The Batcave was empty tonight, long shadows cast upon the stone walls and silence reeking throughout. Bruce despised the silence. There was a time, he reflected, when he hadn't. When he'd relish it, for hours on end, to figure out a puzzle, solve the crime, protect. Again and again and again. Not tonight.
Tonight he sat, eyes heavy and limbs aching, glass of strong alcohol in his hand and the sharp smell of blood.
For a man who always said he worked alone, he ended up working with more people than Ollie could have shot at (not that the Arrow wouldn't have tried). Dick, the eldest. Gone. He could still see the baton sailing through the air, and before the 'duck', the 'stop', the 'look out' could spill from his lips, the crack sounded as the baton struck his head, the thud as Dick fell to the floor, the snap as his ward, his son's neck hit that rock.
Jason, who he'd failed years ago, now the Red Hood, not caring for sides or morals in this war.
Tim, so smart, going to be a better detective than Batman was, already a better detective than he was, left for dead in the Phantom Zone with the Titans.
And Damian. Rebellious, hot-headed Damian, who'd argued and listened and believed in what they were saying, who'd screamed and thrown that baton at Dick with all his might, expecting his brother to catch it, because Dick always caught it, but not then, not in Arkham, not in that battle, notthennotthennotthen.
Batgirl. Barbra. Now Oracle, the wheelchair, the computer. Batwoman, and Cassandra wasn't around often, but still fighting, always fighting.
Alfred. He'd failed him too.
So many casualties. And all couple be attributed to then. That day.
"Lois is pregnant." Clark had said, eyes gleaming in happiness. "We want you to be the Godfather."
Bruce accepted. Of course he would. He'd be honored.
Then it happened.
Joker, the same man Batman had fought time and time again, who two of his protegés had their lives changed by him, ruined by him, he'd done it. Tricked him. Clark believed his wife, his wife was Doomsday, and Clark, well, he was Superman. So he flew her to space.
Lois didn't make it, taking their unborn child with her.
Metropolis was destroyed, the weapon detonating when Lois was killed, thus killing millions more.
It all started then. It started on a day that was supposed to be happy.
Superman killed the Joker. He formed the Regime, and he said it was to keep the world safe. Kill the villains, stop war, stop the humans from tearing themselves apart. "They need to be controlled." Is what Clark had argued. "You'd be wise to join me. Or stay out of my way."
Fear. That's what he used. Fear, fear does not make peace.
But Bruce knew who was really pulling the strings, whispering in the ears. A warrior with sharp eyes and a sharper tongue, black hair and a golden lasso.
Batman formed the Insurgency. And as far as Bruce was concerned, there was no Justice League anymore.
Only the silence.
Silence and death.
"What the-" The man asked, blinking in disconsertion, head pounding and bleary. "Where…"
It was Gotham. It had to be. But it wasn't. It didn't feel like Gotham, not the one he knew. Not the Gotham where…
He remembered. There was a mission, and something happened, what happened, why does his head hurt so much, why is he in an alleyway, why-
Why did the woman on the other side of the street stare at the icon on his chest in a look he cannot describe as something other than terror.
She used to be her hero. The woman she looked up to, who she loved, who she admired. A mentor of encouragements and sharp "not nows" in the midst of battle when she got too excited about something.
She'd seen her kill in cold, ruthless blood, and no, that couldn't be her mentor, it couldn't, because her hero wouldn't have done that.
But she did.
He remembered a magician - one of the many who'd taught him, telling him that magic always comes with a price. It was what magic did, it took, because magicians took, and used, and occasionally (alright, more than occasionally) abused it.
He's clever enough to know that what was happening isn't his fault. Not even magic is that cruel. He believes, always believes, and perhaps he believes too much.
But until he doesn't believe anymore, he'll drink his coffee so bitter it's a stone's throw away from being tar, draw sigils until his hand falls off, chant spells and smile and swear and fight.
He'll make the mistake of not keeping his mouth shut, and he'll pay the price. Always pay the price.
He'd fight, and he'd kill, and he'd die for his King. He has to, afterall, he is the ruler of his realm, his kingdom, his home. And if his King sees this (as terrible, as horrible, as gruesome as it is) as a divine mission, he will follow.
But then he remembers his friends, his allies, the broken looks on their faces as he strides to the otherside, weapon in hand and Superman's approving face, and his King's sure smile.
He can't. Not again. He won't fail this time.
She's missing something, and as cruel as it sounds, it isn't Oliver.
She misses him, but she's still missing something, as obvious as missing a limb. Like there's a chunk of her gone, and it isn't Green Arrow, but it hurts just as much. Like if her arm was ripped to bloody shreds and left.
And it will be, if she doesn't take the arrow from her quiver and lock it in and fire and fight and keep fighting.
He's tired of being in their shadow. He's tired of being their pawn. He's tired of fighting the same villain over and over, waiting until they break out again, and then he fights them again.
He promises a better future, so he takes it.
He takes it, and he's willing to hurt and kill whoever wants to seize it from him.
Then, he remembers. The pain in his head continues, and the woman still looks terrified.
He doesn't know why the woman stares in terror before she backs out of the alley, running the opposite direction. The symbol on his chest is supposed to be one for a hero.
He doesn't know why she's scared.
But he remembers.
He's not supposed to be here.
This isn't his home.
AN: Hey guys, Michael here after a long hiatus, a lot of crap happened, a few break ups, fell off the wagon a bit. But good ol' voice of the people is back!
In any case; I'm here bringing you a story I had co-written with a friend on amino, the ever-lovely Liz, who is still my beta and co-writer. Give her a round of applause for helping with this chapter, sadly she doesn't have an account, so just leave praise here.
She basically wants me to tell you to review, theorize, and follow it.
I promise you all, I will finish this story with her insistence.