This is a part of my DC/HP/X-Men crossover fic. The crossover was a large, multi-chaptered monstrosity that took a lot of time to write and arrange, but this section seemed like a nice stand-alone one-shot while I was writing it. So I posted this first, like an appetizer before the main course!

For Those Who Came Before

The sun set over the cold, empty mansion hours ago. In the full light of day, it still manages dark shadows, but by nightfall the entire property seems consumed by a perpetual darkness. Even after all these years, I still get chills walking up the drive.

Eight o'clock pm. Most people would be at home with their families by now, finishing dinner, chatting about how their normal, boring days went and winding down for the night. Soon, the I love you's and kisses good night... But not me. Not now, not for a long time. I'm stuck here, in a dark house, with a dour host and dust covering everything. It seems the old man keeps it there just to remind me how long it's been since this old place had any life to it.

Life. Lifeless. This is a place of death. All who come here die or are already dead, waiting for the end. So many have gone before me.

Soon, I will join them.

My work completed above, I descend to the cave below; not sure why though, habit perhaps. I know what he'll say; it's the same every year. Not much difference here; it's the same theme. Relics of the past and monuments to the passed away. All collecting dust for the sake of the few who still survive. The Batmobile, set apart from the pedestals and souvenirs, is all that's still left in use. That and the monstrous computer covering half the far wall.

Nearing the end of the long, curved stairway down, the row of costumes is in full view. I allow my eyes to settle on the closest one, as they do every night. I couldn't bear to wear his costume, so I'd had a new one made. His now rests alongside the other fallen and retired heroes who came before us.

I miss him.

"It's late." My eyes jerk away to focus on the opposite end of the cave. He's leaning forward in his chair, propped up by the cane, a stone statue staring hard at me.

"I know." Back on the stairs my progression had slowed, but I pick up the pace now. The sooner I retrieve my things, the better.

"It's dark."

"I know." Can't he take a hint?

"This is your time of day." He isn't going to let this go.

"I know." I'm starting to get pissed now. Would it kill him if I punched him in the nose?

"It's your job."

Damn him. He really knows how to push people's buttons. Why do I do this to myself?

"I know." How can I tell him what I'm feeling? How can I make him understand—at least enough to let me walk outta here?

My eyes meet his for a split second before I cast them down again. It just hurts too much.

"I just...don't feel right about it. I mean-this is his costume. I'm just filling in until..."

"No...It's been six years. He isn't coming back."

No! Don't say that! We'll find him, I swear it! I can't believe he just said that, but a part of me knows he's right.

"Tomorrow. Okay? Just not tonight. Tonight is his night." The same every year, but this time is different. This time he lets is go. I wonder, is that good...

..or bad?

I gather my things and leave as fast as I can, before he changes his mind.

Heading for home, I fall into my annual ritual of remembering the great man whose shoes I've so desperately tried to fill. Terrence McGinnis. The Dark Knight of Gotham. He just disappeared one day, July 15, 2043, no warning, no trace. Terry; he was a good man. He was kind, caring, and completely selfless. For the last six years, I've tried to live up to that standard. And for the last six years, all I've managed to do is lose all my friends as well as any chance at a scholarship, while I poured every last shred of energy I had into doing his job and trying to find him. Six years, and all I've found is a complete lack of any kind of evidence. Six years. The Old Man is right. Terry is gone and there isn't even a trail we can follow to find his body. Still, I can't believe Bruce gave up on him so quick. And where did Terry go? Why? How? How does a kid disappear so completely even Batman can't find him? Unless...

No, no he'd never do that. Bruce would tell me if he knew where Terry was. After all, everyone thinks I'm him; there'd be no point to keeping me in the dark if our boss had to hide him.

Everyone thinks I'm him. I'm Batman. Everyone but me. Me? I know the truth. I'm just his best friend.

Maxine Gibson.