They both laugh when Terry tells them he’s Batman.
But then later...later she starts wondering.
Falling asleep in school. The times when his bed looks unslept in. His acquaintance with the police commissioner, and now that she thought about it, everyone had been kind of vague about what that award had been for. The fact that the new Batman had appeared - God, it hadn’t been long after Warren died, had it? She remembers the time she found the slappers in his backpack and wonders if that had something to do with the job. It’s kind of funny in a stressful way that the symptoms of being on drugs are so similar to the symptoms of being Batman.
The idea scares the crap out of her, she won’t lie to herself about that. But Terry...he’d been such an angry kid, even after he got out of juvie and reformed, and he’d been a lot happier lately, less likely to misbehave other than in what she now suspected were Batman-related ways.
Matt’s not ever going to find out about this if she has her way; it’s one thing for Matt to adore the idea of Batman, and it’s another for Batman’s toys to be in easy reach. And Terry hasn’t been a kid for awhile, but Matt still is. She waits until she can catch Terry not rushing off somewhere (to save the world) and Matt’s at karate (because he needs to know that stuff, in Gotham, and maybe she should get Terry to teach him that much at least, because Batman’s probably way more competent than anyone who knows karate).
“Terry, sweetie, can I talk to you?” she asks, and he freezes halfway to his bedroom.
“Uh,” he says.
She smiles reassuringly. “You’re not in trouble.” Well, she was a little pissed, but what was she going to say? How dare you try to save lives and you’re grounded? She’d once said someone must have set Batman on the right path early and she’d meant it. Terry’s come over and he’s sitting down now. She hands him a plate of sandwiches and a glass of milk. He’s been health conscious lately, and she hopes the sandwiches are part of a superhero’s balanced diet. Mary giggles a little, inside, at the thought of Batman endorsing high-fiber breakfast cereal.
“So what’s up?” Terry asks, starting in on the sandwiches.
“I’m sorry,” Mary says. “That I wasn’t listening to what you had to say when that show was planned to air. I’m sorry I laughed.”
Terry turns a little pale and sets down his sandwich. “What-“ he starts, but doesn’t continue.
“You were telling me the truth, weren’t you?” she asks.
He looks down and nods a little, jerkily. “You were right, it was different when it was about me.”
She pats his hand. “I’m not mad. Just worried for you. But that man, Ian Peek, he never aired his show. What happened?”
“He was getting his information through a tech that let him go invisible and incorporeal,” Terry answers after a long moment. “He got stuck that way. That’s the short version. So my identity’s safe, for now.”
She nods a little and is quiet for a moment, enough time that he relaxes a little and picks up the sandwich again. There have been things she’s been thinking about since she realized. Terry was never a great student even before Batman; he’s a smart kid, but six hours in a classroom doesn’t seem to work for him.
“Maybe we should get you some alternative schooling,” Mary suggests, and Terry looks kind of surprised at the offer. He’s been juggling so many hats - or cowls with pointy ears - for so long. She wishes she’d known. “Maybe we can do some kind of home schooling with Mr. Wayne,” and now Terry looks like he’s sucked on a lemon. Apparently the list of things she doesn’t know about Bruce Wayne could fill several tomes.
“Uh, no, that’s okay, Mom,” he answers. “I only have a semester left anyway and Bruce will help me get into Gotham U or Gotham State or wherever I want to go. College’ll be better in a lot of ways, and I can set all my classes for midday and early evening. And there won’t be any rush to finish, either.”
“All right, honey,” she says. “Do you want some more milk?” He’s finished his glass.
“Nah, I’m good.” He settles back with a contented little sigh, and then grins slightly. “You must have a million and one questions, right?”
Mary laughs. “I bet there are a lot of people out there who would love the opportunity to get first hand information from Batman. You’re right - only make it more like a billion. Only about half of which are the kinds that a Batman fan would ask.”
Terry smiles back tentatively. “Well, shoot.”
“How’d it happen? Do you really have an invisible car? What’s your average day like? Have you met the Flash?”
“Oh, you like Flash better than Batman?” Terry says. “I’m not telling you anything now.”
“Mom!” Terry bursts into the room. He’s never been a grinner, but he’s practically vibrating with excitement right now; she learned a long time ago to read his body language.
“Hi, sweetie,” she says, kissing his cheek when he comes over to give her a hug hello. “What’s got you so worked up?”
“Guess who I met today?” His eyes sparkle, just a little.
“I can’t even begin to imagine,” Mary says.
“Superman! And he invited me to join the Justice League.”
Terry’s not bouncing, because Batman doesn’t bounce. But she’s pretty sure he is standing on his toes, trying to make himself look taller, unconsciously. She wishes he stood up straight all the time.
Mary wraps him in another hug. He’s so strong but to her, he’s still a small boy, and she wants to protect him. But she can’t anymore. “I’m so proud of you, Terry,” she says.
“Can I talk to you about something?” Terry asks, and Mary doesn’t hear those words often enough anymore. Her son’s a hero and he’s all grown up; she can’t advise him on the hero stuff (that’s what Bruce and Superman and Barbara Gordon are for) and he doesn’t want her advice on other things. It makes her feel good that he wants to talk to her about something.
“Of course,” she says, and pats the couch next to her.
Terry tells her about Melanie. “Her parents got out of jail again, so I went to visit her to see if she knew anything. I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel about her now,” he says. “Maybe I should give her another chance. She seems to be re-establishing ties with her brother, and she’s been out of trouble for awhile.”
“What about Dana?” she asks. They must be off again.
“You know my relationship with Dana is complicated.”
“By which you mean you’re Batman and she doesn’t know.”
Terry smirks. “Yeah.”
“Well, if you plan to patch things up with Dana, I don’t think you should be seeing other women, even in between. Separated or not she wouldn’t be happy. Just like you wouldn’t be in the same circumstances.”
She sees him thinking about it, gives him a moment, but not too long because she doesn’t want him to overthink it either. “As for how you should feel, there’s no such thing. You feel how you feel.” She pats his hand. “But truthfully it sounds like she’s a replacement whenever you’re feeling lonely, and neither of you deserve the kind of relationship you’d probably have. And I don’t think you trust her.”
Terry shakes his head slowly. “No. Batman especially, since it was him she screwed over, but it’s not like I can just forget about it either.” Sometimes he talks about Batman and Terry like they’re different people. He explained it to her once as being part of his persona, keeping them separate to help protect his identity, but it still weirds her out a little.
“There’s never anything wrong with loving people,” Mary says instead. “That doesn’t always mean they’re the right person for you, though.”
He nods and leans into her side. “Thanks, Mom.”
Mary remembers when she used to have two babies. Now she has a son in college and another a year out of high school. Matt’s finally hit a growth spurt and he’s looking more and more like Terry. He has his brother’s need to protect others, an increasingly brilliant mind, and a fascination with Batman.
And not just with Batman. Neither of them really likes that he’s planning on dressing up as Robin for Halloween. Terry never mentions Tim Drake, and she doesn’t think she wants to know anything beyond what she’s already gleaned because anything that happened to Robin could happen to Batman, too.
Terry has Fridays off from classes; he uses most of it to catch up on sleep and homework before a long weekend of patrolling. Right now he’s trying to figure out calculus with her help - both of the tutoring and snack varieties.
He finally puts his pencil down with a sigh and shakes his head. “Okay, brain break time. What are we going to do about Matt? D’you think I should just tell him? Might lose its mystique if he knows it’s just me under that cowl.”
“Absolutely not,” Mary answers. “That’ll just put what he wants within easy reach and he’ll know it. I don’t want you to tell him. In fact, I expressly forbid you from coming out to your brother.”
There’s a clatter in the doorway. “Terry’s not gay,” Matt says, almost accusingly.
“You’re supposed to be in school,” Mary says, relieved that he hadn’t overheard the bit half a minute prior.
Matt slouches over and shoves a note at her. “I had to hit him, he was harassing Alice.”
Terry looks like he’s about to offer Matt a high five. She manages to fix both sons with her “I’m very disappointed” look. “Matt, we’ve talked about this. Get a teacher.” She’s secretly a little proud of him but he really has to stop getting suspended.
“Hmph,” he says, and then returns to glaring at Terry.
“Matt, there’s nothing wrong with being gay,” Terry says.
“I know that, dumbass,” Matt says, and Mary intensified her look of disapproval. “Uh, sorry, Mom. But Terry’s not gay. He wouldn’t use Dana as a beard. Besides, it’s not like he cares what people think of him, much.”
It was true; Terry had always been confident, even in the awkward teenage years, and was staunchly independent.
“Bi, then,” Terry suggests, probably thinking cover now before Matt starts asking too many questions.
“Please. So wait, what did you mean about coming out?” he looks back and forth between the two of them suspiciously. The covering didn’t work, apparently.
Terry looks at her and she shakes her head again. “Terry can tell you when you’re eighteen,” she says. Small miracles willing, maybe Matt will forget by then.
“Dude, are you a porn star?” Matt asks, and they both look at him in horror.
“What the hell, Matt?” Terry asks. “I work for Bruce Wayne. I don’t need the money.”
“Maybe he secretly made all his money through porn,” Matt suggests. “He’s a secret porn smuggler.”
Terry looks like he’s trying not to laugh.
“Language, Terry,” Mary reminds, and then, “Matt, I can’t believe you just asked Terry if he’s a porn star.”
“Well, what else wouldn’t he get to tell me till I’m eighteen?”
Terry smirks and ruffles Matt’s hair in the way they both know drives him crazy. “Guess you’ll have to wait and find out,” he says. “Gotta go finish my homework.” He takes his book and notes off to his room.
“As for this suspension,” Mary says. Sometimes she wonders if she should let Terry tell Matt. She suspects that Bruce Wayne could come up with some truly sadistic punishments, considering the kinds of workouts he puts Terry through on a good day. “No computer, no TV, and no vid games. And no Batman.”
Terry slides in across from her at the restaurant. “Sorry I’m late,” he says, and Mary just laughs because Terry is always late, unless it’s to something for cover.
“What’s going on?” she asks, because she can tell when there’s something on his mind, and he hadn’t requested tonight’s dinner just for her company (not that he doesn’t come to see her often enough; this just wasn’t one of those times).
“I’m thinking about proposing to Dana,” he says, tugging a box out of his pocket and showing it to her. The ring is obviously expensive, but also tasteful.
“It’s beautiful,” she says. “Have you told Dana about...?” She doesn’t say what; he’ll know and Bruce long ago infected both of them with his paranoia. After all, if someone could sneak a camera into the bat cave, you never knew who might secretly be listening in a public restaurant, even if the closest group is two tables away and loud.
“No,” he answered. “Do you think I need to?”
Mary gives him a look. “Go into marriage with a secret between you that already has a great impact on your relationship? It’ll either put a strain on your relationship if you keep it a secret, or she’ll be furious if you wait to tell her until after you’re married. She’s probably going to be as mad anyway, but not as mad.”
He nods a little and puts the box away, sighs. She might be worried about him showing around such obvious wealth if he was anyone else. As it is, there are other things that worry her much more.
“I’ll tell her after I ask,” Terry says, “but say she can’t answer until I’ve told her something.”
Mary nods. “Good luck.”
She comes into the apartment and is surprised to see Terry; he’s been spending more and more time at Wayne Manor and has effectively moved in there. His arm’s in a sling and he’s got a cut down his face. He’s drinking a glass of that bright blue, thick liquid that helps repair bones in days and only people like Mr. Wayne can afford.
“Terry, what happened?” she asks, because if he’s been fighting again...
Terry shifts and she notices there’s a pool of sleek black fabric on his lap, a bit of red peeking out from folds. “Mom...” he says, subdued. “We need to talk.”