A/N: Well, since i obviously ended my last fic with an edgy cliffhanger, i have started my third story soon before the anticipation and excitement dies. In case anyone is a new reader, the sequence of stories go: A New Beginning and Untold Story, any other stories are one shots. Once those have been read, you are ready to check this one out. I hope this will live up to expectations (if there are any) and even beyond. Since this is my fifth authored fic so far, i hope any of my earlier mistakes don't appear in this one, particularly verb confusion. I'm aiming for this to be more Terry centered compared to Untold Story which was more Jazz centered; so this should be a treat for everyone. Anyway, enough chatter, on with the show!
Disclaimer: Batman Beyond is not mine, so i do not own any of the characters created in the show. only those who were not in the show are technically mine.
Update: Did a tiny edit 2017 just for style's sake.
Tired blue eyes slide reluctantly open as an exhausted sigh escapes a bruised chest. With a groan, Terry switches off the screaming alarm before slowly sitting up and rubbing his throbbing head. The nights are taking their toll on the young hero, and after three months of returning to solitary work, things haven't gotten back to normal. He expected working alone again would be an easy transition, but the struggle has yet to end. When he had a partner by his side, he was able to pay better attention to his environment and have more time to predict his enemy's actions. He took advantage of having a second set of eyes watch his back and hates the painful consequences of his avoidable mistakes. But now with Jazz gone, all he can do is slowly get out of bed, grab a bag of ice and start the coffee machine.
After applying some Chinese balm to the side of his black and blue ribs, Terry heads off to take his final exam for the semester. Knowing he barely had enough time to study, he manages to tough it out hoping the good grades he received throughout the semester will make up for a barely passing grade for this test. When he finally hits the submit button, he quickly gathers his bag, and almost rushes out the door to avoid getting a suspicious look from his professor.
"Terry! Terry, guess what!" Max's excited voice reaches him just as he leaves the university's business wing. He turns to find her rushing towards him.
"What?" He asks when she catches up to him.
"I got it!" She squeals with joy.
"Got what?" Terry asks as he takes a step back in case her excitement makes her explode.
"The internship!" She replies as she hops in place like a five year old at Disneyland. "Remember that internship I told you about?"
"For that aerospace technology company in Japan?"
"Yeah! I got the call this morning. I'll be flying out in a week for the whole summer; isn't that exciting?!"
"The whole summer? Where are you staying?"
"They said something about company housing. They'll pretty much give me everything I need and it includes pay."
"Wow, exciting," Terry replies unintentionally sounding indifferent as he begins walking towards a nearby coffee shop.
"What's with you?" She asks dialing down her enthusiasm and falling into step next to him.
"Sorry, just tired."
"You failed your economics exam, didn't you."
"No, at least I don't think so. Whatever, I still passed the semester," he replies trying to convince himself that he won't be repeating the class again.
"Let's hope you did. No offense, but I'm not tutoring you again. I'd rather get shot than talk about stock market failures for another three weeks." Terry gives her a forced smile as he opens the café door for her. "You sure you're just tired?" She asks sounding a bit concerned once they stand in line.
"Late night, that's all," he reassures without looking at her. After ordering the largest, blackest coffee they have, Terry finds a table by the window and invites Max to join him.
"I know you better than that, McGinnis," Max starts. "Are you upset I'm leaving?"
"What? No," Terry quickly replies.
"Then what is it?"
"I already told you: long night. That's it, so drop it."
"Not this again," Max complains rolling her eyes. "Look, either you tell me or I'll beat it out of you."
Letting out a very irritated sigh, Terry glares at his long time friend. "When did you say you were leaving?"
"McGinnis," Max warns returning the glare.
"I've been making a lot of mistakes; that's all."
"Mistakes?" She asks understanding a little more than what he can say in a crowded coffee shop.
"Yeah, and Bruce is starting to lose his patience."
"Because they're stupid mistakes; the kind he specifically trained out of me years ago," he replies looking a bit ashamed at the confession.
"Oh," is all Max can say knowing that his partner's leaving is the root of the problem. "Well, maybe you just need a bit more time to adjust." Terry doesn't reply as he stares out the window. After a few tense and quiet minutes, Max lets out a sigh. "Well, like I said, I'll be leaving in a week, so do you want to go out tomorrow night for one last hoorah?"
"I don't think I'll be able to make it."
"Oh, that's fine I guess," she replies trying to hide her disappointment, but fails at the attempt since Terry knows her too well.
"I'll make time for something, Max."
"Well, I'll hold you to that," she replies smiling. "Anyway, I have to go take care of some things before I make the trip. If you find time for dinner, give me a call."
Once she walks out, Terry returns his empty gaze to the busy streets of Gotham. Most of the citizens that walk by are oblivious on how close they came to finding their city a giant crater by morning, and Terry almost envies of that type of ignorance. They never worry whether tonight is their last, or what would happen if they failed as a hero. No, they worry about whether their car will start in the morning, what shoes to wear, of if that last chocolate muffin in the display case will be theirs to claim. He studies the happy, focused and annoyed faces that pass by, tries to read people's lips when they are on the phone, and watches someone try to hail a cab for the third time.
He suddenly perks up when a familiar woman with long, wavy black hair enters his view, but with her back facing him, he isn't able to make out her face. He locks his gaze onto her and watches her impatiently press the button for the crosswalk. But when she finally turns her head towards Terry, a tall, burly man steps in front of her, blocking her face.
"Slag it!" Terry curses aloud and stands to get a better view. However, by then, the crowd of waiting pedestrians begins walking to the other side of the street making it harder to see her. Without waiting to think, Terry rushes out of the shop and pushes his way through the crowd looking for the woman. When he spots her, he manages to grab her shoulder and spin the startled woman around only to realize she's a stranger.
"What the hell's your problem?" She cries out shaking away his grip.
"Uh, sorry. Thought you were someone else," Terry stammers stepping back with embarrassment and disappointment.
"Then how bout you get a better look before grabbing people!" She shoots back before hurrying away.
With a sigh, Terry heads in the opposite direction trying to understand why he felt compelled to go after a woman he thought was Jazz. Deciding he needs a distraction, he makes his way towards his mother's apartment hoping someone there will keep his mind from picking out any other falsely familiar faces.
"Hey, mom," Terry greets when he walks into the kitchen.
"Terry! I didn't hear you come in," Mary replies lifting her head from the newspaper she is reading.
"The door was unlocked, so I let myself in." Dropping his bag on a chair, he moves to the fridge to grab a soda.
"Well, to what do I owe this surprise visit?" She asks taking off her reading glasses and setting her crossword puzzle aside.
"I just finished my last final, so I have the afternoon off. Thought I could just stop by," he explains pulling the paper his way to see how far she got.
"How'd you do?" He gives her a pained expression before returning his eyes to the paper. "That hard?"
"I hate economics."
"You're the one who decided to major in business; what did you expect? Art classes?"
"I was doing fine the rest of the semester," he defends himself as he grabs the pen from her hand to fill in number 14 across. "So I won't be failing."
"Well, what about your other classes?"
"I did fine," he replies filling in number 3 down.
"Since when were you so good at crossword puzzles?" She asks impressed when he fills in another word.
"I'm just doing the easy ones. You can have the rest," he answers handing her the paper and pen.
"How thoughtful," Mary quips with rolling eyes. "Are you hungry?"
"Are you still going to feed me if I said no?"
"Yes," she replies getting up to heat some leftovers. "So, how has work been going?"
"Same as usual. Where's Matt?"
"At a friend's house. I'm picking him up in an hour."
"You want me to do it?"
Surprised at the offer, Mary stops pressing microwave buttons and turns to study her son's face. "Honey, is everything alright?"
Terry raises a brow at the strange question. "Yeah, why?"
"You just seem a little… different."
"I'm just bored. I have nothing planned for the rest of the day."
"Doesn't Mr. Wayne usually ask for your help right about now?" She continues setting the timer and starting the microwave.
"It's my day off."
"I'm surprised you still know what that is."
"Very funny, mom," Terry replies rolling his eyes. "So, you want me to pick him up or what?"
"Just make sure he doesn't have a heart attack when you do." She sets the plate of warm food in front of him and hands him a fork before she retakes her seat.
After taking a few small bites, Terry begins picking at his food before pushing the plate away. "Hey, mom? Did you think I would get myself into worse trouble after Juvi?"
Taken back by the question, Mary straightens up a bit. "What do you mean?"
"When I was just out of Juvi, did you think I was going to do a lot worse than a B&E charge? And answer honestly."
"Where is this coming from?"
"I was just wondering," Terry shrugs without lifting his eyes from the abandoned food. "I see it all the time: kids who get out manage to get back into the system. It's a cycle."
"Well," Mary sighs, "I won't lie to you, I was a little worried. You looked like you were on a path to self-destruction, but I knew you had a lot of good in you, Terry. You were just too angry to see it."
"What if Mr. Wayne had never offered me a job?" He asks looking up at her.
Shifting nervously in her chair, Mary reluctantly replies, "After your father died, I was afraid of what would happen to you. I thought you would lash out at the world again." A moment of silence passes before Mary speaks up. "This isn't something people wonder about, Terry. What's going on?"
"Well, I had this friend who was in a similar situation as me."
"A friend, huh," Mary repeats suspiciously eyeing him. "Go on."
"It really is a friend, mom. I'm not referring to myself."
"Ok, alright, I believe you," she unconvincingly replies.
"Anyway," Terry continues frowning at her. "She found herself a good job, but she just decided to quit all of a sudden. I'm not sure if she's tempted to go back to getting easy money, or if she's still on the right path."
"Terrence McGinnis, did you quit?!" Mary all of a sudden blurts out. "No wonder you have more time on your hands and you failed your final! Get Wayne on the phone right now-"
"Ma! I said it wasn't me!" Terry cuts her off. "Calm down! Like I said, it's a friend."
Studying his face for honesty, Mary clears her throat and scoots a little closer to her son. "Alright, how well do you know her?" She asks wondering if Terry is using a female pronoun to throw her off the trail.
"Enough to think about it."
"Do you wonder about quitting your job to go back to crime?"
"Mom," Terry scolds assuming she still thinks he's referring to himself.
"I'm serious, honey. Do you?"
"And why is that?"
"I'm not tempted to, I guess."
Terry shrugs. "That life doesn't appeal to me anymore."
"Did you think it appealed to your friend before she quit?"
Pausing to recall the last time he and Jazz saw each other, he shakes his head. "It didn't seem so."
"I guess you have nothing to worry about then. But if you're still not convinced, give her a call and ask her."
"Thanks, mom." Terry says rising. "Anyway, where did you say Matt was?"
"Hang on, I'll get you the address," Mary gets up to get her phone to look through the address book. After copying the location into his phone, Terry gives his mom a hug and grabs his bag. "This was nice. You should come by more often."
"I'll try; see you later."
"Oh, and Terry?" Mary calls out when she follows him to the door.
"If you ever quit, I'll hound you every minute of every day until you get your job back. I say this out of love, of course."
"Uh, of course," Terry repeats looking a bit anxious, and heads out before she could threaten him about anything else.
- to be continued - reviews welcome -