The old man's hair goes greyer with the hour, and he says that he'll be back "to normal" after a week, but Terry has other ideas. For one, now is normal - normal is Bruce Wayne at his peak, or something close to it, normal is a Batman who is Batman. Terry's taken (demanded for, stolen) the name, but even he knows that he has a long way to go before he'll ever take the legend. Normal is the past - Bruce lives in it, after all. The old man doesn't put himself in a cave full of artefacts for no reason.
Terry thinks, how must it be like to feel the strength seep out of your bones, reliving in eight-times fast forward the nightmare you took 20 years to outgrow?
He doesn't see the answer on Wayne's face, but it's there, underneath his skin as he balances on the old gym equipment that's magically dusted itself off and set itself up in one corner. He's no connoisseur, but Terry thinks he can see Bruce holding back - he could've made that jump, done that stand. It's like he doesn't want to.
He doesn't blame Bruce. Terry walks into the cave and Bruce's probably known of his presence for the last two minutes Terry's been standing there, watching Bruce train. Bruce has assured Terry repeatedly in the past that he's not a fan of acrobatics ("Why?" "There was a Robin, once."), but if that dismount from the bars isn't graceful, then Terry doesn't know what is.
'Schway,' he says, dropping his backpack in a corner and coming over with his muscles tensing like they want to join in, want to be able to go as fast and hard and strong as this, what, 70, 80 year old guy?
'The pit undid some of time's damage,' is Bruce's response, factual and tactical. As usual. 'It's not my top form, but the activity will help the aging process along.'
'Takes away a few of the aches and pains?' Terry asks, limbering up in a corner. Bruce has only paused - it's not a stop.
'Might be,' the old man says. Then he nods at Terry. 'You're staying here for the week.'
Terry stops. He doesn't ask, what the hell, because he really should've seen it coming, and nothing he says is going to change anything now that Mister Wayne has made a decision. Bruce smiles at him, that tight smile that reminds Terry of violence and sarcasm and agelessness. He quirks an eyebrow at Bruce. Bruce says, 'Your school has been informed that I need you on a trip. Your mother has been contacted, and I've taken a leave of absence from Wayne-Powers for the time being.'
'I'm assuming you're not doing this to celebrate my birthday or anything,' Terry says.
'Your birthday was three months ago,' Bruce replies, because he doesn't have a sense of humour - no, more like his sense of humour is just fucked up.
Terry pulls his jacket off, and yanks his arm back and forth in a quick stretch. 'So what're we gonna do?' Better to go with the flow, when it comes to Bruce, than swim against. Less likely to drown. Slightly less likely, anyway. 'Play some vids? Go for a picnic?'
Bruce's smile is there again, like a knife edge. 'I'll be as normal in a week. That means we have seven days worth of time.'
Oh, something in Terry's head goes. Oh shit. Oh yes. Oh yes, yes, oh shit. 'Uh,' he says, instead. 'You're going to train me? As in, train me?'
As in, beat the crap out of me the way you've wanted to the last couple of months? As in, using your fists and your feet as opposed to just your damn voice? As in, train me?
'We'll start with basic physical conditioning,' Bruce steamrolls right over him. Then Terry looks at him and notices old (new?) reborn muscle. Repaired soft tissue. Strengthened bones. Framework that speaks of a kind of methodical self-torture that even he can appreciate, now.
'Okay,' Terry says, and - he can't lie to himself here, can't lie that he hasn't dreamt about it and thought about it and wanted it for as long as he's known that he's not the first, not the second, not even the third guy to take on one mantle or the other. 'Yeah, okay.'
Because he's not a Robin.
Batman's his name, now.
It means more things that Terry wants to think about, so when Bruce says, come here, Terry goes, and --
'Ow, not okay, not okay,' Terry grunts, reaching forward and Bruce fucking pushes and Terry thinks his thigh muscles and every single fucking ligament in his legs are going to tear and explode and implode and melt. 'Fuck!'
'Language, McGinnis,' is all Bruce says, fuck him, fuck him. He has his hands on the back of Terry's shoulder blades, and without age encumbering them they're broad and warm and strong and forcing Terry forward until he can feel the rebound of his breath off of the cave floor. 'Stay there,' Bruce commands.
'What?' Terry snarls, feeling the tension flood into his back as Bruce moves away. 'No, no, come on, I can't do this.'
'Stay there,' Bruce says.
Terry goes silent, and reaches out, numbly, further forward. He thinks he can imagine the satisfaction on Bruce's face when he does it. 'Not cool,' Terry mutters, under his breath, because he doesn't think he wants to be as whipped as Bruce has him. (Or does he?)
'Thirty seconds, McGinnis,' Bruce tells him, which sounds not like a lot unless you're spread out in an almost-split and dying from not just the pain but the prickling of the back of your neck. Bruce is watching him, really watching him, and then Bruce is touching the back of his spine and Terry isn't going to whimper, not because of one thing or the other or anything else.
'Is it just me, or have you always enjoyed watching your kids suffer?' Terry pants, trying to take his mind off - of things.
'Not all of them called this suffering,' Bruce answers, amused, and god but Terry wants (again, not for the first time, not for the last time) to know who they were, where they are now, what they are or were like, and how much Bruce cared or cares or -
'Really?' Terry asks, letting the count of nineteen, twenty drown out everything else. 'What were they on? Because this is not fun, Bruce.'
'You picked up your training too old,' Bruce replies, and Terry is not too old, god damn it. 'There are some things your body can't and won't be able to handle that other people's will.'
'Like who?' Terry asks, taunts, requests, begs to know.
'Before your time, McGinnis.' Bruce doesn't fall for the bait - he never really does, not unless he wants to. Always refers to them as "Robin", as if all three of them were one huge, amorphous glob in his memory.
Terry can't believe he's using words like "amorphous" now. Maybe it has something to do with all the reading Bruce is making him do in between the, you know, skipping class and missing dates and saving the world thing.
'Before my time, huh?' Terry manages, each breath a labour. Twenty eight, twenty nine. He grins. 'Yeah, I guess it's my time, now.'