by Chicago

Disclaimer: Characters belong to DC Comics, borrowed for fun and not for profit.

Note: Follows "Stay," by 'rith. Inspired in part by particular panels in JLA/JSA "Virtue and Vice."

Pairing: Batman/Mr. Terrific

Rating: PG

"Wait, it shouldn't be able to do that."

The dark clad figure reached out a beckoning hand, summoning back the whizzing sphere. "I reconfigured the propulsion system for more efficiency and installed a prototype WayneTech microprocessor." The sphere settled down into gloved hand, and a carefully applied set of pressure points popped it in half. "See?"

Mr. Terrific leaned in to inspect the opened T-sphere. "I tried that before but the propulsion system kept frying the microprocessor."

"That's why I switched it out for the new WayneTech version. More heat resistant and smaller mass - but more memory." The Bat snapped the T-sphere shut with an audible click and released it back into the air. At a gesture, it arced away and settled into its cradle beside the large Crays.

Mr. Terrific watched it go, more impressed than he wanted to be. "You said WayneTech prototype. How'd you get your hands on it?"

Did he imagine it, or was there the tiniest upturn of lips beneath the cowl. "I have my sources." Batman turned and settled into his chair, swiveling toward the main computer screen.

Mr. Terrific smirked at the challenge. He recognized the mental games of inventors and detectives - he played them himself. The enigmatic answer was not the dismissal it appeared to be, and two could play at this game. He took two steps to the back of Batman's chair, resting his arms on the back and leaning down so his lips were almost at ear level. "And could your *sources* be persuaded to make such technology a little more widely available?"

Batman's fingers flew over the keys without a pause as he continued checking files as if Terrific was not standing directly behind him. "They might," he conceded.


"No buts. More of a when."

Under his mask, Mr. Terrific raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"When I've done a few more tests, found the limits of the design..."

A true engineer lurked under that cowl, Terrific thought. "You could delegate some of that work," he suggested.

Batman's fingers slowed. "I could."

"It would take less time and - HEY!" Mr. Terrific jumped back, rubbing his tingling arm. A T-sphere bobbed beside him, and he imagined it laughing at him.

Batman turned enough to wave direction at it and watched it move. "Well, it can definitely withstand the production and application of small electrical shocks," Batman noted approvingly. "Thank you, Mr. Terrific."


He thought the man in the cape stiffened. "I beg your pardon?"

"My name's Michael, if we're going to work together."

"I'm aware of what your name is." There was iciness in Batman's tone. "But in that mask..."

"I'm still Michael."

"And we're not working together."

Batman spun back toward his computers, leaving Terrific rubbing his arm and staring in bewilderment. Bewilderment quickly turned to anger. "Man, what's your damage?"

Batman continued to type without any reaction.

"Oh, no, you don't!" Michael fumed, reaching over to swing Batman's chair to face him.

A split second later, Terrific was flat on his back on the floor of the Batcave, his head ringing, and Batman's knee against his carotid artery. He gasped for air, squinting up at his assailant.

"What the..." he wheezed.

Slowly, Batman eased the pressure against Terrific's neck. "Habit," Batman said tersely, rising to his feet. He seemed to hesitate for a moment.

Terrific reached out his hand, and that seemed to break the uncertainty. Batman reached out and clasped the proffered hand, pulling Terrific to his feet.

"Man," Terrific wheezed, his hand rubbing at his throat. "People say you're paranoid, but-"

Something closed in Batman's face, and he turned away. "Preparedness is not paranoia."

Mr. Terrific caught at Batman's shoulder, preparing his body to defend itself. He could see Batman aborting a move to throw him again, and he felt a tremor through the other man's body. "It is if you only prepare for bad things," Mr. Terrific corrected gently.

Batman glared at him and pulled away. "Well, bad is what happens," he growled, spinning back into his seat.

Michael blinked under his mask, startled that he got an answer. He kept his voice gentle as he walked back to stand beside Batman's chair. "How can you do this hero thing if you really believe that?"

Batman punched a code into the computer. "I stop the bad." His hands tattooed a staccato rhythm over the computer keys.

Terrific watched him for a moment.

"For what?"

The question actually stopped Batman. "Excuse me?"

"For what? Why stop the bad, if there's no good?"

Batman's hands balled into fists. "There's good."

Terrific half knelt beside Batman's chair, slowly pulling it around again to face him. He kept himself at ready, but Batman did not make a move. "I know I wanted to talk to you about Paula, knew you would understand. And I know that you don't want to talk about whatever it is that happened to you, but-"

"My name is Bruce."

Mr. Terrific blinked.

Batman raised his face and met Michael's eyes. "Bruce Wayne."

Michael heard himself take in a breath, startled at the revelation and understanding it in the same moment. Bruce Wayne, orphaned in an alley by a gunman over 20 years ago...

"I'm so sorry," Michael breathed, squeezing Batman's knee in sympathy.

"Everyone's sorry," Batman spat bitterly. "That doesn't mean I get to have them back."

"I know," Michael answered quietly, his mind flashing back to his last view of Paula. "They even take your good memories."

He saw Batman's chin dip a little in agreement.

"Uh, Batman... Bruce?"

Batman looked up, his mouth hardening in a way that Michael recognized as uncertainty.

Michael swallowed hard. How to say this? "I... I miss my wife. All the time."

Batman nodded slowly.

"And it's hard, sometimes. Because I'm supposed to be leading this team, supposed to have my shit together. And there's days when all I can do is just hold it together for how much it hurts. Someone will be wearing her perfume, or her favorite song will come on the radio..." Michael fell silent, then almost started as he felt Batman begin to move.

It felt like a slow motion dream, Batman slowly sliding from his chair, reaching his arms around Michael... and holding him.

Michael felt the sob welling in his throat as he reached his own arms out, wrapping them around the armor clad body pressed against him. He pressed his face against the neck guard of the cowl, tears slipping from his eyes. He felt Batman's hand begin to awkwardly stroke his back, the flanges of the gauntlets rubbing over the leather of his jacket.

He cried silently for a time, letting Batman - Bruce - hold him. It felt... comfortable. Right.

After a time, he felt himself gently urged back. He felt the stubble of Bruce's cheeks rubbing over his temple, then lower, the soft pressure of lips against his wet cheekbone...

Michael gasped and sat back, his hand to his cheek. "Bat - Bruc -"

Batman jumped back into a crouch. "I'm sorry," he said, his face looking vaguely horrified before the mask began to crash back into place.

Mr. Terrific had to act quickly. "No, Bruce, no. It's okay. Don't - I was just startled. Bruce." He moved forward as he spoke, until he could reach out and touch Bruce's knee.

A tremor shook through Bruce's body at the contact.

"Bruce," he said more quietly. "It's okay." He pulled closer, his hand now stroking Bruce's thigh. He could feel Batman watching him warily, every muscle ready to flee. Michael carefully began to remove his T-shaped mask. "I know," he whispered. "I know the lonely. I do. Shh."

Slowly, so slowly, he leaned forward, letting Batman adjust to his intrusion into Batman's personal space. He let his mask slip from his fingers, fall to the floor. Then he let his lips rest against Batman's, against Bruce's, demanding nothing.

He stayed still for a moment, waiting for Bruce's body to relax. He moved his lips a little experimentally, and something seemed to shift inside of Bruce Wayne. He got an answering flutter from Bruce's lips, and then Bruce's hands came up, pulling him closer.

Michael answered in kind, holding Batman as their lips began to move together. Tentativeness gave way to need, and Michael felt himself gasp for breath as Bruce ravaged his mouth.

Bruce pulled back, startled, but Michael gave him a reassuring smile.

"Hotter than I expected," he explained.

Batman - Bruce - looked confused and touched his reddened lips. "You - you..."

Michael took Batman's hand, brought it to his own face, kissed the leather-covered palm. "I understand need, Bruce. I do."

"But... Paula..."

"Was a woman, yes. But she's gone. And I can't have her back."


"Shh." Terrific leaned in again, kissing Batman softly. "It's all good, Bruce. It's all good." He wrapped his arms around the Dark Knight and held him for a long time.