Bruce Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Selina Kyle, Barbara Gordon, the Scarecrow, and all other important characters belong to DC Comics/Time Warner.
I am using them without permission, however I have not and don't expect to make money from this.

Rated PG : mild language; violence, some mature concepts.

Not only the end of the story, but the end of this series, at least for now. Thanks to all who read and reviewed. Special thanks to Robster72 for beta reading. (Check out his stories!) I've enjoyed writing this, I hope you enjoyed reading.

Special story notes: As stated in the first chapter, the basic idea for this came from an old comics story, although I changed it considerably and added to it. Believe it or not, the idea of Batman temporarily becoming Starman came from that story - complete with a spectacularly ugly costume, which I modified considerably.

Reviews are greatly appreciated.



- - -

Outside, dawn would be breaking just about now, the light at the end of a long, dark night. He couldn't see it down here in the perpetual darkness and quiet of the Batcave, but in a strange way it was almost as if he could feel it.

Bruce held it up: a small glass tube with a tablespoon or so of clear amber liquid inside. It looked for all the world like a fine Scotch, as it caught the light in a warm glow. The cure Avery Billingsley had been willing to pay for, the cure Gordon and Ms. Davis had been tempted by, the cure Tyrell needed, the cure he himself had fought for. And here it was.

It had been in the box Crane had been trying to get away with: a supply of the fine powder he had used to create fear in his victims, and a dozen or so tubes of this, which he would have sold to free them from that fear, along with his notes and formulas. That this was the cure had been confirmed by the Scarecrow's men, several of whom had decided to cooperate.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs leading down from the house broke the silence. Bruce looked around and saw Dick reach the cave floor and stop, before he returned his gaze to the tube of liquid.

"Aren't you going to drink it?" Dick asked.

"I'm thinking about it."

"It's not poisonous or anything. Barbara said the police lab tested it out. Her father took his already."

"I know. I tested an extra sample here, too."

"Then why are you just staring at it?"

Bruce held the tube up, resting an elbow on the table in front of him. "I didn't panic tonight. The fear was there, but I was able to control it."

"I know... Is that why? You want to do it on your own, without an antidote?"

"It would be a challenge."

"But why make things harder for yourself than they have to be?"

Bruce shrugged slightly, finding himself without an answer for that, and changed the subject. "What else did Barbara tell you?"

"The Scarecrow's locked up, and his men are all eager to testify against him. I guess they want him behind bars where he can't come after them for failing him."

"Any sign of Selina?"

"Nope, she took off as soon as we knew you were okay."

"Yeah... I still don't quite understand why she did it."

"You don't?" Dick was grinning as Bruce glanced up. "Well, maybe someday she'll tell you."

"And what about Barbara? Or should I call her Batgirl?"

"You figured that one out, huh?"

"Not too hard to do. By the way, you should tell her that red hair is a little too conspicuous for a disguise. If she keeps on with this, she should cover it or wear a wig."

"If she keeps on with it? You mean you wouldn't try to stop her?"

Bruce smiled, a little sadly. "I'd certainly prefer to see her give it up before she gets hurt, but I've learned it's not always such a good idea to tell people what to do."

"Yeah? Well..." Dick shot him a rueful look. "I've gotten a good idea of how you felt. I'm hoping I can convince her she'd do better with detective work behind the scenes - research, stuff like that, while we do the street work."

"We? Does that mean you're planning to stay?"

Dick's expression seemed almost - surprised, as if he hadn't thought about the question before. "Well, yeah... I guess I kinda just assumed... If that's not a problem with you."

"Of course not. I'm glad." Bruce smiled at him. "I hope you didn't believe that story I told you about keeping your apartment as a base of operations. I was hoping you'd come back someday."

"Really?" He got a grin in return. "So - so I guess it's back to Batman for you, huh?"

"Yes. You know, I've been thinking it's time for a change in the old Batman suit. More of a basic black, maybe. More streamlined. The Starman costume wasn't so bad. Needs a cape, though."

"Sounds cool. Change can be good."

"Yeah, it can." Bruce looked up at Dick's face again, and smiled. "You know, you're right," he added.

"About what?"

"About not making things hard on myself." He twisted the top off the tube of amber liquid, raised it in a silent toast, and gulped it down, finding it surprisingly sweet. Tossing the empty container onto the table, he rose to his feet. "You headed home now?"

"Yeah. Been a long night."

"I'll walk you out."

Minutes later, they stepped through the front door of the Wayne house into the pale light and fresh air of early dawn. Bruce looked up at a flash of red and saw a robin land in a nearby tree and then take wing again, disappearing into the sky.

"Man, it's going to be a nice day," Dick said. "Too bad I'm going to spend most of it sleeping."

"You and me both, kid."

"Yeah... Well, see ya later."

"Dick?" Bruce saw him turn back, a questioning expression on his face, and took a step closer. "I just want to say thanks. I might not have gotten through this without your help, and I'll always be grateful."

Dick's face betrayed a flash of surprise before he grinned happily. "What are friends for, if not to help each other?"

Friends. Bruce watched as Dick put on his helmet, started up, and drove away, disappearing down the road past the house. There was a time he would have said he had no true friends, and needed none. That time was past. Friends, a partner... Maybe more, if what he had seen in Selina's eyes was what he found himself hoping for. Now, that would be a challenge. Shaking his head at the thought, he turned to go back in the house.

Friends, partners, lovers. Strange that he had never really noticed all the changes that had happened in his life during the last years until now, when they had all seemed to come together in one night.

Bruce smiled. Change can be good.

- End -