Warnings: Character Deaths, timey whimey shenanigans; Spoilers for Justice League Generation Lost # 14.
The wars are getting worse. There isn't much of Gotham left now and, the way the fighting is going, in a few years there won't be a Gotham left to protect. Even now, on the reddening horizon, there are flashes of light as metas and humans fight to determine the future of this world.
Damian Wayne knows it's a fight the world is going to lose in the long run. If the bombs don't get them, the OMACs will. If the OMACs don't get them, starvation and the plague will. The world around him is collapsing and all he can do is try to staunch the flow of civilian blood within his own city.
Gotham breeds strong hearts. Her people have a way of surviving. And as Batman, the very embodiment of his promise to his father to protect this city, Damian owes them his help.
Damian raises his head, turning approach his protégé, the new Nightwing. He's Dick's kid - some twenty years Damian's junior – and Damian likes to think Dick'd be proud of how he turned out, all things considered. Damian isn't the easiest to get along with and he certainly hadn't ever expected to take on a Robin, let alone raise a kid, not with the way things had been going.
But he had.
"Give me a hand," the Kid says, leaning against a concrete slab. Damian puts his back against it as well, firmly planting his feet, and together they push until the slab gives away.
Beneath it is a half-collapsed laundry room. The woman, a red-head, is dead, crushed by one of the support beams. The boys clinging to her body are not. Dark haired and soot-stained, they stare out of the rubble at him with hauntingly familiar blue eyes. It reminds him instantly and terribly of the night he'd pulled Dick's kid out of the ashes of the first bombings, away from the corpse he'd once called brother. It leaves a bitter taste and he wonders if the Kid sees the similarities, too.
If he does, the Kid doesn't let it slip – he's seen too much death since the wars started.
Damian descends slowly, so as not to alarm them or upset the surviving structure, and holds out his hand. "Come on. It's time to go."
The boys stare at him as if he were not really there.
He sighs and makes a move to pick up the younger one, the toddler. When he touches him, it's as if a spark suddenly lights and the younger one is screaming while the older one charges him. He's only a kid, though, maybe a little older than Damian was when he came to Gotham, and he stands a better chance of hurting himself on Damian's armor than he does actually hurting Damian himself.
"Kid, stop," he says, catching one of the smaller fists and wincing as the boy cries out. "We're here to help."
The Kid drops down soundlessly and gently pries the boy's fist out of Damian's grasp. "Your mom asked us to look after you."
It's a lie they've told a thousand times, but it works and the fight leaves the older boy. In his arms, the toddler stills, fat tears threatening to spill from his eyes.
"What's your name?" the Kid asks.
"Terry," the older boy says, turning to look at him. "He's Matt."
"Mommy's s'eeping. Won' get up," the toddler says with the strange sort of denial that only the very young possess.
The older boy looks at his brother and it's an ugly, indecisive look.
The smile the Kid gives the toddler is strained. "She's just tired. We're going to let her rest, okay?"
"Kay," the toddler says.
Damian passes him to the Kid and watches as he climbs out. "Terry."
The boy's head snaps around at the sound of his name.
"Is there anyone else down here?" Damian asks.
The boy shakes his head.
"Come on," he says and carefully lifts the boy out, handing him into the Kid's waiting hands. He looks back at the woman for a moment, sighs, and then climbs back out.
In the light, the boys are ghostly, covered in concrete dust, and they blink at the sky in silent awe. The Kid turns to him, smiling a little, and for a single painful heartbeat, he's the spitting image of Dick.
"So what are we going to do with them?" he asks. "Take them to the refugee camp?"
It's understaffed, overcrowded, and woefully running short on supplies. Gotham isn't the only city suffering in this war. Soon, it'll be full of disease, fighting and corruption, just like all the others that have come before. An older kid by himself might be able to survive, but not with the younger tagging along.
As if he knew they were talking about him, the older of the two boys, Terry, turns his head to look at them.
There's something about his face, the familiar shape of his eyes and jawline, and Damian finds himself thinking of the pictures of his father and himself as a child. The resemblance is uncanny.
"Uncle D?" the Kid asks.
Damian blinks, taking a breath, and starts forward. "We'll take them with us."
97 years later, Damian watches in horror as the Kid's grandson, Tommy Grayson aka Red Hood, is ripped apart from the inside by the OMAC virus, Fire Sky. The gigantic blue monstrosity wheels, crushing the remains of Tommy's armor beneath its feet as it fires and reduces the Blue Scarab and the latest Black Canary to ash. It then turns its sights on him and Damian knows he cannot mourn now – he's got a job to do.
He shouts out his computer's findings, launching his power armor into overdrive as the new Shazam, Sahar Saheen, leaps into battle beside him.
Red light bathes them and he crashes to the floor of the moon base, servos overloading and he hits the ground hard enough to see stars. He swears he heard his vertebrae crack and knows that maybe this time he won't make it back to the Manor's Lazurus Pit.
Plastic Man's clone shrieks in pain, splattering across the walls. And then he can hear something – Captain Atom.
Captain Atom's fighting back. He's screaming at Kara, begging her to tell him what happened to create this timeline before he gets pulled back into the past.
Damian curses, struggling to lift himself, but the armor's heavy, he is badly injured, and, with a sudden twinge of real horror, he realizes the bottom portion of his sealed cowl is shattered, exposing him to the virus. Tommy's death replays in the back of his head and he can feel his gorge rising, but he chokes it down and barks out his last orders as Batman.
Then he collapses, thinks of all the Robins, Nightwings, Red Hoods and Batgirls he's trained, and of all the family he's buried in his long life. He thinks of Tommy, who was always a light in the darkness – "Wake up, old man!" -, of Terry and Matt who were as close to sons as he's ever had – "I want to help... we want to help!" -, and of the Kid, who was so much like Dick it hurt – "What was my dad like when he was Nightwing?" He thinks of Dick – "I'm proud of you, Damian" -, of Jason – "You've got guts, kid" -, of Tim – "Maybe you're okay after all, jerk" -, of Alfred – "Your move, young master," -, and last of all he thinks of his father – the memory of his rare smile of approval, the hand on his head as he'd tried to emulate with all his children, all his protégés, and those words he'd always wanted to hear: "I love you, son."
Damian closes his eyes as the explosions start and then...
AN: This started out as the Five Times Damian Saved Terry's Life and One Time Terry Saved Damian's, and then it hit the multiple choice and number of cancelled futures of the pre-nu52 DC universe and exploded like the TARDIS.
Justice League Generation Lost 014 has one of those cancelled futures. And yeah, it's pretty awful. Ruined planet, war everywhere, the Justice League is literally down to nine and oh by the way, I wasn't kidding when I said Tommy was ripped apart from the inside.
But, as you know, a world doesn't get that bad overnight. There were 100+ years involved there. So I'm like let's see an earlier glimpse of that timeline and then show when it gets cancelled out. Bueno.
As a note, I'd say the Kid's real name is probably John, after Dick's dad, but Damian would never use it.