Work Header

home and hearth

Work Text:


He was beginning to feel flushed, and Tim gripped his backpack tighter, hunching down in his hoodie as he walked through the streets.


No one gave him a second glance—his scent blockers were working for the moment, concealing the pre-heat scent Tim knew was there.  He should’ve been home in the Manor, curled up in his nest, like he’d been for his last heat, cuddled by Dick and Bruce and filled with pack-warmth-home-safe.


But Bruce wouldn’t be home till morning, and Dick was on patrol, and Tim—Tim was doing something really stupid, he could admit that to himself, but Tim was a problem-solver, and he’d turned this problem over and over so many times.


Jason wasn’t coming home.  Bruce had tried, in that awful confrontation with the Joker that just made everything worse.  Dick had tried, and had managed to not get shot at, which was currently the best attempt.  Tim had tried, and had ended up unconscious on the floor in Titans Tower.


But Jason had to come home.  They were his pack, and Bruce and Dick were sad, and Alfred was sad, which was truly the greatest crime.  Jason had to come home, which wouldn’t happen if everyone—including Jason—was pretending like he was the villain, so Tim had come up with a plan.


He would prove that Jason was still pack, that Jason still cared, and then either Jason had to come home, or Bruce and Dick would keep badgering him until he caved.


Tim kept running into a dead end on how to prove that Jason cared—Jason had already shown a vicious antipathy to their vigilante alter egos, he wouldn’t be rescuing any of them, no matter how carefully Tim crafted the scenario—until now.


The safehouse was on the fourth floor of the apartment building in front of him.  Tim made his way to the fire escape behind the building, and began to climb.


It had come to him out of nowhere—he’d been moping around the Manor, aware that his heat was drawing closer, and he wanted his alpha, he wanted Bruce, he wanted Jason—


And his thoughts had stuttered to a halt.


Jason had almost killed him, Tim should absolutely not feel drawn to a promise of safety—except his omega hindbrain didn’t care about that, it only cared that Jason was an alpha in his pack, an alpha that had proven his strength, an alpha that would keep Tim safe.


Tim doubted that assumption, but it had raised an interesting idea in his mind.


Maybe the easiest way to get Jason back in the pack...was just to treat him like he was pack.


Tim found the correct window.  The trap on the windowsill was easy to disarm, and Tim slipped inside warily—his plan would fail miserably if Jason was already home, Tim’s heat hadn’t quite started yet, and the plan was to show Jason that he was still a part of the pack, not to be caught breaking in.


But the apartment was empty, and Tim exhaled in relief.  The odds of this plan ending in bodily injury were high, but he wasn’t thinking about that, he was making his way into the bedroom and eyeing it speculatively.


Con of using that soft, fluffy-looking bed for his nest: Jason was going to murder him for taking over his space.


Pro of using that soft, fluffy-feeling bed for his nest: Jason was going to murder him either way, and at least this way he’d be comfortable.


Tim hadn’t brought much in the way of materials, and Jason didn’t have many blankets and cushions, but Tim made do, building a little nook of soft blankets, surrounded by cushions, warm and cozy.  He tucked Bruce’s shirt under one of the cushions, Alfred’s tie near his head, and Dick’s old stuffed elephant went into the center.


Then he changed, slipping into comfortable clothes, removing his scent blocker—he was on the verge of his heat, he could smell it—and curling up in one of Bruce’s giant hoodies before pausing on the edge of his nest.


Wait.  Something was missing.


Tim went back to the closet and rifled through the clothes until he found a jacket that smelled like Jason and not like gunpowder.  Alpha-warm-safe something shrieked in the back of his head, and Tim clutched it, feeling dread slowly start to sink in as he made his way back to the nest.


He curled up around the stuffed elephant, one hand on Jason’s jacket, and tried to remember how to breathe.  Paralyzing panic was coiling around his limbs, Jason’s scent making it extremely clear exactly where he was.


The omega part of him was delighted.  He was safe in his alpha’s house, and his alpha would be back soon, and his alpha would protect him while Tim slept in his nest.


Every other part of him was shrieking in terror.  Tim was not safe, he was in the house of a man that had beaten him into the ground once already for taking his stuff, he’d waltzed into Jason’s place again, Jason was going to be extremely not happy.


The panicking part of his mind was begging him to run, right now.  The more rational part of his mind pointed out that Tim had already taken off his scent blocker, his scent was everywhere, and even if he ran, Jason would just track him down later.  The slightly less hysterical part of his mind pointed out that Jason wasn’t going to kick out an omega in heat onto the streets of Gotham.


Are you sure about that? a quiet voice asked in the back of his mind.


No.  No, Tim was not sure about that—Jason protected omegas and children, he wouldn’t—Jason had beaten him into the ground without a second thought, he didn’t consider Tim a child, he wouldn’t care that he was an omega, he wouldn’t care that the heat fog was stealing over him, that Tim would be vulnerable and defenseless if Jason threw him out, he might even ensure that Tim wasn’t able to run, how could Tim have been so stupid to come all the way here like Jason would give a single fuck about him, like the alpha would protect him, like the alpha cared.


Tim clutched the jacket tighter, quiet sobs tearing out of him—it was too late to leave, even if he tried, he felt woozy and tired and flushed, and he buried his nose into the jacket.


Safe, the omega part of him whispered at the scent.


Tim just cried.



Patrol had been uneventful—no Batman in town meant that Jason could go about his business in peace.  There were sightings of blue-and-black, but no Robin—all the better.  A quiet night, no triggers, and Jason was looking forward to collapsing on his bed and getting a good night’s sleep.


The first thing he smelled when he slipped through the window was terror.


The second thing, after he froze, was the sweet honey scent of an omega in heat.


His mind put the pieces together quickly—a terrified omega in heat.  In his safehouse.


Jason thought he’d been discreet about this one, but clearly not, if some omega had figured out where he lived and decided to break in to spend their heat in the Red Hood’s apartment.


But the front door was locked and alarmed, the window didn’t show any signs of a forced entry, and aside from the omega, Jason could smell no one else.  He cleared the other rooms on habit, though, before slowly pushing the bedroom door open.


The omega had made their nest on top of Jason’s bed, a slight form with dark hair bundled up in blankets.  His lips twitched, and he scanned the rest of the room before creeping closer to the nest, staying quiet.  He’d just check in on them, make sure they weren’t hurt, before leaving and staying guard outside.  His good night’s sleep would be a casualty, but any omega who decided to hunt him down had to be desperate for safety, and Jason...would…


He recognized that face.


Several conflicting thoughts slammed into him at once, and Jason was frozen to the spot, staring at the sleeping face, trying to grapple with the onslaught.  Replacement—what the hell—terrified kid—omega in heat—what the everloving fuck—where Robin was, Batman wasn’t far behind—


But the shadows were empty.  The apartment was empty, except for the omega curled up on Jason’s bed, holding Jason’s jacket, like stealing his life and his pack and his name hadn’t been enough.


Jason wanted to march over there and rip his jacket free, yank the Replacement out of the nest, and throw him out before he gave into the green hissing at him to finish the job he’d started and break the omega’s face.


The omega in heat.


The analytical part of his mind already cycled into the consequences of that particular action, of kicking the kid out, smelling like this, and Jason retreated several steps in horror.


The green hesitated.


The Replacement had stolen over his space.


The omega had apparently decided to build his nest on Jason’s bed, was there seriously no other place for him, why the fuck had he come to Jason


Omegas nested where they felt safe.


Something had caused Robin to flee here, drenched in terror, to nest in the home of an alpha that had nearly beaten him through the ground, and if Jason was considered the better option then he didn’t even want to know what the kid was running from.


No.  He did want to know.  So he could put a bullet in its skull.


Jason wanted to walk away before he did something he regretted.  The alpha inside of him howled at leaving an omega defenseless, an omega that had come here for protection.  The warring instincts caused him to bang painfully against the wall as leave and stay conflicted, and Jason’s snarled curse came as the breathing pattern hitched.


Jason froze.


A fresh wave of fear snaked out into the air, and Jason contemplated bolting for the living room.  Whatever reason the kid had come here for, he didn’t trust Jason, and Jason needed to keep his distance.


The alpha part of him was getting angrier.


Jason took a deep breath, shoved down the part of him that was chanting ‘Replacement’ in a repetitive growl, and tried to pretend like he was dealing with a normal omega kid.  He’d already ditched the helmet, but he peeled off the domino mask too, before approaching with raised hands.


“Hey,” he said, quiet and soft, “I’m not going to hurt yo—”


The kid raised himself on an elbow, squinting at Jason, fear mixing with sleepy confusion—until he caught sight of the red bat on Jason’s body armor, at which he reared back, scent spiking with sudden terror.


Jason froze again.  Why the hell had the kid come here if he was that scared of Jason?  The kid was curled up in the farthest corner of the nest, visibly trembling, clutching Jason’s jacket like a security blanket, his face shoved into the leather.


The pieces clicked into place with what felt like a slap at the back of his head and a flat ‘you are stupid’.


Jason turned away to remove the jacket and armor, and peeled off his scent blockers, filling the room with alpha protectiveness and a thread of rage.  He stepped slowly back to the nest, letting his scent permeate before him, and watched the Replacement poke his head up.


“Hey,” he repeated, soft, “It’s okay.  You’re safe here.”  The kid looked at him, terror muting but not going away, and Jason extended a hand for the kid to sniff, careful to keep a lid on the green-tinged frustration.


The kid didn’t get closer, but he did uncurl, straightening out and letting the jacket drop.  He tilted his head to bare the right side of his neck, his eyes fluttering closed.


No, said the part of him that had spent the last couple years seething in rage.  The alpha part of him was just growling, and curiously, even the Pit was leaking out possessiveness.


Jason took a deep breath, and reached out to gently swipe down the kid’s neck with the underside of his wrist, transferring his scent.  Mine, purred the voices in his head, a curious harmony, and blue eyes blinked open.


Despondent dread changed to confusion, and the faintest flicker of hope.


“You’re safe,” Jason repeated, giving into the urge to stroke a stray lock of hair away from the kid’s face.


The Replacement leaned into the movement like he was a cat.


Jason remembered how touchy feely Dick used to be in his heats, and amended that definition.  He only sighed when the kid nudged his head further into Jason’s hand and made a clearly unpracticed purr.


Jason was supposed to be sleeping.  This was supposed to be a good night.  He wasn’t supposed to be awkwardly perched on the side of his bed—a bed taken over by a nest that shouldn’t even be here—carding his fingers through his replacement’s hair.


But Tim came here.  Came to him to keep him safe during his heat.  And Hood and Robin and the twelve-year-old stalking the streets for tires were all in agreement on the response to that.


The omega’s scent had changed completely, all traces of fear gone, replaced with contentment and happiness and something so desperate it tugged at something in Jason’s heart.  Tim grabbed Jason’s wrist and pulled him forward, still half-asleep, and Jason had to smile at the adorably petulant motion.


He gently tugged his hand back.  Tim made a low whine, and cracked open one blue eye, frowning.  His annoyance was clear.


“I’ll change and come back,” Jason promised, and the omega grumbled but appeared to let it slide.  Jason got dressed in more comfortable clothes before returning to the edge of the nest, hesitating.


Tim may have come here for Jason’s protection, but that didn’t mean he wanted to invite the man who’d viciously attacked him into his nest


Tim caught his hand and pulled hard, and Jason could either tear it free or collapse on a knee in the nest.  The kid only wriggled closer, wrapping around his waist with every bit of Dick’s octopus hold technique, and Jason resigned himself to a battle he wasn’t going to win.


Alright,” he grumbled, but his scent was fond as he eased all the way inside, shifting until he was lying down.  Tim curled into him, practically shoving his nose into Jason’s neck, and melted.


“You’re safe,” Jason murmured, pushing out a wave of alpha-protect-stay-away into the room, and tugging Tim close, so that Jason was between any threat and his—well, not his pack—but technically—no, he wasn’t—


He didn’t think adoption certificates expired, so Tim could be his little brother.  For this moment.



“You’re joking,” Dick said numbly, staring at the blinking dot on the screen, and across at the rooftops.  He was standing at the boundary of what could be called Crime Alley, and Tim’s last known location was two blocks in.


He was caught on a security camera,” Oracle said into his ear, “Can’t find any trace of him after that.


His little brother was missing, and his last known location was in Crime Alley.


No, it was worse than that—his little brother was in heat, and for some reason, he was wandering around Gotham at night, alone and defenseless.  And Dick had no idea where he was, why he’d left, or what he was looking for.


“Okay,” Dick let out a slow breath, and took a running leap to the next building, “Get me a line to Hood.”




“Please, O,” Dick said, firing his grapple and swinging down a block, “Hood’s not—Hood won’t leave an omega in heat on the streets.”  Not even Tim, a dark voice asked, are you certain?  “Let me talk to him.”


Oracle’s sigh came through loud and clear, and he heard a phone ringing.  “What?” Jason growled—his brother’s voice, not the helmet’s distorter, “It’s five in the fucking morning, O, what do you—”


“Jay,” Dick said, and Jason cut off.  “Jason, please don’t hang up, it’s important.”  No click of the line.  “Tim’s missing,” Dick said, his throat thick, voice rising in increasing panic, “He’s an omega, and he’s in heat, and O tracked him to Crime Alley and—”


“He’s safe,” Jason cut him off, and Dick took a moment to understand the words.




“He’s safe.  With me.”




“Did you suddenly turn deaf or something, Dickwing?” Jason growled, “I have the baby bird, and no, I haven’t eaten him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”


That was a defensive growl.  Dick hadn’t heard that tone in years, hadn’t heard his little brother’s real voice in years, and for a moment, he wanted to sit down and cry.


“Why—why did he come here?” Dick asked, not managing to clear all the roughness from his voice at the sudden onset of relief.


“I don’t fucking know, he was curled up in a nest on my bed, in heat, when I got home.  Kid knows how to whine for cuddles just like you, though,” Jason tacked on with a grumble that Dick knew was feigned.  “What, he didn’t tell you before traipsing out of the house?”


No, Tim hadn’t said a word before Dick set out on patrol, and Dick had told him that he’d be back in time for cuddling—only when Dick got back, Tim’s nest had been empty, and he’d been gone.  All Dick had was that Tim had been restless the whole day, frequently pacing the front of Bruce’s study.


Of course.


This was Tim’s second heat with the pack, and Bruce wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours.  No wonder he’d been so twitchy.


“B’s not here,” Dick said softly, “Makes sense that he’d find the only other alpha in the pack.”


Jason made a sound like he was having a minor conniption.  “I’m not in your stupid pack!” he hissed.


“Are you in Tim’s nest?” Dick asked.


There was a suspiciously long silence.  He could almost hear Babs suppressing her giggles.


“Fuck off, Dickhead,” Jason snapped, but his voice never raised above the snarl.  Dick laughed, and was met with the dial tone in the middle of his chuckles.


“Where’s he staying?” Dick asked, straightening up again.  Dick believed Jason, believed that Tim was safe...but he needed to check on him with his own two eyes.


You really want to barge in on him?” 


“Come on, O, my little brothers are cuddling together.  You think I can stay away?”


I think I’ll know where to send A for the bodies,” Oracle sighed, but rattled off the address.


It wasn’t far away, and Dick was soon creeping through the disarmed window.  The hall smelled like omega fear, Tim’s fear, but it was faint and dying, overlaid with the scent of heat and alpha protectiveness.  Dick managed to get ten steps forward before the growling started.


Low and vicious, a clear back off.


“It’s me,” Dick called out, peeling off his mask and his scent blockers while he was at it.  “Just me, Jay.”


The growling subsided, but the heavy tint of tension remained in the air, alpha rage almost overpowering the sweet, calm heat scent.  Dick eased through the bedroom door, keeping his movements slow and careful, and stopped short when he was met with luminous green eyes from the center of the bed.


“Just me, Jaybird,” Dick said quietly, staying perfectly still until the oppressive aura lessened.


Jason narrowed his eyes.  “What are you doing here?” he asked, level and visibly annoyed.


Dick took the risk, and slunk forward.  There was a nest on the bed, Jason in the center of it, and a bundle of blankets on his chest.  Dick could see the dark hair, hear the slow, even breaths, smell the quiet contentment.


There were several responses to that question.  Dick chose to go with ‘devious older brother’, and made his eyes go wide.  “You guys are in a nest,” he said, letting his voice waver, “Without me.”


“You weren’t invited,” Jason retorted.


“I came all the way from Bludhaven to cuddle,” Dick said, blinking quickly.


“Well, clearly the baby bird didn’t want to cuddle with you,” Jason said snippily.


Dick sniffled.  He held his eyes open until they started watering, and watched Jason’s glare falter.  He sniffed again, and sharply twisted away right when the first tear formed.


“I know you’re doing that on purpose,” Jason hissed.


But it’s working, isn’t it, Dick wanted to laugh.  Instead, he said, voice cracking, “It’s o—okay.  I’ll just—” quiet, muffled noise—“See myself out.”


He made it all the way to the door before Jason broke.  “You can stay,” he growled.


“No,” Dick said, still keeping his voice small and choked, “You’re right, Tim came to you, I’ll leave—”




“I’ll see you around, I guess—”


“Either you get in, or I’ll break both your legs and drag you in.”


Dick stopped.  His ribs ached with how desperately he was trying to keep himself from laughing.  “Are you sure?” he whispered.


“I’m sure I want to strangle you, yes.”  Jason was glaring fiercely enough that Dick was glad he didn’t have laser vision, but the scent filling the room was fond annoyance.  He glared harder when he saw that Dick was grinning, but he didn’t rescind the invitation, and Dick changed into clothes a couple sizes too big for him before slinking into the nest.


Tim was still asleep, nestled on top of Jason, and Dick fit in on the other side, curling under Jason’s arm and snuggling close to both his little brothers.  He remembered pack nests years ago, remembered wrapping around a prickly alpha pup who grudgingly submitted to cuddles and then ended up drooling on Dick’s shirt, remembered the scent of warm-safe-home-family.


“Dickie?” Jason asked softly, and Dick buried his face into Jason’s shirt and tried to breathe through the tears.  “You okay?”


Dick tried to suppress the sobs, strangling any hitch or gasp, and finally managed to hoarsely croak, “I missed you so much.”


Jason’s arm tightened around him, and he thought he heard a faint, “I missed you too.”



Bruce tried to keep his breathing even, slipping into Batman’s cold, analytical focus even as the alpha was howling.


He expected to come home to a warm nest with both his sons sleeping inside.  Instead, the nest was empty, his sons were missing, and all Oracle could tell him was that Tim and Dick had both sought out Jason and then not checked in afterwards.


She had relayed the information blithely, as though there wasn’t anything alarming about it, as if his omega sons weren’t with an alpha that had previously attacked them.


His alpha son.  It was Jason, Jason wouldn’t hurt them.  He wouldn’t.


He already did, a voice whispered in his mind—Nightwing, shaken and lost, Tim, bruised and bloody and unconscious, and Jason was his son and the alpha in him was screaming at him to bring Jason home.


No.  Batman.  He had to be Batman.  Tim was in heat and Jason hated Tim and—


Bruce took a deep breath and tried to banish the worst-case scenarios playing behind his eyes.  He disarmed the trap on the window and slipped inside silently—the apartment smelled like his children, like home, like pack, and the alpha in him rumbled contentedly while Bruce slipped into the bedroom.


He took his cowl off to see better, and his face almost twitched into a smile.  Dick was tucked under one of Jason’s arms, and Tim was sleeping in a little blanket heap on top of him, all of them quiet and peaceful.


Bruce wanted to take a picture, or brush the hair out of their faces, or climb into the nest with them, but he settled for standing at the edge of the bed, staring down at them.  They looked like children, faces soft with sleep, no trace of hardened vigilantes in their features, and Bruce wanted to gather them all up and never let them go.


Green eyes snapped open.


Bruce didn’t have any time to register that Jason was awake before the low, murderous growl, the room filling with fierce alpha viciousness, promising pain to anyone unfortunate to trespass.  Bruce took a step back—but Jason was already moving, pushing past his brothers, green eyes almost glowing, a complete lack of recognition on the half-conscious face as he tackled Bruce.


Bruce’s gauntlet was the only thing that saved his face from getting mauled as he struggled with his second son.  “Jason,” Bruce growled, alpha obey-me, “Jay, stop!”  But Jason wasn’t listening, eyes flickering supernaturally, and Bruce knew that the Pit was sunk in too deep.


He had to pull his blocks—Jason wasn’t armored, he would get seriously hurt if Bruce fought back, but he wasn’t giving Bruce a choice, lunging again and again in desperate ferociousness.  The omega scents soured to fear as Dick and Tim woke up at the crashing sounds, and Bruce gritted his teeth as he grappled with Jason.


He just—needed Jason—to stop.


Jason lunged, again aiming at Bruce’s throat, and Bruce took the opportunity, wrenching Jason up and striking out, teeth sinking into skin hard enough to bruise.


Jason immediately crumpled, two hundred pounds of dead weight, and Bruce had to catch him and carefully lower them to the floor.


The acid-tainted rage dissipated as Jason made a pained, submissive whine, completely limp, and Bruce let out a slow breath, his heart rate easing its frantic pace.


He inhaled deeply—and was met with rising terror.


Jason was breathing normally, submission forcing him pliant and still, but it did nothing to stop the panic he was exuding, or the soft, choked sounds he was making.  On the bed, Tim made a desperate, wrenching cry in response, visibly distressed, and Dick met his gaze with icy blue eyes.


“Bruce,” Dick ground out, furious, “Your scent blockers.”


Bruce’s heart skipped a beat and he hastily pulled them off before tugging Jason closer—the alpha made a terrified sound, fear slicing Bruce to the bone, and he quickly tucked Jason’s head against his neck.  “Jay-lad, it’s me,” he said quietly, holding Jason as he shuddered, “Shh, pup, I’m so sorry, it’s just me.”


Jason’s fear only rose, matching Tim’s panic, and even Dick’s sour-upset scent mixed with them.  Bruce considered depositing Jason back in the nest and backing away to let Dick soothe his terror—but Jason took a hiccupping breath and stuttered out, “D—Dad?”


“I’m right here, Jay-lad,” Bruce hummed, pushing out alpha-safe-pack-mine, “I’m right here, you’re safe.”


Jason took another deep breath before curving into Bruce, shaking silently, misery-fear-help-me pouring off of him.  “You’re safe,” Bruce repeated, holding him tightly.


Tim made a low, wounded keen, still deep in heat fog, and Jason twitched in his arms.  “T—Tim,” Jason said, breathing getting harsher, “Dad, need to—Tim—”


Bruce changed his grip on Jason, and straightened to his feet with his son in his arms.  It took three steps to deposit Jason back into the nest, and Tim made a near-soundless wail and buried his face in Jason’s shirt.  Jason wrapped equally tight around him, frantic, desperate protectiveness spilling out, and Bruce had to stumble a step back.


Dick was alternating between soothing reassurances as he patted both his little brothers, and vicious glares at Bruce—Bruce hadn’t meant to—he hadn’t had much choice in dealing with a semi-conscious alpha filled with Pit Rage—he hadn’t—


Bruce took another step back, and only stopped when Jason raised his head, tear tracks shining on pale cheeks.  “Dad?” he called out, voice still slightly slurred, scent changing to flickers of terror again.


“I’m right here, Jay-lad,” Bruce said hoarsely, and started removing the armor.  The dread-fear-anxiety didn’t change, not until Bruce came back to the edge of the nest and quietly brushed his wrist against Jason’s neck, transferring his scent.


Jason nuzzled further into his hand, and Bruce had to take a breath, his heart wrenching.  The expression on Dick’s face was plain to read—narrowed eyes, pinched lips, nostrils flaring—and Bruce gently cupped Jason’s face.


“I’m so sorry, Jay,” Bruce said quietly, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  Jason blinked at him, slow and dazed, still clutching a shivering Tim.  “You did a very good job protecting your brothers,” Bruce said, but Jason made a wounded, protesting noise, hunching around Tim and leaning against Dick.


Bruce stayed at the edge of the nest.  “You did,” he insisted levelly, “You kept them safe.”  He stroked a lock of hair away from Jason’s face.  “Can I come into the nest?” he asked quietly.


Jason nodded immediately, and the shudders eased as Bruce got closer, climbing into the nest and settling at the back.  Jason promptly tipped over against him, shifting so that Tim was bundled between them, and rested his cheek against Bruce’s collarbone before squirming close.


Dick, on the other hand, stayed just out of arm's reach, still glaring.  “You bit him,” he seethed, low and furious, though thankfully he didn’t let the emotion touch his scent.


Bruce took a deep breath and let it out.  “Would you rather he ripped my throat out?” he asked levelly.


“You’re telling me that you couldn’t find any other way to stop the fight?” Dick asked, incredulous.


No.  Because Jason was trained, deadly, and triggered by Pit Rage—Bruce wouldn’t have been able to talk him down, and Jason was unarmored.  One wrong block by a gauntleted arm, and Bruce could’ve done serious damage.


“Not without hurting him,” Bruce replied.


“You could’ve tranqed him,” Dick snapped.


No,” Bruce said, a knee-jerk growl.  Drugging Jason without his consent was a last-ditch, emergency tactic only.  Some scars ran deep enough to touch the soul.


“You should’ve taken off your scent blockers,” Dick rejoined, and something was wavering in his tone.  Not all anger—there was a hint of upset leaking out, and Dick’s forehead was pinched together.


“I know.  I’m sorry.”  Bruce extended his free hand, and Dick was still glaring, but he crawled closer and fit against Bruce’s side.


“They were happy and sleeping and peaceful, and you ruined it,” Dick hissed, before burying his face into Bruce’s shirt and plastering himself close to his brothers.


That definitely felt like a knife to his heart.  Bruce breathed through the pain, and tugged his children closer, letting a soft, protective rumble vibrate through him.


Jason rumbled back, low and quiet, and Tim made a quiet keen.  Even Dick made a grudging whine as Bruce briefly scented all of them and curled them close.


His pack.  His children.  All in his arms for the first time in years.