By KnightRogue

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. Batman, Batman Beyond and all related characters and concepts are owned by Warner Brothers and DC Comics. No profit is being made from this work and no infringement is in anyway intended.

Author's Notes: Okay guys and gals, this is it. I'm done, at least with this story. Hopefully it'll tide you over until "Implications" gets going. I've already started it twice, and had to do some major rewrites. I didn't like the way it was going… It's not that I don't want it to be a Terry/ Max fic, but there's got to be another plotline going on as well, or it'll be very boring. Thank you all for your generous praise with this story. It means a lot!

Chapter 7

It was Barbara Gordan. Despite the looks on the two men's faces, Max took this as a hopeful sign. After all, who else would have known what it was like out there tonight? Taking Terry's hand and giving it a quick squeeze, she popped the car door open and confronted the Commissioner straight up.
"So what new at the home front?"
"Nothing." Gordan grimaced. "The least said to everyone, the better at this point."
Terry was fading fast, but still retained enough composure to ask, "You're not taking me in?"
"No kid, I'm not. You've got enough troubles without me bringing another set into the equation." She glared at Bruce. "You know how much I'm against this. If you …"
Bruce interrupted. "You can blame me later. Right now, let's get Terry settled. I want to have him checked over."
"I brought an old friend. I left her upstairs. " She jerked her head upward. "Here." She moved to one Terry's side. Max took the other. "Let's move." It took both of them to maneuver him up the long flight of stairs. Once on the main level and through the trap door, an in-house elevator took them up to the guest suites on the second floor. Bruce didn't even look surprised at the newest visitor awaiting them. A youngish female in one of the most outlandish costumes Max had ever seen met them there. Jealousy ate through Max's insides by what that outfit revealed rather than concealed. She gave Terry major mental brownie points for not staring. Even half dead as he was, that figure failed to make him even blink. Obviously she was a Justice Leaguer of a newer vintage. With a brief acknowledge to the pair, she brought out a scanner from God knows where and began examining Terry and taking readings.
Gordan caught Max's eye and indicated the door. She took the hint, and with a last backward glance, left the room. Once safely out of earshot downstairs, Max seized the opportunity to corner the Commissioner and get some questioned answered.
"So what is going to happen to Terry?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
Max's face indicated a lack of faith in that statement. Barbara sighed.
"You know I'm against Terry as Batman. I was hoping with all this, that…"
"Terry would quit being Batman? He won't."
She sighed again. "I know. He's stubborn. Just like the rest of us were. So idealistic…" her voice trailed off.
"So what made you stop? I mean, what do you have against being Batman anyway?"
"I can't explain it." She looked at Max's expression. "Trust me. You have to live through it to understand. I stopped because it was time. Someday, it'll be his too."
"So why fight it?"
"Because I don't want to see him go through what we all did. You can see it starting." She gestured towards the ceiling. "Believe me. It doesn't get any easier."
"So what happens now?"
"Bruce talked to his mother. If Terry agrees, he'll come live here at the manor. That'll take the family pressure off. And with Bruce's health, it really isn't a bad idea. It makes for a good excuse anyway."
"And the school? And the Juvenile councilors?"
"Bruce fixed it all with them as well. He's got a lot of strings he can pull. Monday morning, everything'll be back to normal." A quick grin, "Or at least as normal as Gotham ever gets."
Max tried to lead the questions back to the Commissioner's days as Batgirl, but it was clear that she had said all she was going to on that subject. As the questions and answers trailed off, they both waited for word from above. Finally, the shuffling and tapping of the cane broke the silence as Bruce descended the stairs. The strange looking girl was not with him.
"He's fine." he began by way of a reply to the unspoken questions. "Nothing that sleep and antibiotics won't heal."
Max could sense the unspoken words flowing between the two adults. "Can I go up and see him?" She asked. The tension between the Wayne and Gordan was one she wanted to avoid at the moment. She knew that they wouldn't say anything more in her presence and there was a lot they had to discuss. The fright she'd experienced that night wouldn't be laid to rest until she confirmed with her own eyes Terry's well being.
Wayne nodded his acceptance. She knew he knew it was important to her. "He should be asleep by now."
"I won't wake him."
As Max started up the stairs, she heard the beginnings of a heated conversation whispered below. It faded as she climbed the steps and ended with a bang of the study door. 'Peace at last,' she thought to herself. Peeking around the open door frame of the bedroom, she noticed JLA girl had left. Giving only a moment's thought to how someone dressed like that had gotten out without being noticed by the group below, she shook her head in dismissal. Max crept towards the bed and the still figure lying there.
He looked worse. Maybe it was the effect of the various tubes running in and out. She recognized the IV hooked up to several, what was assumed to be drug pumps, and breathing mask that was dispensing some kind of mist. What ever that was, it did make his breathing sound easier and the coughing much less. There were the ever-present bruises and some white bandages that concealed a few stitches. 'Yep,' she decided, 'over all, he looks adorable.'
The thought frightened her for a moment. On the heels of that emotion, another quickly followed. For one brief instant, Max was fiercely glad that Dana was gone. It was a feeling of possessiveness, of having what she did not yet have, but knowing it was possible. Guilt tried to intrude. Guilt over a friendship, and what she had failed, or could have done to do to preserve her two friend's relationship.
Common sense reasserted itself. Terry's 'job' was the cause of Dana's problems. It was a job, which even if Dana had known the truth, was something that she was incapable of understanding. It was a chasm that no amount of reason or logic Terry could give would ever make her understand. It was a lack, not of knowledge or compassion, but one born out of privilege. Money wasn't what separated them, but a noblesse oblige that perhaps pain and loss could only forge. Max's strained relations with her parents gave her the opportunity to give her a deeper glimpse into the motivations of both old and the new Batman. Maybe she didn't always know the whys, but she was willing to wait, watch, help when she could and accept the reasoning afterwards.
One blue eye opened. Its twin followed. Their owner stared for a second and then blinked. With a whisper more like a puff of air Terry tried to speak.
"You're supposed to be asleep."
"Really, I…"
Max hushed him with a touch on the forehead. "Hey, that's what friends are for."
Terry was silent, but his eyes conveyed a deeper meaning, before slowly sliding shut. Within a few breaths, he was back asleep. After watching him for a moment to reassure herself, Max finally felt comfortable enough to leave him. Scrounging through the adjacent suite, she came up with a couple of pillows and blankets. Back in Terry's room, she curled up on the lounger and was soon fast asleep.
An hour later, the two from below made their way back upstairs. Pausing in the doorway, they silently watched the two sleeping teens.
"Brings back old memories, doesn't it?" Barbara asked quietly.
Bruce was silent for a moment. "Too many," he replied, turning away. He paused for a moment, looking back into the darkened room. "Let's hope those two stay friends as long as we have."
Touching him lightly on the arm, Barbara smiled. Then closing the door lightly behind her, she preceded him down the stairs to the hall below.


The next day started late. Max had thrown off her blankets as her chrono beeped 11 am. Clothes were clothes and she prayed her weren't so wrinkled that they wouldn't make it through the day. Popping a mint and splashing so water on her face was as much hygiene as she had time for. In a panic, she started grabbing and stuffing her things into her backpack while mentally making a list of excuses to give to the secretaries and teachers at school. Swinging the pack over one shoulder, she tripped halfway down the main staircase before realizing she'd not even checked on Terry before leaving. Muttering curses under her breath, she started back up what she privately called the million-step staircase. Half running, she caught herself just before colliding into Mr. Wayne coming out of another room.
He grabbed her shoulder to steady her. "What's the hurry?"
"I'm really late for class and I forgot to tell Terry I was leaving."
"I've already cleared it with the school. You're off for the day unless you think there's something urgent you need to attend. After a night like last night, I figured we all needed some rest."
"How did you do that? I mean, I thought only parents could excuse you without major detentions."
"The principal's a friend of a friend."
"You must be friends with everyone in Gotham the way you pull strings," Max grumbled, annoyed.
"Oh, I have my fair share of enemies, both personal and private. For the small things though, I still have a small amount of influence. It helps keep what friends I have."
For the first time, Max looked, really looked into the face of the man she knew as Bruce Wayne. As she studied the lined visage and the figure bent, but not broken by age, she saw for the first time The Batman that lay underneath. It wasn't as if she didn't know who he was, and who he had been, but for the first time she understood who he was. At that instant, she also felt a sense of release. This man, who sent her best friend out night after night into the worst that Gotham had to offer, did know what it was like. And she was just as certain that he would do anything in his power to preserve Terry for that task. If that meant using his money, or influence to accomplish that task, he would, with out hesitation. A phone call to the school meant nothing to him for her helping Terry. She couldn't comprehend totally why he had devoted his entire life to the Batman legacy, anymore than she understood why Terry was continuing it, but Max was willing, like Pandora, to cling to the shard of hope he represented. And silently, she reaffirmed to herself, like the others who'd gone before her, to help them both in anyway possible.
As if he could read her mind, he looked at her and said in a voice with more emotion than she'd ever heard out of him, "Thank you. I hope you won't have cause to regret it."
"Never," Max replied, her voice resolute.
'Never,' she repeated to herself.
"Terry said I'd be a part of it one day," she said back to Wayne.
Bruce gave her a small smile and reached out to shake her hand. "Welcome to our world."
And Max smiled.

The End