Title: First Step

Rating: 18, for dark situations

Genre: Drama

Spoilers: JLA: A Better World, parts 1 and 2; sort of for JLU: Epilogue

Summary: Batman of the Justice Lords becomes a father.

Prologue

He had spent almost two years in preparation: building the necessary equipment, gathering the materials in an occasionally illegal manner, and researching everything that even remotely touched upon the subject of human gestation. The planning had been meticulous, from the carefully chosen biological mother to the nutrient feed for the developing infant. After all, he was making the next Batman.

But all the reading in the world was insufficient warning for that first shrill cry at 3 am, the heart-stopping fearlessness of a toddler, or the unrestrained energy of a five-year old.

After three weeks with little Thomas Wallace Wayne he had dismantled the artificial womb and destroyed the remaining donor eggs, vowing to never do this again. At eighteen months the child had executed his first prison break, climbing out of his crib to play with his toys at five in the morning. Nothing could contain Tommy for long after that, and Bruce quickly became resigned to his small shadow. It was just as well that he had mostly retreated from public life, since he would have had a hard time fulfilling either of those roles with Tommy tagging along behind. His constant toddler companion would never have fit the hard-earned playboy image, and he could hardly be that ruthless as a businessman if he was changing diapers.

He protected the boy's identity with something close to paranoia, rarely taking him off the grounds. The other Justice Lords were still out there, after all, and by all accounts they blamed him for the loss of their powers. The idea of what Kent could do to Tommy scared him cold, to say nothing of what Hawkgirl might do in revenge for her lost wings. When they did go out in public, Bruce took great care to disguise his features and voice. He told his son it was a game, and, somewhat miraculously, the child never gave him away.

No one from Batman's circle knew about or had met the boy, and he meant to keep it that way. Only his lawyer and a carefully selected and very well paid retired pediatrician had met Tommy as the son of Bruce Wayne, at visits supervised by him at Wayne Manor. Bruce handled the boy's education himself. It was the only way he could be sure that Tommy would be ready for his responsibility when it came time.

For all his machinations, it was his own body that failed him and put everything he was building in jeopardy. After his first heart attack while on a mission as Batman, two years before his son was born, his Doctor had warned him that there was sure to be a second somewhere down the line. A lifetime of healthy living couldn't beat out genetics, it seemed. Bruce had thanked the man, filled his prescription, and began the groundwork that would eventually lead to Tommy. But no pill is fool-proof, and when Tommy was eight years old the long-awaited second heart attack arrived.

When it became apparent that the medication wasn't working, he hit the MedicAlert alarm and explained to his son what was happening and what the boy needed to do until it became too difficult for him to talk. Tommy was frightened enough to sit next to him without fidgeting, a possible sign of the apocalypse, and they stayed next to the door and waited for the ambulance together. Like it or not, Bruce reflected grimly, his well-kept secret was about to be blown wide open.