Batman Beyond characters are copyright DC Comics and Time/Warner. I'm just borrowing them.
Lyrics from Superman by Five For Fighting

Thanks and love to elfin and Knightshade for learning the fandom to help me.

by Tomy

It may sound absurd...but don't be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed...but won't you conceed
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me

It was going to be a day from Hell, Terry could just feel it in his bones. A simple errand, the old man had said; 'yeah, sure,' Terry thought bitterly to himself. Simple errands didn't leave him aching like this. He'd gone in to break up the 'simple' bank robbery, only to discover that Splicing was not as dead as they had believed. The four had surrounded him and attacked; unlike in TV shows, they all pounced at once. Terry was sure he saw a wolf, another cheetah, a panther type and something he couldn't recognize - but it had teeth, very sharp teeth. The claws punctured the suit, the teeth ripped into his shoulder, he felt a large paw/hand nail him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him; his knees still hurt from landing with everyone on top of him. He heard Bruce's voice, seeming to echo inside the cowl, telling him to block out the pain and push on through. Easier said than done. But, he did it, some how, some way; Terry was sure anger and pride had a lot to do with it.

Bruce had shaken his head when Terry arrived back home. Surprisingly he didn't receive the usual lecture, only a quick once over before being chewed out over the state of the suit. He knew what to expect in all reality, but it still bugged him to no end.

That was last night, or this morning, depending on how you wanted to look at it. Dropping face first into bed was easy, getting back out a few hours later - that was a different matter altogether. He was becoming used to the few hours sleep a night, his body finding it easier and easier to function without feeling tired all the time. But this, this was agony. His shoulder was swollen to a point where his jacket wouldn't fit, his side ached and he had a limp he couldn't mask, no matter how hard he tried.

He'd walked to school, too stiff to climb on his bike. At least he was on time. Gently, he hitched his backpack up on his good shoulder.

"Hey, Ter!" He groaned to himself, thanking the Powers That Be that it was Max. "You look terrible," she commented as she caught up to him.

"Thanks," he tossed her an evil glance.

"Rough night?" Terry's snort was her only response. "What happened?"

"A bunch of Splicers decided I looked like a trampoline."


"Tell me about it. One had very sharp teeth."

"I take it the old guy had a fit?"

"He was overly concerned about the state of the suit."

"Does this mean you have the night off?" The sideways glance of two blue eyes reminded her of how ridiculous that question was.

"He'll have it ready. I mean, what else does he have to do?"

"Terry," he was startled by the two slender arms that encircled his waist. He spun, easily recognizing the petite girl in front of him.

'I *am* losing it,' he thought darkly.

"Hi Dane."

She looked at him, giving him the once over he knew well from their early days. The one that told him she knew he'd been in a scrap.

"It's not what you think," Terry began in way of defense. "I was doing an errand for Mr. Wayne and I ran into four Splicers." It wasn't a total lie.

"Where?" That look hadn't left her face yet.

"A bank." At least now she looked concerned. "You don't trust me, do you?" Max took that as her cue to move on.

"Ter, it's not that I don't trust you. You just always seem to find trouble."

Terry's head dropped. He wanted to respond to her comment, but he couldn't find it within himself to lie to her again. "I know," he finally settled on.

Dana took a deep breath, it wasn't his fault, at least not this time. "Are you okay?" She had noticed that he was doing better, more alert typically, and far more fit. Chelsea had commented one day after the boys gym class had wandered through he hallway about Terry's physique. Dana hadn't noticed beforehand, but after Chelsea's comment, she found herself checking out her boyfriend. He was a bit taller, his black hair a slightly longer causing it to constantly hang in his eyes. His body had changed, filled out. Even the way he moved was different; more confident, less cocky.

Today was not one of those days.

He nodded, refusing to look straight at her. A sure giveaway that he was hiding something.

"They hurt you, didn't they?"

His smile was the first genuine one in a few days. "Can't slip anything passed you, now can I?"

"You should know better by now, McGinnis." She snuggled in closer, happy to have a moment of privacy and affection with him. Her arms were still around his waist, hugging him as she let her head rest against his chest.

For the first time in a long time, Terry let himself relax in her embrace; resting his cheek on top of her head as he returned the hug.

Sitting in classes all day had not done him any good. It also occurred to him that assholes became larger assholes in direct proportion to how ill/injured their quarry was deemed to be. Nash spotted Terry limping and was in his face faster than a baterang. Of all the things Bruce had taught him over the past year, not to waste his time and energy on bullies like Nash had to have been the best piece of advice. Terry just stood there, his back against the lockers, knowing, even in his present condition, that if he _really_ wanted to knock Nash on his ass, it wouldn't be much of a feat. So he waited, grinning evilly as Nash spat expletives and threats left, right and centre, while Terry imagined how much fun he could have, as Batman, in a reversed situation. He blinked, shook his head - which he immediately regretted - and walked off, leaving Nash and his buddies prevaricating.

"Some days you surprise me, McGinnis." Terry chuckled as he attempted to jog down the stairs, barely grabbing the railing in time to prevent himself from falling as his knees refused to take the stress. Bruce was going to kill him. "Why do you do this to yourself?" Dana grabbed his arm as he reached the bottom of the steps, forcing him to face her while she remained one step up.

"Mr. Wayne needs me." Dana didn't miss the tinge of bitterness and something else she couldn't put her finger on, something he had also developed this year.

"Can't you call in sick?"

Terry sighed deeply. "I can't, Dane. I have responsibilities, to my mom and Matt, and to Mr. Wayne." With a crooked smile, he placed his hands on Dana's arms; "he warned me; I told him I could handle it."

"That pride of yours is going to get you killed."

"I'm glad you still care." It was meant to come across as a quip, instead his emotions betrayed him.

"Let me take you home, Ter." His intensity used to scare her, the way he could look through her with his blue eyes. Now she felt safe, protected and loved.

"If you're offering a ride, you could drop me off at Bruce's?"

"I'm not going to sway you am I?"

"Nope." The moment thankfully passed.

"All right, come on."

"Thanks, I owe you one." He owed her a hell of a lot more, and he knew it.

The drive had been in silence, Terry feeling his body stiffening up again. He slowly climbed out of the car, knowing Dana was watching his every move.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked as he walked around the car.

"Yup." Leaning into the car, he placed a kiss on her lips, letting it linger as her arms slid around his neck. He allowed himself to lean against the door for a moment, he had a bad feeling about tonight, though he wasn't sure why. "I'll see you in the morning," he whispered as he moved away, not looking back as he slipped through the gates and trudged up to the house.

"You're late."

"Hello to you too. And, yes I'm okay, though I am hurting like hell. I wasn't going to say anything, but since you asked..." Terry trailed off sarcastically as he limped down the last few stairs into the bat cave.

Bruce smirked as he watched the teen close the distance. Terry's stride was off, and he could see the swollen shoulder. "The suit's ready, but I'd suggest stretching out first."

Dropping his backpack on the table, he shifted his shoulder, wincing as the pain moved up his neck. "I think I'll take you up on that."

Twenty minutes later, Terry returned suited up. "Anything special on the agenda tonight?"

"Patrols." Bruce turned to watch as Terry slipped on the mask. He'd keep him on patrols for a few hours, then bring him in and send him home. The kid was in no condition to fight.

"I'm gonna leave the car, keeping myself moving seems to help." Bruce nodded, turning back to the console.

"How did you do it, Alfred?" Bruce asked into the empty cave. "How did you handle letting us go?"

Perched on top of one of the tallest buildings in Gotham, Terry tried to stretch out again. He was shivering, though it wasn't cold out. So far, nothing had caught his eye, that worried him. Either he was being sloppy, or something big was going down.

"Bruce?" Terry spoke into the transmitter.

"I'm not picking up anything here either, why don't you come home?"

Terry blinked, "you turning psychic on me?"

An amused snort greeted him. "No, but you are running a fever and it's best if you come in."

"You sure?"

"Would I say it if I wasn't?"

"Okay, okay, I'm not looking a gift bat in the mouth." In all honesty he didn't feel *that* bad. Stiff, sore and shivering, but other than that, and the feeling of foreboding that had hung over him all day... he felt alert, and even a bit bored.

Jumping off his perch, he let himself free fall. It was a rush, he loved the feeling of the wind on his body, the exhilaration of the speeds the suit permitted him, the knowledge that he could recover at any point.

"Terry," Bruce's voice sounded hesitant, strange to Terry's ears.

"Yeah...?" Terry spread his arms, the wings appearing with his thoughts, slowing him, letting him direct the fall.

"I have an alarm."

"Where?" Immediately his pulse picked up, his mind kicking into gear.

"Gotham park."


"Possibly. Be careful."

"I will," he answered, the bad feeling almost swamping him at Bruce's warning.

Batman flew over the park, observing, looking for anything strange. "Do you see anything?"


"Okay, I was getting worried."

"Stay sharp," Bruce warned again.

Flying over the park again, Terry dropped to his feet, ducking behind trees, trying to remain hidden within the shadows, he scouted the entire region.

"I'm not having any luck, I'm coming in." Taking off, startling a few birds in the process, something caught Terry's eye. He continued on, but rotated in flight. There was definitely something there.

"Did you see that?" he whispered within the cowl.

"I saw movement, nothing more certain."

"I'll go once more." His shivering had thankfully stopped, allowing him to focus. His instincts told him something, or someone was hiding, his brain was telling him to get the hell out. Two more trips with nothing, Terry/Batman turned for home, as his opponent walked from their hiding place.

"You'll stay the night." Terry had just returned from getting changed and just about fell over in shock. "I've phoned your mother. Was there something you neglected to tell me?"

"Oh, Mom and Matt went on vacation to Germany. Off to see culture she told me."

"And you?"

"I told her I had some tests coming up and that I had to take care of the 'Old Guy'. Since it is part of my salary that paid for this extravagant trip."

"You need to get some rest." Bruce returned to the topic at hand, letting the comment slide. "I know you've been running a low grade fever all night. I suspect the splicers have added venom to their bites." Terry snorted, yet was surprised by the old man's concern. He certainly knew how to throw a curve ball. He was oddly touched, and relieved beyond words. The last thing he wanted to do was walk home. "Take a few aspirin and go to bed."

"I think I'll do that." Heading up the stairs, he paused at the top. "Hey, Bruce," the older man faced the teen. "Thanks." With a quick nod, he resumed his work.