Discworld began as an antidote to fantasy. There are so many cliches in the view of fairy tales with the wizards and witches, and so forth, and it would be fun to treat them as if they were real life. Discworld had a condom factory and why not? You couldn’t do that in Middle Earth. You couldn’t even THINK about doing it in Narnia.
Your family is a lot to handle. As the matriarch, you know this. However, you don’t really understand how much they are until Duke comes into your lives. Cass had come from a horrible situation, but a familiar one. Bruce knew how to deal with her training. Duke’s situation is completely different.
The boy had come from a loving home, with two wonderful parents. You’d read up on them, and with Duke’s help, you’d written their obituaries. In the days leading up to the funeral, you can’t help but worry. He barely eats anything, and he leaves the room when more than three people are in it.
The only one who doesn’t seem surprised is Alfred. When you question him about it he says, “The poor boy is grieving, Mrs. Wayne. His entire world has been turned upside down, he’s in a brand new environment, and to be quite honest, your children can be a lot to deal with.”
You purse your lips, “So Bruce went through the same thing?”
The old man smiles, “Master Bruce was quite different. With him I had to deal with him risking his life, and other odd entities.”
You roll your eyes, “Of course. What changed that?”
The butler smiles, “You, Mrs. Wayne. You pulled him out.” Without another word, you watch the butler go.
You lay in bed awake the night before the funeral, and without thought you send you arm flying so that your hand lands right on Bruce’s face. You feel him smile, before he kisses it. Turning towards you he asks, “Can’t sleep?”
“I’m worried about him, Bruce.”
“Me too.” There’s several minutes of silence before you toss the covers aside.
Bruce groans, “Don’t go, the bed will get cold.”
You smile, “Well I should hope so, I’m going to get ice cream.”
He smiles back and says, “Alfred will kill us for eating upstairs.”
“Then we shouldn’t leave any evidence.”
You make your way through the Manor, and you’re a bit surprised to find the kitchen light already on. You find Duke at the island with a plate of leftovers in front of him. You hesitate before walking in. He looks up and meets your gaze.
There’s a few minutes of silence before you say, “I came down to sneak ice cream. Do you want some?”
It doesn’t surprise you when he doesn’t respond. Instead of pushing, you head to the fridge, and then you hear, “What kind is it?”
You smile, “Cookie dough. I keep it hidden behind the broccoli, but that’s just between you and me, but I’m willing to share.”
He nods, and you pull out two bowls. You scoop generous servings into each and slide a bowl in front of him before pulling your own bowl in front of you. You don’t push him to talk, you wait for him to make the first move, “I’m dreading tomorrow.”
You meet his eyes, before sticking a spoonful of ice cream in your mouth, “I get it. My parents’ funeral was horrible.”
You nod, “They died in a car accident when I was eight. My grandmother raised me until she died when I was sixteen. Since then, it’s been Bruce and me.”
You watch him play with his ice cream, “Why was it so bad?”
“There were a lot of people there that I didn’t know, all saying how sorry they were. I was tired of hearing sorry by that point. Sorry didn’t bring them back, and none of those people could understand how I felt. Everyone’s pain is different. And losing parents at a young age is just…”
He nods, “Yeah. You think it’ll be that way for me?”
“There’s a good chance. That being said, Bruce and I have both been there, we have a few tricks.”
“Bruce has been there, too?”
“It’s one of the things that brought us together. Bruce’s parents were killed when he was eight too. But he had a lot of focus on him, being the Wayne heir. Alfred kept him pretty sheltered.”
“What tricks do you have?”
You smile, “Sandwich yourself between me and Bruce, use the other kids as shields if you need to. They know how to deal with people who might not have the best intentions.”
“You think there will be people like that?”
You sigh, “If only because of Bruce and me, I’m sorry in advance. We draw a lot of press attention, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Now you’ll have to deal with it too. I’m sorry.”
“You shouldn’t be.” You meet his eyes, and he gives you a small smile, “Bruce saved my life, he didn’t have to do anything else. He didn’t even have to do that. Instead he stayed with me, he was there every time I woke up, and then you guys took me in. You guys didn’t have to do that.”
You blink back tears, “Duke, I want you to know… we know we can’t replace your parents. We don’t want to, either. We do want to be your family, though. I know the kids are a lot to deal with. Damian and Helena are a pair of hellions, Lord knows, and Dick loves to flip around, and Jason and Tim bicker, and Cass has this ability to sneak up on you…”
Duke reaches over and places a hand on yours, “Thank you for giving me a home. Thank you for being here. I look forward to being a part of this family.”
With a smile, you stand up and walk over to him, and then you wrap him in the tightest hug you can. He hugs you back, and a moment later, he starts sobbing. You hold him until he falls asleep. When the sound of light snores hit your ears, you feel a hand settle on your shoulder. Turning, you smile at Bruce, and watch as he effortlessly lifts your newest son into his arms.
Together, you put him to bed. You stand there, watching him sleep, with Bruce next to you. You stare at his sleeping face and you know, he’s your son. He’s one of your kids.
I believe you find life such a problem because you believe there are the good people and the bad people. You are wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.