Yet another "A Better World" piece. What can I say? The episode was inspiring. Just some thoughts from the Bat post his choice to betray his fellow Lords plus a visit from someone he wasn't sure would talk to him again. I'm really nervous about this piece, and could probably use a beta for this kind of thing(yes, I'm operating without a beta.) Reviews, good or bad, are greatly appreciated. Hope you enjoy.
Now, living with his betrayal, there was time to think. Secluded in his cave, the Bat began to wonder if he had done the right thing. He could hear the arguments of the Lords, Superman in particular in one ear and those of his alternate self in the other.
His fingers drummed away on the desk as the thoughts whirled.
It had been a quiet evening for the Bat family. Wally West's funeral had been that day, the man behind the mask of Flash. As costumed heroes they had all attended the memorial for the Flash, but Dick in plain clothes had gone to remember his close friend, claiming simply they had met during Wally's one semester at Hudson U, and had made a long lasting bond.
He was standing in the corner of the cave, shaken but still determined. "If we're going to do this tonight we better get out there," Nightwing said, picking up his helmet and striding towards his bike.
"I'm going out there, alone," Batman's voice echoed as he creped out of the shadows. "Unsuit and then hand them over."
Nightwing whirled around and dropped his helmet. The look on his face was incredulous, and his eyes on his mask had gone wide. "You can't be serious."
But Batman did not budge, instead his arms folded over his chest and he glowered at Nightwing. "The Justice Lords is all that is needed as a crime fighting force." He allowed his gaze to fall over the others now. "You three are no longer needed."
"You cannot hang me up like I'm your ruined suit," Nightwing shouted at him, looking furious. "You lost that right years ago."
Batman's jaw tensed, but beyond that there was no sign that he had heard a word that Nightwing had said. "You either hand over your suit willingly or I will see to it that you aren't able to use it ever again."
Nightwing took a step back, and looked wounded as if he was struck. He sucked in a breath and attempted to continue. "I get that…" he paused, struggling to get the words out, "that losing Flash has been hard on you. Hell it's been hard on everyone, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up fighting. It only means I'm going to work harder."
"The least amount of us out there, the better it is," Batman said, believing the more he said it, the more it would sink in. "The Lords are all that are needed."
"Fine," Nightwing growled, before ripping off the mask and leaving just the eyes of Dick Grayson glaring back at him. He flung the mask at his mentor's feet. "Take the damn suit, but don't expect me to hang around Gotham or you."
"Just as long as you stay out of the crime fighting business." Batman turned to regard the man who was currently changing back into street clothes. "I'm serious Dick, you step one toe over the line…"
Batgirl rushed across the room, and even though she whispered to the young man, Batman could still hear her voice as it bounced off the cave. "Dick, you can't just leave him. We need to try and talk some sense into him."
"You talk sense into him," Dick growled back at her as he tugged a shirt on over his head. He dropped his voice down into a hiss, "And you think you were foolish for loving me."
Dick ignored her outburst, and looked around both her and Batman to Robin. "What'd'ya say Timmy? You stayin' here or are you coming with?"
Robin looked between his mentor, Batman, and his brother. Eventually he refocused his gaze on Batman. "I don't understand, I thought we were a team, a--"
Batman knew what the boy was going to say, but cut him off before he got the words out. "I am a solo act from now on," he said in a final tone.
"Fine," Robin said dejectedly before pulling off his mask and his gloves and throwing them on top of the Nightwing mask.
He stalked off towards the lockers where Dick was still standing.
Batgirl reached out a hand and grabbed his wrist. "Tim," she tried, but he just gave her a cold stare before removing his arm from her grasp and moving on towards the lockers. Dick's hand dropped to his shoulder before he started stripping as a sign of solidarity.
"You too, Barbara," Batman ordered with a tone of finality.
She had left eventually as well. Barbara had always thought that she could make him see reason, or something of the sort. She hadn't been able to. That had hurt her, he had hurt her. But Bruce had thought it was for the better at the time. None of them had died, he had managed to keep tabs on them all if only to know that they hadn't died.
But he was truly alone now.
Eventually someone would come and take him to jail now that the Lords were done their reign over Earth. He knew people well enough that he, along with the other Lords, if they had been present, were to be locked away, never to be heard from again.
"You did the right thing," a voice he hadn't expected to hear again came from out of the shadows.
He didn't turn around to look at Dick, almost letting himself believe that the sound was merely a hallucination of his voice. "How do you know?"
He could nearly see the grin that spread across Dick's face. "No one else was capable, and life with the Lords was hell." Dick had walked across the room, and had now hoisted himself up to sit on the desk that held the Bat-computer, right in his line of view. "He would have hated it," he said simply, speaking of Wally.
All these years later, Dick was the only non-Lorder who was unafraid of broaching the subject of Flash. Even the Lords themselves didn't like to bring him up. But Dick had never been one to skirt issues until pointedly glared at, and he liked to remember.
The image of the Flash as a human and a hero came into his head now, instead of the symbol for the cause he and the rest of the Lords had promoted. Young, impetuous and rather childish, ready to jump headlong into anything and everything for the good of the people. Images of him fighting against Gorilla Grodd surfaced, along with Flash's abhorrence for the absolute control that Grodd had held over the people of Central City. Dick was right, Flash would have hated it.
But that didn't mean that there weren't benefits to the way they had run things. "Life was easier that way. Total control."
"Easier isn't always better." Dick merely shrugged when the Bat glared at him. "That's a lesson you taught me."
Silence fell between them once again. It had been a common thing over the years, sometimes comfortable, sometimes not. This was one of those uncomfortable silences.
"I didn't think you'd come back," Batman said finally.
Dick gave an absent shrug and shifted his gaze to the floor of the cave. "I didn't think I would either. But some things can't be destroyed, I guess."
"They're going to come and arrest me sooner or later."
A look crossed over Dicks face that he remembered all too well. One that he had long ago taught the boy. "We can fight them," Dick insisted.
He should have known that Dick would be spoiling for this fight. Bruce was not about to let Dick ruin the life he had built for himself on a fight that wasn't his. He simply turned the chair away, presenting Dick only with his back. "You don't have to."
In turning, he missed the look of hurt that crossed Dick's face and quickly turned to the anger that he had been waiting for. "Maybe I want to," he growled, his voice getting stronger with his fury at the situation. "I didn't just lose Wally or my night job… and my day job, I lost a father, for the second time."
"You didn't have to leave."
"What was I supposed to do?" he asked angrily, pushing away from the desk to pace. A part of Bruce felt glad to see it; this was how he remembered his son. "Sit around Gotham or the Manor while you did something that you no longer trusted me to be a part of? When I needed to be out there the most you took it all away because you could. Because in the end, no matter how much I may hate it, I'd do whatever you asked of me. Even now, after two years of a dictatorship run by you and the Lords, I'd still do what you'd ask of me. Why did you have to ask me to give up the one thing that was keeping me sane?" He finished, his voice nearly cracking with the emotion behind it.
He knew the question was coming, just as he knew Dick knew the answer. "To keep you safe."
"You know keeping me off the streets at night wasn't keeping me safe. Things happen to people when they're not out there all the time."
"I was decreasing your risk."
"I don't need to be taken care of by you. That stopped a long time ago. I wanted to be your equal, and you couldn't give me that, not once."
How could one respond to that? he wondered. There was nothing he hated more than failing, and he got the distinct impression that he had managed to fail his family for years now. It shouldn't matter what they thought. It shouldn't.
Bruce turned around, removing the cowl and looked up at his son. "Dick, I--"
"I know," Dick said, understanding the words his mentor couldn't seem to say. He paused for a moment, nervous. "Barbara and I are holding Christmas this year. We were hoping… we were hoping that you'd come."
Out of all the things he had expected from Dick, that wasn't it. He was being invited back into the lives of the family he had thrown aside. Did he even deserve that chance? "I don't know."
"We'd all like you to come."
Bruce said nothing, and Dick took the time to wander through the cave a bit. Bruce watched as Dick paused in front of the tubes holding the costumes. He ran his hands over them reverently, and though his back was turned, Bruce knew there was a tick of a smile on Dick's face. "I'm surprised you didn't put one of Alfred's suits in one of these."
Bruce felt a bit of a twitch in his own face. "He would have hated that."
"Yeah." There was something else Dick was thinking of, and he was almost getting around to it. "How was it?" Dick asked finally, softly.
"Who was what?"
"Seeing him again. Wally."
He leaned back in his chair and began to retell the events of the day that had lead him to decide to change everything. A hint of a smile floated around his lips as he recounted how the Flash had managed to outsmart the Bat and got away with it. Towards the end, Dick was laughing and feelings that he had long since buried came into Bruce. Maybe he would make a trip to Dick's for Christmas this year. Maybe he really had done the right thing.