Warning: Post-"Epilogue" (Justice League Unlimited). Recommended that you read "Tea for Two" to understand the premise of this fic.
Prologue: "No Future"
To the people anyone else who saw them, there was a huge difference between the McGinnis brothers, Terrence and Matthew. Terrence, or Terry, was the thirty-one-year-old heir to Wayne Enterprises, just recently engaged to his long-time girlfriend. Matthew—Matt—was a twenty-two-year-old single college student still stuck with another few years to go because of his indecision over what to major in. Terry was dressed in black while Matt wore white, both as different as night and day, darkness and light. One had a future, a destiny, and the other wasn't sure where to look. But even so, the difference wasn't as immediately visible to them. To Matt, even though he always felt his older brother's shadow, Terry was still Terry and he was still Matt. And that was all that had ever mattered.
The brothers, as opposite as they seemed, sat at a booth at a local diner that night for a simple hamburger dinner. They were still rather close, and had been talking for the past half-hour, discussing Matt's upcoming twenty-third birthday and the latest major that he was considering dropping. As the night got darker, they became quieter, but neither of them was ready to leave the restaurant. Terry tilted the ketchup bottle, looking at it distractedly, acting strangely distant.
"Terry, what's wrong?" Matt asked, almost worriedly. His brother had been acting rather odd all night, almost as though there was something on his mind that he couldn't seem to get out into the open. Or couldn't figure out how to, at any rate. "Did something happen between you and Dana?"
"No," Terry answered, but there was still a heaviness in his voice that didn't offer Matt any comfort. "Something's been bothering me for a few months now, and I'm not sure how exactly to tell you."
Now, Matt knew this was serious. "What is it? What happened?"
Terry sighed and seemed to brace himself for Matt's reaction. Whatever he was going to say couldn't be good. "Remember when Bruce Wayne's kidneys were failing and the doctors were checking for tissue donors to clone new ones?" Matt nodded; Terry had taken off work a couple of days to help Mr. Wayne. His tissue material had been a histo-compatible match, and the doctors got to work immediately on the cloning process.
And now that Matt thought of it, Terry had started acting weird around that time. He'd been anxious about something and unusually secretive. Dana had even had to call Matt to find out if he knew anything about Terry's behavior. After he'd proposed to Dana earlier in the week, Matt had chalked it up to him being nervous about popping the question.
But that can't be it, he realized. Terry wasn't one for brooding, but that was exactly what he'd been doing all month. He'd always been light-hearted; if he'd been planning the proposal, he would have been a lot less moody and a lot more mischievous. He would have acted like a little kid with a secret, dying to reveal it, but teasing everyone so that he could keep it to himself.
"They found something interesting with my DNA that day," Terry continued, "and I looked it up myself to be sure. Turns out Dad wasn't our dad after all."
"I see," Matt answered solemnly. But he couldn't hide anything from Terry, who had always been good at reading him.
"I had a bit of a suspicion," Matt confessed. "High school genetics—we learned that black and brown hair genes are dominant over blond and red. Dad's hair was auburn and Mom's was red. It was a genetic impossibility for them to produce two black-haired kids."
Terry relaxed noticeably. "At least you were expecting it. I'd denied it all my life, thinking that maybe Dad or Mom dyed their hair."
Matt smirked. "You also used to fall asleep in class, if I remember correctly. You probably slept right through that lesson."
"Yeah, about that…" Terry started, looking out the corner of his eye. It was late, and the few patrons left in the diner were out of earshot. But still, his voice was considerably lower as he added, "There's a reason for my late nights. The last time I tried to tell you, you didn't believe me, and you probably still won't. But for the past fifteen years, I've been Batman."
Matt smirked again. "I knew it."
Terry blinked, caught entirely off-guard. "You knew this too? How long?"
"Probably from the start," Matt replied. "It must have been the day after Dad's funeral. I had a nightmare, and I went to go sleep in your room. I used to do that a lot, remember?" Terry nodded. As much as the eight-year-old Matt had complained about Terry after he'd moved back in with them, he'd often run to him when he had nightmares. And he knew that Terry had had them too, so it was a comfort for both brothers to know that the other was there. "You looked like you'd barely gotten your clothes off before you fell asleep. I was about to wake you up when I noticed something sticking out under your bed. I didn't completely recognize the suit itself, but the mask gave everything away. I stuffed everything back under and ran back to my room."
"Wait," Terry interrupted. "I tried to tell you and Mom once, but you both laughed at me."
"Mom didn't know," Matt explained. "What was I supposed to do? Blow your identity right there in front of her? Besides, you were kind of melodramatic at the time, so I couldn't help myself."
"Did she ever find out?"
"I don't think so. With you, your friends, and me making up excuses for you, I think she managed to stay in the dark."
"Why didn't you tell her then?"
Matt shrugged. "I guess I liked knowing your secret. You weren't around a lot, but I at least knew why. And I liked knowing that my big brother was a hero, even if I wasn't sure I liked sharing you with all of Gotham. And whenever I said that Batman was my favorite hero out of the entire Justice League, you took a lot of pride in that and you acted nicer to me than usual. Granted, I was kissing up a bit because I liked how you paid attention to me afterwards, but you were my favorite hero. I knew who you were out there to protect." They were silent for a moment, and Matt wondered nervously if maybe one of the other customers heard them. But no one was acting suspiciously; an old woman paid for her coffee and left, and a couple over in the corner were still enjoying their dessert. For a minute, Matt thought the blonde woman and younger bald man looked familiar, but then Terry spoke up again, pushing them out of his mind.
"Thanks, Matt. It means a lot to me, knowing that someone believes in me. I nearly lost faith in myself for a while."
"Because of what you found out about Dad?" Matt guessed.
"Yeah. Matt, what I have to tell you is top secret, and only a few people—including Dana and some of the JLU—know it. Can you promise me that you'll keep quiet about it?"
"I've kept your other secret this long, haven't I?"
Terry smiled momentarily before replying, "When I ran the tests on my DNA, I had a hunch as to who our biological father was, and I was right. It was Bruce Wayne." Matt's jaw dropped and eyes widened. "Guess this is one thing you didn't figure out on your own."
"But how?" he questioned. "I mean, he's nearly a hundred now—he'd have to have been in his sixties or seventies when you were born."
"I know," Terry answered. "I went over all the impossibilities in my head when I found out. He's too old and I was already sixteen when he first met Mom. I could only think of one thing: that somehow someone rewrote our DNA."
"Bruce was Batman too, around the time of the Near Apocalypse. Before that came around, he and the second Justice League were fighting a government agency called Cadmus, headed by a woman named Amanda Waller. Most of what they did was borderline-legal as they tried to make sure the Justice League didn't become a major threat to the world." At Matt's confused look, he amended, "It's a long story. I'll show you the dossiers on the Watchtower or at the Batcave someday. The League and Cadmus had been at each other's throats for around a year when they realized they had a common enemy: Lex Luthor."
"Superman's old enemy?"
"That's him. Anyway, Cadmus and the League came together to fight him and won. After that, Cadmus became a governmental asset and Mrs. Waller became the liaison to the League. But the one League member she respected the most was Bruce, and she was afraid that one day someone would take him out and there wouldn't be a Batman anymore. So she obtained some of his DNA and got to work on something she called Project: Batman Beyond. Batman Beyond was supposed to create a clone of Bruce to become the next Batman. Instead of actually cloning him though, she waited about thirty-five years until she found a Gotham couple that matched Bruce's parents' psychological profiles almost exactly."
"Mom and Dad," Matt deduced. Terry nodded.
"She injected Dad with a nanotech solution that rewrote his reproductive DNA, resulting in the both of us. Bruce was never in on it, but he definitely found out about it sooner or later. I never asked him how, but he's had the chance to analyze my DNA more than once. He probably found something then."
The blonde woman in the corner ordered another glass of water—her third that night. Her companion shot her a concerned look, but she assured him that she was fine. Matt willed his attention not to stray anymore as he looked back at his brother.
"How'd you find all of this out?"
"I asked her. I broke into her house and started demanding answers." Matt stared at him incredulously. "I had to, Matt. I had to know, and I wasn't sure if I could trust Bruce—I thought he'd done it. She told me the truth, though, all of it. It was disturbing, but it got me to realize that I had the chance to go down a different path than Bruce had. I'm going to meet up with her again next week."
"I don't think you should trust her," Matt advised.
"Maybe I shouldn't," Terry admitted, "but I can't spend my life not trusting anyone. I don't think she'll do anything anymore, but I know how to take care of myself and my loved ones if she does." He stared at his brother hard, analyzing him in just the way Batman would. "You all right?"
"I think so. I will be, at least. Something new to get used to. Although, I don't think I'll be able to have the same kind of relationship with Bruce that you have. To me, Warren's still my dad."
"Still mine too."
"So what's the reason you're telling me this?"
Terry smiled again. "I need your help. Since Dana and I are getting married, I'm not going to be able to be in the suit for a little while. And I don't think Gotham's criminals are going to take a break while we're on our honeymoon. I need someone to fill in for me for a couple of weeks at most."
"You want me to be Batman?"
"I'd ask the League to keep an eye on the city while I'm gone, but the criminals here aren't stupid. If the newspapers are going on about the Wayne Enterprises heir getting married at the same time Batman's taken a sudden vacation, they're going to figure it out eventually. If someone else is Batman for a while—someone they wouldn't notice too quickly as not being me—they probably won't think it's too coincidental or anything."
"No problem," Matt answered. Terry looked surprised at his quick decision.
"You realize what I'm asking you to do, right? I need to train you for months ahead of time, and you'll need to fight not only the usual Gotham crackpots, but the League's rogues' gallery too. It's dangerous."
"I know, but I also know that you wouldn't have thought to ask me if you didn't think I had a shot. Besides, I owe you for all the times you saved my ass as a kid."
Terry grinned and shook his head. "Just remember you said that." He inserted his credit card into the slot and paid for their dinner, leading Matt out of the diner, walking right past the couple in the corner. As they passed them, Matt noticed a green ring on the man's finger, and he nearly had a double-take as he looked back at them. They didn't acknowledge him, but he was sure he wasn't mistaken.
The old woman from before was sitting in her car outside the diner. Terry waved as he saw her.
"How well did he do?" she asked.
"Not bad," he replied. "It took him a while, but he finally recognized Kai-ro and Merina back there."
The woman looked at Matt this time and said, "You're not much of a detective right now, but if Terry thinks you can pull this off, I'll have to trust his judgment."
"Big change from when I started out, eh, Commish?" Terry joked.
"Commissioner Gordon?" Matt asked.
"I'll keep in touch," she informed. "If you need any help, don't hesitate to call."
As she drove off, Matt looked back at Terry and asked, "So that whole thing back there was a test?"
"Sort of," he answered. "I needed to tell you everything, and Barbara wanted to see if you'd be able to detect Green Lantern and Aquagirl in the diner. If it's any consolation, it would have taken me just as long to realize it back when I started. In fact, Kai probably would have had to throw his ring at the back of my head for me to get it."
"Guess I'm not much of a Batman."
"Maybe not," Terry confessed, "but then, that wasn't ever supposed to be your destiny."
Standard disclaimer applies: I own neither Batman Beyond nor anything else that I manage to allude or make reference to. The title of the fic comes from a track on The Big O's second soundtrack. As this is the sequel to my one-shot "Tea for Two," it would probably be best if you read that first. Names for Green Lantern and Aquagirl provided by Toonzone.