Disclaimer #1: This story is set in a hypothetical parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2: Some characters appearing in this story are based on copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and others. Their use here is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights.
Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended.
The guy in the Gotham Knights T-shirt stepped over his unconscious buddy with hardly a hesitation. He hefted his billy club and grinned at Robin.
"I'll let you in on a little secret, kid. I'm the one who did Batbitch. And I'm gonna do to Batbitch Boy what I did to her, and I don't mean just the part where I broke her knees."
The Boy Wonder grinned back, showing considerably more teeth.
"Oh, you're gonna do what you did when you met Batwoman, are you? I hope you're wearing rubber pants this time."
The guy's grin just got wider, and he tightened his grip on his club. He took a step forward, there was a flash of yellow, and he was clutching at his stinging, empty hand. He looked up in time to see the boy coming at him, a swirl of bright colors in midair, and then he was on the floor, his body immobilized by pain, the boy's booted feet pressing the last air from his lungs.
Robin reached up and snatched the spinning club from the air. He leaned down and prodded the thug between the buttocks with his own weapon.
"Wanna tell me again what you were going to do to me?"
"Aw, man, aw, maaan!"
Robin bound the man's wrists and ankles with green zip ties, tucked the club down the back of his pants, retrieved his throwing disk from a corner and left the building, making sure to trip the alarm on his way out.
As he stepped into the alley, he froze, then smiled and opened his mouth to speak as he recognized the silhouette looming above him.
A black-gloved hand shot out a warning finger, then pointed upward. Robin nodded and watched the cloaked figure of Batwoman climb the building's fire escape. He followed, wincing as he noted that her ascent was nearly silent, and his was not.
He reached the roof in time to see Batwoman crossing to an adjoining building. He caught up with her two blocks away, on the roof of the tallest building in the neighborhood. She was waiting in silence while he crossed the tar beach quietly, but puffing with exertion.
"Mask," she hissed, the first word he'd heard from her.
Robin obeyed, untying the thong which held his green domino in place.
"My name is Dick --"
"Gordon, I know. Son of Police Commissioner Gordon, brother of Barbara Gordon alias Batgirl."
After a moment's pause, Batwoman pushed her long-eared cowl up and off her face.
Dick took in the woman's tight mouth and watchful blue eyes. With her face set with such grim intensity, her hair matted and sweaty, without makeup or earrings, it was difficult to recognize her as --
"Roberta Wayne? You were my number two choice for Batwoman, after Kathleen Kane."
Something happened to the thin line of Batwoman's mouth.
"Second out of how many?"
"Five. Barbara had seven candidates. You were her first."
The something turned into a smile for a fraction of a second.
"Listen, Batwoman -- Ms. Wayne -- I'm so glad to meet you, so glad to know that you're . . . ."
"Or crippled, or captive. I hope you're going to let everyone know you're back. A lot of people in Gotham really admire you."
"Yes, I know. I've been watching developments over the last year. It's been very flattering to see just how many people have been pinch hitting for me: you, your sister, Anarky, Nightwing, the Creeper."
Dick winced inwardly at being classed with the other vigilantes. He considered some of them to be little better than criminals themselves. He said nothing, deferring to Batwoman's judgment.
"But now that you're back," he forced himself to begin.
"You're afraid I'll tell you to cut it out."
This time Dick winced visibly, but Batwoman shook her head.
"Not exactly. What I want you to do is stop acting on your own."
She pulled a sliver of blackness from a pouch in her utility belt. It unfolded silently into a scalloped bat-shape. She tossed it with a seemingly negligent throw. It circled around them and she snatched it from the air without looking.
"I have equipment you could never afford on lunch money or whatever you're using for a budget. I have experience and training you don't. I want you to accept me as your teacher, your sponsor and your commanding officer."
Dick's jaw dropped.
"That . . . that would be . . . everything I could have hoped for. I . . . .
"Are you making this same offer to all the others?"
Wayne shook her head.
"No, just you. And Barbara, since she's so close to you. You're something special, Dick. I've been watching. You've got talent, intelligence, courage and good morals. I admired the way you handled yourself with Crazy-Quilt. You could have killed her easily, but you didn't."
Dick shrugged, embarrassed.
"I didn't have to."
"There's another reason you're a special case, though. One you deserve to know.
"One night, some seventeen years ago . . . ."
Thomas Wayne had taken a train to Star City for a meeting that morning. Martha Wayne had spent seven hours in surgery. They were both more than ready for bed by the time the movie let out. Their daughter, on the other hand, was still full of energy, among other things, zigzagging up and down the block, covering three times as much ground as her parents on the way home. The movie had been exciting, to say nothing of the cartoons, but what had really revved her motor had been the first chapter of a new serial, Zorro's Black Whip. Swinging in a tight circle around a lamppost, she gushed at the tired couple.
"Did you see her? A girl being Zorro! That is so swell! And did you see how she --"
Roberta's orbit of the lamppost halted abruptly as she took in the man who stood in the middle of the sidewalk before the Waynes, a pistol aimed directly at Roberta.
"In the alley," he snarled, gesturing with the gun.
Roberta Wayne was to remember that move many times in the years to come. Using a gun as a pointer was a sloppy, amateurish act. It was probably what inspired Thomas Wayne to try to disarm the man.
Wayne calmly ushered his wife and daughter before him into the alley, and as he passed the hoodlum, made a sudden grab for the gun. They struggled over it for a moment, and it fired.
Thomas Wayne stepped back, eyes wide, mouth open, his hands moving only gradually to cover the bleeding hole at the crotch of his pants.
Wayne fell against a wall, mouth working as though he were trying to force out a scream, though he made no sound.
"Brought it on yourself, asshole," the thug said, amused. He put the muzzle of his gun to Thomas Wayne's forehead and fired again.
The man turned towards Martha Wayne, and his malicious smile turned to a look of utter disgust. Dr. Wayne was lying in the alley, her slackening hands falling away from her chest, obviously dead.
"Shit, I was lookin' forward to having some fun with that one."
He looked at the last of the Waynes and shrugged.
"A little young, but I guess you'll do."
With no more word than that, he approached Roberta Wayne. She had already backed into a doorway as far as she could go, and merely stood, frozen, as the killer pushed up her pleated plaid skirt and pulled her white cotton briefs down to her saddle shoes.
She said nothing. In fact, it was three days before she spoke to anyone.
Dick Gordon looked out over the rooftops, shaking his head.
"Oh, God. I knew it had to have been something . . . major that led you to become Batwoman, but I never, well . . . ."
"They found me in the alley an hour later, sitting beside the bodies. Our butler was there almost at once, fortunately for me. He took charge of me, moved me from the downtown penthouse to our old place outside the city. I was beginning to recover when we realized I was pregnant."
Dick turned back to her, gaping.
"Then you must have . . . ."
"No, we didn't. The following March, a month after my fourteenth birthday, I gave birth to a healthy boy. With my butler's help, I arranged for him to be adopted by friends of my parents who already had a child."
"In March, seventeen -- no, sixteen -- years ago?"
"On the Ninth."
Dick's mouth slowly formed the word, "Mother?"
"No. Ellen's your mother. And Jim's your father, not . . . that man."
"Yes, of course, but . . . ."
"I gave birth to you, yes. I've watched you grow up, taken as much pride as I thought I deserved in your accomplishments. And when I figured out that you and Barbara were Batgirl and Robin, it was the happiest day of my life."
She stared into the night, shook herself and spoke again.
"There's more, though.
"A year ago, I became engaged to Harvey Dent."
Dick remembered that. They had seemed an odd couple, the all-business District Attorney and the madcap millionairess. Now he saw just how much they'd had in common.
"Harvey was trying to convince me to give up being Batwoman after we were married. He had me about half convinced to do it. Also about half-convinced to break it off with him.
"Then I was captured by the Joker and placed in a deathtrap. Must have been the sixth or seventh time. But that time was different. Once he had me stripped naked and tied to the frame, he raped me.
"I escaped, of course. The deathtrap, anyway.
"Afterwards, I told Harvey the truth about what had happened. I told myself it wouldn't be right to hide it from him, but maybe I was testing him, or trying to drive him away.
"He was a very old-fashioned man in some respects. We had been planning to wait until our wedding night to have sex, but now he said he wanted to consummate our relationship then and there. Maybe he wanted to stake his claim on me. Maybe he wanted to confuse the possible issue of paternity.
"It was the third time in my life. The first time with a man I loved, or even one I didn't hate.
"Well, you know what happened to Harvey about two weeks after that.
"I don't know when I'll feel up to telling my daughter she can take her pick of daddies: the Joker or Two-Face."
Dick lifted his head. Roberta frowned at the tears flowing freely down his face.
"Born a month ago, during my six-month 'round the world cruise'. Next week I'll formally adopt her, the child of an anonymous birth mother.
"That's another reason I want a close relationship with you as my pupil. At fourteen I wasn't capable of being a mother to you; I don't want to give Delia up, or let her grow up while I'm busy. I need someone I can trust to share Batwoman's burden while I'm raising her."
She drew something else from her utility belt.
"Here, put this on."
Dick unrolled the tiny black object into a domino mask that felt slightly sticky on one side. Smoothed against his skin, it stayed in place until Roberta showed him how to pinch it up at one corner.
"Something one of my scientists at Tyler Chemical came up with. Consider it the first installment of your new equipment."
Roberta pulled her cowl back over her face, unlimbered her grapnel and scanned the neighboring buildings, considering where to direct it.
"Think it over, talk about it with Barbara. Call me at the Wayne Foundation, leave a message about 'the project we discussed on Friday'."
"Well, okay, but I'm pretty sure Babs' answer will be the same as mine. I can't tell you how good it feels to have your support, your approval, to know that what we've been doing is the right thing."
Batwoman fired her grapnel at a distant cornice. She looked over her shoulder at Robin.
"I wish I knew that."
Dick watched her swing away into the night.