A/N: Trying out a different one-shot format. Actually, I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out.
Honestly, I'm really surprised that no one has written something like this before. I guess the actual DC comics go into it more than YJ does, but Dick spends all this time trying to not become Batman only to grow up and realize that he's making the same sort of decisions that his mentor would. It just occurred to me that the whole secret undercover mission in season 2 would be a perfect way to explore that concept.
First part is taken straight out of Ep. 17 'Disordered' and the last part is from 'Depths' although it goes a little off script in a couple of places.
In any case, you know the drill. I make no claim on recognizable characters/places. DC is far more talented than me anyway.
"The imprint of the father remains forever on the life of the child."
"I always wanted…expected…to grow up and…and become him…" Dick murmured, eyes locked on the hands in his lap. "…and the hero bit? I'm still all in…but that thing inside him? That thing that drives him to sacrifice everything for the sake of his mission? That's not me…I…I don't want to be the Batman anymore."
And he didn't. Absolutely, unequivocally did not, DID NOT want to become the Batman.
He had seen Bruce, knew Bruce better than anyone save maybe Alfred, and he had seen exactly what being Batman had cost. It was so much more than just physical scars, though there were plenty of those. It was a soul deep, numbing coldness that seeped down and froze anything remotely resembling humanity and left only vengeance and darkness in its wake. It was obsession and pain and the utter inability to show anything close to emotional vulnerability.
And Dick loved Bruce. Loved him so much and owed him so much and it just killed him inside to see that great man fade away into the shadow of the Bat.
Don't get him wrong. Batman was his mentor just as Bruce was his father. He was incredible and awe inspiring and Dick owed just as much to him as he did to Bruce. He never would have become the hero he was today if it wasn't for Batman.
He loved the Bat, loved what the Bat had given him. He loved being Robin, soaring over the streets and saving the day. There was nothing short of his parent's return that could ever make him regret becoming Batman's partner.
But he did not ever want to pay the price that Bruce had paid.
Nightwing frowned as he sat in front of the massive computer. The squeaking of the bats in the background was an eerie counterpoint to his disquieting thoughts.
Fact 1-They had a powerful enemy in the Light, who seemed to be a giant team-up of various villains/villainous organizations around the world. Known members included many of the top level villains that the League had ever fought. Their full roster was unknown.
Fact 2-No matter how hard they tried, the League couldn't seem to pin down the group. Their presence was widespread, undeniable, and impossible to track down. The League knew they were there from the backlash of their actions, but the organization itself remained firmly in the shadows.
Fact 3-During an attempt 3 years ago by the Light to take control of the Justice League, 6 members of the League disappeared for 16 hours. Despite exhaustive investigation and expenditure of resources, they were no closer to discovering what happened during those hours now as they were 3 years ago.
Fact 4-The Light had a partner. No one knew who they were.
No matter how hard Dick looked, there was one inescapable conclusion; they had to change tactics, drastically. Their lack of intel kept them reacting rather than anticipating and that was dangerous. They had to figure out some more effective way to get eyes on the Light.
Dick sort of hated Batman right now.
The man hadn't done anything, at least, he hadn't done anything that Dick hadn't learned to look past, but Batman had taught him how to be suspicious, how to be ruthless and to use everyone around him without regard for anything but the mission. And the plan that had been floating around in Dick's head for the last few weeks was so totally Batman that he hated his mind for coming up with it.
The worst part was that he couldn't stop. No matter how hard he tried to stomp it down the idea just kept popping up. It was percolating in the back of his brain every minute, becoming clearer, filling out logistics and method. Dick's brain was creating a fully-fledged long term mission and he couldn't stop it.
The plan was coldly logical. It was underhanded and manipulative. His friends would never forgive him…and it just might work.
The four were silent for a long moment. Artemis and Wally sat together on the couch, legs close enough to touch. The two shared a look. Artemis bit her lip. Wally's eyes were hard and angry. Kaldur sat a little apart, eyes down on his hands. No one could tell what he was thinking.
Dick wouldn't meet any of their eyes.
"You…" Wally sounded strangled. "…I can't even…No man! No way! I mean, think for a minute…"
"I have thought about it." Nightwing interrupted softly. "I've thought about how much damage they could do if we can't get a better watch on them. I've thought about how close we came to total disaster three years ago. I've thought about any way we could possibly avoid this option while still getting results and came up empty." His voice was calm and level from where he leaned against the wall. "I know what I'm asking."
"You're asking him to give up everything." Wally spat. In all their years as friends, Dick didn't think he had ever seen Wally so angry at him. "After everything that's happened in the last couple of weeks…he's just had his entire world ripped out from under him and you have the nerve to dump this on him?! You haven't even given him time to breathe!"
"The last few weeks," Nightwing said, pushing off the wall. "Are exactly why this'll work. Tula's death, Kaldur's father…it's a believable circumstance. He's the only one who can do it."
"What about me?" Artemis piped in. "I've got the same blood ties and I might fit in better." She glanced at the Atlantian. "No offense Kal, but you're kind of a boy scout."
Nightwing was already shaking his head. "You showed where your loyalties were three years ago." He stated. "It would smell like a set up."
Wally and Artemis didn't look convinced.
Dick sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look," He said. "Sportsmaster is a lone wolf. Everyone is an enemy. Everyone is out to get him. He'd never let you close enough. But Manta? He runs a military organization. He understands teamwork, rewards loyalty." He gave them a pointed look. "Anger makes people do funny things. A change of allegiance after the ultimate betrayal? He'll buy that…given enough time to prove Kaldur's loyalty."
"How much time are we talking?" Artemis asked warily.
Dick bit his lip. "…I don't know." He admitted.
Wally looked about ready to go off again but Kaldur beat him to the punch. "My friends," He placated, looking up from his hands. "Nightwing is right. It must be I that does this thing."
He had lied to them. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
He had told them that it would only be the four of them who knew. Anyone else would just be a liability. 'Don't tell anyone' he had said, not their teammates, not their mentors, just the people actively involved in the mission.
Then he had told Batman.
It wasn't that he didn't trust his teammates, he trusted them with his life, but the more people to know about this the less secure it would be and he wasn't willing to risk Kaldur's life to spare M'gann and Conner's feelings…and if the mentors knew than pretty soon everyone would know.
But he had told Batman.
How could he not? If something went wrong…if something happened to Dick…It could happen. Their lives were dangerous. In that scenario there would have to be someone to take his place. Batman was the logical choice, and truthfully the only choice that Dick could trust to see this thing through.
Plus he had to know. Dick needed someone to handle the League just as he would handle the team. They had to make sure that Kaldur wasn't compromised or captured before the time was right. It might blow the whole thing and the four of them had given too much to see that happen. Batman was his inside man, his ace in the hole.
Wally, Artemis, Kaldur. M'gann and Conner. He had lied to everyone.
Artemis looked at them, unchanged to their eyes but a stranger to anyone else.
This was it. Two years and more tears than any of them wanted to think about and it was finally coming together.
For a long moment no one said anything, as if speaking would somehow speed up the end of the meeting. All were painfully reminded of a similar scene. The last time the four had been together before Kaldur's 'betrayal'. Just like that moment, all of them knew that this might be the last time they saw each other.
They were playing a dangerous game after all.
A beeping from Kaldur's gauntlet broke the spell. The Atlantian glanced down at his arm. "It's time." He informed them.
Artemis and Wally embraced while the others looked away to give the couple some semblance of privacy. She crushed her lips to his, and if there was a good measure of desperation in that kiss, no one mentioned it. Reluctantly, Artemis drew away from her boyfriend's face, one hand rose to cup his cheek. Her voice shook. "What could happen?" She asked, smiling sadly.
Despite himself, Wally laughed. "Don't say that!" He admonished, capturing her hand in his. His voice turned serious. "Just be careful." He pleaded.
Afterward, he and Nightwing watched as Kaldur and Artemis disappeared into the sub. It seemed all too soon before the vessel dove, dropping under the filthy bay water and taking Artemis with it. The two young men were left gazing at nothing through the twilight gloom.
Nightwing shifted awkwardly, feeling the tension exude from the man beside him. "We're through the hard part," He offered, breaking the silence. "They're in."
Wally just turned away. "Who are you kidding?" He snarled. "It only gets more dangerous from here."
He stomped towards the stairwell, but paused and turned to regard his friend. The blacks and blues of Nightwing's uniform half hid him in the darkening smog. The mask revealed nothing of what might be going through his head. "You look just like him right now." Wally noted before spinning away.
Out of everything he might have said to Dick in that moment, that one hurt the most.
A/N: So what did you think? Please let me know. Any feedback is absolutely welcomed. :)