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Long Live the Batman

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He had known it was going to be difficult. He had thought the hardest part was going to be putting on the suit for the first time, but it hadn't felt like a first time - various tests and fittings, making sure he could move in all the ways he needs to - until he had put the cowl on. It wasn't the first time he had put on the cowl; as Robin he had pulled it on to see what Batman saw. Of course, this cowl was different, having been upgraded and streamlined and upgraded more as the technology developed, shoved along by Bruce and what he needed from his suit. He had put the cowl on, surprised by how easily he could see through the white lenses (though he shouldn't have been, knowing Bruce would settle for nothing less than perfection), said "I'm Batman," (a joke between him and Jason) and slid into the Batmobile. He forced himself not to look back. He didn't want to see Bruce standing on the platform, didn't want to know if he looked worried or proud or wistful. He told himself it didn't matter.

But even that, difficult as it was, was not as difficult as walking into the room with the people who had known Batman for years. These people, these warriors, who had fought beside him, who thought they knew him better than anyone else, would have questions, accusations, and demands. He had prepared as best as he could. Nothing to do but do it.

He took a deep breath to steady himself, regulating his heart rate like Bruce had taught him. Striding forward, the doors opened for him automatically. Bruce had ensured his own biometrics were replaced by Dick's, as promised. One hallway, the meeting room brightly lit at the end. As he walked through the door, only Wonder Woman turned to look, but her greeting died on her lips. Her hesitation lasted only a moment.

"Who are you?"

The fact that she had not attacked him immediately was a good sign, but he thought it best not to push his luck. Dick stopped, tilted his head in what he privately called the classic Batman confusion-for-show head tilt and answered, "I'm Batman." The voice modulator added gravel and timber so that no trace of his own voice was left - there was only Batman's voice.

The others around the table had frozen at Diana's question, turning now to see who he was (or wasn't a small voice whispered in the back of his mind). And while the suit gave him the silhouette, it couldn't make up for the sheer mass Bruce had on him. Dick had known that going in, that he wouldn't be able to pretend.

"No, you are not. I know the Batman, and you are not him." He could see her battle readiness, in her stance, balanced, rooted, but prepared to move in an instant. He resisted the urge to shift into a fighting stance of his own.

"You and I both know that I could not have walked through that door unless I was Batman."

She narrowed her eyes. "You are not him."

He tilted his head forward slightly conceding the point. Then he twisted his lips into the coldest, smuggest smirk he could manage, and with every ounce of drama Bruce had instilled in him said:

"Batman is dead. Long live the Batman."