A/N: OK. Last chapter. But guys... this story is hardly over. Just the first segment. Hunter's Moon is really just the introduction, to be honest. Still got SO much more. Think of it kind of in Nolan-verse terms - you have Batman Begins, Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises. Think of Hunter's Moon as Batman Begins. It's just the start of the story.
Haven't even gotten to the good stuff. It's gonna get juicy in Hunter's Night. Just you wait. This has just been a prelude. A small taste. We're gonna have fun, trust me.
As for the Bane twist - it's actually a storyline in the canon comics, when Bane was searching for his father and thought that Thomas Wayne might be his dad. Bruce actually helped him search for the truth - and it turned out Thomas Wayne wasn't, but instead he was the son of criminal kingpin Dorrance. SO. I switched it up a little, because it fit in the HM Universe. But I can't take credit for the original idea.
And as for assuming that Thomas Wayne cheated on his wife... Just try not to assume and jump to conclusions. I'll get into it all in the sequel.
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Sal Maroni's lip curled as he looked at the mess around him. Another warehouse filed with containers of empty weapons, completely destroyed during the war. The place had been set to flame, and now, nothing was left but piles of scrap metal. He kicked at one of the piles, gritting his teeth.
"Nothin' here, boss," declared one of his men.
"Wow, moron, I had no idea," snapped Maroni. "Shut yer trap and let's get the hell outta this dump. Can't use any of this. We'll move on to the next one before the Russian gets to it."
"Or Batman," muttered one of his men under his breath.
Maroni whirled on him, swinging his walking cane around, and cracked it across the man's face. The man flew back, hitting the floor with a whimper. Maroni glared down at him. "Somethin' else you wanna say, Tony?"
Tony shook his head vehemently. Maroni turned to his other man. "And you, Nico? Anythin' you wanna add?"
Another head shake. "No, boss," Nico said quickly.
"Good." Maroni straightened his tie, shot another glare down to Tony. "Geddup, and get your ass outta here before I let you burn with the rest of this crap."
Tony scrambled to his feet, swiping at his bleeding nose, and with Nico, retreated out of the warehouse and back outside to where the car sat. Maroni shook his head, swore under his breath. He didn't know who the culprit was - if it had been the Russian, or some random arsonists, or whatever... But it didn't matter. The war had knocked both him and the Russian down a few notches - and things were only getting worse. Loeb and Flass were both on trial, and it seemed that they were actually going to try to strike a deal. Maroni had tried to get his people on the inside to either get them to shut up or just have some sort of "accident," but the new Commissioner, Gordon, had been strict in only letting his most trusted officers keep Loeb and Flass under close watch.
Maroni's jaw flexed. Something would have to be done about Gordon. He still owned this town. That wasn't about to change. And if Gordon wouldn't see reason... then he might just have to be taken out. Quietly, of course. But he couldn't let Gordon think that some Batfreak and Wonder chick were going to scare him.
He spat on the ground and turned, striding out of the worthless warehouse. He reached the car, glanced down at his watch.
"Hey, Joey," Maroni started, "take me to the -" Maroni stopped short as he looked up at his car, trailed off.
Joey, his driver, was not there. Maroni frowned, peered over at the driver's seat. Empty. Maroni started, looked around. Neither Tony nor Nico were present either. It was as if they'd just disappeared completely.
Everything was eerily dark and quiet.
And Maroni did something he never did: he panicked. He turned, ready to run, but something blazing gold shot out, wrapped around his legs, and jerked him back. He flew through the air with a wailing cry, hit a wall, and dropped to the ground. With a groan, he scrambled to his feet, pulled out his gun, aiming it at the darkness.
"Come near me and I'll - "
But something screeched through the air, and his gun was knocked out of his hands. He stumbled back, panting, staring out into the darkness.
"You wanna fight?" he screamed into the black. "COME ON! I AIN'T AFRAID OF YOU!"
Silence. His fists were shaking, his feet unsteady. He looked in every direction, trying to see where they were - because he knew they were out there, watching him, and he just couldn't take it -
Two white lenses flashed in the dark, and he turned - but it was too late -
A shadow burst forward, and something punched him in the face. He sprawled back onto the ground with a cry and a curse. He rolled over, tried to get to his feet. But the shadow stepped right next to him. Maroni slowly stared up at the impossibly tall being in front of him.
"Salvatore Maroni," snarled the giant creature looming over him.
Maroni stared at him, trying not to shake. He tasted blood in his mouth. But the creature was not alone. Standing beside him was an impossibly beautiful woman - the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. But also the most frightening. The woman's eyes were practically glowing, ablaze with bloodlust. He knew a killer when he saw one... and he saw that fierce fire in her beautiful face. She was deadly. In one of her gloved hands she gripped a glowing rope. He'd heard rumors about that rope.
Neither of this beings was human.
"I'm only going to ask you once," growled the creature known as the Batman. "Where are the rest of your weapons?"
"I ain't gonna tell you nothin'," he said bravely, attempting to keep the waver out of his voice. It didn't work.
The Batman's white lenses narrowed to slits.
Maroni tried to scramble back, but he hit the wall. "I ain't afraid of you!" he squawked, his voice growing shrill.
But Wonder Woman just smiled darkly, her teeth flashing white in the dim light.
And the Dark Knight flew forward, grabbed the front of his shirt, and slammed him into the wall.
"Trust me," snarled the Batman in his guttural growl. "You will be."
It'd been a good week, Jim mused as he stirred rice and eggs around in the frying pan. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually had a good week. Before Chicago, definitely, and obviously before Gotham. Probably when he'd been dating Barbara. Years. It'd been years since he'd had what he could call a "good week."
But it was. Bane was being shipped off to Blackgate, Maroni and the Russian were already running scared, and Batman was fully recovered. He and Wonder Woman had been back to their normal patrol for a good couple weeks now, and it was relieving, to say the least, to know he had people he could actually trust. Trust - that was a foreign concept to him. But after everything that had happened over the past several months... things were starting to look up. Not that he was an optimist by any means... But still. Even he could see the difference.
He brought himself out of his musings and glanced at his daughter, who was drawing intently at the table.
"Could you set the table, hon?" Jim asked her.
Barbara paused from drawing and nodded. "Sure thing, Pops." She jumped up and hurried to get the plates and silverware. As she finished setting the knives down, the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Barbara chirped, rushing out to the front door.
"Hon, wait for me - I'll get it," called Jim after her, scraping the rice and eggs onto the plate.
But she never replied.
The next moment, a shot rang out into the Gordon household.
And the sound of a dark, sickening laugh echoed in the hall.
The plate dropped to the kitchen floor with a crash.
"Diana, we're going to be late!" Bruce called down.
I ran a brush through my wig and threw on my cardigan, adjusting my glasses as I grabbed my purse. "Coming!" I slipped on a pair of flats and hurried into Cass's room. "You ready, sweetie?" I smiled as I found her staring at three different bows on her bed - one pink, one blue, and one red. She looked up at me with those huge black eyes questioningly. She pointed to the bows.
I grinned and picked them up. "Can't decide? Hmm, let's see..." I placed each bow against her hair. "How about this one? It goes with your dress." I held up the red bow.
She nodded and let me put the bow in her hair.
Too bad Babs couldn't come, she signed.
"I know," I said. "But tonight's Daddy-Daughter time, her Dad told me. But we can take her to the movies next weekend. Or if you really like it, we can always go another day with her."
What's the circus like? she questioned, curious.
"I've never been, so I actually wouldn't know," I told her. "But it's got animals and people who can do acrobatics, and there's fire-breathers, and stuntmen, and elephants, and clowns..."
She made a face, and I laughed.
"Yeah, I never liked clowns either," I said, grinning. "Come on, we better go down before your Daddy turns into a bat and flies up to get us."
Cassie hopped off the bed and spread her arms out, pretending to fly out the door. I rushed after her, picked her up underneath her arms, and flew down the stairs with her where Bruce was waiting for us at the bottom. For today, as we still didn't want the media knowing about Cass, he'd taken on a disguise as well - sporting a dark blond wig and dark brown contacts with thin, rimless rectangular glasses. And unlike his usual tailored suits, he wore a casual button down shirt, navy jacket, and dark jeans. I wasn't a fan of the blond hair, but other than that, he looked great. Cass launched herself out of my arms and bolted for the garage, her little feet pounding down the old wooden floor. Bruce shot me an amused glance and pressed a hand to the small of my back.
"Have you ever been to the circus?" I asked curiously as we started after Cass.
"Once," he said. "I was young, about five or six. My parents took me, but we left early. Didn't like the clowns."
"Cass doesn't either."
"Can't blame her. I liked the acrobats, though," he added. "I was always impressed with their abilities. I wanted to be one after I saw them. I tried to have Dad let me join the circus so I could learn from them. It didn't work."
I grinned. "When I was young I wanted to be Uhura from Star Trek. For Halloween Mom got me a costume with a phaser and communicator device."
He shot me a sideways look. It was entirely dangerous. "I wouldn't object if you decided to wear an Uhura costume again."
I nudged him and bit my lip to stop myself from smiling. "You're horrible. But then again... we are going to be married soon." I gave him a long, devilish glance in return.
He stared at me for a second, looked away, clearing his throat. "Very soon," he muttered.
I grinned and took his hand.
We entered the garage and got into the car - one of the less showy cars - Bruce's Audi R8. It was impossible to find a "normal" car in that garage, I thought wryly. The only car we had ever owned was a fifteen-year-old station wagon with no working A/C or power windows. We'd named her Lola. Bruce had wanted to get rid of the car after Mom and I had moved in, but I'd refused and had driven her to work. She was a good old car. But Bruce wouldn't be caught dead driving her, sadly. Plus, Cass absolutely loved fast cars, the speed-demon.
She was already waiting in the back seat, practically jumping up and down with excitement. She hadn't been this happy in a long time. I reached back, squeezed her hand as we pulled out of the driveway. Bruce drove more carefully than he normally did, actually stayed within the speed limit due to Cass's presence. When we reached the circus, it was crowded. Making our way through the line and the crowds, we took Cass to get some cotton candy and popcorn, despite Bruce's insistence of always eating healthily. Today, however, he would make an exception.
"I think this is the first time in months that we've actually done something together, the three of us," I remarked. Cass held Bruce's hand tightly, bouncing up and down as she stared, wide-eyed, at her cotton candy.
Bruce nodded, leading us through the crowds. "I think so. We're going to have to make this more frequent. Every weekend, if possible."
"Agreed," I said. Cass tugged at his hand and signed something quickly, excitedly. He nodded and lifted her up with ease onto his shoulders.
"Better?" he asked.
She nodded, still wide-eyed; and we continued towards the center tent. But suddenly, Bruce halted, looked hard at something - or someone.
"Oh great," Bruce muttered. "Quick, this way." He hurried us away down another direction.
"What?" I demanded, baffled, jogging after him. "What's the matter?"
"It's that psychotic reporter," Bruce said. "Vicki Vale. That woman is insane."
I glanced over my shoulder to see a red-haired woman on the arm of an older, well-known Gotham CEO. She was dressed to the nines, as if she were going out to the Oscars. For a circus, she looked absolutely ridiculous.
"Wow," I said, laughing as we entered the main tent. "Maybe Batman should save her."
He glared at me. "I'm thrilled you find this so hilarious." He lifted Cass off his shoulders and into the seat between us.
I shrugged, taking my seat. "I'm just surprised she hasn't wanted to interview Bruce Wayne."
"She does," he said flatly. "I've just been consistently unavailable."
I raised an eyebrow and looked over to the other side of the circular seating, where Vicki had just sat down with her gentleman friend. "How interesting," I muttered.
Cass tugged at my hand when the lights went down. She was on the edge of her seat as the show began. As I'd never been to the circus, it was very entertaining. I didn't, however, care for the animals being treated as such, but I tried to enjoy the rest of it for Cass's sake. I saw Bruce stir slightly when they announced the trapeze artists.
"And now..." shouted the announcer, "The death-defying artists of the air... the Flying Graysons!"
Everyone cheered and clapped wildly as the "Flying Graysons" were revealed by the spotlight, high up near the tent's roof. It was three people - a man, woman, and a young boy, surprisingly. A family, I knew instantly. The man and woman took off, flying through the air, and flipped and spun. The boy joined them, and he was as daring and talented, perhaps if not more so, than his parents.
"He's talented," I remarked to Bruce.
He nodded, his eyes locked on the family members. He was as interested in them as Cass was. I hid a grin and returned my eyes to the Flying Graysons. The young boy flipped back up onto the platform, watching as his parents continued their routine. He was adorable, with black hair and a huge smile. He waved to the audience, who cheered wildly - but then I saw his face flash with horror, and he opened his mouth to cry out - My heart seized -
Then, there was a snap, and the wire holding his parents broke.
There was an audible gasp... and down the Flying Graysons fell. It was unreal - a waking nightmare -
The acrobatic couple hit the ground, dead.
Then came the screams of horror, of agony. Bruce and I darted to our feet, and I quickly pulled Cass to me, wanting her to look away from the terrible scene. Bruce was unreadable; I knew he was reliving his own parents' death. I gripped Cass tightly, holding her. I followed Bruce's gaze up to the young Grayson boy, and I felt my heart ripping to shreds -
The boy fell to his knees, staring down at his parents in shock. He was shaking.
And amidst the chaos and the horror, Bruce and I locked gazes.
And we knew.
Blood everywhere. I saw it. I saw it all.
Mom. Dad. So much blood.
All my fault. I should've warned them. I didn't warn them in time. I saw it. I saw it all.
He couldn't move. He couldn't think. He could only stare down at them. Stare down at his parents, lying there on the floor. His hands gripped the edge of the platform so tightly they were white, numb.
He was numb. He felt nothing. He felt everything.
Someone gripped his shoulders. Carried him off the platform. Led him through the noise, the crowds... away from his parents. He was numb. Everything was hazy... muddled... He couldn't speak, couldn't move...
The person carried him out of the tent, into the night. When the cool wind hit his face, blew through his hair, he finally roused enough to realize he wasn't being taken back to his tent. He struggled.
"Hey - put me down!"
"Quiet, kid," said the man carrying him.
Dick stiffened. He didn't know this man. "I said, put me down!" he snapped, and kicked the man right in the groin. The man howled, giving Dick the chance to get out of his hold and tumble to the ground. Dick, however, landed on his feet and ran. The man shouted, started after him.
Dick's heart and head pounded as he ran - just ran. His mind was racing, trying to figure out just what was happening -
Zucco. Tony Zucco. That name rang through his head. He remembered a grey-haired man coming to the circus, threatening his father -
It was him. Zucco had killed his parents. He'd switched the wire, tampered with it - something.
Dick felt his blood run hot.
But a hand reached out, shoved him to the ground. He let out a small cry as he hit the dirt, felt it burn through his skin. He scrambled to his feet -
"You shoulda died with your parents," the thug snarled, shoving him down into the ground.
Dick tried to get up again, but the thug pressed a boot down onto his stomach.
"Stay down, ya brat," hissed the thug.
Dick heard the click of a gun. His eyes closed.
But the shot never came. A shadow tore through the night, tackled Zucco's thug to the ground. The thug let out a shout that was quickly silenced. But Dick never even looked up. Not even as the shadow rose to its full height. Not even as the shadow turned towards him and halted. Not even when the shadow started for him.
So much blood.
MOM. DAD. I need you. Come back. You're not dead. Come back.
Dick felt a pair of strong hands pull him up, set him upright on the ground. He stared up through angry, watery eyes into a pair of intimidating white lenses. Normally, he would've felt fear, astonishment, awe... But everything was hazy. He was in a muddled daze, and right now, he just couldn't process anything...
He tried to focus. He tried to return to reality... whatever that was... and he felt the pair of strong hands rest on his shoulders, steadying him.
"On your feet, son," said the Batman, his voice deep, gruff, and strangely quiet. "You're in shock. But we need to move, get you out of here. You need to be strong. Can you do that?"
Dick felt tears trickling down his face. But he looked away, swallowed. Then, he turned his gaze upward to the Dark Knight, his jaw unwavering.
"Yes, sir," he said.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Yes. You'll probably kill me with that cliff-hanger. Don't worry. Hunter's Night is coming asap. Notice how I didn't write THE END.
OK. OK. So, this is me telling myself that Hunter's Moon is not over, which, it is not by any means. But as far as this first installment is concerned...
I have no words to describe how insanely amazing it's been. This has been the most incredibly story to write, and over the past few years, bringing it to this point has just been... beyond amazing.
But it's because of all of you. You guys are the most wonderful people who have encouraged me each step of the way, each chapter, and it's because of you that this story has come this far. And it's because of your enthusiasm and encouragement that this story will continue. I honestly cannot thank you guys enough. I really can't. I owe so much to each one of you, and because of all of you that I've become a better writer.
You guys have given me so much, and I'm just floored. I love you all so much. And I can't wait to keep talking with you in the next installment. It's just beginning! :)