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Fic: Passing Through - Rising

This version of Gotham was rougher than what he was used to, rougher even than the versions of his own past Gotham City should be, and Terry frowned as he stepped out of the alley and headed down the street.  A quick glance at a discarded newspaper showed that he was more than thirty years out of date and instincts told him that it wasn’t simple time travel.  Terry had noticed that the more he traveled, the easier it was to tell when his new destination was further from home.  He’d still find a library and research, try to catalogue the differences for his own peace of mind and curiosity, but when a portal showed up he’d be moving on.

On the surface it seemed like this Gotham was doing well.  The crime stats were way down, the streets were fairly clean, and even in the bad parts of town (sadly consistent from one Gotham to another) things were doing relatively well.  On paper, things were great here.

Terry knew better.  He didn’t have Bruce’s training as a detective, mostly counting on instinct and intuition with an assist from the Old Man when he could get it, but things were not settled in this Gotham.  He could feel it in the air when he walked through the Narrows.  There was resentment here, simmering under the façade of compliance, and it wouldn’t take much to make it all explode.

Batman had been conspicuous in his absence over the past few years, fading away after the death of Harvey Dent and the ridiculous murder charge.  It made Terry angry, how easily they’d all been swayed by that little tidbit.  If Batman had wanted to murder Harvey Dent no one would have ever suspected him.  The worst part was that Gotham still needed Batman, even if no one realized it.  It was the one constant truth across all the dimensions.  Gotham, and the world, would always need the Dark Knight.  Without that balance, you ended up with this messed-up kettle of resentment and anger.

He could have put on the suit and given Gotham Batman, if only for a short time.  Terry seriously considered it, in fact, if only to make things a little more settled.  Anything he did now would only delay the inevitable boiling over if he couldn’t follow through, though.  This Gotham wasn’t his responsibility.

With that in mind, he did put in a visit to Wayne Manor.  He didn’t bother trying to go through the main door and Alfred, though at least a little bit of him wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with the man.  Alfred was just as instrumental in creating Batman as Bruce, in his own way, and it was clear that the old man missed him still.  He was also the kind of man who would never have allowed Terry past him if Bruce was really as secluded as they said.  Fortunately, Terry had a pretty good guess at how to get in the back way.

Motion sensors were pointless in the Cave, since the bats would set them off at twilight and any time they were disturbed, but there were any number of traps set up to catch the unwary and unprepared.  Terry disarmed them one by one, moving slowly and methodically through the Cave.  This version of the suit was nothing special compared to his own, as it was pretty much just repurposed body armor, but the vehicles were worth a second look.  His own Batmobile was by far his favorite vehicle, but there was something to be said for durability and maneuverability combined.

There was an elevator that probably went up into the mansion, but it was old and probably noisy as hell.  Terry settled for climbing up the walls of the elevator shaft and opening up the secret passageway door.

Being greeted with an arrow that skimmed just past his face before hitting the wall behind him was momentarily startling, but he’d gotten worse from the old man when Bruce had thought he needed it and he turned with a smirk.

The man in question was standing in the doorway, a cane in one hand as he set the recurve bow to the side.  It was a painfully familiar scene and he lost the smirk immediately, unable to hold it when this version of Wayne looked so much like the one he’d come to know.  “I’m calling the police,” the man said.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Terry replied, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the corner of the piano.  “I’ll be sure to show them all exactly how I got in here in the first place.”

Wayne didn’t move, though his eyes flicked past Terry to the wall behind him.  “What do you want?” he asked, sounding tired.

“Just to talk.”

“You could have called ahead.”

“Pretty sure you haven’t been taking visitors in a few years.  Besides, this is mostly a courtesy call.   I don’t think you’ve been out on the streets of Gotham in a while.  Things are changing.”

“Things are safer.  The police have taken crime off of the streets.”

“They’ve driven it off the streets.  Its not the same thing, and you know it.  The smart criminals are still out there, hiding and waiting and planning.  Things are coming to a boil out there and someday soon the police won’t be able to handle it, especially once the truth comes out about Harvey Dent.”  Terry shook his head.  “That lie is going to cost the city.”

“It’s not a lie.”

“If Batman had wanted Harvey Dent dead, no one would have ever known he was involved.  It wouldn’t have even been considered a murder, Bruce.  I think we both know that much.  You’ve always been too smart for that.”

“And what makes you think that?”

“Because I know you, Bruce.  Better than anyone except maybe Alfred.  And I know you would never kill someone of your own free will.  It’s one of the few things I know I can depend on.  You will never murder someone, and Gotham City will always need Batman.  You might want to start preparing.”