Disclaimers: All belong to DC, and Warner Brothers,
and God only knows who else.
Spoilers: Nothing specific. *Post*-RotJ, in terms of
Summary: Terry doesn't live in the Manor.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Contains content some
readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: I'm just amused, as I'm pretty sure my
last story of *2003* was Batman Beyond, too.
Acknowledgments: To Jack and Livia for audiencing.
*For* Prop, as one big whopping dose of creepy
Bat-schmoop deserves another.
He was never a Robin.
Most of the time -- maybe more than it should be,
considering -- it's a point of pride. It doesn't matter
that he knows, now, how painfully offensive the musical
had been. After all -- it had still been hilarious. With
great dance numbers.
It *also* doesn't matter that his impression of 'Robin'
as being the vigilante equivalent of training wheels was
just as wrong as everything else.
He'd never been a Robin, and he's *glad* of that.
It makes this -- all of this -- just a bit easier to cope
with. One day, the old man isn't going to be around,
but there won't be any question about what Terry will
do with *his* life.
He's got the background, the information, and the
*training* -- never to be anyone's sidekick but his own.
Never to be anything but *Batman*, as opposed to
And while he's probably going to miss -- in a lot of
ways -- the old man's voice in his ear, and while the idea
of permanent (or even semi-permanent) backup has
occurred to him more than once...
Terry knows himself, and his issues, and what he
And while he can't imagine anything better than landing
the plane and jumping out to let Ace snap playfully at
his gauntlet and letting Bruce just sit *right* there at
the console with a little smile tugging at that huge
He *can* imagine a lot of things worse.
Or at least more uncomfortable.
"How's the knee?"
"Painkiller and a hot-pad," Terry says, and pushes back
the cowl. He could -- should -- strip down further, but
unless it's the kind of night where he comes back
soaked to the skin with his own sweat beneath the
suit, or covered in God knows what *over* the suit...
he likes leaving it on. For a little while.
The old man grunts and continues flicking his gaze over
the monitors. In the old days, Terry had just thought
of it as something for the old man to do because he
couldn't get out there himself, but that's just another
thing he'd gotten wrong.
There are the things which can't be done from the Cave,
and then there are the half-million things which can't
be *seen* from street-level.
Even when 'street-level' means fifteen stories up and
in the plane. He leaves the monitor showing business
news for Wayne to explain -- or not -- and focuses on
New metahuman prison opening off-shore out west. Lots
of mentions of the League, but no actual League
Security-cams operated remotely -- the big, pale, scarred
hand which *isn't* on the chair is moving in quick, sharp
little motions over the touch-pad. Terry can't tell which
cams they are or where, other than *not* Waynetech.
Finally, old files -- he can tell by the formatting -- open
Terry frowns, and Wayne grunts again and flips the
second and fourth monitors to blueprints. And... damn.
"Similar or the same?"
Terry frowns again. "Okay... so that's not as bad as it
*could* be, but --"
"But you're going to be heading to the Watchtower
tomorrow night. They'll need you."
Meaning they'll need Bruce, but he'll do. "Not tonight?"
There's a funny little pause -- Wayne exhaling through
his nose and not *quite* shifting -- before he says,
"The League has been informed."
Terry *knows* that funny little pause. He grins and
rests his weight on the back of the old man's chair. He
likes that little pause. "So how's Superman?"
"Irritating. Terry --"
"Did he say 'hi?'"
If Terry had a better angle, he'd be able to clearly see
the scar jumping on the old man's face. As it is, the
reflection from the monitor is good enough. "I don't
know what I'll do if he didn't say 'hi,' Bruce. I think I'd
be a little crushed."
Superman had totally said 'hi.' And probably asked
about his family, too. "True, but what sort of life would
it really *be* --"
"You have the time. You should take a bath."
There are a couple of ways to respond to that. Most of
them would keep this game going until the old man
glared so hard that Terry's knees deposited him on the
floor in self-defense. But... "Gonna scrub my back?"
"Soaking the knee will make a painkiller unnecessary."
Terry has his doubts about that. "Uh, huh. Did you
hide my rubber ducky again?"
The thing is, they don't do this a lot upstairs. In the
manor. A few times in the study, once in the sitting
room after Terry had played helpful houseboy while
the old man was getting interviewed on his Triumphant
Return blah blah blah. That had been... interesting.
Terry hadn't realized the curtains *did* pull back. The
reporter had spent the whole time squinting. The old
man had spent the whole time backlit. He, of course,
had worn sunglasses. With the suit and the trays of
tea and sandwiches, he'd pretty much looked like
*precisely* what the old man felt he should.
Terry still thinks he should've been sucking on a
And it isn't that he doesn't know the house up, down,
and through -- the Cave isn't the only place with tricks
and treats, here -- but it still takes a minute to
refamiliarize himself with the master bath.
Intellectually, he knows Bruce actually uses this room.
The razor -- straight, of course -- is here, as are a
selection of Bruce Wayne-special colognes.
The tub is huge and perfect and that precise kind of
black that has more to do with the fashion ten (or thirty,
or fifty) years ago than with being *black*. It's a good
The *question* is whether or not the old man will join
him. As opposed to... hm.
Terry moves around -- carefully, it's slick as hell -- and
checks. There are the mostly obvious security cams
over the mirror and the door, the less obvious ones
over the window and by the toilet, and then...
Terry grins and leans in close to the cold faucet. Close
enough to give the old man an excellent view of his
back-teeth when he laughs. "Do I wanna know?"
"Probably not," he says, easily -- from Terry's cowl
and... he's not quite sure.
"No, I think I kinda do," and Terry *listens*.
"You'll live," the old man says from -- there. The speaker
is in the sink. The echoes had thrown him.
Terry grins a little wider, leans back, and plants his feet
on either side of the tub. "No, really, Bruce. What *kind*
of security problems do you expect from the naked guy
in your tub?"
"Remind me to tell you about Catwoman."
"Oooh. Secret Batporn files. Is it my birthday?"
"Hm." (Hm, hm, hm...)
Terry shakes it off to hide a shiver.
"You're not doing that knee any good."
"Do you..." Terry rolls his head on his neck. "Have *any*
idea how creepy those echoes are?"
"I have an idea," and Terry can hear the smile in the
man's voice. "You *might* have put your suit away
"I *like* stalking the halls of Wayne Manor."
"Hm. I'd noticed. Get that knee back in the water."
Terry splashes the camera. "Make me."
And, okay, *knowing* the thing was also a jacuzzi
designed -- and possibly *built* -- by the Batman is
one thing. Getting shoved around like a person-sized
pinball by the jets is something else entirely.
"I don't like you, Bruce. I just think you should know
that," Terry says. After he manages to hold on.
"Noted," the old man says. And shuts off the jets.
Terry considers and rejects sticking his tongue out at
the camera, but really, his point is made. Sort of.
He lets himself slip beneath the water for a while,
eyes closed and... mm. The jets are on again. Probably
on the lowest setting, since he's only being a *little*
pummeled. When he opens his eyes, the world above
the water is just blurred light.
And he wonders about the tub, and the toys. Cameras
and mics and who knows what else.
It's one thing -- a perfectly reasonable Bat-thing -- for
the place to be wired just as well as it is.
It's another thing -- another perfectly reasonable
Bat-thing -- for Catwoman to have had something to
do with it. He'd read those files *forever* ago. There
It's still *another* thing -- maybe, probably -- for him
to know that, while this isn't even remotely the only
bathtub in the manor, or even the only really *good*
one, it's still the best one.
Whole body immersion, jets, a great big cabinet full of
oils and salts, and...
Terry surfaces and breathes and *looks* at the faucet.
"So how many times did your Robins get sent for a
"They lived here." (ere, ere...)
"Not what I'm asking," Terry says, and reaches over to
add a little more hot water.
Interestingly, having the water running makes the
echoes a little easier to deal with. A little. "Really," he
says, and reaches down to give his dick a squeeze.
"Did they know?" Terry isn't sure what he wants the
answer to be. That's totally a lie. He gives himself
another squeeze and doesn't dwell -- *too* much --
on the fact that the twinge in his injured knee makes
it a little sickening and a lot hotter.
He knows -- he thinks he knows -- what the pause is
about. Whether or not the old man wants to tell him,
whether or not he thinks Terry wants to hear it,
whether or not that matters or he *cares*. Still...
He lets himself lean back again and flips the faucet
with the toes on the good leg. Are there cameras
under the water? Hm.
Terry waits for the sloshing to calm back down again
before starting to stroke.
"He did." There's a shifting sort of stress in there.
*Stress*, not emphasis, and Terry abruptly has a
really *good* idea of which 'he' it was. Not really
the image he wants to have.
Drake isn't exactly *soft* now, but he's no Bruce.
And the only other pictures *he's* seen are of a kid
who looks way -- *way* -- too much like his little
Terry glares at the cold faucet.
"You asked," and the old man's voice is mild as milk.
Poisoned milk. Terry glares a little more.
He *does* get it. Because the lollipop jokes wouldn't
be *half* as funny without the kernel of truth that
only the select few get to *understand*, and because
there were a lot of ways to be wrong about what
Past-tense, now and forever.
Whether or *not* Drake did this -- and *how* old
was he? -- back in the day. Looking through the
faucet-cam into nothing but whatever *he* thought
was on Bruce's face.
Whether or not Drake was as right about it as Terry
*knows* he is.
And the fact that Terry knows -- from experience --
how much the old man likes it when he throws his
head back and goes for it is... convenient. He *has*
to do it, because it's good.
Just like he has to concentrate to keep from
splashing too much. Not slow -- not *now* -- but
hard and careful and there's every reason in the
world to keep his face...
Hidden is probably overstating it. Who knows how
many cameras are up *there*?
"This is -- this -- ah --"
"Tell me." (me, me, me...)
"Fucked-up," Terry says, and laughs helplessly.
Breathlessly. He can *feel* the old man watching him.
He always can. "More... than usual," he manages,
"Variety is the spice of life, McGinnis."
McGinnis. Jesus. Might as well be calling him --
"Batman," and the old man's tone is *corrosively*
amused. Acidic and knowing and --
"Fuck -- *fuck*, Bruce --"
He can't control the splashing anymore, and he hopes
like hell the old man is getting all he needs from the
flexing and tensing and -- yeah, panting and moaning.
Mostly he doesn't care.
And *Terry* didn't release the plug, but he's also not
at all surprised that the water is running out around
him. He grunts and splashes the last inch or two of
water vaguely at the camera.
In response, the shower comes on. Terry rolls his
eyes and soaps up and rinses down.
He has a *fair* idea of what's waiting for him back
down in the Cave, after all. Maybe he should use
the old man's mouthwash. Make things interesting.
"You have an hour," the old man says.
Meaning they have about forty-five minutes. Give or
take. Terry gathers up the suit and blows a gust of
air over the mini-receiver in the cowl for the sheer
hell of it.
The hallway is just as dark and cold as it was when
he'd come up, with just a little bit of warmth coming
from down there, where the old man's bedroom is
waiting. The other bedrooms probably haven't been
aired out in years, much less used.
The other ones...
They'd lived here.
Terry doesn't pause in front of the other doors, and
the clock opens as soon as he steps in front of it.
*This* is where he lives.
The old man turns the chair and steeples his fingers
beneath his chin, watching Terry descend. "You
should have wrapped the knee," he says.
"I'm a bad, bad Bat," Terry says, and hooks the suit
behind the old man's neck.
The kiss is sharp and warm and the amused little
sound the old man makes into his mouth is even
warmer. And sharper.
Heh. Like it should be.