Disclaimer: All canon characters belong to someone far richer and important than little old me. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
This is my first foray into the realm of the Bat on this site. Reviews are most welcome – but please be kind!
Bruce Wayne stood at the huge window and looked out over a city he hardly recognised any longer. It seemed that new businesses and redevelopments were added to the crowded skyline every day. It was no longer possible to see the ornate spire of the cathedral or the winsome smile of the tall statue that stood over the harbour, swamped now by the giant offices behind her.
It was almost dusk and the last few streaks of the orange-tinted clouds were slowly being absorbed into the darkening sky. Another day over. Bruce sighed deeply. Another day to get through tomorrow.
He shook his head sadly and watched the stars beginning to appear through the high smoky atmosphere above the city. He could hear a gentle wind begin to pick up and whistle past the cold glass. It was then he caught sight of his reflection in the window and he closed his eyes as he turned away from the image.
Bruce barely recognised himself any more. His advanced years had begun to strip away at the man he once was and he could no longer fool himself; his mortality was screaming at him ever louder these days and he was horrified to acknowledge that he was scared.
Scared of leaving a city that meant everything to him. Afraid of would become of her after he was gone. Frightened to think that everything he had achieved could just wither away into not even a memory.
In short, he was scared of dying.
Bruce sat down slowly into the soft leather chair, every muscle and bone crying out in exhaustion as he rested for a moment. A slight twinge of pain brought a fleeting grimace to his pale face and he rubbed his chest. He was now completely dependent on medication to help him through each hour and he stroked at his sleeve where the patch lie against his skin.
Bruce turned his gazed back out to the city. A city no longer his. Despite trying to ignore the reality, Bruce had known this for a while. He had trained a new protector for the ever increasingly dangerous city and he had every confidence in this new version of who he once was. But inside he had not been ready to hand over to his successor.
Bruce took a deep breath and opened the thin file on the desk before him. He squinted as he brought the words into focus and read through the papers. Biting his lip thoughtfully, Bruce reached into his jacket pocket for his pen and held it tightly for a moment.
The tip of the pen hovered shakily over the box where his signature would rest and Bruce swallowed hard. Sale of shares and ownership of WayneCorp. The subtitle of the document glared up at him, taunting him.
"No." Bruce husked, his throat dry, "Not yet." He closed the file and stood (with difficulty) to look back out at the now dark skyline.
Leaning on his cane a little more heavily than he would have liked, he walked carefully back to the window. How he would love to be standing out there in the cool night air. Just to look out over his city once more, the wind pulling at him and the sounds of the streets below reaching up to him. He stood up straight with a determined groan and turned towards the door.
Bruce was breathing heavily, each intake of breath more painful than the last. He looked up at the last few steps and the door to the roof that waited at the top. Gripping the handrail and shaking his head to try and clear the stars that clouded his vision, Bruce ordered himself to keep moving and slowly continued the ascent.
The wind was stronger than he had imagined and it tore the handle from his grip, sending the metal door against the wall with a crash and throwing Bruce across the roof.
He lay still for a moment, his heart thudding in his ears. Cautiously, Bruce then pulled his knees up under him, rolled onto all fours and crawled over to the waist high wall at the roof's edge. He heaved himself up to stand against the cold bricks and sighed with relief as he looked out over the city.
A thin smile danced on Bruce's lips as the wind tore at his jacket and ruffled his hair. It was freezing cold but he was past caring. He leaned into the wind and closed his eyes as he listened to the roaring wind and the muffled sounds of nightlife from the streets far below.
Bruce had been standing at the roof's edge for a while when a low humming then interrupted his thoughts. He turned his head towards the familiar sound and watched the black craft glide down from the sky.
The sharply angled, glistening craft hovered beside the building, the powerful engines heating up the air near where Bruce watched in pride as a figure climbed agilely from the cockpit and leapt across the small gap onto the roof.
The dark figure hurried over to Bruce, the red emblem on its chest a stark contrast to the blackness around them.
"I was worried." The young voice called over the wind, "You didn't answer your pager."
Bruce nodded slightly, "So now you're my keeper, huh?"
"No! I didn't mean …" A gloved hand rested on Bruce's shoulder gently. "I'm just concerned about you."
Bruce looked back out at the city. "You're the only one who is …"
"What? What does that mean? Hey! You're not - "
"No." Bruce smiled despite his melancholy. "No, Terry, I'm not planning on jumping off of here … not that I even could if I did want to …" Bruce sighed as he turned back to his friend, "I'm just tired … Tired and old."
The younger man chuckled, "Nothing new there, then."
Bruce shot him a gentle frown.
"Well. It's freezing out here. Would you like a lift home?" Terry nodded towards the plane that was hovering steadily beside the roof. "Not that this is the Batman taxi service. Next time I expect you to be home at a reasonable hour."
Bruce allowed his friend a small smile and took Terry's arm, deciding to let himself be helped across over towards the plane. "What time is it, then?"
"A little after 1am."
"What!" Bruce gasped and stopped suddenly.
Terry shrugged, "Time passes when you're having so much fun."
Bruce looked away from him and frowned in confusion; he could not have been up here that long. The thought of having lost so much time worried him; there wasn't that much left to waste.
"C'mon." Terry urged, "It's okay. So you got lost in your thoughts for a moment. Even I do that! A little more often than my tutors would like, actually …" Terry fell silent and watched his friend. Bruce had seemed suddenly even older recently and he was becoming frailer. Neither of them really acknowledged the fondness that had grown between them but the thought of suddenly losing his friend had Terry worried. He tightened his grip on Bruce's arm and tugged at him gently. "C'mon. Let's get you home."
Bruce nodded and started back towards the waiting plane when numbness then flooded down his leg and he stumbled. He clung to Terry and gasped as suddenly everything went black.
Terry struggled to support Bruce's weight as he toppled forward and he had no choice but to let the older man fall gently onto the roof.
"Whoops!" Terry laughed slightly, "You okay?"
Bruce made no response.
"Bruce?" Terry quickly knelt down beside him and shook Bruce's shoulder, "Bruce!" He rolled his friend over onto his back and pressed his fingers to Bruce's neck. "Damn these things!" Terry cried, tearing off the gloves and again feeling for a pulse. "Oh no …" Terry groaned and pulled off his mask, the wind whipping his hair into his face as he leaned his head against Bruce's chest and listened for a moment. "Oh god, no …"
Terry sat outside the emergency room and held his head in his hands. He was completely unaware of the medical personnel that hurried back and forth through the busy corridor. And it was a few moments before he realised that someone was calling his name. He looked up suddenly and met the concerned face of the greying woman.
"I just heard …" Barbara sighed heavily, "Are you okay?"
Terry swallowed hard. Of course I'm not okay! He gave a slight nod.
Barbara sat down on the chair beside him. "What happened?"
Terry shrugged, "He - " he cleared his throat, "He was fine … I don't know … the doctors haven't come out yet." Terry gripped the edge of his plastic chair with his fists, desperate to hold back the tears that threatened.
Barbara regarded him for a moment and then stood slowly. "I'll go see what I can find out."
Terry watched her head over to the reception desk and then leaned back heavily against the wall. He closed his eyes and let the noise and bustle of the department wash over him, trying to think of anything except his friend lying somewhere within. Two police officers then hurried through the waiting area and Terry opened his eyes, watching in interest as the two men ran over to the commissioner in a panic.
Terry sat up and frowned as he tried to hear what the officers were saying. He watched the commissioner shake her head sadly and saw the droop in her shoulders.
Terry got to his feet and made his way through the chairs. "What is it?"
Barbara turned to him with a thin smile. "You've got enough to worry about at the moment."
Terry frowned, "If there's something going down, Barbara, I need to know."
Barbara searched his face and saw something familiar in his brown eyes. The same determination that she had once known. And she remembered all too well how powerful it was to think you could take on the world and win. And she recalled how futile it was to fight against it. She led Terry from the emergency room and out to her patrol car.
"Two of my officers went missing a few nights ago." Barbara began softly as they stood beside the waiting car. "One was found in the river last night – which is why I'm still up at such an ungodly hour … the other has just been located by the divers."
"Oh no …" Terry husked, "I'm sorry."
Barbara nodded. She placed her hand on Terry's arm and squeezed gently. "Stay out of it … please … this is for us to deal with."
Terry nodded sombrely, "And … Bruce …?"
"They said it was still too early to tell - "
"Commissioner!" The driver called urgently from the patrol car.
"I have to go." Barbara shrugged an apology and climbed into the car that then moved away quickly.
The intensive care ward was eerily quiet, save for the background melody of the various machines and monitors that bleeped and sighed.
Terry sat next to the bed and watched Bruce's chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. The life support machine hummed and puffed life into the frail body.
Tears flowed freely down Terry's pale face and he was too tired to care about them now. He wanted to reach out and hold Bruce's hand but was afraid that if the skin were cold then it would be proof of the inevitable.
Terry had not understood all that the doctors had relayed to him. Something about a haemorrhage and irreparable damage.
He had had to fight his way in to see Bruce because he was not listed as family. And it felt so wrong that such a great man should be alone. He wondered if this was really the price Bruce had to pay for all the good that he had done and whether it would be something he might have to face one day.
Terry stood from his chair, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. He walked out of the ward and ran from the hospital into the cold early morning.
He climbed up the fire escape on the side of one of the tall buildings and clambered up onto the roof. The plane was sat on the helipad where he had left it a few hours before and he slid back into the cockpit. Terry sat in silence for a moment and then suddenly he was sobbing bitterly as the sun rose behind the city skyline.
It was dark again when Terry awoke and found himself at home in his bed. He gasped and sat up sharply, staring at the clock. 19:32. Terry fell back against the pillows and frowned up at the ceiling in confusion.
He must have been so tired that he had made his way home on autopilot. He could vaguely remember taking the plane back to the cave and checking on Ace. The huge dog was now snoozing contentedly at the end of Terry's bed.
Bruce! Ace woke with a start as Terry leapt out of bed and flew through to the lounge.
"Hey, honey. How are you feeling?" Terry's mother stood from the sofa to hug him tightly.
"I have to call the hospital."
His mother smiled thinly, "I already did about an hour ago. They said there was no change."
Terry's shoulders fell and he hung his head. Ace padded over and licked his fingers gently.
"Oh, honey … I'm so sorry about your friend … but Mr Wayne was very old - "
"Was?" Terry exclaimed suddenly. "He is not going to die! Mom, he can't die …" Terry threw his arms around his mother and held her tightly for a moment before then suddenly stepping back from her.
"Where are you going?"
Terry sighed, "For some fresh air." He grabbed his coat and headed out of the front door.
Terry pressed the central control panel on his belt and the black suit enveloped him in invisibility. He stepped into the store through the remains of the smashed front window and watched the two men as they filled plastic bags with jewellery and ornaments from the broken cabinets and shelves.
Terry stepped up behind the nearest man and deactivated the camouflage as he neared the thief, enjoying the yelp of fear that his appearance caused.
"Shit!" The other thief had now seen Terry and gasped in horror. "Batman!"
Terry regarded them both for a moment, enjoying the power that all that he represented gave him. In one quick motion he then delivered an accurate slice into the throat of the thief beside him and spun at the other one.
"Please!I'll come quietly!" The man stammered and backed away from the advancing figure.
Terry could feel anger burning inside him and somehow he knew that it wasn't because of these two. They were petty thugs whom he would usually leave for the police to pick up. But tonight they were easy prey. And a welcome distraction.
As Terry pummelled his fists into the man's flesh, he knew what he was doing was wrong. The thief screamed at him, begging him to stop, but Terry kept on hitting and punching, his gloves becoming damp from the blood that oozed from the man's broken face.
Then suddenly the man felt silent. His head lolled to one side and he fought back no longer. Terry stopped, his breathing fast and loud within the cowl.
Terry looked down at the glistening ruby sheen on his hands and then back at the now unrecognisable face that he had shattered.
"No …" Terry pressed his fingers into the man's neck and felt the steady pulse that throbbed there. The sound of sirens then approached from somewhere in the darkness and Terry stumbled from the scene.