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Fic: Passing Through - Equilibrium

Title: Passing Through - Equilibrium
Summary: A Bat is sent pinballing through the multiverse.
Genre: Crossover (Batman Beyond/The Batman)

Batman was crouched on a rooftop across from Arkham Asylum, studying the building through a set of compact binoculars.  “Everything’s quiet,” he said grimly.

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing, sir?”

“It would, if I hadn’t had the feeling that I’m being watched all evening.  Trouble at Arkham would have given me something I could actually work with.”

“If it makes you feel any better, you are being watched.”  Batman spun around, batarang in hand, to face the speaker.  The young man in question was standing a few yards away, his body language relaxed and a bit of a smirk on his face.

Batman rose to his full height but didn’t move closer.  He watched his unwanted companion warily.  No one should be able to sneak up on him like that.  How had this teenager done it?  The boy offered no further conversation, apparently content to wait for Batman to make the next move.

“Sir?”  Alfred’s concerned voice came over the Batwave.  “Has something happened?”

He didn’t dare answer with the kid standing right there.  It wouldn’t do for people to realize that the Batman had at least one accomplice, two if you counted his partnership with Detective Yin.  So he stood there, stoic and silent, and watched as the boy’s smile grew.  Eventually his latest complication broke the standoff.  “How about this?  I’ll meet you at the diner down the street in thirty minutes and answer all your questions.  All you have to do is buy me a cup of coffee, Mr. Wayne.”

Batman didn’t outwardly react, but Bruce Wayne reeled back in shock.  His identity had never been compromised before, though some had gotten close.  His instinct said to deny the charge, but the person behind it was already at the door that lead back into the building.

“Sir?”

“Suggestions, Alfred?”

“I would do as he says, Master Bruce.  If you like, I’ll don cape and cowl in case you need Batman to appear in the same place as Bruce Wayne.”

“Let’s hope that won’t be necessary.”

888

Bruce walked into the diner a few minutes early.  There was no press of reporters outside, which he took as a good sign.  His guest was already waiting in a booth with a wide margin of unoccupied tables surrounding it, his expression almost wistful as he watched the people walk by outside.  “It’s nice here,” the young man said when Bruce slid in across from him.  “Where I come from, no one would walk around at street level unless they were looking for trouble, not even in broad daylight.”

“Are you going to tell me how you know what you know?”

The boy rolled his eyes and turned to face Bruce.  “Patience is a virtue.  Mind if I get a cheeseburger to go along with that cup of coffee?”

Bruce did mind a little, but he gave a nod of assent and waved the waitress over.  As the still-unnamed man gave his order, the vigilante studied him quickly, cataloging his observations with precision while he fixed his coffee.  His unwanted companion was lean and wiry, and Bruce already knew from experience that he was quick as well.  His hair was black and hung across his eyes and down to his collar, but it was clean and combed, and his clothing was worn but clean.

The boy turned back to face Bruce, a smile on his face and laughter in his pale blue eyes.  “Inspection over?  Threat assessment complete?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Whatever you say.”  He leaned across the table, hand outstretched.  “Terry McGinnis.”

“Nice to finally get a name.”  Bruce took a sip of his coffee.  “You already know mine, along with some other things I’d like to know about.”

Terry dumped sugar and creamer into his cup before testing it cautiously.  “Honestly?  I’m not sure you’re going to believe me.”

“Try me.”

“All right.”  Terry wrapped his long-fingered hands around his cup.  “I’m from a future alternate reality, and in that future alternate reality I’m the new Bat.”  He smirked a little and brushed the hair back from his eyes.   “But the original is always Bruce Wayne, no matter what reality you’re in.”

Bruce sat back and thought about this for a moment.  “It’s possible,” he allowed.  “Go on.”

A flicker of surprise passed across the younger man’s face, gone almost before Bruce could register it, and he shrugged and went on.  “Let’s just say it’s a bad idea to get between a mad scientist, a Green Lantern, and a magic handler.  I’ve been traveling from reality to reality in both directions on the timeline for eight months trying to get home.”

“And I’m in every reality?”

“All the ones I’ve been to.  But that might just mean that I’m skipping over the ones where Bruce Wayne doesn’t exist.”  He made a very slight face.  “Magic can be like that sometimes.”

“Right.”  Bruce looked at him with a little skepticism.  He’d believe in magic when he saw it.  “So you just thought you’d introduce yourself and see if you could get a cheeseburger out of the deal?”

“I don’t always.  Some versions of you can be a little intense.  And some are just a little too strange.”  Terry gave a slight shudder and fell silent while the waitress delivered his food with a flirtatious smile for both of them.  He picked up the sandwich and took a bite, and his shoulders relaxed slightly as he chewed and swallowed.  Bruce kept his expression carefully neutral, but he wondered when the boy had last eaten.  Terry ate the burger in several quick bites, as if he were afraid that it would be taken away from him if he set it down.  Then he pushed aside the plate and picked up his coffee.  “The truth is, out of every version I’ve seen you seem to be the most content in both halves of your life.  The mission still matters, but it doesn’t own you.  I admire that.”

Bruce thought about that while his coffee grew cold and Terry drank a second cup in silence.  “So what happens next?”

“There should be a portal opening up soon.  I’ll try my luck on the next reality.  It seems like I’m getting closer every time I go through, although that might just be wishful thinking.”  He drained his cup and stood up, a battered backpack at his side.  “Hope everything goes well for you, Bruce.”

Bruce turned and watched him walk out of the diner, then turned back to the window.  Terry walked past with his hands in his pockets and never looked back.