DISCLAIMER: All characters are property of DC Comics, and are used with
neither permission nor for profit, so keep the attorneys in the stalls. The song quoted is by Rush, from the album "Roll The Bones". Cool song.
ADDITIONAL: Go pick up ROBIN. Support good comics.
If we burn our wings flying too close to the sun
If the moment of glory is over before it's begun
If the dream is won —
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
Ten years from tomorrow...
"This is WGCY, Gotham City's number one news source. Tonight's top story - three more metahuman criminals were taken off the streets today, two of them pronounced dead on arrival at Gotham Mercy Hospital.
"The deaths of Stallion and the Electrocutioner bring the body count to an even two dozen in this now month-long spree of vigilantism blamed on Gotham's once-legendary protector.
"Tonight, we bring you the expose - Batman: Avenging Angel, or Vigilante Murderer? Only on WGCY, at ten and eleven."
The living room sank into dim relief as the glow from the television faded. Slowly, the remote was placed on the end table, a remorseful sigh echoing from the walls. Quietly, the man seated on the couch before the extinguished screen leaned forward and stood. Striding silently across
the room, he looked out his window onto the sunset peace of the suburban street.
For all the chaos in the big urban sprawl that was its "parent", Gotham Heights was an idyllic suburb of Gotham City, lacking the conditions that made the dark metropolis the hellhole it had become.
This is a peaceful life now, the man thought to himself. I have earned this.
Yet, as he poured himself two fingers of scotch into the crystal glass, his hands shook. It was not fear for his own safety, or that of his family. No, Gotham Heights was safe. Nor did he fear for Gotham City, for like any large entity, it would recover and survive. Gotham had endured plague,
earthquake, and decades of crime.
He feared for the Batman.
He feared for Bruce Wayne.
He feared for the man who was his mentor, his friend.
Tim Drake tossed the drink down his throat, feeling the alcohol burn his tongue as he swallowed. Swearing to himself, he turned to the hallway, heading for bed. He hadn't entertained these thoughts for years. Not since the day he'd hung up the red and green of the Boy Wonder. Not since the day he had put Robin to rest, abandoning the crimefighting life of a superhero to the mundane world of a husband and would-be father.
At first, Bruce had been skeptical. But Tim had persisted, restating that his intention had never been to be Batman's successor, only his partner. And once there was no need for Robin, he had promised to give up the life of a young superhero.
After seven years of fighting by the Dark Knight's side, leaping from
rooftop to rooftop, riding shotgun in the Batmobile until dawn, Tim Drake
felt he had done his part. Weeks would go by without the Riddler leaving
conundrums in the wake of a new robbery or Poison Ivy being dragged in
for some eco-terrorism scheme.
Tim Drake had smiled, realizing that Robin was no longer needed. When
he had put that life aside, Bruce had given his blessing. Months later,
the Batman vanished from Gotham as well. Coincidentally, Bruce Wayne became
even more of a public figure, running for Mayor once, however unsuccessfully.
Inwardly, Tim Drake suspected that Bruce would never be truly happy
outside the mantle of the Caped Crusader, but the truth was clear. Batman
and Robin's times had passed. They had done their duty, and done it well.
Almost a year passed before the Joker returned to Gotham. And instead
of finding the Batman there to thwart his every move, he found instead
another adversary, in the first Boy Wonder. Dick Grayson, Nightwing, had
moved his base of operations from the harbor town of Bludhaven to the dark
urban canyons of Gotham.
With years of experience behind him, Nightwing was every bit as effective
as his predecessor. And yet, despite Bruce's insistence that Dick take
up the identity of Batman, Dick Grayson was, as always, his own man. Nightwing
was the city's new protector, not Batman.
Six months ago, the Joker had finally decided to put an end to the stalemate.
Incensed and insulted at the perceived snub from his arch-enemy, and the
opposition of the former "Hot- Pantsed Half-Pint" being more
of a joke to the Clown Prince of Crime, the white-faced maniac had done
Twelve innocent civilians died when the Joker unleashed his toxic "laughing
gas" at the opening of the new Children's Burn Ward of Gotham Mercy
Hospital. Nightwing had responded to the Joker's open challenge, facing
certain death with bravado. Ironically, the Joker chose to face his pursuer
alone and unarmed, in the abandoned chemical plant that had "created"
him years before.
Nightwing expected treachery, as his mentor had trained him. But all
the training in the world could not have prepared him for the silent crack
of a sniper's bullet from the shadows.
In a split second of blood and bone, Dick Grayson died alone in the
shadows of cold concrete.
The Joker's madness had not stopped there. With a veritable army of
escapees from Arkham and Belle Reve prisons behind him, he had traced the
radio transmitter in Nightwing's costume to a secret location in the slums
Barbara Gordon had been the first Batgirl, until two bullets from the
Joker's revolver shattered her spine, but not her spirit. As the cyber-sleuth
Oracle, she ruled the ether of telephone lines and data streams, acting
as coordinator and information broker to Gotham's heroes, as well as the
Sequestered in her lair, protected by webs upon webs of secrecy and
security, she never expected the rictus grin of the Joker to greet her
at her own door twice in her lifetime.
Two more bullets shattered more than Oracle's spine.
The news was like a galvanizing shock to the city, more so to Bruce
Wayne. After years of readjusting to the life he had left behind the day
his parents were killed in Crime Alley, his past came back with a vengeance.
The two people he saw as his children had been slain, again two of his
loved ones had been taken from him.
That night, the Batman reclaimed the streets of Gotham. But not the
Years before, when the villain known as Bane had broken the back of
the Bat, another "hero", by the name of Jean-Paul Valley, had
been chosen to wear the cape and cowl of the Batman. But in his other identity
of Azrael, conflicting mental states had driven him to become more of a
killing machine than a protector of the innocent.
It was this Batman that Bruce Wayne would become. Donning clawed gauntlets,
and wielding vicious blades in the place of Batarangs, the Dark Knight
became even darker.
Blood flowed in the streets of Gotham as Batman waged his war of vengeance
against the Joker and his cohorts. And in his rage, Bruce had set aside
his vow to never kill, not even in the face of seemingly exhausted options.
Killer Croc. Mr. Zsasz. Two-Face. Villain after villain were cut down
like so much wheat before the reaper's scythe. The Batman had ceased to
act as a mere vigilante, and had now become judge, jury, and executioner.
The Joker chose to meet his arch-foe man to man, expecting the Batman's
legendary sense of honor to allow him an advantage.
It did not. Bruce Wayne coldly met his enemy's stare, matching madness
with madness, even as he held his lifelong foe's heart in his hands. The
Joker's stain had finally been washed from the world, and to any observer,
the scales of justice would seem to be balanced. An eye had been taken
for an eye.
Yet, it refused to stop. The Batman had gone over the edge, and there
was no stopping now, any more than an avalanche could be stopped once it
had begun. Mister Freeze. Ra's Al Ghul. The KGBeast. The Penguin. More
blood flowed. More lives lost. Gotham had become a charnel pit. Ordinary
citizens had become a superstitious, cowardly lot, afraid to walk the streets
after dark, and at times, in broad daylight.
And then today. Two more dead at the hands of Bruce Wayne. No, Tim Drake
corrected himself mentally. Bruce isn't doing this. This isn't the man
I knew. This is... something else. In his mind, he began running through
a list of possibilities. Was Azrael wearing the costume again? Not likely,
since Jean-Paul had "exorcized" the Azrael personality two years
And this viciousness was beyond even the Huntress' thirst for vengeance.
Even if she hadn't been seen in the past four years. The peace Gotham had
enjoyed had forced most of the costumed vigilantes into retirement, or
sent them elsewhere.
The mute girl who had taken the new identity of Batgirl had gone as far as the Orient, fighting crime in the Far East. The thief-turned-reluctant-hero known only as Catwoman had left Gotham for the greener pastures of Opal City. Ted Grant, the aged superhero known as Wildcat had retired with dignity to live out his final days with his surviving family, whereas his fellow Justice Society member, Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, had died last year in his beloved Gotham.
And the only "protector" the city had appeared to be a murderer.
Tim shook his head. He wasn't a detective. Not anymore. He taught English
Literature to high schoolers now. The closest he came to fighting supervillains
these days was reading Beowulf to freshmen classes.
A noise from the kitchen snapped him out of his reverie. To his credit,
and a small amount of amusement, he felt his muscles tense, in ways they
hadn't for years.
It's not the Scarecrow, he reminded himself, It's only your wife.
When the dust has cleared and victory denied
A summit too lofty, river a little too wide
If we keep our pride --
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
"Tim. Hello? I'm not buying it. You want to do something about
this. I can tell. You can't just let this lie, can you?"
"I am letting it lie, Stephanie. I have my own life now. I'm not...
I don't do that anymore."
"You can't even say it, can you? You're not Robin anymore. And
I'm not the Spoiler. We're just Tim and Stephanie Drake. Happily married,
just coincidentally ex-teen heroes. For god's sake, Tim, we sell Amway.
We are NOT superheroes."
"I didn't say we... I was. I'm not."
"No buts, Steph. I'm not involved."
"All right, I said."
"I said you're right."
"Of course I'm right. I'm your wife."
"Of course you are."
"Jesus, you even sound like him."
"I do not."
"Sure you don't. Eat your dinner. It'll get cold."
As the sun rose, Tim was already awake. Even on a Saturday, he rose
at an early hour to take his morning jog through the neighborhood. Today,
though, his running shoes lay unlaced at the foot of the bed, his door
remained locked. Instead, Tim sat at his bay window, looking out to the
skyline of Gotham City, barely visible in the dawn's haze.
He had dreamed of that skyline, swinging from jumplines, dropping into
alleys, feeling the air against his face. He hadn't even dreamed of being
Robin again, not since his wedding day. That life was behind him. He had
a wife now, and God willing, a child on the way someday.
That was still an unspoken wall between Tim and his wife. The child
she had birthed in her teens had been given up for adoption, as Stephanie
had been unwilling to raise a child without a father. She, too, had grown
up without a father, hers being the costumed criminal known as the Cluemaster.
She had become the masked avenger dubbed the Spoiler solely to confront
her absent father, and in doing so, had met and fallen in love with Robin
first, and years later, with Timothy Drake.
But those days were all long past, although the bitterness remained.
Stephanie never spoke of the baby, and on the occasions when she did mention
her father, it was with bitterness for Arthur Brown. And so the subject
Despite their problems, though, Tim Drake loved his wife. With all his
heart, above all else. Enough to turn my back on this? he asked himself.
And with guilt, he realized that he couldn't give himself an answer.
"Honey?" the muffled voice came from the covers. Tim smiled
"You didn't go for a run?"
"Maybe I wanted to stay with you." Tim responded, a little
too quickly. Stephanie's head emerged from a mass of covers, blonde hair
mussed and tangled from a restless sleep. Her eyes narrowed, then lowered
with a sigh.
"You're thinking about it."
"Steph, I can get through to him."
"If anyone can, I can."
"Forget it. Let Commissioner Montoya deal with him. Let the police,
the National Guard, hell, the Justice League deal with him! Tim, this isn't
some neighbor who forgot to return a rake, this is a killer!"
Tim whirled. "You don't think I know that? There's over twenty
bodies in under a month, people that Bruce and I used to put behind bars,
but now they're being put on slabs."
"He's insane." Stephanie's voice was quiet, reserved.
"Steph," Tim began. "Dick is dead. Barbara is dead. Everything
he thought he'd left to carry on is gone. You don't know him like I did.
Batman is all Bruce had to live for."
"You don't see it like I do, Tim." Stephanie's voice was tinged
with tears. "Everyone who gets involved is dead, don't you see that?
Can't you see? Getting involved with this will get you killed. Dick Grayson
is dead, and I'm sorry. But you can't bring him back, any more than Batman
can by this... this massacre."
Tim clenched his fist, unconsciously digging his fingernails into his
palm. "Steph, I know him. Especially now, more than ever, he will
not stop. He. Will. Not. Stop."
"Not until they're all dead? What then?"
"Them. Or him."
Silence hung in the air. Finally, Tim knelt and began to lace up his
"I'll be back."
Stephanie gave no reply, merely wrapping her arms around her knees.
Tim bent over to kiss her on the forehead, but she pulled away, refusing
to meet his gaze. With a sigh, Tim turned and left the bedroom. Seconds
later, the sounds of the front door opening, closing, and locking echoed
through the empty house.
Through the tears and the curtains, Stephanie Drake watched her husband
stretch, then begin loping athletically down the sunlit street. She raised
a hand, pressing it against the glass.
"Come back." she whispered. "Come back to me."
"This is WGCY, on location from Gotham Mercy Hospital, where the
latest of Batman's ‘victims' in this onslaught of vicious justice is still
in critical condition."
"Maybe it's not such a bad thing." Stephanie retorted to the
television as she cracked eggs into the frying pan before her. "Who
was it, anyway? Poison Ivy? The Mad Hatter? You know what they say about
making omelettes..." She cracked another egg with a flourish. "Stupid
The television continued its drone. "The GCPD has been silent so
far on the reasons behind this month-long killing spree, but public opinion
believes the Batman's actions to be motivated in part by the recent death
of the costumed hero known as Nightwing, whose identity has been requested
to be kept secret, even to the news media, by order of Police Commissioner
"At least someone's got some respect." Stephanie muttered.
Although she had never admitted it to her husband, she too found herself
occasionally dreaming of her nights swinging from the heights of Gotham
The ringing of the phone startled Stephanie, who picked it up after
the second ring. Please don't let it be something happening to Tim, please
God..., she prayed.
Stephanie sighed, "Bart, Tim's not here. And you CAN slow down
a bit, I'm not as fluent in speedspeak as I used to be."
A long breath came from the other end of the line. Bart Allen had been
one of Tim's closest friends and teammates during his days as Robin. Once
the youthful speedster known as Impulse, Bart had grown up, assuming the
role of Keystone City's protector, the Flash. The last Stephanie had seen
of him had been her wedding reception, where Bart had vibrated through
the crowd of guests to catch her thrown garter.
"So anyway... the League had me call to offer, you know, about
Dick and Babs. Tough news, huh?" Bart continued on, seemingly oblivious
to Stephanie's attempts to speak.
After a few moments of babbling about space travel, the boredom of Watchtower
monitor duty, and the poor quality of freeways in Southern Africa, Stephanie
cleared her throat into the phone.
"Um, Bart, Imp-.. Flash."
"Nah, Bart's okay for you, Steph. Not like it's a secret anyway,
I figured since Wally let everyone know who he was, we had a press conference
last week and-"
"So.." Stephanie interrupted, "I'll let Tim know you
"Thanks, Bart. Give my love to Carol and the kids."
"Will do. See you sometime, Steph."
"Take care, Bart."
Stephanie cursed as she smelled her omelette burning, flipping the pan
to jar the singed breakfast loose into the trash can. Peripherally, she
heard the voice of the reporter on the television continue.
"Hospital officials have just released this news; as of 9:45 this
morning, the death toll in the Batman Murders has risen to twenty-five
with the death of Arthur Brown-"
Stephanie's hands went limp, dropping the frying pan to the floor.
"-the costumed criminal dubbed the Cluemaster, known by most as
a poor imitation of the Riddler, who also has been a victim in this vicious
rampage. More from Gotham Mercy Hospital in our twelve-o-clock segment,
now back to Jeff in the studio..."
Stephanie found herself on her knees, without any memory of falling
to the linoleum floor. She felt the cold plastic face of the dishwasher
against her forehead, and heard the unbidden sobs from her throat.
Her father was dead. Killed. Murdered.
He was a criminal, Steph told herself. He had this coming.
He was my father.
He was an asshole.
But he was my father.
Half an hour later, Tim Drake's key turned in the lock. Stephanie had
not stopped crying, nor did she, until Tim had taken her to the couch,
and held her in his arms for hours.
In the darkened living room, Tim Drake held his wife tightly to his
chest. Thoughts and emotions rushed through his brain like a hurricane.
His wife's tears were like daggers into his soul.
"Why can't someone else be the one?" she sobbed quietly. Tim
closed his eyes. Even before he had decided, she had already resigned herself
to the inevitable.
"I... I don't know. Because there is no one else." Tim whispered,
gripping her tightly. Stephanie looked up, her eyes meeting his. In that
moment, everything in Timothy Drake's life that had ever meant anything
to him was laid before him, in the span of a second.
Here was his wife, his life. A world where he risked nothing more than
any other mundane civil servant, but had everything to lose. And in the
name of what? Not justice. Not truly friendship anymore. Not even duty.
But it had to be done.
Tim stood slowly, standing tall. He looked at his wife, then cupped
her chin in his hand.
"I know." was the only reply.
"I have to do this." he whispered. The response was equally
quiet, yet heavier than lead.
"Robin can't stop Batman." she intoned, as if it were an unwritten
law, as immutable as gravity.
"Then I won't be Robin." Tim replied. Stephanie's eyes grew
wide with a mixture of puzzlement and fear as Tim picked up the phone and
"Wayne Manor." came the shaky voice from the other end of
the line, a voice reminding Tim of antiseptic bandages, tuna fish sandwiches,
and late night camaraderie.
"Alfred, I need something."
"Of course, Master Timothy."
"I am well, Master Timothy. Shall I presume to meet you by your
usual place? It is still there, you know."
"Of course, Alfred. And Alfred?"
"Yes, Master Tim?"
"It's good to hear your voice again."
"As it is to hear yours, Timothy."
Sun set over Gotham. The streets were silent, choked with anticipation
and not a small amount of tangible terror. The city was in an iron-clad
grip, not of a plague, not of an earthquake, not even of a world-conquering
supervillain. The city was held in the hand of it's once-lauded champion.
Atop the headquarters of the Gotham City Police Department, a switch
was thrown. The dark storm clouds above were illuminated by a beam of searing
yellow light, casting a perfectly round image against the black and gray.
The immortal symbol of the bat spread across the night sky, once a beacon
to call for help.
Tonight, it was a signal that help had come.
Tim Drake pulled the black cowl over his face, his jaw set in stone.
Tonight, Batman would take his city back from Bruce Wayne.
And if the music stops, there's only the sound of the rain
All the hope and glory, all the sacrifice in vain
If love remains --
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost.
And in the suburbs of Gotham Heights, one light burned brightly in a
bay window. Stephanie Drake sat, wide-eyed, staring out into the night.
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