SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Ah do not own any of these folks and no infringement of copyright is intended. Please don't sue moi!:):) DC owns Azrael, Gotham, etc! No money is being made! Yadda, yadda, yadda!

Rated PG-13 for some naughty language!

This one is for KJ and Kael because they asked and because they're ubernifty!!

Kilimanjaro

An Azrael Tale by Dannell Lites

Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. It's western summit is called by the Masai Ngaje Ngai the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has ever explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

~Ernest Hemingway~

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

... que ... ?

Come on, guy ... just try and relax, okay? It's almost over. You'll be fine in a few minutes. Um .. could you speak English? I guess it's a culture flaw or something but I never learned a lot of French. Bruce *did* try to teach me but it didn't take very well.

... hurts ...

I know ... I know ... You need to try and focus here. We've got a lot to talk about and not much time. And no, I'm not a very patient person. Not now, not before.

... w-who are you ...?

Me? That's not important right now. The important thing is you. And what happens now. That's really important. Lot riding on that. Come on, stay with me here ...

Ah Dieu! Ahhhhhhhhh -

Damn it! Don't do that! I know it hurts but, you almost gave poor Al a heart attack there! Look, this is gonna be hard enough on him as it is. Pretty soon he's gonna start thinking about hospitals and how they should of taken you there instead of trying to do this here in the 'Cave. He's not a doctor. A hospital wouldn't help ... but he doesn't know that. Then, the next thing you know, in his head, it's gonna be Bruce laying there on that table, not you. He's pretty sure that's the way it's gonna happen some day. Quick and bloody, just like this. Just him and Bruce ... the way it's been for a long time. He's terrified that he won't even have a chance to say goodby. He's probably right.

... Dues meus ... ex toto cor-corde poenitet me ...

omnium meorum peccatorum ... eaque
detestor, quia pec - peccando ... non solum
poenas a Te iuste statutas ... pro- promeritus sum,
sed praesertim quia offendi Te ... Te - Te - Ah Dues!
Huh? Easy ... easy ... shhhh ... shhhh ... What the crap was that, anyway? English, damn it! Work with me, here! I said Eng - oh. Wait. Was that Latin? Um ... sorry. That was an Act of Contrition, wasn't it? I wish there was a priest ... but it's just you and Al and Bruce ... and - and me. Okay. Kind of important to you, I guess, isn't it? It - it's been a long time. But I think I can remember ...

Repeat after me: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,

... Mon Dieu, j'ai un extrê regret de vous avoir offensé et je dé mes péé ...
and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments
... parce que je crains de perdre le ciel et redoute les peines de l'enfer ...
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
... mais surtout parce mes péé vous offense et que vous ê, mon Dieu ...
Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.
... infiniment bon et infiniment aimable ...
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more
... Je prends la ferme ré. moyennant votre saints grâ ...
and to avoid the near occasions of sin.
... de ne plus vous offenser et de faire pé ...
Amen.
... amen ...
Shhhh ... shhhhh. See? I told you the pain would go away after a while. Jesus Christ ... What the Hell am I doing? This was only supposed to be a simple Escort job here. I got the assignment because there isn't anybody else. Everybody who knows and loves you is still alive; Brian ... Lilhy ... Well, okay there is your Dad, Ludovic Valley, but he's not ... here ...

Oh Christ! I didn't mean ... Im sorry ... I'm sorry ... I'm sorry. No, no, he's not *there* either. He's kinda in between. Working some things out. That's what we've got to talk about, okay? In between.

Jesus H. Christ on a Cruise missile! Look at me. Muttering incantations in a dead language about things that I don't even believe in anymore ... If I ever did. Why couldn't you just keep this simple, huh? What is it about you that makes people do these crazy things? I mean look at Bruce. The Bat has got to be one of the most practical dudes around. But you pulled off that freaking hood, said, 'I'm not an angel ... I'm a man. My name is Jean-Paul Valley. That was my father's name, too.', the man took one look at the innocence in those wide blue eyes, touched all that inchoate pain there and made the biggest mistake of his life. Well, all right. The second biggest, anyway. He believed in you. Yeah, he wanted to believe, sure. But you made it easy for him. Dick, too. He tries really hard to hate you but he can't quite make it.

Um - look, I - Christ, I was never any good with words. If - if it makes you feel any better, Bruce or Dick would be here in a heart beat if they were in my position. But they're not. Not yet. You're stuck with me, the original red headed step child.

... don't leave; please don't leave ... I don't want to be alone ...

You're not. I'm right here, see? I promise, I won't leave. I'll stay right here with you, okay? It's going to be all right, really it is.

... tell me who you are. would you mind ... talking .. to me? ... need you to talk to me ...

S-sure. Okay. No problem. Who am I? My name is Jason. No, you don't know me.

... non? Il vocce Jean ... Jean-Paul .. ah! pardonne. I - I am Jean Paul.

Yeah, I know. Can I call you JP? I can? Great! Look JP, this is really important so listen carefully, okay? The first thing we've got to talk about is why you're here. That was a pretty stupid thing you did, you know that don't you?

... I did not think ...

No, you sure freakin' didn't. What in the Hell were you doing, throwing yourself in front of automatic weapons fire like that?

... the armor ... I thought my armor ...

Oh, I see. So, you never heard of armor piecing bullets, right? Really bright, JP; really bright. Not to grind too fine a point on it, but that was the same thing that killed your father, remember? The damned armor piercing bullets.

... I - I - remember ...

Good. Glad to hear it. But that brings up a kind of delicate point, though. See, if you knew those bullets might be capable of doing what they've done ... well then, maybe you want to be here and we need to talk about that. That's a big no-no.

... no, I - I - I did not mean, I -

You sure? Not even a little? Maybe?

...

JP?

... perhaps ... a little. I - do not like being Azrael. It is ... difficult ... troubling ... I -

Difficult? Troubling?

Ah Dieu! St Dumas, forgive me ... I *hate* him! Is that what you wished to hear? He uses my body, takes me away from myself ... He leaves blood and pain in his wake and, in the end, only I am left with the burden of guilt and death that are his legacy. I hate him!

Now we're cooking with gas! C'mon guy, there's more isn't there? Spill it.

And ... and I despise being this thing! This abomination created and crafted for destruction at the will of others! And, God curse, them they made my outward form pleasing, pleasant to the eye; a trap for the unwary ...

Is that why you never .. I mean ... well, you know ... girls, chicks, la femme ... ?

There was no time ... I had other concerns ... I - Yes, that's why.

That's seriously fucked up, JP, did you know that? And hey! Take it from someone who croaked with the same burden of virginity. But I was only fifteen.

So young? That is sad.

Yeah, well, life's like that sometimes. Listen we're not here to talk about me, okay? I'm supposed to help you. I'm kinda in training here. They want me to watch over Bruce and all the others someday. A Guardian Angel sorta gig. But they keep putting it off. Don't know why. Just keep telling me I'm not ready yet. That I need to think about some stuff first.

Que? What do they say you must think abo -

Stuff, okay? Drop it. Look, um - I'm not really supposed to tell you a lot of stuff yet but I can tell you that the creeps who made Azrael aren't happy right now. And they're not here, either.

... oh ...

Hmmmm. Call me crazy but, If I didn't know better I'd swear you weren't happy about that. What's the deal here JP?

I ... Nomoz ... he was kind to me in - in his way ... I thought ... I hoped ... And, when the truth was plain to him he helped Azrael destroy the Order ...

You've got a big heart, JP. Bigger than mine, that's for sure. That's not always a good thing, is it? JP, listen to me. Forgiving others so easily is great. But doing it because you don't think they can possibly be as bad as you see yourself, isn't so great, okay?. Helping you was the only thing that saved Nomoz. He's with your Dad.

I'm glad.

Back to those bullets. That's a safe subject. Have you thought about what I said? Even a little?

Yes. I do not think that I wished to die. I am not afraid of dying, but ...

I know you're not. You *believe*; you really do. Don't think I've ever meet anybody like that before. Certainly not me. You're were kinda looking forward to this whole thing, weren't you?

Meeting God? Oh, yes. That's the point of living, non? To be worthy of that joining.

Maybe. We'll talk about that some other time. Right now ... Speaking of saving someone ... Nomoz isn't the only one you saved, you know. Look at Bruce. He's taking this really hard. He only gets ultra quiet and still like that when he's fighting something. When it takes all his energy to maintain an even strain and not lose it completely. He's pretty upset. I can tell.

He - is?

Christ yes! See those muscles in his neck and shoulders there? You could bounce a rock of those suckers they're so tense and hard. Jeezus. That was him you pushed out of the way of those bullets after all, JP. They were meant for him. If you hadn't done that it really would be Bruce on that table. Can - can I ask you a personal question? I mean ... if it's okay?

Of course. We have no secrets from one another, non?

What I don't understand is this: I mean, look at you. You saved a lot of people. You saved complete and total strangers on a daily basis. You saved Brian from the bottle. You gave Lilhy the courage to give the Order of St. Dumas the finger, then helped her find herself when she left. You even saved your Dad, did you know that? He loved you. He never had the least idea how to say it or probably even what it was he was feeling. But he loved you. That's why he's not ... where you thought he was earlier. Whole lotta salvation goin' on here. But ... Why Bruce?

Why did you do it? Why did you save Bruce like that? When you knew what it might cost you? And you did know, didn't you? Armor piercing bullets are pretty common nowadays. And the Joker has used them before. God! Poor Bruce ... first me ... then you .. the Joker's racking up quite a score, isn't he? Why Bruce doesn't just whack that psycho, nut bar and be done with it, I don't know. He'd be saving lives, for God's sake.

Can you not see, mon petite? Do you not understand? Bruce cannot kill le Joker. He dies in bits and pieces with every life the Joker claims ... but he will not kill him. It was pain and death that created The Batman. There is much of that in the world. He will not add to it with his own hands. If he could stop the Joker permanently with his own, death .. oh yes. That he would do in an instant. But when he sees the Joker he does not see only the madness, the blood and the killing. He sees Harley Quinn, in a filthy alley, kneeling in a spreading pool of her lovers blood and screaming. As he screamed. We know nothing of the Joker ... his past ... the cause of his madness. Somewhere c'est le maman et pere ...there are a mother and father who loved their little boy. As Thomas and Martha Wayne loved Bruce.

That's not the only thing Bruce sees when he looks at the Joker.

Non?

Yeah. Definitely 'non'. Bruce told me a story once ...

See, one of the few times I ever heard Bruce really laugh was at this joke:

There were these two guys in a lunatic asylum, see? They didn't much like living in a lunatic asylum, so one day they decided to escape. They made it up onto the roof, but then they ran into a little problem. There was this big gap between buildings, see? To get away they were gonna have to jump that gap. Now the first guy, he winds up and leaps right across, no problem. But the second guy, his friend…he just stands there. He's afraid of falling, y'see, and doesn't want to jump. So the first guy he has an idea. He says, "Hey! I have my flashlight with me. I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings and you can walk along the beam and join me!" But the second guy, he just shakes his head. He says, "What do you think I am … crazy?" Here comes the punch line folks…wait for it…wait for it…"You'd turn it off when I was half way across," complained the second guy.

Three guesses where Bruce heard the joke and the first two don't count.

Not many people understand Bruce as well as the Joker does. Did you know that when he crippled Babs he was trying to prove something to himself and to Bruce? He shot Babs, kidnapped Gordon, and tried to drive him insane all to prove that insanity can happen to anybody. That he wasn't alone. Or weak. Just ... unlucky. Heh.

"Just *one* bad day is all it takes to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy," he told Bruce.

"You had a bad day once, am I right, Batsy?"

Yes, he sees himself, too, in the Joker. That is true. In a mirror, darkly. Sad. It cannot be pleasant for Bruce to so understand the Joker, can it? To plumb the depths of such madness ... to embrace it, know it in the cause of stopping it ... and yet, in the end, remain untouched by it.

Yeah well, maybe. If you say so. I ... never though about it that way. But you've wandered away from the subject here. You didn't answer my question. *Why* did you save Bruce? What did he ever do for you, huh? Besides lie to you and kick you out on your kiester when you didn't measure up to his precious Mantle of the Bat, that is. Same thing he was gonna do to me, probably, if I hadn't croaked. Lucky me. I missed out on that part. But you didn't. You ended up in a shelter for the homeless, so whacked out that you almost burned to death because you thought that fire was another hallucination. If it hadn't been for Bryan ... So, why did you do it?

I - I did not think ... I believed that if I ... that is, I meant to ... Nom du chien! I do not know! I simply moved. Acted before I knew what I was doing.

Uh uh. No, you didn't. You knew *exactly* what you were doing. You guessed about the bullets, you admitted that. And you did it anyway. Now, why?

Sacre coeur! What do you want from me?

The truth. This isn't the time or the place for lying, JP. Not even to yourself. And you can't lie to me. Haven't you figured that out? So tell the truth and shame the Devil, why don't you?

I - I ... love him.

What?? You're kidding me! Sweatin' Jeezus! Are you telling me you wanna do the mattress dance with Bruce?

... Que ... ?

Fuck, screw, ball, sthupp, the old-in-and-out! You know what I mean! The Beast With Two Backs ... Le - le ... Damn it! What's the French phrase I'm looking for here?

Oh! Non, non, non! Mon Dieu, you have a one track mind, petite. That is not what I meant at all. Bruce would never ... he ... he ... would not ... not with *me* he would not have. Even if I ... if I ... I know little of such things. It - it might have been pleasant to be loved and cherished; warm and ... and ... But, no. Azrael was not made for that. It could never have been so.

Damn straight it couldn't. Heh! Little Freudian joke there. But not for the reasons you think. Bruce has slept with other men before, did you know that? Not saying who. Started with one of his teachers, though, when he was younger. A long time ago. The Japanese are a really sensual people when you - ah - get to know them. But we're wandering again. And we're running out of time. Why does the subject always keep coming back to Bruce, I wonder?

Perhaps because he is so important to both of us? Yes, I know you, now, mon petite frere. You are Jason Todd, the second boy to wear the Robin costume. The one who died. Bruce spoke of you. And the phrase you are searching for is 'le petite mort'; the 'little death' is what we French call making love.

Wow. Now that's heavy. I'm dead, you're dying, and here we are all nice and cozy talking about something called 'the little death' ... Move over Sigmund Freud. Look, don't you get it? He'd never have come on to you or accepted your advances for the same reason he rejected me. You weren't good enough for him. We've got a lot in common that way, JP. I dyed my goddamned hair to please him for Christ's sake, I tried so hard to be somebody else for him. Somebody he wanted. And you? He tried to make you into somebody else, too. You took off the mask of Azrael for him, laid the armor aside and put on that Christless cowl and cape. Because he asked you to. Because it was what he wanted. Because you loved him. You said that. And when you couldn't stand it anymore, when he left you, abandoned you, you ran back to what you knew and tried to remake The Batman in the image of Azrael. What the Hell do you think all those nifty, new high-tec weapons in the Suit were all about, anyway? It was your way of rebelling. Same as me.

I said that Bruce spoke of you. Are you not curious to know what he said?

Damn you, don't *do* that! We're not her to talk about me, we're here to talk about - about - Wha - what did he say?

He said that you were his son.

Bullshit! Grayson is his son! I was never anything but an unacceptable substitute. Trash he picked up off the street, boosting the tires off the freaking Batmobile, and tried to turn into a 'useful member of society'. I'll bet it made him feel all smug and philanthropic.

Perhaps. But then why did he adopt you if you were so much less than Dick? He never adopted Dick, you know. And your gravestone does not read 'Jason Todd' ... it proclaims you 'Jason Alan Wayne'. I have seen it. It reads: 'Jason Alan Wayne .. Beloved son of Bruce Wayne ... Gone too soon ... but never forgotten.' He went to quite a lot of trouble to adopt you, in fact. I saw the papers, the notes and the letters. With the flighty reputation he creates for himself as Bruce Wayne, it was not easy for him to do that; even with all his money. He fought for you. Fiercely. And when you died ... he almost followed you into the earth. Alfred was terrified that he he might be trying to do that, the way he threw himself into The Batman's rage. When Dick did not attend your funeral, Bruce was so deeply hurt that they quarreled horribly. The things they said to one another! The wounds from it still fester and bleed.

If - if all that's true then ... then ... then why the Hell didn't he ever say anything to *me*, huh? Why didn't he ever do anything, there at the last when I was trying to find myself, but yell at me and tell me not to do stupid things? He just kept laying down the freaking Law According to The Bat. 'Jason, you can't do this ... Jason, I won't allow you to do that ...' If I was so important to him then why couldn't he tell me so? Huh? Why, damn it! *Why*? S-S-Sorry. I didn't mean to go off like that, but ...

He said nothing because he was afraid, petite. Bruce has always been afraid. The Batman was born of guilt and fear. Guilt that he alone survived that night in Crime Alley. Fear that it might happen to him again. That everyone, everything he loves and understands will die again in a spreading pool of crimson.

He lied to me about my Dad. Didn't tell me about him being one of Two Face's goons and what happened to him. Damn him, I had a right to know!

D'Accord. But ... does not every parent think they know best for their child? Bruce wished to spare you pain. Would not the truth of your father's legacy have burned you?

Yeah! It would've! But if I was, by God, old enough and together enough to face armed thugs with guns who were trying to kill me ... If I was old enough to make decisions about the difference between hurting people and killing them at the risk of my life, then I was old enough for that, too! He had no right!

He thought that he did. He was wrong. But he listened to his heart because he loved you. Like all of us, Bruce makes most of his mistakes when his heart overwhelms his reason. He cannot speak of the things most important to him and so holds his silence. Perhaps he is afraid that if he names them, if he calls attention to them, they will be taken from him. I ... know something of such things.

You are much alike, you and Bruce. Have you considered that?

Me? Like Bruce? Oh, now you're being insulting, guy.

I did not mean it so. I meant it as a compliment. I have heard and seen much about the two of you. In many ways you are both children. You were lost and looking for direction. But when you looked to Bruce to be the adult, le pere, to guide and succor you ... he did not know how. One child leading another. There is a part of Bruce that will never grow up, never be able to face the world as it is and not as he would make it. Force it to be. In many ways Bruce will always be that six year old boy in Crime Alley; frozen like a fly in amber.

I - It's hard to think of Bruce as a kid. I mean, Jeezus, I just can't picture him playing baseball or hide and go seek, ya know?

No, he never did. But we are all children at heart, mon ami. Even Bruce. And Alfred tells me that when Bruce was a boy he ran through the dusty halls of the Manor like the wind ... that water bombs from the third floor stair landing were a distinct possibility and a positive menace.

I never knew ...

Did you ever ask?

Yeah! I did! I ... tried, anyway. I - I ... Look Al would never have told me any of that stuff, okay? He -

Alfred raised Bruce. He knows him better than Bruce knows himself in many ways. He fears that he has failed Bruce. The Batman's existence is his greatest tragedy. After all, if he had been the kind of father to Bruce that he meant to be ... The Batman wouldn't be necessary; or so he tells himself. He cannot see that The Batman was not born because of him ... but in spite of him.

Damn it, JP, don't run over me like that! Like you knew that I was wrong to begin with! Okay ... Al is a pretty stand up guy, you got me there. But .. Jeezus ... he let's Bruce ... I mean ... Bruce does things and ... and ... Al doesn't say word one! What's up with that?

Bruce is Monsieur Pennyworth's child. He will forgive him much for that, I think. And children do nothing by half measure; love or hate. Bruce does not love often, but when he does there is nothing of hesitation in it. He loves fiercely and completement like l'enfant. Pardonne! My English is - is When love takes Bruce, he is helpless in it's tender grasp. But like an independent child he needs more than he will ever let himself see. Le - le - Cochon! Qu'est-ce? Le - le mot? Anglais! Anglais! Walls! Le gardien d' mur. He - he guards the walls, non? The walls are monumental ... like the walls guarding an ancient treasure. But they can be breached. And the prize is incalculable.

Are you saying I broke through those walls and never knew it? No! You've got to be wrong. You've got to be. How could I be stupid enough to miss something like that? How? I - I -

Often we cannot see what is so plain to others. The forest for the trees, non?

Hey! I looked! You better believe I looked! What I saw was - was - Damn you, I saw ... Oh Christ ... Oh Christ ... Why do I keep seeing the fear in Bruce's eyes, now? That look of 'It's going to happen again ... ' It wasn't there the first time. I swear to *God* it wasn't.

You were angry, mon ami. And anger steals the sharpest sight. Azrael knows about anger. Bruce's fear is deeply buried. Perhaps, in your anger, you did not see it. You could scarcely be blamed if you missed it. Could not see it for what it was.

Yeah. Like - like I couldn't see Bruce, huh? Damn, if' I'd only looked a little harder, maybe I coulda - I coulda - Christ, I don't know! Done something ... anything ... Look, forget about that stuff, okay? For your information, Angel man, I'm not the only one who's blind.

... Que ... ? Brian, dimbulb. Brian Bryan ... the 'world's worst psychiatrist'. Remember him? You're really dense sometimes, know that? Your LoveVision isn't exactly 20/20, you hear what I'm saying? The ol' LoveRadar needs recalibrating if you catch my drift.

B-Brian? Wants me? In the worst way, pal. Lilhy, too. What do you think that kiss she asked Nightwing for was all about? Sure, she was curious. And Dick's a serious stud. But mostly she was trying to make you jealous.

She .. succeeded.

Then why didn't you ever tell her that, huh? Talk about blind ... I'm not the only one looks like. Well, well, Angel Man, ain't we a pair ... ain't we a pair?

Heh. We are, are we not? Lilhy ... I would never have imagined ... Lilhy ...

You f''d up there pretty bad, JP. Shoulda jumped on that ASAP. For a nun Lilhy is hot!

Jason ... she *is* a nun ... restrain yourself, mon ami.

Not any more she's not. But Lilhy and Brian aren't the only thing you've missed.

I do not understand ...

You're not paying much attention are you?

Oui?

Can't you feel it? Azrael is ... gone ... He's not a part of you anymore.

...!

Oh Christ! Don't *do* that! Didn't I tell you to stop doing that? Please don't cry ... just please do *not* cry ...

... pardonne ... pardonne ...

That's better. Damned emotional Frenchman. You remember what I said about needing to talk about being 'between'? Working things out? Well, never mind. You made it.

You mean ... ?

Yup. Sure do. Just got the Word. We're heading for that big Batcave In The Sky, buddy.

Jason? I'm - I am very frightened. I am glad you are here with me. How can someone as flawed ... as unworthy as I ... I -

Not your decision to make, guy. And the decision *has* been made. See that Light?

Yes! Que belle ... I think you 'made it', too, did you not, mon ami?"

I guess I did at that. Yeah. When we get Home, I'm gonna go see some dudes about that Guardian Angel gig. I think I'm ready, now. JP? Thanks.

Merci beaucomps, mon frere.

Yeah, mercy buckets to you, too. Can you see me better now? See my hand? That's it. Okay, don't let go, now. Hang on tight. You don't have to be afraid. I'm right here.

In nomine patre, et spiritu sancte ...

Walk toward the Light, JP ...

The End