Rating: Gen, PG
Fandom: Batman Beyond/JLU
Word count: 500 exactly (it's a flashfic because it just wouldn't fit as a drabble)
Disclaimer: Characters (except one) are the property of DC/Warner Bros. Animation.
A/N: Inspired by MM's wonderful JLU story "Time and Tide." This incorporates a character she invented. I have her permission to play with her fanon.
Summary: Maybe this moment is the reason that he does what he does. Part of the R 'Verse.
Fourteen little faces stare at him. The teacher finishes her shaky thanks, then turns to soothe her charges.
He's waiting for the cops to arrive, but if his presence makes the children forget, in their curiosity, how frightened they all were, that's a bonus.
It was a heist gone wrong and four bank robbers who thought it would be a clever idea to hold a group of third graders hostage in his city.
One of the perps needs an ambulance. The guy had grabbed the little girl with dark hair, twisting her arm, making her cry out in pain. Terry hadn't meant to hit him quite so hard.
No, wait, yes he had.
The little girl stares up at him, but not as glassy-eyed as the others. But she's too pale, and while the attention of the other children has now wandered, she never takes her eyes off him.
Batman makes himself stand still, just watching.
The cops arrive. He gives one of them a statement while another one asks the children questions. An ambulance takes away the injured perp.
Worried parents arrive, and his heart aches as he watches the reunions. The dark-haired girl's mother arrives and scoops her up. They meld together like drops of water merging.
As they leave, the woman gives him a long look over her little girl's shoulder. Gratitude is only the first on a long list there.
Then finally--finally--it's okay for him to go.
They're waiting in the cave for him.
He doesn't even stop to pull off his mask, not that it matters, not here.
Relief makes him light-headed.
Dana holds Robin in her arms as if she hasn't put her down once since they left the crime scene. But as soon as Robin sees him, she slips down from her mother's grasp, runs, and leaps.
For a split second that afternoon, a gun had been aimed at his daughter's head, and he wonders if this moment is the reason all along that he does what he does, as he holds Robin close and she buries her face against the armor at his shoulder.
There's no time for a little while, she just clings, or maybe he's doing the clinging. Then she raises her head and tugs off his mask.
"Hi, Daddy," she says, like she found him in a game of hide-and-seek. There's no reproach in her dark eyes for the lack of a hug earlier, when she most needed it. His mask dangles from her small hand.
It's an understanding he wishes she didn't have to have.
Robin starts to squirm, so he lets her go, reluctantly, because his daughter is fine now but he's not.
Then Dana steps over to him and puts her palm dry and reassuring against his cheek, the words it's okay, we're safe, we're all safe now hanging unspoken, while their daughter stands between them, grabbing her mother's arm, insistent, something about wanting pizza for dinner.
Terry lets his fear settle.