"Did you really think he'd listen?" inquired a deep, rumbling voice at the Angel's back. Andrew shook his head ruefully. It wasn't just anybody who could sneak up on Death. Smiling, Andrew turned to face the voice from the deep shadows. Another old friend.

"Why not?" Andrew said mildly. "You did."

The Batman snorted through his nose then inhaled deeply. "And it only took me most of thirty five years," he observed with sarcasm. "That has to be a record."

Andrew laughed. "Not really, Bruce Thomas," he said. The Dark Knight Avenger grew still.

"Now there's a name I haven't heard in a very long time." The man behind the cowl of The Batman looked away. "Don't call me that. He's dead. As dead as his parents who named him that." Andrew raised one pale eyebrow in inquiry.

"Is he? As dead as that other little boy?"

The hero of Gotham straightened, brushing the question aside.

"I'm not the reason you're here," he pointed out slowly. He gestured in the direction of the disappearing Azrael. "He is. You've got your hands full this time, I'm afraid." Andrew rubbed the back of his neck and made a wry face.

"Definitely," he agreed with a heartfelt sigh of exasperation. The taller Batman stared off into the gathering gloom with pensive, troubled eyes.

"He's going to die, isn't he? That's why you're here." After an instant that lasted no longer than a heartbeat, Andrew nodded. The muscles of The Batman's face worked themselves in silence.

"Soon?" The angry shadows in his dark blue eyes were the only thing that betrayed the Dark Knight, his voice was steady as a rock.

"Soon enough," Andrew replied softly. "I'm here to help him find his way Home."

"Why bother?" asked The Batman in a rough, hoarse voice that betrayed his pain. "Is he that important?" The Angel of Death smiled.

"Everybody's important, Bruce. You know that. You've dedicated your life to that," Andrew said softly. Then he smiled widely. "Oh no, Angel Boy!" he cried in a perfect imitation of Tess' vibrant contralto, "You don't get to pick and choose! God's love is for everybody not just the good folks! He's all yours!"

The Batman didn't laugh but a small smile scampered past his guard before he could summon it back. For a moment he reflected on the irony that Death was one of the only people who could make him smile. Bruce Thomas Wayne decided that it was a good thing for one soul to laugh with another. When silence reigned once more Andrew lay a hand on the taller man's shoulder.

"Why is he important? I don't know. Why is anyone important? He's important because he lives; because he suffers. And, maybe, just maybe, because if there's hope for him, then there's hope for all of us." At first The Batman said nothing but there was a gathering storm behind those eyes that were the exact shade of a dying Summer sky. Smiling, The Batman snorted hot derision.

"Did anyone ever tell you that for The Angel of Death you're a pushover?"

"All the time," muttered Andrew glumly, "all the time."

THE END