A/N: This story is coming to a close, folks. There may be an Epilogue (Hah, an epilogue after "Epilogue". I'm so clever.), but this is just about done. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my wonderful reviewers and other silent people who read this story but didn't review. When I see the Hit List, it makes me feel cool. Keep it up and enjoy the chapter.
The collective mass of brown bats hanging above them in the Cave made her nervous. He could see it in her body language, the way she tucked her arms under her chest, the occasional flicking of her eyes upward to study their position lest they flew down and nested in her hair. It almost made him smile. He was the same way for a while when he'd first been in here.
Since Wayne was nearing his second century in age and Max had quit being Batgirl some time ago, Terry had ordered new Nanobots to patch him up when his injuries were more than he could handle. They were miniscule little things—about the size of nickels—that crawled up one shoulder, scanning the expanse of his bare chest with tiny sensors until they detected the problem. The five of them opened a panel in the top of their metal bodies and withdrew needles attached to black thread for stitching. The last one had the decency to inject a needle into his shoulder to numb it, though he winced slightly from the pain.
Silence built upon itself as the tiny AI robots went to work on stitching his shoulder. Nothing plausible rose in Terry's mind to say to his daughter, his own child, whom he'd never met in person before in his life. It took a lot of will power not to study her, to see how much of her personality was like his, to notice the features that she had taken from his side of the family. Terry just stared at the floor, ignoring the prick of the Nanobots' legs in his skin.
When Emily finally spoke, her voice was steady and cold. "Why did you leave her?"
She watched something flicker across his face, maybe pain or guilt, and kept her face cool and controlled as she waited for his response.
"I…I thought she wasn't going to change. She used me once and I couldn't let her do it again so I never talked to her after we broke up."
Emily's pale eyes narrowed at him. "What about me? Would you have come back if you knew she was pregnant?"
He took his time with the question, frowning as he thought about how he'd thrown away her note, how he'd written the new one and stuffed it in his dashboard.
"Maybe. That wasn't the only problem between us. We had lost the trust of our relationship."
Terry glanced up at her, a sad smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "But I don't suppose that's what you wanted to hear, is it?"
She looked away from his gaze, a conflagration of emotions swimming around in her eyes and across her face.
"I…I don't know. Part of me wants to hate you, but the other part isn't sure. Mom didn't have the courage to tell you the truth so honestly, I think you're both wusses."
The smile spread across his mouth and he was suddenly glad she wasn't looking at him any more. She had most certainly inherited his smart mouth.
Emily glanced back at him and his smile melted. "So who's the old man? Your dad? Your granddad?"
"He's the closest thing I have to a father, yes. I've been working for him since I was sixteen. My Dad was murdered right before I came to work for him."
The first sign of an emotion other than anger went through her eyes and it was pity.
Terry shook his head. "Don't apologize. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. I don't even where to start—"
"You can start by putting that scumbag Zack six feet under."
His head snapped up, eyes widening. She was scowling now, her young face twisted in utter disgust from just mentioning the name.
"How much do you know about him?" Terry demanded unsteadily; fear suddenly flooding into his chest and making his stomach form a knot. Emily tucked her arms tighter under one another, her eyes becoming distant with horror.
"Enough. My mom borrowed money from him after I was born and he made her pay it back in sweat and blood. I hated him so much when I was little. He would come over every once in a while and torture her, remind her of how worthless she was and how he owned her. Once I was old enough to fight, he would have one of his Joker flunkies hold me back, kick me around a little to keep me off him. I only hit him once, when I was thirteen, right in the mouth. I'll never forget that moment for as long as I live."
When she looked back at him, Terry was gripping the edge of the stretcher he was sitting on hard enough that it was beginning to bend the metal on the bottom, his head bowed so that the shadows hid his eyes. She stayed where she was, though some part of her wanted to take a step back because she didn't know how he would react or what he would do next. He was The Batman, after all.
The Nanobots finished patching up his shoulder and trooped down his left arm in a line, crawling back into the little plastic tray they came from and shutting themselves down. Terry stood, hands gripped in fists, and stalked towards the changing room to suit up. Emily stayed in that same spot, listening to his footsteps echo through the Cave.
"Will you kill him?"
The footsteps stopped. "I don't kill, Emily. You know that, don't you?"
"Will you kill him for me?" Her voice had lost some of its steadiness and it sounded like she was shaking slightly.
She whirled on him, hot tears beginning to edge from her eyes. "Why not? Do you know what he did to her, right in front of me?! Do you know the things he said to her? No. You don't. Because you weren't there. You weren't there for the woman you loved and you weren't there for me. I hate you! I hate you!" she shouted, her voice growing hoarse and choked with a sob. She closed her eyes, giving into the sorrow and the pain that had consumed her soul from her broken childhood.
She didn't hear him any more, but just felt warm, strong arms wrap around her back and her forehead pressed into his chest. She didn't try to pull away because she was too tired, too tired of bearing the weight alone and trying to be strong both for herself and her mother.
"Why weren't you there? Why didn't you stop him?" she whispered. He held her tighter, pressing his lips against the top of her head.
"I know I wasn't there for you when you needed me, Emily, but…I promise that I will stop him and make him pay for everything that he did to you and your mother." He said in a low voice, gently stroking her hair.
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK. CL-
"I swear to God, if you open or close that damn lighter one more time, I am going to throw you off this dock."
Smirking, Micah looked up at his boss from his plain silver lighter. He leaned against the eighteen wheeler parked in front of the edge of the docking bay, waiting alongside Zack as the European cruiser glided slowly but surely towards them.
"Man, how long is this gonna take? I gotta hot date with Melanie's daughter soon." The white-haired Joker groaned in annoyance, flipping the small lighter over the backs of his long, pale fingers. Zack snorted to himself.
"Patience, Mike. You can play with her all night if you want as long as she ends up dead before tomorrow morning. And can you make it look natural this time? People don't normally die from overdosing on Lysol." He added, turning to frown at the thug, who only grinned and shrugged.
"You'd be surprised."
At last, the massive ship began to dock: the men aboard motioning to those ashore to tie off the heavy chains for docking. Zack straightened his tie for what seemed like the fortieth time in the last hour and watched the automatic bridge unfold from the edge of the liner, peering nervously up at the person descending it.
"Milla." Zack held out a hand and helped the smiling woman off the pier. She was taller than him by an inch or so with black hair slicked back from her pale, slender face except for curled tendrils in front of her ears. Her eyes were a green so light that they seemed to bleed across her entire eye, leaving the pupils dark pits on her face. Her svelte form was encased in a floor-length black leather dress, complete with a matching jacket and boots. The smile on her shiny red lips was that of a predator watching its prey with amusement, as she did now while Zack made a show of kissing her hand.
"I'm glad you could make it."
Her English was flawless, but the words came out slow and sensuous, as if she considered each word carefully before letting it slip from her tongue.
"I would not miss it for the world, dear Zachary. Where is the cargo?"
Micah rapped on the metal of the truck he was leaning against, cracking a fanged smile at the mistress.
"Right here, Madam."
Milla snapped her fingers and men dressed in black as well began to pour down from the deck, heading for the back of the eighteen-wheeler.
"Excellent. I trust that all of the Harley is in place?"
Zack nodded. "It's all there."
Milla bent and handed him the briefcase she had been carrying. "Then as agreed, forty-five million of your credits. It was a pleasure doing business with you, Zachary. I hope to do it again soon."
"I doubt he'll be available."
Zack's head snapped in the direction where a cold voice came from, eyes widening. Melanie emerged from the shadows, a gun pointed steadily at his head.
"Any of you move and I'll blow his head off. Then who'll make your precious Harley?"
The men paused, looking towards Milla for instructions. The tall woman's eyes were fixed on the blonde woman and she seemed to be studying her carefully. At last, she nodded and they dropped their boxes. Zack shook his head.
"You just don't get it, do you Mel? You can't win no matter what you do. Killing me won't change the fact that you're a worthless, stupid whore."
A shot went off less than an inch from his foot as he stepped forward to emphasize his point. There was nothing human on Melanie's face, nothing remotely resembling anything other than blind rage.
"Shut up, Zack. For once in your life, just shut the fuck up."
He closed his mouth. "You don't quite realize what kind of situation you're in right now, do you? You can't talk your way out of this one. No more arguments. No more 'negotiations'. I am going to make sure that you lose every last thing that you ever had."
She stepped closer, her arm never wavering, icy eyes boring deep into the dark pits of his.
"For years, I have sacrificed myself, my pride, and my daughter all because I wasn't strong enough to take control of my own life. Time after time, I would tell myself that it would all be worth it someday if I could protect Meri. It was an excuse. I became a pitiful, penniless instrument of your will and for what? For my daughter to hate me and for my life to be a living hell? Well, I've had enough. You are scum. You've always been scum. And after I kill you, this city will have one less piece of shit to worry about because you are nothing but a coward who manipulates people to get what he wants."
A slow chuckle built in Zack's throat until it spilled out of his mouth, a low, rumbling bray that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. When he finally stopped laughing, his eyes were black as the night sky. She sneered at him.
"What are you laughing at?"
He wiped the corner of his eyes, still giggling a bit. "What? You still don't get the joke?"
She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. "What joke?"
Melanie whirled, too late, to discover Micah behind her and screamed as razor sharp claws raked down her arm. The gun clattered uselessly to the ground and skidded over to Zack's feet. She clutched the wound, trying to stop the blood that began to pour from the spot between her arm and shoulder. Micah grinned nastily down at her, his hands long and thin with curved claws at the end splashed with scarlet.
Zack clucked his tongue at her, bending to retrieve the fallen weapon and walking over to her.
"You forgot that I always have an ace up my sleeve. Sorry, Mel. There's a happy ending in this picture but…you're just not in it."
He shot her twice in the chest and tossed the gun to Micah. Milla sighed in relief and waved to her men, staring at the blood that began to pool around Melanie's body.
"You had me frightened for a moment there, Zachary."
He kissed the back of her hand once more, lifting the briefcase slightly. "Thanks for the money, doll. See you soon."
Zack turned to go but something sliced through the air and bit through the straps of the briefcase, causing it to sail out of his hands and into the ocean. He stared open-mouthed at the case as it began to sink, too shocked to even swear. A shadow fell over him as he whirled around, finding his gaze matching that of The Batman's, who had appeared on top of the eighteen-wheeler. The Batman's eyes fell on the lifeless form of Melanie Walker and widened, horror and disbelief spreading across his face. She was…she was…
"You're a little late for the party, Bats. Sorry you missed her." Micah called up to him, slowly and deliberately licking the blood from his monstrous claws. Batman's blank white eyes snapped to his. The white haired Joker-splicer's eyes were a pale blue the color of a snow leopard's: rare and deadly. Fury began to build in Batman's body, flowing like water up his back and down his arms, making his fists clench so hard that his fingernails left imprints in his palms.
Milla looked between the three men for a moment before pointing an accusing finger at the Dark Knight.
"What are you just standing there for? Kill him!"
Several of the men in black dropped the cargo and began climbing on top of the truck. Batman snapped…
I cut this chapter short mainly because I'm drawing a serious blank on the final scenes. Please forgive me for the cliffhanger. I'll keep marinating the final two chapters and give you something great hopefully. Thanks for all of your support.