Disclaimer: Batman belongs to DC Comics.

A/N: This drabble was written for the theme "A Different Life" at batfic-contest(dot)livejournal(dot)com.

Midnight


Dick is still sitting at the bedside. Silent, for a change. Too dark to tell if he's run out of words or finally fallen asleep. Who could blame him. How many nights has the boy stuck with me now?

There I go again, calling him the boy. Dick has grandkids for God's sake. Guess I'll always think of him as the boy. Old habits die hard. Like me.

If it wasn't enough I got the bad back and a bum leg, and I haven't been out of this goddamn bed in God knows how long, now there's a damn ache in my chest every time I breathe. Constant pain.

Enough of this. I'm getting out of bed. Out of this house. Don't care what time it is. The clock on the nightstand flashes and blinks 12:00. Midnight. Good.

I close my eyes.

When they open, the ache has dulled a little. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and sit up. Dick's asleep.

I need the cane but all the same here I am. Outside. Limping along these familiar backways, signs of poverty everywhere, streetlights flickering out, dead, you'd hardly think I'd made a difference. Maybe I did, for a while. But what have I done for anyone lately?

Maybe I've gone crazy in my old age, or maybe I'm dreaming, because my feet have led me here. Crime Alley. Where it all started.

Or maybe God's given me one last mission, because he's there, too. The mugger. Can't see his face, the goddamn coward. But I can see theirs.

The father and mother aren't clear, but I guess I've gone crazy, because the kid, when I look at his face, all I can see is me. Me at that age...

Batman would stop this. Batman could handle this. Could take out the mugger before the bastard was even finished pulling the trigger.

But Batman didn't have a bad back or a bum leg or a goddamn ache in his chest. This is a different life. And I know what I must do.

I don't even feel the bullet going in. All I know is I'm on my back and my chest suddenly feels very wet but at least the damn ache is gone. And I can hear the mugger's feet running but all I know is the parents are still standing and the kid is looking down on me and I can't see his face but I think he's smiling because I'm smiling, too.

I close my eyes.

-

The next morning, Dick has a lot of phone calls to make.

"I don't know, Babs, yeah... I fell asleep. When I woke up he was already gone. Yeah... it must have been peaceful..."

He casts a glance at the body, still in his bed, might as well still be sleeping.

"Near as I can tell, he went around midnight."