He should have been sorry. He should have been contrite and self-loathing. Sighing heavily, he realized he was never going to be sorry for what he had done. As much as he should have been mourning his bad decision, he wasn't.
Alfred had tried to talk to him first. Dick had shown up, Barbara's floating head had appeared on his monitor. Everyone wanted him to forgive himself. No, he thought, he would never do that. He would never forgive himself for crossing a line he had sworn never to cross.
Slamming his fist on the console in frustration, he wracked his brain. For the first time in a long time, he didn't know what to do. Standing, he was suddenly unable to abide that he was wearing the suit. Tearing at the layers of Kevlar and body armor, he ripped the offended material from his skin as quickly as he could.
Breathing hard, he sat in the chair and let the darkness consume him. Even Clark had shown up. Good old Clark, always being the Boy Scout. He never had been able to keep out of business that didn't have to do with him. What surprised Bruce more than Clark's unofficial sanction was his quiet revelation that he would have done the same thing.
If it had been his child, Clark said, he would have done the same thing. If a man had murdered his son, he wouldn't have waited so long to take action. Or lack thereof. Those words made Bruce wonder for a moment. No, he thought. No, he held himself to a higher standard than the rest of them.
Diana had killed before, as had Clark. They were still respected and loved throughout the world. Bruce almost laughed. He himself had never been loved and he was granted grudging respect. That was why he had to hold himself to higher standards. Wonder Woman and Superman would be granted forgiveness for any sin. He was just a man, though, and therefore subject to a higher level of scrutinizing than others.
He could never be Batman again. That was the only conclusion he could come to. He had let Joker die in a hail of gun fire and he had done nothing to stop it. The batarang had been in his hand, he could jumped in front of the bullets, hoped the Kevlar would hold. Instead, he had stood still and watched Joker's slim pasty white body convulse as dozens of bullets ripped through him.
It didn't matter that Joker's death had probably stopped a gang war. It didn't matter that Joker had threatened Robin's life just hours before, after kidnapping the boy wonder. After he had watched Joker die, he had found Robin and released him from his binds. The drive home had been silent.
He was sure Tim thought that he hated him. Tim probably blamed himself. He would have to set that straight. It was no one's fault but his. He could have found Tim earlier and saved Joker and sent him back to Arkham before trying to stop the gang war that would have erupted on the streets of Gotham.
Dick had said the world was better off. Gotham's streets wouldn't run red with blood because of that murdering bastard. That murdering bastard had killed Bruce's son. None of that mattered, he told himself. Nothing they said mattered. He had let someone die because of his own feelings and prejudices. He was supposed to save the bad guys too.
Picking up the pieces of the uniform from the cave floor, he fought back the urge to scream as he hung it up one last time. He couldn't be Batman. Batman didn't kill. Batman didn't let others kill.
He would deal with Dick and Tim and Alfred later. He would ignore Clark and Diana altogether. They didn't need to know his reasoning. With shaking hands, he closed the case to the suit and took a deep a breath.
There would be another Batman, he was sure. Dick would step in eventually. For now, there was no Batman. Bruce didn't know who he was anymore. Bruce Wayne had died in an alley with his parents and Batman died in a hail of gunfire with the Joker. Now, he was left alone. He was no one.
Sitting in front of the darkened computer terminal, he closed his eyes and put his head in his hands. He almost laughed at himself at the thought that tonight had signaled the death of Batman. Of all the things that could have killed him, letting one son of a bitch get what he deserved was what did it.
The end of an era, he thought. The end of his life as he knew it.