Disclaimers: DC uber alles.
Spoilers: Works in current Teen Titans canon, an AU
version of Superman/Batman, a great deal of old,
not quite so old, and vaguely current Batman and a
few other Batverse titles, too. And Young Justice.
And... look, there's a lot.
Summary: Life goes on.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R for themes. Content some
readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: At the end. First part of a planned
Acknowledgments: To Livia and Jack for helping me
work this out in my head. They and Branwyn also
audienced and gave many helpful suggestions.
He has a new nightmare.
When he was younger, he would joke about the
idea, albeit mostly to himself. Sometimes to Alfred
when he was particularly punchy, or when the man
had managed to slip him painkillers despite all of
his efforts to the contrary.
"One day," he'd say, "I'll wake up screaming for
entirely new reasons."
He hadn't needed Alfred's tight little frown to know
how terrible the thought was, or even Alfred's
telling silences. To leave Alfred speechless, wit-less,
was to do something truly awful.
A dance, perhaps, on his own open grave.
And, of course, it was.
When the Graysons had been killed, there was proof
enough of that. Batman had never expected to ever
feel more helpless than he had in that alley -- than
he *does* in that alley, night after night. But
watching Dick's parents fall, time and again...
Still, the connection to his own grief and rage was
clear enough for even his own blindly, mindlessly
screaming subconscious to pick up on.
It wasn't a new nightmare.
He'd never spent much time in Kansas, if it could
possibly be helped. The spoken and half-spoken
reasons were true enough -- Superman's influence
fell over the Midwest like a great, primary-colored
pall, and he had his own... territory to consider.
And there was the matter of professional courtesy,
of course. He doesn't invite himself into Superman's
backyard unless absolutely necessary, and he
expects the same consideration in return.
'Fruitlessly hopes,' would, perhaps, be the better
There are other reasons, as well.
They are all the products of their upbringings, of
their *childhoods*, and when he is feeling objective,
he knows he cleaves to his own at least as much
as Superman does to his. And they are -- were --
A joke for the better times, and something else
entirely for the others.
He has saved Superman's life enough times that he
has no doubt in his mind that Martha and Jonathan
Kent would have welcomed him with the same easy,
open affection that Alfred has for Superman. For
He knows himself well enough to understand how...
disconcerting that would have been, how very much
he would be reminded of everything he hadn't had,
and, perhaps, should have. The fact that there is no
chance for that now has its own brand of crawling,
The Kents are dead, and his new nightmare is the
color of terrifyingly broad and blue skies and growing
wheat. Of open, vulnerable sunshine and blood and
fire, because the Kents are dead, and so is Robin.
Tim, he says to himself, and says it again and again
within the silence of his own mind, and to the
blankness of the ceiling over the bed. He isn't sure
whether he wants to remind and punish himself, or
whether some part of him hopes the repetition --
Tim -- will provide numb unreality.
Every grief is new, and there is a humorless irony
that even *he* has not yet found some way to put
it in perspective. No, not irony. Self-pity.
There's relief in that, as well. He has neither the
time nor the room for self-pity, and so everything
that can be classified as such can also, safely and
securely, be tucked away.
He squeezes his eyes shut.
The curtains are excellent, but his body is trained.
The quality of the light that isn't coming through
the windows tells him that it's early afternoon. Bruce
Wayne has nowhere to be today. Alfred is clearly
hoping he'll sleep.
Only the fact that he should is keeping him in bed.
Tim is dead.
How... completely, utterly ridiculous it is that he would
die in *Smallville*. Visiting his... friend. An old,
comfortable voice leaps up from the back of his mind,
brimming with dire satisfaction about the danger of
unnecessary attachment. 'I told you, I told you, I told
you so...' But who had told Tim?
What sort of example had he been?
His parents had been very popular, and many people
had loved them -- from a distance.
The memories he has of them that have nothing to do
with blood and death are of two people perfectly
content within themselves, *with* themselves, and
him. They hadn't needed anything or anyone else,
save, of course, for Alfred. In the irresistible honesty
of daylight, Batman knows that he needs far more
(Tim is dead.)
That the presence in his life of the others -- *all* of
the others -- has as much to do with his inability to
truly, honestly push them aside as it does with their
kindness, generosity, and inexplicable love.
There is nothing easy about this, and nothing deniable.
Only the fact that he has, as yet, expressly forbidden
Alfred to open the Manor to them is keeping them
away now. No, that's not why. Alfred understands him,
and knows that he needs this time.
Alfred will allow him exactly as much as he feels is
necessary, and no more.
Alfred will be absolutely correct.
There is an image in his mind of Tim, of Robin --
because, while the two were not nearly as effortlessly
seamless as Dick and Nightwing, or Batgirl and Barbara
before Joker, the similarities remained. None of them...
*all* of them had managed the dichotomy far, far
better than he himself has done.
The Tim in his mind is on the edges of a gathering. All
of them are there, demanding his attention (his love,
his respect, good soldiers) with nothing more grating
than the force of their own personalities.
Azrael would be there, and perhaps Huntress. He has
meant... Batgirl would be somewhere near to whichever
monitor offered Barbara's face, in spirit if not in body.
And Tim would be... there. A part of the Cave less
specific in geography than in simple necessity. A space
apart for himself, watchful and silent until such time as
he was absolutely sure of whatever he wanted to say.
And it would be direct. Honest -- perhaps brutally so --
and it would...
They are all his family, and he knows them as well as
he's able. He knows that Dick, at least, worries about
Tim. Worried. Tim had perhaps a fraction of Dick's
passion, and found little reason to share what emotions
he *did* have, preferring to rely on his considerable
intellect when he couldn't keep his own counsel.
"Batman needs a Robin," he'd said when they'd met,
and Tim had done everything in his power to make
sure Batman *had* a Robin, deliberately placing
himself in this life long before he had any personal
reason to do so.
When Batman had allowed himself to think of the
passing years, of Tim growing older and moving on,
it was never with the heart-stopping fear and
sadness that remains overlaid on his memories of Dick
coming of age. Or... not entirely.
Because he *is* Batman far more often than he is
anything else, and he has no doubt in his mind that
when Robin's -- not Tim Drake's -- will is read, there
will be... provisions, or at least preparations.
Tim was absolutely ruthless. With himself and the rest
of the world. Batman needs a Robin, and the part of
him that is only here in this bed to wait for nightfall is
deeply curious and coldly, terribly *ready*.
Batman needs a Robin.
The hardest part of what is to come -- and it *will*
come, he will not deny his family this -- is the fact
that, of course, Tim will not be there.
And Tim is exactly who Bruce needs to see right now.
Needs to *hear*, and to... God, it would be enough
to see the edge of his cape out of the corner of his
eye, to know the boy is only waiting for his time to
He was... so right. So careful and so right and so
*safe*, because it has been a long, long time since
he has ever truly been able to believe that anything,
anywhere would work out without death and pain,
but he hadn't thought it would be Tim.
He breathes around the spiked lump of emotion in
his throat, breathes and breathes until the act is
something like natural again, and almost misses the
quiet knock on the door.
"Come in, Alfred."
Alfred pauses by the side of the bed, mouth twitching
briefly with what would almost certainly be an old,
familiar comment on his sleeping habits that doesn't
actually come. So much grief.
Alfred nods slowly in acknowledgment, before taking
a painful-sounding breath of his own. "There is
"The president..." A different twist to his mouth. "Mr.
Luthor has died of his wounds. It appears his
physicians were unable to detach the... suit from his
This is not a surprise. Superman... no. Clark had taken
one look at what was left of his childhood home and
blown Luthor's legs off with his heat vision. The
wounds had cauterized instantly, of course, but...
"That suit was probably the only thing keeping him
alive at this point."
"As you say. There remains some question as to when
the warrant on Superman will be lifted, but --"
"They're going to try him for this."
Alfred raises an eyebrow. "With respect, Master Bruce,
that does not seem to be the prevailing attitude, at
the moment. Superman has been... explicit about his
Which was... perhaps to be expected. It had taken
relatively little indeed for *him* to try to put aside
his Bruce Wayne identity, and quite a lot to get him
to take it back. Clark... it isn't difficult to imagine the
man believing that there was no longer any point to
hiding, even with Lois.
He doesn't think Clark is with Lois right now. He lets
himself close his eyes for a moment before speaking.
"He will *make* them try him. It's the only thing he
"Hm. I trust you intend to convince him otherwise?"
"He'd do the same for me. He *has* done the same."
"I am not arguing, Master Bruce. This is..." Alfred
shakes his head and reaches down to squeeze his
shoulder briefly. "You are not alone. None of you."
The Tim in his mind has only a smirk for that, and the
wordless whisper of 'of course not.' "Sometimes...
sometimes I wonder if that isn't the problem, Alfred."
Alfred smiles at him, small and affectionate. "A
complication of the human condition, I'm afraid. If I
"I find myself tempted to hold you to that, but... for
now, it would perhaps be helpful to take Master Dick
along when you go to see Superman."
He nods. "They have a bond."
"Indeed. And Master Dick may succeed if you fail to do
"Alfred. He... Tim." His breath is ragged and painfully
obvious to his own ears. He stares at the ceiling and
"I have... the police reports were admirably thorough,
Master Bruce. It is... it is likely that the first
"It's not enough."
"I need to be alone again, Alfred. Just for now."
The touch this time is the barest pat. "For now, Bruce."
He waits for night.
They are -- all of them -- on the edges of his vision as
he patrols. A flash of blue as he zip-strips the hands of
a dealer who had decided to fight instead of
surrendering. A deeper shadow than should exist
above and across the street as he examines a crime
scene before the police arrive. Huntress is, perhaps
predictably, more blatant. He finds the stock broker he'd
been watching off and on for the past several months
hanging outside of his penthouse apartment from the
balcony, several papers that would doubtless prove
incriminating stapled to his person.
He would have to talk to her about that. Blood could
The smile on his face feels perfectly familiar, and that
hurts more than anything else. He breathes and makes
his way to the roof of the building. And waits.
The soft footfall of courtesy, rather than necessity.
The sharp, brief click of boot heels. The deepening
silence. The knowledge that one or all of them is
broadcasting this to Oracle. And... and nothing.
The weight of Tim's regard is absent, and makes him
feel far too stripped for this. Batman needs...
It would be tempting to let this, *all* of this come
out as anger. To point out the ways they were all too
obvious tonight, and ignore the purpose behind it all.
He knows they expect no different.
"I know," he says. "But... not now. Please."
The sound of fabric and the sensation of movement
occurring just beyond the range of his own
awareness. He doesn't need to turn to see Batgirl's
hand on Nightwing's arm -- he knows it's there.
They leave, more or less together, and Batman
prepares for the rest of his patrol.
"There *is* something you should know."
"I don't mean..." The voice-scrambling software makes
a hash of her sigh. "He's here."
"The clone." Again.
"He hasn't done anything, as near as I can tell, though
it's possible that he was behind the armed robbery
report that got cancelled earlier."
Batman grits his teeth, and forces himself to stop. "I
won't allow him to... work. Not here."
"Then you should probably talk to him. He's near the
docks. N has already tried and failed to communicate."
"Why is he *here*?"
There is silence over the communicator, and Batman
curses himself. The question is both egregiously
stupid and a loss of the control he desperately needs
to *show* them -- all of them -- if not actually feel.
"I'll talk to him. Batman out."
The line remains open, heavy with the weight of
everything Oracle isn't saying. Closing it would bring
the others back faster than anything short of a level
one distress call.
Tim smirks from the shadows of Batman's mind as he
sets the line and jumps.
He sees the clone register his presence. The tension
is obvious, and inexpertly hidden. It's a moment
Batman has come to find entirely familiar, although the
way the clone slumps when the moment passes owes
more to resignation than anything else. Familiar, too,
in its way, though not from members of their...
He moves closer, deliberately making enough noise
for the clone to track his presence. He doesn't want to
"I knew you'd come." The clone's voice is no different
from that of any teenager.
"Then you know you shouldn't be here."
"Where else -- look, I'm not doing anything. I'm not...
I wouldn't try."
Batman pauses, and thinks. He had... forgotten that
the clone had been living with Clark's parents. This
could very well be the way they drag Clark out of
wherever (the Fortress) he'd gotten himself to after
Luthor. Clark's sense of responsibility was legendary
for a reason.
"Do you have any place where you can go?"
"What?" The clone finally stands and looks at him,
eyes wide with confusion. "Oh. I... I'm staying out
west. At the Tower."
Batman nods, and watches. The clone shoves its hands
in its pockets and looks down. "Look, I... I know you
don't want me here. I understand. It should've been..."
When the clone's face crumples, it looks more like
Clark than Batman knows what to do with. He clenches
his fists at his sides.
"It's just that..."
The clone either doesn't hear Batman's tone or chooses
not to do so.
Another brand of familiarity.
"This was his home," it says. "I mean. I've been to his
house -- you know that." The clone scrubs a hand
through its close-cropped hair. "But this was his *real*
home. I've never seen him happier or more *relaxed*
than when he was out here in the middle of the night,
kicking ass and taking fucking names. I -- Jesus.
"I... I miss him so much, Batman."
When Starfire had contacted him about the newest
incarnation of the Titans, he'd been... Tim had been
withdrawn, and carrying more *weight* than was his
usual. Strained enough to be noticeable.
And Batman had remembered how much good the
Titans had been for Dick, and how often the League
had proven... less than terrible for himself. It hadn't
been a difficult decision to make, and the only regret
he'd had about it was this, right here. This *clone*.
Tim's... friend. Tim's friend, no matter what Batman
would have chosen for him.
"You're pretty much just going to stare at me until I
leave, aren't you?"
He takes a breath, fully aware that it's obvious. The
wary ruefulness on the clone's face shifts to
something else. "I do, too. I miss him."
The clone blinks, surprise etched on his face to a
nearly comical degree. And then its face crumples
again, and this time it doesn't settle back into the
old, too-familiar lines of bland resemblance. Crying.
(a kid like me)
Tim's voice is clear. Insistent and angry. Every
argument, every flat rejection of Batman's attempts
to steer him away from the clone.
(his name is *Kon* and he's)
It -- *he* -- tenses when Batman pulls him close, but
it doesn't last.
Superboy sobs into his armor and clings.
He'd given Clark a week to come back. A week of
disasters, natural and otherwise that the rest of the
League handled more or less successfully. He'd owed
him that, as well. It was only when the tracers he'd
put on Lois' credit cards began showing purchases
that hinted at an imminent arctic expedition that he
knew he couldn't give him any more than that.
Lois informed him that she'd wait precisely forty-
His own preparations are easier -- this isn't a trip
Bruce Wayne needs to make, or Dick Grayson for
Bruce has other things to do.
"Are you sure? I mean, I could just fly up there
and..." Kon hangs his head.
He doesn't often meet Bruce's eyes, even now, though
he supposes the clone -- the *boy* -- has reason
enough to be troubled by the idea of talking to Clark
just now. Robin had been at the Kents', but he hadn't
been Luthor's target -- probably.
They'd never know for sure.
He puts his hand on the boy's shoulder and squeezes.
"I just. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing
here, Bruce." Spoken to the floor. "I appreciate it --
God, I appreciate it -- but... I don't want to just..."
"You aren't a burden."
The boy flinches, but looks at him. "Are you sure about
"Yes." He squeezes Kon's shoulder again. "I have...
I've been thinking about it. What you can do." He
winces internally at his own awkwardness. He'd
wanted more time to figure out how to have this
"It isn't something..." He lets the rueful smile find
its way on to his face. "We'll talk about it when I
get back. For now..." Do your homework? The boy
isn't even in school anymore. They'll have to do
something about that, too.
"I'll... um. Talk to Alfred some more?"
Kon gives him a rueful smile of his own and steps
back, shrugging. "I can do that."
He watches the boy walk out of the study and tries to
ask the Tim in his head if he's doing the right thing, or
even moving in remotely like the right direction. Calling
it a 'decision' to bring the boy back here would be
a vast exaggeration.
The instructions Tim had left for Alfred about the
disposition of his -- Robin's -- possessions had been
explicit. The letters he'd left for them -- all of them...
He hasn't been able to read his own, yet.
("Dear Bruce, I'm so sorry...")
Not all of it.
Alfred has told him that Superboy wasn't expressly
mentioned, beyond a request to try to tone back his
use of the phrase 'the clone.'
Which, considering everything they know now about
the boy's origins, is more than understandable. He
doesn't have to guess what Luthor's reasoning had
been in dropping his little bombshell now, but he
wishes he could go back and shake Tim for deciding
that Kon's... parentage was something that had to
be kept from him.
As if *that* could ever be the problem.
He wishes he'd given Tim anything like a reason to
trust him on this. He wishes --
(I'm so sorry)
He doesn't know what the letter left for Superboy
says. He doesn't want to.
He comes back to himself at the sound of voices in
the hall, and Dick pushes into the study with
something like the ghost of his usual smile. He's
wearing a loose sweater and jeans that would
probably be slightly too big for him -- the suit is
under his clothes.
"Ready? Wait, why am I asking?"
He manages something like a smile of his own and
heads for the Cave.
Dick traces a hand over the display. "Check."
"Really? I mean, check."
There was a time when Dick wouldn't have needed to
ask. The fact that he *does* need to... is entirely his
own fault. "I wanted... to talk."
Dick takes a deep breath and turns deliberately to
face him. "About Superman?"
He feels his face twist into a smile. "No."
"Yeah, I was kind of figuring we'd wind up taking
turns hitting him until Lois arrived to pick up the
"It... might not be that bad."
Dick gives him a wry look. "Don't get me wrong, I like
the guy, but he can be as mule-stubborn as you."
"He has reason."
Dick looks away, fingers tapping a rhythmically
nervous tattoo on the console. "Sometimes I forget..."
He shakes his head. "It's too much that Tim's gone.
Everything else is..."
"More than too much."
"Yeah, that. Bruce... how are you doing? Really."
I don't know. As well as can be expected. "Badly."
Dick nods slowly. "Does it help? Having Superboy in
the Manor, I mean."
"I... I don't actually know. It's what I wanted to talk
to you about."
"Well. He'd matured a lot even before..." Dick
swallows. "Tim was a good influence on him."
"Tim cared about him."
"Yeah. I always meant to ask him... I mean, Superboy's
nice enough, and good in a fight, but I always kind of
wondered what it was that made Tim pick *him* to be
his best friend. And he was."
Bruce stares at the sky. The clouds are thin and white
and blameless. "I have to admit; I was hoping you'd
The wry look is back, and obvious even at the edge of
Bruce's peripheral vision. "Tim never talked much
about... anything, really."
Bruce blinks. "No? The two of you..."
Dick waves a hand. "I mean, we talked. We had..."
When Bruce looks at him, Dick is grinning. "Remind
me to tell you about the stuff we did getting into
Gotham during No Man's Land. Tim was... in a lot of
ways, working with him reminded me of being in the
"Mm-hmm. Tim wasn't like *any* of them, but I
could... we could have fun together. We did have fun
"I'm glad." It comes out flat, and Bruce tries again.
"I mean... I *am* glad. I always wanted the two of
Dick puts a hand on his shoulder. "I know."
"I saw you once. Not with Tim. With... with Jason."
"I never told you how... I was so glad you could.
"He was a good kid. I... I was angry at *you*, Bruce.
It wasn't about him. I wished... when he died..." Dick
laughs, short and humorless. "This isn't ever going to
"No. But Tim would..."
"He'd want us to talk. He..." Dick's laugh this time is a
little more real. "Those *letters* he wrote, man. 'Talk
to Bruce' was number three on my list. What about
"I haven't... I haven't read it. Yet."
Dick squeezes his shoulder. "I miss him."
"Yes." It's nothing but the truth.
"You're thinking about taking Superboy on. As...
"Yes. And... I'm not sure."
"I take it we're going to wait to spring that on Clark
until *after* we get him home."
Dick's tension at the tone of his voice is immediate and
obvious. "You want to know what I think about it."
"I need to know."
Dick sighs and bangs his head against the back of his
seat. "Batman needs a Robin."
Bruce nods and waits.
"I was thinking it should be Cassandra, but... she's
better as Batgirl. She's frighteningly *good* as Batgirl,
and she has her own routine, besides."
"Did Tim... have an opinion?"
Dick's silent for a long moment, and Bruce tries and
fails to go back to paying attention to the sky.
The console is no better. No one's shooting at them, as
"You know, I always knew how good Tim was. How
good he was for *you*, Bruce. I just never... you really
haven't read your letter, have you?"
He shakes his head and answers the real question. "I
wanted to talk to you. I don't always have to be beaten
over the head with it." He tries a smile, and when he
looks at Dick...
Dick smiles back. And it's nothing like the days when
*Dick* was Robin. This smile is smaller, and older, and
heavy with everything they haven't managed to talk
about in too many years. And Bruce knows he needs
It's still easier to breathe when Dick looks away. "There
was another list. People he'd worked with... it was
clear he hadn't finished it, or come to any definite
conclusions of his own. What was it...?" Dick sits up
straight and drags on a serious, almost grim expression.
"'It occurs to me that I've spent a great deal of time
working with metahumans, and this is less than
The impression is good enough to shock a laugh out
of him. "Don't do that."
Dick grins at him. "Sorry. But... yeah. He didn't know.
"What is it?"
"You know, I'm not sure what he told Helena, but me,
Babs, Cassandra... there's always at least one mention
of Superboy, or the Titans, or both. Take care of them,
look out for them, trust them because *he* did. And
maybe... maybe that's an answer. More of one than he
Bruce frowns. "Were they... I wasn't sure if they
"I teased him about it, but... I wasn't sure, either. I
think... I think they were probably involved *enough*,
"Superboy could be an asset."
Dick nods. "And he could wind up attracting tougher
criminals to Gotham."
"Or they could come anyway, thinking the city an easy
mark without a metahuman protector of its own."
"Can he handle it?"
Dick laughs. "Hell, no. Look... it sounds like you've
already made your decision. I have my concerns, but
I'd have concerns about anyone. *For* anyone. I'm
with you." The smile fades from his face again, and
he looks hard at Bruce. "I'm with you. Always."
He watches the boy stare at the cases, one hand raised
to Jason's. He doesn't actually touch it. "I saw this
before. I... when that kid wished away all the adults."
He shoves his hand into his pocket and looks at Bruce
over his shoulder. "Tim brought us here when we were
trying to figure it out."
"He told me."
"I figured. Bart didn't know what to think about it. I
didn't, either, at the time, but... it wasn't hard to figure
Bruce nods. Waits. And Kon's smile is nothing like
Clark's. Someone, somewhere had taught the boy
reasons to hide, if not precisely how.
"You know... sometimes I forget. When I'm not actually
looking at you, or when I'm paying attention to
something else..." Kon looks at his shoes. "You're a lot
like him, you know? Or... I guess he was a lot like
"There was no one like Tim."
"No. No, there wasn't. Isn't. I just meant... sometimes
I forget I'm not talking to *him*." Short bark of
laughter. "Just wait. One day I'm going to completely
lose it and hug you or something. Start talking about
"I'll consider myself warned."
Kon smiles at him, eyes bright. "There. Like that." He
turns back to the cases, and traces Tim's name with a
proprietary sort of affection. "You did this. The...
"I swear, I see that cape out of the corner of my eye
and I think 'why is he locked up like that? Why can't I
just...'" Another laugh. "It's fucking *morbid*, man.
But I get it. Some things shouldn't be forgotten."
"I'll never..." Kon traces Tim's name again. "I spoke
to Nightwing. Dick."
Bruce nods before he remembers that Kon probably
hasn't been taught -- yet -- to always use any and all
reflective surfaces. "Yes?"
"He told me a little about what it... what this will
mean. I mean, not a little. We talked all *night*, but
I get the feeling that it's kind of just the beginning."
He's not wrong.
Kon takes a hitching breath and visibly squares himself
before turning around again. "I want it. I want... if
there was anything I could do to honor his... his
memory... If there was anything more than *this*, I
don't know what it is."
Bruce nods again.
"There's one thing, though."
"I need... I need something. Of his."
Bruce blinks. "I have... I still have his extra
Kon smiles at him, grateful and open. "Let's get
Note: Livia showed me a picture.
Yeah, just guess which of those Superboys caught my
Title (sort of) from Pinetop Seven. ::waves to Sleeps
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