Disclaimer: Characters owned and operated by DC comics / Time Warner / WB, used without permission and without profit. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: AU.

* * * * *

Darkness
By Gen X

* * * * *

Terry stumbled once, then again. His hand shot out to hold himself upright. Leaning on the side of the batmobile, he limped towards the main part of the cave unaware of the scarlet trail he was leaving behind. His breathing was labored, and he struggled for each successive step. Peripherally, he heard barking. Nevertheless, Ace went unnoticed as the dog walked aside Terry. From a corner of the cave, Matt broke out into a run at the sight. Quickly, his mother snatched him up and Mary McGinnis held her youngest son tightly. She watched as Wayne made his way forward to her eldest. The old man bent slightly to take up Terry's weight and helped him down to the table.

Bruce surveyed the wounds trying to stay calm and detached. A broken leg, two shots to the abdomen, possible arterial bleeding. The suit was charred and warm to the touch. Blood tricked from the side of Terry's mouth unto the cowl. Gently, Bruce pushed it back.

Terry's eyes wandered as he tried to focus. The faint light from the cave was almost too bright, especially after seeing the world through computerized lenses. "Where...?"

"What do you remember?" Bruce's kept his voice low. He gestured to Mary and she hurriedly to a med table. She looked confused for a moment at the array of pills and needles then through some instinct gathered up a bottle and rushed back over.

As if in a daze, Matt walked towards his brother. Here was Batman, lying, dying, struggling to breath, but it was his brother. And his brother was dying. Unashamed, tears feel from his eyes. He blinked as he felt softness brush against him. His hand reached out to pet Ace, but ended up clinching the fur tightly as they walked towards the table together.

Sounds echoed off the cave as Bruce and Mary flew back and forth from table to table. Harsh swears and heaving breathes intermixed as empty bottles fell to the ground. Rhymic beeping continued and new machines began to flash and whirr. Yet, somehow, over everything, Matt could hear Terry's ragged breathes. He stood, unblinking, focused upon his brother. The boy stood staring at the crimson trickle as it continued to flow, in dark globs, looking almost black under the tinted lights

Unlike Matt, Ace's head tracked the movement. Swinging back and forth as Mary spun near constantly around. Her hands hit the tray panicked, as she tried to read labels amidst the tears. Wayne's voice grew louder and more insistent as the seconds flew by.

Bruce watched as Terry's eyes would slowly close then snap open again, as if the boy had forgotten something urgent. There was a moment just as his eyes opened where Terry would focus but then it was lost as he wondered why he hurt so bad

Terry coughed, and struggled to force the liquid away from his lungs. Wayne moved swiftly, ready to intubate, and Matt shut his eyes tightly not wanting to watch. His tiny hands were clenched into white knuckled grip, intertwining in Ace's short hair. Closing his eyes didn't help, his mind replayed the scene in vivid detail.

He listened to the sounds. The short beeps. Wayne's near growl. Ace's whines. His mother gasping for breath as she hyperventilated. Matt tore his hands away and covered his ears, trying to block out the sound. Matt tried to go far away and maybe if he could make everything stop then maybe this wouldn't be happening

Minutes passed, or maybe hours, or even seconds, and then his mother pulled his hands away, and wrapped him in a breathless hug. She held him tightly as salty drops fell freely from her eyes.

And Matt knew.

He held his mother until the shock passed, then he pushed violently away. Finally free, he ran to his brother. Vision blurred, he stumbled towards Terry. His eyes darted up to the now soundless machine. This wasn't fair! Batman was a hero! Heroes weren't supposed to die. Terry was his brother, and if his brother left then it'd just be him and Mom. Terry wasn't supposed to leave. And Matt started shouting, and hitting, and crying.

And Mary looked on, her heart weighted even more by her son's actions.

And Ace whined in commiseration.

And the light continued to shine faintly.

And Bruce walked towards Matt, with slow deliberate steps. Wayne's presence cast his shadow over Matt and partially over Terry, and Matt stopped. He turned to look up at Bruce with wide bloodshot eyes. Matt's heart raced, beating loudly in his own ears. His breathing slowed ever so slightly as he waited expectantly looking at the old man.

Bruce knelt down onto the cold floor. He put his hand on Matt's shoulder. "I'm sorry," he imparted and stayed unmoving. Matty nodded, mechanically, as if it were what he was supposed to do.

A harsh cry broke the moment and almost everyone's eyes shot skyward.

Dark wings beat loudly like thunder as bats circled overhead. They dipped and swirled, screeching their own song of mourning. They flew faster and faster, silent once again. The slap of their wings like a heartbeat. And then there was as cackle. And sparks. The bats stopped flying, retreating back into the shadows. The overhead lights flickered. Once. Twice, then retreated as well. And the cave descended into darkness.

Automatically, Bruce was moving. He turned away from the remnants of the McGinnis family, now transfixed and overwhelmed by all they had seen. He head towards another part of the cave. The computer or the circuit breaker. The circuitry mocked him, electricity bit at his fingertips, until finally it yielded. And white light shone down upon the Terry's unmoving form, bathing it in light. The brightness didn't dissipate and seemed drawn to his form.

Matt moved out of the circle of light nudged along by Ace. He flung himself upon his mother who picked him up and quickly turned him, shielding his eyes from the light. Wayne watched as tiny sparks began to fly, and quickly shut the circuit box. He walked silently back, unnerved as he looked at his prodigy under the light. From across the room, his eyes locked with Mrs. McGinnis's. Then as if sharing the same thought, they traveled downwards, looking at the man that was both special and irreplaceable. And gone.

Mary looked up with bright eyes, holding Matt even tighter. She watched, for some reason amazed, as tears fell from Wayne's face. Their eyes locked once again, this time in commiseration and understanding and sadly, acceptance. Then, with a loud pop, the light above burnt out and darkness reigned once again.

fin