This story was originally written for Yuletide 2006 under a different pen name.

Canon: Batman Beyond (including Return of the Joker and the Justice League crossovers) with a bit of comics for flavoring.

"Bruce Wayne is not my father.

"Oh I know what Waller said, and what all the paternity tests I insisted upon have said, but they don't change a thing. Not for me. Bruce Wayne is merely my employer. During the daylight hours I'm the chief of security at the Wayne Corp building, the corporate headquarters for all things Wayne. I even serve as personal bodyguard for the big man himself on the rare occasions when he ventures forth from that mausoleum he lives in and into the public eye. But I am not his son.

"My name is Terry McGinnis—got that? McGinnis. I was raised by Warren and Mary—wait for it—McGinnis. It wasn't perfect, but they did the best they could. When Warren was murdered, he left this world believing that he had gifted it with two sons. I won't deny him his legacy. I am Terrance McGinnis, my brother is Matthew McGinnis, and we had a wonderful father, thank you very much.

"Now don't get me wrong—I love Bruce. He's like family. First he was my reluctant mentor, and then my—ok, still reluctant—friend. And I owe a lot to the guy. I probably would have spent the better part of my senior year in Juvie if it weren't for him, and after that? After I turned eighteen? Well, let's just say there are a lot worse places a kid can end up than in Juvie. I know; I see them all the time during my night job. That's the real thing I owe Bruce Wayne for. Oh the day job's great—it comes with this schway condo in the complex across the street from Wayne Corp and a salary that's the envy of most of the company's middle management. But as totally amazing as all that is, it's the night job I really love.

"My name is Terry McGinnis, but at night, you can call me 'Batman.'

"I'm not the original Batman, of course. Actually, I sorta stumbled on the original Batman by accident. Bruce would call it a 'series of unpredictable events,' but that's just because he likes finding the most complicated way of explaining the simplest things. When I was younger I used to wonder if he'd taken to studying the dictionary to keep his mind sharp instead of solving crosswords like the normal old folks do. But then—young or old—Bruce hardly fits the word 'normal.' At least I beefed up my own vocabulary in time for all those stupid standardized tests they foisted on us my senior year, if largely through osmosis, so I didn't graduate with the dregs of my class like I was expected too—if I was even expected to graduate at all. Batman—both of them—really turned my life around.

"The thing of it is though, I was hardly looking to improve myself. All that mattered to me at first was getting revenge for my father's murder. It was Bruce who showed me the difference between vengeance and justice—and convinced me of the superiority of the latter. Of course, it really didn't take much convincing. At the time I blamed it on my overwhelming desire to be Batman—what average American boy hasn't tied the sleeves of a black jacket around his neck as a kid and run around the playground calling himself the Dark Knight? Especially in Gotham. If playing by the boss's rules meant that I got to suit up night after night in what had to be the world's coolest after-school job ever—well hey. I signed blindly along the dotted line, and without any real though to the consequences.

"Oh, there were consequences all right. Believe me, there were consequences. Dana and I broke up and got back together more times than I care to count or remember before I finally asked her to marry me. Batman isn't allowed a social life, you see, at least not without a lot of careful choreography. And the lying to my mom part turned out harder than I expected, too. Especially when my late nights and strange bruises led her to think the worst of me and I had no way of proving myself. Oh, Bruce was able to save my ass with her just as often as Max ran interference for Dana, but not being able to tell them that the reason I missed our anniversary or Matt's birthday party was because I was globe—or galaxy, or time—trotting with the Justice League wore thin real fast. I missed out on a lot of what experts claim should have been the best part of my life, and Bruce Wayne was entirely unsympathetic about it.

"I shouldn't complain too much about that, I know. After all, I'm supposed to be marrying Dana this coming spring and I don't think mom could be more proud of me now if she tried. I've even earned Matt's respect—something I didn't even know I cared about until I kept hearing his starry-eyed praises of Batman in the same breath as his casual insults of me. And Bruce, for all his aggravating 'I've been there and so could write the book on what you're feeling' know-it-all-isms... well there's definitely been times when that's come in handy. I don't like thinking about it—actually, I hate thinking about it, but Bruce's cynical outlook that you can't save everybody isn't a conclusion he arrived at by choice. Hard, bitter experience taught him that, and now it's working on me. Not having Matt's respect is nothing next to all the terrifying scenarios that swam through my head when Stalker kidnapped him to get to me, and that was early in my career, before I'd seen horrors actually worthy of giving the Batman nightmares. And watching what John went through when Shayera died made me ashamed of the sense of wounded injustice I felt every time Dana broke up with me. Not that John lived long after that, of course.

"Batman's life is marked by tragedy and loss—and guilt. The first two are practically prerequisites for the costume, but that last one? Bruce Wayne is not my father, this we've both agreed upon, but he doesn't mind playing the part when circumstances force the role upon him—especially circumstances that only Batman could understand. And I don't mind it when he calls me son in those moments because my own father—were he still alive—wouldn't have been able to help me, even if he knew my secret. Though it really shouldn't surprise me that Bruce is an old hand at the parenting stuff. He did raise two sons after all, and they turned out alright. For the most part. Ish.

"Yeah, yeah. I know that's not exactly fair. Both of Bruce Wayne's sons grew up to become healthy, fully functional members of society. Of course, on paper Bruce himself could be called a 'fully functional member of society,' so that isn't really saying much. Oh he still makes all the requisite public appearances and lines the pockets of all the right charities, always has just the right string of words to give to the press and all that, so no one cares anymore that he went from dashing billionaire playboy to eccentric billionaire recluse. It was only natural for the fact that he raised two young orphans on his own with the help of an aging butler to be forgotten about after the butler died (except I swear he still haunts the manor—how else would you explain why the kitchen sometimes smells of chocolate chip cookies at three a.m?) and the sons grew up and no scandal ever broke over it. And on paper, his sons are just as 'functional' as he is.

"Or they were.


"Damn. I suppose that's what started everything. Again. I wonder if anyone else ever noticed the irony. Stupid question, right? Maybe not. For all the old man's crazy skills in detective work, when it comes to his own family he has this unwavering tendency to ignore what's right in front of his nose.

"I met Tim first. Craptacular circumstances not withstanding, he was a decent enough guy. Sure as hell deserved better than he got. What happened to him... A lot about Bruce made a hell of a lot more sense after I met Tim. A lot about Barbara, too. It's funny. Well, maybe not so much funny as tragically ironic. The thing with Tim I mean. Everything really started with him. To be honest, it all ended with him too. It must be the Bat in me, but I always find myself looking for patterns and correlations, like I need to somehow connect dots that aren't even printed on the same page. And the Bat family hasn't been on the same page for a long, long time. I would have loved to have seen them during their heyday, if only for the contrast.

"Tim never made a big deal out of the 'glory days,' as he called them. Oh he was good for an anecdote or two, and later, after he got back in shape, he was a great sparring partner there for a while, before he got sick. But I always got the impression that, to him, his time as Robin wasn't something he wanted to remember, not even the time before his—well, tragedy I guess is the word. I know he didn't have Bruce's drive (who does?), and he didn't have Dick's aptitude, but... I dunno; it's like, in hindsight, his time as Robin was like that saying, you know? All fun and games until someone loses an eye? It all boils down to the fact that he thought he wasn't good enough to be Robin, like he was just a little kid playing dress-up in his big brother's closet. That's the real reason why he didn't really fight it when the old man clipped his wings. I'm not downplaying what happened to him, not at all, but come on. Would Dick have hung up the costume if something—like that—ever happened to him? I think we both know the answer to that.

"Dick. Oh man. And I'd thought Bruce had cornered the market on bitterness. I wonder what he was like before all this happened. He was Tim's hero, I know that much. From what Barbara's told me, Tim practically worshiped him. He didn't want to be Robin to be the Batman's partner—he could have had his own codename and stuff for that. No. He wanted to be Robin to honor Dick, to carry on the mantle of the Boy Wonder. I know Bruce gave him the costume without asking Dick first (another tidbit I got from Barbara), but it didn't really mean anything to him until Dick endorsed him, and I can relate to that.

"When I first stole the Bat costume with the intent of avenging my father, yeah it was probably the most thrilling thing I'd ever done, but it wasn't until the next time I suited up, in the Batcave, with Bruce's somewhat guarded blessing, that it felt right. I knew then that I was a part of something bigger than myself, and then and there I made a promise. I swore that no matter what happened, whenever I wore the costume I would make damn sure that I stayed true to the Batman's legacy. Yeah the fight and the mission and all the dogma that comes with the cowl are important, but not nearly as much as making sure that I was honoring Bruce in the process. I didn't want to be an homage to the Batman. No, whenever I put on the suit, I had to be the Batman. The weight of that responsibility was heavy then, and it sure as hell hasn't gotten any lighter. If anything, it's a lot heavier. According to Bruce, I've lost the idealism of my youth. Barbara thinks that should make it easier for me to be Batman. Dick, of course, said that it would only make it harder. But Tim?

"Tim knew what I was really afraid of, and that was letting Bruce down. Actually, it was more than that. It was letting Batman down. You see, each night when I wear that costume—it's more than just a costume. It's a test. A test to see if I can measure up to the original, a test to prove that I'm worthy enough to wear the mantle of the Bat. In the beginning I wasn't really afraid that something could happen to me—stupid kid, remember? I wasn't even all that afraid that something could happen to my family, even after that mess with Stalker. Back then, the only fear I really had as Batman... was that I couldn't be Batman. And Tim understood that, I think better than anyone. I don't know if he knew I knew though. Like I said, I connect dots I'm not supposed to see.

"Tim honestly thought, to his dying day, that he failed as Robin. I won't say he blamed himself for what happened to him, because it was never that overt—and he was smarter than that. If he wasn't, then between Bruce, Dick, and Barbara surely one of them would have picked up on it. No, Tim blamed the Joker all right—which of course he should have—but it wasn't for what everyone thinks. Tim blamed the Joker for proving to everyone that he wasn't good enough to be Robin—that he wasn't smart enough to spot the trap, wasn't skilled enough to avoid getting kidnapped, wasn't strong enough to resist the Joker's brainwashing. In Tim's eyes, he betrayed Robin. That's the real reason why he hung up the cape. Bruce's forbidding and Barbara's backwards encouragement just made it easier. I don't think he realized that, by deciding to retire, he'd handed the Joker his final victory. And I know he never knew that, in Dick's eyes, just up and quitting like that was the real betrayal.

"Dick never said anything. That's what gets me. He was off-world at the time, did you know that? He and Jericho were on Tamaran. Tim was already in recovery by the time he got back. I don't know much about that time, only that Tim missed over a year of school and that, when he was finally healthy again, he decided for himself that he'd had enough of the hero business. Oh he stayed in the cave, worked the computers for Bruce while the Batman was out on patrol while he was still living at home, but he never put the costume on again. From what I gather (me and my dots again), Bruce was relieved, Barbara approved, and Dick never said a word one way or the other. Tim told me that he assumed that his big brother just didn't want to pressure him, didn't want to try to influence his decision in any way, and while that's true... the real truth is Dick didn't have it in him to tell Tim that he was making a mistake. But then again, who would?

"Barbara retired not long after that. She wanted a real life, or so she said. One that didn't involve lying to her father. I think she became a librarian or something, but she did part-time work for the GCPD, managing databases. Anyway it got her foot in the door, and she applied to the academy the year after her father retired. Bruce chalked it up to the fact that she couldn't bring herself to give up the fight, which I suppose is true. And Dick's joining the Blüdhaven PD for his Nightwing cover probably gave her the idea. I know I can't be the only one who found it ironic that Barbara became the Gotham police commissioner around the same time Dick became the commissioner of Blüdhaven.

"Dick didn't much appreciate the irony though. In some ways, I think he thinks that what happened to Tim scared her out of the costume. I guess I can see where he's coming from though. Barbara was scarily all anti-vigilante when I first met her—or rather, when I first met her as Batman. One could argue that she just didn't want to see any other kids wind up like Tim. Dick would argue that seeing people made of stronger stuff than she gets under her skin and reminds her that she chickened out. Remember how I said Dick was bitter? I don't know what else happened between him and Barbara, but I think she lost some major respect points with him when she retired—way more so than Tim did. After all, nothing bad actually happened to her.

"Of course, Dick never said a word. Shocker, huh? I never understood that, especially with how prone he is to speaking his mind. Loudly. I mean, stories of his fights with Bruce are legendary! You'd think that if he disagreed so strongly that he'd have said something, at least in passing, even politely. Or at least I would have thought that, and I think Barbara did too at one point, but then her fights with Dick are legendary in their own right so I can see why, if he didn't say anything, she wouldn't have brought it up either. But that's the Bat family for you. Always ignoring the damned elephant in the room. Though I suppose that's better than having them fighting all the time, which I'm told they used to do.

"Now I didn't even meet Dick until Tim was in the hospital, recovering from his, uh, relapse. He was in Atlantis when it all hit the fan, attending the original Aqualad's funeral. I guess someone got word to him, because he walked right up to me in the hospital—I was waiting in the hall, giving Bruce and Barbara some time alone with Tim—but Dick walked right up to me, asked me if I was McGinnis, and before I could answer I was pinned to the wall with my feet dangling and the arm of a leather biker jacket pressed up against my windpipe. I didn't even know who he was until he demanded I tell him what I did to his brother. It took a bit of fast talking, but I managed to convince him that it wasn't the best place or time. So he dragged me to the roof. I was surprised then, but now, having known Dick nearly ten years, Nightwing and rooftops are just about as synonymous as Batman and shadows.

"Anyway, I gave him the gist of it, and from what I gathered, he took it surprising well. He only broke two bones in his hand from punching the access door, and he even laughed a little when I joked that at least we were at a hospital. But the real fun didn't start until after Tim was released.

"It was strange, seeing the whole Bat clan together in the same room. Bruce and his masochistic guilt complex didn't know how to react to his sons. It was hard, watching him stare at Tim and see only the evidence of how he failed as a mentor and guardian and not how he succeeded as a father. Tim was the one with a wife and kids and a successful career after all. And of course that all reversed whenever he looked at Dick. Nightwing was the Batman's greatest success, but Dick Grayson? The evidence of Bruce Wayne's failure as a parent. Putting both his sons in the same room together must have had his psyche spinning in circles.

"Dick, of course, was equally awkward around Bruce, even if Nightwing and his old mentor were able to have a full on conversation—though their discussing me like I wasn't even there got on my nerves real fast. Over the years I got the sense that that's how they related to each other, because really, who are we kidding? Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne don't exist. Not really. They're just the masks Batman and Nightwing wear, masks that aren't needed in each other's presence. Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake, they're real people, and for Tim's sake Dick pretends, but Barbara he doesn't give the time of day, and I used to be amazed at how seamlessly the Gotham and Blüdhaven police departments integrate with each other. Now I know that, for the Bat family, the mission always comes first. No matter what. Not even family.

"That was Barbara's real issue; why there's always this underlying tension between her and Bruce. I think once, she blamed Bruce for what happened to Tim. And I don't think Bruce got over it. Or Batman I should say. He and Barbara can never get passed small talk, or the odd reminiscence about her father or Alfred. The problem is she sees him as Bruce and he sees her as Batgirl, so they hit this constant roadblock because their expectations are never met. They just can't relate to each other anymore. Barbara doesn't want to look back and Bruce is, well, Bruce is Bruce. So they meet in the middle and it's awkward as hell.

"Though not nearly as bad as when Dick and Barbara wind up in the same room together. I honestly think they coordinate their schedules so that that happens as little as possible. I used to wonder what happened between those two that made it impossible for Dick to endure more than an hour or so of her company. Or why Barbara, for that entire hour, can never bring herself to meet Dick's eyes. And aside from that one day in the hospital, the only times I've seen them try was for Tim's kids' birthdays.

"Until Tim's funeral that is. Damn. It wasn't really that big of a surprise when he was diagnosed. I mean, considering all the hardwiring and rewiring his head went through—not that anyone ever said so, of course. That's the Bat family for you though; always too focused on the facts to notice the truth, even when it bites them in the ass. Still, none of us expected Tim's health to deteriorate so quickly. I mean, one day he's dropping the mother of all bombshells on us, and the next I'm a pall bearer at his funeral. According to the calendar barely a month passed in between, but it sure didn't feel like it.

"Time's been a blur since then, too. There were so many arrangements to make, and lucky me I had to be the one to make them. Tim's wife went all to pieces. She was barely able to make the decisions, let alone do anything to carry them out. So that left everything up to Bruce, which really meant that it was all left up to me. Dick was a big help though. He moved in to the Drake's guest room, made sure that all their finances still made sense after all the medical bills and insurance payouts and whatnot. They're moving to Florida to be with her parents, and the house is already on the market. Dick says it should sell fairly quickly.

"But with Dick helping the Drakes, that left me to handle Bruce. I tell you, I've never been so grateful to Barbara Gordon in my entire life—and believe me when I tell you that that's saying something. While I worked with Dick to plan Tim's funeral and the distribution of his inheritance, Barbara babysat Bruce. She and Justice Young moved into one of the guest rooms. She even coordinated things from the cave on the few nights where I couldn't escape patrol. I swear, things in Gotham only heat up when were too tapped to handle them. God forbid a crime spree strike when we're bored.

"Then one night, when I got back from a particularly rough patrol, maybe a week after the funeral, I found Dick in the cave, standing in front of the robin costume. Barbara, of course, was nowhere in sight, but since I'd spoken to her through the vid com not ten minutes before I figured she couldn't have gone far. I knew he knew I'd arrived—I mean, how could he not, right? But he did such a great job of ignoring me that I nearly doubted. Not that I minded of course; I was pretty banged up. Like I said, it was a rough patrol. Had Bruce been down there he would have lectured me against taking unnecessary risks, and Barbara would have been worse about it, accusing me of 'losing track of my objective through the miasma of my emotions,' or some other cop-logic pseudo-psychology. And I really wasn't in the mood for a lecture, so I was quite happy to be ignored.

"Of course it didn't last, but that was my own damn fault. There was just something about the way Dick stood there, staring into the glass housing the Robin costume like it was some sorta crystal ball. And since I knew Bruce would be asleep (we were keeping him fairly medicated at that point, because of the nightmares), and with Barbara's history of treating Dick like he had the plague... I knew it was up to me. Again. Though by then I guess I was used to it.

"I was supposed to die first. That's what he said. He waited until I was standing beside him, staring into the costume vault like he was, trying to see what he saw. Of course, I could never see what Bruce saw whenever he looked at those costumes, so why should I expect Dick to be any different? But that never stopped me from trying.

"At first, I thought he was talking to himself, but then he went on to say how he never expected to outlive his younger brother. He wasn't upset or angry or anything, but he was staring at that damned Robin costume like it was one of those Magic Eye puzzles the newspapers used to print, as though if he stared at if for long enough the solution would take shape. Of course, all anyone ever got from those things was a case of lazy-eye and a headache. I couldn't drum up the nerve to tell that, so I offered to drop him back at the Drakes' on my way home.

"We went via the cemetery. They'd just delivered Tim's headstone. I'd done a sweep of the area on my patrol, but I didn't exactly stay long. Can't have people wondering why Batman's loitering by some random guy's grave, otherwise it won't be random anymore. So I hadn't actually seen the stone in place until I brought Dick there that night. You know, I half expected it to be raining. It wasn't though. Cold yes, but no rain.

"There have been times these past ten years when being a member of the Bat clan has provided stunning lesson in awkwardness, but that night officially took the cake. Dick didn't tell me to wait in the car or anything, but I didn't care who he used to be, I wasn't about to let him and his bum knee go wandering through Oak Park Cemetery alone at four a.m. The riffraff must have gone to bed for the night though, because the place was deserted. Just Dick, me, and a headstone over fresh earth. And silence you could cut with a batarang.

"I don't know how long I stood there, watching Dick stare at the headstone like he studied the Robin costume, but I didn't actually notice the stone itself until Dick reached out and touched it. I mean, I noticed it of course, as in I knew that it was there, was the right size, shape, and color and all that, but I didn't really see the thing until I saw Dick's fingers tracing the engraving. Remember how I said how everything got left up to me? Well, deciding what should go on the headstone was one of them. However, Dick must have gotten a hold of the engraver after me.

"Timothy Wayne Drake. That was new. I'm not even sure that Wayne was his legal middle name—Tim never mentioned it and I didn't see it on any of the records. Well true or not, it was set in stone now, and so was the epithet. I'd ordered 'Beloved Husband and Father,' and that was there all right, right between Tim's name and the relevant dates. But Dick obviously added to it, because across the base of the stone, in bold lettering, it read 'A True Hero.' Part of me was upset that he'd decided on these things without consulting anyone first—I mean, I'd at least gotten his wife to sign on the dotted line for what I'd decided, but then I realized that I liked it. So few people remember that there even was a second Robin, and though that'll probably never change, Tim still deserved the honor.

"That's what Dick was on about, I realized. Honoring Tim, the only way he could. For ten years I'd heard the stories, how Tim had an outstanding offer to be a part-time consultant for the BHPD, and how Dick kept him on the reserve list for the Outsiders. Hell, I hadn't even heard of the Outsiders until I heard that. Then, being a good little bat, I researched the hell out of them. Turns out Bruce started the team once upon a time, and then someone named Arsenal revived it, and then Dick led it. Apparently while the JLA was out making headlines with super-villains and intergalactic threats, the Outsiders were quietly taking care of business at home, waging a private war against organized crime, from terrorist networks to drug rings. Their press is so non-existent that no one can confirm whether or not they exist, can you imagine that? These days superheroes everywhere are staging press conferences and speaking to school kids and the Outsiders are still an urban legend. And they're even more exclusive than the 'Just Us' League. I've never even been contacted by them, though when I asked Dick he said it was because I was too tied to Gotham to be reliable, but that's a load of crap because he was just as tied to Blüdhaven and he was their damned leader.

"But all that's neither here nor there. My point is, Dick was never willing to accept Tim's retirement. Why do you suppose that is, when he's turned away countless other heroes—hell, the list of people he's fired from the Outsiders could more than staff the JLA. And at one point I think it did. It takes a lot to make a hero in Dick's eyes. I mean, to this day I have my doubts about whether I've fully earned his approval to be Batman. And I can't help but wonder, if Tim—I mean, if that stuff with the Joker never happened, would he have been the next Batman? When I saw Dick kneeling in the dirt at Tim's grave, tracing the word 'Hero' that he added to the epithet like a blind man learning Braille... I got the sense that he was wondering the same thing.

"That's when I finally understood about Dick and Barbara. He must have held Batgirl in the same esteem that he held Robin, or close to it. For Tim to retire after what happened to him, well no one would ever think less of him for that, not even Dick. But Barbara? At least Tim had a reason; Barbara just had excuses. And I think Bruce knew that, but by then he would rather no one else place themselves in danger. Whether or not Tim knew, he never thought less of Barbara for it. But Dick did. He always thought she was better than that. And, after having known her for ten years, I can't help but wonder... what if he's right? What would the world have been like had Batgirl stayed in the game?

"What would Bruce have been like?

"I've always toyed with that thought, especially after that... incident... with Talia al Ghul. I mean, Bruce in his prime must have been something to see. I thought about it even more after I met his sons. I can just picture Batman and Robin dropping in on some unsuspecting crooks, with Batgirl and Nightwing there for backup. I would so seriously pay to see that—to be a part of it, even. Capes in this world are a cred a caboodle, but true heroes? We've got precious few, and when you're in their presence, believe me you notice it.

"Though, why do I need to tell you that?

"From what I've heard, Bruce and Dick had just started to patch things up when it all went to Hell. Just think, what would have happened if the Joker never happened? Tim wouldn't have retired, and Barbara wouldn't have quit—and I'm not talking semantics here. There is a difference. Maybe Bruce and Dick could have worked out more of their differences and gotten back to the rapport they had as Batman and Robin. Just picture what Gotham could have been like with the four of them working together like that. Oh I know Dick put down roots in Blüdhaven and he and Bruce both had their respective team obligations, but come on! Think of all those JLA missions that Bruce missed because he was too busy with Gotham, and then picture how they could have gone down if he'd been there. All those times when his pride wouldn't let him ask Dick to cover his turf would have been moot if he still had Barbara and Tim to cover for him. How many more times could he have been there then? Think of the difference he could have made!

"Do you see where I'm going with this? You have to; you're not as dense as Bruce likes to think. You have to see what it would have done for the League to have Bruce as more of a full time member. You know you guys needed him a lot more than you saw him, and Bruce let you down—yes he did—to focus on Gotham. But look where that got him? Hell, look where it got Gotham. And all because of one stupid night—one stupid series of unpredictable events. I can almost hear the Joker laughing at us from his cozy padded room in Hell. And I think Bruce can, too. That's why the docs have him on enough sedatives to drop an ox. It keeps the nightmares away.

"Hard to believe, isn't it. Once, they were the greatest crime-fighting family on the face of the earth—and possibly in outer space. But now... Now I wonder if maybe John and Shayera were the lucky ones—and before Rex freaks out on me tell him to try and sit an hour with Bruce while he's in that drug-induced stupor. He deserves so much better than that. They all do.

"And that's why I'm here. For Bruce Wayne and his sons, and for Barbara Gordon. They were heroes once, before they got too busy pinballing between angst and denial to remember that heroism—that making a difference—is about taking action—is about choosing to act. When they started to simply exist, to react to the world instead of shaping it, that's when they lost focus of what they were. It started with Tim—even though it wasn't his fault—and then one by one they all followed in line, until there was no one left to continue the mission. Tim and Barbara, they lived in denial, while Bruce chose cynicism and Dick went with bitterness. None of them remembered the heroism. Not until I showed up and elbowed my way into their little clique and began unearthing all the old skeletons in their closets. You know how I know I'm not Bruce Wayne's son? Because I know I'll never end up like that. I never want to lose track of who I am, and what I'm fighting for. I promised my father.

"I hope you can understand this. That's why I left this tape—so that you of all people might be able to understand. You used to be Bruce's best friend—yes, you were. I wanted to give him—give everyone, really—a chance for a better life. I know what I'm risking—that if I succeed, that Waller might not start project Batman Beyond. That I might be erasing myself from existence, Matt too. But, imagine a world where Batman Beyond wasn't necessary. It has to be better than what we've got here, and it wouldn't even have to try that hard.

"If you're actually watching this, then I must have failed. It was always a possibility. That's why I left this recording. I want you to know I'm sorry for the ruse, but I needed access to the Fortress. And I left the kryptonite ring in the lead box with the rest of your collection. You might want to ice your jaw a bit, because my hand still stings, but I needed you out for long enough that I could get what I came for. And to make my confession. You can show this to the rest of the League if you want, I suppose. Or at least the ones who are in on the secret. And you can let them know that, in the end, Batman went down fighting for what he thought was right, just like he was meant to.

"See you on the flip side."

Clark Kent hung his head as the video monitor flashed to white and then blinked to static. The black and white recording was grainy and slightly out of focus; he really did need to update his security, he supposed. Terry had looked right at the hidden camera, spoken his peace, and then grabbed the Toyman's disintegration rifle. The same rifle that had once 'disintegrated' Superman into the far-distant future. Now, Clark could only assume that Terry had planned to use it to send himself into the past, so that he could perhaps undo the damage the Joker had inflicted on the Bat family, maybe even prevent it entirely.

The last thought to cross Superman's mind as the fabric of reality began to bend and twist around him, was that Terry was right. He wasn't Bruce Wayne's son.

He was Batman's.