barked and sat down, looking expectantly back up at Mia. Mia grabbed a treat from the treat option and fed it to him.

 

“Woah!” Alina lit up. “It responds to you? That’s so cool.”

 

Mia smiled. “Yeah.” She clicked an arrow and a screen with three icons popped up. She clicked an option named ‘Go Out.’ “There’s also disc and agility.” She tapped on the one saying disc competition, then selected Donner.

 

“What’s a-jill-atee?” Alina asked as Mia’s screen started counting down.

 

“Uhhh.” Mia thought as she tossed the disc with her stylus, Donner chasing after it. She tapped the bottom of the screen repeatedly as Donner looked at her before sprinting back to her character. “It’s like with horses when they jump over stuff, but for dogs.”

 

“Oh, cool,” Alina said, watching as Mia threw the disc again. She stayed silent as the competition went on, Mia appearing as though she was gonna win, up until the end when Donner missed a catch. The competition ended and the announcer people appeared, saying who won and lost.

 

“Good job!” Alina praised as her dog appeared with a silver trophy.

 

Mia blushed and shrugged, mumbling something like, “‘z not that good, I shoulda got first place…”

 

“You can get it next time,” Alina told her.

 

Mia blinked, glancing at her. “Uh. I guess.” The screen went from black to show Donner trotting back into the house, with his tongue lolling out.

 

She tapped ‘Go Out’ and chose the Agility Trials. She selected the beagle named Butterfly. Alina watched as she guided her dog around to the various obstacles. This time, she came in first place. Mia smiled proudly and Alina grinned at her.

 

“Nice! That was cool.”

 

Mia shrugged dismissively, averting her gaze bashfully.

 

“Do you have a phone?” Alina asked.

 

Mia blinked, tilting her head, puzzled by the change in conversation. “Uhm, yeah. Just-... it’s kinda old.”

 

“That’s fine! Can I have your phone number? So we can text each other?”

 

Mia hesitated, mouth opening and closing. Slowly, she reached over and grabbed a phone laying on the table stand next to the couch. She turned it on and opened up her messages, then entered her contact information. Alina grinned and pulled out her own phone. She was surprised to realize how fancy and clean and shiny her own phone looked compared to Mia’s. All of her siblings' phones were like hers, and Alysia and Nell's phones were pretty nice, save for a crack or two.

 

It was a strange reminder that her family was rich, and she didn't really know how to feel about it. The new 3DS, Switch and abundance of other devices and toys her father had given her and her siblings, and he didn't even bat an eye. Her mother had to work so hard to get her a kid's tablet. When had she gotten used to just being given stuff, not even thinking about the price?

 

Alina shook off her thoughts for another day. She opened up the option to add a new contact, and typed in the number on Mia's screen.

 

"There! Now we can talk to each other when I leave." Alina grinned at her. "You can tell me about your Nintendogs!"

 

Mia looked at her, as though she was confused why Alina wanted to do that. In all honesty, Alina wasn't sure either. But this is what Nell had done with Alysia- at the time, Aaron- to make her their other best friend. Maybe Mia could be a good friend too.

 

Alina smiled as Mia went back to playing Nintendogs. Inwardly, she mused, contemplatively, as she realized the power in her hands, 'I could get her a new phone, couldn't I? Nell and Alysia too.'

 

All she had to do was ask, and she was sure her dad would do it without blinking.

 

Would that be the right thing to do? She always felt guilty asking her mother for stuff, but… Bruce didn't seem to mind. And he was rich.

 

So, spending his money it was.

Chapter Text

Alina scratched Titus’s head as she lounged against him, sitting on the cold, barren stone floor. Both dog and girl watched Tim, donned in his Red Robin uniform with his cowl down, type away at the Batcomputer, filing in a report. Stephanie was in the medbay, hidden from their view as she patched up a cut on her leg, while Damian was taking a shower to wash off the combination of blood, mud and sweat that’d clumped onto him. The three had just finished a mission, and it seemed to have gone well considering the minimal injuries, even if it had gone on longer than they’d anticipated.

 

It was nearing midnight, and Alina was supposed to be asleep a long time ago, especially considering she had school tomorrow. But since she’d caught wind of the three’s mission yesterday, she’d been worried near sick (which was not helped by her runny nose) about whether or not they’d be okay. It was stupid, she knew, because they had gone on much more dangerous missions and even more dangerous patrols, but she couldn’t help but worry. She had to wait until Batman left for patrol with Carrie- Batgirl- to even sneak down into the BatCave. She had fumbled with the time on the clock a few times too, and she was terrified an alarm was going to start blaring, but luckily, no such thing happened.

 

Damian had yelled at her for staying up late and sneaking down into the Cave when he and the others first returned. Stephanie and Tim had quickly given him a reality check, proving out his hypocrisy for repeatedly doing the same thing he was yelling at Alina for. Despite that, Stephanie and Tim had told her not to stay up so late again, and all three of them admitted they understood her worry.

 

Now she waited for all of them to finish up what they were doing, not really feeling all that tired. Well, her body felt tired, her eyes kept drooping and her limbs left heavy, but her mind was buzzing with thoughts. Sloppy, disorganized thoughts, but rapid and loud.

 

Her mind heard the sound of the big door opening before her body reacted, jerking upwards a few seconds later. For a terrified moment, she thought Batman had returned from his patrol, and her dad was going to yell at her for staying up late too. But, instead, two motorcycles drove in noisily, swiftly parking themselves at the end of the vehicle pathway in the Cave. The woman on the motorcycle parked closest to the very end of the pathway jumped off, pumping her hands in the air victoriously.

 

“Ha! I won,” the woman, who’s voice Alina quickly recognized as her sorta-sister Helena Wayne’s, boasted.

 

The other woman scoffed as she swung her leg over her own motorcycle. “Only because of the squirrel.”

 

“You can’t blame it on the squirrel! He was just vibing and you nearly made his insides outsides,” Helena argued as they both began walking towards the Batcomputer. Titus raised his head to watch them before deciding they weren’t a threat or exciting enough and resting his head back down on his paws.

 

“Hey Timbuktu,” Helena greeted Tim, who lazily waved at them without taking his eyes off the screen. Helena’s eyes turned to Alina, sitting behind her brother on the floor. She squinted, before slowly saying, “Hey Alina. Whyyyy are you down here? At twelve a.m.?”

 

The other woman, predictably black-haired and blue-eyed, and wearing a purple and black outfit very similar to the one Helena Wayne’s wore, studied Alina with openly curious eyes. Alina just shrugged slothfully at them both. “‘Mmg waiting.”

 

“Waiting? For what? Dad?” Helena asked, tilting her head.

 

“Nn’og emymore,” Alina answered.

 

“Well, somehow you’re more awake than Timbo,” Helena mused. Said Timbo whipped his head around to glare at her with bleary eyes. “See! Not even awake enough to insult.” Tim just huffed at Helena’s big grin, turning back to the Batcomputer to continue typing, although Alina noticed how erratically his movements switched between slow and quick.

 

“I assume you’re the one ‘lina kid Helena keeps telling me about,” the other woman said.

 

“Prozagally,” Alina yawned.

 

“Yes! She is. The newest of the ‘linas. The prophesied after we lost the other Helena.” Helena Wayne thumped her fist against her chest twice and then raised her hand with a peace sign. “We miss you, little ‘lena.”

 

“She didn’t die.” The woman raised an eyebrow. “And you weren’t even here when that Helena was born.”

 

Helena just continued grinning. “We lost her spirit, and now we’ve been given a new one to replace our mourning with rejoicing.”

 

“If you make this into a cult, I will deck you on the spot,” the woman warned. Helena laughed boisterously.

 

Alina watched them through her blurry vision, head resting on Titus’s shoulder. “Whuz’t e’rr nuhm?”

 

The other woman looked back down at her. “What’s my name?”

 

“Take a guess!” Helena interrupted, smiling. “You’ve heard it before.”

 

Alina squinted at the woman, trying to guess if she’d maybe seen her before. It was possible. Her costume looked maybe familiar, or maybe that was just ‘cause Helena was wearing a similar one.

 

“...Miranda.”

 

Helena laughed and the woman smiled. Helena said, “No, no- she’s a part of the ‘lena gang!”

 

“...Magdalena…”

 

Helena snorted, hand flying up to her face. The woman raised a brow. “What’s with the ‘M’s?”

 

“Mm.” Alina’s mind faded for a moment before focusing back onto reality. “Ma’sk…. ‘S upsi’down ‘M’...”

 

“...A ‘W’?” The woman corrected.

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked blearily, staring at her pointy mask. “...Wagdalena.”

 

The two raven-haired women burst into laughter, and Alina swore she heard Stephanie’s distinct laughter too, confusing her. Until she saw Stephanie limp up beside her. “My God, do I wanna even know what the conversation is to end in Wagdalena?”

 

“We’re trying to get her to figure out Helena’s name,” Helena Wayne explained.

 

The other woman gave her a disgusted, disappointed stare. “You realize you just said it?”

 

“Oh.” Helena blinked. “Woops.” She shrugged. “Well now she knows it, I guess!”

 

Alina, in fact, did not know it, instead peering puzzledly at the two, who were starting to look more and more alike the longer she stared… Or, actually, were they merging? Maybe she was focusing too hard. The purple all looked the same, especially when you added Stephanie’s eggplant purple.

 

“So, why are you two here so late?” Steph asked them, seeming much more awake than she should have, considering how tired both Alina and Tim were.

 

“We just needed to snatch some evidence for a Birds of Prey mission,” Helena explained.

 

“And Babs was asleep- as she should be- and we didn’t wanna bother her,” the other woman finished.

 

“Besides, it’s been awhile since I’ve been in the Cave!” Helena added.

 

Steph nodded. “Right. You still working with Power Girl on that portal-thingy, Little Hunt?”

 

“Yeah,” Helena answered with her own nod. “Just takin’ a break. It isn’t wielding us much results yet; stubborn, weird magic portal.”

 

“‘Tis how all stubborn, weird magic portals go,” Steph agreed in a solemn tone.

 

Alina, meanwhile, a few seconds late, asked, “Wuh’ate… W’utz y’er name?”

 

The three women blinked, looking back down at her as though they expected her to have fallen asleep by now. Maybe she should have. The woman smiled sympathetically. “Wow, you are tired. My name’s Helena Bertinelli. You might know me as Huntress.”

 

Huntress did sound familiar, but Alina was too tired to guess from where. “H’leena? B’ut… Y’or H’leena?”

 

Helena Wayne giggled. “We both are! Helenas and Huntresses, united across universes.”

 

Alina studied the two for a moment, although her tired state refused to yield her much. “...twins?”

 

The Helenas and Steph laughed, with Steph muttering, “She wishes.”

 

“Nah,” Helena Wayne dismissed with a wave. “She’s too old to be my twin.”

 

Helena Bertinelli rolled her eyes. “I’m thirty-three. I’m not that old.”

 

“Keep lying to yourself,” Helena Wayne said smugly.

 

Bertinelli huffed, and Alina found herself faintly thinking maybe Damian was right in calling everyone by their last names. Bertinelli answered Alina’s unspoken question, “Both of our mothers liked the name Helena, I suppose.”

 

“Buh...t…” Alina took a moment to think, glancing between the two Helenas. “B’th nahmm’d Huh’nter-ess?”

 

“Yeah, that’s more of a story.” Wayne grinned, but it was a bit sadder than her previous grins. “I’m actually from another universe-”

 

“Eh’know,” Alina cut in.

 

Wayne blinked. “You… do?” Then, she shrugged. “Alright. Well, in my old world, I really, really looked up to the Huntress of that world- ‘cause, you know! Same names! I thought it was cool.”

 

“I’m sure other-me thought the little Wayne girl sharing her name running after her was adorable.” Bertinelli smiled.

 

“She did! She took me under her wing.” Helena beamed proudly. “Not as much as Dad- Batman- I guess, because I was his Robin in this universe.” She shuffled a moment, thinking. Alina blinked while she did that, and almost found herself asleep before Titus shifted under her and her eyelids snapped open. “A really nasty villain attacked my world though, and it… didn’t end well for many.” She dipped her head down somberly. Alina was too tired to really feel sad like the others did, more focusing on the story and on staying awake. “Huntress was one of the ones to… fall in battle. I took up her mantle after that. She was one of many mantles I could have chosen, but I’m proud to have chosen hers.”

 

Alina tilted her head, watching Wayne blankly, before slowly slurring out, “D’ yo wanna go ho’me?”

 

Wayne blinked, then bit her lip as she tilted her head thoughtfully, staring up at the bats on the ceiling. “I don’t know… I don’t think so. I’ve been here for more than a year, and I have everything that was taken away from me now… But I need to know if my- if the family that raised me, my friends, my world- if they’re okay. That’s why- That’s why Kara- Karen- Power Girl and I are working to figure out how this portal bridging two universes works, and if it can head to our Earth…”

 

“Ahw…” Alina blinked with big, owly eyes. “D’ey will be otay…”

 

Wayne smiled down at the girl. “Thank you, little ‘lina. I hope they are.”

 

Alina curled against Titus, appreciating his body warmth even if the BatCave did have heating. The words of the world around her faded as she closed her eyes, with all intent to open them again, but instead the only thing she saw was black the rest of the night as she drifted away.

Chapter Text

Alina followed after Stephanie, still feeling a little drowsy after a cold she caught. It had nearly ruined Halloween, but she had managed to convince Bruce to let her go trick-or-treating with Nell, Alysia, and another girl from her school. Normally, her mom would drive them around, but this time Nell’s mom immediately offered too. Bruce also offered too, but Alina declined, both because she was a bit afraid she’d have them drive around in a limo or something (she had seen her siblings painting and designing a limo, and while it looked cool, she felt weird like she was bragging about being rich now) and because she didn’t want to take Batman off-duty, since rogues were known to strike on the ‘scariest night of the year’.

 

Her other siblings all had a bunch of Halloween plans. Most being parties between friends or teammates, and Dick and Kori were taking Mar’i trick-or-tearing, and Damian was trick-or-treating ‘against his will’ with his friends. Overall, Halloween had been pretty fun, and felt normal, the same as it always had. Even the way they had to change routes because Scarecrow released a toxin over the neighborhood with the houses that had the best candy was normal.

 

The normalcy left her feeling weird, the next few days after Halloween, when she went back to the Manor instead of to her mom’s apartment. Stephanie must have picked up on it, or maybe she just wanted to hang out, because she had insisted on dragging her around the mall. Now they were heading back to Steph’s house- or, rather, her mom’s house, because Steph had her own apartment, and also the Manor. Stephanie left all but one bag in the car as they walked up to the house.

 

She unlocked the door with her keys, and opened it. She grinned as she hopped into the house. A dog barked, deep and low, and a golden retriever bounded over.

 

“Hey, boy,” Steph greeted, ruffling the dog’s fur. He huffed at her, and let out a low growl as he sniffed Alina’s hand. “Hey.” Steph squished his face between her two hands. “Be nice, fluffbut.”

 

He growled again, but it turned into a whine near the end. He pulled away from Steph, and walked away from the two, staring at them with angry eyes. Steph walked past him into a room that Alina quickly identified as the kitchen. A woman was hovering over the stove, the smell of soup wafting through the air deliciously. She had short, dusty brown hair, but the same bright, crystal-blue eyes as her daughter. She had wrinkles beneath her eyes and on her cheeks, that crinkled as she turned to them and smiled.

 

“Hello,” the woman greeted, eyes flickering to Alina.

 

“Hey, mom, this is Alina, one of Bruce’s new kids, you know how it is,” Steph quickly explained. The woman smiled and nodded.

 

She moved away from the stove and extended a hand. “I’m Crystal Brown, Stephanie’s mother.”

 

Alina took the offered hand, shaking it gently. “Hi, Ms. Brown.” Mrs.? Alina wasn’t sure. She still didn’t know the difference between the two.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Ms. Brown politely said.

 

“You too,” Alina echoed in a mumble. She pulled her hand back and stepped behind Steph a bit, glancing at the dog as he patrolled around them.

 

“Happy birthday, mom!” Stephanie said, holding out the small white bag to her mother. “Gotcha a little something.”

 

“Sweetheart, if this is another one of Mr. Wayne’s stolen credit cards, I swear,” Ms. Brown sighed exasperatedly as she rolled her eyes. She ruffled through the thin paper at the top and pulled out a birthday card. She flipped the card open and a few bills and a credit card nearly fell out.

 

“Naw, I actually asked this time! So, therefore, not stolen!” Steph bounced on her feet with a proud grin.

 

“At this point, I can’t even berate you for getting me so much money, can I?” Ms. Brown raised an eyebrow.

 

“D’aww, you’ve gone through all seven stages of grief now!” Steph chuckled. “Finally at acceptance.” Her mother sighed, rolling her eyes once again, but affection showed in her smile and eyes. Steph made a gesture with her hand at the bag. “Keep going, keep going!”

 

Ms. Brown followed her daughter’s commands, rummaging through the bag once again until she pulled out the silver necklace Alina had helped Stephanie pick out. Ms. Brown smiled wide, letting the shiny heart at the center of it swing about. “Oh, sweetie, this is beautiful.”

 

“Knew ya’d like it,” Steph said as her mother pulled her into a hug. “Alina helped me choose the best of the butch, though.”

 

Alina blushed as Ms. Brown’s gaze turned to her. She felt awkward witnessing a tender family moment like this. They were few and far between with her new family- at least, in such an openly emotional and appreciative way, and back when it was just and her mom… well. Alina never was able to get anything fancy for her mom, but she’d always create little arts and crafts for her, and one time she’d managed to convince Nell to convince her mom to take her shopping, where she got her mom a cool, long, loopy bracelet, and candy… Alina ended up eating most of the candy, but still, it was the thought that counted. And her mother always appreciated the thought.

 

“Thank you too, dear,” Ms. Brown said as she unclipped the necklace and put it on. She brushed her thumb over the silver heart. Something in the oven beeped behind her, and she glanced back at it. Then, she turned to Steph and Alina, smiling. “Now, you wouldn’t mind staying for dinner, would you?”

Chapter Text

Alina had dreaded that Christmas would be completely chaotic with such a big family. She had been half-right. It was organized chaos.

 

Apparently they had developed a strategy for Christmas, where they stretched it out into four days. At first, Alina had been caught between ‘You can’t make Christmas four days!’ and ‘I HAVE FOUR CHRISTMASES NOW!’ , but now, on the day after Christmas, she understood why they functioned like that.

 

To break it down, two days before Christmas was for everybody to spend with their friends or teammates. So, Damian hung out with his friends, Tim with his teammates, Duke with his group, and so on and so forth. Alina had about a week of warning for that, so she scrambled to do something for her friends. In the end, she couldn’t organize a hangout, but she was able to stop by her friends’ houses and give them gifts. She painted gifts with the help of Damian for some of her classmates, as well as Nell and Alysia. Along with that, she decided Christmas was the perfect time to get both Mia and Nell new phones. Nell had screamed her ear off and hugged Alina so tight she thought she was gonna squeeze her to death. Mia, when Alina had gone with Duke to Izzy’s house, had been surprised Alina even showed up. They weren’t super close friends, after all, and had only hung out one more time after the first time. They texted some, but not much. Still, Alina had been eager to get her a new phone. Mia had denied it at first, then accepted with red cheeks and wet eyes, and apologized profusely for not getting her anything. They hung out for a bit after that, and Mia eventually found an old Nintendogs game that was somewhat glitchy. She gave it to Alina, mumbling and blushing in embarrassment, but Alina had accepted the gift with a happy grin. As for Alysia’s other gift, Alina got her Mario Kart 8 for her Switch.

 

And then came Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas. That day was for friends, again, but also family friends or other family or extended family- like the Foxes or the Kanes. Alina hung out with Luke, Tamara, Tiffany and Timothy Fox for half the day, before she went to her aunt’s house outside of Gotham. Alina, in all honesty, was thoroughly shocked that Bruce had convinced her aunt to agree to that. Normally, she’d wake up on Christmas day, open presents from her mom (her mother had broken the truth about Santa Claus to her when she was six), and then they’d head off to their aunt’s farm where the rest of their family would be gathered. Instead, she would sleep over at her aunt’s house, and then be driven back to the Manor in the morning. Her aunt, cousins and grandparents had been… Well, she’d seen her aunt and grandparents at visits to the hospital, and they always refused to speak to her dad and treated her grandparents still treated her coldly as ever. She had gotten her cousins’ phone numbers and texted them a few times, but for the most part they didn’t talk too much. It had been nice, but weird, to hang out with them all again. She had been happy to play with her cousins that were around her age, though.

 

And then Christmas Day came, and Bruce was there as early as possible. They took a few questionable shortcuts and they were back home by the time Alfred was serving Christmas breakfast. Tim, Duke, Stephanie, Cassandra, Helena W., Jason, Sasha, Harper, Cullen, and Damian, as well as Selina, were all awake, and surprisingly all bright-eyed. By the time breakfast was over (which took an incredibly long time as Stephanie and Harper tried to start a food fight and Alfred, Bruce and Cullen all tried to stop them), Carrie had popped up at the Manor. She was nervous, but Bruce, Selina, Duke, Steph, Cass and Helena all welcomed her with eager arms. Dick, Kori, Mar’i and Silkie soon followed, and then it was finally time to open presents.

 

In her entire lifetime, Alina had never gotten as many presents as that. Needless to say, as well as receiving many games she had never even heard of, her stuffed Batfamily collection had been completed, with the addition of a few extra heroes. She wasn’t sure she’d have enough space in her room for all of them. She definitely didn’t on her bed.

 

Then came the Christmas games, which was entirely hectic and Alina was glad Carrie and Sasha looked just as lost as her. The three of them teamed up for most of the games when possible, although the Batgirls often claimed Carrie, Jason would offer Sasha a place on his teams, and everybody fought for Alina. Damian would have gotten Alina for most of his teams, if not for the fact he kept ‘stealing’ Mar’i from the other teams and it ‘wasn’t fair he got both of the innocent kids’.

 

A multitude of banned games were suddenly allowed to be played on holidays, much to Bruce’s dismay. Banned games included Monopoly, specifically playing Rainbow Road on Mario Kart, their own Minecraft Championships, Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity but with their own cards, Hide and Seek, Uno, dodgeball, and then a variety of games Alina was sure were just made up. They didn’t play all those banned games, of course, and they played unbanned games as well, like kickball. Although, apparently, certain people were banned from playing kickball, most surprisingly of all being Duke and Cullen, for wildly different reasons. Those being that Duke’s powers made it cheating (there was a specific event they kept referencing but Alina didn’t get it), and for Cullen that he kept kicking people’s shins in a non-Cullen, very-Damian esque-move.

 

All in all, it was a very tiring day, and Alina fell asleep before Christmas dinner, with Mar’i, Silkie, and Alfred the Cat all curled up beside her. She woke up in time for the tailend time of dessert, thankfully, and she and Mar’i ate their ice cream, cake and mustard quietly before retreating to Alina’s room to sleep. Damian, Carrie, Cullen, and Sasha eventually joined them in their sleeping pile, with Titus, Ace, Dog, and Jerry as well. She should also mention that Bat-Cow was just loose somewhere in the Manor as well after having been let in during Hide and Kill (a fancy version where you have to keep moving and, when found, you get attacked, or just tackled in Alina and Mar’i’s cases). In the morning, they discovered Bat-Cow and Goliath curled up in the library together, snoozing away.

 

Next morning was much more quiet, everybody too exhausted from yesterday to start screaming matches. They all ate their breakfast prepared by Alfred and Jason in comfortable companionship. It gave Alina time to think about her mom. She remembered solemnly that she had agreed to visit her mother on the day after Christmas. Alina had drawn her a card and gotten her shiny earrings, although she knew her mom wouldn’t be able to read the card or wear the earrings until… Alina didn’t like to think about ‘until’, because her when was starting to into an if .

 

Near the end of breakfast, Barbara wheeled into the dining room, where half of the family was while the rest had finished eating and moved to one of the living rooms. Following behind her was an old man with bags under his eyes and hair more white and gray than red like Babs’s was, and then a bouncing girl with long red hair and bright blue eyes that looked strangely familiar, but Alina couldn’t place why.

 

“Jim!” Bruce greeted eagerly, excusing himself from his spot between Selina and Kori. Others rang out choruses of hellos to Jim, Babs and the other girl, and Kori and Dick both stood up and ran over to hug Babs. Mar’i wiggled out of her seat and flew over too, prompting Damian to do the same, albeit he stayed on the ground, unable to fly. The other girl suddenly burst into pink sparkles which made Alina vaguely recall her from the time she met Misfit, or whatever her real name was. Alina saw pink flash from the kitchen, along with the sound of plates and utensils clattering.

 

Alina watched with mild interest as everybody chatted with Babs and her… father. She assumed that was Jim (James? Sometimes she heard him called Jim, sometimes James. It was very confusing) Gordon, aka the Commissioner of Gotham’s Police Department and Batman’s best friend. Or, that was what other kids said (and they used to say only friend too), but she would say that Superman was his best friend. And maybe Wonder Woman, but she hadn’t met her yet, even though her siblings really wanted her too.

 

As Alfred exchanged a few words with Jim and offered him a seat and a plate of food, Alina caught eye contact with the man’s blue eyes. She ducked her head bashfully, but Jim just smiled at her, wrinkling his cheeks more, and turned back to talking with Bruce and now Selina. Alina smiled too, scooped up the last of her baby carrots, grabbed her plate and then headed off to put it in the kitchen sink.

Chapter Text

Almost two weeks after Christmas, and with the Winter break from school over the next day, Alina was being ‘babysat’ by Aunt Kate, who decided to do so by just showing up and announcing she was taking Alina. They had gone to Batburger, and now they were heading to Kate’s house.

 

Alina slurped on the last of her strawberry shake as they pulled into Kate’s driveway. She hopped out of the back seat, only a little ticked Kate had forced her to sit in the back when her dad let her sit in front. She followed after Kate, only pausing to throw away her empty shake, as Kate swung open the door much like she did whenever she entered Dick’s house. Alina was pretty sure the only reason she didn’t at the Manor was for fear of Alfred.

 

Alina trailed behind her aunt, only a little nervous about meeting new people. She knew Kate had a wife and a sister, although she hadn’t met either or heard much about them. Of course, it didn’t take long for her to see the new faces. A short and curly-haired blonde lady with stunning green eyes lounged on the sofa in the living room, watching TV with a younger woman who had short, light brown hair and the same green eyes curled up beside her. Another lady was sitting quietly on a chair beside the sofa. Her hair went to her shoulders, and was a pale shade of blonde, but with cool red tips. Her eyes were a darker shade of green that reminded her more of Kate’s green eyes than of the other two girls’.

 

The first blonde lady’s head rolled over the back of the sofa, smiling upside down at Kate. “Hey babe. You bring the kid?”

 

“Of course,” Kate replied with a grin. She turned to Alina and gestured at the lady. “Alina, this is my wife, Maggie.”

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted at the same time Maggie waved, albeit upside down.

 

“I’m Jamie,” the younger light brown-haired woman said, shifting upwards and moving slightly away from Maggie. She looked a little confused, staring at Alina, and wary, but she smiled a small, warm smile. “Nice to meet you.”

 

Maggie turned around on the couch, so she was actually facing the back of the couch. She looped an arm around Jamie, grinning dorkily as she placed a kiss to Jamie’s forehead. Jamie’s cheeks dusted pink and she ducked her head, trying to worm out of Maggie’s hold.

 

“She’s my daughter,” Maggie stated proudly. Jamie rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop herself from smiling.

 

Alina blinked, then pointed at Kate. “She’s my aunt.”

 

Maggie laughed while Kate chuckled and Jamie smiled. Kate, as she walked over to the couch and plopped down beside Maggie, said, “Acute observation. You know, since Maggie’s my wife, she’d be your aunt too.”

 

Alina nodded. “It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a new aunt.” Plenty of sorta-siblings, though.

 

“Well, you’ve gotten three more technically,” Maggie pointed out. Then added, “And Jamie would be your cousin, too.”

 

“Three more?” Alina questioned, tilting her head.

 

“Myself, Elizabeth-” Maggie pointed to the other blonde woman quietly curled up on the chair, watching them with wary eyes. “-and Julia. She’s in the kitchen. With Bette. I’m sure you can hear them.”

 

Alina could hear them. There had been playfully arguing voices coming from the kitchen, along with the occasional banging of silverware or loud pop like from popcorn. It had been awhile since Alina had seen her- Aunt Kane, too, technically. She didn’t get to see them for Christmas because she had left for her aunt’s house by the time they had arrived at the Manor.

 

Another bang like a bowl onto the counter echoed through the house before a blonde-haired head popped its head through the doorway. “I heard my name?” Bright blue eyes scanned the crowd, then brightened as they landed on Alina. “Alina! My favorite niece-cousin. How are you?”

 

Bette trotted over to Alina with a huge smile. Alina smiled back, eagerly returning the hug Bette gave her.

 

“Niece-cousin?” Jamie asked curiously, tilting her head.

 

“Yes,” Bette confirmed, puffing out her chest. Her shirt had small stains on it that Alina guessed were from whatever mess was presumably in the kitchen. “It’s a compromise. I’m her aunt but her siblings are my cousins.”

 

Jamie blinked, then frowned, brows furrowed in confusion. “That’s not… how? There’s not like- they say Gotham has more than Alabama- where it’s like… in...cest?”

 

Bette giggled, shaking her head. “No, no, it’s just… God, how much do you know about the Waynes?”

 

“One rich guy with a lot of kids,” Jamie said.

 

“Pffft,” Bette held back a laugh while Kate openly snorted. Bette let out a steadying breath before continuing, “Very true. Well, I was always told those kids were my cousins, BUT, turns out, I’m actually their aunt! Or aunt-removed, whatever it’s technically called.”

 

Jamie raised an eyebrow. “Should I even question it?”

 

“I learned a long time ago not to question the Waynes, sweetie.” Maggie smiled.

 

“Good thing I’m only Wayne-adjacent,” Kate teased.

 

“It’s a well known thing that Kanes are better than Waynes!” Bette grinned, placing her hand on Alina’s head. Bette glanced down at her. “You can be an honorary Kane, ‘lina.”

 

“Okay,” Alina agreed easily, blinking.

 

“Bette!” A yell came from the kitchen. A woman, dark brown-haired and greenish brown-eyed, bounded out of the kitchen, glaring at Bette half-heartedly, who grinned at her. “Why’d ya just abandon me to the monster you made!” 

 

“Because I found a little angel instead!” Bette exclaimed, wrapping her arm around Alina’s shoulders. Alina smiled timidly.

 

“Adorable,” the woman- Julia? She looked familiar and her name sounded familiar too- deadpanned, staring blankly at Bette. “Your cake turned to muck in my hands.” She raised her hands, covered in cake guts and frosting.

 

“Why were you holding the cake?” Jamie questioned, furrowing her brows.

 

“Because somebody broke the pan.” Julia glared at Bette.

 

Undeterred, Bette answered, “Maybe the pan was already broken.”

 

“Then ya broke it worse,” Julia snapped back, just as undeterred.

 

“I know all Waynes with the exceptions of Jason, Babs, Steph’s waffles, Bruce in the wilderness, and Cass on a good day can’t cook for the lives of them, but I thought, surely, as a Pennyworth, you’d be able to cook and not make a disaster,” Kate jabbed.

 

“Oi, why are we blaming this on me! Takes two to tango,” Julia retorted, glaring at Bette again. “An’ I can cook just fine ‘til this bloke enters the picture.”

 

“Guilty as charged.” Bette took a dramatic bow, smiling all the way.

 

“Wow,” Kate sighed. “And here I thought I taught you to be better than that. Jamie, please tell me you can cook?”

 

“Uhh.” Jamie tilted her head as she thought. “Yes?”

 

Kate narrowed her eyes. “That was a very unconfident yes.”

 

“I mean, I haven’t starved yet.” Jamie grinned sheepishly with a shrug. “I can make mac and cheese.”

 

“Thin ice, young lady, thin ice.” Kate moved two fingers from her eyes to point at Jamie, back and forth a few times. Jamie and Maggie both chuckled.

 

“We need ta have mandatory cooking lessons for this entire family, I swear,” Julia murmured as she walked back into the kitchen, licking some cake goop off her fingers as she went.

 

“Alina, you’ll be a good girl and learn how to cook, won’tcha?” Bette asked, looking down at her with big, hopeful eyes.

 

“Not for you,” Alina answered sternly, but with a smile.

 

Kate laughed. “Good. We let the weaklings starve.”

 

Bette pouted. “But we’re faaaaamily!”

 

“And family let’s each other starve,” Alina said.

 

Bette blinked, startled. “Woah. That’s a little morbid. The heck’d you learn that from?”

 

“I think that’s a sign you’ve been hanging out around Damian, Tim, Steph and Jason too much,” Kate commented amusedly.

 

“Hanging ‘round the whole lot of them, more like it,” Julia added as she walked back into the living room, hands cleaned of any cake. “They’re all awful.”

 

Jamie chuckled, a bit dryly, with fear twinkling in her eyes. “I’m glad I don’t have to meet them all.”

 

Alina stared at her sorrowfully, face downcasted into a frown. “I wish I was you.”

 

Kate choked on laughter as she said, sympathetically, “Oh, baby, who hurt you?”

 

“Tim stole my cheetos,” Alina whined mournfully.

 

Bette gasped. “That monster! He deserves retribution for such a mortal sin.”

 

Alina nodded, face steeled with determination. “He must face the con-cee-quenshh-es.”

 

“Right, that’s it.” Bette’s face mirrored Alina’s own. “New game plan for today: Abandon making a triple-layer cake in favor of getting revenge on Timberly for sweet angel Alina.”

 

“Christ, you kids.” Julia shook her head as she walked over to the chair Elizabeth had been quietly sitting in, observing the others with a small smile. “Scooch over, Beth.”

 

Beth frowned at her, then spoke softly,  “There’s not enough room on this chair.”

 

“Too bad, this is the comfy chair, scooch,” Julia ordered. Beth rolled her eyes and scooted over best she could, and Julia managed to squeeze her way onto the chair beside her.

 

“Juls, Beth, you in for ruining Tim’s life?” Bette asked as she walked to another chair, sitting down and inviting Alina to sit too. Alina obligingly crawled onto her lap.

 

“Over cheetos?” Julia raised an eyebrow, then smirked. “Of course.”

 

As gazes turned to Beth, she just shrugged and nodded. Then, Maggie spoke, “So, are Kate, Jamie and I a part of this too?”

 

“Duh,” Bette said. “Thought that was obvious.”

 

“Oh boy,” Jamie half-sighed, half-chuckled. “What have I gotten myself into?”

 

Kate grinned, then reached over Maggie to shove her step-daughter playfully. “Guess it’s finally time for you to meet your step-cousins, huh?”

Chapter Text

Alina squirmed against the bookshelf and the wall, wedged between the two. She held her breath as she watched Titus sniff at the ground, tail erected stiffly in the air behind him. He bumped his nose against a shelf of books not too far from Alina and she felt her heart start racing. She could hear his nose sniffing, and see it twitching, along with his turning ears. He whined as he paced along the rows of bookshelves. He circled back once more before trotting away, nose still twitching.

 

Alina let out a relieved breath as the Great Dane left. Titus’s ears perked upwards, and he jerked back around, bolting over to Alina’s hiding spot. He barked loudly thrice and Alina slipped out from behind the shelf. She giggled as Titus shoved his wet nose against her palm, licking her hand.

 

“Aw, you found me, buddy,” Alina sighed. Titus barked again and wagged his tail. Alina scratched his ear. “Go find the others, Titus.”

 

Titus raised his ears, registering the command, before darting off. It wasn’t long before he was out of the library and down the hall with his long legs. Alina exitted the library at her own leisurely pace, heading down to the family living room.

 

There, she was greeted by Alysia chatting quietly with Mia on the couch while Timothy Fox pouted beside them. Carrie, sat on the back of the couch, was laughing at Timothy’s pouty face. Carrie brightened as she saw Alina enter.

 

“‘Lina! Welcome to the loser party.” She grinned, swinging her legs over the back and dropping onto the floor. “Only two more left to go.”

 

Nell and Tiffany. Nell wasn’t too surprising- she always took Hide and Seek way too seriously- and Alina didn’t know much about Tiffany’s hiding skills, but she must be good. Alina was a bit surprised Carrie got caught before Alina. Wasn’t she a Batgirl? A member of the family of night and shadows? Alina thought perhaps she let herself get caught… or maybe Damian made Ace and Titus track her down first out of spite. That wouldn’t have been surprising.

 

Although, she would take a guess and say Tim Fox got caught first, just by the way he was grumpily curled up in the corner of the couch. She’d invited him to her birthday party because he always seemed upset and she didn’t want him to be more upset because she’d invited his sister but not him. She knew both of them around the same amount, it felt unfair otherwise.

 

She invited Mia, too, even though she didn’t know her super well, because she was very sweet and got along well with Alina, and Alysia too. Nobody else in Alina’s friend group had met Mia before today, but Alysia took an immediate liking to her. They were both shy and kind, so Alina wasn’t too surprised. Alysia got along well, even if a bit hesitant, with Tiffany, who she met once before because of Nell- who had hit it off with Tiffany ever since they first met. Timothy meeting Alysia for the first time had been a bit bad, but only because Timmy was very confused because Alysia looked like a boy. He still didn’t really understand, but it had been him versus four older kids, and later Carrie and Damian, so he accepted it reluctantly.

 

Alina was just glad to be spending time with her friends, since school had officially been out for the summer for about a month now. It marked the tenth month she had been with-... been a Wayne, and meant it was only two months away from a whole year.

 

A whole year since… a lot of things happened. That Alina wasn’t going to think about right now because she wanted to be happy and spend time with her friends and family.

 

“So who do we bet the doggos are gonna find next?” Carrie asked them as she and Alina walked around to the front of the couch.

 

“Tiffany,” Tim accused immediately, grouchy.

 

“Yeah,” Alysia agreed. “Nell’s really good. One time she climbed this big tree. She couldn’t get down though.”

 

“There are a lot of climb-y places in this house,” Carrie pondered, tilting her head. “Let’s hope she didn’t get on any chandeliers.”

 

Timothy frowned. “She can’t climb t’at high.”

 

“You’ve never seen Nell climb,” Alina argued. Great at climbing up, not so much at getting down. She had gotten better though.

 

“She’ll fit right in with the Wayne kids then,” Carrie laughed. “We climb everything.”

 

“Alina’s a Wayne,” Timothy said stubbornly. “An’ she doesn’t climb.”

 

“You don’t know that,” Mia interjected quietly. Timothy puffed out his cheeks.

 

“Den I bet she doesn’t,” Timothy replied snottily, glaring at Mia. Mia half-smiled, glancing at Alina with hesitantly amused eyes.

 

“Well, Alina’s right here,” Carrie mused, raising an eyebrow. “So why don’t we ask: Do you climb, ‘lina?”

 

Alina blinked. What a weird question to be asked. But she had been asked and asked others weirder.

 

Did she climb? Not really. She could climb, but she didn’t really. Damian was teaching her how to defend herself occasionally, and she had learned some ways to jump and climb over things, but how often did she use those skills? Definitely not as much as her crime fighting family.

 

“I dunno,” Alina answered slowly. “I guess not.”

 

“Ha!” Timothy puffed out his chest. “See? I was right.”

 

“Smartypants,” Carrie teased as she hopped back onto her place on the couch’s back.

 

“Am not ,” Timmy argued.

 

“Are too~” Carrie sing-songed.

 

“Am. Not!”

 

“Are too!”

 

“Am-”

 

“Don’t get roped into it, then you’ll be a dumbypants,” Mia told Tim. “My sister does that to me aaaaall the time on purpose. To waste my time and make me seem stupid.”

 

“Noooo,” Carrie quickly denied. “Keep going! Prove you ‘am not’ a smartypants.”

 

Timothy considered both of their points, before he slowly turned his head away from them both and huffed. “I’m not a smartypants or a dumbypants.”

 

“You’re just pants,” Alina said, and smiled as Carrie brokedown laughing while Alysia and Mia giggled. Timothy turned a mean glare at her, his cheeks darkening embarrassedly.

 

“What’re we laughing at?” A voice asked curiously. The kids all turned around, peering around or over the couch.

 

“Nell!” Alysia gasped. “You were supposed to win.”

 

“Aw, did I not?” Nell pouted, glancing around at them all as she approached the couch, quickly joining Carrie at the top by heaving herself up.

 

“No, Tiffany’s still hiding,” Mia told her.

 

“Dangit, I knew I shouldn’t have gone for those giant lights…” She crossed her arms with an exaggerated huff and scowl.

 

“Giant lights?” Carrie’s eyes widened. “Did you actually climb a chandelier? Nell, those are super high up! That’s dangerous!”

 

Nell grinned sheepishly, ducking her head. “No! I mean, I tried . That’s what got me caught.”

 

“What do you mean you tried? ” Carrie stressed, looking seconds from pulling out her hair. “Did you try climbing the walls or something- oh my god, please tell me you didn’t try to get to the one above the stairs.”

 

Nell smiled unabashedly, even as her cheeks darkened.

 

“YOU WENT TO THE CHANDELIERS ABOVE THE STAIRS?!” Carrie yelled, gaping stunned at Nell, throwing her arms out. “Do you even KNOW how many casualties we’ve had on those stairs?”

 

“I dunno even know what a caz-u-alty is,” Nell held back her giggles at Carrie’s overdramatic show.

 

Carrie paused. “Well, it’s like a death, but I’m, like, meaning it as in a lot of people have gotten hurt. You didn’t get hurt, did you?”

 

Nell shook her head. “Nuh-un.” She paused. “Almost.”

 

“ALMOST?” Carrie pressed her palms against her eyes. “GAAAAH- I am NOT used to this responsibilityyyy… I’m not usually the oldest! I’m the fun youngest middle sister! OH my GOD, if you guys died, it’d fall on ME, wouldn’t it?! I’d get kicked off paaaa- from, uh, fired from my job foreverrrr!”

 

“Sorry,” Nell said, sounding quite unapologetic. “Titus saved me! That was cool.”

 

“He did? ” Mia asked, awed. Alysia and Timothy perked up too, intrigued. “How?”

 

“I was in the library when you were ‘linnie, but I just had a better spot.” Nell smirked at her and Alina rolled her eyes. “But after Titus found you, I knew I had to move immediately, so I did. I remembered the channa- chanda- canda- the big lights at those big stairs, and I knew I wanted to climb them.” Carrie made a strangled noise and Nell grinned proudly. “I wasn’t tall enough to jump from the railing to the lights-”

 

“YOU WERE JUMPING FROM THE RAILING !” Carrie screeched, appalled.

 

“So I grabbed one of those small tables in the hallways with like nothing on it-”

 

“I don’t like where this is going,” Carrie bemoaned.

 

“And I balanced it on the railing-”

 

“Not on it’s legs?”

 

“Not on it’s legs-”

 

“Thank God.”

 

“And I had to grab another table-”

 

“No-”

 

“Yes, and I stacked that one on top of the other. I balanced on top of it, and jumped to the lights-”

 

Carrie choked with wide eyes.

 

“-and caught it, but I couldn’t pull myself up so I was just dang-a-ling.”

 

Carrie shut her eyes tight and angrily exhaled out. Alina, Alysia, Mia and Timothy all giggled and grinned at her and Nell’s overdramatic show.

 

“I didn’t dangle for long ‘cause my fingers started slipping, but I knew I was gonna fall on the stairs and that was gonna hurt so I started, like, swinging myself back and forth. I jumped down when I thought I could land on the, like, flat ground between all those big stairs. I landed right on the edge and my foot slipped-”

 

“OH MY GOD, NO!” Carrie screeched while the others gasped.

 

“And I have never been more lucky ‘cause suddenly Titus was there and he was biting my arm, and he stopped me from falling.” Nell beamed as she finished her story.

 

“Wow,” Mia commented, blinking. “That was.. Uhm. Lucky.”

 

“I know!” Nell giggled as she watched Carrie angrily stare at her.

 

“I think I need to ban you from hanging out with any Waynes,” Carrie stated. “We’re corrupting you.”

 

“Then I’d have to stop hanging out with Alina,” Nell pouted. “And you. And Steph.”

 

Carrie narrowed her eyes. “A sacrifice needed to be made.”

 

“Noooo!” Nell cried, while Alysia asked, “Would I have to be banned too?”

 

“Have you made any bad decisions recently?”

 

“Uh.” Alysia blinked, tilting her head. “I ate ice cream after my bedtime.”

 

“I do t’at all the time!” Timothy added proudly.

 

“Uh, same, but with snacks,” Mia agreed with a small pink blush.

 

Alina smiled brazenly. “Every night.”

 

“My God, I’m surrounded by sinners!” Carrie gasped, placing a hand over her heart. “What has this generation come too?!”

 

“Kelley, you’re a part of this generation.”

 

“I know, I was-” Carrie did a double take. “Wait, Damian! Tiff. When’d you guys get here?”

 

“When you started banning children from being in the presence of Waynes, as though you are one and have any authority over us,” Damian retorted, glaring at her.

 

“I was here for Christmas,” Carrie half-pouted, lip jutting out. “I even got you a present! I think that counts for something.”

 

“She’s our sorta-sister, like it or not!” Alina agreed, grinning.

 

Damian glanced between his two ‘sisters’, before concedingly nodding his head. “Very well. I won’t like it.”

 

“I’ll take it!” Carrie smiled.

 

“You’re family’s weird,” Alysia whispered to Alina, who just smiled and shrugged.

 

“Is Carrie actually your sister?” Mia frowned as she, too, whispered to Alina.

 

“I dunno, I don’t think so. I kind of forgot,” Alina answered in her own whisper. Carrie had been staying over at the Manor a lot more, especially since Christmas. She didn’t know much about Carrie’s life outside of the Waynes and the Bats, but she’d heard Tim- her brother Tim Drake- mention something about how her parents never noticed she was gone or cared about her, and how he knew what it was like.

 

“So does this mean I won?” Tiffany asked with a grin, observing the others. Ace and Titus stood between her and Damian, wagging their tails and lolling their tongues happily.

 

“No,” Timothy snapped.

 

“Yes,” the others chorused.

 

“Where were you hiding?” Nell asked.

 

“I found the room with the dog treats and food and lounged in there until Ace and Damian found me,” Tiff explained with a pleased grin.

 

“A smart move,” Damian praised. “I assumed Ace was attracted to the scent of the treats and repeatedly steered him away from there.”

 

“Why, thank you.” Tiffany bowed.

 

“Cheater,” Timothy grumbled.

 

“Shut up, Thyo,” Tiffany shot back with a smirk.

 

‘Thyo’ bristled, whipping around to glare at her with all the menace he could fit in his little body, which was a lot. “Mom told you to stop!” Apparently, Tiffany had yet to give up the nickname in, oh, five-ish months now, and Timothy had yet to stop going to his mom about it. But, knowing her own siblings, Alina wasn’t that surprised. Her family could keep grudges and dumb nicknames and inside jokes for far longer than Alina had even been alive.

 

“What’s with the Thyo nickname?” Carrie asked curiously, and a bit cautiously because of Tim’s anger. “That’s like the fifth time I’ve heard somebody call him that.” Tiffany and Nell being the worst offenders… although Alina would admit she called him it once today.

 

“His real name is Thyodore,” Tiffany explained with ease, still with a sly smirk.

 

“NO, it’s NOT!” Timothy screamed.

 

“It’s on his birth certificate,” Tiffany continued.

 

“IS NOT!”

 

“Is too!”

 

“IS-”

 

“Timmy, remember what I told you?” Mia interrupted softly. Timothy blinked, then huffed, crossing his arms and turning his head away.

 

“I am not any kinda pants…” Timothy mumbled.

 

Tiffany raised an eyebrow, glancing at the others for context, but being provided with none. “Well, anyway,” she dismissed. She turned to Damian eagerly, scratching Ace’s ears. “Can we play another round?”

 

“NO!” Carrie immediately yelled. “The game’s banned-”

 

“Noooo,” Nell whined again. “You can’t ban everything!”

 

Damian raised an eyebrow. “Why are we banning the game? It provides entertainment and a proper outlet for energy for the children while simultaneously exercising the canines’ skills.”

 

“Because SOME PEOPLE-” Carrie side-eyed Nell who smirked. “-think it’s a good idea to climb chandeliers very recklessly!”

 

Damian stared at her judgmentally. “ You do that.” Titus barked in agreement.

 

“Okay, but I do that with skill ,” Carrie defended.

 

“You have no skill,” Damian said flatly.

 

“Now you’re just being rude.” She stuck her bottom lip out, crossing her arms, before her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands together excitedly. “Oo! I know, kiddos! Why don’t we play Jackbox?”

 

Alina, Nell and Alysia all squealed excitedly, having played the various Jackbox games with Carrie before. Tiffany, Timothy, and Mia looked intrigued, while Damian groaned, rolling his eyes.

 

"Why do you always suggest that?" Damian complained. "Playing a game requiring creative humor with little children who think random humor is an entertaining type of humor."

 

"Tiffy is literally like the same age as your BFF Jonno," Carrie reminded him with a raised brow of her own. "Do you consider him a little child that thinks random equals funny?"

 

Damian hesitated a moment before saying, "Yes."

 

"Alright, I'll make sure to tell him next time I see him,” Carrie promised. Damian narrowed her eyes at her but said nothing.

 

“Jon and I are only like a little more than 2 years younger than you. How are we little kids?” Tiffany mused.

 

“‘Cause you’re stupid,” Timothy piped up. Tiff stuck her tongue out at her brother. Maturely, he stuck his back out.

 

Alina giggled at her friends’ antics.

Chapter Text

Anxiety was trickling through Alina slowly like tap water slowly dripping from an improperly turned off faucet. She tried to ignore it, but as the hours ticked closer to the time her mom’s side of the family said they’d come over for her birthday, she couldn’t help it.

 

She loved her family. Trust her- both sides of it. But her grandparents could be very rude, her aunt and oldest cousin sometimes got really huffy, and her little cousins could be brats, and she didn’t know if her new family would like them or if her other family would like her new family and it made her all very worried. She was eager to see her cousin’s son though. He’d been born a few months before the whole shebang with the Joker and her mom, and Alina had only seen him on Thanksgiving and Christmas since then.

 

She tried to remind herself it wouldn’t be bad. This morning, her Wayne family woke her up with a pancake feast made by Alfred, who she hugged a lot in thanks. She opened the presents from the ones who had to leave later in the day next, then her friends came over, and she blew out the candles to her strawberry and chocolate cake, actually made by Jason that time, and apparently by an “unhelpful Steph and Cass” and a helpful Sasha. They all ate as she opened the rest of her presents. The rest of the day had been spent playing and messing around with her friends and some of her siblings.

 

And now came the time where her other family came over to give her their presents for her.

 

She kept glancing at the clock- she couldn’t read it, but it kept ticking along.

 

She was building a pillow fort with Nell, Alysia, Mia, Tiffany, Timothy, Carrie and an “I’m not doing something so childish” Damian and his dogs when the call came. She heard her brother Tim shout, in the distance, “Alina! Your… grandparents are here!”

 

Ace and Titus perked up, and Damian shushed Titus when he barked. Nell poked her head out from under the blankets Carrie and Tiffany had chucked on top of her, and Mia paused in placing a pile of books on top of a blanket Timothy Fox had held out over the bed. Alysia glanced warily towards that direction, and Alina recalled the few times her grandparents, aunt and cousins met Alysia, back when she was a boy called Aaron. Alina frowned, briefly thinking that Alysia would have to be Aaron until her cousins left. She thought about explaining to her cousins that Aaron was now Alysia, but she feared how her older cousin, aunt and grandparents would react if her other cousins told them. She’d heard her grandparents complain about “kids these days thinking they're not what God made them” before. Her aunt, and her uncle who had since passed, had seemed to agree. Alina’s mom had sort of agreed too, but she didn’t seem to care that much when they told her Aaron went by Alysia now, so Alina didn’t really know what her mom thought about… transgendered people, like Tim, Steph and Cass told her they were called. And it’s not like she could really ask her anymore...

 

But her mind was getting sidetracked with worries. She smiled at her friends. “You guys can stay here.” She placed the pillows she was holding on top of the ones Alysia was holding, so that Alysia couldn’t even see over them. “My cousins’ll come back with me.”

 

“Okay!” Nell chirped. “We’ll keep buildin’ our fortress!”

 

“Whatsa fortress?” Timothy asked.

 

As Nell explained it to him, Damian and Carrie exchanged glances with equal frowns, which was a very unusual thing because Damian refused to agree on anything with her, and Carrie didn’t frown like Damian did. As Alina walked nervously off, she heard the footsteps and then claw clicks against the floor as Carrie, Damian, Ace and Titus followed after her. She glanced back at them, tilting her head as she kept walking.

 

Carrie beamed at her, hopping a few paces to stand beside her, slinging her arm over her shoulders. “No worries, just escorting the birthday girl.”

 

Alina had no idea what escorting meant, but she smiled up at her sorta-sister. She felt more confident with her siblings and her dogs by her side. Even if she didn’t really understand why she was so nervous.

 

Entering the front room where her family was, she immediately noticed her grandparents undisguised glares. Her grandpa was saying something to Bruce, who stood like a frowning statue, but she didn’t get to hear it as her eldest cousin was immediately in front of her.

 

“Little ‘lina!” her adult cousin greeted warmly, wrapping her arms around Alina and pulling her in tight for a hug. Her long blonde hair tickled Alina’s face and she fought back a sneeze.

 

She smiled up at her cousin’s familiar green eyes. “Hi, Jenny.”

 

Jennifer smiled back down at her, before there was a cry from the baby sitting in the pull-out-able infant car seat-thing. Jenny’s eyes flickered to him, and then she gave Alina a quick peck on the forehead, patted her shoulder, and went to her son with an overly concerned frown, babbling in that baby talk adults did. Alina trailed after her, peering at her cousin’s baby. He was definitely bigger than the last time she saw him.

 

“Hi, Tom,” she greeted her… what would it be? Cousin-once-removed, or something? She’d have to ask Damian. Tom angrily babbled back at her, throwing his arms up and down. He had spit on his bib, trickling down from his slobbery mouth.

 

“Cute baby,” Carrie commented over Alina’s shoulder.

 

Jenny gave her a tired, fake smile. “Thank you. He’s fifteen months!”

 

Carrie squinted her eyes, then asked in a stage-whisper to Damian, who was standing a few steps behind her, “How old is that?”

 

Damian scoffed, rolling his eyes. “One year and three months. Did you not learn basic math?”

 

“I did, I just don’t know months.”

 

“You don’t know… Should I even inquire what you mean by that, or will you infect me with your stupidity if you do?” Damian sneered.

 

“Doggies!” The screech of a kid interrupted them. Alina’s cousin, just a year older than her, with a mop of dirty blonde hair bolted towards them, hands outstretched.

 

“Clay!” Alina’s aunt’s voice sharply sniped, hand bolting out to snatch him by his arm. “Behave yourself. Those aren’t our dogs, and they’re too big for you anyway.”

 

Clay pouted while his little brother, brown-haired Evan, shyly stood beside him. Clay complained, “Too big? Bigger the better, mom! They’re like wooolves.”

 

“And wolves are dangerous,” his mother replied with a sneer. “And so are German Shepherds and Great Danes.”

 

“Awwww, but mooooom!”

 

Alina could feel Damian’s offended anger on behalf of the dogs radiate off him in waves. She glanced back at him to find him bristling like a cat, shoulders raised, lips curled back, and eyes narrowed. He was far more dangerous than the dogs themselves were, obediently stood at his sides and tails wagging side to side slowly, Alina knew.

 

‘You just pissed off Robin, son of Batman and grandson of Ra’s al Ghul!’ What a bizarre thought that her aunt had no idea she was thinking. A thought her aunt would never even think to think. Because, turns out, the Wayne family was the one and only Batfamily too, and Alina was suddenly hit with a brief wave of “I”m just some nobody who knows that, how crazy is that?” Side note, Alina wasn’t really sure who Ra’s al Ghul was (much less how to actually spell it), but she’d heard him mentioned enough times to know he was Damian’s grandfather, and also a super awful one, despite being apparently very, very powerful and also immortal. Side note to a side note, Alina didn’t really know what immortal meant.

 

“I can assure you, Mrs. Kade,” Damian didn’t hide the growl he did as he spit her name, despite keeping the rest of his voice cool and emotionless, “that these dogs are highly trained and would never even think to harm an innocent child.”

 

Her aunt only looked a little bit put-off, glancing between Damian and the dogs with wary and almost accusatory eyes. Clay, tugged on her sleeve. “See, mom? They’re nice dogs! Pleeeease can I play with them?” Titus perked up at the word, glancing at his master and then at Alina’s cousin, tail increasing in wagging speed.

 

“I still don’t want you too,” her aunt said. “That one’s old.” Her lip curled up as she seemed to scan each and every one of his gray and white hairs, and the way his eyes had started to cloud over. “He’s probably forgotten any of his supposed training.”

 

Alina knew her aunt didn’t like dogs- for whatever reason, she just always hated them- but now she was just being rude. No, not rude . Rude was Damian. She was being mean . Damian loved his dogs, all of his animals, and he trained them personally (give or take with Ace). Not only was her aunt insulting the dogs themselves, but Damian’s ability to train them, even if she didn’t realize.

 

She could see the way Damian’s anger rushed through him- the way his shoulders tensely rose, his knuckles went white as he pressed his fingers against his palms, and his green eyes blazing like there was fire inside them before he doused it with water and turned it to ice.

 

And Tim must’ve seen it too, because he sternly called out, “Damian.” His tone was warning, but his eyes screamed his own agreement with his little brother’s anger. Alina felt her stomach curl, for some reason with shame and guilt, as she realized her two families already didn’t get along. She knew her grandparents were mean almost always, but her aunt at least could be caring. After all, when Alina finally got to visit her mom in the hospital after everything with the Joker, it was her aunt’s arms she cried in. Her aunt and her dad hadn’t been hostile towards each other then, or maybe Alina just hadn’t been paying attention.

 

Damian didn’t relax his muscles, but his face smoothed out, erasing the curl to his lips and the glare in his eyes. “Once again, I assure you, they are harmless to innocent children. Ace, Titus, sit.” The two dogs didn’t hesitate a moment to follow the command, even if Ace was a bit awkward and slow, his old bones and sore muscles wearing on him.

 

Clay gasped and the bright twinkle of awe never left his eyes as he begged his mom to let him play with the dogs. Alina’s aunt frowned, but her eyes flickered back and forth in consideration.

 

She heard her grandfather, older than Alfred and with a white beard, sigh loudly, “Just let him pet the damn dogs, Molly.”

 

Her aunt shot a quick glare back at her father, before she let go of her grip on Clay. “Alright. If you’re sure they’re safe.”

 

Damian nodded and matched her wary gaze with his own stoic one. “Quite.”

 

Clay screeched in happiness and bolted towards the dog, his shadow named Evan trailing after him quietly. Clay launched himself at Ace, wrapping himself around his neck and burying his face into his fluffy chest, much to Aunt Molly’s dismay. Ace wagged his tail, tongue lolling out as he almost smiled at the boy, pleased with the attention. Titus whined, shifting from paw to paw and staring sadly and enviously at Clay and Ace. Evan slowly raised his hand towards the black Great Dane, who perked up and leaned his head forward, sniffing Evan’s fingers before giving them a big lick. Evan jerked his hand back, startled, before hesitantly doing so again and smiling as the dog licked his fingers and butted his nose against his palm, greedy for pets.

 

“Is this one Ace?” Clay asked eagerly, squishing the sides of Ace’s floofy cheeks.

 

“Yes,” Damian answered, allowing himself the smallest of smiles as he watched the young boy interact excitedly with his dog.

 

“Wooaaaahh! That’s so cool. Ace is such a awesome name.” Clay grinned, shaking Ace’s fur and fat. The German Shepherd seemed to enjoy it, wagging his tail a mile a minute and letting out a low woof. “Awesome Ace!”

 

Alina let herself smile too. At least Clay and Evan could get along well with her new family. Clay loved all canines despite his mother’s hatred for them. She knew if he had it his way, he’d take the two dogs home, adopt twenty more from the pound, and steal a fox off the streets… He and Damian would get along fine enough.

 

Now came the question if her last young cousin would get along with her family. Her gaze drifted to dark and long brown-haired Leah with brownish green eyes- the eyes closest to Alina’s, who were always stuck in that strange and kinda ugly (in Alina’s and some of her classmate’s opinions) brown-blue-green territory, except Leah’s were actually pretty. Leah had always tried to be a girly-girl, looking up to her older sister Jennifer and wanting to do everything she did, but she had also always been ‘dragged into’ wrestling with her little brothers and Alina. Recently, though, it seemed Leah had been trying even harder to succeed in gaining the place of ‘pretty little girl’. She had refused to play with Alina, Clay and Evan at Christmas, although she’d eventually relented and joined in a game of Ghost in the Graveyard .

 

Leah was watching them curiously, but she had that purposefully snotty and judgemental look in her eyes. Her eyes briefly caught Alina’s before Aunt Molly moved towards Alina.

 

“Alina! It’s been too long, baby.” Her aunt swung her arms around Alina and pulled her into a bone-crushing hug that didn’t feel so bone-crushing anymore now that she’d been subject to Dick, Kori, Kate, Cass, and Carrie’s hugs.

 

“Hi, Aunt Molly,” Alina greeted softly back, stuck between being mad on Damian’s behalf and happy to see her aunt… She chose ‘happy to see her aunt.’

 

Her aunt kneeled down and squished her cheeks, staring sternly in her eyes. “You’ve been keeping up with your studies, haven’t you? Nothing below a B?”

 

“Yes,” Alina answered. She’d had C’s earlier on, when she couldn’t focus on anything but her mom and the Joker and Batman and her new family… but her new family had been willing to help her out- a few times they’d blink and just let Alina blatantly cheat on her homework. But for the most part, Bruce, Steph, Cass, Tim, Duke, Carrie and Damian- her main homework helpers- were actually really good… tutors, she thought they were called.

 

“Good! Good,” Molly praised, smiling. “We left your presents by the door, sweetheart. Your- ah, brother says you already had cake, but we brought some cookies for you and your friends. Leah made them!”

 

Beside her mother, Leah straightened her posture and raised her chin, smiling proudly. “I decorated them too.”

 

“Thanks, Lee.”

 

Leah’s smile turned into a frown as she puffed out her cheeks. “Ah!”

 

“Leah,” Alina corrected with a small smile. Her gaze followed Leah’s as it flickered to Clay and Evan still petting Ace and Titus, Clay with much more gusto. “You can pet them.”

 

Leah huffed, turning her head away. “No thanks. I don’t like dogs.”

 

“You like Luna,” a rough and lazy, half-interested voice piped up as Jennifer’s fiancé spoke. He stood with his hands shoved in his pockets, tattoos crawling up his arms, and the smell of smoke faintly in the air around him, beside Jenny as she cradled their baby, Tom, who was babbling and swinging his hands around. Carrie looked amused as she let the baby latch onto her fingers.

 

“Yeah, well,” Leah struggled to find an excuse. “Luna’s a corgi, and they’re cute. And she knows tricks.”

 

“But, Lee-Lee, look!” Clay called out to his sister. “Acey boy, spin, spin!” Ace barked and spun around twice. Titus watched his elder spin, glanced at Damian, who nodded. Titus promptly broke out into spinning too, albeit much more faster. Evan blinked, startled.

 

“Nowwww, jump!” Clay commanded them. Ace paused, leaned back on his haunches and jumped into the air best he could, although the lack of momentum and his old muscles didn’t get him very high. Titus attempted to jump, but apparently he had made himself too dizzy, tumbling to the side. His legs stretched out to steady himself, his expression surprised he couldn’t make the jump after spinning so much. Clay giggled. “Luna can’t do that , can she Jack?”

 

“I suppose not,” Jack mused slowly, eyes flicking back and forth between them all, never really concentrating long on any one thing.

 

“You should have brought Luna!” Clay scratched Ace’s muzzle.

 

“And have her stolen?” Molly murmured with a poorly hidden glare towards Damian. Alina’s brother bristled but there was almost confusion glittering in his eyes, as though he didn’t exactly understand the insult, or why it would be directed at him.

 

Clay, oblivious to his mother’s comment, chattered on, “A doggy playdate! That’d be so awesome. Hey, uh, I don’t know your name- can we pleeeeease have a doggy playdate?”

 

Damian’s attention was dragged to the boy cuddling his dog. He took a moment to think, emerald eyes flickering back to Aunt Molly with almost a glow like Jason’s eyes sometimes did. Then, he answered, crisply, “I suppose so, as long as there were trusted individuals around to keep the dogs out of trouble.”

 

“Yesssss! Jackie-Jack, didya hear that? You can bring Luna over next time,” Clay cheered. Jack gave a non-committal hum and nod in response.

 

Alina’s attention drifted from the dogs, Damian, Clay, Evan, Molly, Jennifer, Jack, Tom and Carrie towards where her grandparents were talking in low voices with her dad and Tim. Her grandparents both looked angry- which wasn’t saying much since they always looked angry, but her grandfather looked especially pissed off. If she hadn’t been living with them for ten months now- almost a year, Alina would have said Bruce and Tim only looked a bit frustrated. But she could tell they were keeping their anger inside them- keeping themselves controlled, something her mom’s side of the family was never good at, including Alina’s own mother, although she definitely was the ‘best’ out of all of them.

 

She was glad at least some of her two families were getting along now, but the anxiety and fear was boiling inside her again at the four adults’ hatred of each other. What were they saying? Alina took a few steps away from her cousin Jennifer.

 

“-ouldn’t trust you when you’ve got all these other fuckin’ grown kids trancing about, becomin’ all whiny with daddy’s money-”

 

“I was the CEO of Wayne Enterprises at only seventeen, and still operate as CEO for some branches. Dick had plenty of jobs, his most notable being a police officer before he became a stay at home dad. Jason works for charity groups as well as working part-time at a library. Cass has worked for charity and support groups too. Stephanie’s completing her med school studies. Duke does volunteer work in rougher neighborhoods, and Damian volunteers at multiple animal shelters. I think we’ve been taught how to stand on our own.”

 

Her grandmother rolled her eyes. “Like pompous rich kids’ haven’t faked their way through college and gettin’ jobs before.”

 

“If the issue is that you think I’ll just pay people to give Alina an easy life, I completely understand that,” Bruce answered. “I’ll even show you proof I’m not doing so if you need me too.”

 

“Bah.” Her grandmother waved her hand dismissively. “You rich folk’s proof mean nothin’ ta me. I don’t need people like you who think they know everything and get everything dictating my granddaughter’s every move. She should be under our roof, not livin’ with all you Godforsaken freaks.”

 

Alina saw how Bruce and Tim’s fists clenched and unclenched almost in perfect sync. The way their brows furrowed further and their lips turned downwards into the same expression was almost cute, like when Damian copied Bruce or Dick’s facial expressions, body movements or language. Almost, because Alina was blinded by her own rage. She hardly noticed the way her own fists clenched and stayed clenched because of how angry she was at her grandmother for calling her siblings freaks.

 

“If you describe the issue clearly, we can work out-”

 

“The issue is th’t she should be under our custody,” Alina’s grandfather cut him off rudely, like he seemed to keep doing before Alina had been listening in. “We’re her grandparents! You’ve got nothing to do with our granddaughter-”

 

Bruce looked rightly confused as he stared at the old man, firmly stating, “I’m her father .”

 

“No,” her grandfather shot back, glaring back. “You’re not.”

 

Bruce and Tim’s faces turned into ones of immediate shock and worry, before they both went back to the trying-not-to-look-angry angry faces, this time with added calculating glares. Alina’s grandmother wiped her head around to glare at her husband too, hissing something under her breath, while her grandfather briefly looked regretful, but not in a shameful way. More in an ‘I-fucked-up’ way.

 

“Kids,” Bruce called out to the group still playing with the dogs and baby Tom. Alina’s siblings and cousins paused, turning their heads toward him in surprising obedience. “Why don’t you go play with Alina’s friends in the library?”

 

Immediately, Alina saw her cue, desperate to get away from her grandparents, father, and older brother’s incoming fight. “We’re building a pillow fort! I should get back to them. You guys should come too.”

 

Excitedly, Clay leaped up from where he was giving Ace belly rubs. “YES! Yes! I haven’t built a pillow fort in soooo long! Let’s go, let’s goooo!” Evan stood up beside his brother and timidly nodded with a mumble of agreement.

 

Leah, predictably, huffed. “ I’m not a kid.”

 

Carrie stared at her exasperatedly. “ I’m older than you, and I’m a kid, so you’re a kid, and we’re going to go build a pillow fort, because it’s fun.”

 

Leah puffed out her cheeks again. “Well, I don’t play with little kids.”

 

“Don’t pull a Damian,” Carrie said, and Damian glared daggers at her, ready to pounce on her, but knowing he couldn’t in front of Alina’s aunt. “Who else are you gonna play with? The dogs? You said you didn’t like them.”

 

“I’ll play with nobody.” Leah crossed her arms stubbornly. “I don’t have to play.”

 

“Leah,” Aunt Molly cut in, her eyes glancing back at her mother and father, and Bruce and Tim. She looked wary. “You have to go with them to watch them. Make sure Clay doesn’t ruin anything, and the dogs don’t bite him.”

 

“They won’t-” Damian tried to defend, but Carrie jabbed him in the side.

 

Leah perked up. “Okay. I can do that.”

 

“Good!” Carrie chirped. She started to rouse the dogs and nudge Clay and Evan in the right direction. “Follow me and Dames, we’ll show you the way!”

 

Don’t call me Dames ever again,” Damian growled, trailing after her as she led the kids away. Alina glanced back at the adults as she followed Carrie and Damian out of the room. Her grandfather was already defending himself in a fast, angry tone. Something about Bruce not being able to be a father for Alina- which, let it be known, Alina strongly disagrees with. Bruce was a great father, even if he couldn’t always be there, with so many other kids, and responsibilities, and also being Batman.

 

She heard the tailends of her grandmother saying that Mariah- Alina’s mom- had always been a gold digger and a liar, for whatever point that was important for. To Alina’s surprise, she heard Molly gasp at her mother’s words, and yell at her. The last thing Alina saw before the scene was too far behind her was Jennifer and Jack uneasily staring at each other.

Chapter Text

“NO!” Nell screeched as she lunged at Alysia, who raised her arm high from Nell’s grasp. “I was gonna win! I deserve that card.”

 

“Nuh-uh!” Alysia argued with a smile. “Alina said I won, so I won.”

 

“She’s a liar,” Nell spat playfully. “I had the best traits! I had a magic wand and nunchucks! That’s like the most epicest superhero ever.”

 

“You’re also bad under pressure.” Alysia pointed to one of four cards on the ground in front of Nell. “And I’m a bunch of crabs with boxing gloves.”

 

“Nell, you’ve lost. Accept defeat,” Alina told her best friend.

 

“BUT SHE’S CRABS!” Nell waved her hands at the smugly smiling Alysia, who held the minty green and white superhero card. “Crab s can’t be a superhero. Stephie, you agree with me, right?”

 

Stephanie’s lip was twitching as she watched the three girls argue. Her eyes stared amusedly down at the crabs card. “I should have removed that one too.”

 

“Why? How’s that one inna-pro-pee-at?” Alina asked curiously. When she and her friends had raided Steph’s card and board game stash, they had chosen FunEmployed because, well, fun was in the name and the game seemed pretty easy to understand. Steph hadn’t realized what game they had chosen, and had been promptly horrified when they asked what ‘libido’ meant. She agreed to still let them play the game since they liked it, but had sorted through all the cards and taken out the ‘inappropriate ones.’ She’d also pushed the Cards Against Humanity game the girls had been eyeing to the far, far back. To be fair, Alina knew that game was the inappropriate one.

 

The game was banned for a hundred different reasons in the Manor after all.

 

“Ah, it’s a grown-up thing,” Steph dismissed with a smile. “Just promise me you won’t get crabs, okay?”

 

Nell tilted her head. “Crabs would be a weird pet to have… But also kind of cool. Why can’t we have crabs?”

 

Steph’s lips curled up as she poorly held back a smirk. “They’re not very fun to have.”

 

“Why?” Alysia tilted her head too, staring up with innocent eyes. “How do you know? Have you had crabs before?”

 

Steph’s hand flew to her mouth as laughter sputtered out. She fought over her muffled laughter to speak, “No, no, no- I just-” She let the last of her laughter die out. She waved her hand in a  ‘cut it out’ motion.’ “Okay, okay, enough of that. We need to clean up the mess you guys made in my kitchen. Don’t think I’m just gonna ignore that.”

 

“Awwww,” the three girls whined.

 

“Stephie, pweeeeeasseee.” Nell grabbed Stephanie’s arms, lip jutting out as she stared up at her with big, owly eyes.

 

“Nope,” Steph denied sternly. “You aren’t getting out of it this time.”

 

“But we got out of it laaaast time,” Nell complained, slowly slipping downwards.

 

“And the time before that,” Alysia added.

 

“And before that,” Alina chimed in.

 

“Yes, you have.” Stephanie crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “You’re just proving my point that you’ve trashed my apartment a bunch of times and then left me to clean up the mess, you little gremlins.” She reached out and ruffled Nell’s frizzy hair. Nell smiled even as she ducked her head away and swatted at Steph’s offending hand.

 

“Maybe this can be the last time we don’t have to clean up?” Alysia asked timidly, putting on her puppy dog eyes to the max. For a moment, Stephanie wavered, before she steeled her features. She placed her hands on her hips and glared at them, then pointed towards her kitchen.

 

“Alina, go get yourself a rag and clean up all the milk you spilled. Nell, go get yourself a paper towel and clean the flour you spilled. Alysia, go put away all the tools and bowls you guys got out.” At their further pouts, Steph added a stern, “ Now . Or I’m banning you from trying to make waffles forever.”

 

“No!” They all scrambled to do their designated tasks.

 

Steph watched the kids fall into their places, quickly teasing each other and making a game out of cleaning the kitchen. A fond smile curled her lips before she moved to clean up the cards left behind for FunEmployed .

 

Meanwhile, Alina’s mind began to drift even as she pushed milk into the pile of flour Nell had made. It had been drifting all day, every day for the past week or so. It was back to like when she had first joined the Wayne family, when her mind kept drifting to her mom and the Joker, and she tossed and turned every night.

 

After her birthday, she had been a mix of emotions. Playing with her friends, siblings and cousins had been awesome, especially since it was a sleepover and sleepovers were always the best. But her mind kept wandering back to the argument her grandparents, aunt, older cousins, dad and older brother had. She didn’t see her grandparents or dad until the very end of that day, when her mom’s side of the family had to leave, just after her aunt had her open her presents. Bruce, Tim, Jennifer and Jack acted civilly when she next saw them, just a little strained or distracted. Aunt Molly had been ticked off like she often got, but managed a smile when Alina opened her presents, and even gave her a hug before she left. Her grandparents… were angry, but they kept to themselves and barely spoke except in snide, whispered comments to each other or to Molly. They didn’t give her any goodbyes.

 

Alina wanted to know what had happened. She was antsy, worried that something bad had happened. That her… that her grandparents had said something about her, like they always did, and that her… dad wouldn’t want her anymore.

 

She was on edge, listening to any seemingly normal conversations, after that. Waiting for something, looking for a sign that her grandparents had told her dad about what a disrespectful, immature, oblivious, stupid and mistake of a child she was, about all her mistakes and her flaws. How she should have never existed, or that she could never do what she was supposed to.

 

It never came.

 

Instead, one night, while she was purposely pretending to sleep in the BatCave to overhear anything and actually falling half-asleep anyway, she finally heard a mention of her grandparents.

 

“Whatcha looking at, Timbo?” She had heard Carrie’s voice cheerfully drift across the Cave as she pranced over to Tim, sat at the Batcomputer and typing away. Carrie was supposed to be asleep, but like every other Bat, she rarely did what she was supposed to. 

 

Alina thought maybe she did fit into this family then- never doing what she was supposed to do.

 

But, then, Alina never understood what she was supposed to do. She DID the dishes, like they asked, so why had they still yelled at her and called her a failure and a mistake?

 

“Researching a recent development,” Tim had responded. Carrie had lowly hummed in acknowledgement. Although Alina couldn’t see her, curled up between Ace and Alfred the Cat with Red Robin’s cape draped over her, she knew Carrie was leaning against the back of Tim’s chair.

 

“Hey, wait- isn’t that Alina’s grandpa?”

 

Alina hadn’t been focused on anything before, but at those words, Alina had snapped to attention, blinking off her sleep best she could. Her sudden move into awakeness had stirred Ace, until Alina placed a hand on his shoulder to keep him from moving more. She hadn’t wanted Tim or Carrie to stop talking when they realized she was awake and listening.

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Why are you researching him? Didn’t you guys already research ‘lina’s whole family?”

 

“”Cause he knows.”

 

“...Knows what?”

 

“That Alina isn’t biologically Bruce’s daughter.”

 

“Wait what- she isn’t?!”

 

She heard Tim stifle a chuckle. “No- did nobody ever tell you?”

 

“No! Wait, Damian’s still Bruce’s bio-kid, right? Helena too? The Wayne one.”

 

“Yes. They are.”

 

“Okay, okay. Good.” Carrie had sighed in relief. “Thought maybe everything I’d ever been told was a lie… Wait, so how does this connect to her grandpa?”

 

“Well, at Alina’s birthday party, her grandpa- Adam Shelley- he accidentally let it slip that he knew Alina wasn’t Bruce’s. Rudely, too. When B and I confronted him on it, he and his wife, Penelope both back-tracked. Claimed it was because Bruce couldn’t be a father to Alina because he had so many other kids to keep track of already.”

 

“I mean… I can understand that- if they thought Bruce would neglect her, whether on purpose or not. Heck, my parents only got one kid, and they can’t even give me the time of day. I don’t know how B manages to do it with a thousand of ‘em… But I’m grateful.”

 

“Yeah.” There was a moment of silence before Tim continued. “We didn’t get to press the issue too much- they refused to listen to any reason anyway, just excuse after excuse as to why they should have custody over Alina- because they insulted their own daughter, Mariah, Alina’s mom, and that pissed off their other daughter, Molly Kade.”

 

“Oh damn. This is sounding like a whole mess.”

 

“It is,” Tim agreed. “Mrs. Kade and I left when Clay came to get his mom- and those other two, Jennifer and Jack, they looked so awkward and confused. Bruce says he didn’t get anything useful out of the Shelleys except that apparently they used to live with Mariah instead of Molly like they do now. The reason the two stopped living with Mariah is apparently because she ‘wasn’t useful anymore.’”

 

“Huh.” Carrie had silently pondered for a moment. “Like, she couldn’t support those two leeches anymore?”

 

“Maybe. Or maybe something deeper. They’re definitely controllers, abusers and manipulators. Adam Shelley used to be an alcoholic, and they had a son who died from drug overdose, so there’s a possibility they abused drugs too. I thought perhaps they wanted to use Alina as a bargaining chip if Mariah ever woke up from her coma to have Mariah pay for their shit. Or, worse, they just wanted to straight up abuse Alina. But then I stumbled across a small little tidbit of information, tucked away when it should have been the first thing on his file.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Look.” Alina assumed Tim pointed at something. “Mr. Shelley’s been to jail before, but this was the first time he went in for a long time. He got outed as a Joker henchman, and apparently a pretty good one if he hadn’t been killed or found out as one by this time. They only found out because Batman trashed a weapons bust, and it was during the period where he… had no Robin- after Jason’s death- and he broke Shelley’s leg, before he could escape.

 

“He got out during a jailbust done by other Joker henchmen,” Tim continued. “Then he and Penelope vanished up until Alina was about a year old. They suddenly stopped all involvement with… anything, really. No Joker. No gangs. Apparently, they rarely left the house.”

 

“They didn’t stop being dicks, though.”

 

“No. There was one case where a neighbor, back when Mariah lived in Crime Alley, said they heard domestic abuse, but it was Crime Alley, so the police didn’t care. Said it could have been any violence anywhere. A few months after that, Mariah moved out of Crime Alley, and her parents moved in with Molly instead.”

 

“What else?”

 

“That’s it. The Shelleys lived with the Kades, and Mariah and Alina stayed in Gotham, then the Joker attacked Mariah and kidnapped Alina, and now we’re here.”

 

Alina had felt her heartbeat race in the moment. Ace had whined softly and turned his head to look at her, but she stayed as still as possible.

 

After a few agonizing minutes of silence, Carrie asked, quietly, “Do you think her grandparents had something to do with Joker choosing to attack Mariah and Alina?”

 

“Maybe. It… It had always seemed so weird. Mariah claimed Alina was Bruce’s daughter, and she seemed to thoroughly believe it, but the Joker… He kidnapped Alina to gain ransom to get a diamond by the name of the Blue Cat. But it… it’s weirdly coincidental that she was the Joker’s biological daughter. Did Joker even know that? He hasn’t shown any obvious signs that he does.” She heard Tim sigh heavily, and imagined him running his hand through his hair. “Of course, it could really just all be coincidence. It’s not impossible that Joker has children just running about- there’s victims he’s raped and killed before, and reports of people he’s raped. Harley and her kid, Lucy, is proof enough of his emotional and sexual abuse, too.”

 

Carrie was silent and Alina was almost afraid they’d heard Alina’s heavy and jumpy breathing. “Does… Does Mariah have any known contact with the Joker aside from him running her over with his car?”

 

“Well, obviously, they had to have met ten years ago to have conceived Alina. But did Mariah know she was meeting the Joker? Or… was it even consensual?”

 

“This is… a mystery I never even thought to think about.” There had been the sound of shuffling. “And the person we could ask and get the answers to it is in a coma for who knows how long.”

 

After that, their conversation had died out, and Tim had forced Carrie to go to bed, along with taking Alina back up stairs and putting her in her bed. Alina was grateful Tim had asked Carrie to. No offense to Carrie, but Carrie wasn’t as trained as the others- not yet- to have noticed Alina was faking being asleep.

 

Alina squeezed the last bit of milk out of the rag and into the sink while Nell and Alysia argued jovially about something behind her. Alina rubbed at her eyes. They felt heavy and tired from a long day of playing with her friends and hanging out with her sorta-sister, but her mind was anything but tired, buzzing with activity and frantic thoughts.

 

“Nell!” Alysia shrieked as the other girl flung her pile of wet paper towels at her. Nell giggled as Alysia chucked the wet paper mess onto the ground.

 

“Okay, okay,” Steph interrupted. “You can’t clean up a mess and then immediately make another. Nell, pick that up.”

 

“Awwwwwooaaaaahw,” Nell started in a whine but it transitioned into a yawn. She pulled at her eyelid and cheeks to keep herself awake as she leaned down to pick up the wet paper with her other hand. Alysia yawned too, and Alina found herself doing so as well, especially since she had only gotten maybe three hours of sleep since that night two days ago in the BatCave.

 

“And I think that means you all need to get some sleep,” Steph commented as she took the wet paper towels and tossed them in the trash can for Nell.

 

“Nooooo,” Nell whined. “‘Mmmm not tiredddddd!”

 

“I am,” Alysia mumbled. “Can we go to sleep, Stephie?”

 

“No!” Nell complained. “We’ve got the whoooole night! We havvvvve to stay awake. Maybe a Batgirl will visit us!”

 

Alina’s eyes flickered to Stephanie, who had an amused and knowing smirk on her face. If only Nell knew she was sleeping over in a Batgirl’s house.

 

“Can we watch a movie?” Alina asked quietly. She was tired too, but she didn’t think she’d be able to fall asleep.

 

“Ooo, good idea, little sis. How about a movie, Nell? Do you wanna watch Incredibles 2?”

 

Nell pouted, kicking her toes against the tile floors before her body relaxed and she relented, speaking around a yawn, “Okay. With popcorn?”

 

“With popcorn,” Steph agreed. Nell cheered, pumping her fist into the air. She darted past Alysia into the living room and dived onto the couch. Alysia scrambled after her and Alina slowly followed.

 

It didn’t take long for Stephanie to put the movie on, get them some popcorn, blankets and pillows. It took even less time for Nell to conk out immediately, much to the others’ amusement. She was sprawled out, hogging up much more of the couch than she needed to and forcing Steph to be squished between Alina and Alysia. Her legs were also draped over Alysia, who had slowly taken to leaning against Steph. Steph had wrapped her arm around Alysia, and Alina was content to curl up in the corner of the couch.

 

Alysia managed to make it to the end of the movie before she easily gave in to sleep. As the credits rolled and Alina grabbed the remote for Steph, the little girl snuggled up against Steph’s side. She curled her blanket around her more, much to the annoyance of an asleep Nell’s cold feet. Stephanie smiled down at Alysia, and whispered to the two girls awake still, “You guys ready for sleep now?”

 

Alysia mumbled something incoherently before she let out a final yawn. Then, she said, “G’night, mom.”

 

Alina watched as Steph’s face flickered to one of brief surprise, then to one of warm and amused fondness. Quietly, she joked, “Wow, I let you guys sleep over three times and suddenly I’ve become the next Bruce.”

 

Alina blinked, slowly registering the comment in her mind. She wasn’t sure how delayed her response was, but she joked back, “I think you’re more like a Dick.”

 

Steph attempted to stop a snicker, failed, let herself laugh at the accidentally implied innuendo Alina had no idea she’d said, before clearing her throat. “I suppose you’re right. Never thought I’d have to fill the older sibling-slash-parent role though.”

 

“Mmmg,” Alina agreed drowsily, eyelids drooping traitorously before she blinked them back open. “D’you… wanna be a mom?”

 

Steph cocked her head to one side thoughtfully. “Maybe one day. Not now though. Maybe in ten years. But I think I have enough little siblings right now to keep me content.” Steph smiled at Alina, and reached over with one hand to ruffle Alina’s hair. Alina smiled back up at her blearily.

 

“You’d be a guh’d mom,” Alina mumbled as her eyes flickered to Alysia’s sleeping form. “She needsa guh’d mum.”

 

Alina didn’t really see Stephanie’s expression, but she was contemplatively silent for either a short while or a long while. Alina didn’t know how much time was passing anymore, too sleep deprived to keep track.

 

“You know… I gave birth to a child once, when I was fifteen. I think she’d be Alysia’s age by now,” Steph mused softly.

 

Alina thought about her whole confusing mess of parentage- her mom, Bruce, and the Joker… Who really knew who their parents were, anyway? It didn’t matter. “M’ehbe… she iz your daughter.”

 

Stephanie chuckled. “If only, kiddo…” There was silence as Alina stared fixated and blank on one spot of the arm of the couch. “You doing alright, ‘lina?”

 

Alina shut her eyes tight. “When izz anybody.”

 

“Well, you definitely learned that from all of your depressed siblings,” Steph mumbled under her breath. Then she spoke louder towards Alina, “Lee, if you ever need to talk about something, I’m right here. All of your family is.”

 

She knew. But who even was her family? Her dad was, biologically, the Joker. Her grandparents were apparently in kahoots with him, or at least were. Fuck, for all she knew, maybe her mother was too!

 

But, no, she couldn’t think that of her mother… She knew her mom. She knew her at her highs and her lows, knew every day how much she struggled to keep them in a warm house with warm clothes. Knew how much her mother loved her…

 

She just wanted her mommy back so bad because, then, at least, things wouldn’t hurt so much, and the world wouldn’t seem so cruel.

 

“‘Mm tired,” Alina told her sorta-sister.

 

“Okay,” Stephanie whispered back. Alina felt her fingers, rough and bruised from years of vigilantism but somehow soft and tender, run over her forehead. They felt cold against Alina’s warm and aching forehead. “Go to sleep, Alina. I’ll still be here in the morning.”

 

Alina hummed. Her thoughts didn’t shut up immediately, but, eventually, she did find her head clearing and the peacefulness of sleep overtaking her.

Chapter Text

Alina wiggled in her spot on the coach. She reached a hand out to grab a baby carrot from the bowl on the side table. She munched on it, enjoying the satisfying crunch it made. She tried to focus more on it than her agonizing headache and the heat of her cheeks and forehead. The television, loudly playing She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, probably wasn’t helping her headache, but she didn’t want to sit all bored in her room.

 

She hadn’t watched the show before, so she had no clue who the characters were or what they were doing, but when she heard a sudden scream of, “BART, THE WALL!” followed by a loud bang from the other side of the living room, she knew it wasn’t She-Ra .

 

“Bart!”

 

“Why do you always do this?!”

 

“Thank God you didn’t put a hole in the wall this time.”

 

“I think I dented it.”

 

“BART!”

 

“It’s okay! We can just blame it on another speedster. Or a super!”

 

“Uh, super speaking: Do not blame it on me. I already got enough flack for crashing through Tim’s window.”

 

“Alfred knows all, Bart. He’ll know it was you.”

 

“He scares me.”

 

“We know, Bart.”

 

“I’m scared.”

 

“We know, Bart.”

 

Alina peered over the back of the coach as the voices loudly. She made amused eye contact with the person sitting silently on the other end of the couch, who had been enthralled by the cartoon on screen. Her sister, Cassandra. Cass grinned, then effortlessly flipped herself over the back of the couch. She trotted over to the door and flung it open roughly.

 

Alina heard a slam, a thud, then a yelp from Tim, which was surprisingly characteristic of him, followed by a surprised and betrayed, “Cass!”

 

“What? OH- other Cassandra! Greetings, fellow Cass,” she heard another voice say.

 

Cass grinned bigger, and offered a hand to Tim, who Alina could just make out the feet of around the door. She could see other unfamiliar faces crowded around the door- or Tim, more likely.

 

“Ah, a reunion of the Casses,” a familiar voice Alina easily identified as Steph’s mused.

 

“It’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it, Cass?” One of the unfamiliar faces, a white woman with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail and cool, small star earrings, stated.

 

Cass pulled her brother up, smiling at the blonde Cass. “Yes.”

 

“I heard you decked Timbers on patrol last week. Thank you for that, he was being an asshat,” blonde Cass said, shoving Tim playfully in the shoulder.

 

Cool Cass smiled. “No problem. Always fun.”

 

Tim grumbled something Alina couldn’t catch, except for the tailends of, “And now with the door.”

 

Blonde Cass sighed fondly. “Ah, sibling roughhousing. Gotta love it.”

 

“I’ve noticed it seems much more rougher in superhero families,” one of the other unfamiliar faces, a friendly-looking brown-skinned guy with short black hair and brown eyes, noted, eying his friends around him warily. “I’m glad Milagro and I have stayed normal, sibling roughhousing wise.”

 

“Ooo, just you wait,” blonde Cass warned with a smirk. “Once she realizes she can use her powers to torture you, that’ll all change.”

 

“Only a matter of time,” Cool Cass ominously chimed in.

 

“Alright, Casso Lasso and Cass-assin,” Steph chuckled. “Tone it back a bit. Let’s keep the traumatizing siblings to our fams. He’s got a good thing goin’.”

 

“For now,” blonde Cass continued in her foreboding comments.

 

“Hey,” another blonde white girl with blue eyes interrupted. “Not to stop the ominous warnings of Jaime’s sister turning against him, but, should we talk about this when there’s, uhm, some little child watching us?”

 

“What?” Multiple of them echoed each other, while Cool Cass grinned and pointed towards Alina, who was leaning over the back of the couch and watching them interestedly. She smiled and waved timidly.

 

“Oh. Hey, Alina,” Tim greeted with a lazy wave back while Steph lit up beside him.

 

“‘lina!” Steph dove past Cool Cass and bolted towards the coach. Showcasing that she really was a part of the Batfamily, she flipped over the coach dramatically and landed perfectly beside Alina. Alina giggled as the couch bounced.

 

“It’s fine to joke about superhero stuff,” Tim explained to his friends as they all corralled into the living room. “She knows.”

 

Alina swore “She knows” had become one of the most said things in reference to her. It was honestly starting to sound silly. Yeah, she knew. What did she know? Who knows. Not her. Or does she?

 

“Oh,” the non-Cass blonde lady said. “Wait, is she that one new sister? I thought that was, like, a joke. You don’t seriously have a new sister?”

 

“He does!” The black-haired, white-skinned guy who looked familiar but Alina couldn’t place why, cheered. “Batman’s collecting ‘em all.”

 

“At first I thought it was funny that Batman had a lot of kids,” the blonde girl started. “But now I’m genuinely just concerned.”

 

“Good. You should be.”

 

There was a sudden red, white, and cream blur in front of Alina that made her jerk backwards, startled.

 

“Hey!” A chirpy voice greeted. “So you’re Alina Wayne right? Not many pictures of you out in public, but Tim sent a SnapChat of you cuddling with Damian and his pets- you’ve got him wrapped around your finger, huh? Mind if I ask a favor?” Alina blinked at the rapidfire talk.

 

“Uhm,” Alina stuttered. “Sure?”

 

“Timberine’s SnapChat stories have been boring recently. So how ‘bout you start some chaos and get them to start a prank war?” The ginger-haired guy grinned mischievously, leaning forward conspiratorially.

 

Steph gasped loudly, “YES!”

 

“I am right here . Alina, do not do that,” Tim told her sternly, with an exasperated look at his friends as he rounded around the couch.

 

“Alina, do that immediately,” Steph, like the devil on her shoulder, ordered her. “It’s been boring around here lately. We need some mischief.”

 

“No,” Tim argued. “We do not.”

 

“Do!” Steph grinned. “‘lina, you agree, right?”

 

“No,” Tim reprimanded. “Bruce banned her from participating in arguments because you know she always agrees with the side of chaos. We’ve had too many incidents that happened just because she was the tiebreaker.”

 

“When have we ever listened to B?”

 

Tim opened his mouth, then paused, eyes flickering. “...Fair point.”

 

“So, we’re agreeing on a prank war?”

 

“What- no!”

 

“Oh, c’moooon! Even if you don’t agree, I’m gonna start one anyway, and then you won’t be on me and Alina’s team.”

 

Tim, again, wavered. “Alina hasn’t even said anything, how do you know she’s on your team?”

 

Steph turned to Alina eagerly. “Alina? Whose team are you on?”

 

Alina tilted her head thoughtfully. Then, she smiled, and moved to grab her big sister’s arm. “Cass!”

 

Cass, who had sat down on the other side of Alina during the argument, grinned wide and then stuck her tongue out at her brother and sorta-sister. Tim and Steph gasped in betrayal, Steph’s hand flying to cover her heart.

 

“This is the family bonding you're missing out on,” the unnamed blonde girl whispered to the one guy with a sister named Milagro.

 

“I’m good with the prank wars you guys do to me,” he whispered back.

 

Alina blinked as she studied Tim’s friends curiously. Were they superheroes? If Damian’s friends were, they probably were, right? “Who are you guys?”

 

The sorta-familiar black-haired guy frowned, mock-hurt lining his features. “You don’t remember me?”

 

Alina squinted at him. He was black-haired, blue-eyed and white-skinned- he wasn’t another one of her sorta-siblings, was he? No, she didn’t think so. She was pretty sure she hadn’t met any new sorta-siblings in awhile. Thank Batman. “Nope.”

 

The guy pouted, but answered, “I’m Kon, or Conner.”

 

Alina stared blankly at him.

 

“Kent.”

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked, perking up. “Jon’s brother?” Maybe she did vaguely remember him. And, to be fair, she did recognize the name Kon, as the one either referred to as Tim’s best friend or boyfriend, or maybe those were interchangeable, like how they always say to marry your best friend.

 

“Wow,” Kon faked a sniffle. He flopped down onto the beanbag that had been dragged from Duke’s room at some point. “And now I know how Damian feels when I refuse to call him anything but ‘Tim’s little brother’ or ‘Jon’s one friend.’”

 

“Oh, woe is you,” Tim sighed as he moved to plop down beside his friend.

 

“Woe is me.”

 

“WAIT! I wanted the beanbag!” The ginger-haired guy wailed in distress upon having seen the two black-haired boys take it.

 

“Woe is Bart,” the blonde Cass commented with a snicker.

 

“Go get another one then,” Tim said, snuggling up against Kon’s side, who threw an arm around him. “There should be some in Duke’s room still, although we recently redecorated.” By pulling the beanbags, cushions, blankets and various other comfy objects all around the house for spontaneous naptime, that lasted all of about a week.

 

“Oo! Get us some too!” The blonde Cass said, looping her arm around the other blonde lady’s arm, as Bart lit up, happy at the prospect of getting his own beanbag. Alina blinked and suddenly Bart’s figure was a blur again.

 

Tim yelled after him, “And don’t break anything!”

 

It clicked in Alina’s mind why Bart kept getting blurry as he ran off- he was a speedster. She glanced at Tim’s other friends. Kon would be a Kryptonian, since he was Jon’s brother and Jon was the son of Superman. What were the others?

 

“What kind of powers do you guys have?” she asked inquisitively.

 

“Are we allowed to say?” the brown-skinned guy asked, glancing at Tim.

 

Tim waved a hand dismissively. “Yeah, of course. We’ve told her everything else and she hasn’t told a soul.”

 

Alina felt Stephanie’s arms wrap around her and pull her into a hug. “And we’re very surprised because nobody in this family ever listens to the rules. She hasn’t even demanded to be the next Robin!”

 

“Wow,” the blonde Cass said, awed. “That takes some serious self-preservation and common sense. Good job, girl.” She raised her hand for a fist bump and Alina hesitantly leaned forward to give her own. Other Cass grinned at her. “I’m Cassandra Sandsmark, but you can call me Cassie! I’m an Amazonian, daughter of Zeus, and the current Wonder Girl!”

 

“So you know Wonder Woman?” Alina asked with her own awe.

 

Cassie blinked. “Uh, yeah! We all do. Wait, are you telling me you haven’t met Diana yet?!”

 

Alina shook her head. “Nuh-uh.”

 

Cassie choked, staring at Alina’s brother and sisters. “What are you guys doing? Why hasn’t she met Diana yet?! She’s been here for, like, four months, or something!”

 

“Ten months, actually,” Tim corrected. “Almost eleven.”

 

“Eleven?!” Cassie’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “What- but I swear- I remember learning about her right when she got adopted- and you’re telling me it’s been ELEVEN WHOLE MONTHS SINCE THEN?!”

 

“No,” Tim said easily, with a half-hidden smirk. “Ten whole months and three whole weeks.”

 

Cassie glared at him. “Okay, but STILL. It does not feel like it’s been eleven months since then. What have we even been doing?

 

“Time flies when your superhero vigilantes constantly saving the world from tentacle aliens with mind-wiping lasers set on destroying the entire multiverse, and idiots,” the other blonde girl joked.

 

“I know you meant that as in we save the world from idiots, but I interpreted that as we were both superhero vigilantes and idiots,” Kon pointed out.

 

“Well, are we not?” Steph smirked.

 

“True, true.”

 

The air wizzed and buzzed around them as a red and ginger-haired blur bolted back into the living room, beanbags suddenly placed on the ground. “Okay!” Bart said, coming to a screeching stop in front of them all. “I got the beanbags, and I didn’t destroy anything, but I did nearly plow straight through your cat, but it’s okay, because I vibrated my molecules at the last minute so all he felt was like a weird ghost-y feeling. The look on that cat’s face was hilarious . Also, I do not think it was your cat because it was pure white and not black and white.”

 

“Get out of the way; you’re in front of the TV!” Cassie complained. “The power of lesbians show is on.”

 

Bart zoomed out of the way, suddenly sitting on the orange beanbag. Alina blinked again, her eyes failing to track his movement. She frowned. She’d seen speedsters like the Flash running in videos, but it was a whole other thing seeing it in real life. The blurriness and sudden motion was not helping her headache.

 

“So are you Kid Flash?” Alina asked the speedster.

 

Bart grinned, big and white. “Was! Not anymore. I passed that title on over to the current Kid Flash- his name is Wallace West the Second, not to be confused with Wallace West the First, who was the first Kid Flash. My name’s Bartholomew Henry Allen- also the Second, grandson of the first Flash but in the far future, and the current Impulse!” He puffed out his chest proudly and Alina once again had to decipher his fast-spoken words.

 

“That’s cool,” she said, for a lack of not knowing what else to say. She glanced at the other blonde girl sitting half on top of Cassie on their shared beanbag. “Who are you?”

 

The blonde girl smiled at her. “Cissie King-Jones. I was Arrowette- still am, I suppose, but I’m not on the field much nowadays.”

 

“She’s a gold medal winning archer!” Cassie bragged for her. Once again, Alina was thinking about how Damian’s method of referring to people by their last names would be much more helpful- a Cass, Cassie and Cissie? How did they ever know who was who?

 

Cissie rolled her eyes but her cheeks dusted pink. “That’s old news, Cassie.”

 

“Still as impressive as ever.”

 

Alina’s gaze glided over to the last person whose name she still didn’t know as he hesitantly sat down on a beanbag beside Bart’s. Bart flung himself closer to the other guy, sprawling out across his own beanbag and the other one. The guy smiled down at him as Bart reached out his hand, grabbing it and holding it loosely as Bart made himself comfy, using the other guy’s lap as a pillow.

 

“And you?”

 

The guy looked startled at being addressed, having been distracted by Bart’s attention-seeking antics. “Oh- I’m Jaime Reyes. I’m the current Blue Beetle ‘cause of, uh, this guy.” He pointed to his back and for a moment Alina just frowned and tilted her head. Then, a big, spindly insect-like leg poked itself out of the back neck of his shirt- Alina guessed Jaime didn’t want to ruin his clothes by having the leg (bug? She assumed there was an entire bug attached to it) rip through his shirt.

 

“Woah.” Alina blinked, sitting up in interest. She knew a little bit about Blue Beetle- more than she did Arrowette whom she never heard of, and about as much as she knew about the speedster Impulse. Normally, he was in cool, dark blue and black armor that Alina had always thought was super awesome. One of her classmates had dressed up as him for Halloween a few years back. “Is the, uhm, uh, buggy-thing alive?”

 

Jaime nodded. “Yes. His name is Khaji Dha, but we’ve always just referred to him as the Scarab.” He paused a minute, tilting his head with an unfocused look. Then, he snapped back to reality, smiling at Alina. “He’s a bit of a douchebag, and the real punishment is that only I can hear him.”

 

Alina breathed out, eyes wide with metaphorical sparkles. “Wow, that’s so cool. Can you say hi to Ka- Kagee- the Scarab for me?”

 

“He can hear you,” Jaime told her. “But yes.” He paused a moment again, then furrowed his brows before mumbling something harshly under his breath that Bart giggled at. Jaime snapped back into focus, looking at Alina. “He says hi. But rudely.”

 

Alina nodded. “Like Damian.”

 

The young adults around her broke out into laughter. Steph ruffled her hair while Cass beamed at her. Alina raised her head as warmth and pride rushed through her. Getting her siblings, and their friends, to laugh was always the best. Laughter is the best medicine, and all!

 

Don’t think about Joker.

 

“The Scarab-” Jaime chuckled, lifting a hand to his mouth. “The Scarab did not like that comparison.”

 

Alina ducked her head to hide her smug smile as she apologized, “Oh. Sorry, Mister Scarab.”

 

Jaime paused again while the others’ laughter died out. Then, Jaime blinked in surprise. “...He actually accepted the apology. Begrudgingly. But he accepted it.”

 

Bart gasped. “And it still hasn’t accepted any of my apologies! What in the speed force!”

 

“To be fair, you didn’t mean any of your apologies,” Jaime reminded him with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Well, I’m not gonna be sorry for kissing you!” Bart stated proudly, lifting up their linked hands. Jaime blushed darkly and turned his gaze away.

 

“He’s not as mad about that anymore, but he’s still mad at you for insinuating you’d eat him in a soup,” Jaime muttered. Bart grinned cockily.

 

“Wait a minute,” Steph said, glancing around at everyone, narrowing her eyes at each pair curled up on beanbags. Her eyes flickered to She-Ra still playing on the TV, then she, too, gasped. “ARE WE ALL GAY COUPLES?!”

 

Some startled at her outburst, some smirked. Tim answered, “Yeah… Except for you- you’re single, Steph.”

 

Steph gasped again, this time offended as she placed her hand over her heart. “Excuse moi, Cass is single too!” She pointed at Alina’s sister, sat on the other side of Alina. Cass smiled while Steph pouted. “And we COULD have been a gay couple! Dammit, Cass, why’d we have to call each other sisters- we’re missing out on so much potential gayness here!”

 

Cass shrugged. “Easier. Everyone else’s a sibling.”

 

Steph groaned, leaning back against the couch. “Yeah, true, Casserole. Guess that’s how I ended up calling my ex my brother, huh?”

 

Jaime was shaking his head. “Your family is so weird.”

 

“I blame everything on Batman,” Kon said.

 

Tim nodded. “We always blame everything on Batman.”

 

“Yeah, maybe if he hadn’t adopted so many kids, this wouldn’t’ve happened,” Cassie added.

 

“I don’t even know who I’m related to,” Alina mumbled, which was the wrong thing to say, because she was referring to legally related, but now she was thinking about the Joker being her biological father again, and also her grandparents being assholes.

 

“Ugh,” Steph said. “True that, sister.”

 

“Wait, is Alina legally your sister?” Cissie asked, squinting her eyes suspiciously. “You weren’t secretly adopted by Bruce recently, right?”

 

“Nope, not legally,” Steph sighed. “But that just proves my point. I’ve been brainwashed into thinking of Alina as my little sister, Damian as my little brother… I mean, of course they are, but like, not legally.”

 

“The tabloids still think you’re legally adopted by Bruce, though,” Tim mentioned.

 

“At this point, I should just ask to be legally adopted,” Steph murmured.

 

“Maybe I should ask,” Cissie mused. “I mean, I love my mom and all, but I imagine the allowance would be great .”

 

“Dude, just ask B to give you money,” Cassie said. “I did that once- I don’t know if he didn’t realize I wasn’t his kid, or he just didn’t care, but I got two hundred dollars from him.”

 

“I didn’t even get an allowance at first,” Stephanie complained, folding her arms. “I had to fight tooth and nail for one, even after I basically died.”

 

Alina glanced between her siblings and their friends. “What’s an allowance?” she asked.

 

“When your parent gives you a certain amount of money like every week,” Tim explained.

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked. “So like when Bruce gives me a hundred dollars?”

 

“YOU GET A HUNDRED DOLLARS?! A WEEK? Cissie shrieked, jaw dropping in surprise. “YOU’RE TEN- WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH A HUNDRED DOLLARS?”

 

Alina smiled. “I go to the mall with my friends! But one of my siblings has to cha-pa-rone us. Like Cass!” Alina lunged at Cass, hooking her arms around her big sister in a hug.

 

Cissie glared fauxly at her. “You’re lucky that’s such a cute response. Now…” Cissie smiled sweetly. “Would you mind letting me chaperone one of those mall trips?”

 

Cass hugged Alina tighter, more possessively, while Steph glared back at Cissie. “Nuh-uh, she’s ours .”

 

Alina giggled at her sisters’ antics.

Chapter Text

“Aunt Diana, Aunt Diana, tell me again about how you kicked my dad’s butt!” Alina chattered on as she stared starry-eyed and amazed at the Amazonian warrior currently casually bench-pressing in the Manor’s (normal) work-out room (that Alina also did not previously know existed). After last week when Tim’s friends had come over, her siblings’ had promised they’d get Wonder Woman to see her, as, apparently- which Alina could not fathom even though Batman was her dad and she’d met Superman himself- Wonder Woman had expressed interest in meeting her but been unable to. Luckily, her busy schedule as one of the Trinity, an Amazonian princess, ambassador and diplomat, had a lull in it that week, and Diana had dropped by for one of Alfred’s famous dinners which she said she hadn’t had in so long.

 

While it had taken her a bit to get used to calling Superman Uncle Clark, and even Batwoman Aunt Kate, she immediately took to calling Wonder Woman Aunt Diana. After all, who wouldn’t want to claim the amazing Amazonian as their aunt?

 

“Which time?” Diana asked with a smug curl to her lip.

 

“You are having too much fun with this,” Alina’s father mused as he leaned against the entrance, watching Alina and Diana with a fond smile.

 

Did Alina mention she was sat criss-cross applesauce on top of the really heavy bar that Diana was bench-pressing? Because she was. And it was awesome.

 

To be fair, all of her siblings- even Damian- could lift her with ease, but it was still super awesome to have Wonder Woman do it.

 

Alina giggled, “ All the times.”

 

“The time where I socked him in the jaw is definitely a favorite,” Diana answered as she pushed the bar and Alina upwards with ease.

 

Which time?” Bruce mimicked Diana’s amused tone and words.

 

Diana’s eyes flickered to him with a smile as she answered, “All the times.”

 

Alina broke out into a fit of laughter, curling into her stomach. Diana lifted her up once more before surging upwards. Alina squeaked as she slipped off the bar, but Diana easily caught her while simultaneously putting the bar back in its holder.

 

“I think that’s enough for today, little one,” Diana said as she placed Alina down to the ground.

 

“Awww,” Alina pouted, grabbing Diana’s shirt (it was weird to see Wonder Woman in casual clothing) and tugging. “Pleeeease?”

 

“It’s nearing your bedtime, Alina, and unfortunately I cannot stay the night,” Diana told her firmly.

 

“But Damian doesn’t have to go to sleep yet and he has school tomorrow too!” Alina didn’t often pull that card- the one where she complained that her siblings didn’t have to go to sleep as early as she did- because she knew they were vigilantes and superheroes who patrolled the night, but when she knew one of her siblings’ didn’t have patrol that night and got to stay up later than her, she didn’t hesitate to use it.

 

“He’s older, Alina,” her dad reminded her. “And forgot -” the way her father said it told Alina Damian absolutely did not ‘forget,’ “-to do his homework, so now he has to finish it anyway.” Ah. Well that explained why he wasn’t on patrol and also in a more poutier mood than Alina.

 

Alina thought for a moment, puffing out her cheeks as she softly hit her head against Diana’s stomach. The woman chuckled lightly and ran her fingers through Alina’s hair. Alina reluctantly relented, “Okay. Can I go help-” read; bother, “-Damian until he gets his homework done at least?”

 

“I suppose so,” Bruce, too, relented. “Just don’t stay up past nine again.” As her trips to the BatCave became more frequent, so too did the amount of times she stayed up way past her bedtime.

 

“Yay!” Alina cheered, pumping her fist in the air as she grinned. Bruce reached over to ruffle her hair as she bolted past him, exiting the room. She waited a moment as her father and Diana trailed after her. The two easily slipped into a quiet conversation, smiling, Diana with a big, warm smile and Bruce with his typical small, quirked lip one.

 

Not for the first time, Alina was struck with a moment of, ‘That’s Batman and Wonder Woman! In front of me. Talking to each other. Talking to me . Batman’s my dad. Wonder Woman’s my aunt!’

 

The perplexed but awed excitement left her with a buzz as she hopped down the hallways of the Manor- ‘Wayne Manor! Bruce Wayne’s house!’- towards Damian’s room, assuming he was there. Bruce and Diana followed behind her, so she was pretty sure they were heading towards Bruce’s office or his room and not the BatCave, the living rooms, or the kitchens.

 

“One of the new kids’ powers malfunctioned in the secondary training room yesterday,” Diana was informing Bruce. “Managed to fry that area of the Watchtower’s electricity. Back-up powers on, of course, but we need new wiring.”

 

Alina jerked to a stop, turning curiously back to the conversation. Watchtower? The Justice League’s once super secret base in space that was no longer super secret but still sorta-secret in the fact that it was super protected and basically impossible to get to?

 

Bruce grunted. “Along with the damages from that speedster food fight last week? We’ve really lost our stern touch.”

 

Alina jumped in front of her dad, gripping at his sides and staring up with wide, starry eyes. “Can I go to the Watchtower?”

 

Her father blinked, before his face struggled between a frown and a smile (his face did that a lot when it came to his kids’ antics). “No, Alina. It’s not like the BatCave.”

 

At Alina’s pout, Diana came to her defence, joking, “Every day is bring your kid to work day, Bruce, so why not? No safer place to be.”

 

“I can think of many safer places to be. Like right here.”

 

“Itsa fortress in space full of superheroes!” Alina said, aghast. “How is it not the most safest place ever!”

 

“Maybe if half the superheroes weren’t getting into food fights that put multiple holes in the walls,” Bruce argued.

 

Alina plopped her weight against him, staring up with the biggest puppy eyes she could manage. “Daaaaaad,” she whined, knowing that was his weak spot. “Pleeeeeeaase?”

 

She watched her father’s face twitch and struggle to stay stern. Alina felt her lips curl into a smirk while his face eventually gave way to a soft smile accompanied by loving eyes.

 

“Fine.”

Chapter Text

“Well, if it isn’t the Bat’s newest kid.”

 

Alina blinked as she turned away from staring at the holes in the wall. When her dad had complained about the holes in the walls of the Watchtower, she hadn’t realized just how… holey it was. The walls of the Watchtower’s cafeteria had been ruined by steak flying as fast as a bullet and stained by the juice of watermelons thrown at their both suspecting and unsuspecting victims. There were still uncooked noodles poking out of the wall too.

 

The rough voice belonged to a tousled brown-haired, brown-eyed, slightly tanned man dressed in a familiar green and black suit. His arms were crossed and he was smirking- smiling?- down at her.

 

Alina perked up. “You’re a Green Lantern.”

 

“Keen eye,” he commented with amusement. “I’m the Green Lantern- Hal Jordan.” He extended his hand.

 

Alina reached her own hand out, shaking his. She wished her classmate who was obsessed with Green Lanterns was here- she didn’t know anything about Green Lanterns except they were like space police dressed in neon green. “Uhm, Alina Shelley.”

 

“You got another name?”

 

“Uh.” Alina tilted her head. “Wayne?”

 

Hal chuckled, grinning. “I meant are ya a Robin or a Batgirl or whatever bird or bat name there is?”

 

She shook her head. “Nope.”

 

“Wow. Think you’re the first kid Bat’s brought up here that didn’t run around in bright tights and domino masks.”

 

“Cullen,” she said.

 

“What?”

 

“Cullen Row. Uhm, he’s Harper- err, Bluebird, I think’s brother,” Alina explained. “He doesn’t have a superhero self.”

 

“Yeah, none of those names are ringin’ a bell for me,” Hal said. “I lost track after the fourth Robin, ‘n I was gone by the fifth. I don’t know where Batsy keeps findin’ you kids.”

 

“Gotham’s full of us,” Alina answered with a timid grin.

 

“Guess so.”

 

There was a red blur in the cafeteria that Alina quickly recognized as the sign of a speedster. The red blur darted into the kitchen part of the cafeteria then stopped beside Hal. “Hey Hal! Heyyyyy- I’m gonna take a guess and say you’re one of Batman’s?”

 

“I’m actually an alien from the future of an alternate universe,” Alina answered casually.

 

The speedster who Alina quickly realized was the Flash, even if his cowl was down to reveal his messy blonde hair and happy blue eyes, raised an eyebrow, “Okay, but did Batman adopt you?”

 

Alina thought for a second before nodding. Her sister-in-law and niece were aliens and someone else was probably also secretly or not-secretly an alien in her family too. Plus, one of the Helenas was from an alternate universe and Alina met those two guys from a future once, so it wouldn’t be that shocking if Batman adopted an alien from an alternative future.

 

“Knew it.” Flash grinned. “My next guess woulda been Ollie since Dinah just took in that one little girl, although you being an alien woulda tilted me towards Supes or J’onn.”

 

Hal squinted his eyes judgmentally at the Flash. “You know she’s not actually an alien, right?”

 

“How do you know that though?” Flash challenged, crossing his arms and quirking his brow.

 

Hal opened his mouth, paused, looked indecisive, but then hesitantly went on, “I was gonna say Bat’s brood didn’t have aliens or metas, but Dickie’s daughter’s part alien, ain’t she? And there was something about B adopting a meta kid?”

 

Flash grinned. “Oh boy, you’ve missed a lot in the years you were gone. All of Bruce’s new kiddos have been somethin’. You weren’t even here for Damian, were you? Man, that kid- nearly decapitated me, probably still wants to.”

 

“Yeah, I met him, ‘long with a sword to the face,” Hal replied sourly.

 

“You shoulda been here for Duke- his field name’s Signal. He’s the kid that got the whole ‘no metas allowed in Gotham’ changed to ‘son meta allowed in Gotham.’ It was a whole meme, even though, apparently, he wasn’t technically the first Bat meta. That goes to some girl named Misfit- I don’t know her real name. But Duke’s a great kid, you need to meet him sometime.”

 

Hal snorted. “I heard some jokes about the whole son meta thing when I came back, even if I had no idea who they were about.”

 

“There’s been more metas in Gotham now,” Flash continued. “I dunno who, exactly, but I think there was a pair of meta kids who went by Gotham Girl and Guy. Wasn’t there?” Flash glanced at Alina for confirmation.

 

She shrugged. She didn’t really know. But she thought Carrie had mentioned something about Gotham Girl… “I think Claire, uhm, uh-” What was her last name? It was like her Minecraft username- FourleafClover2 . “Clover, is Gotham Girl. I dunno any Gotham Guy though.”

 

Flash hummed. “Yeah, I don’t know much about them. They’ve never come to the Watchtower, or I woulda made sure to meet them.” He smiled. “And then there’s a new Batgirl. Steph’s back as Spoiler; the new girl’s Carrie. She’s just as spunky though. I don’t think she’s a meta, but I’ll keep my eye on her.”

 

“Yeah, there’s no way I’m gonna remember who’s who,” Hal deadpanned while softly shaking his head. “I’m sure Batsy’s been told plenty a’ times that he has an adoption problem.”

 

“I’m beginning to question if he has a problem, or if kids just keep flocking to him and refuse to leave.” Flash grinned. “It’s kinda happened to all of us, hasn’t it?”

 

“Hey, I’ve been kid-free,” Hal defended himself.

 

“Milagro?” Flash raised an eyebrow.

 

“I’ve got no part in that- I’ve met her like once.”

 

Alina listened to them talk with a small smile that showed only a fraction of her buzzing excitement of, ‘I’m talking to a Green Lantern! AND the Flash!’

 

The soft but multiple clacking of shoes against the tile floor alerted her to more people entering the cafeteria. She glanced at one of the two entrances, lighting up when she recognized the familiar black and gray of her father’s suit. Beside him walked two others, the man dressed in green- a different shade from a Green Lantern’s- and with a blonde beard while the woman had cool black leather clothing, beautiful blue eyes and long, flowing blond hair.

 

“Daddy!” Alina yelled, darting over to greet him in a hug. He had only left her for about an hour, but on a giant space fortress with simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar faces, it was far too long.

 

Batman returned her hug, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing her. He lifted her up and she eagerly crawled onto his shoulders. She maneuvered herself until she was sitting piggyback style on her father’s shoulders, legs dangling by either side of his neck. The other superheroes, to their credit, seemed unaffected, just mildly amused- a kid on Batman’s shoulders was probably a more common sight than not nowadays. Alina smiled as she rested her head in the space between his cowl’s spikes, feeling weirdly smug that she was able to piggyback on the Batman’s shoulders.

 

“Hey Spooky,” Hal greeted Batman with a grin.

 

“More like jungle gym,” Flash commented before his eyes flickered to the other two. “Hey Ol, hey Dinah.”

 

‘Ol’- who Alina was, like, 50% sure was the Green Arrow- grinned and waved at the two others while Dinah- who looked familiar but Alina wasn’t sure who she was- smiled at them then up at Alina. Alina smiled back shyly, trying to hide behind the spikes of the cowl.

 

Speaking of jungle gyms,” her father said Batmanly, which meant it was in that deep, growly, stern voice. “I can’t help but notice that there are still holes in the walls, Barry.”

 

Flash- or Barry, Alina guessed- grinned sheepishly. “I didn’t have anything to do with the foodfight!”

 

“And you haven’t gotten your kids to clean up their mess?”

 

“Can you get yours too?”

 

Batman narrowed his eyes while Barry smirked, so Alina helpfully piped up, “I clean my room.”

 

The superheroes laughed and chuckled, with Ol saying, “At least you’ve got one good kid.”

 

Tim hasn’t cleaned his room,” Alina tattled. People often said his room was the worst, but Alina disagreed. The Least Clean Room award hopped between her siblings frequently, the sad truth being that the holder of the title was most often whoever was the most depressed at the time. Although the cups of coffee and energy drinks that were left in Tim’s room regardless of his mood probably earned him the title more often than not.

 

Batman hummed contemplatively, most likely thinking along the same lines as Alina. “I’ll talk to him.” He narrowed his eyes again at Barry.

 

Barry raised his hands up placatingly. “Don’t worry, the Twins will be by later after school to fill in the holes. I tried to wrangle Wally and his kids but Wally used chaperoning a Teen Titans mission as an excuse, Bart said he had a date with Jaime, Lace has an afterschool club, and Jesse claimed innocence.”

 

“The Tornado Twins,” Batman drawled unenthusiastically. “The pair with tornado in their name are going to clean this up? Just them?”

 

“...Yes?”

 

“To be fair,” the lady named Dinah cut in. “Any speedster is a bad choice to have clean up anything.”

 

“Very true. We can all attest to that from experience,” Hal added with a smirk.

 

“Excuse you!” Barry’s shoulders rose half-defensively, half-jokingly. “I’ll have you know it’s actually the opposite- we clean so fast, it’s like it never even happened.”

 

“Then why are there still holes in the walls?” Batman snarked.

 

“And why is there still a stain on the ceiling of my house after I let your kids come to a charity gala?” Ol- who Alina would later learns full name was Oliver Queen- added.

 

As Barry rushed to defend himself from Alina’s dad, Hal and Oliver, Alina wiggled in her spot on Batman’s shoulders. Much like a speedster, she was feeling restless. Batman absentmindedly raised a hand up towards her as he continued accusing the Flash. She grabbed it and used it to help lift herself up. She swung one leg over to his other shoulder, then slid off his shoulder like it was a slide. Right as she was about to hit the floor, Dinah caught her and gently placed her down.

 

Alina smiled up at her. “Thank you. You’re very pretty.”

 

Dinah blinked at the unprompted compliment before smiling. She ran her hand through Alina’s hair. “Thank you. I’m Dinah Lance, but you’ll know me better as the Black Canary.”

 

Alina gasped. “The screaming lady! My friend loves you.” Not as much as Nell loved the Batgirls, but Alysia had her own favorites, Black Canary being one of them.

 

Dinah’s lips curled upwards. “Glad I’m still popular. How have you been? Everything okay with your new family? I’m sure it’s been a big adjustment.”

 

Alina nodded. “It’s very chaotic, but I love my family!”

 

“I adopted a little girl recently, so she’s new to my family too, although she has a lot less family members to meet,” Dinah mused softly.

 

“Which, uhm, which family are you a part of?” Alina asked, because there was the Batfamily, the Superfamily, the Flashfamily, and a hundred more. She knew Black Canary was a part of the Birds of Prey, but she didn’t know if that was a family or a team, or both?

 

“Well, Green Arrow’s my husband, so I suppose I’m a part of the Arrowfamily.” She smiled sweetly. “But I’ve worked closely with the Batfamily as well, and I consider the Birds of Prey my family too.”

 

“Thatsa lotta sorta-family,” Alina said. Did that mean Dinah would sorta be her sorta-aunt then? Sorta-sorta-aunt?

 

“When your line of work of work involves risking your life and saving others, you tend to form strong bonds with your teammates,” Dinah explained fondly.

 

“-so your new kid, Spooky,” Alina tuned back into the conversation between the guys as Hal spoke. “Apparently she’s an alien?” His eyes were half-disbelieving, half-hesitant believing.

 

Alina tensed, her cheeks coloring with blush, and she saw Dinah stare curiously down at her while her dad glanced back at her. Then, to her surprise, Batman casually said, “Yes. One quarter.”

 

She blinked in surprise, glancing at her father and his smooth, stony face. He was going along with her? But… he wasn’t even there for her joke! Could he secretly read minds? ...Or was he just that good of a detective that one glance told him the entire story? She traded a glance with Dinah, who seemed amused as she glanced between the puzzled, blushing girl and her emotionless father.

 

“From the future?” Barry prodded, metaphorically, harder.

 

Batman nodded. “Yes. Terry- the Batman of a future, if you haven’t met him- found her and sent her to a safer time period.”

 

“But from an alternate universe?” Hal questioned skeptically.

 

“Obviously.” Alina could imagine her father rolling her eyes under his cowl, although it was uncharacteristic of him. “Most people from the future are actually just from a very similar but still alternate universe’s future.”

 

Hal and Barry glanced at each other, then nodded, seemingly accepting it as truth. Did- Did Alina really just lie to two major Justice League members and get away with it? Did Batman just lie to them for her?

 

“Do you have any powers?” Oliver- or Green Arrow- asked curiously.

 

“Uhm,” Alina stuttered, glancing at her dad again. When he provided no help this time, she slowly answered, “It’s- it’s like a… yellow sun, red sun sorta thing?” That was how Superman’s powers worked right? ‘Cause of the sun’s colors? Holy Batman, she was lying to the Flash and a Green Lantern.

 

‘Holy Batman- I’m talking to a Green Lantern! To THE FLASH! To Black Canary, and Green Arrow! In THE Watchtower. HOW is this MY LIFE!’ The thought seemed very surreal to her, yet here she was. She even knew their first names!

 

“Ohh,” Barry hummed. “So you’re of Kryptonian descent? I was guessing Tamaranian since Bruce said you were one quarter alien. I thought maybe Mar’i was your future mom.”

 

“Uh,” Alina blanked. Mar’i as her MOM? ...Well, her parentage was already wacky, so really, was it that far fetched? ...Yes, yes it was. Alina could not imagine her little niece Mar’i as her mom. “Kr- Kryptonians don’t exist anymore, in, uhm, my future.”

 

Hal, Barry and Oliver’s eyes widened. Oliver said, “What happened to them in your future? Did Superman exist in your universe?”

 

“Erm- yes, but, uh.” Alina grasped for anything. “He disappeared before I was born. They, uhm, they say he got burned up by the sun.”

 

“Geez, is your universe apocalyptic?” Hal wondered, wincing. “That seems to be pretty common for other worlds.”

 

“Do you know it happened? Darkseid?” Barry asked. “Black Lantern invasion? Broken Speed Force? Evil Batman?”

 

“Uh.” Alina glanced between Hal, Barry and Oliver’s curious faces, Dinah’s amused one, and Batman’s stoic one. Finally, she relented, turning to her father guiltily with hunched shoulders. “I don’t think I can lie anymore.”

 

Her dad’s lips curled up slightly. “That’s alright.”

 

“Wait-” Barry blinked. “What? Did you just- Did you just help your kid lie to us?”

 

“You believed it,” he answered simply, lips curling higher into a smirk.

 

“No,” Oliver quickly defended himself. “I mean- okay, it’s not really that unbelievable of a story, to be fair.”

 

“Yeah,” Barry added. “Bart’s my grandson from the future! Your daughter Helena’s from another universe.”

 

“And I’m literally a part of a space police organization,” Hal said.

 

“We’re all friends with, like, more aliens and metas than normal humans at this point, really,” Oliver continued.

 

“And you’re a furry who runs around at night punching bad guys,” Barry teased.

 

“And teaches their kids to lie,” Hal added, placing a hand on his hip and raising an eyebrow mockingly. “And here I thought better of you.”

 

Oliver’s face scrunched up as he shot Hal a perplexed look. “Why would you think better of him?”

 

“You’ve got me there.” Hal raised his hands placatingly but with a smirk.

 

Batman glared at them, and they only snickered. Alina giggled. She wrapped her arms around Batman’s waist, squeezing him with all the strength her arms could muster. “Don’t worry, dad, I think the world of you.”

 

“Awwwww!”

Chapter Text

Alina followed Batman’s directions as she walked back to the break room which was more often called the snack room. That was the reason she was heading to it anyway- to snatch a few snacks for her and her father, and also Dinah and Oliver. Her dad had shown her the break room when they first came to the Watchtower, but, much like her first days in the Manor, she didn’t remember where it was after the first turn.

 

She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to take a left or right turn at the last corridor but it didn’t matter as a black woman dressed in bright purple with a lightning bolt down her chest pranced cheerily down the hallway. She was humming a song loudly under her breath. She paused when she spotted Alina, smiling brightly.

 

“Hello! Are you new here? Who are you?”

 

“Hi,” Alina responded timidly at the woman’s open and overbearing joyfulness. “Uhm, I guess? I’m…” Was she supposed to have a codename? She gave her real name to Green Lantern and the Flash, but they were Green Lantern and the Flash . She didn’t know who this lady was. But she guessed her dad would have told her a codename if she needed one. “Alina, Batman’s new kid.”

 

“Ooo! Cool! I’m Darla. Or, well, we had to pick codenames, so now I’m Flashbang when I’m like this!” She bounced on the balls of her feet with a proud grin. “Are you a new Robin?”

 

Alina shook her head. “No. I’m not… a superhero.”

 

Darla frowned. “Awh. But are you gonna be here often? Like, on the Watchtower?”

 

“Uhm.” Alina blinked. “I don’t think so.”

 

“Dangit!” Darla huffed, crossing her arms with a pout. “I thought I’d finally have a friend up here.”

 

Alina tilted her head, brows furrowing in puzzlement. “Uh, you don’t have… any friends up here?”

 

“Well,” she drew out the ‘L’s, tilting her head. “I have my family, and I know people, but nobody’s my age.”

 

Alina’s forehead crinkled as she stared up at the fully grown woman. “But… you’re an adult?”

 

Darla grinned like the cat who caught the canary. “It looks like it, doesn’t it! You’re Batman’s kid, so you can keep a secret, right?”

 

Alina slowly nodded. She’d kept from bursting out to her friends that her family was actually the Batfamily so far, hadn’t she? She’d like to think she was a good secret keeper.

 

“Great!” Darla beamed. “Then step back and don’t blink!”

 

Alina timidly stepped back, keeping her eyes wide even though she now really wanted to blink.

 

“SHAZAM!” A bright light filled the room that made Alina snap her eyes shut anyway, followed by harsh cackling and thundering that made Alina wish she could close her ears too. When the sound and the light dissipated, she slowly fluttered her eyes open, adjusting to normal light.

 

In front of her was a young girl, like a mini version of the woman before, smiling in the same exact way as Darla. Her frizzy brown hair was in two buns and the ceiling lights above reflected in her glasses, making her brown eyes sparkle. She bounced on her feet. “Hiya! I’m still Darla Dudley.”

 

Alina blinked. Then blinked again. “You’re a kid?”

 

“Yep!” She crossed her arms and puffed out her chest. “It’s maaaagic.” She moved her hands in arcs, waggling her fingers. She shoved her hands in her pockets, still grinning as she rocked back and forth on her heels. “Anyway, where were you heading? I was going to get snacks for my family, do you wanna come with me?”

 

Alina blinked, again, as she processed it all. Darla- who was both an adult and kid because magic- was heading to get snacks? ...which meant Alina had been going the wrong direction. She nodded. “Uhm, yeah. I was going to get snacks for my family too.”

 

“Cool!” Darla trotted past her, and Alina turned and followed after her. “We’re going on a mission soon, so that’s why I’m getting snacks! Is your family too?”

 

“Err, no.” Alina shook her head. “Just hungry, I guess.”

 

“Awh,” Darla said. “Maybe next time!”

 

“I guess,” Alina mumbled.

 

“This is my first official League mission!” Darla exclaimed excitedly. “I’ve helped out with big doomsday stuff before, like end of the world, last minute kinda stuff, but I’ve never been on a mission before! It’s so exciting.”

 

“Oh, what is it?” Alina asked, a bit curious, but more just to keep the conversation flowing.

 

“I’m not sure if it’s classified or not.” Darla tilted her head as she thought. “But we’re going off-world, just for the weekend, ‘cause of school ya know- so long as everything goes right, anyway. Which it should! It’s not dangerous, just like information gathering. We get to deal with other planet’s magic, which is why we’re going! Since we’re-” she waved her hands again, “-maaagic!”

 

Alina nodded again, smiling shyly. “That’s cool. So are all of your family, like, adults that can turn into children?”

 

Darla giggled. “Other way around, actually! Or, well, I guess me and my brother Eugene are the only ones who are still kids. All my other siblings are adults now, who change into more adulty adults.”

 

Alina tilted her head. “Wait, so, your family changes into, like… other adult people? That’s like your superpower?”

 

“Magic!” Darla said. “We use the magic of this one wizard to change into a more, like, powerful form, that’s got like superstrength, superspeed, invincibility, and lightning bolts. I dunno why it turns kids into adults, but it always has.”

 

“That’s weird. But cool- the superpowers bit at least,” Alina commented.

 

Darla pushed open the door to a room, labelled the break room. She walked over to the fridge, opening it and grabbing a juice box. “You want one?”

 

“Yeah, apple, please,” Alina said. Darla handed her an apple juice, then pulled open two cabinet doors under the counter. Inside was the motherload of snacks- oreos, cookies, fruit snacks, granola bars, goldfish…

 

Darla grinned. “And there’s even more in the other cabinets.”

 

As Darla started grabbing a bunch of snacks and shoving them into her pants’s pockets and curled-up shirt, Alina realized she didn’t know Bruce’s favorite snack- if he even had one. Did he even eat snacks? Alina tentatively grabbed the superhero themed fruit snacks, two bags of mini oreos, and two granola bars. The granola bars fit into one pocket of her pants, and she squished the fruit snacks and one bag of oreos into the other while opening the other bag up for herself.

 

She slurped her apple juice as Darla happily finished picking out her own treats. Alina contemplated asking Darla if she wanted help carrying all those snacks, but the girl was already trotting out of the break room. Alina trailed after her.

 

“Do you have a lot of family?” Alina asked, staring at the amount of snacks she was holding. It was nearly enough to feed all of Alina’s siblings. Legal siblings.

 

“Yep!” Darla beamed happily. “Well, not as much as you if you’re Batman’s kid, but I’m from a foster family. Adopted family now, though! All of my siblings are superheroes- we use our brother Billy’s powers because he, like, shares them with us, because of magic.”

 

Alina tilted her head as she sipped some apple juice then placed another oreo in her mouth. A family sharing a power? That seemed nice. She didn’t think Duke could share his powers. “That’s nice. My family doesn’t even share bathrooms.” Nearly every room had their own bathroom, including Alina’s, and wars had been fought whenever someone used someone else’s bathroom. Alina would never fight someone else over a bathroom- she’d only ever had one before and couldn’t fathom not sharing it, but she supposed being rich and having your own bathroom did things to you, no matter if you were already a rich kid living alone or a homeless street kid.

 

“With that many siblings?” Darla’s eyes widened. “We only have two bathrooms in my house and we already fight. It must be a- a massy-cur .”

 

Alina had no idea what a massacre was, but she assumed it was a synonym for war, so she nodded. “They spill blood if their brushes are even slightly moved to the left.” And sometimes her siblings’ did that to each other purposely to piss the other off.

 

Darla dramatically shivered. “Heeby-jeebies. Your siblings are more scarier than Batman.” She smiled, her eyes brightened as she paused at the hallway she and Alina had bumped into each other. “Hey, wanna meet my siblings? If you don’t have to get back to your dad immediately.”

 

“Uhm.” Alina blinked. Did she? She kinda wanted to keep talking with Darla. “Sure. I can text him that I’ll be a bit.”

 

“Cool!” Darla sprang on her toes, fumbling with some of the treats in her hands. She curled her shirt more, adjusting her pouch of snacks. Alina pulled out her phone to shoot her dad a quick text while she followed after the girl. “The only one you’ll probably recognize is my brother, Billy Batson- he’s Shazam! He’ll be the one in red. D’you know about Shazam?”

 

Alina’s mind stirred. Shazam. She did know Shazam. Not that well, but she knew he was one of the earlier Justice League members- a founder? Maybe- and that he was like Superman powerwise, just with some magic and lightning bolts. Which fit what Darla had been telling her. She didn’t know there were other Shazams. She slowly nodded.

 

“Yeah, he’s been Shazam since he was eight!” Eight? But Shazam was an- oh, wait, right, they were kids that turned into adults. “I think that’s cool ‘cause I also started when I was eight.” Darla bounced excitedly. “My brother Eugene was twelve- he’s sixteen now! His new code name is Circuit Breaker ‘cause he likes games, and, ya know, games have circuits! I think he has the coolest name.”

 

Worry started trickling through Alina. Billy and Darla had been superheroes since eight, and their brother since twelve? Damian had been Robin since he was ten- and hadn’t somebody said the youngest Robin was like nine? Was she supposed to be a superhero by now? Supposed to be training to be one- supposed to want to be one? It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be- didn’t not want to help people- it’s just that… She didn’t know. Her- her only experience with ‘superheroism’ was stabbing the Joker with his own venom, and that was- that was terrifying. She had been kidnapped, her mom gone, maybe forever.

 

She liked her life how it was now- well, maybe it wasn’t perfect, sometimes her dad and her siblings’ forgot her (to be fair, Alina often forgot some of her siblings too), she wanted her mom back more than anything, and it was hard to go to bed most nights- but she was safe, and she was home.

 

Alina shoved her new worries down right beside the ‘her grandparents worked with the Joker’ revelation and the ‘her bio-dad was the Joker’ fear, smiling at Darla as she continued on happily about her foster siblings.

 

“My other brothers are Freddy and Pedro- sometimes he can be a bit quiet, but he’s not ignoring you to be mean, he’s just shy. Freddy’s great, but when he and Billy team-up during prank wars, it’s the worst!” Darla chattered on, her joy infectious. “Their superhero names are Voltage and Thunderbomb, by the way. And I have one sister! Mary- she’s really nice and super smart, except her superhero name is Mary Marvel, which I think is silly, because that’s, like, her real name! But I guess it’s also kinda clever in that way, ‘cause nobody would expect you to name yourself the same thing as your real name, right?”

 

Alina nodded. Although, she recalled, her brother Tim’s time under his alias Drake was mocked by their other siblings. Then again, all of his names were mocked by their siblings. He just got dealt the ‘easy-to-make-fun-of’ hand of names. Or maybe he should just pick better names.

 

“Our parents aren’t here, but you should meet them too! Victor and Rosa are the best parents ever. They know what we’re doing and- well, they’re not like, super okay with it, ‘cause they’re worried, y’know, but they support us, and keep in contact with the Justice League whenever we go on missions or Billy’s out.” Darla paused in her steps, smiling at Alina who stopped too. “You should totally let me hang out with your siblings sometime. I’ve only really met Batman, and, like, Red Robin.”

 

“Okay.” Alina nodded, half-distracted by the yelling coming from the room they’d stopped in front of. “Uhm, are your siblings in there?”

 

“Yep!” Darla grinned, shifting her pouch of snacks again, this time to one hand so she could open the door. She bounced on her tiptoes. “You ready to meet them?”

 

Alina’s mind flashbacked to when she first met her own siblings- and didn’t that feel like forever ago, yet like it also just happened. She had done it once before, and, hopefully , these guys would be more tamed down. There were less of them, even if still a lot. Plus, she wouldn’t be living with them. It was like meeting her siblings’ friends! Or, she guessed, meeting her new acquaintance’s siblings.

 

So, she nodded her head, throwing another two mini oreos into her mouth. “Yeah.”

 

“Great!” Darla grabbed the knob and flung the door open. She boomed into the room, “I’VE BROUGHT SNACKS AND A FRIEND!”

 

“SNACKS!” Someone- no, multiple people- shouted.

 

“OH MY GOD- Darla, duck!”

 

Darla dipped on command, snacks pooling out of her shirt while Alina scrambled backwards. Something slammed into the wall right beside the door with a thunderous pound that verberated throughout the walls. Said something, Alina realized, blinking as she peaked back into the room, was actually a person, dressed in blue.

 

“This is why the League doesn’t let us go on missions together!” Somebody else, the guy in red- Billy?- groaned. The others all cackled maniacally, including Darla, as she tossed a pack of goldfish at one of her brothers. The brunette lady in red cut in front of the snack’s path, snatching it, much to the other guy’s displeasure. She smirked at her brother, then frowned at Darla and Alina.

 

“Where did you get the friend? Whose child is that- Darla, please tell me you aren’t pulling a Batman.”

 

“Darla’s twelve. She can’t adopt, Mary.”

 

“I meant that she’s stolen a child, except to be her friend-”

 

Darla gasped excitedly. “I HAVE KIDNAPPED A FRIEND!”


‘Oh no,’ Alina thought, her lips twitching upwards. ‘I have made a mistake.’

Chapter Text

Alina hopped on her feet as she tipped her head back, trying to lick the last of her strawberry ice cream out of her cone. Tim walked beside her, one hand holding his phone as he scrolled while the other held his half-eaten cone that he periodically took bites out of. Alina had hung out at Wayne Enterprises again, to play with Tiffany and Timothy Fox, and the other kids there. Afterwards, when they were leaving, Alina didn’t even have to do puppy eyes for Tim to immediately sigh and say, “You want ice cream, don’t you? Fine, don’t tell Alfred.” Which was a pointless request because he would know anyway, because Alfred knows all. Not that Alina was afraid. As the innocent ten-year-old girl who kept (mostly) out of trouble (coughvigilantismcough), all the blame would be placed on her older siblings and family members.

 

She took a bite out of her cone, munching happily when both her and Tim’s phones buzzed noisily, followed by two sharp beeps. She tensed, instantly recognizing the pattern as the Gotham rogue attack sighting notification. Tim paused too, tapping on his notification, eyes scanning his screen rapidly. His phone buzzed softly a few more times, presumably receiving notifications with more information on the attack from Oracle.

 

“Shit,” Tim swore softly under his breath. He looked up from his phone, locking eyes with Alina briefly, before flicking his wrist, a small earpiece suddenly appearing, that he shoved into his ear. He glanced to the side as he spoke to who Alina guessed was Oracle, “I’m with Alina, I can’t-... What about Hood?... What do you mean he’s in Seattle? Why is he- when did he- he was here last night!”

 

Alina felt dread rise within her. Most of her family wasn’t in Gotham right now- she knew that, they were on missions, or hanging with friends or other family. Her father had been out for a week now on a mission with the Justice League.

 

Tim pursed his lips and furrowed his brows as he listened to Oracle. “Right. Fine- Riddler too? But he’s not been spotted?. ...Okay. I’ll get there.”

 

He looked back at Alina, face grim, as he placed his hands on her shoulders, squatting down. “Lee, Scarecrow broke out of Arkham-” he’d been there since Halloween, Alina knew, ”-and he’s fighting with Joker in Burnley. Mad Hatter and Riddler broke out too- Hatter awhile back actually- so I have to search for them too. Robin and Batwing are on their way, but I’m way closer. Batwing will stop to get you and take you home, okay?”

 

“But-” Alina felt worry wrap around her, even as she reminded herself her siblings did this everyday, she just normally wasn’t… present or nearby. “But that means it’ll just be you and Damian against all of them! That’s not- you can’t! It’s not safe! You’ll get hurt.” Tears threatened to prick her eyes just at the thought.

 

“Batgirl and Gotham Girl said they’d run there, it’ll just take them way longer from Downtown. Bluebird and Signal said they’ll come back to Gotham soon in case this takes even longer. I’ll be fine, ‘lina. Promise,” Tim said, blue eyes holding hers with unflinching confidence.

 

Alina’s own eyes flickered about worriedly. The longer she kept him here, the more people got hurt. But she couldn’t let him run off by himself to fight two to four bad guys! Especially the Joker! “I- Alysia lives nearby! J-Just, like, two corners away. I can go to her house! That way Batwing-” she didn’t remember who Batwing was, if she was honest, “-can go with you and Dami!”

 

Tim opened his mouth to respond, then paused, eyes flickering to the side. It took Alina a moment to realize Oracle was talking to him again. Tim slowly nodded, attention back on Alina. “Alright. But be safe, okay? You have a gas mask and antidotes on you?”

 

“Just a gas mask, but I’ll be okay.” She had a foldable gas mask in her pocket- most Gothamites did. “They won’t get down here. You won’t let them, right?”

 

Tim nodded determinedly. “Okay. Stay safe, little sis.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead then jerked back up to his feet, and bolted down the streets- now a little less crowded as the more anxious Gothamites went to hide inside their homes until the rogues were captured.

 

“Stay safe!” Alina called after him.

 

It was almost eerie, how the world seemed to get quiet when her big brother rushed off. A few glanced, sure, because he was Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne, but there was a cafe a few blocks down that he frequented at, so people were used to him here. As for Alina? Well, they might know her name as Alina Wayne , but none of them really knew what Alina Shelley looked like. Even if her photo had been shown on TV, and she’d been taken in a family photo here or there- she wasn’t anybody notable. Just the new est kid of many.

 

Her brother was off to fight the Joker . Scarecrow, and his awful fear gas that Alina was grateful she’d never inhaled. She’d heard the horror stories- both from the media, her friends, and, worst of all, her family. Tim was fighting them, alone, until Damian and Batwing got there. People were suffering through their nightmares, right now, because of Scarecrow, and multiple most likely dead because of Joker, his venom, and his goons. And who knew what Mad Hatter and Riddler were doing, even if ‘analytical reports’ showed those two among other Gotham rogues that had been ‘less dangerous’ in recent years.

 

Yet, here, in Midtown Gotham, nearing the edge of Uptown, where Burnley was- it was calm. Nobody was panicking. Nobody was really all that worried- the worried had already fled, after all. Perhaps a few here or there were locked on their phones now, anxious for updates, or others were texting family and friends near or in the attack, but it was quiet.

 

Alina realized that while the world was quiet, she was not.

 

Once upon a time, maybe, back when she lived with her mother, she’d glance at the news on the television and think, ‘Oh, I hope Batman saves the day!’ and then she’d return to coloring inside the lines, or helping her mom make dinner. There were times she was nearby an attack, or had even witnessed one begin, but her mother would usher her back to the car and drive them home, reassuring her that Red Hood would take care of it. The last time Alina had felt ‘quiet’ was right before the Joker had kidnapped her. Ever since then, a trickle of worry that only grew louder and louder flowed through her.

 

Taking in a deep breath, she pressed herself against the wall of a brick building. She threw her barely eaten cone into a nearby trash can, where her appetite once was now replaced by a tangled bundle of unease.

 

She just had to go to Alysia’s, make up some excuse why she was there, and then wait for Tim to text her or come get her. Easy enough. She glanced at the buildings. She knew a shortcut from here, through the alleyways, even if it was an unspoken rule in Gotham that going into alleyways was always a horrible idea.

 

Glancing around at the other people walking around her, she slowly slinked into the alleyway she, Nell and Alysia often used to get from Alysia’s house to the ice cream shop. Contrary to popular belief, the alleyway was not immediately dark, gross and dirty, littered with trash from overflowing and abandoned trash cans. The alleyways that were seeable from the streets were well-maintained, but once you got behind the buildings, out of sight, it started to get a whole lot dirtier and sketchier. But Alina and her friends had never had problems with anyone- they knew the one homeless guy who had since mysteriously vanished and she was pretty sure they had witnessed a drug deal once, but they had never been in danger.

 

But there was something different, something about knowing that her siblings were in danger, and that she was going through the alleyways alone. Never go alone, that was always the rule. Always have a buddy. That’s what they taught in school along with drills for villain attacks.

 

Shaking, not from the cold, she glanced around as she stuck to the walls of the alley. The murmur of civilian life was becoming dulled the further she went. She jumped as a rat scuttled past, disappearing into a crack. She froze for a moment, debating turning around and taking the normal route to Alysia’s house. But she figured she’d be just as scared, walking on the sidewalks with unfamiliar faces all around her. At least here she was alone.

 

...Right?

 

Paranoia struck her as she glanced around frantically again. She didn’t hear anything, but now all she could think about were those kidnappers Damian had saved her from. Damian wouldn’t be here to save her this time, if she got kidnapped. Nobody would- she sent them away. And she didn’t think what Damian and her other siblings had been teaching her in self-defense would be enough. She knew how and where to kick and how to punch, but she just didn’t have the strength and power- the ‘built-up muscle strength’ Damian called it. She wanted to know how to defend herself, but she didn’t want to train and exercise every single day…

 

Maybe that was the spoiled brat in her speaking. Living in a family of vigilantes and superheroes, her doing nothing but basking in the glory of her family being Bats was…

 

‘Pathetic,’ her mind supplied, in a tone similar to her grandparents’ sneering one. ‘You never do what you’re supposed to do. You’re living with heroes now, who’ve been such since they were kids your age, and yet you refuse to follow the path of your family?’

 

Alina winced at her own thoughts. She shouldn’t be thinking like that. She knew her family didn’t mind, or maybe just didn’t care, that she wasn’t a vigilante. In fact, they often praised her for it, calling her and Cullen the only normal kids. But, still, if she had been an ‘unnormal’ kid, she could have gone with Tim, fought side by side with him, instead of running away while he went to fight and save lives.

 

‘He’s fighting against Joker,’ she reminded herself. ‘He’s fighting Joker. Would you fight Joker?’ Would she love to punch the Joker in his big, dumb clown face? Absolutely. Did she want to fight him? No. The thought terrified her. He terrified her. She was glad she hadn’t seen skin or hair of his creepy-ass face.

 

There was the sound of broken glass crunching beneath feet that made Alina leap into the air. She barely glanced behind her before she ducked behind a turn in the alleys, reaching downwards for a weapon in the rubble.

 

‘React immediately,’ Damian’s advice echoed through her mind as her hands curled around the first thing she could grab- a broken beer bottle. ‘It’s better to have defended yourself against a perceived threat than to have died unprepared.’

 

She stood still, heart pounding, as she waited for more sounds of movement. The moment dragged on before she remembered she needed to breath. She quietly exhaled as she peered around the corner. Nothing. She was just- she was just overly paranoid.

 

She should have taken the normal route.

 

Slowly she dragged herself away from her hiding spot- a bad place to ‘hide,’ as she glanced back at it. It was a deadend, no way out. She would have backed herself into a corner with only a fucking beer bottle to defend herself. The bottle itself wasn’t even that broken. Decisively, she kneeled down and smacked the bottom of the beer bottle against the edge of some weird box of wires. She flinched at the sound, far too loud in the silence. She examined the bottle, not completely satisfied, but feeling better about the sharpness of her weapon.

 

She was going to have to start carrying knives around. Like Damian. She didn’t want to be left defenseless again.

 

She walked towards the alleyway she knew directly lead to Alysia’s house. Hope and relief fluttered in her chest, although it was more like a caged bird than a free butterfly. She darted down the pathway, only to find her hope cruelly and violently jerked away as a cold hand snatched around her wrist.

 

“Where do you think you’re going, girly?” A slimy yet raspy voice spoke in her ear. She jerked her body around, throwing her arm with the bottle at his face. He easily used his free hand to snatch her other wrist, then dangled her in the air.

 

Fuck. He had a clown mask on- a fucking Joker goon?! WHY! Shouldn’t he be in Burnley, where his boss was?

 

“Big J wants his little princess back,” the guy rasped, chuckling as she kicked her legs out at him. He held his arms out so she was too far to reach. Dammit! Damian hadn’t taught her how to get out of a hold like this because he was only a little bit taller than her. She found herself irrationally angry at her brother’s short height- Bruce was a fucking mountain! Was his mother the size of a tic tac or something, or did he just somehow manage to skip all of the tall height genes handed to him on a silver platter?

 

Her eyes went to the watch on her wrist. She was stupid. She should have clicked the button to alert her family when she first heard the footsteps. ...Should she have? She didn’t want to distract Tim or anyone else from saving other people, who were definitely less fortunate than her. Batman was her father, of course she’d get saved eventually. She just hated what happened before that eventually .

 

Screaming- screaming was her next option. When all else false, attract attention to yourself. This was an alleyway behind houses people lived in, someone had to hear her.

 

But, as she opened her mouth, the Joker henchmen was suddenly slammed into the wall. Alina would have thought she’d go flying with him, but something wrapped around her waist- her heart briefly leaped even further into her throat- and then she was gently placed onto the ground as the… the vine retreated from around her waist.

 

Meanwhile, someone else let out a war cry as they jumped down from a rooftop and slammed into the henchmen with a comically huge hammer. “THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING A CREEPY ASSHOLE!”

 

Alina blinked, stunned into confusion, even as her heart kept pounding in her chest.

 

“Ignore her,” a sharp, feminine voice spoke behind her. Alina jerked, whipping around as a green-skinned woman with long, flowy, beautiful red hair lowered herself to the ground on a platform made of vines.

 

Poison Ivy? Alina glanced back at the woman currently beating up the henchmen who didn’t even get the chance to fight back. She had pale blonde hair in two ponytails, dyed pale pink and light blue, and she was dressed in black, white and red clothes, surprisingly casual. Poison Ivy, too, was dressed in a cozy jacket and sunglasses.

 

“Harl, don’t kill him in front of the kid,” Ivy advised, lackadaisical.

 

The woman- Harley Quinn, very obviously Harley Quinn, Alina was just too stunned to think, she’d only seen her once before in a very different context- grunted, lifting her hammer over her shoulder. “I hate clowns.”

 

“We all do, Harl,” Ivy hummed. Alina shifted nervously as she stood behind her. If Alina reached out, she could touch her. Touch the Poison Ivy. Her fingers twitched, hovering over the buttons on her watch. She was standing between two major Gotham rogues- two-thirds of the Gotham Sirens. Even if she knew they were more ‘anti-heroes’ nowadays, and she had met, or more just seen and watched, Harley Quinn, who had appeared to be helping her (advocating for her survival against the Joker, at least), it didn’t settle her beating heart.

 

Harley pouted, which was really ruined by the splatters of blood on her clothing and hammer. “He ruined our date, Pammy!”

 

“In all fairness, we could have ignored him,” Ivy pointed out.

 

“Yeah,” Harley sighed, giving the unconscious, bleeding, bruised, battered, and hopefully not dead man a light kick with her foot. Her eyes locked onto Alina, who tensed, finger lightly touching- but not pressing- the second button of her watch. She didn’t press it because, 1) Harley and Ivy had saved her from the Joker goon, and 2) she still didn’t want to drag anyone’s attention away from the battle in Burnley.

 

“Hey, kid, calm down, we ain’t gonna hurt cha or we’d’ve done it already,” Harley told her with a grin. She brushed some blood off her cheeks. “We saw the bastard slinkin’ into the alleys, which totally wasn’t suspicious as fuck considerin’ Joker’s in Burns, so we decided ta sneak after ‘em. Beat the shit outta him- it’s very therapeutic. You wanna kick?” She gestured down to the man.

 

Alina slowly shook her head. “No-” her voice wobbled as she found it. “No, thank you.”

 

“Hm,” Harley hummed contemplatively before shrugging her shoulders. “Suit ya’self.” She took a few step forwards, towards Alina and Ivy, making Alina tense up again. “‘Ey, don’t I know you?”

 

“Uhm,” Alina stuttered over her own breath. “M-maybe?”

 

Harley squinted at her, studying her.

 

“She was with the Tim kid earlier,” Poison Ivy supplied. “In the ice cream shop.” Alina was mildly concerned Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy had been nearby enough to see her and her brother, and that Tim either hadn’t noticed the two villains, or hadn’t thought them dangerous enough to point them out.

 

Harley’s eyes lit up and she snapped her fingers. “You’re the girl Joker kidnapped!”

 

“Hasn’t he kidnapped a lot of girls?” Ivy pointed out.

 

“Yeah, but he had an obsession with this one, because he’s fuckin’ creepy like that. Called her his princess and shit, it was weird, and I didn’t wanna part of it. I just wanted the fuckin’ diamond.” Harley’s lip curled up in disgust, and Alina found her shoulders relaxing slightly. Harley hated the Joker more than anybody, or was at least tied with Red Hood and Batman. Alina trusted anybody who hated the Joker like that. “Hey, Ives, you remember what I told ya ‘bout this girl?”

 

Alina glanced back at Poison Ivy behind her, who thought for a moment, puzzled, before she slowly smiled. Ivy nodded. “Lucy’s been wanting a little sibling other than plants lately.”

 

Harley cackled, which sounded very villain-y, but Alina thought that was just her normal laugh. “Yes!” She clapped her hands together, turning her attention back to Alina, whose hand had fallen away from her watch, but she still had her guard up, just in case. “I’ve got somebody I wantcha to meet, uh, E- Ellaina?” She frowned. “Is that your name? What’s your name, kiddo?”

 

“Uhm, Alina,” she quietly mumbled, unsure if she should add a ‘Shelley’ or a ‘Wayne’ to the end of it. She didn’t know how much Harley already knew about her identity.

 

“Alina!” Harley cheered. “Beautiful name. Sure it means somethin’ as equally beautiful.” Alina didn’t know whether to mention that her name did, in fact, literally mean beautiful. Her class had searched for their name meanings a few months ago for language. “Now, d’ya mind taken a detour from wherever ya were headin’?”

 

Alina blinked, shifting nervously and glancing between the excited Harley Quinn and the passively smiling Poison Ivy. “Uh… Where are we going?” ...She would technically be more safe guarded by two rogues than by Alysia and her parents, right?

 

“Our house!” Harley exclaimed eagerly.

 

“To… meet who?” Lucy? Who was Lucy?

 

“My daughter, Lucy!”

 

Alina frowned, tilting her head. “Why?”

 

Harley startled, jerking her head back. “Ah, err.” She seemed to scramble for some reason.

 

“She needs more friends her age,” Ivy supplied smoothly. “And you seem kind.”

 

“Yes!” Harley agreed. “School ain’t th’ kindness, especially since I had ‘er homeschooled for a few years, but I couldn’t be a villain and be a momma.”

 

Alina furrowed her brows. That was obviously an excuse. But why? ...Hadn’t Ivy said that Lucy wanted a younger sibling? Didn’t Harley used to be Joker’s girlfriend?

 

Alina blinked as the puzzle clicked together. “Lucy’s my half-sister.” Oh. She hadn’t even thought of that. That she- that she had family on her… other-other side of her family, her biological dad’s side, loathe as she was to think of him in any shape or form as her father.

 

Both Harley and Ivy seemed startled at Alina’s words before Harley blinked and smiled, tilting her head. “Well, didn’t think you were in the know-hows ‘bout y’er bio-daddy. If I were you, I know I wouldn’t wanna know who my dad was if Joker was m’ dad.”

 

“Bruce is my dad,” Alina replied defensively. “Joker’s just…”

 

“A sperm donor,” Harley finished for her with a smirk. Ivy frowned.

 

“Harley!” she snapped.

 

Harley grinned, hardly sheepish. “My bad.”

 

Alina didn’t even know what Harley said meant, so she just tilted her head. “How do you know Joker’s my, uhm… whatever you said?”

 

“Heard some rumors from the grapevine called th’ Batkids,” Harley explained.

 

“And Selina,” Ivy added. Alina blinked. Right. Selina, her sorta-step-mom, was Catwoman. The last of the Gotham Sirens.

 

“Oh,” Alina said.

 

“So, d’ya mind seein’ y’er half-sister, or do ya got enough siblings?” Harley asked her with a teasing grin.

 

She did have enough siblings, but did she have any siblings that were also the daughter of the Joker? That understood her worries? She knew some of her siblings were also the children of villains, or not so great people, but the Joker? It felt like a different story.

 

So she nodded. “Okay.”

 

Harley grinned, big and bright, which was concerning because she still had blood on her. There was also an unconscious man with a clearly broken arm a few feet away. Alina thought, perhaps, she wasn’t making the best decision, but Harley and Ivy hadn’t acted like they wanted to attack her.

 

Poison Ivy moved in front of Alina, her vines wiggling and rising around her. “You don’t mind travelling by vine, do you?”

 

Alina gulped, heartbeat raising again. But, she had flown on Goliath, so she convinced herself it wouldn’t be that scary, and said, “No.”

Chapter Text

Alina knew immediately what house was Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s. To be fair, there weren’t a lot of houses around, because it wasn’t a house- it seemed to be an abandoned greenhouse, overrun with wild plants and foliage, all around. Ivy’s vines dropped Alina off in front of the house while Harley- they stopped at a fountain to wash off the blood on her and give Ivy’s vines a drink- bounced in front of her. She threw her arms out in a grand fashion.

 

“Welcome to our humble abode! Don’t worry- this isn’t the greenhouse Ives uses for her chemical ‘n’ pheromone experiments,” Harley reassured her with a rather nonreassuring, slightly creepy wide grin.

 

“Uhm.” Alina’s eyes flickered around, wondering, not for the first time, if following two well-known rogues to a semi-secluded location was the best idea. “It’s… plant-y.”

 

Ivy chuckled softly as she walked past her. “Thank you. I do enjoy waking up and seeing the wild plants grow.” She brushed her hand against Harley’s arm as she moved to the door. A vine opened it for her.

 

“Come in, come in! Lucy’s probably been bored aaaaaallll day since I haven’t picked the hyenas up from puppy daycare yet,” Harley explained giddily, waving her towards the door, while Ivy walked into their house. Alina timidly followed after Ivy, and Harley grinned big as she hopped in after her.

 

“Honey, I’m hoooome!” Harley sang as she shut the door behind them.

 

“Doesn’t work if we enter at the same time, Harls.” Ivy smiled at her. Harley beamed back and gave her a quick peck.

 

“Lucy!” Harley yelled as she tossed her hammer next to a pair of shoes and then trotted over to another room- the kitchen? “We’ve gotta visita, darlin’!”

 

“I’m in the living room,” a voice called back, young, female and just as loud as her mother.

 

“Great!” Harley ran over, grabbed Alina by her arm- much to Alina’s alarm, and pulled her along towards the living room.

 

“I’ll go water the plants,” Ivy hummed as she pulled off her coat and walked towards the kitchen.

 

“Good- Frank bit me last time!” Harley said. “And next time I’m gonna bite back!”

 

Harley let go of Alina’s arm to bolt over to her daughter, who sat criss-crossed on the green couch. She had auburn red hair tied back in a ponytail, but the same bright blue eyes as her mother. Lucy leaned forward, controller in her hand, as she stared determinedly at the screen. Alina didn’t know what game she was playing, but it looked like one of those cool, edgy, dark games with dragons and assassins.

 

Harley flung herself at Lucy, wrapping her arms around her tightly. “Hey, sweetums! How ya doin’? Missed us?”

 

“Hi, mama,” Lucy said, undeterred by her mother’s bone crushing hug, but now smiling as her character dodged an attack from an enemy. “I’m good. I thought you and mom were gonna be out ‘til five?”

 

“Eh, you know how it goes. We picked up a stray!” Harley gestured to Alina, who stood hesitantly and awkwardly by the doorway. Lucy glanced at Alina, but her eyes flickered back to her game immediately. Harley pouted as she continued, “Can’t keep this one, though. Batsy already claimed ‘er.”

 

“Then she’s not a stray, mama,” Lucy stated humorously, still focused on the screen as she took down an enemy.

 

“Well, she was gettin’ attacked in ‘n alley, so I’d say that’s stray enough!” Harley let go of her hug with her daughter, and crossed her arms, smirking proudly. “Ivy ‘n I saved ‘er!”

 

“Wow, you and mom are reeeal heroes,” Lucy chuckled as her character defeated the last of her enemies. Her posture relaxed and she pulled up a menu screen, clicking the save option.

 

“We are!” Harley puffed out her chest with a grin. She reached out and patted Lucy on the head. “I’ll leave ya girls ta bond!”

 

With that, Harley pranced out of the room, giving Alina a pat on the head too as she walked past. Lucy placed her controller down, then leaned back against the couch’s arm, stretching her legs out and crossing her arms over her stomach lazily.

 

“So did my moms kidnap you, or did you come willingly?” Lucy asked her calmly. “Sometimes they kidnap kids when they’re high on chemicals from an experiment gone wrong. I can call a Batkid to come get you.”

 

“Uh,” Alina hesitated, confused by Lucy’s casual mood. “Willingly, I think.”

 

“Hm,” Lucy mused. “Do you wanna leave?”

 

Alina shook her head. “No…”

 

“Huh.” Lucy clicked her tongue. “Then why are you here kiddo? I thought my mama said Batman had adopted you. You don’t wanna go back to him?”

 

“He’s on a mission right now,” Alina explained, voice soft and timid as she shifted her feet back and forth. “And, uhm, my siblings are fighting rogues.”

 

“Oh, right. There was another escape, wasn’t there?” Lucy pushed herself up, and swung her legs over the couch. She patted the cushion beside her. “Well, if you aren’t looking to get back to your fam, you can sit down.”

 

Alina hesitantly walked over to the couch and sat down, squished herself against the arm opposite of Lucy, keeping her gaze nervously downwards.

 

“So is there a reason you decided to go with the Gotham Sirens instead of running away screaming or politely declining?”

 

“Uh.” Alina, for the first time in a while, wished she had one of her plushies to hug and distract her. Every night she couldn’t sleep, that’s what she did- cuddle her plushies. She knew her siblings’ always had an ‘open door’ for her- saying she could come in and cuddle with them, or get comfort after a bad dream, but Alina didn’t like wandering the dark halls. “Your father-” she saw Lucy tense, gaze sharpening, “-...he’s… Joker, right?”

 

Lucy narrowed her eyes and straightened her back. “Technically. Why, whatsit to ya?”

 

Alina ducked her head, avoiding her gaze. “He’s, uhm, I think he’s mine too.”

 

She saw Lucy’s shoulders fall and her eyes widen with surprise. “Oh. What made ja think that? A paternity test?”

 

Alina frowned. “I dunno what that is.”

 

“A test that tells you who your biological father is. You know what biological is?”

 

Alina nodded. She’d learned it, staying in Wayne Manor. With so much interweaving between adopted, foster, biological, surrogative and platonic family, Alina had to learn the differences.

 

“Huh… So is that why you’re here? ‘Cause we’re half-... sisters?” Lucy tested the word out on her tongue, like she didn’t know what to think of it. Which was weird, because sister and brother and sibling got thrown around so much in the Batfamily that Alina didn’t even bat (haha) an eye.

 

Alina nodded again, messing with the stitching of her pants anxiously.

 

There was silence from Lucy as she pursed her lips and just stared at Alina. It made Alina want her plushies even more- or maybe the real life versions in the form of her family. She would love to hide behind Batman’s cape right about now. She didn’t know why it felt so embarrassing and nerve wracking to be studied by her half-sister, but it was. She didn’t know what else to say, or do.

 

“Well,” Lucy started after an agonizingly long moment. “Isn’t what I meant when I asked my moms for a little sibling- but I’ll take it. Better than Frank.” Alina’s eyes flickered up to meet Lucy’s blue eyes. Lucy smiled at her. “What’s your name, sis? I’m Lucy Quinzel.”

 

“Alina…” she whispered softly in response, once again uncertain if she should say her last name just as Shelley, or add Wayne. Lucy knew Batman, but did she know Batman was Bruce Wayne? “...Shelley.”

 

“Alina Shelley,” Lucy repeated. She held out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“You too,” Alina greeted quietly, taking her sister’s hand and shaking it. When Lucy pulled her hand back after they finished shaking hands, Alina squirmed nervously in her seat.

 

“Do you… just wanna talk? Or I could pull up a multiplayer game, if you want,” Lucy offered, gesturing at the TV. When Alina hesitated in her response, Lucy apologized, “Sorry, I’m not super good at this. Normally the kids my moms pick up just wanna get an autograph from them, stay here to get away from abusive parents, or just wanna go home. They’re not… my half-sister, lookin’ ta meet me.” She chuckled awkwardly at the end.

 

“It’s fine,” Alina quickly reassured her. “I… I didn’t plan, uhm, for this to happen. I didn’t- I didn’t even realize you… existed… before today.”

 

“Likewise,” Lucy agreed. “Did you always know Joker was your sperm donor, or did you only learn that out, like, today too?”

 

Alina scrunched her nose. “What does that mean?”

 

“What?”

 

“That word: sperm donor . Your mom called Joker that too,” Alina clarified.

 

“Oh,” Lucy laughed softly. “Yeah. My moms always called him that, so it’s what I always call ‘em. It means… like…” She fidgeted a bit. “You’ll learn more about it in, uh, sixth grade, probably, but, um… I’m just using it to mean, like, he’s biologically my father, but I don’t see him as such.”

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked. “Okay. Uhm. I guess I found out, like, a month ago. But for I think maybe a year now I’ve known that uh… Batman wasn’t my real-... biological dad, ‘cause my mom always said he was- not Batman, but, uhm, his real identity- and they all just kinda went with ‘cause of like… the media, I guess.” Alina winced at her own rambling, not sure how to make her story make sense when Alina herself had never been able to make sense of it.

 

“Wait, so your mom thought some other dude- who just happened to be Batman- was your bio-dad, when in reality it was the Joker?” Lucy asked, brows furrowing.

 

Alina nodded, again, cheeks heating up at the weird embarrassment of it all. It sounded so silly and made-up. “Yeah.”

 

“Wow. That’s gotta be the biggest coincidence in history.” Lucy frowned, tilting her head. “And your mom never thought to do a paternity test? I mean, Joker’s DNA is fucked up- trust me, I’d know, so I’d be pretty obvious if it wasn’t that one guy’s.”

 

Alarm flared inside Alina- Joker’s DNA was fucked up? What did she mean by that? Now worried, she slowly answered Lucy’s question, “I think they did. But I think Batman, uh, faked the results.”

 

“He did? I mean, I’m sure he can do that, but why? I know his whole thing is ‘gotta adopt ‘em all,’ but I don’t think he would fake a paternity test just to do that… Although, I guess getting adopted by Batman is a way better option than getting adopted by the Joker. Not that I think child protective services would hand a child over to the Joker,” Lucy rambled on, shaking her head.

 

Alina didn’t know how to explain what happened- her mom getting put in a coma, Joker kidnapping her- without revealing her family’s identity as the Batfamily, so she just stayed quiet as Lucy spoke, until she found a moment to quietly, anxiously, ask, “What… did you mean when you said Joker had, uhm, fucked up DNA?”

 

“What?” Lucy blinked, before tilting her head. “Oh. Right. Well, I mean, guy’s messed up, right? His DNA is too- you know, the stuff that makes you you, me me, and him him, and also determines how his, uh, offspring- aka us- look like. I mean, it’s not so messed up that he can’t produce offspring, obviously, but it’s like… only the lucky ones survive, kinda case. Too many… mutations in our genes hurts our immune system, nervous system, all of those systems. Basically, it makes you sicker.”

 

Alina straightened up. “Oh. So that’s why I get so sick all the time.” In fact, she nearly died when she was born, sickly and prematurely.

 

“Yeah.” Lucy nodded. “His dumb laughing gas runs through his veins, and I guess somehow that gets passed onto us too, because when I’m exposed to the wrong chemicals, I get all giggly. I think it’s that certain chemicals react to whatever gene is sayin’ ‘hey, laugh like a maniac!’ An’ I don’t just mean chemicals like laboratory chemicals, it can just be shit in the air too.”

 

Alina frowned. “That… That hasn’t happened to me.” Or had it and she just hadn’t noticed?

 

Lucy glanced at her with a frown before shrugging. “Then I guess you got the luckiest part of his genes.”

 

“Oh,” Alina said, nervously fiddling with her sleeves or whatever she could play with her fingers. “Does… does the feeling ever go away?”

 

“What feeling?”

 

“The feeling of… not being right. Like… Like life is all different now, that it’s not gonna be the same, and… and… it’s scary, because you don’t know what to do, and you feel like the world is crashing all around you, or maybe it always was, and you just noticed it, and, and, it’s like all the bad is coming for you, and you’re afraid you might be bad too, just because, ‘cause there's this weird and scary feeling of not knowing who your parents are, but you do know who they are, but you just can’t really- really do anything because the one that was always there for you is- is basically d-d- gone , and you’re really only just starting to know the other one, and then the third one is a f-fucking villain, and now I just don’t know what to do because there’s so many people but I’m so alone-

 

“Hey,” Lucy said softly, leaning forward to place an awkwardly comforting hand on Alina’s shoulders, the younger girl near tears as she held back her hiccuping sobs through her ramble. Alina winced, realizing she’d just unloaded all of her crud onto the half-sister she’d just met, who definitely hadn’t asked for it. “It’s okay. Um, I’m- I’m here for you, you know. Don’t… uh, actually, do cry, because it’s healthy.”

 

Alina moved her hands up to press against her eyes to hold the tears back, despite Lucy telling her it was okay to cry. Crying always made her feel like a burden- her grandparents had told her as much every time she so much as sniffled. She took in a few deep breaths, like Damian had instructed her to do whenever she was in a situation where she was struggling to breath- something about panic attacks being common in their field of work?

 

“‘M fine,” she whispered after a few moments, swallowing down the lumps in her throat. “‘M fine. Sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

 

“It’s- it’s fine,” Lucy responded, slowly moving her hand away. “I-I get it. I’ve dealt with crying kids before, just not used to seeing… my sister cry, I guess.” She frowned at Alina, thinking for a few moments. “And… I don’t know. I always grew up knowing who my sperm donor- father- was, maybe not understanding it, exactly, but… It didn’t just get thrown on me like it did for you.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “Some days, I guess, I feel a little weird. Out of place. Mostly just hate for him- not for my existence- but for all the harm he’s caused. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have his blood at all, but, in the end, your blood doesn’t determine who you are as a person. You do.”

 

Alina smiled at Lucy. That made her feel better. It didn’t get rid of all her worries, and things still felt wrong, but at least she had somebody to feel wrong with. “Thank you.”

 

Lucy smiled back at her, timidly continuing, “Uh, you know, my mama- Harley- she’s a therapist, a psychiatrist, more specifically. She’s helped some of the Bats before. She could help you too.”

 

Alina nodded slowly. She didn’t really think she’d ask Harley Quinn- she might be a debatably kind rogue, but she was still a rogue- for help, but at least she knew it was an option. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she jumped a bit. She grabbed it out of her pocket, opening it up to see a text from Tim.

 

From Timberine: R u ok?

 

From Timberine: R u at Harlivy’s house??

 

From Timberine: Cant talk fighting, r u safe?

 

Alina frowned, a little confused why Tim was texting her if he was still apparently fighting somebody. She assumed he had checked the tracker on her phone.

 

“Do you need to go home?” Lucy asked her. Alina slowly shook her head, then responded to Tim.

 

To Timberine: i’m ok, i’m not hurt, Harley and Ivy saved me from a Joker hanchman

 

“Do you… want to go home?”

 

Alina thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No. I’m okay.” She felt embarrassed and guilty to have vented to her half-sister out of the blue like that, but she still wanted to hang out with her older sister.

 

“Okay,” Lucy said slowly, glancing back at her paused game on the TV screen. “Do you… wanna play some video games together?”

 

Alina snuffled out the last of her sniffles as she whipped her wet eyes with her sleeve. Slowly, she perked up. “Sure.”

Chapter Text

Alina munched on a turkey, ham and some unidentified meat sandwich Harley Quinn had made her as she read over Tim’s text he had sent about an hour ago.

 

From Timberine: Joker, Scarecrow, and Hatter have been defeated, found and put back in Arkham. Still searching for Riddler. We’re sending an old ally of ours to take you home from Harley and Ivy’s. His name is Azrael- he’ll look scary, but he’s a good guy.

 

She had calmed down since her near breakdown in front of Lucy, spending the rest of the time playing video games with her half-sister, and briefly helping Poison Ivy tend to her plants. She had only been there for maybe a little more than two hours, so she was still on edge, but her siblings- others had texted her- didn’t seem worried that she was at two-thirds of the Gotham Sirens’ house.

 

She had texted Nell, Alysia and Mia too, just to see how they were, and Nell had sent back a meme about Gotham villains that Lucy had loved. The one good thing about Gotham villains is that their unusual quirkiness made excellent meme fodder.

 

“Alina!” Harley called from the entrance room. “Ya bodyguard’s here!” Alina caught the distant grumble of “Dunno why they couldn’t just letcha stay over” as she scrambled up from her position on the couch. She shoved the rest of her sandwich into her mouth and gently handed Lucy’s controller back to her.

 

“Aw,” Lucy whined, half-heartedly as she smiled. “You gotta go so soon, sis?”

 

“Sorry.” Alina smiled timidly back at her, swallowing the lump of sandwich in her mouth. “I’ll… stay longer next time.”

 

Lucy grinned and gently- much more gentle than her siblings would have done, like she was too fearful to accidentally bruise Alina- punched her arm. “It’s a playdate.” Alina was sure she could ask her family if she could hang out with Lucy, and they’d say yes, even if she was the daughter of supervillains. She already had Lucy’s phone number too, and had sent the memes Nell sent to her to Lucy.

 

Alina nodded as she hesitantly walked out of the living room and towards the front door where Harley was waiting impatiently, huffing and glaring at the man in dark red, gold and white who stood like a stone statue in the doorway. Alina couldn’t even see his eyes under his helmet, it was just like a black abyss, contrary to the domino masks she was slowly learning to read the expressions of, with Cass’s help.

 

Alina wondered if there was a reason Harley and Poison Ivy couldn’t just drop her off at the Manor instead of this random new, scary guy. Maybe it was because they didn’t know Batman’s secret identity? Or didn’t want Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy to be spotted at Wayne Manor?

 

Harley brightened up when she saw Alina and Lucy, hopping over to them both and ruffling both of their heads of hair until they were needlessly tangled. “Alright girls! Trust ya’ve said y’er goodbyes?” At their nods, she retreated her hands, although she gave Alina a tough squeeze on the shoulder as she continued speaking, “If you ever need help, ‘lina, just start screamin’ for Auntie Harley, and I’ll come runnin’ from the moon if I hafta, ‘kay?”

 

While Poison Ivy had remained more distant, but still friendly, Alina was surprised to find Harley couldn’t stop bouncing from her girlfriend (wife?) to her daughter(s? What did one consider their daughter’s half-sister?), chatting all the way and being overly ‘motherly,’ although Lucy didn’t seem to mind at all.

 

Alina smiled and nodded up at Harley, who said, “You can start screamin’ if this weirdo does anythin’ too, darlin’.”

 

“My days as ‘evil Batman’ are over, Harley,” the stranger said in a rough and deep voice, air quoting the words. “Besides, a hundred bats and birds would have my head.”

 

“And so would th’ Gotham Sirens!”

 

“I don’t hurt children,” the man promised.

 

Harley humphed, but then gestured for Alina to step forward. “Alright, you can get goin’ back to your Daddy Batsy, ‘lina.”

 

Alina timidly glanced between Harley and Azrael, wondering if the strange man was actually safe considering Harley’s apparent distrust of him. But, if her brother Tim trusted him, she guessed she could too. She waved goodbye to Lucy as she followed the man outside. They walked silently for a while, along a half-cleared path, until Azrael spoke.

 

“I took an old Batmobile to get here. Have you ridden in one?”

 

She blinked, staring up at him. “Um. Yes, once.” Jason had taken her on a joyride with Sasha, Carrie, and Mar’i, all the way to where Roy and Lian were. Bruce, surprisingly, hadn’t been that mad, apparently used to his children stealing his vehicles.

 

Azrael didn’t respond, and Alina thought that if you just added a grunt, he would be like Batman when he was in full detective Batman mode. Full detective Batman mode was funny, but sometimes frustrating, because she didn’t really understand the silent communication that happened between her father and her siblings. It was also cool to watch him work. Sometimes he slipped into “nerd detective” mode with Tim or another kid, which switched him from silent and brooding to chatty and brooding.

 

At the end of the path in the wild foliage that had her jumping over overgrown vines anyway so it wasn’t much of a path, she spotted the old Batmobile. You really couldn’t tell it was old, in Alina’s opinion. Aside from a dent in the side and a missing armor plate over one wheel, it was well-taken care of.

 

“Do you work with my- or, uhm, the Batfamily, often?” She couldn’t recall anyone named Azrael, but, then again, there were too many Batfamily and associated members to remember them all.

 

He opened the door for her- this old Batmobile only had two front seats, which made Alina realize that it really was old. The more current Batmobiles all had enough space for multiple family members. As she slid in, he answered, “Yes.”

 

“Oh,” she said, then sat in silence as he got into the drivers’ seat. She swung her feet back and forth, wondering if this was a Batmobile that Batman and the first Robin- Dick, she was pretty sure- used. As he started the Batmobile, speeding off immediately, she continued, “Are you a part of the Batfamily?”

 

“I suppose,” he responded slowly, eyes never leaving the road in front of them as he drove them towards an area that would presumably lead downwards to connect to one of the tunnels connecting to the Batcave.

 

“Why haven’t I seen you at the Manor?” she asked, because she was pretty sure she’d seen every Batfamily member in the Manor at least once- for the holidays, at least- or in the Batcave.

 

Again, he was silent, before responding, “I like to keep to myself nowadays.”

 

“Oh,” she said again. “...What do you do? By yourself?”

 

“...Try to retire,” he told her quietly. “But after what I’ve been through, I never really can. So I help when I can.” The Batmobile slowed down as they turned away from a neighborhood, and Alina was slightly startled to watch a giant boulder with moss- fake moss?- part into two, and the Batmobile slip inside. The boulder closed behind them, and the lights of the Batmobile were the only thing guiding their way.

 

“How do you help?” she questioned. “Fetching stray Batkids?” It felt a little weird to refer to herself as a Batkid- she wasn’t a Bat , and she was only just getting used to being a Wayne. But people like Carrie, Claire, and Darla had referred to her as such before.

 

He chuckled dryly. “Sometimes. I work more in… long-term projects. Like undercover missions. Things that require me to go off the radar.”

 

“Cool,” she said as stared out at the black shadows and gray rock wall that showed them their path. They were silent, the rest of the way. She perked up when she heard the familiar sound of the giant door opening. She hadn’t been on the other side of it when it was opening- coming in instead of waiting for her family to return. When Jason had taken her on a joyride, they had ditched the Batmobile after a while to hang with Roy and Lian, and then Dick and Damian had appeared out of nowhere (to pick Mar’i up, she guessed?), hung out with them for a bit, and then Alina and Carrie had gone back with Dick, Damian and Mar’i to their house. Alina and Carrie had to scramble in the morning, both having forgotten that the next day was a school day, and Kori flew them over to their school. Damian was excused from school that day, because of injuries he’d received on a Teen Titans mission- lucky bastard, Carrie had called him.

 

She watched with a weird sense of awe as she entered the giant doors opened and the Batmobile drove in. Azrael pulled the Batmobile over to the side instead of completely going down the driveway, because other vehicles like the current main Batmobile and various cycles were sitting there. She saw one of her siblings bustling about in the Batcave and perked up. She waited for the click of Azrael unlocking the doors before she pushed the door open.

 

She hopped out, and was immediately greeted by a bright and enthusiastic, “Alina!” from Stephanie, who was dawned in her Spoiler suit. Spoiler jumped over to Alina, who eagerly threw her arms out to greet Spoiler in her hug. Spoiler hugged her tight, then looked up at Azrael, who was still in the Batmobile. By the tone of her voice, she assumed she was grinning as she said, “Thanks Jean-Paul!”

 

Azrael nodded, then hit a button that closed the door. Alina blinked, realizing the big door hadn’t closed and that Azrael was leaving.

 

“Bye, Azrael.” She waved goodbye at him. She saw him wave back before he turned the car around.

 

Spoiler lifted Alina up and hopped off the vehicle path, holding her close. “I’m so glad you're safe, ‘lina! I got worried when that idiot Timbo said he left you behind. What was he thinking !”

 

“I told him to,” Alina said softly, not wanting her brother to get in trouble for her decision. “I was safe.”

 

“You got attacked!” Spoiler cried. “If Harley and Ivy hadn’t been there, you woulda been- shit- kidnapped? Hurt? Both!”

 

“I’m fine,” Alina reassured her.

 

“You’re not like- you’re not a Ba- you’re not some trained ninja assassin kid! You might not have been…” Spoiler trailed off, tone somber. Alina gave her sorta-sister a squeeze with her arms, remembering how helpless she really had been before her saviors had showed up… Time seemed to fly nowadays. She had forgotten her own fear in a matter of hours while playing and talking with Lucy.

 

The sound of purposely audible, but still soft, footsteps, reached her ears and she wiggled in Spoiler’s grasp, turning her head to look at her brother, Damian, in his Robin gear, as he approached them. He was frowning, like he always does, but it was less of a scowl and more of a worried ceasing in his forehead. She remembered when Damian had saved her from those wannabe kidnappers.

 

Someone wouldn’t always be there to save her.

 

“Release Shelley from your grip, Brown,” he commanded, but not with any heat. “I need to access her for injuries and you need to get out onto the field.”

 

Spoiler whined but dropped Alina gently down. She ruffled her little sister’s hair somewhat- it was still a mess because of Harley, then told Robin sternly, “And you need to get some rest. You’re supposed to be resting from your last injury.”

 

Robin scoffed, rolling his eyes, stating, “I’m fine, Brown. Quit your incessant whining.”

 

Spoiler huffed, but uncrossed her arms. “Alina, watch him. If either of you aren’t here when we get back, I’ll ground you both worse than anything Bruce could do.”

 

Alina nodded while Robin glared at Spoiler as she hopped back up to the vehicle path, grabbed her own cycle, and took off, giving a salute as she went. Alina turned to Robin with a frown, wondering what his new injury was- hadn’t he promised her not to get needlessly injured? She squinted her eyes to study him, trying to turn on her own detective Bat mode. He was still limping on his left leg- he had broken it although it was healed now, leaning more on his right. But he didn’t have any bandages or visible nasty bruises. He was still in his full Robin gear too, save for a mask, and Alfred was nowhere in sight, so he didn’t seem to have needed medical care.

 

She tilted her head, confused. “Did you get hurt?”

 

“A question I should be asking you,” her brother stated, his eyes sweeping over her for injuries much like she had done for him (or tried to). “Are you injured?”

 

She shook her head. “Harley and Ivy saved me before the man could do anything.”

 

“And Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy did not harm you either, intentionally or accidentally?”

 

“No,” she said. “They gave me sandwiches.” That Damian, a vegetarian, would not approve of.

 

“Tt. Very well,” he conceded. “Are you well mentally?” Alina figured that was her brother’s way of asking her if she was still scared or shocked.

 

She tilted her head in thought, both thinking about her own emotions, and studying her brother’s. She remembered that Scarecrow had been one of the rogues to escape and wreak havoc on Gotham. Robin’s gaze didn’t look as sharp as usual, flicking about instead of maintaining unnervingly strong eye contact. And he seemed almost pale, his tanned skin a shade sicker.

 

She frowned. “I think I’m okay, mentally. Are you okay, Dami? You look spooked.”

 

She saw Robin swallow and take a breath before answering, “I am alright. I merely inhaled some of Scarecrow’s toxin.”

 

That’s what she was afraid of. “Didn’t you have a mask?” She had a mask. Surely it was required, as a vigilante of Gotham, to have a gas mask on you at all times, as well as a back-up one?

 

“I did,” Robin agreed with a small nod. “But I gave mine up to a woman and her child.”

 

“Oh,” she said, the third time that day. “That was… noble.” She thought that was the word she was looking for. She was proud of her big brother to do something like that, but she was still worried, wondering what he had seen, if it was horribly awful and… “What about an antidote? Did Scarecrow make a new fear gas?” She knew her mother hated Scarecrow the most out of the rogues, because everytime he made a new type of toxin, she had to buy new antidotes, and, even if Wayne Enterprises made sure they were cheap- free, in some cases- her mom still hated wasting extra money.

 

Robin shook his head, and she noticed him glance nervously at the screens of the Batcomputer, then at the giant door. It was what Alina did when she was nervous, waiting for her family to come back after a patrol or mission. “No, but I used the antidote on others too.”

 

Her frown deepened, and she noted Robin’s tense posture. She wished Cass was here to tell her exactly what each little movement or lack there of meant. But, for now, she’d listened to what Spoiler told her to do, and make sure their brother didn’t get antsy and leave.

 

“I’m tired,” she murmured, rubbing her eyes, and hoping that Robin was too unfocused to realize it was an act. “Can we go cuddle with Titus until Stephie and them come back?”


He hesitated, then glanced at her puppy eyed face, and melted. “Titus has been deprived of cuddles lately.”

Chapter Text

Alina thought her family was confusing.

 

But apparently three people at this party were actually the same person, just from completely different universes? Plus, the majority were actually just clones?

 

But, the three different people being the same person meant that they were celebrating three (actually, two and a half, because apparently one of the people were actually only half the same person as the other?) birthdays. The three said birthday girls were named Karen Starr, Linda Danvers, and Kara Danvers.

 

Except, maybe not?

 

Because they also had their superhero names, which at first Alina thought they were all Supergirls, but apparently, only one of them still was, and the other two now went by other names, and honestly, the Superboys could share, why couldn’t they? Additionally, they also had a… Kryp...tonian name? She thought? People kept calling them something-El. But not every Kryptonian here was an El. Some were… honestly, she didn’t know, she didn’t want to know. Her brain hurt, so she just pulled a Damian and stuck to playing with the animals.

 

They were on a farm, which meant they had chickens, pigs, goats, and cows, and for some reason, and somehow, her family had brought Bat-Cow to moo with the other cows. Jerry hadn’t wanted to come (and Dick, Jason and Steph had the scars to prove it), so Goliath stayed back to watch the turkey. They also brought Titus, Ace, Dog, Alfred the Cat, and one of Selina’s cats, Isis. The dogs were all running around and playing with a pure white Labrador named Krypto, who was, as suggested by his name, also Kryptonian (or at least, Alina assumed so), and was flying around, teasing the non-flying pets. Alfred and Isis were also playing with a flying animal, a cat, named Streaky.

 

She grabbed the blue frisbee with the superman logo on it from Krypto’s mouth. She lifted her arm up and watched all four dogs stare eagerly at her, tails wagging and tongues lolling in anticipation. She swung her arm back, then forward, tossing the frisbee with all her might. The dogs launched after it, and she reminded Krypto to walk, knowing his advantage of flight meant he could catch it immediately. As the dogs chased after it, she turned her attention to the ginger cat sitting on the wooden fence beside her, gently petting Streaky’s soft fur. Isis was currently annoying Alfred, swatting at his ears then running away from the much lazier and fatter cat when he tried to strike back.

 

She watched her brother Jason get tackled to the ground like he weighed nothing more than a feather (which was the opposite of the truth) by a giant, blueish-greenish skinned, bulky man dressed in a torn-up Superman suit while her other siblings and other Superkids (although most were actually adults, but she figured they followed the same logic as the Batkids, where you just had to be younger than Bruce, or in this case Clark, to count) laughed at the pair. The mutated man got off of Jason, grinning as he held a football in his hands. Someone called his name, and the man quickly threw it at the young black-haired lady who floated a few inches off the ground to catch it. Someone else- not from the Batfamily or the Superfamily, but some other family- screeched, “Cheater! Cheater on red team!” Someone else then took it upon themselves to tackle that person and cover their mouth, which was more like a borderline attempt to suffocate them.

 

Alina wasn’t exactly sure if they were playing football, or if they were just seeing who could tackle who the most. Because there was a lot more violence then there was trying to get the ball from one end to the other. She was also pretty sure there were three or four teams. That, or people just kept forgetting what color the teams were. Or there were no teams and people just kept yelling colors. Alina had no idea and she wasn’t about to confuse herself more trying to ask.

 

While the not-football game had the attention of most of the party-goers, there was also a ‘calmer’ adult conversation. Which was not at all calmer because for some reason Clark had carried Bruce up into the air, who was viciously fighting to get out of his hold (she honestly wasn’t sure if he was able to get out and just faking, or if he honestly couldn’t get out of his grip without gadgets and kryptonite), while Selina cheered on below along with some other adults. Cheering for what, Alina didn’t know. She knew early on Clark, Diana, Lois and Selina had all collectively started calling each other babe and only babe, as well as calling Bruce babe too even though he refused to call any of them babe, citing “after what happened last time” as the reason why. Alina, again, did not want to know what happened last time, because how the hell could the nickname ‘babe’ get them in enough trouble for Bruce to swear not to do it again?

 

(Also, it was a funny image to think of her father calling anyone babe. He just didn’t seem like the type. But maybe that was because she just couldn’t think of anything but a sad guy saying ‘babe’ in a sad accent as well as that one meme that went like “Babe stop.”)

 

Speaking of Lois Lane, the smiling black-haired woman was walking towards Alina, who had grabbed the frisbee again from Krypto and thrown it.

 

“Hi,” Alina greeted her.

 

“Hello,” Lois said back, smile warm and friendly. “I noticed you didn’t grab any food earlier. Aren’t you hungry?”

 

Alina shrugged. “I’m fine.” She was a bit hungry, but so many people had swarmed the food tables, and still were, that she decided she’d rather not, even if Jon’s grandparents, Alfred, and a bunch of other people had made the best meals ever. Although the three-fourths eaten chocolate cake with strawberries on it was slowly changing her mind.

 

Lois hummed. “Did you want any cake? There’s cupcakes and cookies too.”

 

“Maybe later.” Her eyes flickered to the cake again, noticing with alarm that another slice had been taken, leaving two left. And it had been three layers too!

 

“Are you sure?” Lois prompted. “I could go grab you something. It’s no biggie to me.”

 

“Uhm,” she hesitated, which was enough for Lois.

 

“What do you want?”

 

“...Chocolate cake,” Alina admitted.

 

Lois smiled, blue eyes sparkling. “Alright. I’ll be right back.”

 

Alina watched as Lois made her way to the food tables, with an easy confidence Alina envied. She grabbed the frisbee from Dog this time, gave her a scratch behind the ear, then chucked it again. Streaky meowed in her ear before she hopped onto the ground, deciding to chase after Isis. Alfred the Cat huffed but gratefully snuck away from Isis, plopping himself at Alina’s feet. He complained noisily and Alina leaned down to pet him and scratch his chin.

 

Lois came back right as Titus and Ace, both holding the frisbee with wagging tails, trotted up to Alina. Alina gently tugged the frisbee from their mouths, then chucked it again, although Krypto ‘cheated’ to fly up and catch it, doing a few loop-de-loops while the other dogs barked angrily at him.

 

“Thank you,” Alina mumbled shyly as she grabbed the plate with the last two slices of chocolate cake from Lois.

 

“Thank you for keeping the animals busy,” Lois said, startling Alina. “Or else Krypto would have stolen the football and been halfway across the globe again.”

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked, wondering if Krypto would actually, or could actually, do that. The answer was probably yes. “Uhm, you’re welcome.”

 

“Normally Jon and Damian would take the job, but it seems they’ve disappeared with Kathy. I assume to get into mischief.” Though her tone was scolding, her eyes were soft and fond.

 

Alina smiled, letting out a tiny giggle. “Sounds like them.” Damian was already trouble by himself. With two of his friends? Chaos incarnate.

 

Lois smiled too, before nodding towards where an actually calm group- a trio- was. “You know, you don’t have to stay by yourself if you don’t want to. I’m sure Sasha and Charlie wouldn’t mind a helping hand with Mar’i.”

 

Alina watched as Charlie teleported herself in a sparkle of pink up to where Mar’i was attempting to fly away. Mar’i giggled as Charlie teleported beside her, wrapped her arms around Mar’i, and then slowly let her weight drag Mar’i down. Alina wondered how strong Mar’i must be, even as a four-year-old, that she and Charlie didn’t immediately plummet like rocks. Once Charlie touched the ground, Mar’i wiggled out of her grip. Sasha immediately leaped forward to grab her ankles.

 

Alina slowly shrugged. “Maybe.” She put a piece of cake into her mouth.

 

“Alright then.” Lois placed her hand on her shoulder briefly. “I better go stop my husband from ruining Bruce’s tattered pride anymore. You just holler if you need anything, ‘kay?”

 

“Okay,” Alina said, around a mouthful of delicious chocolate cake.

 

As Alina realized she couldn’t throw a frisbee and eat cake at the same time, she slowly approached Sasha, Charlie and Mar’i. Maybe Mar’i would stop trying to fly away if she was throwing the frisbee for the dog that also liked to fly away.

Chapter Text

Alina scratched Titus’s ear as they both trailed after a steaming Robin. Robin, blinded by his rage, hadn’t questioned Alina at all as she followed him onto the Watchtower. A few Green Lanterns that had been chatting near the main zeta tube of the Watchtower- a smiling dark-haired white woman, a stern black man, and a smirking red-haired white man- scrambled out of the way as Robin stormed past them, although the redhead didn’t look happy about it.

 

Alina smiled timidly at them, giving a small wave as an apology. The woman, who had a green marking over her eye, waved back.

 

WHERE ARE RED ROBIN AND BATGIRL! ” Robin screeched. Alina thought both the metaphor of a cat bristling or a bird’s ruffled feathers would fit him, as they both often did. Normally, she would choose the cat metaphor for him, but the situation right now called more for an angry bird. Or two. Maybe three, depending on how this scenario ended.

 

Titus barked twice, commandingly, despite his lolling tongue, as though he was repeating his master’s command in dogspeak. Alina tried to hold back her giggles as Titus almost copied his owner’s enraged stance, lifting his head up and raising his legs high as he walked, his tail stiffening.

 

It was made funnier by the fact he was currently wearing his Bathound costume.

 

Alina wished he was wearing his Birdhound one instead, the one she had seen his puppy pictures off, where Stephanie and Dick had dressed puppy Titus up in a Robin suit and let him chase after Ace in his Bathound one. It was adorable.

 

Alina wondered briefly if she should have grabbed a mask since her father hadn’t ‘okay’ed her to come onto the Watchtower, which meant she might stumble across a superhero who didn’t know her family's secret identities. But none of the domino masks would be big enough to cover all of the birthmark on her face, so she figured it was a lost cause. She was already here, anyway.

 

Hawkman and Hawkwoman, who had been flying past through the halls, paused as Robin marched past, glancing at each other. Hawkwoman’s lips curled up in amusement, and she pointed down a hallway that Robin wasted no time in storming down. As Alina and Titus picked up the pace to follow after Robin, she heard Hawkman and Hawkwoman whisper and snicker to each other.

 

Alina watched as Robin burst into a room, every inch of his body burning with barely contained rage, immediately stopping and mouth falling agape. “ FATHER!

 

Alina scrambled into the room after him, curiously, and slightly alarmed, her emotions mirrored on Titus as he stopped beside his owner and cocked his head.

 

In the room stood Batman, casually holding a round and brown turkey in his arms, who was unusually calm. Had anybody else even attempted to pick him up, they would no longer have eyes, for Jerry would have pecked them out faster than you could have blinked. But, for some unknown reason, Batman had always been the exception, the turkey even going as far to cuddle up to his side on the couch on multiple occasions.

 

Beside Batman were three other Justice League members, easily identifiable as the King of Atlantis himself Aquaman, the Martian ambassador Martian Manhunter (or J’onn J'onzz), and the number one mistress of magic Zatanna. Who had seemed to be relaxedly talking to Batman despite the turkey glaring vexedly at them from his arms.

 

“How could you have BETRAYED me!” Robin gasped in horror, and Alina giggled at Aquaman, J’onn and Zatanna’s slightly confused, slightly amused expressions and glances at each other. She was glad she had context for her brother’s rage.

 

Titus let out a growly ruff of agreement, raising his head to stare into the beady, dark eyes of Jerry, who stared with anger as hot as the flames of Hell back. The turkey let out a low cluck.

 

Batman tilted his head to the side, just slightly, as he said, “I’m not sure how I’ve betrayed you this time, son.”

 

“Don’t you DARE play ignorant with me!” Robin snarled. “Release Jerry at once and show me exactly where those vile imbeciles hid their putrid faces!”

 

“Damian,” Batman said, which told Alina that everybody in the room knew their secret identities, which soothed Alina’s worries about accidentally revealing them. “I’ve told you to tone it down on the insults.”

 

Robin growled, low in the back of his throat, like a cat warning of its attack. “The wrath they have caused me to feel warrants such insults, Father. And you’re avoiding my commands! RELEASE JERRY!”

 

“Jerry enjoys being held,” Batman replied, and Jerry clucked his beak in agreement, even though the statement should have an asterisk saying, “Only by Batman.”

 

“That is not the problem and you know it!” Robin took a few intimidating steps forward that were not intimidating at all to Batman, or anybody else in the room, really. The other three observers were definitely getting a free show. Maybe Alina should make them pay to watch her brother’s dramatic rage. “Place. Jerry. On. The. Ground!” Titus barked, stepping forward too. Alina stayed where she was, trading an amused glance with Zatanna.

 

Batman hesitated only a moment before saying, “Very well.”

 

Much to Jerry’s displeasure, Batman slowly lowered him to the ground. The turkey squawked loudly and flapped his wings, trying to scramble back up into Batman’s hold. Jerry scowled up at Batman, betrayed, as he settled gloomily down on the floor. He shifted from one talon to the other uncomfortably.

 

Robin gasped, then growled, lowly, “I can’t believe they actually committed such a hideous crime.”

 

Aquaman, J’onn, and Zatanna looked startled as they stared at the nails of the turkey’s talons. Apparently, they had not known what a hideous crime had been committed. Jerry’s nails were all painted a different color, each of them sparkly with glitter and equally neonic. Alina stifled her laughter to avoid Robin’s glare as he turned it to the three League members that had begun laughing at the absurdity of it all.

 

“Jerry,” Robin called, crouching down and holding his hand out. “Come here. I will wash away the disgrace they have painted on your nails.”

 

Jerry, although Damian was most definitely his second favorite person, just glared, clucking angrily as he shuffled backwards towards Batman. Clearly, the turkey no longer trusted anybody but Batman, after what had happened to his nails.

 

Robin snarled, not at Jerry, but at the injustice of it all. He stood upwards, glaring around. “ Drake! Kelley! I know you’re here. Come out here and face justice like a Bat!” The only response were disembodied giggles that only angered Robin further. “Titus! Search and destroy.” Titus barked and took off, sniffing the floor and the air obediently, his ears perked for the slightest of sounds.

 

Alina wondered if Tim and Carrie purposely used their strained, love-hate sibling relationship with Damian to their advantage. Carrie especially always seemed to enjoy riling Damian up, and Tim never passed an opportunity to prank Damian, even though Damian’s retaliation was often violence. Perhaps this was their way of showing they loved and cared for their brother.

 

“Well,” Zatanna spoke quietly to Batman as they watched Robin wail over Jerry’s colorful nails and Titus go helplessly in circles around the room that you think would be hard to hide in, as it was just a simple room with a table that had forgotten papers on it, and one shelf of books. “At least you have one normal kid.”

 

Alina blinked as Zatanna smirked at her, so Alina smirked right back up at her and said, “For now.”

 

Batman snorted while the other Leaguers laughed.

 

Titus had made his way over to the shelf, where he went still before he erupted into barking, scratching at the corners of the shelf. Robin bolted over, immediately pushing the shelf. While Alina would have hurt herself trying to do that, her brother moved the shelf with ease, revealing a hole beneath it. Titus barked into it, then perked up as his voice echoed back. He looked momentarily distracted, intrigued by his echo, before Robin whistled and pointed him down. The Bathound wagged his tail and launched himself down the hole, which was big enough for someone like Dick, who had lean shoulders and a lithe build, but would definitely get someone with broad shoulders like Jason or Bruce stuck.

 

As Titus’s eager barks echoed back up to Robin, the young vigilante turned to Jerry, who was still furiously puffed up at Batman’s feet, and said, “Do not worry. I will avenge you.”

 

Then Robin slipped into the hole after his dog. Shrieks and barks and laughter overlapped, the sounds of Titus finding the hidden Red Robin and Batgirl and Robin launching at them with a katana easily identifiable.

 

“Has that hole always been there?” Aquaman questioned, tilting his head. “And where does it lead?”

 

Batman grunted. “The original Titans made a bunch of ‘secret holes.’ The kids hid snacks and games in them before we added snack and game rooms to the Watchtower.”

 

“We’ve used them to hide from invasions or sneak up on intruders upon occasion,” J’onn stated.

 

“Most don’t lead anywhere though, or are too small for most to use,” Batman added.

 

“That does explain how your kids would suddenly show up out of nowhere and vanish,” Zatanna mused. “I didn’t think it’d be possible for them to always use the vents, or their speedster friends.”

 

“How long have they been in there? I did not see them sneak past us,” Aquaman questioned.

 

“That’s the point of sneaking, isn’t it?” Batman smirked. “They snuck in a while ago to give me the turkey.”

 

Zatanna laughed softly, “I was wondering where Jerry suddenly came from.”

 

Speaking of Jerry, Alina had grabbed a small piece of corn on the cob from her pocket, slowly luring Jerry towards her as the adults spoke. Batman had given him a nudge with his foot during the conversation too, and now Jerry had followed Alina halfway out the door.

 

She heard a scream from Robin down below, a shout of, “It clashes horribly with his feathers!” followed by the snickering of Red Robin. Titus had started howling.

 

Alina made clucking noises with her tongue and was pleased to see Jerry perk up and follow her a little faster. He stretched his neck out and plucked a piece of corn off the cob. She giggled, making eye contact with her dad before she quietly started to close the door, Jerry fully in the hallway.

 

In the next moment, she saw Carrie in her Batgirl costume jump out of the hole and bolt over to the door opposite of Alina. Batgirl grinned at her, and the last thing Alina saw before she completely closed the door was a furious Robin chasing after her.

 

As Alina slowly led Jerry down the hallways towards the zeta tube (Red Robin would meet her there; she had no idea how to use it), she wondered how long it would take for Robin to notice Jerry was once again missing, on his way to get a stylish new wig, and he had been played like a cheap kazoo.

Chapter Text

Sometimes she really questioned if her family were truly detective vigilantes-slash-superheroes.

 

Why were they always surprised when she knew something she shouldn’t know?

 

You’d think they’d know when she knew something she wasn’t supposed to know.

 

It wasn’t like she was meticulously hiding the fact she knew what she shouldn’t know.

 

Which was why she was surprised they were surprised when she explained she knew the Joker was her biological father.

 

(She had called him sperm donor at first, much to her siblings’ amusement and her father’s horror. Needless to say Harley’s bad mouth rubbing off on Alina had nearly dissuaded her dad from letting her go to Harley’s.)

 

Alina had first met Lucy a week ago, and they hadn’t had any time to bond except over text because it was a school week. Lucy had been eager to spend some more time with her half-sister, and Alina could say the same. It was nice, in a way, because while she knew her other siblings loved her, they didn’t exactly... reach out to her. It was always a matter of convenience- she lived in Wayne Manor 24/7, so whenever someone else was there, they’d talk to her. Otherwise, it was more sporadic. She’d get random texts from family members she barely remembered, but it was always like they were checking up on her, making sure she still existed, and they were never anything more than some memes or asking if her closer family had driven her crazy yet. It would be Nell asking if she, Alina, and Alysia could hang out with Stephanie rather than Alina herself suggesting it. Most of the time, things were last minute, where somebody would just show up and decide to take Alina along for the ride, whether or not she had been originally a part of ‘the plan.’

 

Even after a year and a few months, it was still jarring how she went from an only child to having so many siblings she couldn’t even count them. Sometimes it felt like in Home Alone , where she was forgotten in the head count.

 

So, it was nice, being Lucy’s only sibling.

 

She hoped anyway.

 

Lucy had asked if they could hang out that weekend, so Alina had, of course, asked her dad at dinner. He, along with some of her siblings, had been a little surprised she had kept contact with Lucy, only having met the gal for, what, two-three hours? He didn’t seem entirely okay with leaving her in the hands of two famously insane Gotham rogues, which, fair enough. But he had questioned why Alina wanted to spend time with Lucy- apparently Alina had expressed too much eagerness.

 

And Alina, in all her oblivious innocence to the fact that her family were not as good detectives as they claimed to be when it came to their own family, stated;

 

“Why wouldn’t I wanna spend time with my half-sister?”

 

Cue Carrie choking on the chicken leg she had just shoved into her mouth, Duke looking caught between being shocked at Alina’s knowledge and less confused when he realized why exactly Carrie was going to choke (his meta-powers had shown him that- side note: was nobody going to tell Alina Duke was a metahuman or was she just going to have to realize that when she remembered he was Signal, who was famously the “only” metahuman vigilante of Gotham?), and the rest of her family letting out startled gasps, a few of which turned into laughs later on.

 

That had led to her telling her family that she did, in fact, know her bio-father was the Joker. To give them credit, they did know she knew, or at least suspected, that Bruce wasn’t her biological father- after all, she had confessed as much to him what felt like forever ago. But they did not know she knew her bio-dad was the Joker. When they questioned her on how she could have possibly found out (they had been “ so careful not to slip up again”), she just smirked and said, “I’ve learned a few things about being sneaky.”

 

To be even more fair to them, most of those ‘things’ were called pretending to be asleep, which, as she was often dubbed the “genuinely innocent and so help me Batman we are going to keep it that way child,” made it even easier to get away with. So she guessed ‘things’ was really that she was often overlooked or underestimated.

 

Alina’s favorite quote was from Stephanie over video chat, who had laughed at her surrogative family and even her own stupidity, saying, “How are we so bad at this super secret detective-vigilante thing? She keeps discovering things, and we don’t even notice! If she never said anything, we woulda been none the wiser.”

 

That last part got Alina thinking.

 

But she’d think later, for it was the morning after that dinner, and Tim had driven her to Harley’s house, or as close as they could get considering all the wild, overgrown foliage. Luckily Lucy had been waiting at the start of the ‘path’ to her house. Alina had waved Tim goodbye as he left for work, and Alina was happy just thinking about the fact that Tim would be driving her back home, ergo meaning she got ice cream.

 

“Have you ever seen hyenas before?” Lucy was asking her as she opened the door to her house.

 

“Uhm,” Alina hesitated, remembering the pictures she’d seen of hyenas, both wild and Harley’s. She assumed Lucy meant real life hyenas. “No?”

 

“Great.” Lucy grinned wide as they both walked into her house. “They’re in the backyard. My mama’ll be back in an hour, by the way, but my mom’s here.” Alina knew after deciphering via texts that her mama was Harley, and her mom was Ivy.

 

A thrill ran up Alina’s back. “Are they dangerous?” she whispered.

 

“Nah,” Lucy reassured her as she led her to the backdoor. “Well. Yes. But not ta us.”

 

Regardless, Alina stuck close to Lucy’s side. She tried to remind herself she’d met a dragon- Goliath was harmless. A big, fuzzy cuddlebug who enjoyed scratches behind his ears, getting his wings pet, and flying in the rain.

 

Lucy whistled as she stepped outside. “Big boys! C’mere!”

 

Barks that sounded huffy and cackly resounded as three large, spotted brown hyenas with round ears, short tails and a furry hunchback came bounding over. They were as big as Alina! Why did she think they’d be smaller- more dog-sized?!

 

They yipped and they snapped, lips pulled back to reveal their shining fangs as they sniffed at Lucy and Alina. Lucy stretched out her hand, and the biggest of the hyenas eagerly rubbed its head against her palm while the other two growled angrily. They pushed the bigger one out of the way, one lifting its head up to lick at Lucy’s hand.

 

“Hey, hey, no fighting,” Lucy warned them, a laugh to her voice. Alina shifted behind Lucy, her hands clutching her shirt, especially as one of the hyenas loudly sniffed the air, staring straight at Alina with sharp eyes and teeth. It growled lowly, taking a step forward.

 

Lucy lightly booped its nose, saying, “Hey, no. Back off. She’s a friend. No biting.” The hyena whined but reluctantly bowed its head. Lucy scratched the back of its neck, ruffling its fur. “This is Louie. Lou’s the sweetest one, don’t let him fool you. He likes belly rubs.” Lou leaned into Lucy’s touch, huffing happily, before the bigger two shoved him away. One of the hyenas lightly nipped at Lucy’s fingers and she pushed his head away. “This one,” she patted his shoulder, “is Budsie. He’s- Bud, no- he’s the biter, but they’re soft bites. Unless he hates you. But I’m sure he won’t hate you.”

 

The last hyena, the biggest one, although not by much, raised his head and snarled at the other two as they started shoving each other and him. Bud and Lou yapped irritatedly even as they backed off. The hyena moved forward, huffing, as he sniffed Lucy’s fingers, giving them an occasional lick. He glanced curiously towards Alina.

 

“No, we don’t have food, ya pig,” Lucy told him to which he huffed and whined, whipping his head back and forth. Lucy laid her hand on his head, scratching lightly. “This guy is the bully, and a big fatso who eats more than he should.” She toyed with his ear, much to the hyena’s annoyance. “His name’s Bruce Wayne.”

 

Alina blinked, jolting a bit, and glancing up at Lucy, who seemed to have dropped the name like it meant nothing.

 

‘Oh,’ the thought jolted through Alina. ‘Right. She doesn’t know Batman is Bruce Wayne, and she only knows my dad as Batman.’ She was so used to people in her family and associated just… knowing who everyone was. The only people she really had to keep her mouth shut was her classmates, and friends, like Nell, Alysia, Mia, and Timothy Fox, although she thought he might know some things, since his sister Tiffany did.

 

What… did she do in this situation? Tell Lucy Bruce was Batman? It’s not like Lucy was a normal kid like Nell- she was the daughter of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (and the Joker, but he didn’t count). But was she allowed to tell Lucy, even if she was the daughter of sorta-rogues, sorta-allies?

 

“Uhm, why’s he named that?” Alina asked softly, watching Lucy pet the hyenas. Thinking about it logically, she supposed Lucy would eventually realize Alina was Bruce Wayne (the human)’s daughter, because it was public knowledge- a quick google search could confirm so. But she still guessed she should run it by her dad first before just revealing that information all willy-nilly.

 

“Eh.” Lucy shrugged as she used both hands to shake Hyena Bruce’s head. “I didn’t name him. I was like, four, when my mama got him, and living more with my aunty then. I just always assumed she knew that Bruce guy or somethin’. Or it was like namin’ yer pet after a celebrity- he is a billionaire or whateva after all.”

 

Yeah, Alina knew. Sometimes she forgot that fact just because of how human he seemed. But she always remembered when he offered to get her the newest and most expensive toys like it was nothing.

 

“We have a cat named after our grandpa,” Alina offered, watching the hyenas yip and whine for Lucy’s attention.

 

“Really?” Lucy’s lip curled up in amusement. “That must be confusing.”

 

Alina shrugged, flinching a bit as Budsie leaned forward to sniff at her. “Sometimes. My brother also has a dog named Dog.”

 

“Wow, okay. Who gave your family the right to name things?” Considering the various amount of Bat-named things, she guessed the bad-at-naming traits came from Bruce. Although she had heard somebody joke about Dick actually being the one to come up with the Bat-naming system, so maybe he was to blame?

 

“Not me,” Alina joked. She raised her hand hesitantly towards Bud, but jerked it back when he opened his mouth, full of fangs.

 

“It’s okay,” Lucy reassured her. She nudged Bud backwards.”Do you want to pet them?”

 

“Uhm,” Alina wavered. “Yes?”

 

“Here.” Lucy pushed Bud away and replaced him with Louie. “He won’t bite. Just pet him like a dog- he likes it rough, but you can be soft.”

 

Alina slowly reached her hand out, staring at the sharp, black eyes of Lou. It was weird- Titus was a big dog too, taller than the hyenas actually, as a growing Great Dane, but Ace and Dog and the new puppy Dick had gotten recently (rescued on some mission- she was really cute, small and only had three-legs) were all smaller than the hyenas. Hyena Bruce barely had to tilt his head up to stare Alina down in the eyes. It was unnerving. And they all were bulky and muscular too.

 

She placed her hand on Lou’s head. His fur was sort of soft, sort of sharp and dry. It was weird. He let out a low, high-pitched whining noise but didn’t move to attack her, so she timidly dug her fingers into his mane of fur and gently pet him. Lou started moving his head upwards and she jerked her head back again. Lou growled and yapped.

 

Lucy chuckled a bit. “You upset him. He wants to be pet. Don’t worry, when he moves, he’s not moving to attack, he’s moving to rub against you. He’s like a cat in that way.”

 

“Oh.” Alina blinked. “Sorry. He’s just so… big. It’s scary.” Which she guessed was hypocritical of her, since Titus was bigger than the hyenas, but he was just a lovable goofball who tripped over his paws a lot, without the gleaming fangs, cackling laugh, and hunching body hyenas had.

 

Lucy laughed lightly, “If you think they’re big, you should see a female hyena. Didja know girl hyenas are actually the top dogs in hyena packs?”

 

“No,” Alina answered as she placed her hand back on Lou’s head, scratching at his ear. The other two hyenas had moved away, fighting- or play-fighting, she hoped- with each other.

 

“Yep,” Lucy popped her ‘p’. “They have- well. I probably shouldn’t tell you that fact about gal hyenas. But they’re bigger than the guys, and kind of assholes. Mama would have gotten girl hyenas if they weren’t so aggressive. Even she’s got limits on pets. Bud, Lou and Bruce don’t even know they’ve got it good- they’re in way better shape than a wild guy would be. Bruce’s definitely made himself the alpha, but if he stood up against a gal, he’d get the shit beat outta him.”

 

Alina stifled a giggle as she imaged her father in place of the hyena. The same could be said for him. Lucy glanced at her with a raised eyebrow, eyes showing her slight puzzlement. Alina shyly shrugged, cheeks lightly tinted pink.

 

“Uhm- just, uh, imaging the actual Bruce Wayne getting, uh, beat up by a girl, instead,” Alina explained stutteringly. Maybe she should just tell Lucy that Bruce Wayne was her father…

 

“I’m pretty sure he has, probably on multiple occasions.” Lucy grinned. “I think my moms have. There’s probably a video clip of it.”

 

Alina lit up eagerly, her fingers scratching at a spot Lou really seemed to enjoy. “Can we watch them?”

 

“Watch my moms kickass? Of course.” Her lips curled upwards, and Alina couldn’t help but mimic her smile as Lucy pulled out her phone.

Chapter Text

Alina laid next to Mia, both of them sprawled out on their stomachs on top of blankets, with pillows propping their elbows. In their hands were two Nintendo Switches, both of them technically belonging to the Wayne family, although Alina was sure nobody would care nor notice if she let Mia keep the one she was using. Alina was teaching her how to play Pokemon, not able to fathom that the girl had never played it before. To be fair, Alina had only ever played an old, pixel version on a DSi before she came to the Manor, but still! Pokemon was the thing of everybody’s childhoods.

 

There was arguing and laughter from the older kids behind them, who were fighting viciously with each other over a game of Among Us . Alina hadn’t yet been swept into the new game, her siblings’ fury over it- over each other- giving her caution.

 

“Why would you accuse me?! I did medbay right in front of you!”

 

“Because I didn’t see it!”

 

“HOW?! Are you blind?!”

 

“I was doing the other task!”

 

“Pretty sus how long it took you to do that other task.”

 

“Vote Dre.”

 

“No, vote Riko! She hasn’t been doing any tasks.”

 

“It’s obviously Dre! Duke, vote Andre!”

 

“It’s Riko, it’s Riko, she’s so goddamn sus.”

 

Alina moved her head close to Mia’s ear, who was happily playing with her Litten (Alina had chosen Rowlet at the start of her game- it was a Dartrix now- but only because Nell had chosen Popplio and Alysia chose Litten), whispering, “Duke is the imposter.”

 

Mia blinked, glancing at her. “How do you know?”

 

“Too quiet,” Alina explained. “When he’s imposter, he’s quiet ‘cause he knows everyone else will cause chaos for him.” And, as a fellow since-we-aren’t-as-chaotic-as-the-others-we-get-dubbed-the-innocent-kid (which, while a case could be made for Alina and Cullen that the statement was true, the same could not be said for Duke and Cass), she knew suspicion was rarely cast upon him.

 

“Oh.” Mia glanced back at her sister, who had been the first kill and pouting about it, then at a quietly smirking Duke, who watched Dre and Riko argue with an in-game dead Dax yelling at them all to just vote. “Okay.” She turned back to her game, stuffing her Litten full of PokePuffs.

 

Alina listened as the voting session was over, Dre cast out into the void with a message of whatever-his-username-was was not the imposter, and Riko fell into stunned silence.

 

“It was YOU! ” Dre shrieked as the screen showing the imposter winning popped up. Duke chuckled proudly while Izzy punched him in the arm.

 

“Didn’t have to kill me first, asshole!”

 

“Payback,” Duke replied calmly.

 

“That was five rounds ago!”

 

“Payback,” he repeated smugly.

 

Dax, meanwhile, was groaning to a still stunned Riko and a slowly accepting-his-fate Andre. “I hate this game. I die every time , and I’m never imposter.”

 

“You were imposter last round,” Riko reminded him.

 

“Yeah, but you guys voted me immediately,” he pouted.

 

“Because you vented right in front of me,” Riko deadpanned.

 

“Look,” Mia said, drawing Alina’s attention back to her. She was showing Alina her screen. “Is this a good Pokemon? She’s cute.”

 

Alina smiled. “Well, it is called Cutiefly. And I think so. I dunno. I didn’t find one. Catch it.”

 

“Okay.” Mia beamed as she had her Litten use scratch on the Cutiefly to lower it’s health, then throw a Pokeball. Alina was glad Mia was having fun. Duke had told her the girl often kept to herself, only talking to her sister and Duke, but now she was eager to chat and play with Alina and her friends. She was coming out of her shell.

 

“Hey,” Izzy called to the two girls, who both looked up at her expectantly. “I’m gonna go steal some snacks. You guys want anything?”

 

“Uhm,” Mia murmured, shifting nervously. “I’m fine.” 

 

Alina knew that was code for ‘I don’t want to impose,’ so she piped up, “Get us dilly bars! And the Superman themed fruit snacks. And sodas.” Even though Alfred had attempted to ban sodas, the kids still found ways to sneak them past him. Well, not sneak them past, because nothing got past Alfred, but, found a way to wear Alfred down until he let a few slide.

 

“Geeze,” Izzy laughed. “You girls are gonna eat all that?”

 

“Yes,” Alina said, smiling and raising her chin proudly. She was sure she put on a few pounds since she first entered Wayne Manor, but, hey, better to be overfed than underfed, right?

 

The thought made her feel a bit guilty, because her mother tried so hard to make sure she had a big meal on her plate every night.

 

“You’re so spoiled, aren’t you?” Izzy leaned downwards to ruffle Alina’s hair, grinning.

 

Giggling, Alina agreed, “Yeah!”

 

“Alright, I’ll fetch your dilly bars and fruit snacks, little Wayne. Whatdya two want for sodas?” Izzy asked.

 

“Orange Crush!” Alina said excitedly, her current favorite.

 

“Uh,” Mia hesitated, eyes flickering from Alina to her sister. “Uhm, I guess I’ll, uh, have Crush too.”

 

“Gotcha.” Izzy nodded. She tossed her phone towards Mia, who stumbled to catch it. “Keep playing for me, will ya?”

 

Mia blinked, watching her sister leave, then glanced at Alina. “Uhm-”

 

“Here,” Alina said, reaching out to grab the phone. “I know how to play. You catch your Cutiefly.” Her first Pokeball had failed.

 

“Okay.” Mia returned to playing Pokemon while Alina sat up, scooching closer to the older kids, who were making snide remarks to each other as they did their tasks, waiting for the first death. Izzy had been a crewmate- probably why she left to get snacks then, unable to get revenge on Duke. Alina herself hadn’t played before, but she did know how to from observing her siblings and YouTubers.

 

Afraid of getting killed, she avoided electrical despite most of Izzy’s tasks being in there. Instead, passing through the hallways, she stumbled upon a dead orange body, but seeing as she had no idea who orange was, and she wanted to do tasks, she just kept on walking. Unfortunately for her, both cyan and purple were walking past her. Oops.

 

As purple called the body, all eyes turned to the little girl holding Izzy’s phone.

 

“Well it was a good run,” Andre said kindly.

 

Alina blinked as innocently as possible. “What?”

 

“You’re imposter, ‘lina, you walked past the body,” Riko explained.

 

Alina tilted her head. “But I didn’t kill it?”

 

That gave them pause.

 

“Are you imposter?” Duke asked her, his eyes studying. She met his gaze steadily.

 

“I dunno, how do I know?” her mouth said, but her hands sloppily signed, messed up by the phone, “Are you?”

 

The others eyed her hands warily- it was an obvious movement by her hands, but she was banking on the fact none of them knew sign language. While Duke nodded and Alina stopped her lips from smirking at Duke’s incredible luck, Riko slowly replied, “Do you have a sabotage option in the corner?”

 

She shook her head. “No. Should I?”

 

“Only if you’re imposter,” Daxton explained. He glanced at Riko and Dre with narrowed, but not suspicious, eyes. “Weird that you two are buddy-buddy now.”

 

“Hey! I promised I’d watch him do trash this time,” Riko defended. “And you’re dead anyway, you can’t speak!”

 

“Guys, let’s just skip the first vote,” Duke offered. “Just follow me and do tasks, ‘lina, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Alina replied, instantly. The others grumbled, but skipped vote. Alina followed Duke’s yellow character around as he led them towards the reactor. As the reactor went off, sabotaged, Duke instructed her to go clear it, seemingly helping her, when, in reality, Alina sat in front of the task, doing nothing.

 

Meanwhile, the others, confused, ran back and forth between the two tasks, eventually noticing that neither Duke nor Alina were actually fixing the reactor.

 

“Alina, are you pressing the hand?” Riko asked.

 

Alina lied, “Yeah.”

 

Riko’s brows furrowed and she glanced at Duke. “Well, then it’s-”

 

“Hey!” Duke intervened. “No talking outside of meetings.”

 

“But we all know it’s-” Riko sucked in a strangled gasp, before her face turned into a pouty frown, glaring at Duke. “Rude.”

 

Duke smirked. “Don’t cheat.”

 

The emergency screen popped up, Andre having reported the dead body at Duke’s feet.

 

Dre quickly explained, “Alina, vote Duke. He’s imposter, and we’ll win then.”

 

“Oh, okay.”

 

Dre smirked at Duke. “Good game, though, bro.”

 

Duke just shrugged, smiling. Andre’s smile quickly dropped when he realized Alina had not, in fact, voted for Duke.

 

“Alina! What?!” Dre gasped while Duke cackled. “Why would you vote me?! Now he wins!” Alina just grinned, half-shyly, half-proudly, up at him.

 

“Duke got it two times in a row, and I’m still not imposter…” Dax was grumbling to himself as Izzy reappeared in the room, snacks in hand.

 

“Izzy, Alina made Duke win!” Riko quickly tattled.

 

Isabella’s eyes widened in betrayal. “Alina! I trusted you. You were supposed to be a good crewmate!”

 

Alina shrugged, grinning victoriously. “Sorry. Can I have my dilly bar now?”

 

Izzy scowled fauxly at her as she placed the snacks down carelessly. “I don’t think you deserve it.”

 

“Nooo,” Alina whined. “I’ll help you win next time!”

 

Izzy considered it, lips curling up. “Next time as in the next round?”

 

Alina blinked. “Sure.”

 

“Great!” Izzy said, hand reaching out for her phone. Alina handed her her phone and grabbed out her own phone. “I’ll tell ya the code. Mia, you wanna play?”

 

Mia glanced up from her game of Pokemon. “Uhm.” She looked at Alina, who just shrugged, indifferent. “Sure, I guess. I- I dunno how to play though.” She slowly saved her Pokemon game and set the Switch aside, cautiously pulling out her phone. It was still the one Alina had gotten her for Christmas.

 

“That’s okay,” Duke said. “We’ll teach you.”

 

“Like you ‘taught’ Alina?” Dax complained, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Yes.” Duke grinned. “If Izzy is claiming Alina now, then I’m claiming Mia.”

 

“Unfair!” Riko yelled. “We don’t have any little siblings to claim.”

 

“Sucks to suck,” Izzy responded easily. Riko stuck out her tongue in response, and the group laughed heartily. Mia crawled up beside Alina, slowly opening the app store. Alina whispered the name of the game to her, and Mia hesitantly typed it in. Alina joined the game the others were in in the meantime, then grabbed her dilly bar. Riko and Dax also grabbed some dilly bars, leaving one more left that someone would hopefully eat before it melted and Alfred got mad at them.

 

Alina happily munched on her dilly bar, enjoying the taste of chocolate and vanilla. She glanced around at Duke’s friends, laughing together, and then at Mia timidly who now wore a small smile beside her. Joy grew inside Alina at the sight of them all.

 

Some nights, Alina couldn’t sleep anymore, the fear and the worry of the Joker, her mother, and her grandparents hanging over her. But moments like these reminded her why she kept smiling. Why she didn’t just let the fear consume her.

 

Merrily, she helped Mia join the game, excited to betray Izzy and Duke both.

Chapter Text

Alina wasn’t sure how, exactly, she convinced Damian to bring her to Titans Tower. Not the Titans Tower, of course. As Teen Titans had grown, more towers had been built. The original Tower was in Jump City, and the one they were going to was in… some city. Alina hadn’t thought to ask.

 

Damian had also stolen a Batmobile, as a side note. Her excitement at going to a Titans Tower and meeting Damian’s Teen Titans team had made her forget he legally could not drive yet. She had a moment of panic in the car when she did remember- what if they got pulled over? What if Dad found out? What if he didn’t know how to drive? Why couldn’t they have just used the teleport-y thingies?

 

The answers: They were in a Batmobile. What cop, in their right mind, would pull over the Batmobile? If Bruce found out, then Damian would get in trouble, not Alina. Damian did know how to drive, and, although she had heard he was a reckless driver, he was actually driving quite safely, maybe because Alina was in the car. As for the teleporters- called zetatubes, they would have to go to the Watchtower, which wasn’t a problem, but Damian wanted to steal a Batmobile, so they didn’t.

 

The drive itself was two hours, which Alina had not realized she’d signed up for. She was pretty sure it should have been longer, but Damian took some questionable shortcuts, and some unquestionable ones (well, maybe to outsiders they would have been questionable, but clearly someone had to have built the secret tunnels big enough for a Batmobile that led towards the Titans Tower). During the drive, they had gotten Taco Bell, despite Damian’s vicious insistence not to. He got a vegetarian burrito while Alina got chicken tenders. They both got sodas.

 

She gazed around the garage as she exited the Batmobile, mostly full of personalized motorbikes and weirdly enough a unicycle. She hopped after Damian, decked in his Robin suit. She had a white domino mask on- which was pretty much useless, in Alina’s opinion, because they still needed to make a mask that covered her birthmark (they had cowls, just none to Alina’s size), and also annoying, because she wasn’t used to how the mask felt, sticking to her skin.

 

“Let’s see how much they’ve muddled up the place without me around,” Damian was complaining as he led her up the stairs. She studied every wall as they walked towards the main hub, intrigued by the various pictures of Titans members over the years, trophies and certificates, and the occasional scribbles (some with a knife), on the walls. She didn’t think the Justice League would be happy with whoever carved a crudely drawn dick into the wall.

 

Excitement and apprehension bubbled inside her as they approached what appeared to be the… ‘main hub’ of the Titans Tower. Laughter echoed through the doors as Damian- er, Robin, she should probably start calling him Robin, now, secret identities and all- pushed them open. He scowled at the scene in front of him, an obvious scowl even through his domino mask. She thought perhaps he had his mask specially designed to sharpen his scowls and glares.

 

A red-headed girl in ponytails was currently wrestling with a black-haired girl decked in green. Alina wasn’t sure what they were wrestling for, but there was something in their hands. Or, was, at least, before a red and off-white blurr snatched it out of their hands, cackling all the way. The two girls squawked, scrambling up, and the red-haired girl bolted, superspeed, after him.

 

“Jai! You had it last week, it’s my turn!” The Green Lantern-themed girl shouted.

 

“No, it’s my turn! Jai stole my week!” The female speedster complained. The thief, Jai, laughed, suddenly paused in his run, and stretched out his leg. The girl, stumbling to match his abrupt halt, tripped over his leg and crashed to the ground. When the other girl leaped for the item in his hands, Jai promptly threw it to a blonde haired boy with fair skin, who smiled kindly at the two girls glaring at him. As the speedster girl leaped to her feet and jumped at the boy, water appeared from seemingly out of nowhere, forming a wall in front of the boy. The girl paused, clearly not wanting to get wet.

 

Unfortunately, Dam- Robin had other plans, hissing out, in the rudest and sharpest tone he could manage, “ What is going on here?”

 

Everybody in the room, most who were casually observing the fight for the item with unhidden amusement, jerked at his voice, whipping around with wide eyes. The water wall in front of the boy broke, falling down onto both him, the girl, and the floor, much to the girl’s displeasure, which she voiced in a loud yelp.

 

“Oh,” the guy speedster said, blinking at Robin, eyes flickering briefly to Alina but seeming not to care much that she was there, as he continued on in a lazy tone, “Hi Robin! Long time no see, yada yada, and all that.”

 

The black-haired girl’s gaze had gone back to the girl speedster and the water boy, glaring at them both. “Irey stole the remote when it’s my turn.”

 

“Codenames,” Robin growled out. “And, seriously? You guys still fight over the remote? How childish can you be?”

 

“The remote controls the TV!” A new voice piped up, and Alina realized suddenly, startling a bit, that the voice belonged to Lian. Her eyes had skipped over the girl, dressed in an outfit Alina would say was a mix between a Speedy and Robin costume, fit with a bow and arrows and what might be a knife on her belt, and with a lot more red than any other color. Those other colors being a yellow buckle and buttons on a brown belt, and some black here and there. She also had a hood. “And the TV controls what we watch.”

 

“Yes, acute observation, Riding Hood.” Robin’s voice dripped with sarcasm, staring her down although, to her credit, she seemed completely unphased. “You do know, that if someone is watching something you don’t like, you can just go to another room? Most- if not all- of your rooms have a television. And you all have phones. YouTube exists. Netflix exists.”

 

The girl speedster, who turned into a slight blur as she vibrated, shaking the water off her like a dog, and making those closest to her scramble away, argued, “Yeah, but this is the big TV! It’s like a theater- it’s got speakers, and 3D!”

 

“You fight over the remote at home, too,” Alina softly pointed out his hypocrisy. And she knew that they all had either a television, computer, laptop, phone, tablet, or gaming system- most often multiple of all those things- in their rooms. But yet they- as in all of her siblings- still fought over not only the “biggest” TV in the home theater room, but the other living room TVs too. Alina, although guilty to admit so, had fought over them as well. It’s not that she really wanted the TV all to herself, or forgot she had a phone in her pocket and a laptop in her room, but it was just that all her other siblings did it, and it was kind of fun to argue and fight playfully over something mundane and stupid like that.

 

“See!” Lian- or Riding Hood- smirked. “You’re just looking for something to criticize, hypocrite.”

 

“Tt,” Robin tutted, while rolling his eyes (Alina was getting better at telling expressions under the mask), but he gave no further argument. Besides, it seemed everyone’s attention had turned to Alina after she had spoken. They eyed her a bit curiously, but not with any suspicion or wariness. Well, except for that black-haired boy with his arms crossed, sitting grumpily on the couch, but Alina figured he just had a general bad attitude.

 

“Who’s the new kid?” A blonde boy, different from the water boy, asked. He had a bow and arrows seated nearby him, by a comfy chair that he had presumably been lounging in at one point. His outfit was much more reminiscent of the original Speedy’s than Lian’s, although his was definitely much more ‘upgraded’ and ‘modern,’ and leaned more heavily on green, although not as strictly as Lian’s red, having a pale yellow belt and dark boots.

 

Li- Riding Hood perked up, eyes shining with familiarity, and Alina wondered if she wanted to shout out at her. Alina guessed that maybe she didn’t in case Alina had a secret identity? Seeing as Alina was only wearing a white mask and civilian clothes, Alina would think it was a very poor superhero costume.

 

Robin gestured towards Alina. “This is my sister, Alina.” Alina was surprised at the casual admittance. She thought there’d be more secrecy about who she was, and what she was in relation to Robin, especially considering Robin’s stubbornness with codenames. But maybe this team already knew Robin’s civilian identity, like his other team did.

 

“It’s good to see you, ‘leen!” Riding Hood greeted, hopping forwards a few paces to stand in front of Alina with a bright smile. Alina smiled and nodded at her. Her eyes twinkled as she grinned and tilted her head, joking, “You’re a little bit young to join, but, hey, the more the merrier!”

 

“She’s not joining,” Robin said flatly, staring down Riding with not a hint of amusement in his bones.

 

“Ah,” the male speedster said, nodding. “An intern. I didn’t know we did that.”

 

Robin’s lips curled up while the others chuckled. “She’s not interning, either.”

 

“Then why is she here?” The Green Lantern girl asked with earnest curiosity.

 

Robin seemed to struggle to find an answer, as if realizing there was no true reason other than his little sister just asking him to come, so Alina supplied, “Puppy eyes.”

 

A few gasped, maybe in mock surprise or genuine surprise, and the blonde arrow boy said, “No way. The great Damian al Ghul Wayne, blood son of Batman, taken down by mere puppy eyes?” Huh. Well she supposed that answered the question of whether or not they knew who Robin’s civilian identity was.

 

Robin bristled dangerously, while Riding snickered, saying, “You should see Mar’i use his puppy eyes on him. He melts quicker than ice cream on a sunny day.”

 

The girl speedster gasped, “I’ve only heard tales!” and the guy continued, “Tales so far-fetched, we couldn’t even fathom!”

 

While the others laughed, Robin snarled out, “Alright. Enough. We have a mission, and as your leader , I demand-”

 

“As your leader,” the guy speedster mocked poorly, while his sister(?) snickered beside him.

 

“You’re not our leader anymore, dude,” the arrow boy said, a bit haughtily. “You’ve got a new team to boss around.”

 

“I never revoked my leadership of this team-”

 

“You were never given leadership in the first place,” the Green Lantern girl pointed out.

 

“I appointed myself-”

 

“We’re a democracy,” the girl speedster explained, tone only half-joking.

 

Robin growled and huffed, very much annoyed. Alina glanced at Lian, who seemed to remain neutral, watching the others argue (playfully? She couldn’t tell if they were actually mad at Damian or joking) with Robin. Alina tilted her head as she caught Riding Hood’s gaze, who just shrugged in response. Riding leaned closer to Alina, whispering, “I only convinced my dad to let me join two months ago. I’m still kinda new to this all.”

 

Alina nodded, and kept listening as Robin snarked, “Well, who’s your democratically elected leader now, then?”

 

They all blinked and glanced at each other, before the girl speedster shrugged and said, “We all lead together.”

 

The black-haired guy, a bit scruffy-looking and still sitting in his spot mostly quiet, piped up, “AJ’s the oldest- he’s been leading you guys so far.” Alina noted the distinction of him saying ‘you guys’ instead of ‘us.’ Was he not a part of the group? Alina glanced at Lian again for guidance.

 

Riding, as though she was reading her mind, murmured, “Not sure. We- or well, they- kinda had to fight to get him to come these past few weekends. I think he used to be a member, or maybe he was only an honorary one? Whatever it is, there’s some bad blood in it.”

 

Meanwhile, the water boy shrugged bashfully as gazes turned to him, while the arrow boy took offense, pouting rudely, “Hey! I’d make a great leader if you guys ever just listened to me!”

 

“You missed your shot, bro,” the guy speedster said, only a little sympathetically. “You were too busy arguing with Rob all the time.”

 

“Well that’s not my fault,” arrow boy complained.

 

“It takes two to argue,” Green Lantern stated wisely.

 

“He instigated it! ...Most of the time!”

 

“Because you whine like a child,” Robin insulted.

 

“You are a child!”

 

Robin raised an eyebrow. “You’re only a year older than me.”

 

“Guys!” the girl speedster interrupted, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “We’re all kids.”

 

The arrow boy moved back to slink into his chair, crossing his arms with a frown.

 

Robin huffed one last time before saying, “I didn’t come here to be mocked and insulted. Let’s get to the mission at hand.”

 

Alina was surprised they all listened to him then, seemingly dropping everything else for a more professional air, straightening up and looking attentive. A bit left behind, Alina nervously asked, “Wait- can I, uhm, can we do introductions?” Seeing as they had all been joking without much care earlier, she didn’t think the ‘mission at hand’ was super important. She didn’t want to waste time anyway, but she didn’t want to be confused either.

 

Riding Hood smiled at her. “Of course! You know me- I’m Lian, but my codename is Little Red Riding Hood!” She struck a pose, pulling out her bow- no arrow. “D’ya like it?”

 

“It reminds me of Red Hood,” Alina commented with her own smile.

 

Riding grinned big. “It’s inspired by him.”

 

Two blurs suddenly replaced Riding, who somehow ended up falling down onto a cushion. The two speedsters stood in front of Alina with flashing white teeth. The girl placed a hand on her chest. “Hi, I’m Irey West, and this is my brother.” She gestured to her twin, who puffed out his chest.

 

“Jai West!” he yelled proudly. “You can call us-”

 

“Hypervelocity!” the two cheered together. Then Irey gestured to herself, stating, “Hyper.”

 

Jai finished, gesturing to himself, “and Velocity!”

 

Alina blinked, glancing between them both, reminded of when she met the speedster Bart Allen, and his boundless energy. She guessed it was genetic (assuming they were related to him).

 

Robin sighed, “This is why I’m glad we’re down three-fifths our speedsters today.”

 

“Two is better than one!” Jai- Velocity- beamed with a giggle.

 

“Two is two more than we ever would need,” Robin said, unamused.

 

“Hey!” Hyper and Velocity complained, although they didn’t look too offended. Green light enveloped them, startling the two speedsters, and gently pulled them back. They both frowned at the Green Lantern as she walked forward, just a moment, before their smiles returned.

 

“I’m the second Teen Lantern,” the black-haired girl said warmly. “Milagro Reyes. I don’t know if you’ve ever met the first one, but her name’s Keli Quintela. She’s a part of Young Justice, not Teen Titans.” The two warring superhero kid groups. Although, not really warring. Members of the groups often overlapped. Young Justice was just more exclusive, and Alina was pretty sure the members weren’t teens and kids anymore, seeing as it was Tim’s group, and a few others.

 

The name Milagro Reyes was more familiar than Keli Quintela, although Alina couldn’t remember where she’d heard it from. Alina shook her head, but smiled up at the friendly girl, saying, “Nice to meet you.”

 

The Teen Lantern tilted her head cutely, with an amiable smile. “You too.”

 

The water boy- AJ- stepped up next, dipping his head towards Alina. “I’m the current Aqualad, Arthur Curry Junior, son of Aquaman. Welcome to Tempest Key’s Titans Tower.” He seemed almost proud as he said the name of the city which… Alina had no idea where said city was. But she liked the name of it!

 

“Happy to be here. It’s very nice,” Alina replied.

 

Aqualad nodded his head in agreement, before glancing at the half-pouting arrow boy and the glowering black-haired boy. He pointed at arrow boy, saying, “That’s-”

 

Arrow boy shot up in his seat, protesting, “Hey! I can do my own introduction. I’m Connor Hawke-Queen, son of the Green Arrow, who is much cooler than Aquaman or Batman, thank you very much.” He sent pointed half-heated, half-challenging glares at Aqualad, who just shrugged dismissively, not rising to the bait, and Robin, who’s fingers dug into his crossed arms to keep himself from rising to the bait. “I’m the newest Speedy, but just between you and me-”

 

“-and everyone,” Riding cut in with a roll of her eyes, apparently knowing where her fellow Arrowfamily member was going with it.

 

“-I’m gunning for the mantle of Red Arrow once my aunt, Emiko, gives it up. And then Green Arrow, of course. But I can wait a bit longer for that.” He grinned and raised his chin boastfully, eyes gleaming with victory, but what battle he had won, Alina had no idea. But considering his words were reminiscent of Damian’s ‘I am the blood son! Heir to the cowl of the Bat!’, she thought she might have a clue.

 

“Wow, so patient and humble,” the black-haired boy scoffed. He still held himself almost curled up into a ball, hands loosely pulling his knees up, but not quite to his chest, and his body was angled away from the others. Alina wished she had Cass here to tell her what his body language exactly meant. But she guessed he felt out of place, nervous, plus a bit hostile and snappy, based on attitude. “I’m Zachary Zatara, yes , the cousin of the great Zatanna Zatara, and nephew of John Zatara. I do magic.” He sounded like he once might have held pride in those relations, and might still, considering the added ‘great’ didn’t actually sound sarcastic like the rest of the sentence. She wondered what ‘bad blood’ had occurred to sour his mood so badly.

 

“And of course, you know Dami’s Robin the fifty-thousandth,” Riding Hood teased with a sly grin towards Robin.

 

Robin, who huffed and growled at the same time, glaring at her, snarled, “The fifth. And it’s Dami an .”

 

“My bad,” Riding said, not at all looking like it was ‘her bad.’

 

“That’s all of us,” Irey- Hyper- ended. “We woulda had a Superkid on our team, but Robin stole him.”

 

Robin rolled his eyes again. “He’s not thirteen yet. And when I did say he could join, you guys said no.”

 

“Miscommunication,” Velocity supplied helpfully.

 

“And now he’s stuck with your new team.” Speedy shivered fauxly. “The horror. I can only pray for him and the others forced to obey you.”

 

“They’re not forced to obey me,” Robin said, with a quieter growl to his voice, as though he was growing tired or bored of all the needless arguments.

 

“What is your new team’s name anyway?” Teen Lantern asked curiously.

 

“Robin’s Better Team?” Zachary mumbled, barely audible.

 

“We don’t have a need for a name,” Robin stated, in a business tone. “We are not technically an official team.”

 

Riding stuck her tongue out and blew. “Bah. Doesn’t matter. You’re like… Young Justice two point O! Another team that broke off from Teen Titans, ya know?”

 

Robin scowled, deep, dark, and offended. “My team is nothing like Drake’s snivelling group of witless misfits. How dare you even compare us to such trash .” There was nothing quite like a comparison to his older brother that had Damian spitting venom out. Which was ironic because not even two nights ago he and Tim had quietly been discussing wildlife photography before the younger boy passed out and Tim had carried him to bed. Alina only knew because she had been playing Pokemon in the same room as them, and Tim had forced her to go to sleep after Damian had fallen asleep.

 

Conspiratory glances were traded throughout the teen superheroes, before wide grins spread across their faces. Speedy haughtily proclaimed, “New Young Justice. Started by a bird following in his elder’s steps.”

 

Robin’s cheeks blotched red as he glared with fire at Speedy. “I am not following in anyone’s steps, least of all that sleep-deprived, coffee-addicted imbecile.”

 

“New Young Justice it is,” Hyper agreed with ease, taking delight in Robin’s anger. The others parroted their agreement with teasing smiles.

 

Robin took in a quick, deep breath, before exhaling it. He crossed his arms and turned his head away. “Call it what you want. But I name my team, not you delinquents.”

 

“Ah, but if we tell others it’s called that, then they’ll start calling it that too,” Velocity pointed out with a sly grin.

 

Riding continued the thought happily, “And then you’ll have no choice but to be called the New Young Justice!”

 

Robin glared at them, all daggers and death, but they seem unaffected. Over-exposure to Damian’s wrath eventually made you immune like that. As Aqualad opened his mouth, despite having been the most ‘peaceful’ one so far, with a teasing gleam in his eye, Alina decided that perhaps they needed to get back on track before they got so completely derailed whatever mission they were supposed to be doing was long since forgotten. Especially if said mission involved innocent lives, in which case, it was probably pertinent (she learned that word from Damian) they do it sooner rather than later.

 

Alina cleared her throat, softly interrupting Aqualad, a tad guiltily, “What was your guys’s mission?”

 

Most of them straightened up like steel rods had suddenly replaced their spines, alarmed at having forgotten, while Hyper exclaimed loudly, “Shoot! Not again.”

 

“Last time we did this we were an hour late!” Velocity continued with just as much panic. He sped over to what Alina assumed was a control panel for the giant TV and computers, and started mashing buttons.

 

“Don’t press random buttons,” Robin hissed as he ran over to Velocity, reaching out to grab his hands.

 

“I know what I’m doing!” Velocity argued, a touch offended as he pulled back his hands. The TV screen lit up, showing a map with one red dot on it. “See!”

 

Robin frowned, but didn’t protest against Velocity’s abilities any further.

 

“We’ll still be on time right?” Teen Lantern asked worriedly. “This isn’t like last time?”

 

“No, this mission isn’t time critical,” Robin replied, leaning down to type on a fancy keyboard. Alina expected him to maybe yell at his team for getting so off-track, but, to her surprise, he didn’t. Perhaps because he realized how hypocritical it would be of him.

 

“Thank gosh,” Hyper sighed, relieved.

 

“Idiots,” Zachary mumbled from his spot, where he only just now moved to crowd around the computer like the others.

 

Riding glanced around at her teammates, a bit puzzled, before commenting, “What happened last time?”

 

“We were late,” Velocity explained.

 

“Way late,” Hyper added.

 

“No thanks to the fastest ones on the team ,” Robin snarked.

 

“Unfortunately, it was a time sensitive mission,” Aqualad continued before Hypervelocity could argue back. “Fortunately, our villain was also late.”

 

“It was suspiciously coincidental,” Lantern mused.

 

Zachary decided to add, “There were many unnecessary explosions.”

 

Riding frowned, more of a joking frown than a confused one. “There’s no such thing as an unnecessary explosion.”

 

“Unless the explosion is exploding civilians?” Hyper half-questioned, half-clarified, raising an eyebrow at Riding Hood.

 

“Well, yeah.” Riding rolled her eyes. “But explosions are fun, otherwise.”

 

Robin scoffed, or made some noise similar to it. “You get that from Arsenal and Red Hood both, don’t you?”

 

“Hey, you’re sister-in-law-slash-part-time-mom is prone to a few explosions too,” Riding argued back teasingly. “Tis the way of the Outlaws.”

 

Robin huffed, but he had that look on his face that wasn’t quite a smile, but definitely looked happy, as he pulled back from the computer. “Right. Our targets’ are all still in place. It should be a quick in-and-out mission, but knowing us-” Alina was surprised- once again- to hear him say ‘us’ rather than ‘you imbeciles,’ “it’s going to be the opposite. I trust everyone still remembers what they’re supposed to do?” At their affirmative nods, he continued, “Then to your stations. Teen Lantern, I brought a Batmobile instead of my Redbird, so you’re going to have to carry me there.” Milagro nodded with a firm smile.

 

“Why’d you bring a Batmobile?” Speedy muttered under his breath, even as he turned with the others to head down to the garage and grab their vehicles.

 

“Because Alina would be less likely to fly off the backseat,” Robin explained, in a softer voice, seeing as Speedy was already half-way out the door, playfully punching Aqualad in the shoulder and asking him to race.

 

Alina blinked and turned to Robin, suddenly unsure of what she was supposed to do. Stay at Titans Tower, obviously, but how long would she have to wait, alone? Was she allowed to venture around and explore, or would she get in trouble? Or stumble across trouble?

 

Robin was messing with the technology, pulling something up on the screens, and grabbing an earpiece off the desk. He turned to Alina. “Has anybody taught you anything about manning the coms?”

 

“Uhm.” She blinked, again, this time out of pure startlement. “N-...no?”

 

“Would you mind monitoring the coms then? You wouldn’t have to do much of anything- we have it all handled really- but just in case of emergency.” Despite his serious tone, he grinned, proud and cocky. “Plus, you’ll get to watch me kick ass.” Alina startled, again. It’s not like Damian never swore or anything, but he never… said something like that . His cockiness came in brags and insults, not… something their elder siblings would say.

 

At Alina’s hesitance to respond, just staring shocked at him, his expression shifted to a more stony yet bashful one- once again, again, highly uncharacteristic of him. His head tilted just slightly, so his gaze was more over her shoulder. “My apol- err, sorry. I know that was uncalled from me. You don’t have to… monitor the coms if you don’t wish to. You’re free to roam the Tower, if you’d like, instead.”

 

Alina felt at a loss for what to do. Clearly, Damian thought he did something wrong. Or maybe just embarrassing and awkward? Because she could see where he might think that. But she had just been taken off guard, not judging him! “It’s okay- I’d like to watch the coms! It’s not hard is it?”

 

Robin shook his head, slowly regaining his composure, although the air around him was more tense, less free. He handed the earpiece to her. “There’s multiple buttons on the side, but just focus on the biggest one, right here,” he pointed to it, “because that will allow you to speak. I already have it turned on and synced to the right frequency, so you can hear us if we speak through them. Don’t distract us in the middle of a fight, obviously, but if you want to make comments or jokes on our way there, feel free.” Alina examined the earpiece a little further before slowly placing it in her left ear. She was more of a headphone fan, because earphones always felt weird. “I’ve turned the screens on too, to have you linked up to cameras around the place we’re going, and also to the micro-cams in our suits. Those might go off and turn back on randomly, for privacy reasons, but don’t worry. If one of the cameras were broken, it would alert you, and the Justice League, and set off an emergency back-up tracker. On that note, if anything goes seriously wrong, as in we all become compromised, then just press this emergency button on the side of the computer here. Or text the family group chat. Honestly, either would work with the same efficiency.”

 

Alina nodded, letting herself absorb the information. Nervous but excited anticipation sent a thrill up her spine. She was manning the coms! Like Oracle!

 

“You understand everything? Any questions?” he asked her.

 

She shook her head. “Naw. Just excited to see you kick ass!”

 

It was Damian’s turn to be surprised. Then, his face lit up, in the Damian-way, so it wasn’t like a Christmas tree lighting up, like Dick’s face sometimes did, but a quiet happiness, like Bruce’s. “Don’t tell Father you learned that from me.”

 

“My lips are sealed!” She mimed zipping her lips. Although, to be fair, she could blame learning the phrase on any of her siblings. They had all said it or similar at some point around her.

 

Damian’s lips quirked upwards, before he moved his arm to squeeze her shoulder, a gesture Damian not often did to others. Thinking about it, Alina realized he not often could . It was a gesture that happened more from elder to younger, one of reassurance and loyalty.

 

“I’ll go join the others before they start whining,” Robin dismissed himself.

 

“Stay safe!” Alina called after him as he left. After he was gone, she pursed her lips in the following silence, pondering.

 

It didn’t take her long, as her attention turned to the screens, half showcasing scenery around a building- warehouse?- and the rest being from the points of view of the young superheroes, to realize something about her big brother.

 

He wanted to impress her.

 

Like when younger siblings wanted to impress their older siblings, except flipped. In a way Damian would refuse to ever have it described, he wanted to be cool to her. He’d shown off for and bragged to her before, in an attempt (usually successful) to make himself seem cooler, but it had always been in a way that was similar to the rest of her family. She had assumed it a family trait, to do something needlessly excessive just to prove how awesome you were. And he had still bragged in his usual Damian-way, nothing out of the ordinary. But this was a bigger attempt, to make him seem better than his friends, rather than just his family, which he had already claimed to be way better than enough for Alina to have all his ‘reasons’ ingrained in her head.

 

You know, this might explain why Damian decided to steal a Batmobile instead of taking his motorcycle.

 

Smiling at her brother’s antiques- he didn’t need to prove anything, he was already the coolest in her mind, she watched his perspective up on the screens, as he was engulfed in green light by Teen Lantern.

Chapter Text

Alina had only ever really hung out with Carrie’s friend, Claire, on the days Carrie stayed over at the Manor, and in the morning, Claire would come pick her up. Alina would go with them, but get dropped off at her bus stop, despite all three of them going to the same school. Plus Carrie would often invite Claire to play games online, like MineCraft and Among Us. Other than that, Alina had never really ‘hung out’ with the teenager.

 

But Carrie had managed to ‘drag’ Claire out of her house and to the Manor, so they were playing fetch with Ace in the backyard. Carrie had ‘recruited’ Alina to help cheer up Claire. Carrie had also spammed Duke’s phone about him helping cheer up Claire too, after he got back from school, and then his day patrol. Apparently, Carrie, Duke and Alina were the ‘closest’ to Claire in the Batfamily (Claire was- still was?- Gotham Girl), which was kind of sad to Alina, because Alina was like… new? But, Carrie had argued that the four of them were all new kids, and new kids stuck together, no matter who was the newest or least new. So, that was fair.

 

She did wonder why they had to cheer up Claire. What happened to her to make her sad? She always seemed a little subdued or dreary, but she wasn’t downright depressed- at least, not in the ‘sob your heart out and eat ice cream in the shower’ way that the media depicted. Her siblings often joked they were depressed, but, based on their dad and grandpa’s concerned frowns whenever they said as much, she wondered if they weren’t just joking. Depression came in many forms, after all. Alina just hadn’t really had the time to study the types of depression.

 

“Clairito!” Carrie screamed as she chucked a specially designed bat-frisbee Claire’s way. Ace, despite his old age, ran after it like a Bullet Bill from Mario, zoned in on his target. Claire stretched her arms high as the frisbee neared. It barely brushed her fingertips as it went sailing past.

 

Ace, seeing his opportunity to no longer be the monkey in the middle, bolted after the frisbee even as it headed to the wooded territory of the Wayne backyard. The old German Shepherd leaped into the air, jaw wide, and-

 

-and a dark brown and rusty gold Doberman snatched it, jumping out from the woods. Ace landed, half in the weeds and ferns of the forest, looking confused as he glanced for the frisbee, and then at the other dog. The Doberman landed with a bit of a tumble on the ground, small, stubby tail wagging.

 

“Ham!” someone called, and the dog’s ears perked up. Ace let out a low growl, ears and tails going erect, his whole body now alert. Carrie, Claire, and Alina all traded perplexed, wary looks, getting more alarmed as the green plantlife of the forest rustled, and shapes moved. The shapes turned into people as they burst forth from the forest, some trailing behind more cautiously. Ace didn’t attack them, just whined in warning as he sniffed them. The bravest of the group, a young girl with a notable yellow flower in her hair, seemed unbothered by Ace, even going as far to pet him. The others seemed more uncertain of the German Shepherd.

 

While Claire frowned at the group, Carrie smiled and moved forward, her former caution forgotten, waving at them, and saying, “Hi Maps!”

 

The girl with the yellow flower lit up, turning from Ace to beam just as brightly back at Carrie. “Hi Carrie! Oh, hi Alina! And girl I don’t know!” Alina startled, staring at the girl. She knew her? Shoot, she did look kind of familiar now that she thought about it… And Maps… ? Maps? Aside from Dora the Explorer, the name was also familiar. She was… Damian’s friend, right? Alina thought she had heard her family tease Damian about having a ‘crush’ or ‘girlfriend’ before, which he vehemently denied, of course. And she had met Maps, she was pretty sure. At Damian’s birthday party. And a few times after that, just in passing, maybe?

 

She’d met too many people, known too many names and faces, in only a year and a half, that it was starting to get hard to connect and remember them all.

 

The other members of Maps’s party looked just as wary to see the three girls as Alina and Claire did to see them. That was kind of nice. That meant they were genuinely new people, and not people she had forgotten meeting…

 

They were also trespassing on Wayne property…?

 

But Carrie seemed okay with it.

 

Then again, Carrie was not technically a Wayne.

 

Alina technically was.

 

Should she be mad about someone trespassing on her father’s land then?

 

... Were they trespassing?

 

“What’re you guys doing in Wayne Woods?” Carrie asked Maps curiously. Side note: Alina was pretty sure she just named the forest that, on the spot.

 

“Investigating!” Maps said excitedly, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “We found an old Wayne diary at the Academy that depicted some kind of cursed buried treasure. There’s supposed to be a ghouly guardian!”

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised, honestly,” Carrie mused, chuckling lightly. “Although, the millions of Wayne kids before us probably already found it, and the hundred other monsters and treasures.”

 

“There’s always adventure left!” Maps argued with a smile. She glanced back at her crew, one of which had gotten Ham to drop the frisbee. “Right guys?”

 

“Sure,” the white-haired girl said. She eyed the three ‘Waynes’ with a small frown. “Are you Wayne kids or?”

 

Claire shook her head, Alina hesitantly nodded, and Carrie just shrugged, saying, “I’d like to think I am. I dunno. I sleep here and eat here more often than my actual house. My name’s Carrie, by the way.” She extended her hand with a smile.

 

“Olive,” the girl replied, shaking Carrie’s hand.

 

“Oh!” Carrie’s green eyes lit up in recognition. “The