Season of Hope
It’s Christmastime in Gotham City, and Batman tries to come to an understanding with a former enemy as he watches over his family. But can Deadshot follow Batman’s main rule: no killing?
Floyd Lawton stood with one foot on the building’s parapet and the other planted firmly on the tar paper-covered roof. He listened to every sound despite knowing there would be no noise when he was discovered by Gotham’s protector. “You can come out of the shadows,” he said for what seemed the hundredth time. “I’m not here to cause trouble.”
“I know,” Batman replied, emerging from the darkness. “If I believed otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Floyd had no doubts the man meant what he said.
“They are well,” Batman said as he moved to stand beside the man known to the super-hero community as Deadshot. “I told you I would watch over them.”
Both men stood in silence watching the apartment building across the street. Only a handful of people knew it was the home of Floyd’s niece and great-nephew, relocated to Gotham City and given new identities for their own protection against Deadshot’s many enemies. Despite the trouble he knew it would invite, Batman had personally promised to watch over them on the condition that no one died by the government assassin’s hand in Gotham. Knowing the Dark Knight would lay down his life to protect his family, Floyd had not hesitated to agree.
“So, how long have you been watching me?” Floyd asked.
“Since the moment you arrived in town,” Batman said.
The man glanced at him. “And you are just now making your presence known?”
“You needed time alone, and I didn’t want to interrupt,” came the reply.
“I heard she was working for Wayne Enterprises,” Floyd said. “I’m glad.”
“I heard they had an excellent daycare with state-of-the-art security,” Batman added.
Both men were silent for several seconds, just watching the house. It was Floyd who finally broke the silence. “Rumor has it some of the Pantatore boys were in town. I don’t know if they are here for her or if it is just a coincidence.”
“It was just a coincidence,” Batman said. “They were here for the Penguin; Deborah is safe. Are you planning on visiting her?”
Floyd chuckled. “You know that isn’t part of the deal.”
Batman allowed himself a quick smile. “It is Christmas, so I’m sure something could be arranged.”
“That’s tempting, but I think it would be better if she didn’t know I was here.”
If Batman had intended to respond, Floyd would never know, for at that moment the sounds of gunshots not too far away caught their attention. Somewhere below, someone was about to experience the physical displeasure of Gotham’s primary guardian.
“I’ve got to go,” Batman said as he turned.
Floyd gathered his gear. “Mind if I tag along?” he asked.
The Dark Knight looked at him. “No killing.”
Moments later, the two masked men were standing on a different rooftop, making a quick assessment of the scene below. Several young men in gang colors were squaring off in the middle of the street.
“You realize gangs, if the punks survive, are the breeding ground for henchmen and thugs to be taken in by Gotham’s nutcases,” Deadshot commented. “It would be better to just put them down now and save yourself the trouble down the road.”
“But they are not… yet,” Batman replied. “However misguided, each one is still a son of some mother who is hoping he will just make it home tonight.”
“Or the hospital?”
“The hospital is better than the morgue,” Batman said. “And as bad as it looks at the time, there is never any lasting damage. Did you know that several of Gotham University’s best and brightest have managed to get out of gangs and make something out of themselves?”
Deadshot was silent.
“You take the red bandanas, and I’ll take the leather jackets,” the Dark Knight said as he leapt off the building. “And no killing.”
It didn’t take long for the gangs to realize they were in trouble. Both costumes were familiar to them, and they didn’t know who they should fear the most. It was common knowledge that the Batman did not kill; Deadshot, on the other hand, was a known killer. Most simply chose to surrender for their own sake.
As Batman began a short lecture that sounded more like a threat, his companion rolled his mask up over his mouth and popped in a cigarette. As he struck a match and touched it to the tip of the tobacco, he noticed a quick movement from the corner of his eye. Without thinking, he drew a pistol and fired.
Batman spun, a batarang in his gloved fist, and shouted, “No killing!”
A young man tumbled from the shadows, blue electricity arcing across his body.
“I know your rules,” Deadshot replied. “He isn’t dead, but it will be a while before his tastebuds straighten out.” He smiled. “Non-lethal doesn’t necessarily mean non-painful.”
The two men began tying the young men up, alternating between members of each gang. “I’d advise talking your problems out,” Deadshot told them. “Next time, I might forget his rules,” he said, jerking a thumb at the Caped Crusader. By the time the first of the GCPD arrived, the two men were back on the rooftop overlooking the apartment occupied by Floyd’s niece.
“When did you decide to carry non-lethal weapons?” Batman asked.
“When I knew I was coming to Gotham,” Deadshot said with a grin.
“See?” Batman said. “There is hope for you yet.”
Across the street, several multi-colored lights began to blink on and off, letting the two men know the young woman was home. As she passed in front of the window, Batman noticed Floyd’s shoulders sag ever so slightly.
“Are you sure you don’t want to speak to her?” Batman asked.
“She wouldn’t want to talk to me after the grief I’ve caused her,” Floyd replied.
Several blocks away, a scream split the air. Without a thought for his own safety, Batman dived off the roof for a second time. Without waiting for an invitation, Deadshot followed.
The source of the scream was a young woman being attacked by four figures dressed in black robes. Two were holding her by her arms, one was trying to remove her coat, and the fourth was chanting in what sounded vaguely Latin while pouring something oily over a kris knife.
Batman made quick work of the two men holding the young woman, while Deadshot took down the third who was frantically struggling with her coat. With three unconscious attackers littering the alley, Batman and Deadshot put themselves between the woman and the final robed figure.
Brandishing the knife, the man began waving it their direction. “O great Ashterhothrum! Protect your servant!”
Exchanging glances, the two masked men struck simultaneously. “Shut up,” they said simultaneously.
“What about them?” Deadshot asked as they left the woman behind to let the police know what had happened.
“Hopefully, they can get the help they need at Arkham,” Batman said.
“Are you serious?” Deadshot asked as they returned to the rooftop. “So, what about the ones you’ve locked up time and time again, only to have them break out and go on a murderous rampage? By letting them live, doesn’t that put the blood on your hands?”
Batman was quiet for several seconds. “My choice is to keep the streets safe so the people of Gotham can live their lives without fear. When I put someone in Akham or prison, they have the opportunity to turn their lives around; when they choose not to, whatever occurs at that point is on them.”
Deadshot pulled his mask off. “So, you have no regrets about not putting the Joker or Penguin or any of the others down when you had the chance?”
“Look at Cobblepot now — he’s reformed. Same goes for Scarecrow — Crane — reformed. Catwoman, Killer Moth, Signalman, even Blockbuster — all reformed. Even you are showing signs of turning your life around.”
Floyd allowed himself a small smile. “Yeah, well…”
“Listen,” Batman said, turning to face the assassin. “It’s the Christmas season, and I’m sure you will find that people are more forgiving than you give them credit for. Go see her. I will stand watch while you are in there for as long as you want me to. I promise you, I won’t hold this visit against you. Consider it my gift to you for your help this evening.”
Floyd looked at the Christmas tree lights in the apartment, then at the Batman. He reached out his hand and felt the grip beneath the spiked gauntlet. “Thank you.”
As he began to change into his civilian attire, he glanced at the Caped Crusader. “I think I have finally figured you out.”
“How so?” Batman asked.
“Despite all of your violent methods — which I am not condemning — you aren’t about instilling fear in the bad guys; your goal is to bring hope to everyone else.”
Batman didn’t verbally respond; he simply raised a finger to his lips and said, “Shhh.”
Moments later, Batman watched as Floyd Lawton entered his niece’s apartment to the warmest reception of hugs and kisses. With his great-nephew in his arms, he walked to the window and looked up at the rooftop across the street. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered. Even though the rooftop was now empty, he knew his message had been received.