Title: Batman and Robin
Author: DC Luder
Summary: As survivors of the worst tragedy to befall the superhero community in decades, Dick feels the need to make amends with his estranged mentor.
Rating: T for violence and language
Author's Note: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
A/N 2: Loosely based on scenes found throughout the Kingdom Come story arc. For those unfamiliar, Mar'i is pronounced Mary, named after Dick's momma.
"Other things may change us, but we start and end with family"
I hadn't seen him in nearly twenty years.
I had turned my back on Bruce numerous times throughout our long and painful relationship, but the last time had in fact been just that. Although he had already gone into physical retirement from his role as Batman, Bruce had remained active in Gotham by controlling a group of young and old allies alike called the Outsiders. In addition, he had developed a small army of robots that were programmed to disarm and detain criminals they happened upon during constant patrols. So much had changed that I felt as if there was no going back, for either of us.
I had long since left behind Bludhaven and my guise of Nightwing, trading both in for the prospect of a new start in New York City as Red Robin. Since Bruce frowned upon my marriage to Koriand'r, my only contact remaining in Gotham had been Alfred, still sharp as ever at the age of ninety-one. Although he still lived in Wayne Manor, Alfred's only responsibility was to make sure Bruce was outfitted with coffee and meals as he worked tirelessly in the Cave, monitoring crime and crime fighters alike, both in and outside of his city. He had gone too far in my opinion but I saw no point in trying to dissuade him.
It was the day that Kori had given birth to our only child, Mar'i, that Bane and Two-Face had decided to make a bold move on their former enemy. Exposing Bruce's identity to the world for who he really was, they had made a massive attack on Wayne Manor, practically destroying the old mansion. For the first time since the earthquake that had leveled Gotham City decades earlier, sunlight had been able to pour down into the Cave. At the time, I had been so caught up in seeing my baby girl being brought into the world that I hadn't found out about it until it was too late.
Even at that point, I hadn't seen or even spoken with Bruce in nearly three years, his refusal to attend my wedding prompting a new wave of hatred for the man who had raised me. I had been horrified by the news footage alone as the remains of the mansion poured out billows of smoke while fire teams battled an onslaught of flames. Knowing Bruce, he was alive and well, hidden deep within the Cave, especially since the reports announced that no bodies had yet to be found in the wreckage.
Putting everything aside, I had left my wife and newborn child in New York and raced to Gotham, doing what I could to contact Barbara, Tim and Cassandra. Barbara said she was overwhelmed with what had happened, but her duties as a congresswoman kept her from getting involved. Tim had promised to be there as soon as he could but it would take him at least two days to get home from a business trip to Japan.
Naturally, Cassandra was off the radar completely.
By the time I had arrived, nightfall had offered safe cover into the wreckage, the rescue teams having put out the flames and put the search on hold until the morning. Bane and Two-Face, long gone, were wanted fugitives but the main story that night and for the remaining month was that Bruce Wayne was and had always been the Batman. It had been trivial, revealing his identity after so many years but it had still been painful to bare.
It had taken me nearly an hour to get into the Cave, which also had been destroyed between the attack itself and a section of the manor collapsing. Gearing up with what I had been able to salvage in the costume vault, I began carefully touring the various levels of the cavern. Slowly, I had made my way to a particular section I had dubbed as the Panic Cave when I had still worn and R on my chest. Sure enough, that was where I had found Bruce, sporting a few bruises and lacerations, but nothing worse for the wear.
What I had been shocked to see were the support braces on his legs and one of his arms.
"Bruce?" I had called out, squeezing through the narrow passage and into the cramped quarters. It had long since been outfitted with a generator, computer, living area and enough food and supplies to get two people through a month of hiding if necessary. From the looks of it, he hadn't touched anything save for a bottle of water and a few bandages.
His eyes had been glued to his bruised hands as he sat on the cot and for a moment I had wondered if he was injured more than I had first ascertained. Calling his name out again, he had glanced up at me, "I heard you the first time."
"Bruce…" I had started again, kneeling in front of him, "I'm so sorry… I… should have been here."
He had looked back down at his hands, "No… you were where you needed to be. With your family."
"You are my family, Bruce. No matter what has happened between us, that will never change."
Finally, Bruce had glanced up again. Seeing him up close in the awful fluorescent lighting, I had been able to see that his fifty-six years had caught up with him. When I had asked if Bane had injured him, noting the braces, Bruce had smirked, "No… actually they were more interested in breaking my things than me. This…" he had gestured to his braced limbs, "This is just the price I've paid."
"The fire trucks and police are gone… let's get you out of here, get you somewhere safe."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"Bruce… you can't stay here, there's nothing left…" I had shaken my head in disbelief.
"I was born here, I lived here, and no one is going to stop me from dying here," his words had haunted me nearly as much as the serious look on his face. "There is nothing the outside world has to offer me. My place is in Gotham, Dick. What happened today… doesn't change that."
I had tried for another hour to convince him to leave but was unsuccessful. In the end, I had departed after saying that Kori had a baby girl earlier in the day and that Bruce was technically a grandfather. "You want to rot in this cave, fine by me. I don't want my daughter to see what you've become… a shadow of what you were."
He had looked back to his hands, "Goodbye, Dick."
Returning to the surface, I had found a news report waiting for me that a body had been found in the wreckage of Wayne Manor and was suspected of belonging to Alfred Pennyworth. I had to stomach the urge to return to Bruce's cavernous hideout to see if he had known. Of course he had, I had mused while making my way back to the airport, Bruce knew everything.
Over the following twenty years, Bruce had managed to not only overcome what had happened, but had actually flourished. Openly using his billions of dollars, he had been able to take control of Gotham, making it practically a police state with a remarkably low crime rate. The violence that plagued every other major metropolis around the globe never breached the city limits of Gotham thanks to Bruce's army of non-lethal robots and allies. A utopia, but only because everyone lived in fear of the consequences of crime.
Since I had remained close with Roy over the years and since his former mentor Oliver Queen was practically Bruce's second hand man, I could have easily garnered information on Bruce, if I had wanted to. The only time I had ever talked to Roy about it was after he had visited the Cave with Ollie and Dinah Lance. He had reported to me that Bruce was just as he had always been, all business and no time for nonsense. The only outward difference was that he had taken to wearing a full exoskeleton support system, powered by hydraulics to keep his old, broken body moving. Roy had offered that if I had ever wanted to go, that he would lend his support.
I had promptly told him that I intended to live out the rest of my years without laying my eyes on Bruce's face ever again.
Surprisingly enough, the last two decades had actually treated Bruce better than they had treated me. Kori and I had amicably split eight years after Mar'i had been born, finally deciding that she couldn't split her life on Earth and Tamaran any longer. This was only made especially painful after our daughter Mar'i chose to remain on Earth instead of upholding her royal duties alongside her mother. Deep down, I had felt that Kori blamed me for our only child's decision to stay but she never voiced it. As a result, Mar'i and I had remained close through her adolescence, allowing me to oversee her training and aide her in managing the abilities she inherited from her mother.
It was because of our close relationship that I had been surprised when Mar'i opted out of college and decided to spend her young adulthood gallivanting around the globe. Given that a majority of the villains I had grown up facing had been eliminated, the young heroes of the world had become aimless beings, fighting just to fight. She adopting the guise of Nightstar, combining the names her mother and I had once been called but opting out of upholding the heroism behind them. Despite the values she had been raised on, my own daughter had partaken in random acts of violence, causing incalculable destruction to cities, not to mention putting countless innocents in danger.
Most men my age had daughters rebelling by getting excessive tattoos or piercings.
Mine was blowing up buildings with bursts of energy from her hands.
She had refused to acknowledge me, ignored any attempt I had made at contacting her. By the time she was twenty, I had given up. I hated myself for doing so, but there had seemed to be nothing I could do to show her where she was erring. That she was making a mockery of the word hero and destroying all that her predecessors had stood for.
It all had come to a head when the Justice League had been reformed, Superman coming out of hiding in order to put the Earth back on its axis. I had shown no hesitation in joining up, ready to do something worthwhile in a world gone mad. Those that had once been fellow Teen Titans had stepped up to fill the roles of their former mentors, along with young faces that wanted to do good instead of harm. We offered enlistment to those we had encountered, giving them purpose in their lives and for the most part it worked.
At least it had in the beginning.
Clark believed that there was good in everyone.
I had been raised on an entirely different philosophy.
When he had offered me a leading position in the League, essentially filling the role once belonging to Batman, Superman had been quick to inform me that he had all intentions of luring Bruce to join as well. Knowing Bruce as well as I had, I had known that there was nothing Superman could say or do or threaten with to drag him out of his cave. The first time, Krypton's last son had asked nicely, saying the world needed the leadership and knowledge that only Bruce had.
Bruce had said no, probably with a smile on his face. He had no desire or need to join the new Justice League because he had his trusty Outsiders at his side, willing to follow him anywhere. Many members of his team were in fact the children of those in the League, including my daughter. I had wondered if he had Ollie recruit her intentionally or if she wanted to partake in the ultimate rebellion against me.
Either way, if something had happened to her, I would have never forgiven Bruce. Ever.
The second time Superman had gone to Gotham had been just before the newly built gulag had been lost to rioting chaos. The thousands of criminals and threatening super beings we had spent months taking into custody had taken to rebelling, depsising each and every one of us for locking them up. Given their combined powers and hatred for the newly formed Justice League, escape was inevitable.
War was inevitable.
I had predicted it long before it had happened, talking with fellow Leaguers at the Watchtower. Superman had apprehended a notorious being known as Von Bach, a man who had nearly killed myself and Power Woman years before. Putting him in the gulag along with the others was a mistake as he had been more than capable of brewing an uprising. I had found myself vocalizing my doubts, yards from the man with super-hearing.
Later, I had realized just how Bruce-like that had been.
With the UN breathing down our necks and the gulag ready to implode, we had been faced with another threat as the newly formed Justice League. Lex Luthor along with a number of criminal greats had come together to bring us down once more. There were many familiar names amidst Luthor's team, including Lord Naga, Selina Kyle and Vandal Savage, there had been two members I had never expected to share a common cause with Lex Luthor.
The first had been Ibn Al X'uffasch, Bruce's estranged son with Talia and heir to Ra's Al Ghul's empire.
The second had been none other than Bruce Wayne himself.
My initial thought had been right, that Bruce had been using Lex Luthor in order to undermine the Mankind Liberation Front's mission. The remainder of the League had instantly thought Bruce and his band of Outsiders as traitors. Thankfully, Superman had been between the two lines of thought, and eventually turned to Bruce at our darkest hour, demanding he choose the right side and join our efforts.
Again, Bruce had declined.
While we had been at the gulag preparing for the war to end all wars, Bruce had taken action, combining his resources and his Outsiders to join our final stand. I had been a grown man and yet seeing him and hundreds of others, human, metahuman and androids alike, arriving in the nick of time… it had made me suddenly feel like Robin again, in over my head with Batman coming to my rescue. I had thought us to be doomed, over run and out numbered with beings far younger and stronger than ourselves, but there he was, soaring in to save the day.
Bruce's arrival had been a blessing in disguise, buying us enough time for Superman to go tete a tete with Captain Marvel, who had still been acting on behalf of Lex Luthor. Using his equal strength, in addition to the ability to summon bolts of lightning, Marvel had seemingly made it his goal to take down our Krytptonian leader. None of us could have spared the time or focus to help him as the gates of the gulag came tumbling down. Our priority was detainment, but it quickly evolved into simply surviving the ordeal.
Working side by side with Roy, we had done our best to disarm and disable as many of the former inmates as possible. Between lightning bolts, explosions, screams of agony and blurs of red, gold and green, I had spotted Mar'i. Soaring high above, her green eyes glowed bright in the dusty air, her pulses of purple energy cutting through the chaos and blasting down our common enemies.
The last thought I had was that she was beautiful.
"DICK, LOOK OUT!"
Roy's bellow had been the last thing I had heard before a white hot flash of pain echoed in my skull. I had vaguely been aware of Mar'i crying, cradling my head in her arms, of the battle carrying on without me. Out of my right eye, I had seen a flash of green before white and red. I had felt the heat of fear and that of a massive explosion. I had heard the screams of terror, the begging of forgiveness.
Then there had been nothing at all.
Not until I woke four days later.
Still only able to see out of my right eye, the first thing that came blurrily to me was my daughter's sleeping face as she sat in a chair at my bedside. I was in a massive medical recovery bay, surrounded by hundreds of gurneys full of the injured and dying. Looking more closely, I recognized old moldings on the ceiling and the shapes of story tall windows wielding new glass and drapes. Somewhere in my drug fogged mind, I thought I was in Wayne Manor.
I woke again the next morning, this time to Mar'i's smiling face, just as a white garbed nurse finished changing the bandages on my head.
"Daddy?" she said, tears spilling from her glowing green eyes.
"Mare-bear," I croaked back her childhood nickname.
She collapsed onto me, her slender arms snaking around my propped up shoulders, sobs escaping her as she went on about how much she loved me and how sorry she was for everything she had done. I tried to console her best I could but she wouldn't hear it.
"It's all my fault, you tried so hard and I wouldn't listen to you…"
"It's okay, Mar'i. You're okay, that's all that matters."
My daughter spent the next hour getting me up to speed on all that I had missed, never letting go of my hand. Apparently, I had been shot in the face, resulting in cranial bleeding as well as the loss of my left eye. She started to cry again and I was quick to offer a joke, "Damnit, that was the good winking eye…"
"Daddy," she wiped tears from her face, "Don't say that."
"It's true," I winked with my right eye and winced, "See, not as good."
Once she had let out a sad laugh, Mar'i continued, "I found you… laying there… Uncle Roy had taken out the guy who did it to you… he kept screaming my name… when I saw you… I didn't care about anything else. I just sat there, holding onto you… Trying to get you to wake up. I had no idea what was going on around me."
She recounted how the UN had ordered a nuclear strike on the site of the gulag, intended to put an end to the superhero and supervillain madness once and for all. She then said that Batman and Wonder woman had managed to keep two of the three bombs from being dropped.
"And the third?" I asked softly.
"Captain Marvel… he… he detonated the last one up as high as he could… but…"
I took a moment before inquiring, "How are there survivors?"
"The Green Lanterns… All of them combined the power they had left and managed to shelter some of us… but even still…"
I suddenly wanted to ask who was lost, among her allies and mine, but the pain in her face told me that it wouldn't be fair to put her through it. Instead, I asked, "So, where are we?"
Mar'i smiled, "You don't recognize it?"
I nodded my head, "I do, but it's impossible. Wayne Manor was destroyed."
"Nothing that a few dozen superspeed individuals couldn't fix."
I paused again, torn between being happy to be alive and being even happier to have Mar'i back at my side. Fighting a smirk, I questioned, "So… How'd you like working with the old man?"
"Batman?" she grinned, "I think he's crazy… but mega cool."
"Mega cool, huh?"
"Yeah, after everything went down, he went with Wonder Woman and the old Lantern to the UN… Superman lost it, thought that the bomb killed everyone… didn't know there were any survivors. I thought he was going to kill everyone in the building… but they stopped him."
"Mega cool," I repeated again softly.
We spent the rest of the day together and despite the throbbing in my head, I couldn't have felt better. A doctor came by around three with a cup full of pills and a glass of water. After forcing them down my dry throat, I returned the empty cups to her and watched her walk away to the next patient. As I returned my gaze to Mar'i, I spotted a familiar figure approaching, wearing a braces from his neck down over a white tee shirt and frighteningly enough, stonewashed blue jeans.
He paused briefly and touched the shoulder of a young man, smiling down at him before continuing towards me. After he stopped at the edge of my bed, Mar'i glanced up as well, offering a fraction of a smile to her former leader. It might have because I had just been shot in the head and lost one of my eyes, or it might have been because he had just engaged in battle at the age of seventy-six.
Either way, Bruce looked like Hell.
And I told him so.
"You have no depth perception anymore, I don't trust your judgment."
"Well, Robocop, you have a comb over, I'm not sure I trust yours either."
When he finally reached out to shake my hand, we both had smirks on our faces while my daughter looked at us as if we were insane. She promptly stood up, kissed my cheek and excused herself. Bruce slowly sat down and we both watched her walk ten yards away, stopping to kiss the cheek of the man Bruce had acknowledged moments earlier.
"Tell me, Bruce… that's not who I think it is," I growled as I watched Mar'i kiss the man again before continuing on her way.
"Who, him? I'm pretty sure you know who that is."
"Ibn… and Mar'i…" I looked to Bruce, "No."
"Your going to deny your daughter's happiness?" he asked, his face deadpan.
"No, I'm going to deny your son's."
Bruce smirked again, "I hate to admit, I don't think either one of us wields enough parental authority to deter them."
As much as I also hated to admit it, Bruce was right, just as he always had been. After a beat, I spoke, "So… the Manor looks good."
Bruce looked around his recently revived childhood home, "Figured it was about time I spruced it up… although now that its all fixed, I've got three hundred people crashing for the unforeseeable future."
"Stop making jokes, you're scaring me into thinking I've been brain damaged." After he remained silent for a minute, I continued, "What changed your mind? Why did you come to help after waiting so long?"
There was a long pause before he replied, "Partially, it was Clark. He reminded me that I spent my entire life trying to save people, trying to protect them. And that deep down, Batman is just a person who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt."
"I knew eventually that the Outsiders would need to take a stand against the forces of evil. I had intended to swing Captain Marvel to our side before everything went to Hell, but he got away from me when we took down Luthor and his Liberation Front. Thankfully, I knew Clark would be able to persuade Marvel to choose the right side when the battle broke out."
"But why were you there?"
Bruce drew a long breath, looking down at what was left of him, "What you said to me… that night in the Cave. It was true. I had become a shadow of what I once was. You carried on the good fight, Dick. Barbara moved on to make a difference in government, Tim pushed on to develop non-lethal weapons for the military… Cassandra's still out there somewhere… doing whatever she can to escape her ghosts… But me… I let it get the best of me."
"Bruce-," I started.
He cut me off, raising his hand before speaking, "I made Gotham safe, but at what price? My parents would have never wanted me to do half of things I have… and yet I did them without hesitation. Without regret. Until now."
I waited for him to finish, not seeing the man sitting before me that moment but the one that had been in the cave twenty years earlier.
"I wanted to be worthy of my name again, of what it once stood for. I look at you and what you've accomplished… and I realize in the grand scheme of things, I've done nothing, nothing worth remembering. I have a son that I didn't meet until a month ago. A granddaughter I intended to use as a pawn against you… I have no legacy aside from leaving behind a police state that was once a city I loved."
"You still love it, Bruce," I corrected him, "It's just for the first time, you love it too much. You don't trust it to do the right thing, making the decisions for it instead of letting it learn through trial and error. The good people are safe now, but they are afraid. We both know that's not the right way, not the way we ever intended it to be."
He smirked, "Sound like Alfred."
"Someone had to carry on the common sense in this family. Sure as Hell wasn't going to be you," I quipped in return, "I mean… I wasn't joking about the comb over, Bruce. It's ridiculous. Who were trying to win over with that, Selina?"
A serious look came over his face, "Watch it."
"What, is she here?" I sat up slowly, craning my head around to look up and down the rows of gurneys.
After a beat, the gravity of it all returned, pushing the levity aside. I found myself saying, without being prompted, "You were right, Bruce. Your place is here. And so is mine. The Outsiders are great for special occasions, but Gotham has always done well enough with just one or two masked faces racing the rooftops."
He thought to himself before responding, "You should rest up. Brain damage and everything."
When he made a move to get to his feet, I reached out and set my hand on his forearm, "I mean it, Bruce. This is my home just as much as it is yours."
Mar'i was making her way back towards us, giving Bruce the excuse to leave he had been looking for. Looking towards her briefly, I smiled to see Roy was slowly walking alongside her, his right arm in a sling and a cane in his left hand. Before they reached my gurney, Bruce stood, looking down at me, "Get some rest, Dick. We'll talk tomorrow."
He gripped my hand again, a smirk gracing his face once more.
The near end of the world, the loss of thousands of allies and enemies in the blink of an eye and two decades of hating each other… And there we were, together again.
Batman and Robin.