Good Advice

Summary: A different take on what "Old Bruce" might have told his younger self in "The Once and Future Thing" What-if thing, JLU/Return of the Joker

Disclaimer: Heh. I wish.

He knew that this old, gnarled version of himself he had never believed would exist would pull him to the side, away from the prying ears of the others.

The wrinkled scarred man looked the smoother, yet equally broken, version of himself up and down.

The younger mouth spoke. "You aren't worried about any universe-ending paradoxes?"

The older one curved into a smile. "No. Isn't it arrogant to think that Time really cares whether or not you change your individual life?"

"Isn't it selfish to use a potential apocalypse to try to ease your regrets?"

Wizened eyes narrowed. "Why would you think I had regrets?"

An identical, deep chuckle issued forth from both.

"Fine. Say what you think you need to." The middle-aged man allowed his eyes to wander, though both were well aware that the younger Bruce was hanging on to every word.

"First," The older Bruce inhaled loudly, and pale desperation battled with wild hope in his eyes. "In your time, how old is Tim?"

The younger Bruce felt his eyes widen and his heart rate speed up. "Twelve."

The old man didn't just crack a smile, he grinned, seeming to bask in that piece of information. "Listen closely." That command was completely superfluous. "Never let him out of your sight when he's in uniform, ever. No matter what he says to you, no matter how much it hurts him." Then, as an afterthought. "At least until the Joker and Harley have been dealt with permanently, in one way or another."

The younger Bruce inhaled to ask some obvious questions, but the older interrupted. "No, I won't tell you. You shouldn't have to bear what I do, no one should. If something goes wrong, if you make a mistake and Tim disappears," For the merest of seconds he looked around, certain someone was going to stop him for imparting that piece of information, "He's in the original Arkham Asylum building."

"Second," The old man continued a minute later, when he had stopped shaking, "Don't sell the company."

"Third," Already the elder Bruce was standing up straighter, looking that much less broken, looking fifteen years younger. "Don't ever let Dick and Tim grow up without knowing that we--you--love them. It's what they came to believe, and I regret it everyday. Barbara and Alfred, at least, knew better."

For a full second, the younger Bruce appeared to be on the verge of saying something, but all that came out was a soft, "Oh."

"Fourth, and final," He tilted his head ever-so-slightly towards the tall woman unashamedly attempting to eavesdrop, "Diana will move on. Make up your mind soon, and make the right choice…Keep in mind that her lifespan may never come up…"

"I'm supposed to just take your word on it that you know better?"

"Yes." The elder man smiled slightly. "I could have done so much better. You don't want to be me. Wayne Manor is even colder when it's empty."

"Fine." The younger Bruce shifted his weight uncomfortably. "I'll…try…"

In a completely unexpected and frankly awkward motion, the other man stood closer and clasped younger Bruce's forearm. "Then I wish you luck."

Luck wouldn't have anything to do with it.

A/N--Tim was probably, at this point, already broken, but who knows? Plus, I think it's a fun idea.