title: After Night's End
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: Dick/vampires, Dick/Bruce, batfamily, Titans
rating: Teen/Mature
warnings: vampires, therefore bloodplay, death of major characters
summary: A chance encounter, and Dick's life ends and begins anew... a Vamp fic.
notes: none

Something was out there.

I could feel it, tickling the back of my head, something.

Batman and Robin were ahead of me. The thing with Joker and Bane had taken so long, there hadn't been much point to heading back to the 'haven. Routine patrol sounded like a good way to relax.

Except.

There was something out there.

I could feel it under my skin, crawling inside of me.

I turned suddenly, mid-jump, expecting to see nothing, to calm myself.

It was an apparition. It had to be. If it was real, then...

I missed the ledge, and fell about 90 feet before I could regain my balance. When I got up again, Batman was giving me an odd look, and there was nothing around.

The feeling was gone too.





The next night, it was the same thing. I knew Bruce had thought it strange that I had spent the night at the Manor, stranger than I hadn't left in the morning, but hung about. I spent time with Alfred, and Tim, and Babs. And when night fell, I suited up and went out with the Bat.

I know he thought it was strange that I went out patrolling with him again, but I just felt... well... I don't know...

There had been something out there. It was still out there. It was... well, I don't know really what it looked like, just that it sends thrills up and down my spine just thinking about it. Chills, not thrills. I mean...

I wanted to find the whatever it was.

Because...

Well. Because.

We had done three circuits. Took down some drug dealers, thieves, gangbangers, a potential rapist...

We had separated; Bruce was going to head north for a final half-circuit, and I was heading south. It was the end of the night, and I hadn't felt anything all night. So, I was thinking I would have time for a quick lap around the 'haven.

I leapt onto the top of the last building in the southern circuit. And right into someone.

Or something.

It wasn't human. It didn't feel human...

I could feel it in the marrow of my bones. Feel... them. There were two of them, light and dark, the darker one standing with his back to the wall, not really paying attention.

The one in the front reached his hand up to my face, stroking gently down my chin. His hand was colder than ice, but soft, like frozen silk, a smile toying with the corners of his lips.

He was a predator, not human, dangerous. I just stood there and tried not to fall at his feet.

"So pretty, little hero. So... athletic. Perhaps we should go someplace and play, hm?" His voice was hypnotic. It resonated inside my head, echoing within me and playing across my mind and heart like a bow on the strings of a violin. I wanted to scream, run, hide, yell for help, call Bruce...

I followed him and his friend docilely. I felt like I was being manipulated by strings, like I was a puppet.

They brought me to a room. It was dank and drab, and it fit the second, dark one. The first one looked out of place there, but he and his friend complimented each other, so in a strange way, it fit.

The light one stood in front of me and began to kiss my face gently. Light press of lips against my lips, and my heart actually fluttered. I wanted to act, but I felt numb. I reached out, but didn't have the strength to grasp.

Light kisses down my chin and neck, and, like a cat, I threw my head back and invited him to feast on my neck.

He laughed, a deep throaty noise that made my innards itch.

I barely took note of his friend, circling us and watching suspiciously, until he came up and breathed in the scent of the sweat on the back of my neck. My spine was on fire. He ran his fingers over the lines of my body, tracing the muscle groups and bones. That his fingers tore the kevlar off my flesh just as my fingers would tear through tissue paper barely registered with me.

I was intoxicated, high on the feeling of being there with them.

They laid me out on the bed, naked, while they were still fully clothed. I was so aroused, I felt like I was bursting at the seams. I reached for them, either one, whichever I could reach, desperate for something, anything. They laughed and teased me, toying with my nipples and hair and bellybutton and...

Licking my cock with the tips of their tongues, laughing and grinning at each other, the one like a Cheshire cat and the other like an orphan from a Dickens novel.

I screamed bloody murder when I first felt the touch of tooth to the tip of my cock. It hurt like hell and I felt like dying. I couldn't move. I could feel the blood dripping down, mixing with my precum. The one took me in his mouth, biting lightly and sucking hard. The other moved up my body, taking nips here and there. Wherever teeth touched me, I felt a tiny penetration, a tiny violation. My whole body, my soul was on fire. I felt like they were inside me all over, like I was unfolding in front of them, like they were slipping within and underneath me, like they were everywhere...

They were within me, in all ways imaginable. I felt the fire of my body heat spread and thin over everything, coloring my vision and blocking my hearing. All I could feel were their lips and teeth on my skin, their tongues lapping up my blood, the only thing I could see was a haze of red, the only thing I could hear was the pounding of my heart against my ribcage.

I was exploding.

I was unconscious.





When I awoke, I was alone in the room, the sunlight pale against the drab of the dirty room. I was still naked, covered in tiny wounds everywhere. I was freezing cold, weak, feeling more helpless than I had I since my parents died.

My suit was gone, just gone. No trace of it left. There were some jeans and a white button-down shirt over the sole rickety chair in the room. A pair of old shoes were under the bed. There was nothing left in the room.

I got dressed and left as quickly as I could.

I went home, to the 'haven, running and catching a freight heading south. It wasn't the best way, but it didn't involve anyone else, and I had done it before.

I got inside my apartment, and headed to the shower immediately. I ripped the borrowed clothes off my body and washed myself roughly, reopening some wounds. I poured antibiotic over myself, scrubbing everywhere. Teeth marks all over my body...

I was uneasy all day, pacing and uncomfortable, unable to eat or sleep or sit still or do anything useful...

I watched the sun all day, waiting for it to fall so that I could go out.

When night did come, I was dressed and out the window as the last rays of red light died at the edge of the horizon.

I had planned all day to go through the 'haven with a fine-tooth comb, it had been two days after all.

I can't really say that I was surprised when I ended up in Gotham again.

Whatever happened to me the night before, whatever it was that created that... dream in me, it was still out there.

It was still out there.

I went around the city desperate, checking first in the area around the room that I had woken up in, and then to the places I had seen and felt them before.

It was nearly midnight, and I had convinced myself that whatever it was that I had seen, experienced, it wasn't real. I don't know where I had gotten all those wounds, but that didn't mean anything.

Not really.

I mean... well, maybe it meant something, but it didn't have to mean a specific something.

Maybe.

I was just turning to head back home when I saw it from the corner of my eye... something I couldn't identify.

Following, no longer sure why, I must have covered about twenty city blocks.

I landed on a roof and he was there, waiting. The dark one, just leaning against the wall as calm as if he hadn't just lead me on the wild goose chase of my life.

His eyes gently made their way up to mine, holding me in his gaze.

"So beautiful. Such perfect beauty..." His voice dripped with sarcasm, gentle and lethal. He moved to me without seemingly moving at all. His hand came to my face, his thumbnail tracing a line of red over my cheek. "Perhaps we shall mar that beauty, hm?" He leaned in to lick the blood off of my face.

I'm ashamed to admit, I leaned into his embrace almost willingly. And by almost, I mean, I leaned in and tried to press my body into his hard, cold form, tearing at his clothes and feeling like mine were cutting off the circulation to all my important parts...

He chuckled deep in his chest and lead me away, down, back to the room, back to being naked on the bed, back to being teased with lips and tongue and teeth...

Realizing that the only reason I was back was because I wanted to be. Because I chose to be. Because I wanted it.

Because I needed it.

I took his clothes off, not feeling as numb as I had the night before. His flesh was so pale it looked white, with deep blue lines running up his neck and down his perfect arms...

He had a beauty that was inhuman, beyond human.

When his teeth sank into my neck, I screamed, bucked and brought him down on top of me.

My blood rushed and boiled, my flesh was superheated, I felt orgasm after orgasm pound through the open wound at my neck as I pumped my life into his open and hungry mouth...

All I could see was red. The world was a million shades of red all at once. My heart pounding against my ribcage filled my ears, each beat shaking my whole body.

I was in love.

It didn't last.

The sound began to fade, until I couldn't hear at all. I was getting cold, numbness washing over me like waves as the tide was coming in over my prone body. I was getting more and more removed from everything, until I couldn't think anymore.

It felt like being put under, only more so.

I was dying.

I thought I was dying.

I became increasingly aware as time went on that I was not dead.

Well, I could still see. So I didn't think I was dead.

The light was all I saw at first, and it was still red, fractured. I tried to blink, to bring things into focus, but nothing worked.

I opened my eyes.

I was staring at a ceiling.

It was dull, and dark. There was only one light, and it was over the sink in the corner. It was far away.

I felt.... strange.

I didn't think I was breathing. I tried to focus on that, but couldn't.

Couldn't hear the sound of my heart beating.

Couldn't feel the sheet beneath my naked body.

Couldn't feel the cold.

Could feel something that I had never felt before and couldn't identify.

Bit by bit, I became cognizant that I wasn't alone, that he was still in the room with me. I sat up carefully, expecting pain or resistance, but being mildly unsurprised when I got none. I looked around.

Nothing looked the same.

He certainly didn't look the same.

Still beautiful, but human looking. He had never looked like that before.

He smiled at me, and it was awful.

My head began to pound, a cacophony cracking at my edges.

I tried to clear my head, to still my thoughts, but I couldn't. They didn't even feel like mine.

I was parched, so parched. My throat was closing in on itself. I felt weak, and so hungry, need filling every particle within me.

My eyes meet his, pain filling my gaze. "What...?" I could barely speak.

He cocked his head and looked at me, somewhat quizzically. "I suppose you must be ready to feed? I can't spare anything for you. I don't want to, really. But it's going to be all right. No one died on their first night out. You'll be fine, just calm down."

His voice felt like needles in my ears. "What... have you done to me?"

He sighed, which I suspect he does quite well. "I marred your perfect beauty."

"What... are you?" I couldn't take it in, didn't want to....

He huffed. "You know, my darling. Denial will get you no where."

I stared at my hands. They were pale, and tinged with blue. They weren't my hands, but they were on the ends of my arms. My arms weren't mine either, but they were attached to my torso. My head didn't feel right, it wasn't my head. Who was thinking in my head? "Why?"

He became melancholy, something else I suspected he did quite well. "Your goodness mocked me. So I destroyed it." He paused, breathing as a novelty. "What? Don't look at me like that. It's not the first time I've done something like this."

I just started to shake my head, wanting desperately to make sense of anything but with each passing second becoming more confused, more wrapped in the haze of need.

I thirsted.

He chuckled, and tossed me some clothes, similar to what had been left for me the night before. "Get dressed. The sun will be up soon. You need to get to a safe place."

I went mad. I leapt up, knocking the bed over, picking up the chair and flinging it at him. I was peripherally aware that I was moving faster than I could, than anyone could, that I was making enough noise to wake the dead, that the furniture that I tossed was crumbling into match-sized pieces of timber from the force of my blows.

He evaded me easily, wearying of the struggle. He backhanded me, bringing me to my senses.

"I have no wish or desire to take you under my wing, nor do I suspect that you want my help. Get yourself to a safe place. The sun will be up soon."

And he was gone.

Just gone.

I wandered about the room empty and thirst. His words echoed in my head with a tinny quality. Safe place, sun, safe place, sun, safe place....

With no conscious thought at all, I threw on the shirt and jeans, ignoring the need for shoes, and leapt out the window.

I didn't think about a jumpline. Until I landed on the ground, my toes grasping the earth and my fingertips kissing the surface lightly.

I had been twelve stories up.

I moved about the city aimlessly, not sure of where to go or what to do. I was frantic, aching, and needing.

It was late, the night life gone, retreated to where the sun wouldn't shine on them, the day life not quite out yet.

Need pulsed through my body like fire, like lava pushing and punching its way to the surface of my being.

I was volcanic.

I heard the soft whine of a stray dog, a mongrel looking beast with its tail between its legs and its head down permanently. The rationale part of what was left of my brain recognized that the poor creature was exhibiting signs of abuse from a very early age.

The rest of my brain was no longer mine, echoes chaotically banging against one another seeking dominance.

I didn't even know what I had done until the dog's cold form was in my arms, lifeless, drained of all its blood. I looked down at the sad, despicable thing, and at myself, blood covering my chest and arms.

Horrified, I flung the dead body away from me, sending it arching through the air to smash against the wall of the building, shattering the corpse.

I couldn't even vomit at the sight, I had nothing in me to expel.

Then, I began to run. To a safe place. To the cave.

I moved with inhuman speed, faster than Wally, perhaps, my bare feet and hands grasping as I propelled myself to the tops of buildings and over the landscape.

I went in through the seaway entrance, which was a hole in the cliff wall at sea level. I had jogged down the rocky cliff and into the tunnel, grasping the sides of the cavern wall. Coming to the center, the heart of the cave itself, I lifted myself up until I could swing over the edge and land on the solid ground at the base of the batcomputer's dais.

I felt like I was being chased, and a sibilant voice whispered in the back of my head, the sun is coming, get to a safe place...

I collapsed on the floor of the cave, exhausted.

Bruce had just been de-suiting, and when he heard the disturbance, he came running.

"Dick?!!" He sounded... I could hear so much more than what he was saying, a thousand tiny whispers nagging me...

"Bruce..." I could barely speak, my throat still dry, the blood on my chin and in the corner of my mouth cracking to mock me as I tried to make sense. "Help me..."

And I fell into what felt like the grave.





I awoke to find myself strapped to a med-bed in the cave, voices all around me, hundreds of them, some that my ears could hear and so many others as well. There was fear dripping in big messy drops everywhere, and despair, as well as grief.

I made some sort of noise, as I pulled myself up, snapping the straps that held me down. Rubbing my forehead, I tried to quiet and still my mind, but again, it didn't feel like it was my thoughts that were disturbing my peace.

"Dick!" Tim's voice rang out like a bell at midnight. Everyone crowded in to me. I could smell them, their sweat, and pheromones, their breath, what they had eaten for dinner, and lunch, the shampoo that clung to their hair, the grime beneath their fingernails...

Alfred, Bruce, Tim, Leslie, and Barbara. All here, all around me.

I could feel the blood pushing through their veins.

I could taste it, practically.

My head swam.

"I... don't understand, this is, I mean, you said, but I can't explain..." Poor Leslie was so confused.

I turned to Bruce, who stood there reeking of relief. "What... happened?"

He cleared his throat slowly. "You came to the cave last night, apparently having climbed up from the sea. You collapsed, and couldn't be woken. Quick check of your vitals... well, you didn't have any vitals. You... were dead. Leslie came, and the others. You... were dead."

It came rushing back to me with the pounding of the hearts that surrounded me.

"You are dead." Leslie sounded outraged. "Your heart isn't functioning, you have no respiration, and haven't for at least 9 hours. I can't explain it, you are dead."

"Yes." My voice sounded weak.

"Dick? Are you ok?" Tim's eyes were as large as saucers, I could taste his fear, his concern. His love, such a well of brotherly love that I nearly drowned in it.

He looked unbearably tasty.

I got off the bunk and moved away, away from temptation and want.

"Dick? What do you remember? Where were you last night? What was the last thing that you saw?" Barbara, the voice of reason, trying to hold it together despite the grief that was nearly killing her. Her soft hair was tied back, and she hadn't eaten since she had heard from Bruce, probably early this morning. Her fingers were greasy from working the keyboard all day and night. She was on the edge of collapse, fatigue tracing every line of her.

She was full of hot, slow-moving blood, the taste of which was on the tip of my tongue.

I spun further and further away, trying not to hear all the voices in my head.

"We can't explain what happened yet, but don't worry, we'll get through this." Bruce, so calm and reasonable. So stoic. So rationale.

So ready and willing to give himself to me, so bursting with relief and desire...

"Stop. Stop, please, stay back... please..." I felt weak, disabled. I was so thirsty.

"Master Dick? What can we do for you?" Alfred. God, Alfred suspected.

"Please...." I went down on one knee, feeling the weight of my need and temptation.

Tim immediately jumped forward to help me.

I hissed at him and bared my teeth before him. My fangs. Dear God, I had fangs...

They all went back, Tim yelping and hiding behind Leslie.

They all stared at me.

They all knew, even if it was only in the shadows of their minds.

I could hear them knowing.

"Please... pleasepleaseplease... I am dead, please, destroy me, please, I can't, I can't, don't want to, don't want this, please, please, kill me..."

"How?" Practical Babs. I love her so.

"No." Bruce, solid and strong, and unyielding. "No, you are alive, there is hope..."

"I am dead."

"You are here, and... and... vital. There is a cure, or a way to reverse..."

"Kill. Me."

"I can't let you give up."

"Will you let me feed? Take a life to survive? I. Can't. Please."

"Dick... what do you mean?" Tears were forming in Tim's eyes, his strong heart pounding, his hot blood pulsing and crashing through his veins...

"I. Am. A. Vampire. I was killed last night. I let it happen. Destroy me, now, please... I can't hold out much longer..."

"No. There is a way. We will find it together..." Bruce couldn't let it go, couldn't let me go. I could feel it now, stronger than anything else that he felt, love, strong and pure, and desire, weak and tainted, a need that rivaled and feed my own.

"No. We won't. I'm dead."

"Dick... I don't know what happened to you, but there must be some scientific explanation, and therefore some solution..." Leslie was fighting with reason and what she was seeing. I was breaking apart.

With a feral cry, I leapt, landing on the med-bed, and dove, down to the sea far below the cave's surface.

I had to feed, and rather than take one of my friends, I went out to the sea to get what I needed.

I scavenged the shore, eating fish and whatever else scuttled by my way. It was acidic on my tongue, and turned my stomach, but it was all I could do.

I went up the length of Gotham harbor, feeding and staying in the shadows, trying to keep the pounding in my skull to a minimum. I was planning on just staying out, letting the sunrise take care of things for me. Assuming the legends were true, that is,

About an hour before dawn, I came across two dead bodies near the edge of the shore, drained of all their blood.

I barely got back to the cave before the sunrise.

Bruce was there, looking pale and hysterical. "Dick! We've been looking for you, I've been so worried..."

I fell, at his feet. Looking up, I croaked out, "The ones that made me. Are still in town."

And then, oblivion came again.





When I woke again, I was still in the cave, but in a bed, covered by a blanket. Bruce was there, as well as Alfred and Barbara, watching me carefully. Their thoughts spilled over me, tumbling together so I couldn't make one from the other. Pleasure, pain, grief, terror, hope, despair, disbelief, fear, anxiety. Someone had to go to the bathroom.

I looked down at myself. I was wearing the same shirt and jeans I had been given by my... maker. They were filthy, torn, and had blood on them. I disgusted even myself.

Before anyone could say a word, I brushed past them and headed for the shower.

Ripping the clothes off my body, I slid under the spray. The water was cold, but I barely felt it. I soaped up and examined myself closely.

My flesh was pale and white, with lines of blue wherever my veins were, clearly visible under the nearly translucent flesh. My fingernails were hard, and the edges were sharp, like blades.

I felt no cold or heat, except the blood I could smell in the next room.

Getting out of the shower, I looked at myself, my face, in the mirror. My eyes were more... vivid. The color was deeper, purer. I had fangs.

It took a minute to adjust to that, but really, they didn't look that bad.

Maybe I was changing more than I knew.

Unsettled by that thought, I went out to get dressed. With a towel wrapped around my waist, I went to the dressing area, where Bruce keeps all the disguise clothes.

I didn't waste much time. There wasn't time to waste. There were others, out there somewhere. I had to find them, because as uncertain as I was about being able to stop them, no one else stood a chance.

There were some leather pants that I knew fit me, and a loose black silk shirt that flowed on Bruce, so was much too big for me. Good for staying in the shadows, for being able to move and fight.

It looked good on me too.

I didn't bother with shoes, or buttoning every button or the sleeves. I was in a hurry.

I went back out there, and they were all still there. All the same, but now I could distinguish.

Alfred was worried, about Bruce and about everyone else. I was dead, and he knew that they weren't dealing with it. He was afraid that Tim didn't understand, that Barbara would be burdened with the responsibility of dealing with me.

That Bruce would lose what was left of his sanity if he had to admit I was gone.

Barbara was grieving, and she was doing it alone. She was barely able to keep herself together, much less deal with Bruce's apparent inability to cope with the facts.

Brave Barbara...

Bruce was overwhelmed with desire. Christ, how long had he felt like this? I had never known...

"I have to go out, find the ones that made me. They are still out there."

"There's more than one?" Barbara was finding it easier to focus on the bad guys than on me being one of the bad guys.

I sighed. "There are two. At least. Only one made me, but there were two the night before..."

"The night before? You knew they were out there? Why didn't you tell anyone?" She sounded angry, accusing me.

"I... I saw, something. The next night, I met two of them. The next night, I was made."

"Why didn't you tell someone?" She was reeking of anger, blaming me for the death of her friend. Her love...?

"I... It's not relevant now. I have to find them." And I left, left Bruce standing there uncertain and weak, not wanting me to go on my own and not knowing how to help, left Alfred hoping that I wasn't coming back. Left Barbara watching me, hating me.

I deserved her hate.

I didn't know where to begin to look, so I just went out and felt my way around. The temptations that surrounded me were tremendous. Hot, thick blood everywhere, want and desire cascading over me from everywhere, the creatures of the night were out in force, and I was more a part of them than I had ever imagined possible.

I rambled, not thinking that I was following a path, or any logic.

I heard her cry.

The victim.

Her plea was deafening, not in my ears but in my heart, her fear.

She didn't want to die.

She was so young.

I followed her, and found her body in a dumpster. Disgusted by the callousness of such an act, I pulled her out and left her near the storm grate. Someone would find her body there, and it would be horrible, but at least she wasn't in the trash.

She didn't deserve that.

I went up the side of the building, feeling a rage I had never felt before. I had seen the effects of monsters all my life, really. I had never been one of the monsters before.

Pulling myself up to the roof, I was prepared for what I saw.

Mostly.

The light one was there, waiting for me with a cocky grin. The dark one, my maker, was leaning against the antenna, looking contemptuously at me.

And there was another one there, he looked young enough to be one of Tim's classmates, but in the reflection on the orb of his eyes were centuries of memories, floating.

He was uncommonly beautiful.

I pulled myself up to full height, which wasn't really that impressive, but it was what I had to work with.

"Well, well, well... my word, darling, just look at you! Mm, I like the leather look, but I think that someone has been watching too much television..." The light one's silky voice still insinuated its way through me, just as it had when I was alive. "Now, I would never have thought to make you. One night of pleasure was certainly enjoyed by all, but more than that? Still... you are even more stunning now than you were before. Just as strong and agile, but with the perfection of eternity... Yes, I think you make a fine addition to our circle."

"I have no intention of joining your circle. You need to leave Gotham. There isn't enough room for you here." I tried to sound intimidating, but it was difficult with the way they were infiltrating my thoughts. Especially the young one, he was stepping through my mind with an ease that was both thrilling and terrifying.

"Excuse me? What makes you think that you can make demands, youngling? You are just new with your gift." He stepped closer to me, running his hand up my neck and brushing the back of his hand against my cheek. "So fiery, but darling, you can't defeat us. Why, you haven't even tasted human blood yet. You are weak, and fading. Please, I know you didn't ask for this." With that, he favored his dark companion with a withering look. My maker removed lint from his sleeve with more dignity than queens knight men. "I wouldn't have done it, and no one certainly consulted me. But what is done is done. We are your kin, now, we are your blood. There is much you need to learn, darling, much you still need to know."

"What is there to know? I'm dead. Remarkably active for a dead person, but dead all the same. And with the help of god and a few friends, hopefully I can take care of that 'activity' problem soon enough. But you can't work here. This town belongs to another. You have to leave."

He laughed in my face, a deep laugh straight from his belly. "My God the gall of this one! I'm beginning to think this wasn't such a bad idea after all!" He smiled at me, running his hand through my hair. "Darling, now that I think of it, I believe you may be unique amongst our kind. Invariably, we always wanted to be taken, even if we would later regret it. And few, if any, have had the gumption to end it so quickly. But let's not be hasty, hm? There is always time to decide later. Again, you will need to learn much. You have been reborn. New rules apply."

"Dead, not born. You can't stay here."

"And you, my precious little hero, can't make me leave."

I set my jaw. "I can try."

He laughed again, a hyena's laugh. "You have no conception of what power you would be setting yourself against!"

I eyed him objectively. "I spent my life fighting people bigger and stronger than me. I've fought metahumans and aliens with super powers. If I have to, I will crawl my way back from hell itself to stop you from gaining a foothold here."

The laughter was gone from him, but he was still entertained by me. "And if there is no hell?"

I shrugged. "There is always a way back."

He grinned, the feral grin of the tiger eyeing the competition. He turned away from me and walked to his companion. The dark one's eyes turned to his counterpoint's, challenging him. Meanwhile, the young one's eyes met mine, and he introduced himself to me in an unusual way. Feeling heat enter me, I turned my face from him, earning the first smile from him that I had seen.

"I have no wish to squabble with you. We are brothers, of a kind, after all." The light one's voice was haughty and care free, as if it was only ever a whim that he spoke of. "You want to remain here, away from us? Just one thing, however. Why? You know that we exist, that somewhere we must feed. Is it really so bad? Every ecosystem must have its predators. Should the human refuse be any different?"

I pulled air into my lungs for the sheer movement of it. "This is my home. This is his home. I can't fight you and win. I have no idea how many of you there are. But this is our home. Surely you can see the importance of that."

They all regarded me, watching and gauging my reactions closely.

Finally, he spoke. "He will grow old and die, like the rest of them. You can stay with them as long or as little as you like, it won't change the fact that they aren't your people anymore; we are."

I really looked at him, taking in his haute couture and regal carriage. I wondered how old he was. "I long ago learned the importance of choosing your relations. I know that he, and everyone I love, will die in front of me if I don't destroy myself. It doesn't matter. I don't know if you can understand this. I don't know how long it has been since you truly cared about something or someone finite. But he has given so much. This is what I can give. I owe him. I am who I am because of him, not you."

The silence filled the night, until the peals of laughter shattered the moment with its vulgar intensity.

"So be it, little hero! Imagine that, one of ours a superhero! Will wonders never cease! So be it, none of our kind will trespass in this city, or its sister to the south, I think? Hm. But don't give up so quickly, my darling. You are so beautiful. If you tire of the tediousness of your life, come find us. We won't be hard to locate. We would welcome your presence in our play. I think you could quite easily enliven us!"

My maker looked outraged, protesting. "But! This isn't right! He hasn't the right!"

But his companion silenced him with a passionate kiss, whispering into his mouth, "It was your doing, my love. What can I do? It is no concern of ours. Let him be, haven't we damaged him enough? Do we not owe him this small thing in exchange for the pleasure we had of him?"

My skin crawled in the face of their obvious passion, and the reminder of the game I played with them, four nights previous.

They turned to me, the light one coming to stand directly in front of me. "Be wise, my darling little hero. Whatever choices you make, whether to throw away the gifts you've been given, in life and in this afterlife, or whether you choose to pass yourself off as one of them, in whatever capacity. Just be wise."

And then he leaned in and took my mouth, pulling my body against his, and teasing me with his fangs, brushing my tongue but not piercing me.

His smile when he let me go spoke of triumph.

My maker eyed me suspiciously, a glare I returned easily. After a moment, he leaned close to me and whispered, "Just don't make us come back here for you."

They left, and then it was just myself and the young one.

He grinned, grateful to finally have my full attention. He moved to walk towards me, his every motion screaming of sensuality. His presence insinuating into my subconsciousness, taunting me with promises and teasing me with offers.

"Well, it seems that all have gotten their way in this affair." He sounded put out. "You should heed both of them, you know. Be wise and cautious. The only thing you have to fear now is them."

"Not you?" I couldn't resist the urge to flirt.

"You have nothing to fear from me." His whisper caressed my senses, tantalizing me.

"And why is that? You seem much older than they..."

"True. But that is precisely why. It is hard, after so much time, to remember things. About life, and purpose. You are... intoxicatingly vital. And I have never met a creature so devoted and pure of spirit. I have the most devilish desire to corrupt you." His puckish grin was so fitting with his youthful mask.

"I suspect I am not as pure as you make me out to be."

"Pure enough." And he leaned up on his tiptoes to kiss me gently, licking my fangs, making my spine tingle. "He was right, you can see, there is much you still need to learn. And much you will suffer. I know you love them. Can't see your way through to abandon them. We all felt that way, for the most part. But you have no idea how it will be to watch them fade and wither in front of you." He paused, thoughtful. "When you are ready, not necessarily to join us, but to learn a little, let me know. I am only a thought away. When you are grieving over the rotting flesh of those you love, you will be grateful for a friendly companion who understands."

And it really sounded as if he had been through all that, all that lay before me if I didn't let nature take its course with the rising of the sun.

"I... will remember that. Out of curiosity, how old are you?"

He grinned a private grin. "I've been dead and buried since before history." And it sounded as if he really wished that it was not the case.

With that, he left, and I was alone in the city, with temptation and hunger as my only guides.

I returned to the cave, after draining a few rats, my throat raw and aching, knowing that I wasn't feeding properly.

Bruce was waiting for me, alone.

I had come back to say goodbye, but I found myself washed in his feeling. Desire. Love. Hope. Need. I could feel it radiating off of him, the absolute dependence on me. I had never suspected it before, had thought that he had always felt... well, burdened isn't the right word, but something akin to that, at least.

It humbled me.

"Bruce..."

"I take it that they are gone?"

"They... have promised me that Gotham would be off-limits to them and theirs."

"And what does their promise mean?"

"I... I guess we will find out."

"Well, you'll need to stick around until we can be certain they are staying away." I could hear the desperate plea in his thoughts, begging me to stay, barely restraining himself from swearing that he would die if I died... "No one else can fight them."

"Stop, Bruce..."

"I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but I think that there are solutions here that you aren't really considering..."

"Bruce, no, I can't..."

"You have to live, Dick." His voice and his thoughts echoing one another.

"Bruce. I can hear your thoughts."

He stared at me, blankly. Not wanting to believe me.

"I know how you feel, Bruce. And I can't..."

"Dick." His voice a whisper. "I... it's not what you think. I don't. I mean, I wouldn't..."

"You do. I can feel it. It's time to accept things, Bruce. Accept what Barbara and Alfred and Leslie are trying to tell you, accept that I. Am. Dead. I can't be here anymore, Bruce, I'm sorry, but I can't."

"No, you have to stay, fight... You have such strength, now..."

"It's not safe here."

"We will find a way to make this work. There has never been anything that the two of us couldn't handle..."

"Bruce. Stop. Stop. I can feel your want, your lust. I can taste your need. I don't know how long you have felt this way, but I can't stay here Bruce."

"But... No, I mean, I didn't... I..." He fell, defeated, to his chair. "I always wondered what would happen if you found out. I wondered how you would react. I imagined a thousand different scenarios, where you would learn, and then... Do you hate me?" He never sounded so weak.

I came to stand beside him, my hand involuntarily reaching for his face, tracing his features... "No. But, your need feeds my need. You have no idea how tempting you are, right now. It takes all that I have to resist you..."

His eyes lit up, brighter than I have ever seen them. The hope bursting out of them nearly bringing me to my knees. "Don't." He barely got the word out in a hushed breath as he stood, taking my hand in his and kissing my palm. "Don't resist, give in. Take me, have me. I can sustain you, just take what you need, I'd give myself to you willingly..."

I didn't try to stop myself for a second, just let myself ride the moment and the feelings. Let my lips touch his, his hot needy blood right at the surface of his skin, let my lips pull back and my teeth just barely touch his lips, the tiniest taste of blood on my tongue...

I jerked back, aghast, hating myself more than I ever thought possible.

"No! Are you insane! I would kill you, how could you! How could you let me continue like this, the antithesis of everything that we stand for! I have to leave, Bruce, I won't just stand back and become a monster, and I can't believe that you want that!"

I was shaking with rage, with need, with lust. With his need, and lust, and fear.

The sun rose, and I collapsed into unconsciousness.





The next day, I was in Bruce's bedroom, his drapes replaced with thick black velvet.

Annoyed, I slipped out of the bedroom and glided through the mansion to the entrance to the cave. It was... surreal, being in the house that I had... lived in, grown up in... I was dead. I thought I had adjusted to the idea, but really, I didn't even understand it. I didn't breathe anymore, my blood was still within me. It wasn't even really my blood anymore, but really the blood of a mongrel dog and diseased rats...

The thought was sickening. I was sickening.

The house was the same, but looked utterly different. It was as if the color had been bleached out of everything, until it was all less vital than before. The house was inanimate. When I was alive, I would remember things, images, feelings, each object and room in this house was a part of me, as I would associate them with times in my life and experiences.

Now, I could still remember, with photographic frozen clarity, yet I felt nothing.

That was sadder than that dog I ate.

I could hear the sound of a single heartbeat below, spiking. Intrigued, I went down the stairs to the cave.

Alfred was manning the radio in the cave. I could hear Tim's voice on the other end.

"I repeat! Batman is down! He's... buried in rubble, I think his leg must be broken! We need backup! Please, I... I don't know what to do, there's too many of them and the Joker's got all the advantages..."

"Where are they?" My voice was icy steel.

Alfred turned to me, his eyes grey and sad. He hesitated, weighing his options. He really wasn't pleased with my presence here, my existence offended him. But he didn't hesitate long.

"The Joker escaped during his transfer to Arkham. He is working with a gang associated with Biggston, an upstart trying to muscle into Gotham. They appeared at the DrumpTowers construction site."

I was gone, faster than a thought, moving with the wind. I felt nothing, no air against my skin could elicit a response. My only thought was that Bruce was hurt, and that he needed me.

And I was already too late. As always.

When I got to the site, Robin and the Huntress were facing down 15 heavily armed goons, and the Clown Prince himself was laughing in his usual exuberant style, holding Bruce by the chin and holding a gun against Bruce's nose.

I growled, and became the predator.

I wasn't thinking as I flew into the fray, disarming enough goons so that Robin and the Huntress could manage. Then, I was next to the Joker.

There was blood in the air, hot, viscous blood. I could taste the anger and hatred all around me. Feel the fear. Smell the insanity.

This man... he killed Jason, crippled Barbara, slaughtered hundreds in his notorious record, tortured hundreds more... he lived solely because there wasn't a way to legally kill an insane man.

I could slip into his mind, insinuate myself into his madness. I could see the misdirected passions and tormented logics that constituted his thought processes. I could see how he saw himself, a monarch in a sea of peasants.

I could kill him, so easily, and it would make me feel so much better, I could have human blood in my body again, his blood could invigorate me...

Feeling sick to my stomach, I kicked the gun out of his hand, causing him to spin. Then, I spun him around so that his back was facing me, and punched him directly in the fourth lumbar vertebrae with enough force to shatter it completely, and sever the spinal cord.

Effectively doing to him precisely what he did to Barbara.

Justice was served, finally.

The sounds of sirens vibrated around us, sending the remaining goons scuttling for cover as Robin and the Huntress picked them off, one by one.

Bruce's leg was broken, and he had several large contusions and cuts. Since he couldn't really walk, he couldn't get away from the flashing red and blue lights that would expose him to the authorities.

Clearly, I had to help him out of here.

Picked him up with one arm under his arm, I jumped up and carried us away from the scene. Taking a moment to settle him against the wall of a building as we stood on the ledge to make sure that everything was getting taken care of below and that Robin would be ok, I really looked him over. He was panting, sweating, bleeding, broken, clutching at me weakly, huffing noisily, his blue eyes bright as they watched me as if I were his knight in shining armor...

The smell of blood stuck onto his skin was like honey, sweet and inviting, his desire and love seeping into me with as much ease as rainwater seeps into ground underneath the protection of a wide, old oak tree.

His lips have never tempted me to taste them before, and I was almost struck with the thought of it.

"You saved me." His voice was deep and quiet, with resonance and tone I hadn't the ears to appreciate before.

"You were hurt."

"I'm all right now."

"You have a funny way of defining all right." He smiled.

"You can see that I need you now."

"I could see that you needed me before, Bruce. But I am dead."

"So? You still saved us tonight."

"I need blood to live, now. I need to kill now to feed."

"You were vegan before?"

I smiled. "That's not the point..."

"I love you."

"I know."

"Do you?"

"Yes... didn't I say so? I can hear your thoughts..."

"Do you know what it is to love? What it means to me? How precious and rare and miraculous it was the day I realized that I loved you? Do you know what it means to me to say I love you, and not have you turn away from me?"

"Bruce..."

"I love you."

"I can't..."

"I'd do anything for you, anything."

"Don't..."

"I love you."

My lips touched his, to silence him more than anything else. His kiss was sweet and long, he sighed against my lips. I could feel him, in me, his joy.

I didn't know what I had done until the pounding became so soft....

I had just acted. His love, his need, his joy had filled me. I felt... whole, alive. I kissed him, deeply, and didn't think. The pounding began, like a drumbeat in my stomach, as his life and love filled and completed me.

Never had I been so happy. Not while I was alive.

Then the drum got sluggish and softer, and suddenly a flash of memory from the night I was made burned across my eyelids.

He was dying.

I pulled away, and saw the huge gaping wound in his neck. Blood just poured out of him, but slowly, and there was so much in my mouth that there was hardly any on his neck.

"Bruce!" I felt my heart skip, even though it wasn't beating, and I became frantic. I licked his neck, and put my hand over it. Amazingly, his blood seemed to clot and his wound was closed, but he was deathly pale and his vitals were weak.

Faster than I had carried myself from the cave to the construction site, I carried him from the ledge to Dr. Leslie's private clinic.

The really private one.

I hit the call button, and got Bruce prepped. I ripped off his suit and started first aide. I pulled out some plasma from the freezer and started a line.

Dr. Leslie slammed the door open, already ready for action. "I heard about the Joker. What's his status?"

"Broken leg, contusion, no internal bleeding as far as I can tell, but he's lost a lot of blood."

"Really? His wounds don't look that deep." She wasn't looking at me, she was working on Bruce as she spoke.

"He... from his neck, from a neck wound. It's mostly healed."

She spared just enough time to give me the coldest glare I had ever received, and she ordered blood from her bank, typed and matched for Bruce. Then, she said, with clipped and angry words, "Get out. Don't ever let me see you here again."

I stepped out of the room, out into the waiting area. I thought of Tim, and Alfred, and Barbara, here waiting to see how he would be.

Disgusted with myself, I ran out.

I meant to not stop until it was dawn, and I was out in some field far away from shelter, unable to do a damn thing to stop myself from combusting.

But the blood inside me was like lava, I was on fire, and so connected to Bruce, I felt like I could feel him recovering.

I could still hear him whispering, I love you.

I went to the cave, and found a crevice to sleep until sunset in.





When the sun died for another night, I was immediately aware that Bruce was nearby. My sense of him was so strong that I could even feel how annoyed he was. I could almost hear Leslie's nagging instructions and wry jokes about the likelihood of him heeding her.

Uncertain, I stayed in the cave until I was sure that he was alone.

Alfred was in the kitchen, preparing a late meal. He was nervous, something I really didn't associate with Alfred.

He was also carrying a wooden stake. He knew he wouldn't use it, but he was carrying it for the effect, so that I would understand his intent.

I understood.

Bruce was in bed, although he had his laptop running and online.

Someday, someone needed to introduce Bruce to the true purpose of the internet.

Slipping into his room soundlessly, I got to do something I never did when I was alive; I got to watch Bruce without him knowing. I let myself feel him, using senses I didn't have when I was breathing. I could feel his tension underneath his flesh, the throbbing pain that had never let up and wouldn't let him rest. I felt his raw animal need to fight, a response built into his every action. His body was in perfect balance; even now I could feel the blood rushing through him, bringing healing agents to his leg and other wounds. The keen mind behind the piercing blue eyes was in a state of practiced stillness, as he choose not to think, even as he was busy researching and planning a night's attack from his bed.

I had never noticed before how beautiful he was. He was finer than the most treasured artwork, his flesh artfully carved and toned to an ideal of the male form. His high cheek bones made his face appear angular when seen behind the cowl, but the slope of his forehead made his face open and approachable. He had a small but dignified nose, and full strong lips.

The taste of him filled my memory, eliciting a sigh that brought those quick eyes to mine.

He was an intoxicatingly dangerous temptation.

And then he smiled at me.

I closed my eyes and walked around the room, trying to gather my thoughts. I had nearly killed this man last night, this man that had sacrificed so much for so many, myself included. I had nearly devoured him without a thought to what I was doing.

It was my nature now.

"Please tell me that now you understand why I must stay away, be destroyed."

I felt, rather than saw, his smile fade.

"I thought... last night, I felt... you know I can't... Don't. Dick. Last night, we were joined. You know you can't ask me to give up on you."

"And if I were to destroy myself? What if I were just dead, Bruce? What then?"

A silence. And then, "I would die." His voice tiny and weak.

"Why? When did you become so dependent on me?"

"I... don't know, exactly. I suppose, after you became Robin." I turned to look at him, to try to see him with my dead human eyes. "Before then, I had shored myself so that no one could touch me and I needed no one. I was alone, but I couldn't be hurt. And then there you were, by my side, needing me to set you on the path to healing as opposed to tearing yourself apart with hate. And you became my partner. I hadn't wanted or needed it, but it was there. And I realized... the only reason I agreed to let an angry teenager take the passenger seat of the batmobile was because I needed him to be there. To look out for me, to... care about me. I've needed you ever since then, I just... didn't know how to tell you. Anything."

I grinned, despite myself. "You picked a particularly horrible time to start."

He smiled, shyly. "I would have preferred to have done so while you lived, but... I was afraid. I thought... you would be mad at me, for loving you. You would hate me."

He sounded afraid. I sat on the bed and put my hand on his foot. "I'm sorry that you felt you couldn't tell me."

He watched me closely. "If I had told you, how would you have reacted? What would you have said?"

I sighed. "I don't know. I... can only remember what it was like to be alive in photo book memory. I can see the memories, I can remember the feelings, but I can't feel the memories. I... I'm not the man I used to be, Bruce." My eyes met his. "I'm afraid of the man I've become. The man I turned into."

"Dick..." He murmured quietly, leaning in to touch my cheek. "Don't you think the very fact that you are afraid means that you haven't become the monster that you think you are? If you really were like the predator that made you, wouldn't you be living without thought to the repercussions?

"Bruce..." I kissed his wrist, letting the flat of my teeth touch his skin. "I nearly killed you last night."

He was breathing deeply, and I became curiously aware that he was becoming aroused. "You didn't, though. I'm here, and I'm fine."

I licked the skin covering the veins at his wrist. "It was so close... do you know how close it was?"

"I never felt as close to anyone before..."

"That's not what I meant," I was flirting with Bruce. Incredible, but true. He was becoming more aroused, and I was feeling something deeper than arousal. I was more aware of myself than I had been when I was alive and feeling the rush of blood to my groin. It was like being hyper aware of everything around me, and all my attention was centered on Bruce. "You could have died last night, my Bat. Your life was in my hands, in my mouth... and I didn't know what I was doing until it was almost too late..."

"I've put my life in your hands more time than I could remember, Dick. I've never regretted it before." He leaned in and kissed me at the base of my neck, where my collar bone made the little v.

I was ecstatic. I was filled with the bliss of his love, and his desire. I was joyous.

I was hungry, and he was so hot and ready for me...

With a violent shove, I pushed him down to the bed and flung myself across the room and against the wall. My senses were on fire, driving me to go to him, lay him across the bed and take what I wanted from him, by whatever means necessary.

He would love it, too.

"WHAT. The HELL. Do you think we are doing? HOW many times do I have to say this, Bruce? I. Am. Going. To. Kill. You. Please, this has to stop, I have to be stopped. Can't you see that?" I felt desperation eating at me, tearing my flesh from my bones.

He was sweating slightly, the scent sweeter than any perfume to my hyperactive senses. "I can see that, Dick, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be tempting you, but... I love you. I can't help wanting to give you whatever you want. And I can't help thinking... if you tried... you could overcome your needs, and be a real asset to the world, with your powers..."

I watched him, closely, seeing him with the kind of detail that was almost repellent. "You... you want me to feed on you. You want me to stay with you and feed off of you..."

"You can still function, Dick. You can still contribute. We just need to work together..."

"Bruce... it's madness..."

I was shaking with fear and shock. He couldn't mean...

"I know it seems crazy..."

"That's because it is!"

"Dick, I just think that we can make this work if we try..."

"Master Bruce! You promised us you wouldn't see him alone!"

Alfred was carrying a tray with soup and tea, and steaming himself.

"Alfred! Please! I am not a child, I know what I am doing!"

"No. You don't." My voice was weak and low. I realized that the only reason that I wasn't crying was because I wasn't able to anymore.

I slipped out of the room and was gone without a look back.

I was in the city before I realized where I was. It was still early in the night, for Gotham, and the streets were bright and alive. I was invisible, sticking close to the shadows, feeling very much outside everything.

I watched the people going from place to place, seeing them as I never had before. I could taste their animal desires and passions, the desperation that leaked out of every sweating pore of every waiting victim that wandered by. They were all so preoccupied, so concerned about where they were going or who they would be with or what someone thought of them or what they thought of someone...

Is this humanity, then? This waste of decaying flesh, these scavengers that roam blind and defenseless in a minefield?

I never felt a part of things. Growing up in a circus, and then in stately Wayne Manor, taught me to look at things from the outside in. I had always envied the people whose main concerns were getting someone to notice them, or getting into the hot new club, or paying their bills...

Now, they just repulsed me.

I wasn't human anymore. I knew that, intellectually, but it was starting to really make sense. I had died, but I hadn't. I was gone, the man I was no longer existed, but I still existed... It was like walking into a dream land, where all the rules of physics were changed and no one seemed to notice it.

Why was Bruce so stubbornly maintaining that I should stay with him? He must know the risk he was putting us both in. The taste of his blood was utterly divine, and filled me with more exhilaration than anything else I had ever experienced. But he must know how easy it would be to kill him... how I want to drink from him until he is dry...

Why, then, would he tempt me? His feelings run deep, but why would he risk his own life and my soul for love?

Assuming I still had a soul.

How could he believe that it was worth the risk?

I was lost, wandering aimlessly with my thoughts, when I heard it. At first, I thought it was a scream, and I couldn't understand why no one was reacting to it, but then I realized that it was only in my head.

Someone was screaming for help in their mind, not far.

I moved to find them without considering what I was doing. It was an alley, three blocks from where I had been when the incessant terror-filled mindscreaming began.

A woman, possibly twenty at most, was being gang raped.

Well, she was being gang raped when I got there. She was being helped up off the ground about thirty seconds later. I helped her straighten her clothes and put herself back into order. She was crying and trying to hold herself together, but inside her head she was still screaming loudly enough to give me a migraine.

I wanted to suck all the blood out of her and just bring an end to that horrific noise...

"You have to go to the hospital, get checked out. I will make sure that they are taken in by the police, but you have to go, make sure that you aren't too badly injured, have some blood tests..."

She was shaking and crying and wiping her nose on my shirt. Really, she might be happier without her blood...

I took her face in my hands, and brought her eyes up to mine. I let my mind slip into hers, finding it easier than I would have thought possible, and stilled the panic and fear and hate inside. Letting my thoughts insinuate themselves with hers as my voice cut through the fog of her terror, I whispered to her silkily, "You are going to be all right. You are strong, you will survive this. This isn't your fault. And you will overcome this."

Sniffling, her eyes cleared, and she seemed to really see me for the first time. "Th-thank you, you saved me. God, I think they were going to..."

"Don't think about that. It didn't happen. And you can recover from what did happen."

"I can recover from this..." She sounded distant and sleepy as she turned a glazed eye over her attackers. "You hurt them? Thanks, they deserved it. I need to go to the hospital. Maybe... I should call an ambulance, police?"

"That would be a good idea."

"You will stay with me until they come?"

"Of course."

She had a cell phone. In ten minutes, the police and an ambulance were there. The attackers were just regaining consciousness when the police were cuffing them, and she went into the ambulance telling the emt's about the vigilante that saved her and then left.... I stood in the shadows, misdirecting people's attention away from me, watching them gain evidence and clear out the scene.

I climbed the side of the building up to the top, seriously disquieted about the nature of my mental powers.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find Robin there, but I was.

Tim was watching me carefully, his arms across his chest, trying to appear cool and composed. But he knew how exposed he was to me.

"How long have you been following me?"

"Alfred told Babs that you had left the house. Bruce had put a tracer on you the first night you were in his bed. I watched you walking down the street. I saw you suddenly start running, or whatever it is called when you go from 0 to 60 in two seconds flat. And I saw you knock those... bastards out with precision strikes, and how you helped that girl. Did you play with her mind?"

"I... no, I just planted suggestions, to help her with the shock. At least, that was what I was trying to do. I... this is new to me, I'm not quite sure of my own strength yet."

"It was good, what you did."

"I wanted to kill her. She was screaming in my head." I spoke low, trying to impress upon him that nothing had changed. I was still the monster.

He watched me in his way, gauging my reactions and studying my posture.

He is an impressive young man.

"You didn't. Just like you could have killed the Joker, but didn't. You hit him hard just where you needed to. You could have done a lot more damage to those creeps, too, but only knocked them out. I think... I don't think Bruce is thinking clearly these days, but I think he may have a point. You may be able to control this... thing, inside you, and do good with it."

"I need blood to sustain myself."

He unfolded his arms, and shifted his feet in an uncharacteristically nervous gesture. "I know." His voice was small and nearly a whisper, as he kept his eyes down. "Bruce wants you to use him to keep yourself alive." His soft blue eyes came up slowly, his tension palpable. "He loves you."

"He loved me when I was alive."

Tim thought about that for a moment, weighing it against what he knew. "He loves you now, too. He sees the difference, but he sees the similarities as well." He paused, taking a deep breath. "Maybe you should stop to see the similarities as well."

I smiled, because he was so Tim, even now.

He watched me closely. "Were you attracted to men when you were alive?"

"I... why?"

"Because you are in love with him, too. I was just wondering... when did that start? I find it hard to believe that I would have missed that before."

I chuckled. "I... it's hard to say, Tim. I don't really remember well enough. I think... maybe I was inclined in that way, at least somewhat. But, I don't think I ever felt that way about Bruce before."

"And now? Doesn't it seem... wrong?"

"Yes. But wrong because I know how easily I could kill him. How much I want to kill him. My desire for him... it isn't something that I can regret."

"Why not?" He wasn't asking to accuse me, he was just trying to understand. I think I underestimated Tim when I was alive. Which is saying a lot about who he is, since I thought pretty highly of him then.

"Because... what I am attracted to, it isn't... carnal. He is... he is giving himself to me, so selflessly. I can see him, Timothy, better than I ever could have before. His sacrifices, and pain, and the love that he is capable of... I don't know, maybe it is wrong. But it doesn't feel that way. How did you know that I felt that way about him?"

"Because you are still 'alive.' If you didn't return his feelings, you would have destroyed yourself after nearly killing him. You are staying alive for him." He spoke with matter of fact conviction.

I grinned. "You really were born to be a detective."

"Would you kill me? Take my blood?" And he wasn't offering, but only wanting to know if I would do that.

I paused to really think. He was so young and delicious, so open and caring. I was purposefully not allowing myself to be aware of the aura of him, his scent and taste, but his mind and heart were completely open to me. Even though I wasn't looking, I could see. It was like he had a floor-to-ceiling window leading into him, even if I didn't look through it, I could still see the sunshine pouring through it.

"No. I would rather die. But I am tempted. I want to. And maybe I won't always be able to resist."

He shivered, involuntarily. "Maybe. I guess we'll have to wait and see."

With deliberate motions, he left, swinging out into the night.

I watched him until he was blocked by the skyline.

He had me all figured out.

I slept that night in the sewer, feeling very much like I belonged there.





Waking was painful, disorientation and confusion washing over me as consciousness asserted itself.

I didn't know who I was for two blissful minutes.

Memory and remembering brought me to a moment of decision. What was I to do with myself? Should I destroy myself? Leave Gotham? Feed?

I was really hungry.

I thought of Bruce, alone in the Manor, still recovering from his injury, coordinating the night's activities from the cave. I didn't know how, exactly, I was able to know so much about what he was feeling from so far away.

I paused for a moment to feed on some rats and consider. I was connected to Bruce, from the blood, but also it was something else. There was something about him that made him stand out from the rest of the maddening noise in the back of my head. Well, we had always had a connection. I can still remember when my parents died, afterwards, sitting in the tent, with all the flashing lights and people talking around me, he came to sit with me, brought me hot cocoa, and held me in his arms after I crawled into his lap and started to cry.

I could remember coming to live in the Manor, and being intimidated by how old and nice everything was. I wasn't used to nice things. But he made me feel better by tossing some old piece of crystal over his shoulder cheerfully when I said I was afraid of breaking stuff.

He had been my best friend ever since I found out he was Batman. That's when I knew that he understood how I was hurting, and what I was feeling. He trained me, and I helped him with his acrobatics, and we were partners. Real partners, even though he was in charge, we helped each other. That was the way it had always been, helping each other, and being with each other, and taking care of each other.

Even when we weren't speaking to each other, that was the way that it worked. When I was leaving the nest, so to speak, and we clashed, it was necessary, because I needed to find my own wings and he needed to learn to let go of me and let me fly alone. When Jason had died, I could remember sitting in his room, on his bed, as we just sort of talked about nothing, all night long. I hadn't been home for months and months, and after that I had left and hadn't come home again until Tim had dragged me back, but it had been perfectly natural. The two of us, just leaning against the pillows, chatting about the weather and the Knight's, and Alfred's cooking.

I remember when I first went to Bludhaven, finally feeling like I was on my own two feet. Not because I was away from him, but because I had finally found my own quest. Like Gotham for Bruce, Bludhaven was going to be my responsibility. He didn't understand, but he accepted. We got to be closer than ever before, simply because I finally got that we were equal. It was good to be able to talk to him, and not feel like I had to stand on my tip-toes to do so.

My memories of my life with Bruce were rich and textured, as if layered. I remember the first time I kissed Kory, and it was like remembering a scene in a movie. None of the emotion, the sensory stimulation, or context were there. I could recite the exact sequence of events, but I didn't feel anything.

I could remember with digital precision falling in love for the first time with her, but I couldn't feel the memories.

On the other hand, my memories of Bruce were distant, as all my memories of living were, but more in focus.

Was the connection the same that had always been there, or was it the blood? If I sucked on Kory's life, would I remember my life with her better? If I feed on Barbara, would I fall in love with her again?

What if I killed Bruce? What would I feel then? Intellectually, I recognized it as a possibility. But it seemed to be a cold likelihood. As if, I knew I could and maybe someday would, but it just didn't feel like it was real.

And yet, when his neck was in my mouth, I wanted to drink him dry. It was only in the last seconds when I felt his life fading that I stopped. What made me think that I would always stop? What if I became the sort of monster that could kill and feel no remorse? What if that day came that I killed him, and I didn't feel like destroying myself after? What if I kept killing?

I had started to walk at some point, and found myself at the harbor. With barely any effort, I could sense Bruce's thoughts. He was itchy, and uncomfortable. And he was getting pestered.

He was terrified that I wasn't coming back.

I suppose it was some sort of morbid self-loathing that drew me back to the cave. That, and I couldn't stand his fear for another minute.

I watched him for a full ten minutes before I let him see me. I couldn't get over how lovely he was, and how I had somehow missed seeing how masculine and beautiful he was.

But... I had seen all that before. What I couldn't see before was how deep his beauty went. How much he loved, even though he kept his heart locked away. How much pain he kept inside of him, using it to fuel his fight. How brilliant he was, how passionate, how darkly funny...

He was nearly perfect.

He was exhausted.

I came up behind him and let him become aware of my presence so that when I put my hands on his shoulders, he wouldn't be surprised. I massaged him gently, releasing knots of tension as much with my thoughts as with my hands.

"I wasn't sure you would come back."

"Neither was I."

"What made you, mm, decide to come back?"

"I don't know. I suppose that things are unresolved between us."

"Oh?"

"Bruce..."

"Tim told me about the girl you saved."

"Did he also tell you that I wanted to kill her?"

"He said you knocked out all her attackers without causing serious injury to any of them."

"Did he tell you that I wanted to kill you too?"

"I was thinking that you could be Batman. Take over, or just trade off. You could do more good than I could, with these new powers."

"That's not..."

"And you could operate in the 'haven and in Gotham. Blockbuster has been moving hard there, since Nightwing hasn't been around for about a week now."

I took my hands off him, missing the heat and vitality of his touch right away. "You aren't listening to me. You aren't planning on listening to me at all, are you?"

He looked me straight in the eye. "And you aren't listening to me, either. You are needed. I know... it is more difficult now, but that's always been the way, hasn't it?"

I turned away, to the abyss and the darkness in the center of the cave. "Bruce... I think I may be falling in love with you."

His shock washed into me, cooling me.

"I think... it is very dangerous. I am dangerous. I'm scared, too, Bruce. I don't want to be a monster."

He came up behind me, leaning on his crutch, and placed his arms around my waist gently, as if waiting for me to revoke his privilege. Leaning his chin on my shoulder, he spoke into my ear, his jumbled and confused feelings speaking as loudly to me as his words. "I know, Dick. I'm not looking forward to dying. But... I feel there's still hope. It's not over yet. It's bleak, I'll give you that, but it's not over."

I placed my hands on his arms, letting the feel of his tempting and delicious body soak into me. "Bruce... I think you should be in bed."

"Oh?" His voice was teasing and tempting. "Really?" And hopeful.

"Yes, definitely. They can take care of themselves." He knew I was talking about Robin et al without my saying any more. He rubbed his chin against me a little.

"I hate being confined to my bed." He was dangerously close to pouting. I had to grin.

"I could make you like it." I teased him with glee.

"Could you?" he challenged me.

I laughed low and deep, and swept him up into my arms with one quick motion, making him laugh with surprise.

I imagine he doesn't often get swept off his feet.

I took him up stairs, carefully preventing Alfred from hearing the sound of us moving around. I didn't want any interruptions. Interruptions from what, I couldn't say, but I wanted time alone with him to work whatever this was out.

I laid him on the bed, arranging his limbs carefully so that he could be comfortable, and made sure that the door was locked and the curtains tightly pulled closed. Laying myself out next to him, I allowed myself to breathe in the aura of him. Letting him kiss my chin, I closed my eyes, and spoke gently.

"Now. What did we come up here to do?"

He sighed, deeply, and ran his hand up my arm. "Don't toy with me. Don't pretend to play, and then take it all back by walking away."

"But Bruce, you offered yourself as my plaything. Didn't you?" I let my mouth touch his neck and just licked, enjoying the sensations I was getting from his heart more than what I was getting from my tongue. He tried to turn, but I held him steady. "No, love, let me give you what you need. A reward, for your generosity."

I then proceeded to lick and caress him everywhere, shredding the clothes off of his body as I made my way down. I let my senses open to him entirely, feeling him as deep as I could feel. His blood tempted me, but it wasn't the purpose of my explorations. I felt his pleasure melt his pain and fear. That was what I was here for.

Occasionally, I would let my teeth just graze his skin, bringing heat to the surface that I could lick gently away. Even that slight measure of blood would be enough to join us. His arousal was like a beacon to me, the blood pulsing and throbbing as it hardened him. I skipped over his erection with some regret as I headed down his legs. Putting my cheek against his injured leg, I assessed his healing. It was progressing rather rapidly, but I could tell it was still in pain. Without really knowing what I was doing, I promoted his blood flow in the area, and encouraged his bones to knit. It was the least that I could do.

I got to his feet, and rubbed them gently, gauging his pleasure carefully so that I wouldn't accidentally hurt him. His was practically purring, and I really had no idea if the noises were vocal or mental, but they certainly were enticing.

Coming back up to his groin, I forced air into and out of my lungs, pushing the currents and eddies over his leaking organ. His back arched as the cool air from my lips touched his erection. He sighed, a sound like I had never heard before.

I let my tongue slide down his length, being careful not to touch him with my teeth. I brought my hands up to caress his ass and cup his testicles, being very careful to be gentle and not let my nails touch his flesh. He gasped.

Feeling the pulse of his pleasure thrumming through me, I sat up and took his erection in both of my hands, pumping him roughly. He screamed inside my head, and came in an explosive burst over his chest. Breathing heavily, he sat back and opened his perfect crystal eyes and bathed me with his unconditional love.

For a second I was struck. When I was alive, I thought that I had to be something to win his love. And here, now that I was dead, I saw that I had his love no matter what I did. Even try to kill him.

It was humbling.

I ran my hand through the puddle on his chest and brought my fingers up to his lips. Lustfully, he took them in and began sucking. Pulling my fingers out, I leaned down to kiss him, pulling his tongue into my mouth and grazing my teeth over it. Licking away the blood, I lay down beside him and exchanged kisses of affection.

I had never felt so close to anyone before.

"The sun is beginning to rise. I can feel it this morning."

"It's odd how you fall asleep immediately like that. I wonder how that works."

"Mm." I cuddled close to him, drawing the blankets over us both so that he wouldn't be cold. "Sleep well, my Bat. Let go of your fear. I'm here, and I won't leave you as long as you need me."

"Promise?" His heart leapt at the thought.

I yawned, almost feeling each degree of light as the sun broke the night. "Promise."

He cuddled close to me, pressing me against his side. "Sleep well, my Dark Knight."

I drifted into unconsciousness, the easiest transition I had had since my death.





I woke feeling restless and dry. My throat ached, and my bones felt weak with need.

Bruce was beside me, but he was still recovering. As tempting as he was, as hot as the blood in his veins was, I would hurt him.

As much as it physically hurt, I pulled myself away from him and went out the door, unlocking it.

Alfred was at the base of the stairs, nervous and edgy.

I wondered if he grieved over me still.

I could easily have avoided him. It wouldn't have taken any effort at all, really, just a simple redirection of his attention. But, it had to be done eventually.

I sauntered down the stairs, not feeling anything but the ache caused by my need.

"He's still asleep. He's not running a fever or anything like that. I think the rest is good for him."

"I'm sure it is, sir. And may I ask, how long do you intend to remain as our guest?" Ah, Alfred, always so proper...

"For as long as I am welcome."

"I see."

"No, you don't. I don't, know what to say, exactly, except that I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. If I stay, I risk hurting him, physically. If I leave, I risk killing him, emotionally. Honestly, Alfred, what would you have me do?"

His pain sang to me, in harmony to my own feelings on the topic. He looked away, momentarily unable to even bear the sight of me. "I... sir, I know no more than you the correct path here. I only know... I lost one of my sons this week. And I fear the other one is in danger as well. Perhaps it is not right, but I feel that if I could protect him physically, I could manage to cope with him emotionally, as you put it."

"Ah, well you've done a marvelous job of that so far with him..." The moment the words left me I regretted them, even without feeling the wash of guilt sweep over him. "I didn't mean that Alfred. I... I don't want to kill him, and yet I do. I love him, and he loves me."

Alfred met my eyes. "And, sir, I think perhaps that is the most important reason why you must leave now."

"No." I shook my head.

"Yes. There was a reason that he never confided his feelings to you, or to anyone. Because he knew better. Please, sir, try to understand. You and he shouldn't be like this together."

"Why not?"

"The very fact that you have to ask me that proves that you are no longer Dick Grayson." He sounded weary. I think he is grieving.

"So? We all know that he died. So what? What's done is done. I died. Yes. Bruce knows that. If my... transformation opens certain... doors, well, then, so what?"

"And if one of the doors this transformation opens is that to a fulfilling life as a killer?"

I was tired of talking. I was starving, and weary, and uncertain, and bored. I knew that there were important things being debated here, but suddenly I found it all horribly dull. It simply wasn't relevant to me anymore.

I realized that I would have to let go of the people that I had loved when I lived, since they simply wouldn't understand who I was now. So be it, then.

"This isn't something I need to discuss with you, ever. What is, is. Accept it." And I was gone, into the night again, feeling the air move over me.

For a while, I perched on the cliff overseeing the ocean.

I pondered what I was to do with myself now. I couldn't pretend to still be alive, nor did I want to. It was gone, and I had to either move on or commit suicide. Since I hadn't yet, I presumed it was time to move on.

Move on to what, though? Bruce wanted me to work as Batman. I didn't want that. I could help out, of course, if people would let me.

But I couldn't be Nightwing anymore either.

Of course, I really didn't need a secret identity anymore.

What a novel idea... I could fight, and work on making the streets safe, and I didn't have to worry about getting hurt, or being found out, or what people would think of me, I could just do it...

And I didn't have to worry about whether people would figure out who anyone else was based on me. I was really free, in a way I had never been while alive, to simply be myself.

Admittedly, myself wasn't the same anymore, but no point dwelling...

I could just be...

What would I call myself? Alfred was right, Dick Grayson was dead. Nightwing was dead, then, as well.

Well, I guess that isn't really important anyway.

The more I sat there and thought, the more I found that I had never considered.

Like, for instance, the fact that I have been traveling all over Gotham, without any transport, in no time at all, without any difficulty. I hadn't even thought to enjoy jumping from building to building. I used to really enjoy all of that, even if it was part of fighting criminals and risking my life. It was fun.

I hadn't been enjoying it at all. I wonder...

With one easy back flip, I was on solid ground again. I took a short run, and began doing hand flips and back flips. I was surprised to find myself nearly two miles away from where I began! Now, this had possibilities...

Giggling, I cartwheeled and catapulted and somersaulted my way around the circumference of Gotham. There seemed to be no limits anymore, no barriers, no bars. No line to grab onto because I can reach the other side now without it, and no net beneath me, because I can land on my feet if I wanted to.

I can really fly now.

Really.

It's amazing, like being Superman, only it's better, because it's me.

I'm not human anymore.

Each time I think it, it means something different.

This time, it means that I can fly.

I watch the city pass beneath me, small and stuck to the ground, and I start to think about the future again. Because I can't quite bring myself to thinking about Bruce, I think about how I intend to be a vigilante. Obviously, I don't need a mask or a costume or any gadgets or tricks. I don't need a clever code name.

I just need a job to do.

I stop on a rooftop in Tricorner, because it's just as easy to stop as it is to continue. I drink the blood of a crow. Filthy thing.

I hear the sound of a tv from a window below.

"And in other news tonight, the Chief of Police in Bludhaven vows to get to the bottom of the recently uncovered embezzlement operation that has left Gotham's sister city to the south in debt to the tune of $2 million. Skeptics claim that the police can do little good for the beleaguered city, as many suspect that the police may have some connections to the perpetrators. And now, for sports..."

It has been a while since I've been home. I should visit some old friends, reintroduce myself.

It would be polite.

I leapt and jumped and flipped my way to my home. I went to my old apartment, empty for how long now? A week? Maybe more, maybe less. I wasn't keeping track anymore. I emptied the drawers of clothes onto the floor, not really sure why. I opened the secret door in the closet, and examined all my Nightwing gear carefully, before shredding them, ripping the kelvar/nomex blend with as little effort as I would if they were made of paper.

I dumped all the food in the kitchen, and tipped books and movies off the shelf and onto the floor.

When I was done, it looked like someone had ransacked my place. I guess that I had.

I didn't know why.

Maybe I expected to feel something, some connection to these things that used to be mine in this place I used to live.

I felt nothing but bored.

I was out the door and into the night with the next thought.

I briefly considered going by the police station and having a chat with Redhorn, but I decided not to bother with the middle man this time.

I was at the perimeter of Roland Desmond's estate, having to stifle the urge to laugh out loud with the irony of it all. The last time I was here, I was with Superman. He flew us in over all the surveillance equipment, and I hadn't had to worry about anything because I knew he was there to back me up.

I didn't need backup anymore.

Feeling whimsical, I did back flips and cartwheels all the way up to the mansion, like they do in movies. I jumped up story by story, until I was on the ledge of the window on the top floor of Desmond's massive monolith to his own power. Inside, from the property line, I could feel him here, with some of those joker lackeys he keeps around, and Lady Elaine Marsh Morton. Lady Vic. He felt... apprehensive.

I grinned.

"He's still out there, somewhere, or at least his body is. Elaine, track with sources in New York. There are unconfirmed rumors that he associates with the Titans. Find out if there is something involved with them."

"As you say, Roland." Why is she still here with him? I thought she was international. Why is she still in the 'haven? Does Desmond pay that well? And why are they on a first name basis?

This is definitely the sort of thing that doesn't call for deeper thought.

"Aw... C'mon Mr. Desmond. Whatcha gettin' your shivvies ina bunch fer? The boy is outta our hair, shouldn't that be enough?" Why does Desmond put up with fools like these? Surely he can afford better than some bully who peaked intellectually in kindergarten?

"Because, Mr. Hanrahan, until I know why he isn't around, I have to assume it is because he is planning something big. And I need to be prepared."

"Don't worry, Roland. We'll take care of it." And her ladyship glared down the hired help until they shuffled out, tail between their legs.

"Honestly, Roland, I don't know why you put up with those incompetent illiterates. Surely, with me around..."

"Forgive me, Elaine, but you have been no more successful than they at eliminating Nightwing. And they are predictable. I need not worry about their loyalties, as they are too simple to form complex human bonds. I can trust them because I can understand them."

She huffed, and crossed her arms over her chest, put out.

Seemed like as good a time as any to introduce myself.

Slipping into the room by tearing the window open in one quick jerk, I let them be aware of me from the onset. If I had a heart that still beat, it would have been pounding in anticipation. It would push my blood through my body, heating me. It would make my ears ring with the sound of it in my chest, heightening the nearness of the moment.

My heart doesn't beat anymore, but I couldn't keep the smile from playing with my lips.

I had been waiting for this since that first encounter with Blockbuster.

"Who the hell are you?" Elaine was already in battle mode, which seemed almost cute given the futility of it, and the way she had to brace herself in those ridiculous high heels.

"Tut, tut. Such language for a lady. It's unseemly." My voice was low and mocking, as I slipped in and around their thoughts, making the tension more desperate and palpable.

"Whoever you are, you've made a fatal error. I don't know how you were able to reach this room, but you will never leave this place alive now that you are here." Blockbuster raised his massive fists and hunched over, ready to tear me limb from limb.

I stretched, and yawned, wide so that my teeth flashed in the light of the room. "That's fine, I didn't enter this room alive either. It would be quite strange if I left that way."

"Wha... what do you want?" Elaine sounded scared, as she reached for her closest blade.

"What do I want? I don't really know, I was thinking about that earlier tonight too. Anyway. I think that you've had this criminal empire thing long enough, don't you? Maybe it's time you started to give back to the community that feeds you. Make this town a better place. Use your wealth and power for good, hm?"

Blockbuster chuckled, low. "You think so, hm, Nightwing? I like the new look, bare foot and fancy free. Not the best way to keep your identity a secret, but without the annoyance of bulletproof fabric to hold you back. A bold choice, to be sure. And, I think that I will keep my 'criminal empire' as you say. I don't think that I'm quite done yet."

"Oh, you're done." And I moved towards him, surely and slowly. Elaine was confused, trying to keep up. I didn't look like Nightwing to her, and she was afraid because I was unarmed. Strange thought, but it makes sense in a criminal sort of way. The only person in the room that you had to be afraid of is the one that didn't feel the need to defend himself from the others. She lunged at me, prepared to strike at my neck in a long slashing motion.

I backhanded her gently, without breaking stride, sending her sailing across the room.

Blockie took a swing at me, his huge fist making the air around it whoosh as it sailed toward me.

I caught his fist in one of mine, slowly squeezing the bones of his knuckles together until tell-tale cracking sounds broke the sound of his grunting and let his screams out.

Pushing him onto his back, I settled on his chest, with my knee on his throat.

"As I was saying, you have a lot of money and influence. I'm not saying you could do it overnight, but with your private guard and all, you could make this town into a better place, a place people would be proud to raise their children in. And I think that's what you will do. Because, I don't think that I will be able to be around on a day-to-day basis, sorry for the joke, so I think you should take over."

Sweating buckets, he glared up at me. "And if I don't, whelp?"

I laughed, the sound making even my ears cringe. "Take a good look at me, Roland. I am not some little nuisance you can swat away. You think you are the top dog here? You are a terrier. And I am the wolf. If you don't do as I say, I will hunt you down. And feed on you." With that, I sank my teeth into his wrist, letting the hot blood fill my mouth as it spurted out of him. It was sticky and sweet, and almost acrid compared to Bruce's. I wanted to swallow, my parched throat begging me to drink deep and leave him dry on the floor.

I spit out the huge mouthful of blood right into his face. I let my thoughts infiltrate his, filling him with my carnal need for his life, my desire and temptation.

"You will do as I say, little puppy, because you are just food for me now."

And I got up and left, leaping out of his window and into the night with the sort of frantic joy I used to feel when I was a boy and the crowds would cheer for me.

I was euphoric, from the freedom. I never had to be afraid anymore, not of anything that could happen to me. There was no more future to be afraid for, I was already dead. There was no one who could threaten me, I was the most threatening creature in the area.

I was free. Free from life.

My joy spread itself out, as my thoughts reached out instinctively to find something. I found Bruce in the corner of my mind before I knew what was happening. What was this connection that we shared? I didn't think it was blood. Really, I had a hard time believing that if I had drank from Roland tonight I would have the same connection with him. Perhaps I would, which was only more reason for me not to feed on him, but I don't think that I would.

Bruce... called to me. His thoughts were like a beacon. I was... attracted to him.

Now, there's a strange thought.

I was attracted to Bruce.

It wasn't physical. When I was alive, I wasn't attracted to him. Was I? I don't remember being attracted to him. He always looked as he does. Almost a model for what a man should look like. I wanted to look like him when I was a teen, until I realized that Bruce and I were just different body types. But I never lusted after him, or had dreams or anything.

I never really knew him then, either. I was always second guessing myself, trying to think like Bruce and evaluate myself based on what I thought his yardstick would be.

I realize now how badly I misjudged him.

And I was attracted to him. I wanted him. On so many levels. Physically, I hungered for his blood. But there was more...

I found myself at the back of Wayne Manor in the next thought.

I was in the house and down to the cave before I could stop to think if I should be there or not.

Bruce was at the computer, and Babs and Alfred were there as well. No one was particularly happy.

"Bruce, I can understand your... let's call it confusion, but that doesn't make it right. He's not Dick anymore. This... thing he's become... you can't honestly think that Dick would want to live like that! How can you tell him that you... love him and then at the same time let him become perverted like this! And if you think that we will let you do this, you're more delusional than you usually are!" Sigh. I must remember that I love Babs, even if she can be a big pain in the neck. I could give her a pain in the neck and end all this. I bet she tasted like honeyed wine.

"And what, precisely, do you intend to do to stop him, little girl?" My voice was low and nearly subliminal. I sauntered closer to them, my posture relaxed.

Her whole being stiffened, her body and mind tightening as if to keep me out. "Little? Look, here, you aren't invulnerable. You can be killed."

"Go ahead." I yawned, hunger etching at me. Eat her, eat him, eat someone... "It wasn't so bad the first time."

Everyone stared at me, thinking different things, their thoughts crashing into me. Bruce was terrified, his shock washing into him as the image of me in a casket permeated into his vision. Barbara was stunned, momentarily speechless, thinking that I was taunting her. Alfred was startled, thinking of when I died and what it had really been like for me.

I sighed, feeling too giddy to deal with all this. "Look, stop harassing him already. Either do something about me or not, but stop whining about me being here and him letting me. We've already decided to do this, so if you have a problem with it, deal with it, but leave us alone. And if you aren't going to do anything, then the only thing left for you to do is accept it. But enough of this, it's tiresome."

Babs, stung, spun her wheels to turn away for a moment. Turning her shoulders to look at me, she spoke with her voice in her chest. "Maybe I will just do something, then." Which would have been more impressive if I hadn't felt the wash of despair that she could never do anything like that to me.

She left. Alfred watched her, shifting slightly from one foot to the other, almost imperceptibly. "Ah, well, then, sir, I believe I will leave you two to yourselves. Master Bruce, please remember that all you would have to do is signal, and any and all assistance that you would require would be there for you."

"Thank you, Alfred. That will be all." Bruce gave him a kind look, as if he was trying to feel badly about the situation.

When we were alone, he radiated to me. "Where have you been all night? I woke up alone."

"I went out. Went to the 'haven. Visited with Blockie and his gang of wacky pals. Had some fun."

He sorta grinned at me. "Fun? I bet. So, did you..."

"Don't be disgusting. I don't know where he's been."

Bruce laughed, that typically Bruce laugh that I realized that I loved. "So. You said that we had already decided what we were doing. Does that mean..."

"That means that I've spent too much time around you to give up no matter what. Even death can't stop me, apparently."

Bruce turned his eyes down, his face pretty in contrasts of smooth even flesh and dark lush lashes. "What... what was it like for you to...?"

"Die? It wasn't like anything. I barely remember it." He still was inquisitive. "I was in bed with the vampire, he was feeding on me, and then... I awoke, like this."

"Oh." He was still looking down. "Was it... was it...?"

"Like when we were together? Not really. It's... you and I together is to the vampires and I together as making love is to fucking. With them, it was just like exciting and amazing sex. With you, it was... far more intimate."

He looked up at me, shyly, with the smallest smile. "Like... being in love?"

I turned my eyes, teasing. "Something like that, I think. Anyway, dawn is soon, and I think it is time to get some rest. What do you think?"

"Yes." He was looking down shyly again. "If you needed to... I stocked up on extra plasma, just in case."

"Bruce... no. I don't need that, you are still recovering. But I think I will go out back and do some gymnastics in the nude." He looked up, shocked and delighted. "I find this extra strength and endurance can be quite... exhilarating."

He smiled. "Can I watch?"

Laughing, I pulled my shirt off and tossed it to him, heading upstairs.

If I had to, I could learn to enjoy this new life.





I woke to find him leaning over me, his fingers running over my body gently. He looked like a little boy being given permission to raid the toy store.

"Do you mind?" He whispered, as if he were trying to keep a secret.

"Mind what?"

"You can read my mind, can't you? Must be like dredging through a sewer... I feel like a child molester, taking advantages with you in my bed." His voice was filled with wonder.

"Mm." I turned a little, to free my naked body from the sheet. I looked down at myself briefly. "Child molester, Bruce? Not many kids have this kind of body. Now, if you were to tell me you were worried about your increasing obsession with necrophilia..."

He kissed me, hard, and it was impossible to resist the temptation. I let my teeth scrap his tongue as it left my mouth, the hot drops of blood stirring me. "You aren't dead."

"I am dead. I'm just unusually active for a dead guy. Oh, Bruce, you really need to develop a sense of humor about death. It's really not that bad. The sex is amazing."

At least he smiled.

Looking down, he spoke in low tones. "Dick, I know you have been feeling... more at ease with your condition, and maybe you haven't noticed, but you are getting paler and I think you need to feed..."

"No."

"But..."

"Not yet. When the time comes, I will, but not yet."

"Oh."

"Bruce." He looked up at me, his perfect blue eyes reflecting his soul to me. I brought my hand up to his face. "I don't like this life, this need. I feel myself becoming the hunter, the wolf, the killer, and I don't want that to happen. I want you, but I'm still afraid that my want may mean your death. So I won't feed until I can be sure that it will be ok. I want to test my endurance, feel out this 'condition' as you call it. I won't hurt you. But if we are going to continue with this, you have to promise me something, and it's very important. You offered yourself to me, and I feel unable to refuse you, but you have to promise not to let me kill you. Alfred has already taken measures to defend against me, and for you to be able to signal him. You have to promise me that you will signal Alfred if you need him, that you won't let me kill you."

"Dick..."

"Promise me that, Bruce, or I will leave you, forever." It wasn't fair, and I knew it. I shouldn't hold his love for me over him like this, but I had no choice. I wouldn't be able to live, or whatever, with myself if I didn't.

His heart trembled, his soul panicked. His eyelashes kissed his cheekbones, and with a stuttering hiccup of a breath, he spoke. "I won't let you kill me. I promise. I love you, Dick, and I can't help feeling like I'm safe with you, but I promise I won't let you kill me."

I smiled, feeling peaceful, and reached up to him, licking his neck and nibbling gently on his ear. I pulled away before I could enjoy it too much; those few drops of hot, spicy blood would have to do me. I wanted to see how little I could take and still subsist.

Bruce informed me that he had been to Wayne Enterprises today. He had a funny way of communicating with me. I think he may always 'talk' like this, but I was never telepathic before, so I only got a third of what he was saying before. He would speak, and tell me something, and he would bring to the forefront of his mind an image or thought or memory or idea, and that would complete his statement. And I say 'bring' on purpose, because it was a conscious decision on his part to be thinking those exact things at those exact moments. As if that was what he wanted to say, but couldn't.

He didn't have to anymore.

I dressed, pleased to find that I had freshly cleaned leather pants and silk shirt to wear. Running my hands through my hair, I pondered my appearance for a spell before becoming bored with it. Bruce was telling me, mostly through thought, that he was planning on going out as Batman tomorrow night, or possibly tonight if no one was watching.

He had said tomorrow, and thought tonight.

Pulling his body close to mine, I trapped him in my arms. Running my teeth down his jugular, I let his shiver and gasp whisper into me, his arousal heating me.

"You will return to duty when I say you can. Until then, I will patrol for you. You trust me, right?"

"Trust?" He was short on breath. It is the most amazing feeling, making the Batman short on breath. "Of course... Dick..."

"I can hear your thoughts, lover, so don't try to fool me..."

His eyes widened and darkened. He sighed, content.

Like the tease I was, I let him go right then and walked down the stairs.

To find the Titans waiting for me.

And Barbara. Off in the corner, trying not to be noticed. Right.

I folded my arms over my chest and just watched for a minute, looking every inch the rakish devil I had become.

The original Titans were as easy to read now as they ever were. Donna looked like she wanted to cry. And she did. Wally was just mad, and he was desperate to find someone to beat up for this. Garth felt me out, using his magic.

He recoiled in horror.

Roy... waited.

The others were more chaotic. Jesse didn't think she should be here, and she had no idea what to do. Plus, she thought I looked hot in my leather and silk look. Toni was apprehensive, and she didn't think she could fight me. I would have to talk to whoever took over the Titans about that. You have to be ready to fight anyone at anytime; after all, never knew when someone you knew and loved would be cloned by aliens or controlled by mystics or brainwashed by cultists. Grant was just hopelessly confused.

"Well?" My tone was defiant and cruel, but it's best to deal with these things right away and not let them fester.

Donna flinched, but spoke first. "We've been worried about you, since you haven't been around. Then Barbara called. I guess, then, that it is true, you've..."

"Died."

"...And now..."

"I'm a vampire." I don't think that I've ever said that since the first time. Damn, that sounds weird.

"...Riight. So, uh, now..."

"You'll probably want to kill me."

"Yes." Garth's voice was dangerous, the purple lines of power leaking from his eyes, frightening. He was easily the most powerful of the Titans, a fact that he was slowly coming to terms with. A fact I was now having to come to terms with.

Why did I never seduce Garth when I was alive? That's something I'll regret now that I'm dead...

"Wait, Garth..." Donna really isn't ready for this. Someone should have thought about how hard this was going to be for her. When one has lost their memory, one holds more closely those things that give one a sense of self. Like friends.

"Donna..." Wally wanted to act, he just couldn't imagine losing his best friend and not doing anything.

"This is Dick!" Donna was near tears. No one could tell but me.

"No. It isn't." Garth would make an excellent leader. Even as his heart was breaking, he was staying focused.

"Look, guys, maybe we should just talk for a bit..." Grant wanted to leave desperately.

"Maybe he's a good vampire... maybe he still has his soul..." Toni watches too much tv.

"Look, let's not jump into anything here. Is he a threat? I... I mean, is he going to hurt anyone? What is our interest here, really?" Jesse was a strong, competent woman. A bit too logical for the job she aspired to, but still, quite admirable.

"You don't have any interest here." Ah, Bruce was here now. And in full Bat mode. Enough to set most of the 'children' running. But Garth, Donna, and Roy were unperturbed.

Good for them. When is Wally gonna get over the Bat already? He's on the JLA, for chissakes...

"I'm sorry, sir, but we do. Something killed our friend." Garth's eyes spark beautifully. I wonder if he tastes salty?

"He's under my care." End of discussion. When is Bruce going to get over the Bat himself? Dumb question...

"Dick?" Donna's bright eyes are for me alone. "What... Are you all right?"

She watches me, all her hope in her frantic gaze.

I smile the predators grin. "I'm adjusting. Thanks for asking."

"What do you expect us to do?" Interesting, I don't expect Jesse to still be dependent on me as a guide, but she still values my experience, I guess.

I tilt my head to the side as if I were thinking. "Well. I expect you to go back to your respective homes, continue your work. I'm dead. What would you do if I died? Do that." There's a sort of strangled cry from Donna, who turns away from me. "I'm sorry, Donna. Believe me, I am. I wish... I wish I hadn't died. I wish I hadn't been... turned. Into this thing. But I did and I was. So, I'm adjusting. But... I'm not the man I used to be. I can't pretend to be."

"But you will let those that love you pretend you are." Garth's eyes latch on Bruce. Bruce's chin juts out.

I smile, not nicely. "No, Garth. I don't presume to think for other people."

Roy has decided.

"Well, that's it then. Sorry, babe," he speaks to Babs, "but there's nothing for us to do here at present." Garth starts to protest, but Roy cuts him off. "We aren't in the business of attacking potential enemies. Maybe we should be, but then, maybe we should also have the strength to give people the benefit of the doubt. He hasn't done anything wrong yet. Yet. He is under the Bat's nose. There's nothing here for us. We just lost a friend." He looks at me. I never realized how mature Roy was. He hides it well, but he's been battered too much by life, and survived, not to be a better man for it. "Maybe we'll make a new one. But... just so that you know. If you cross the line, even by a toe. If you hurt anyone. If you kill. I'll put an arrow through your heart." He's all business. It's a promise, not a threat.

I love Roy.

"I'm counting on it, Arrow Breath."

We share what is commonly known as a 'guy moment'. And then Roy turns to leave.

"And I've got the eyes of an Oracle on ya, boyo, so I'm not missing a thing..." His humor will help carry them through this. Either he, or Garth, or possibly Donna, will emerge as the leader. Hopefully, they will all be stronger for this.

That's all that I can give them now.

God, I'm going to miss them...

They turn to leave, one by one. Jesse, Toni, and Grant follow Roy first, then Wally, though he wishes he knew what to say. Garth just watches me from dangerous eyes, and leaves. Donna hesitates.

"I... I'm sorry, Dick. I wish things were different."

I smile at her, and let myself brush against her thoughts briefly, offering her comfort in her grief. She's surprised by that, but not offended.

She leaves smiling.

I watch Barbara.

She looks up at me, finally. "I trust Roy."

"So do I."

She nods, and rolls away.

It's odd, attending your own wake.

I convince Bruce that he has to stay in another night. I go out, and let the night air invigorate me. The hunger is strong, but I'm learning to accept it. By testing my limits, I can gauge how reasonable this 'arrangement' is. I want...

I want my time with Bruce to be about something other than hunger.

The Batsignal is on, and at first, I ignore it, not even thinking about it.

It's a bit of a shock to realize that I am the one who is supposed to deal with it.

Landing softly on the roof, I watch Gordon for a moment before making myself known.

I wonder if he knows?

When he does see me, he is more than a little taken aback. But recognition is blurred with the slightest effort on my part.

"Where's the Bat? He knows I hate these little games..."

"He's indisposed. Talk to me."

He narrows his eyes. "That's not how this works, you imposter..."

I sigh. "Just give me the files."

He looks like he's asleep. "Here are the files."

I leave. It's a little sad to realize that there is no chance of working with him, but...

The files are on Two Face. Harvey's back in town, and up to his usual tricks.

I smile. This is going to be fun.

I sit on the roof of Wayne Enterprises, and let my thoughts wander. I feel the surface thoughts of all the people nearby. It hurts, but I stretch out, using my hunger to fuel my search. I feel all the pain, need, want, desire, frustration, happiness, fear, lust, restlessness, confusion, and exhaustion of the city.

I feel it all as if it were my own.

My soul aches, and then I find what I was looking for.

Duality.

I let my thoughts insinuate inside the dual thoughts of my prey, seeing through his eyes.

I smile, and then leap off to catch my prey.

Dent is surprised to see me, but I move faster than he can speak. My hand covers his mouth as quickly as his eyes clap on me.

I so enjoy having him in my grasp.

"You know what the problem with you is, Dent? Two Face. It's a lie. You only have one face, don't you? Pretending that there is a part of you worth saving is what has made you so dangerous..." He doesn't understand, but then, I wasn't speaking so that he would. With savage slowness, I put my fingernails on the flesh of his face, and pull my hand down, tearing the good part of his face to shreds.

He screams beautifully into my palm.

I remember when he had me in his Double Gauntlet.

I remember before that, when he would come over to see Bruce, before he was Two Face, when he would be so charming and care-free around Bruce, and broody and lecherous when Bruce turned his back.

I've never liked Harvey Dent.

With almost anticlimactic precision, I break his right femur in half in a clean break.

I disarm and wrangle his boys on my way out, only just remembering to call the police from a nearby telephone.

The hunger is nearly killing me now, I feel so weak and edgy.

I eat a few rats, but they taste bitter and unsatisfying.

At home, Bruce is waiting for me. Ready to offer himself for me.

I take off my clothes casually, and suggest we shower.

The water is hot, so hot the Bruce can barely stand in the spray, but I can't feel it. I press him against the tile, and let my palms run down his sides. I can't feel the fine texture of his skin because the sense of his blood overpowers me.

He kisses my neck, my body, anywhere where he can touch. I can't feel the softness of his lips.

I hold his cock gently in my hands, being so careful not to let my nails touch him. The softness, the heat, the hardness... I can't feel it.

I can feel his soul taking flight, as he loses himself in pleasure for the first time since he was too young to remember.

His pleasure becomes my pleasure.

When it is done, he collapses against me. I rinse him off, and take him out of the shower, drying him and carrying him to bed. We get under the covers together, and he settles into me as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

My hunger is mastered by his contentment. I need nothing more.





A pattern has established itself. Tim has begun to come by the house more, now that Bruce is back as the Bat. Our paths at night cross seldom. When we return to bed, I nip and taste him, and he finds his pleasure with me.

We are newlyweds.

My hunger had become my tool. I use it to track, and to instill fear. It gives me the hunter's eye.

I realize as I fall, impossibly, from the top of the highest tower in Gotham, to land softly on the ground, that I have become the monster.

I have accepted it.

I come home to Bruce again, his eyes bright and shining.

He is so beautiful.

He shyly asks me if I would like to go to the movies with him. I am surprised, to say the least, but I accept. He takes me to the theater in the Manor, where he has everything set up.

The movie he has selected is Wings of Desire.

Leave it to Bruce to think of that as a date movie.

We watch, he munches popcorn, and he rests against me. I'm paying less and less attention to the movie, which I've always meant to see, and more and more to him.

He wants me. To feed on him. His desire makes mine unbearable. By the time the credits roll, I am overcome with the need to redirect my passion.

I take him upstairs and shred the clothes off of his body, flinging him onto the bed. I follow with feline grace.

He is stretched out under me, almost still, almost relaxed. I am on him like a tiger on an antelope. I take a nip here and a taste there... My teeth graze the surface of his hip, my tongue chasing after, then I move to his shoulder, his elbow, his stomach, his thigh, his ankle, his nipple. I kiss him, pulling his lip so gently over my fangs. I am inflamed tonight.

He arches, his aching arousal more prominent in his thudding heartbeat than in his groin. He moans and rubs against me, begging me.

"Is there someplace specific you want me to kiss?" I ask inside his thoughts.

He arches his neck and turns his head, one hopeful eye watching me.

I hesitate.

I haven't drank from him fully since... I don't want to, not really. But I want to, more than I want anything else in this semblance of existence...

He makes a rumbling noise, and wraps his legs around me, positioning us. I can't resist. No matter how much I need to, the hunger and the passion have conspired against me. But I have still mastered them.

My fangs settle into him, penetrating him. He cries with joy, his body jolting with pleasure. I drink. He screams. His orgasm spills in between our bodies.

I'm in too in bliss to notice.

I pull out gently, trying not to hurt him. My hand goes over his wound to encourage it to heal. He murmurs contentment into my shoulder.

I set up an IV for him, grateful for his foresight in installing the refrigerator in the bathroom. I didn't approve at the time, but I appreciated the wisdom of it even then. I wash him and slip the flannel pajama bottoms on him. I crawl into bed, and cradle him in my arms, letting settle into sleep in my embrace. Gently, I play with his hair as I immerse him in dream after beautiful dream, letting him fill me with his satisfaction.

He is my life.









I wake, slowly as the sun melts into the horizon. I'm aware from the instant my mind wanders back from wherever it has been that he is gone.

Finally gone.

I have no desire to wake, I lay on the cold stone floor of my nook in the Batcave, empty.

It isn't fair. I wanted to be there with him, to hold and kiss his hand, to brush the hair out of his eyes, and whisper softly into his mind sweet images that would make his passing more peaceful...

Cursed sun, that kept me from him.

I move with an uncharacteristic awkwardness, bumping against the wall as I heave myself forward towards the stairs.

I don't want to be here anymore.

They are outside his room. I hear their thoughts before I see them.

Tim has changed so much over the years. No one expected him to turn out quite like he did. He was so agile and sharp when he was young, the perfect figure of a handsome young man. Now, he looks like every other engineer on the planet, with sagging skin and thick belly... Still, he's done more good for the world as Oracle than anyone else ever could. He has taken a leave of absence from his corporations, leaving his son in charge indefinitely as he deals with what the papers called 'a personal matter'. They are speculating that America's second richest man is having health problems. He leans against the wall, staring vacantly out into nothing. He no longer knows how to feel. But he will be able to return to his wife and their children and grandchildren, and in time he will make sense of it all, or at least part of it.

He will be all right. He always was.

Babs looks even less like the woman she once was than Tim. I would never have believed that she would use magics to heal her legs, but I suppose anyone can be pushed to extremes. Gotham's police commissioner is a grizzled, hard-edged woman no one in town wants to cross. Most days. Today, she very much reminds me of the lost little girl she was when I died.

She won't cry in front of me, or show me her pain. I respect that. I insinuate into her mind the feeling that she should talk to Tim about everything.

The only other person left to hold vigil is Terry. In many ways, he's been the most hurt by Bruce's decline in health. He has relied on Bruce greatly ever since his father died, and he is young enough and strong enough to think that he could conquer anything, even time.

I care less than nothing for the boy who now wears the mantle of the Bat, and he only registers to me as an obstacle.

"It's your fault, you bastard." Terry begins before I even step onto the landing. He is perceptive; I don't think that I made any noise while alighting the stairs. "He's only 67! In this day and age, he should have decades in front of him! But he's had to live for two for so long, hasn't he?"

"Stand aside." I speak softly, because there isn't any reason for me to speak up. He moves, that blank look on his face that suggests that my persuasion was a bit much again. Ah well. It matters very little at this juncture.

I walk in, and close the door behind me. Tim brings to the forefront of his mind the last minutes of his life, and the preparations they have made. We have been expecting this for a few weeks now, so the funeral will be tomorrow. There will be a small gathering afterwards, but Bruce has been removed from society and life long enough that there is no need to endure false social necessities.

The JLA will hold a service for the community that really knew Bruce the next day.

I thank him for his thoughtfulness by brushing his heart with a sense of peace, and then I block them all out.

I sit down softly on the edge of the bed, not wanting to disturb the corpse. He is so... not Bruce. His flesh is withered and grey, weak, his hair fine appearing to be spun from dust, and his body appears to be deflated.

I gingerly touch my hand to his face, and let it really sink in.

Without his thoughts, without his heart, without his soul, my world has become unbearable.

I can barely sit there with that rotting lump of organic matter for a minute. I need to get out of the house.

Consideration for Tim and Babs alone causes me to go out the door and not the window.

They are still there, waiting. Terry has become even angrier than he was before. He is a nuisance.

"You should have been destroyed years ago, you mind warping freak." His voice is pure venom.

I'm bored with him.

"It's... demented, this relationship he had with you! Don't you feel any remorse, any guilt?"

I suppose I should be able to work up more of a reaction to Bruce's chosen successor, but I can't. He is just a pale imitation in my eyes. Even as angry and worked up as he is, he fails to elicit any form of reaction from me.

There is no life without Bruce.

"If you think that I'm going to let you continue as things are, you're insane! As far as I'm concerned, you are no better than the worst of the Jokerz!"

I turn to him, for the first time. "I'm not your concern, little Batman."

I am walking away when Babs' voice stops me. "Are they going to come back now? I mean, that was the deal, right? They were going to give you a wide berth..."

It amazes me that she knows my thoughts, after all these years, after everything. But it shouldn't. I must be like glass to anyone who has any perspective on things. And of course, the police commissioner would be concerned about the possibility of a vampire infestation...

"I don't know. I don't think so. But I don't know why I think that."

And I leave, exiting that building for the last time.

It isn't home without him.





Before thought can stop me, I am in the center of the city. Gotham has changed much over the years as well. I still see the city that she was whenever I see her, but it isn't the same anymore.

They built this new Gotham right on top of the old one. In a very few places in the city, you can still believe that she hasn't changed.

I am sitting in a windowsill in one such building when I become aware that he is here.

To be precise, I've been aware that he was near for a few days now, as Bruce's death was becoming an inevitability. But he is very close now.

I let my thoughts drift from the casing of my body, until I find myself touching his thoughts. I get a sense of bearing and then head off.

He is waiting on the roof of one of Gotham's trendiest night clubs. He is impeccably dressed, as I would expect, his ethereal beauty more apparent now that his hair is styled in a rather modern fashion and his tight-fitting clothes hug him quite attractively. He still has the appearance of a youth not old enough to frequent this establishment, his face babyish almost.

His eyes still hold more pain than years can count.

"I am sorry for your loss." His voice is sad and soothing, the impression that he knows what I suffer drifts over to me.

"Thank you." For a second now, I am at a loss. I'm not surprised that he is here, since it is him, but I don't know quite what to say.

"I wish there was some way to convince you not to do what you plan." He lowers his eyes, almost coquettishly, a facsimile of a blush kissing his cheeks.

I fold my arms over my chest and shrug.

"It's not fair, really. You've spent an entire life with him. Must you share his death as well? You could provide distraction for decades." He sounds wistful, as if he has imparted to me the highest possible compliment.

I smile, unkindly. "I'm sorry that you are bored, but I... I have nothing left to give."

That's it, really.

He looks down, and then grins, turning those potent eyes to mine. "Well, you still have one night left, am I right? Let me help you wake the dead properly."

He tantalizes me, his aura brushing against me gently with tragic grace.

There are worse ways to spend the night.

We enter the club, and walk amidst the shadows. He speaks to me in my mind, making critical comments about the aesthetics of the people around us, as if they were objects in a museum.

To him, I suppose that would also be a compliment.

We bore quickly of the crowd. I find that he chooses to feed seldom as well, enjoying more the hunt or the seduction, depending on how one looked at it. He is the type of predator that can only enjoy it if he could stalk his prey.

I send him the image of him as a kitten, and he gifts me with a rare smile.

He is beautiful.

His beauty saddens me, though, as it makes me think of Bruce. When Bruce was as young as this one appears, he was melancholy and sullen.

I wish I could have been there then to soothe him.

We end up at a lesbian coffee house, sitting on a starkly oversized couch, discussing our pasts. He tells me of the mortals he has wooed and won, only to lose them to death. He speaks of death as if it were an intoxicant, a lover that can't be resisted forever.

I find, on this night, that view of death rather appeals to me.

I tell him about Bruce, about how we met, and how we fought. How inadequate I felt in his shadow.

How death made us equals.

He takes my head in his arms, and directs me to lie down with my head in his lap. It strikes me as an uncommonly kind gesture.

In time, I take him for a walk on the streets, showing him the sights of Gotham.

From a vigilante's viewpoint.

We harass a few Jokerz, for old time's sake, and scare a few pushers.

The night feels endlessly desolate.

He stops me in an alley, where one unfortunate soul is on his knees, evacuating his illness into the gutter. His eyes have a sharpness and definition to them that I recognize easily.

He extends his thoughts, as he weaves for the unfortunate youth a masterful illusion, drawing him in.

I put my hand on his arm, and he looks at me quizzically.

"He is sick. He needs help."

"I can call an ambulance."

He tilts his head to the side. "They won't arrive in time. I can help him sooner."

I can now see, thanks to my companion, what he has seen. The boy has attempted suicide tonight, overdosing himself. He couldn't afford anything decent, so he is now quite sick. It will take some time for him to die, but he has no will to live.

I am given a glance at the reason, the boy's abuse and molestation, and I turn away.

The young predator grins at me, unperturbed. "You see, he wants to die. I can help him."

"But it isn't right."

"When your beloved was sick, did he not beg you to end his misery? To take what you needed and leave him without the pain? And you didn't want to, couldn't. But you did drink from him, leaving him weak and defenseless. An illness that should have taken months to kill him was done in weeks. And was he not happier to be freed from the pain, from the suffering? Wasn't it better that he died? How is this youth so different? His life has been agony, from almost the first. Why, after a lifetime of struggle and pain, can't his death be easy?"

I turn away. It frightens me, the power this young vampire possesses. To see into anyone's heart, to their thoughts... It is more power than I would ever want. It is more power, I realize, than he wants. He is so tired of life, and yet, he cannot stop. He is afraid to.

I walk away from the alley a space, letting my mind drift away again, further away so that I don't need to be aware of what is going on in the alley.

When he returns to my side, he looks as if nothing has happened. Gently, he takes my arm and leads me back to his hotel. He has a posh room in the most expensive hotel in Gotham, with a wide balcony with a view of the whole city.

We sit out on the balcony, my head again in his lap, he leaning against the wall, and I cry bloody tears as I rip my heart out to him

He knows it all, but he listens quietly, running his fingers through my hair.

I tell him how Bruce was the only mortal man I feed on, and how he became a part of me.

How his thoughts became my anchor and shield, his heart became my guide.

How I wanted to be with him when he died, but couldn't.

How empty I have felt since I woke without him, how I couldn't bear it.

How could I blame him for encouraging that boy's suicidal fantasy, when my own suicide was on the horizon.

When all my tears were drying on his jacket, he placed his hand on my face and spoke quietly. "You will need some strength to carry out your plan as you want to. You have sustained yourself for so long on next to nothing. Feed from me. You won't be betraying your beloved, I am not mortal. Feed, and have the strength to meet the dawn."

He turned his arm so his wrist was at my lips. I smiled a thanks, and licked the skin over his veins softly.

He shivered.

I bit down, letting the sudden gush wash over my tongue. It was exhilarating. The blood of a thousand mortals, and their hopes and fears as they died, as well as echo of the memory of a life centuries too long, burst onto my taste buds.

I pull away just as it becomes intoxicating, long accustomed to avoidance of overindulgence.

He doesn't question me, just leads us both into the bedroom, where he settles us for the night on top of the king-sized bed, I on my back on the left and he curled on his side facing me on the right.

I feel the sun rise, and try to remain conscious, trying to find Tim and his thoughts, hoping against hope that I will be granted some experience of this day.





When the sun falls again, I wake.

He is still watching me, but he says nothing. With a single kiss to his lips, I say goodbye.

I am out in the air again.

I find the grave without difficulty. He is buried next to his parents, under an ancient tree, on top of the hill.

He is under the earth, in a box.

My knees ache, as I hit the ground. The headstone is simple, straight block, with only his name, Bruce Thomas Wayne, his span, and the words, Loving Guardian.

I selected the headstone. Others tried to dissuade me from putting "Loving" in front of Guardian. All appreciated the appropriateness of the double meaning of Guardian, but they questioned whether Loving would be a suitable description.

No one knew him like I did.

I lie on the earth, and let the reality fill me. He is dead, and I will soon be joining him. These are my last hours.

I focus on the cold dirt beneath me, on the perfect black of the sky, on the outstretched knobby arms of the tree above me.

There is so little time left to care about anything, and all I can think is that without him, there is little point to trying.

I remember everything that I can about our life together, laughing out loud when I recalled some scenes from our early days, getting that warm flush when I recalled scenes from our later life.

When the light begins to creep into the sky, I feel cleansed.

I sit up enough to really focus on the shades of light that are advancing upon the sky. Every instinct I have begs with me to flee, but I have little trouble denying them.

This is the first sunrise I will have seen in over 30 years.

I watch as the first beams of light penetrate the dark, expelling it. I feel the heat, the unbearable heat, creep over me.

By the time the orb of fire itself is apparent, I am combusting.

I don't scream, but I struggle to keep my eyes open as my flesh burns, scorching the earth under me, and over him. I think that nothing will ever grow here, and that it is fitting that there will be that memorial of me over him.

I wonder if the flames will damage the headstone.

It becomes hard to see the day as the flames take me, but I keep my eyes open none the less.

It is the blessed end, and I will watch it all.








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