Shadow of the Bat
A Smallville X-Over
Summary: Chloe hates rich, stuck-up party boys almost as much as she hates those who use that face to hide something.
Note: this is my best attempt to cleanly lock the Dark-Knight-verse and its canonical ending into the Smallville-verse and its canonical ending.
This would be the epilogue of my story.
Spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises, naturally.
Oliver left the three of them alone, but Clark seemed reluctant to leave. Worried for her? Chloe wasn't sure.
Finally the Bat turned to face him. "You're right," he said. "You could be something very different than I am. But I can't be." He'd dropped his Bat voice.
Clark sighed. "It's dark."
"Of course it's dark. What do you think I am, what I trained to be?" Bruce took the mask off. He looked silly standing there in the makeup that went on under it to disguise him further. "I trained in the way of the assassin, the way of those who destroy. I trained to be the ender of corruption, not the bringer of light and goodness. I'll never be the kind who can stand up in daylight, can show my face to the good people! I'll never be the kind to inspire the good people. I can only be the dark shadow that shows them the cost, the price of evil."
Clark sighed. "If you keep showing this face to Gotham… you'll change it. Darken it. Make it worse."
"I know!" he snarled. "I've been trying to retire this face—to find another one to show, another way to lead. But I can't! It can't be me!"
There was a long silence then. Clark, maybe more than anybody else, understood limitations. It was utterly silly, phrased that way. Clark's powers grew more god-like every day. At the same time, he was utterly limited. Hamstrung by a very rigid morality.
A morality that grew out of his power.
Bruce turned away, again just staring at the computers. "I can give you some equipment to upgrade this."
Chloe laughed, surprised. "This is cutting edge stuff—some of this LutherCorp stuff is beyond anything on the shelves!"
"And at least one generation behind what I'm releasing in six months. Which is one generation behind what I keep under my hat." He was enjoying showing off—she could hear it in his voice.
Clark stepped closer. "I can help you, too."
"No!" snarled Bruce, turning to face him. "You can't! We're too different, you and me. Maybe if I had ended up where I am some other way. Maybe if I had been somebody else, somebody not so dark. But I am what I am. Nothing can change that, can change me. And I'd be an idiot to infect you with the darkness in me… I can see that. You can be more than I am… you could show your face to the world, and it wouldn't scare them because you aren't, fundamentally, scary."
Clark twitched. "What?"
"You're not. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have stuff to try to do." He moved away, striding down the hall, the cape billowing out behind him.
"Okay, the cape is a little bit cool," conceded Clark.
Chloe found him skulking around the highest windows in the Watchtower headquarters, looking down on Metropolis.
She wanted to make a joke of some kind about this, about bats in the belfry. But it was just the wrong time altogether.
"The bat has to die," he said quietly.
"It's not the only way," she replied quickly.
"It is. I have to try to pour some of my resources into the police, into the city, and trust them to see from what I've done that it is possible. I have to be… I have to vanish."
She swallowed. "You could come here."
"If I came here, how long before I put the costume on just to help you? I can't do that, either. Because I will drag you, and your friend, down with me. I can't. You… this is a horrible thing to say, and you aren't going to want to hear it, but I have to say it, and I'm sorry."
She steeled herself. "Go on."
"You live on this stuff as much as I do. You know that you weren't nearly as interested in sleeping with Bruce Wayne as you were with Batman."
"You aren't really as much Bruce Wayne as you are Batman."
"This could be… you could take a normal life. You could escape."
He glowered at her. "I had a promise of a normal life, once. Of an after. It evaporated, vanished. You don't live a normal life. I can't live a normal life. I have my city. You have yours. This is the way it has to be, Chloe. I can give you resources, but I can't be part of your little game. I can't be… we can't be."
She had known that ever since she left Gotham City. His city needed him too much. Clark still needed her too much.
"Clark would say we have different destinies," she said softly.
He laughed, a harsh, bitter laugh. "I don't believe in destiny. Not anymore."
She wished she could have known this Rachel, the one he had loved and lost. Because she had left something terribly empty inside of the Bat. "If you need help, now or ever, you can always turn to us. Always."
In the end, Chloe got a hero. Not the one she had expected. Not the one she had longed for. Not the one she had pined after when she was a girl, not the grown-up one she had left in Gotham either.
In the end Oliver grew up a lot. He learned from his mistakes, and pushed forward.
It was unexpected.
It felt right.
And Clark learned to wear a mask. To pretend to be utterly normal, wearing glasses that made him into a completely different person.
And he got a cape.
It was a decade after she had first met the Batman that she heard about him coming out of retirement. Bane cut the city off from any intervention—and somehow managed to time it with the entire fourth (or was it fifth now?) coming of Zod, so that Clark was unable to help at all.
Even if he would have.
So Batman returned, and Batman died.
It was a week after his death that Bruce showed up on Chloe's porch.
"Oh, hi," she said, staring at him. He looked older. Worn. The false face of the pretty-boy millionaire had been discarded.
The woman with him was wearing sunglasses that hid half her face, and frowning. "Going to invite us in?" she asked, just a tad waspishly.
"Um, sure, come in," said Chloe, stepping back. "Aren't you supposed to be dead?"
"It was over-rated. Decided to try a proper retirement instead," he said, not bothering to make a joke of it.
"Retirement. That's… interesting." She was glad the kiddo was in school. It would be awkward to try to explain yet another random hero showing up at their house. Pretty soon she was just going to have to explain everything.
And how good were kids at keeping secrets? As she recalled, it seemed like every week at Smallville Clark had come this close to spilling all the beans.
But trust was better than lies.
"Can I get you guys anything?" she asked.
"No, we're just on our way out of town. Stuff to do."
Chloe focused on his companion. Hmm. There was something familiar about her…
"Hey, didn't you come to Star City last year? And nearly got caught by Green Arrow?" Chloe asked.
The woman's lips twisted in a grimace. "I knew this was a bad idea."
"Selina Kyle! The cat burglar! You robbed the museum! Bruce…"
"It's okay. Selina helped me out in my, um, troubles."
Chloe crossed her arms. "Oh, really?"
He nodded. "I don't want to share too many details… you remember we talked once about retirement?"
"And you said you couldn't."
"Yes. I was wrong. I hope I was wrong. I'm going to try it, anyway."
Chloe nodded. "I… see. And you wanted to tell me this up close and personal?"
He shrugged. "There's… a very short list of people I'm letting know that I'm still alive. Over the years we've been allies. I've provided some help… technology… I thought you should know that in my will I left a lot of the patents I had exclusive hold over to you. And Lucius got a lot of the rest, and you can always count on him."
She nodded. "Okay. And I do appreciate not being left thinking you're dead. But…"
He pressed his hands together. "One of the things you asked about was whether I could be part of your organization. Part of a group of people like me. And I couldn't, for various reasons. But there's… I've left the batcave and equipment to somebody who can probably take up the mantle."
Selina sighed. "That kid is in way over his head. You just leave him your toys and no guidance, and bam. Inevitable. He doesn't have all those ninja-skills training, even if he is trained as a cop. He doesn't have what it takes to walk in this world you just gave him access to."
Then she looked at Chloe expectantly. Knowingly.
"Oh, shit," said Chloe, understanding.
"He's a lot more… well-adjusted than me," said Bruce. "He could be part of your Justice League. And he could use your help. He could use the help of your friends in your League. And he could help them."
"That's a surprisingly well-adjusted approach to making a hero," said Chloe, raising an eyebrow.
Bruce shrugged. "You and I did it the hard way, didn't we? But we laid out some groundwork. No reason to make him reinvent the wheel. Interested?"
Chloe grinned widely. "Oh, Bruce. When have I ever not been interested in new heroes rising? Can I get a name, contact information?"
"The usual. Go hang out on rooftops."
So here she was. Another rooftop, another Batman, another chance to try to draw him into her ever-growing web of superheroes trying to save the world.
She hoped Bruce found something approximating happiness. She wasn't sure about Selina Kyle—but then, she'd never trusted former-villains-now-helping-the-good-guys. That was more Clark's department, his too-large heart.
Clark shifted from foot to foot. "Are you sure about this, Chloe? The last Batman… he was too dark."
This one would be dark too. But the League needed some of that. Somebody who would be a bit more realistic than Clark. Somebody who had seen the shadows. Oliver tried, but he was, at the end of the day, not the Batman.
The Bat dropped down off a wire, landing in a crouch. His cape flowing around him like water, darkness that concealed him. He looked up at them with eyes peering from the depths of all that blackness, cool blue eyes.
Chloe smiled. "I hear you've been having trouble with a little man in a green top hat leaving riddles behind at crime scenes. Would you like to know all there is to know about him?"
And just like that, the Justice League was whole and complete.
Well. Almost. We'll say two-thirds there.
But that's a different story.