Rewrite

Scene One: Betrayal

The slamming door announced Terry's arrival home. Bruce watched his former student walk over to the grandfather clock and rip off his mask in frustration, looking very much like he wanted to put his fist through the clock face. But at the very last second, he restrained himself and opened the door to the cave, walking down into the darkness.

So he knows, Bruce realized. He'd seen that exact same type of anger with Dick—only he hadn't managed to control himself nearly as well as Terry had. It was the anger of betrayal, and there was only one reason Terry would feel he'd been betrayed: he must have run the DNA test.

Bruce knew it would only have been a matter of time before Terry realized that they were genetically father and son. He'd figured it out himself a few days after meeting Terry, and he'd contacted Kent to see if he had anything in the League's files on Cadmus about interest in cloning him. Kent had always been a boy scout, trying to do the "right thing," but he'd promised never to reveal it to Terry—they both knew it would be better if the then sixteen-year-old continued to believe that the man he'd called his father for years really was. And after Warren McGinnis's murder, it would be far too cruel for Terry to know otherwise.

Terry had to have run the DNA tests on his own. The suspicion would have come immediately after his tissue donation—a perfect histocompatability match between them had more than 100-to-1 chances of happening. Terry would have realized that and viewed his entire world afterwards with distrust. Bruce had to applaud his son's ability to mask his emotions—even he hadn't picked up on it.

The grandfather clock/door opened again, and Terry walked out of the cave, dressed in his civilian clothes. He shut it with his same half-controlled rage and walked toward the front door, pulling on his jacket as he went. For a minute, he paused and looked at Bruce, and his restraint nearly broke. There was an expression of pure hatred on his face, but Bruce calmly waited to see what he would do. Would he yell accusations? Would he start breaking things?

Instead, Terry picked up the broken pieces of his mask and turned away, muttering, "I'm going out." No location and no duration. There was no "I'll be back" or "Don't wait up for me." Bruce would just have to hope Terry sorted things out on his own and didn't blame him.


Scene Two: Protection

It was cool out that night—not cold enough that Dana could see her breath or anything, but it was enough that vapor was visible over the manmade stream in the park. She couldn't help but feel like Cinderella stood up by her Prince—here it was almost midnight, and Terry hadn't shown up yet. And he was the one who'd called her there to begin with. Fifteen years of dating Batman had given her the patience to deal with missed dates and broken promises, but she was worried. He'd sounded awful over the phone—tense, almost afraid. She'd only heard that tone of his voice twice before: the first when his father had been murdered, and the second when Mr. Wayne had gotten sick a few months ago. To her knowledge, there wasn't anything wrong in Terry's family—immediate or extended—so she had no idea what could be the problem.

Come on, McGinnis, she mentally urged. Where are you? And sure enough, he came walking over to her on the footbridge.

"Dana, sorry I'm late," he commented.

"Sorry isn't good enough," she snapped. She didn't mean it, but she'd been scared for him. He didn't use that voice on the phone unless something was horribly wrong. "What's this all about?"

They stared at each other for a minute. His face showed regret, sorrow, pain. There was something he wanted desperately to tell her, but he couldn't seem to build up the courage get it out. He started to speak, but then changed his mind and answered, "Never mind. Forget it."

She sighed. This was not the Terry McGinnis she knew and loved. He wasn't one to brood over things; something had to be terribly wrong. But she'd never figure out what was bothering him at this rate. "Terry, you can tell me anything, you know that."

He nodded and leaned over the railing of the bridge. "I know. But I don't want to hurt you."

She shook her head. "If this is another attempt to protect me, you can forget about it." Standing next to him, she said, "Terry, I know you. I know you would do anything to protect the people you care about, and I love that about you. You're a hero in every sense of the word. But I'm not asking you to protect me right now. Let me help you."

He lowered his head as she held his hand. She wouldn't say anything more. She knew Terry well enough to know that if she said anything else, he would just clamp down and let it continue to eat away at him. And slowly, slowly, he was starting to maybe come out of it. She watched him carefully as he took a breath and started, "Dana…"

His Justice League communicator chose that critical moment to go off. She mentally cursed them for destroying her one and only chance to get her boyfriend to open up. He took his hand away from hers so he could check the communicator.

"Green Lantern," he explained. "They're fighting off the Iniquity Collective. I have to go."

"I know," she answered as he turned and walked away. "I'll see you Friday?" There was a nod, and then:

"I'm sorry," he whispered. She wasn't sure if he meant it for her or for himself.


Scene Three: Duty

Green Lantern Kai-ro was not a man who could be easily angered, but he was almost at his limit tonight. The Iniquity Collective had always been a difficult enemy for the League. A four-man team was necessary to fight them, but right now, Kai and his team were down to three: himself, Warhawk, and Aquagirl. He'd called Batman for help fifteen minutes ago, and he hadn't gotten a response. They had to try and make do with just three. He'd managed to capture Inque, Warhawk had beaten down Parasite, and Aquagirl had defeated Stalker, so all that remained was Shriek.

Shriek fired a sonic blast at Lantern and Warhawk, and Kai quickly raised a shield to block it. It protected them from the worst of it, but he could still feel the attack resonating in his bones. It was not going to be easy fighting him. Aquagirl tried an attack from behind, but Shriek's sonic waves interfered with her stream of water, splashing it away too easily. Normally, by now, Batman would have found an opening and destroyed Shriek's sound devices, but since he was conspicuously absent, it was Kai's job.

The Green Lantern had been called a prodigy in the past, but it couldn't help him here. His ring was the only thing that could block the sonic blasts, but it wasn't perfect. Shriek had them at a frequency that could penetrate the light of the ring constructs. Not to mention he needed a shield—Warhawk's bone density was slightly less than an ordinary human's, thanks to his Thanagarian heritage, so he was at a disadvantage. A sonic blast could shatter his bones at a lower intensity than for Lantern. Given enough water, Aquagirl could create a shield strong enough to resist sonic interference, but they didn't have those resources available right now.

"We should split up," Warhawk suggested. "He'll probably come after me first—I'm an easier target to take down. While I've got him distracted, attack his amplifiers."

"I think you're right," Kai agreed resignedly. He lowered his shield and flew to one side while Warhawk took the other. As they'd predicted, Shriek turned his attention to the one with the weaker bone density. Kai looked at Aquagirl with a silent order to raise a shield around their partner, and she quickly encased Warhawk in a sphere of water. He would only be able to hold his breath for a minute or two, but at least Shriek was having a harder time attacking him.

Shriek put his hands closer together to try and magnify the intensity of his sonic waves—this was just the chance Kai had been waiting for. Focusing the power of his ring, he created two small spikes and shot them at Shriek's arms. The amplifiers cracked, unable to produce a sound. Aquagirl quickly removed the water sphere around Warhawk and turned it into a whip, which she used to completely destroy the amplifiers. Caught off-guard by their ability to destroy his weapons, Shriek didn't notice Warhawk running up with a right hook. The criminal's helmet cracked as he hit the ground, and Kai put him in a green cage. But now he was aware of a dark figure behind him.

"Good of you to drop in," he told Batman, "considering that three-quarters of the Iniquity Collective are from your rogues' gallery."

Kai turned and looked up at his teammate. While it was true that their team often suffered from personality clashes and disagreements, nothing was ever bad enough to merit the glare Batman gave Lantern. Kai stared back at him evenly. He had no idea what was going on in his teammate's life, and he didn't pretend to know. But he did not want Batman taking things out on them the minute he pulled on the mask. Meanwhile, Aquagirl and Warhawk watched the youngest members of their team stand off in the battle of wills, unsure of whether or not to interfere. Finally, Batman managed to control his temper.

"It won't happen again," he semi-apologized.

"Good," Kai replied neutrally. "The Justice League needs Batman." He motioned to the captured criminals. "We're a more effective team when you're here."

"It won't happen again," Batman repeated. It sounded like it took a great deal of effort for him to make that promise. But before anyone could call him on it, he extended his suit's wings and flew away.

Standard disclaimer applies: I do not own Batman Beyond or Justice League Unlimited. The characters of Terry McGinnis, Dana Tan, Kai-ro, Warhawk, Aquagirl, the Iniquity Collective, and this particular version of Bruce Wayne belong to the Bruce Timm DCAU. The title "Rewrite" comes from the fourth opening theme of Full Metal Alchemist, and because I wanted a title that had a bit of a literary sound like "Epilogue" did. The idea for this came basically from learning about the self-serving bias in psychology. Dwayne McDuffie said that the black-and-white scenes in "Epilogue" were Terry's musings on worst-case scenarios and what he thought he should have done. But each had him portrayed as the reluctant hero who won each fight, so in trying to create "actual" events for the night the episode took place, I removed the bias.