Title: Count Your Losses
Rating: T
Summary: A long time in the future, a little Bat learns a helpful list. "Bats lose their fights. You know that, right?"

Notes: it's more about what it means to be a Bat than about specific characters, but if I had to choose I'd say I was writing this with Jason and Batman (Bruce) in mind, or at least future characters that strongly resemble them.

– The first one. Don't look at me like that, kid – you've all lost something, that's what makes you Bats. Only thing strong enough to inspire in this city.

Now don't worry, I'm not gonna ask what yours was. I can guess, anyway. And I'm not gonna give you my guesses, because chances are you're not trained enough that you'll be able to look not shocked when I get the right one. But if you want me to give you details – it happened a long time ago. Long before you decided to become a cape.

You lost something. Someone. They died or they hurt you so much it was as if they were dead. Or someone you knew did. The pink glasses broke and Gotham stared you in the eye.

And you. Stared back.

And years went by before the costume found you, years that stayed empty, so empty. Hungry with anger. Nothing could fill it up. Maybe you tried with martial art classes – a lot of martial art classes. Or maybe you never took one martial art class in your life at the time, and you just fought? Or you spent your evenings looking for the signal in the sky and frowning and thinking.

Anyway. That's the first.

– The fight you're going to lose. Bats lose their fights. You know that, right? I think you do. Bats never are stupid. Foolish and dense, that and more, but no-one ever accused them of being dumb. Not twice.

There's a fight – usually not on your first night out, though it's been known to happen – a fight you're going to lose. Badly.

Your body will be broken, your throat will be bleeding with screams, your face drenched in tears you'll never realize you shed, you'll barely make it alive, and at the end of the night you'll get fired. That happen to you yet, kid? No, it didn't, did it? I'm glad I got you before you really started, then. Tell you the ropes.

Don't struggle, kid, you'll make it safely tonight. It won't be me. But it will be soon. If you're lucky. Because if you're not, it could be years before it happens.

Did I say you'd barely make it alive? Sorry, my mistake. Chances are you'll die. If you don't? That's a fluke. Don't ever forget it.

The Bat will never let you forget it anyway.

– Don't start crying now, kid, but the others. It might take time, but you'll lose them all. Perhaps even before you realize you have them. Scratch that. Of course before you know you have them. Specially the Bat. Some will just die, and some will turn and then die, and others will die before they are killed.

And you? Oh, kid, it's already too late.

You're a Bat now.

– Every night when the day flees from Gotham and the shadows drown the world and you slip out to patrol. In the moments it takes you to shed your skin and get flying. You have any idea how many people got robbed, hurt, killed?...

And the best part? The best part is, you're never going to get used to it.

– The costume. The cape, the mask, the name.

– Your illusions. By which I mean your faith in the Bat, because you don't get to be a Bat if you believe in something else at all.

Now you're staring at me as if I'm talking crazy talk. And I am, right? Yes, yes of course I am. Don't worry, little one. The Bat will never let you down. The Bat will never betray you. The Bat will never be wrong.

Just obey. You'll be set for life.

Damn, kid... Looking at you, it's just... There's nothing that'd convince you to stop believing in the Bat right now, am I wrong? Short of the Bat killing me right in front of you. And even then, even that... I mean, you'd probably convince yourself that it's an elaborate lie. An hallucination. Or maybe I'm an evil robot.

God. Just. Fuck.

The Bat will never do it, you know that, right? The Bat does not kill. You better get that in your pretty little head right now and burn it into your fucking brain. The Bat doesn't kill, ever. You get that, kid?

...And. Yeah. Your faith in the Bat. Just... Don't fight it, kid. It's too late; you're one of them now.

And, you know... it's the best goddamn feeling you'll ever get in your life. Ever. Except for one thing.

– The Bat's trust. I told you there's a fight, soon, you're going to lose. Down the road you're also going to lose the Bat's trust. And you'll wonder if you ever had it. Welcome to hell.

– The first loss. Not yours; the very first one. It's where everything comes from – the mission, the oath, everything. I know you know it's important, but I'm not sure you get how much it's important to you, personally. Without that very first loss, you wouldn't exist.

That loss, it made the Bat.

And the Bat... think you'd be who you are without the Bat? The person you were before, before you took on the costume and the mask and the name, it's over. Dead, gone, never even existed. A bad dream.

The Bat took you, kid. Owns you. Remember what I said?

Best feeling in the world.

– The rule. 'We never kill'. At one point, you're going to lose it. It. Your sanity, your control, and the rule.

You're going to blow it. Blow it real bad.

If you're lucky it's only once. Once and you know how huge, how awful what you've done is. You never forgive yourself. If you're not lucky? You embrace it.

In any case you abandon the Bat. You don't deserve it. You're a worthless, self-deceiving piece of trash. You failed. You dig in further. You'd do anything, absolutely anything, for the Bat to take you back. It doesn't have to make sense. It just needs to make him react. Do something. Save you.

After all, when you were younger – and fuck, kid, you have no idea how young you are – the Bat always saved you. Swept down from the roof and from the shadows and rescued you from the gloating villain who held you prisoner. You're not getting out of those bonds, by the way, not until you've been seriously trained in escape artistry.

Relax. I told you I'm not killing you, and the Bat's just about-

– Hello, Daddy. Miss me?