AUTHOR: Gaeriel Mallory
DISCLAIMER: All characters are property of DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and whoever else owns them. I own nothing.
SPOILERS: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
NOTE: I had just finished watching the uncut version of BB:ROTJ. Barbara mentioned how it was her father that had helped them after the incident with the Joker and how he kept their secret. I decided that that story needed to be told so I wrote it. I hope you all enjoy.
I drove the route to the old Arkham Asylum. I had gotten the call at my office earlier that night. He asked me to come immediately. That he needed help.
I wondered what would have happened that would have caused Batman to ask for my help.
I parked my car next to the Batmobile and got out. It was a bit creepy walking through the gutted remains of the old insane asylum. I had drawn my gun when I had first arrived, not knowing what I would find. I frowned. I had heard something.
There it was again.
Was it someone crying? Or laughing? I could not tell. I followed the sound to the doors labeled "Operating Theater." I pushed through the doors. "Batman?"
"In here, Jim. Are you alone?"
I entered the room. "Yeah. What was so important that you had to drag me--oh my God."
In the middle of the floor sat Batgirl cradling a young boy in a Joker outfit in her arms. He was crying audibly.
"Is that...?" I asked, afraid of the answer.
"Yes. Robin had been missing for three weeks."
Batgirl looked up at me and I saw tears run out from under her cowl. "Please help us," she begged.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Joker decided to turn Robin into some sick twisted son for himself. The plan backfired." He gestured towards a corner and I saw the Joker's body lying on top of a giant building block, a flag with the word "Bang" on it stabbed into his chest. "When he ordered Robin to kill me, Robin shot him instead."
Just then, Robin sobbed louder. "Br-br-bruce!"
Batman moved over to him. "I'm here, son. I'm here."
I watched the three people who had put their lives on the line to protect this city so many times before.
"S-s-sorry..." Robin cried through his sobbing laughs.
"It's all right, Tim." Batgirl smoothed his hair. "Everything's going to be all right."
My old friend stood up and turned to me. "You know our secret now. Can I trust you?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Never mind that I had had my suspicions for years. I walked over towards Robin. "Hey, son, look at me. I don't know if you can hear me but we're going to help you."
We buried the Joker beneath the old asylum. There would be questions when people realize the clown had disappeared. They needed me to say that I had seen the Joker's body somewhere tonight. Make sure that people knew that he was dead.
I made up some story about how I was down by the docks and had seen the fight between Batman and the clown. How the clown had been shot accidentally by one of his own men and had fallen into the water.
Only five people that I knew of knew the truth. Me, Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Doctor Leslie. I am sure that he later told Alfred, but I never got confirmation of that.
Later that night, Tim had been sedated and was lying in a bed in Leslie Thompson's clinic. Batman had taken off his cowl and was sitting next to him. "How did I let this happen, Jim? How?"
I patted his shoulder. "Why does anything happen? You can't blame yourself, Bruce. If you have to blame someone, blame the Joker and his sick vendetta against you. It's not your fault."
"But it is, Jim. I allowed him to join me in my fight. He was only a child."
"The first Robin was only, what, nine? Tim walked into this eyes wide open. He grew up on the streets. He knew what he was getting into."
"And I dragged Barbara into this too. I wouldn't blame you if you hated me for that."
He had some serious issues. It was the first time he had ever revealed them to me. Though I suppose dressing up as a Bat in tights to fight crime is a sign of some inner turmoil in and of itself. I tried not to think about what that said about my daughter.
"I don't hate you," I assured him. "I admire and respect you. I consider you one of my closest friends."
"Barbara was always afraid that something would happen to her while she was out and that it would force the two of us to become bitter enemies. I suppose I wonder deep inside if that would ever be true."
He remained silent after that so I left him to his thoughts. I found Barbara, still fully in costume, sitting in a chair in the hallway, wrapped in a blanket and a cold cup of coffee in her hand.
"Want to talk about it?" I asked her.
She shook her head.
I sighed and sat down next to her. "I know that you're hurting right now, honey, but you can't bottle up all these emotions."
"Tim's like a brother to me," she whispered. "He had this spirit that just would not break. I didn't think anything would break him. I--I just don't know if all this is worth it anymore."
"What do you mean?"
She looked at me, her bright blue eyes peering at me from behind her cowl. "Are we really doing any good out there, Dad? I mean, in the greater scheme of things. Sure, we may stop a mugging here and a murder there, but in the end, does it really matter?"
I took the coffee from her and set it on the floor. I then hugged her. "Of course it matters," I told her. "Every life is precious, you know that. And if you can save even one, then you have come out ahead."
"Even when it is tearing us all apart? Dick already left. He was so bitter! I don't want to turn out like him."
"Barbara," I told her, "I know you. And I know that there is so much life and good inside of you that you could never become a bitter old woman."
She laughed weakly. "Promise?" she asked.
I pushed back her cowl and kissed her forehead. "I promise."
I suppose I should have seen it coming. After the incident with Robin and the Joker, I watched as their team crumbled apart. It took a year to get Tim anywhere even resembling normal. Even longer for him to smile again.
He never put on the Robin suit again.
And then something happened between Bruce and Barbara. I was never quite sure what but one night, Batgirl stopped showing up when the Batsignal was turned on. Pretty soon, it was just him and me again, as it was in the beginning.
I watched as he pulled inside himself more each day. When I retired, he never even tried to form the close relationship with my replacement that he had shared with me. I worried about him living alone in that great empty house of his after Alfred died.
I hope that one day, he could discover some light in his life again. Until then, I kept an eye on him, my old friend. He still had me, at least.