Duke just had to hold out for Batman. All he had to do was occupy the villain until Batman arrived.
“Signal, B’s got an ETA of three minutes,” Oracle said in his ear. Duke bounced on his toes. Around the empty warehouse, his fellow vigilantes had been downed already - Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin, Robin, Bluebird, Spoiler, Black Bat. Three minutes.
Duke could do three minutes.
Duke could not do three minutes.
Batman burst through the door just in time to see Lights Out level his gun at Signal, who was flat on his back in front of the villain.
His heart dropped into his stomach. A wave of dread and preeminent pain crashed over him.
Batman ran to get closer, but he was too far away.
“Lights out,” The villain crowed, pulling the trigger. A web of white light hit Duke.
Bruce ached to hear his son’s agonized scream.
Duke’s back arched off of the ground.
Duke was gone.
“Signal!” Nightwing cried, dragging himself upright.
Batman reached Lights Out, taking the man down with a solid punch as he grasped the front of his shirt. His voice was low and deadly. “Where. is. he.”
Lights Out only gave a bloody grin in response.
It was bright. Too bright. But the pain had stopped, and Duke could deal with things being too bright, reaching out with that sixth sense and toning down the light around him. He’d been working on practicing that with Batman, and it was getting easier for him to do.
Duke blinked open his eyes, expecting there to be a bright source of light somewhere around him. Instead, he was in the Cave, one of the lower levels-he’d been here not long ago, playing Bat and Seek. But it was different, dustier. There were cobwebs, and no tracks through the thick dust coating the floor.
Firstly, there was no way that Alfred would let any area get that gross. Secondly, there hadn’t been enough time for the area to get that grimy, which meant...nothing that Duke liked concluding.
Quietly, he trudged towards the main Cave, keeping alert. At a sudden noise, his hand twitched towards his kama, but it was just a bat screeching far above. As he reached the main area, he slowed, tucking himself behind a convenient stalagmite.
Three figures stood in the desolation of the Batcave - Duke was still fairly far away, but he could still recognize his older brothers. Jason stood farther away from the duo of Dick and Tim, twirling a gun around one finger. Dick’s arms were crossed, and he was looking down to talk to Tim, who was crouched to look at something on the ground.
A pebble shifted under Duke’s foot, and he looked away for a second. When he looked back, all three heads had shifted unerringly in his direction.
“Who the fuck are you,” Jason snarled, training his gun on Duke. Dick and Tim stood behind Duke, trapping him between the three of them.
“This isn’t funny, guys,” Duke said, his throat dry. “I’m your brother. You know that Batman said we were under a truce right now-”
“Batman’s dead,” Jason interrupted, his face twisting in a scowl.
“Besides,” Tim said, his voice hard. “Even if he wasn’t, I’m the last kid he took in. There are no other brothers.”
“I’m pretty sure I signed the papers - Bruce made that stupid receipt joke that you said he was going to - and I’m sorry, he’s dead? Where’s everyone else? Spoiler I thought was just knocked out, and Bluebird, where’s she-”
“What the hell,” Jason growled. “Are you talking about?”
“Okay, okay!” Duke said, his voice rising to what he hated to call a squeak as the muzzle of the gun waved in his direction. He finally, however reluctantly, came to a conclusion. “Do you guys have a multiverse protocol?”
They hadn’t stayed in the Cave for long after that, taking Duke into Gotham proper, where they apparently had better equipment than in the dusty Cave under the shell of the Manor. Duke was the newest of his siblings, but it still hurt to see the grand building reduced to rubble - although not as much as the news that Bruce and Alfred had both been caught up in it and were assumed dead with no bodies recovered.
“More siblings,” Dick said dryly, his voice steady; Duke had no way to know if he was happy or not at the news that in different universes, his family was even bigger.
“Cass goes by Black Bat right now; she’s the third kid, between Jason and Tim, and the only girl. I’m, uh, Signal. I’m fifth, between Tim and Damian. Damian’s Robin now, he’s the youngest.” Duke said, holding still as Tim ran the scanner over him; even now, Jason’s gun remained steady in his direction, and he didn’t want to give him a reason, even if the armor should be able to do something.
“Well, he’s right about the multiverse travel. Jason, put the stupid gun down,” Tim said, studying his computer screen. Jason made a face at the back of Tim’s head, but the gun disappeared, and Duke took the opportunity to study his alternate brothers.
Dick was the most familiar, maybe a little taller, a little harsher, but still fairly close to Duke’s eldest brother. Jason and Tim were both different stories.
Jason had a J carved into his cheek, enough to make Duke feel sick just considering where it came from, knowing exactly who had killed his own brother. He wasn’t built quite as big as Duke’s Jason, though, around the same height, but slimmer, not so much of a tank.
Now Tim...this Tim was a surprise. His head was shaved, which was perhaps the least surprising thing about him; he was taller, much taller, and also very muscular, not the lean lithe fighter that Duke knew. Seeing him with Dick and Jason, Duke had been able to identify him as Tim, but if he’d been on his own, Duke wasn’t confident that he would have known who he was. Also, his eyes were green, which was a small detail, but still threw Duke off.
“Done staring?” Jason asked, his voice hard. Everything about these alternate brothers was harsher, darker. This Dick didn’t seem like he smiled much.
“Sorry,” Duke stammered. “You’re all just. Different. Not what I was expecting.”
A woman rolled into the room, heading for Tim.
Duke’s brow furrowed. “Babs? Whoa, what the hell?”
“What, do you have a problem with me kissing my wife?” Tim asked, leaning back before he could kiss Babs. Babs.
“Your wife ?” Duke asked, distantly noting that his voice had gone shrill.
“Yes, my wife,” Tim rolled his eyes as if Duke was the strange one in this situation.
Duke couldn’t think of a polite response to that that didn’t involve him puking in his mouth a little.
“Whatever,” Tim grumbled, turning back to the computer without kissing her. Duke was grateful for that, at least. He didn’t need that mental image. “You really are from an alternate universe. There’re indicators in your atoms that they didn’t originate from this universe-there’s no way to fake that.”
“Uh, thanks?” Duke offered.
“So why are you here?” Dick finally spoke up.
“I mean, I didn’t choose to come here-no offense,” Duke cut himself off. “We were fighting this new villain, Lights Out-”
Jason scoffed. Duke grinned a little.
“I know, right? But, uh, we weren’t prepared for him. Everyone else was down, I had to keep him occupied for three minutes, just until Batman arrived. He’d just come in the door when Lights Out shot me.” The grin faded. “There was a lot of light, a lot of pain. When I came to, I was in your Cave.”
“We don’t really have the equipment to help you,” Tim said. He swallowed harshly and Babs reached out to put her hand on his back. She continued for him, “If Bruce were here, he might have other options. But we’re still working on converting all of his systems; we don’t even know how many gadgets he had hidden around here, or what they all do.”
“I guess I just wait, then.” Duke sighed, trying to make himself a little more comfortable on the hard wooden chair they’d shoved him into.
“Right, I’m done.” Jason headed for the window, wrenching it open and disappearing out of it before anyone could call him back. Dick sighed, slumping slightly and drawing a hand over his eyes; it was sad that this, of all things, made him the most like Duke’s brother.
“What happened to him?” Duke said, regretting the words as soon as they slipped out; all three people once again stared him down. “I’m sorry, it’s none of my business-”
“No, it’s not,” Dick said, harsh, then sighed again. “The Joker kept him captive in Arkham-Bruce didn’t know. Jason became the Arkham Knight and tried to kill Bruce, but eventually just came back to us. It’s...complicated.”
“My Jason was killed by the Joker,” Duke said, mouth dry. “He was dead for a few months, then came back and stayed a few years with the League of Assassins. He made it back to Gotham and became the Red Hood and a crime lord-he’s still Red Hood, but not a crime lord anymore. He tried to kill Bruce a few times but he’s getting better.”
Dick let out a bitterly unamused laugh. “So there’s other universes where I’m still a screw-up of an older brother to him. Good to know.”
With that, he stalked from the room as well, although he left through the door, slamming it behind him. Babs rubbed Tim’s back, cast a look at Duke, and followed him out, leaving Duke alone with Tim.
Tim made no indication that he wanted to talk with Duke anymore, clacking away at his keyboard, so Duke was left to twiddle his thumbs in the chair. With nothing else to do, he pulled out his kama and a polishing cloth, taking care of his weapons while he had the chance. Distracted by his task, he didn’t even notice he had begun to glow until a growing pain started to flow through his body.
“Ah, shit,” He sighed, tucking the weapons into their holsters on his back and getting up to lay down on the floor.
“What-” Tim started.
“I’m pretty sure I’m about to leave,” Duke said, gritting his teeth as the pain began to spike. “I’d rather start out on the floor than fall down here.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again,” Tim said frankly.
“Oh, believe me,” Duke let out a pained laugh. “I never want to come back here.”
He tried in vain to keep quiet; once again, the pain was so great that he screamed, arching off the floor in an attempt to get away. The light became so bright that he closed his eyes, and then-
Bruce gritted his teeth, folding his hands into fists to stop them from twitching with anger. His son was gone. There was no residue, nothing to trace, and Lights Out refused to say anything, placidly transferring to the GCPD, still with that damned bloody grin.
Duke’s scream echoed in his head.
Bruce hated being helpless, especially when it was one of his children that needed help.
A low groan came from the medical bay, which had almost all of the beds in use. It was Tim, and Bruce wavered back and forth between being grateful and being upset-Tim was the last of them to wake up, but the uncertainty of his younger brother’s whereabouts tainted every positive emotion Bruce could feel.
He had looked over Harper at the scene, and then she had gone home with Batwoman; Cullen had signed off when they arrived, so Bruce knew they had gotten back without incident.
Dick was fine, a sprained shoulder was the worst of it, although he did have a worryingly large gash on his head that had finally stopped bleeding. Jason had come away with several bruised ribs, and Damian with a twisted ankle and a wrenched wrist. Steph had gotten an aerosol spray to the face, but her vision was returning, albeit slowly. Cass had gotten a bit of rebar speared through her thigh, and she was already annoyed at how long recovery was going to take.
Tim had the worst of it; he had the concussion that Dick had been lucky to avoid, and there were already alarms set to wake him and check him over every few hours. He’d already had an MRI, and there wouldn’t be any permanent damage so long as he rested for a while; luckily Bruce had a secret weapon named Alfred, who would be able to keep Tim in line until he healed.
Bruce wondered if Duke was injured. He hated the thought of his son being in pain, but he preferred it to the alternative that he didn’t want to imagine.
With a sigh, he pulled out his phone. There was no other option, despite how he despised using this one. "Constantine, this is Batman. Yes, it's urgent…"
Duke opened his eyes. Once again, he was in the Cave. The same area as before, but it was less dusty; he hoped that was a sign that Alfred was alive in this universe. It was still notably not his own universe, unless time moved differently between the two.
He got to his feet; luckily, despite everything, he wasn’t feeling sore. The pain was among the worst he’d ever felt, but apparently, it wasn’t physical, because once it was gone there were no other traces of it.
He could hear voices as he got closer, and there were lights on in the main Cave. Several men - at least three, maybe more - and a woman. Again, he took cover behind a stalagmite, although this time he looked down to make sure the ground was clear of rocks.
Still, this time there was no need for a pebble to give him away. This Cave had Superman, and his head swiveled as he looked directly at Duke.
No point in being quiet, Duke supposed. “Fucking shit.”
It was the Justice League. Duke had landed in a universe where the Justice League had just been formed.
Once again, he was sitting on a chair, surrounded by people staring down at him, ready for interrogation.
This was going to get old quick.
“Who are you.” Batman growled. Duke hadn’t ever really noticed before how he could twist questions into statements. “How did you get in?”
“I’m Signal. Do you have a multiverse protocol?” Duke figured he should just cut right to the chase instead of drawing it out like the last universe.
“Multiverse?” Aquaman asked.
“The multiverse theory is the idea that there are multiple universes grouped together, and they make up everything that exists; time, space, matter, energy, and so on. It’s never been proven,” Flash told him.
Aquaman grunted, shaking his head. “Sounds fake.”
“I’m literally from a different universe,” Duke said, looking around at all six of them. He let out a humorless laugh. “Wow, you guys really are new, huh?”
“What do you mean?” Wonder Woman asked, studying him.
“I’d say you’re all new to this group. Maybe not new to being superheroes, but you haven’t worked together long. Not more than a year. My Justice League formed at least fifteen years ago. My dad was one of the founding members, and my brother was the first sidekick to be brought on.” He didn’t usually call Bruce his dad so casually; it still hurt a little to say Bruce was in that spot, even if that’s how Duke felt about him.
“Your dad?” Superman prompted. Duke cocked his head in Batman’s direction. Cyborg let out a whistle behind him.
“I don’t have children,” Batman grunted. “I never will.”
“That’s not entirely true, is it?” Duke asked. There was a Robin suit in the Cave, after all. But something niggled at him...something about it looked different. The pieces slotted into place and he felt sick. “Your Robin is gone, isn’t he? Dick died.”
Batman looked around at the other JL members. “Get out,” He snarled.
When they were alone, Bruce took off his cowl, baring his face to Duke. Duke tried to tamp down on his surprise. Ben Affleck???
“How did you know his name?” Bruce asked. He looked tired. Grief poured out of him in waves; Duke didn’t want to make the comparison to his own Bruce and what he must have been like after Jason.
“I told you, multiverse. Dick is my oldest brother; I know his Robin suit.” Duke offered. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up in front of them.”
“Oldest brother?” Bruce picked that train of thought to focus on. “After he...after he died, I swore that there weren’t going to be any other children. It was a mistake, and I wasn’t going to repeat it.”
“I’m the fifth of your six legal children,” Duke said. “I don’t want to go into a lot of detail. But if it makes you feel better, I was never Robin.”
Officially, that is. Technically Duke had been Robin, but one of several, never the official one. He wasn’t going to try and fight Damian for it, he wasn’t insane.
“There’s a lot of us, man. Other people you’ve mentored, different heroes that are part of the family but not your kids. People who may as well be your kids, but have circumstances that meant you didn’t adopt them.” Duke tried to explain. The doubt in Bruce’s eyes grew with every word.
“How can I trust that what you’re saying is true?” Bruce asked.
Duke took a deep breath. “On the first night I stayed at the Manor, you told me that your bedroom door is never closed, just in case. If I needed something, or if I couldn’t sleep, or if I had a nightmare, anything, your room was right there. It’s the first one off of the stairs, before all of ours, because you want to be the line of defense between us and anything that might come up them. A few months later, when I did have a nightmare and go in, you pulled back the sheets and let me climb in, and you put your hand on my shoulder and you sang me to sleep. The song was You’re the Reason I’m Living, by Bobby Darin, and you sing it to us because your mom always sang it to you.”
Bruce turned away from him, rubbing a hand over his eyes. Duke pretended that he couldn’t see the hint of tears shining.
“What do you need to get back to your universe?” He questioned, turning back to Duke.
“I’m not sure, honestly. This has all been very random,” Duke said honestly. Bruce pulled out his chair and sat down, looking Duke in the eye.
“Tell me the story from the beginning, and we’ll go from there.”
Duke flopped onto the bed in the guest room he’d been settled in with a sigh. Bruce had given him a laptop to use, although it was on a closed network; he could find some things, but he hadn’t been given full access, which was fair. Duke sat up and cracked it open, typing in the first name. Dick Grayson.
Dick had died a few years ago, apparently. The details were scarce, but that was to be expected; there were pictures of Bruce and Alfred at his funeral, dressed in full black suits, grief in their eyes and stoic postures.
Willis Todd, Jason’s biological father, had been put into a coma in the months following Dick’s death; there was a trail that led back to a violent Batman, which wrenched it further in Duke's heart. He’d never recovered, and with a bit of digging, Duke found his obituary, followed by his wife Catherine’s a few months after. There was no mention of Jason in hers. If it had been anything like his own universe, Jason had gone onto the streets after her death, but going out at seven was much different compared to being eleven. Duke sent a picture into the Batcomputer’s search function, knowing that it was likely to return with nothing. In the meantime, he searched for the next name on his list.
The heir to Drake Industries had died at nine years old. No one was sure of the circumstances, but his body had been found on a street in Gotham, bruised and bloodied. Authorities said it had likely been a hostage kidnapping gone wrong, but his camera had been found not far from his body, smashed beyond repair. Duke knew what his brother used to do in Gotham with a camera, and he was fairly sure what kind of questions they’d been asking Tim. Questions that had nothing to do with money.
The search tab let out a ding, so he returned to it. Jason was also gone. He’d survived for several months, but an eight-year-old wasn’t big enough to do much on the streets. Certainly not big enough to try and steal tires off of anything, let alone the Batmobile.
Duke set the laptop to the side for a moment, standing and pacing the room. He felt sick; he wanted to throw up. These were his siblings; he knew them, he lived with them. He might poke fun and call them weird, but he loved them, and he was willing to admit it. To find out that they were dead, and in such violent ways...this universe was rapidly sinking in his opinion. At least they’d been alive and kind of together in the other one. With no other option, he returned to the laptop.
Cassandra Cain returned no results, and looking up Damian Wayne wouldn’t give him anything, considering how adamant Bruce was about Dick being his only child.
She had died the soonest after Dick. A hostage situation, real this time, trying to extort the Commissioner. He’d said no. They’d killed her quickly, at least, though that was no true consolation. James Gordon was still the Commissioner. Duke had no clue how he still managed to get out of bed every morning.
She’d been killed by a gang when she was twelve. Cluemaster’s gang. Duke’s nails dug into his palms until a sharp pain told him that he’d broken skin. Clinically, he got up, pulling the kit out of the bathroom, and dressed the wounds, rolling it over in his head. Sure, gangs didn’t like snitches. Duke knew that. But for Arthur Brown to order the beating and death of his only child...Duke couldn’t understand that.
Died as a toddler, alongside her pregnant mother. Murder-suicide. That, finally, was what caused Duke to rush for the trash can in his room, knowing that he wouldn’t make it to the toilet in the bathroom. The note said that her mother couldn’t stand to bring a child into a world without hope. That she couldn’t leave her child in the world either.
After swishing some water around in his mouth, avoiding the mirror, Duke picked up the laptop one last time.
His powers had manifested younger. Much younger. There were reports of an attempted mugging on his parents that he had prevented using them.
But Gotham didn’t like metas, never had, and this Gotham had already proved itself much worse than his own. His parents took him and tried to flee.
Their bodies had been found just inside city limits.
Glad that this room was only on the second floor, Duke pried the window open and jumped out, heading for the woods.
Bruce found him a few hours later, carrying an extra coat over his arm. Duke accepted it with a muttered thanks, pulling it on as he looked back at the line of stones he had found and moved into a row.
“Tell me about them?” Bruce asked quietly. Duke exhaled, finally looking at him.
“Are you sure you want to know? They’re all gone now, even me. It’s only going to hurt you.” He said, bitter and sad.
“Tell me,” Bruce repeated. Duke walked to the first stone, the largest. “This one is Dick…”
They sat together out there for a while; finally, Bruce made to leave, Duke waving him off.
“I won’t be out much longer,” He said. Bruce nodded, walking back towards the Manor; Duke waited for a few minutes before he started talking.
“Hey, guys. You don’t know me, but my name is Duke. I’m that stone, right there,” He gestured towards the stone he had picked for himself. Tears pricked at his eyes and he swiped them away roughly.
He hadn’t ever thought he would have to do something like this, especially not picking out one for himself. They’d been children; they’d all been far too young to die.
“I’m from a different universe. I’m your brother in a different universe. You all...none of you deserved this. I’m sorry.” Dick, Babs, Jason, Tim; he’d added in two stones for Cass and Damian as well; himself, Harper and Cullen, Steph. “I hope you’re all together, wherever you are. We fight a lot, what siblings don’t? Well, siblings and siblings-adjacent. But we love each other. No matter what, even if we don’t say it, we know that we love each other. I’m sorry that none of you got to experience that.”
It was cold out, but as he walked back to the Manor, he didn’t feel it; he felt warm.
It felt like someone was giving him a hug.
After dinner, Duke decided to get some sleep, so of course, he woke to the now-familiar glow and pain that meant his time was almost up.
Quickly, he redressed in his Signal uniform, tugging the sheets back into place on the bed and digging through the desk for a pen and paper.
I told you that I put stones out there for Cass and Damian. They’re the only two that I couldn’t find in the system. I can’t promise that they exist here, but if they do, they’re probably with the League of Assassins.
Cassandra Cain, daughter of David Cain.
Damian Wayne, son of the Bat and heir to Ra’s al Ghul.
I hope you find peace, Bruce.
By the time Bruce and Alfred burst into the guest room, searching for the source of the scream, he was already gone.
“We weren’t ready,” Dick said bitterly, shaking his head. “We were distracted, we thought he would be easy.”
“You were wrong,” Bruce said, trying to tamp down his anger.
“We got that, thanks,” Jason snarled. He was extremely unhappy about being kept in the Cave for a bit of recovery before he could leave.
“You ‘getting it’ doesn’t change the fact that your brother is gone!” Bruce snapped. Jason looked down, and Dick paled. Bruce exhaled sharply, rubbing a hand over his eyes. He hated it when his kids weren’t near him, when he couldn’t reach out and touch them when he wanted to. Constantine hadn’t found anything conclusive but didn’t want to come back to the Cave. He was following a lead, he said, and he would call Bruce later.
Apologies could wait. Bruce headed back to the Batcomputer. He refused to accept that Duke was dead. His son would be found, and he would bring him home.
Duke didn’t wake up in the Cave this time. He was on the floor in a supply closet, wearing a set of nurses’ scrubs; his nametag said “John Smith”, which was horribly generic. Apparently, he was at Seattle Mercy Hospital, and the picture was definitely him. He opened the door and was immediately thrown into chaos.
“Emergency surgery is needed!” Another nurse called, grabbing Duke’s arm and pulling him along. Scrubbing in was a blur, and suddenly Duke was in the operating room, handing equipment to a surgeon operating on a man with a bullet in his back.
He could do this. All he had to do was hold it together, hand things to the doctor, and make it out like he had any clue at all as to what he was doing. Piece of cake.
When the doctor asked for dental floss, Duke realized that this universe might not be as easy to blend as the other two.
The traveling was different this time. Duke blinked and he had gone from standing in the locker room in bloody scrubs to sitting in a game show audience, looking at two men with their feet strapped down, keeping their legs apart. Duke wasn’t great at Japanese - actually, out of the whole family, Steph was the best - but from the setup, he had a sinking feeling that he knew what the objective of the game was.
He blinked, looking closer. The stammering man, the one with long hair, had been the doctor at the hospital. Duke sunk down in his seat, hoping he was high enough that he couldn’t be seen from the stage. As a hospital worker, he could’ve just been any other guy. But being the only black guy in a crowd of Japanese people? That was a little more noticeable.
Duke winced in sympathy as the ball swung up, hitting the man between his legs. Until he knew what was going on, he wanted to stay out of the way.
Listen, Duke had never really been all that into sports. Watching them? Occasionally. When there was a Knights game on, Jason had a habit of prowling the Manor and making the first sibling he found come watch with him, so Duke had seen a few games of baseball.
But playing basketball outside of gym class?
He just focused on not being the one with the ball, passing as soon as possible and staying to the outside of the crowd. That also helped with keeping him away from the long-haired guy again, who was now talking to a camera, speaking about something called ‘Herpexia’?
Between this scene and the last one, Duke was sure glad that he wasn’t that guy.
Duke was sitting in a crowd again. This time it was a sitcom - like one of the ones that Cass always liked to watch, with the garish colors and the canned laughter.
The two guys were down there again, bantering back and forth until a third man burst in through the door. He started yelling, and then there was another man, and Duke once again tried to stay out of sight. He had yet to figure out what was going on and why this universe was so different from the other two, but he didn’t want to be down there with the two men.
Duke was a cop. A detective, apparently, according to his id, which had a picture of him but ignored the fact that he was 15.
A hand on his shoulder forcibly turned him around, and he found himself facing the shorter guy that he’d been seeing the whole time.
“Who the hell are you? You in on this too?” The man demanded. Was that Jensen Ackles???
“My brother told me not to interact with homophobes,” Tripped out of Duke’s mouth before he could stop it. The guy’s eyebrows furrowed, and he opened his mouth like he was going to yell some more.
Another man appeared next to them, a completely different one. He was shorter than the others, with long-ish sandy blond hair, and he quite literally appeared - right out of thin air.
Duke looked at him, hoping he would help. He frowned, leaning in close to Duke. “You’re not supposed to be here. You’re a long way from home, little birdie.”
“Believe me, I don’t want to be here,” Duke said frankly. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it felt like days. He just wanted to go home. He wanted his brothers and his sister, his butler grandfather and his dad. Duke really wanted his dad.
“This has nothing to do with you, anyways. Have a good landing,” The man said, snapping his fingers.
There was the pain and glow - but this time, he welcomed it.
For the third time, he woke up in the Cave. No dust, a smoother floor - evidence that this was a more-traveled area than it had been in the other Caves. Once again, he made his way to the main area.
This one was familiar. Signs that there was a whole team of people working in the same area, the cold case corner, the bigger medical area.
Bruce, in the middle, wearing the suit with the cowl hanging down from his neck, looking over the gun that Lights Out had shot Duke with.
He was home.
Duke didn’t wait for anyone to notice him - he just started running. “Bruce!”
Bruce dropped the gun to the table, turning in Duke’s direction, and heading for him too. “Duke?”
“Bruce,” Duke said again, the relief crashing over him in waves - his knees gave out just as Bruce’s arms wrapped around him.
“Duke, are you hurt?” Bruce demanded. Duke laughed, shakily, the emotions beginning to hit him fully now that he knew he was safe.
“It’s a dimension traveling gun, I went to this universe where you and Alfred were dead and Tim was married to Barbara, and then I went to this one where the Justice League was new, but Dick had died as Robin, not Jason, and all of us were dead, Bruce, only you and Alfred were left, but you didn’t even know about us, and then I was in this really weird universe where things kept happening to these two guys - I’m pretty sure one of them was Jensen Ackles, actually, which is weird, and-”
“Duke,” Bruce interrupted, gently amused. “Breathe, son.”
“I’m glad I’m back,” Duke said, calmer. Quieter. The door at the top of the stairs leading into the Manor proper crashed open - his siblings were already calling for him as they raced down. “I’m glad you’re here...Dad.”
“Thank you for coming home,” Bruce murmured, pulling Duke fully into his arms. “Please don’t ever do that again.”