Okay, here is the epilogue I promised…
Don't expect much, please. This is just a glimpse of a possible future, and an opportunity I had of showing a bit of how things were in Gotham, and with people like Dick and Barbara. To be honest, I wrote many versions of the epilogue, long stories with lots of drama… but, well, the story already has enough of it, and this chapter should never be the focus, shouldn't be more or even as important as the previous chapters. This one just gives the readers a little something to think about.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Please, review. If you've been reading my story, please, give your opinion. In the end, it's always good to hear what the faithful readers have to say about, so the next stories can be better. I'm anxious to know what readers think about this "Unexpected Child" now that it's complete.
I thank you, all of you, all the people that were with me during this "journey". I hope you liked the story; be sure that I appreciated the fact that you've been reading it…
Twenty five years
"Honestly, Thomas, I don't think that's what your father had in mind when he asked me to look after you while you're in Gotham…"
"Probably not, Dick; probably not…"
Thomas smiled. He just couldn't restrain his satisfaction.
They were looking at a huge cave, but not only that; no, that was…
"Indeed." Dick Grayson, of course, didn't sound impressed.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Dick…" The young man placed both hands in his pockets, and tried to look less affected than he actually was. "This tour is probably boring you…"
Grayson was a middle aged man, grey hair and beard, and he would easily be taken as an ordinary person, except, maybe, for his still impressive physical shape. In his outside, the man that was once the first Robin, and later the vigilant Nightwing, gave no clue that any connections with his hero life were still at work.
It was on what was under the surface, however, that Thomas was interested.
"Don't worry, Tom." No one else in the world was allowed to call Thomas Wayne by the nickname Tom, but Dick was – clearly - an exception. He was something between an older brother and an uncle for Thomas, and his father's oldest and most trusted friend. Whatever the differences Richard Grayson and Bruce Wayne had had in the past, they were always loyal to each other, Thomas knew. And after his father moved to London, fifteen years ago, well… Dick was the one left in charge. "It has been a while since I was down here myself."
"Is that right?"
"Yes… You know, the cave has been out of action for… let me see…"
"Ten years in May", Thomas answered promptly.
"That's right…!" Grayson walked to the wall on his left, opening a panel that showed dozens of buttons. He pressed it in a very particular order, and that turned on lights all over the cave. "You remember it quite well. How do you even know that? Bruce told me he didn't talk abut this things with you."
The young man smiled to himself, a gesture that caused Dick Grayson to shiver. They really were very much alike, father and son. Thomas was not much younger now than Bruce was when Dick first met him, and the resemblance was astonishing. Seeing Thomas inside the Batcave, that mysterious look on his face, his expression while he walked around the old trophies Bruce had collected from his enemies over the years… It would make Grayson feel like he was a teenager again, memories of those first days, of when he had discovered the cave himself, his first visit, the first time he saw the Batman… Funny how Bruce's son seemed to fit in that place.
"Now, old man, take all the nonsense out of your head…" Bruce had specifically told him on the phone that he shouldn't take Thomas to see the cave, and they really should stay out of the topic of Batman… But the kid knew how to be persuasive. Somehow, during dinner, Thomas talked Dick into bringing him to see the cave; it seemed like a good idea, back then.
Or, as Barbara used to say, any excuse was a good reason for Dick to go there…? He was not sure.
"Oh, my father never discussed his days as the Dark Knight with me…" Thomas was talking while watching attentively the old computer, even blowing some of the dust away. "But he didn't have to, either."
"What do you mean?" Dick sighed. It disturbed him a bit that Thomas too was talking in mysterious sentences.
"The night you deactivated the cave…" He now turned his attention to the last Batcar, still parked and kept like an antique in a Museum. "My father got sick. I'm serious, he got sick – and you know he never gets sick. It was the worst case of fever I've ever seen. A fever for which no doctor found a reason, of course…"
"But you did."
"I did." Somehow, Thomas had managed to find the security lock of the car, and had opened it for the first time since Bruce left. "That's a beauty!"
"Be careful, Tom."
Unconsciously, Dick Grayson nodded; truth was, the kid did look fine, even familiar with the equipment. He had already turned on the computer on board, and it was examining the functions avaible in the car.
"That's why my father never had to talk about Batman with me, Dick…" Now Thomas had his hands on the wheel, and eyes ahead like watching an invisible road. "It was already too obvious."
"I see." The older man cleared his throat, and tried to change the subject of the conversation: "I think we should go up now… Tim will be here any minute, and he probably wants to see you…"
"Oh… doesn't he know the way to the cave?"
"Very funny, Tom. You have your father's sense of humor… That's not a compliment, by the way." The question reminded him that, by bringing Thomas to a tour in the cave, he had broken an old pact… Dick now lived in Wayne Manor with his wife and daughter, an arrangement he made with Bruce years ago; ever since they – Bruce, Tim, Barbara, Dick himself – decided to leave their heroes lives, it had been his task to watch over the cave, and keep it away from the eyes of anyone. Including – or, better yet, mainly from – their children. The pact was clear: they did the best to make the world a better place, so their children wouldn't have to join any wars.
And what had he done? Bruce specifically told him that Thomas was curious about the cave… said that it would be better if Dick just told him the cave had been destroyed – an option that had been considered in the past, but never accomplished. However, when it came to the moment, he hadn't been able to lie. Hell, he hadn't even been able to deny a tour in the cave!
"It's probably because he looks like him a lot…!" Maybe. After all, it had been almost five years since the last time he had seen Thomas, and never before the resemblance between father and son was so remarkable. Now… now the kid was almost Bruce's ghost.
Or maybe is just because before he was out of context?
Whatever it was, the mistake had been made.
A screeching noise came from the old elevator behind him, and Dick turned to look. Someone was coming down, and this, Grayson knew, would mean trouble… "I'm so getting yelled at…!"
None of the men in the cave were surprised to see Barbara coming out the elevator. Her expression showed she was anything but happy to be down there, and the look she gave Dick was, at best, cold; but she said nothing, and just used the control on her wheelchair's arm to enter the main hall of the place. Thomas, seeing that the former Oracle and now Barbara Grayson was there, quickly left the inside of the Batcar, and greeted her with his best and most charming smile:
"Barbara, hello! Good to see you…" He walked to her, taking her hand on his, and kissing it lightly.
The gesture did seem to have an effect on Barbara, since her expression relaxed into a cautious smile.
"Thomas… You are a gentleman, but you guys are not escaping a scowl…"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Barbara", the young man proceeded. "This is my entire fault, I'm afraid. I basically threatened Dick until he agreed on bringing me here…"
"I'm sure you did." The woman glanced briefly at her husband, an evaluative look. "But Dick is more than familiar with threats, and ever since he was a young teenager. I doubt you could have said anything so dreadful…"
Thomas laughed: "Don't underestimate me, Barbara! I can be very persuasive…"
"He got that from his father." It was Dick's commentary, as he joined the conversation. Those words caused Barbara to again glance at him, now in obvious disapproval.
"And where is Hanna?" Thomas quickly changed the subject of conversation.
"Hanna?" The mention of her daughter immediately brought a smile to Barbara's features. "She is getting ready for a party, I think. It's Friday, and nothing could keep a teenager at home…"
"I would like to see her before she leaves… it has been a while."
"Five years, right?" Dick smiled. "She was twelve…" He sighed. "They sure grow up fast…!"
Barbara nodded her head in agreement, now finally staring at her husband with kindness. "You must forgive Dick, Thomas… he is just devastated that Hanna is no longer his sweet little girl."
"No, she's not…" Grayson's brows were wrinkled, a sign of displeasure. "Now she is a 'young woman', like she is always telling me, full of ideas, and – dear God! – even dates boys…"
"Yes, I agree that this must be disturbing to any father…!" Thomas looked around the cave once again, feeling his time down there was ending. "At least for now", he considered to himself. And asked: "Have you ever brought Hanna down here?"
Barbara remained in silence, while Dick answered in a casual tone: "Yes, I showed her the cave once…"
"I didn't want him to show her."
"I had to, Barbara! She was curious, making questions… you know she is a smart girl, no doubt she would have guessed." Facing those arguments, Barbara crossed her arms and said nothing more. Dick proceeded. "It was for the best. I told her everything about her mother and myself, and I think she took it pretty well. And she hated the cave: too many bats, she said."
"Yes, yes, yes…" Barbara sounded impatient, and signed with his hands towards the elevator. They obeyed her. "But you, Thomas Wayne, have no business in here. You wanted to see it? Now you saw. And I pray to God your father never learn about this little adventure, or Dick is in serious trouble…!"
"To be honest, dear, you are the person I fear the most, not Bruce."
"Now, don't worry!" Thomas interrupted this conversation between husband and wife. "Dad will never know about this. Not from me, anyway!"
The young man thought about his father, who once was Batman, and that had left everything to be a family man. The more Thomas learned about his father's past, the more he acknowledged how hard it must have been for the old man… Abandon all the amazing things he had created, this whole life? How could he?
Of all people, his father should be the one to understand.
"I'm sorry, dad, but I have to do it."
You've chosen the hard way.
The road you took, it frequently leads to suffering and pain, it will always find obstacles and you will constantly be tested. That's the life you have chosen, the life of men that have embraced a mission, life of solitude…
I wish I could tell you something inspiring, but I can't lie. After all, it's a crusade born from tragedy, a promise made in a moment of loss. Fear is your greatest ally, and you are now a creature of darkness, one that embraces the night and shadows… if not in your heart, at least as your refuge.
However, I think of it, of my days as the Knight, and this cannot escape me: so many good things in my life came from the choice I made… You, for example. Make no mistake, my son… I entered your life as Bruce Wayne, that's the father you've always known; but, truth is, you're the son of Batman. For it was the Batman that first loved your mother, and it was the Batman that she loved.
Indeed I've hoped that you would grow up to be a happy person, someone that could enjoy life in a way I never could, someone that could be whole, and not a mix of paradoxical identities. I hoped you would always be safe and protected, I hoped I wouldn't have to constantly worry about your life being in dangerous. I hoped…
But I never believed it.
You care too much, you know too much, you are passionate… you are like your mother, you are like me. You are my son. You'll always choose the hard way, because you are one of the few people that can do it. And someone has to do it…
Now the legend is also a legacy.
The New Beginning