Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Lost the Art of Living

Lost Art of Living

by Mara

Summary: Bruce thinks about Ted Kord.

Notes: So very much Madripoor Rose’s fault for pointing out something in the episode I hadn’t thought about.

Continuity: Brave and the Bold toonverse, after the teaser of “The Fall of the Blue Beetle” and after the end of the episode. Big ol’ spoilers for that episode.

Then:

Bruce was never particularly given to introspection about his actions, whether he was acting as Bruce Wayne or Batman. So it wasn’t until he’d already set the Batplane to hover in the clouds over Hub City and landed Ted’s Bug back inside his hideout under Kord Industries that Bruce wondered what the heck he was doing.

Well, obviously he couldn’t just leave the Bug sitting around Jarvis Kord’s lair, so…

Bruce sighed, pulling back the cowl and scrubbing his hand through his hair. Okay, he’d brought the Bug home because Ted would have wanted him too. Fine. It wasn’t like there was much else he could do for the hero who had died this day.

Looking around the hideout, he frowned at projects left unfinished and tools that would not be used. Scowling fiercely, he told himself he was too old to cry. Nobody ever said heroes lived forever, especially those without superpowers. At least Ted died doing the right thing and saving people’s lives.

Bruce sat down heavily in a creaky chair and closed his eyes, remembering Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle.

* * * * *

Bruce hadn’t ever met Dan Garrett, but he’d met Ted Kord shortly after the latter had built the Bug…

Alfred appeared in the Cave behind Bruce with a plate of sandwiches and a raised eyebrow. “I think perhaps it might be to your benefit to turn on CNN,” he said.

Bruce opened his mouth, then closed it, taking the plate and switching one monitor to the news. His own eyebrows went to nearly stratospheric levels when he saw the brief video that CNN was playing. “What the–” The ship–although he wasn’t sure that was even the right word–seemed to be having some trouble flying in a straight line, and its…legs seemed to have developed some kind of twitch.

“It does not appear to have done any harm, despite making several appearances in the sky over Hub City and Evansville.”

“Hmm.” Bruce took a sandwich, thinking. “It doesn’t seem likely it’s a new villain then, does it? Surely, a criminal would have at least taken a potshot at someone.”

“That would seem logical.”

“Unless it’s–”

“Shall I gas up the plane, then?”

Bruce grinned at Alfred. “Well, nobody else seems to be investigating, so I suppose I should.” He grabbed another sandwich for the road. For some reason he had a premonition it was going to be a long evening.

* * * * *

The flight to southern Illinois from Gotham City didn’t take very long (after all, Wayne Enterprises had a great many patents involving jet engines), and finding the UFO only took about twenty minutes after that. The unknown pilot had managed to set it down remarkably well-disguised for it to take even that long, Bruce thought, maneuvering his own jet to the ground outside a thickly wooded area. But from the air, the hole right in the center wasn’t easy to miss.

Hopping out of the plane, Bruce prepared himself for a possible fight. Yes, his instincts said he wasn’t facing a new supervillain, but his instincts had been wrong before.

As he slid through the trees, he strained to hear any sign of what was coming. And when he finally heard something, it was enough to make him almost trip over a root. (Almost.)

“Darn it, you stupid piece of tech,” a voice said. “You work fine in the lab and turn into a disaster in the field? Fine sidekick you are. I have half a mind to turn you back into scrap metal and build a robot woman instead.”

Bruce’s lips twitched as he followed the voice and its string of complaints. Standing just outside the debris field that marked the ship’s landing, he surveyed the damage and saw the man in a blue costume kneeling next to an open panel.

Without even breaking his stream of speech, the man said, “And you can’t even bother to tell me that Batman is here until he’s practically breathing down my neck? What kind of proximity detector did I build for you, anyway? Would tin cans and string be better?”

Tensing, Bruce stepped out from behind the tree, batarang in hand. “If it can tell you that I’m Batman, then tin cans wouldn’t be an improvement.”

“Yeah,” the man said, standing, his hands carefully empty and away from his sides. “But it might have been nice if it had mentioned it before you were close enough to knock me out. Uh, why didn’t you, by the way?”

It was actually an excellent question, but Bruce avoided it. “I’m still trying to figure out who *you* are.”

“Right. I’m the Blue Beetle.”

Bruce didn’t move. “I’ve seen pictures of the Blue Beetle. You…don’t look much like him, from what I can remember.”

“Would you believe it’s a new costume?”

Bruce waited.

The man sighed. “I’m the new Blue Beetle. D–the past Blue Beetle was killed about a year ago. He…was a friend, and he asked me to take over. I couldn’t refuse him, under the circumstances.”

Even as he was evaluating the story, something about the man was kicking at the back of Bruce’s brain. He ran through lists of known criminals, considering if a bit of plastic surgery might have altered the shape of a face or…

Automatically lowering the hand with the batarang, Bruce said, “Ted Kord?”

The man–Ted Kord–stared, his jaw dropping. “You, how did you–I mean–maybe this secret identity thing is a waste of time.”

Bruce stowed the batarang away. “Let’s just say I have some inside knowledge.” He couldn’t claim to be best friends with the head of Kord Industries, but everything he knew about the man and his company said that he was on the up-and-up. Hell, Kord had turned down more military contracts for ethical reasons than even Wayne Enterprises had. Whether to reveal his *own* identity was a question for another day.

Kord shook his head. “Oookay. Well, now that we’ve gotten my utter embarrassment out of the way…I’ve still got to get the Bug out of here more or less in one piece.”

“The Bug?” Bruce tried not to smirk as he picked his way through the bits of trees to climb under the ship with Kord.

“Hey, for a man who flies a Batplane, you don’t really have the right to pick on me.” Kord grinned at him. “So, how much engineering do you know, anyway?”

“At least as much as you.” Bruce returned his grin. “And considering that the Batplane is still flying, maybe more.”

“Oho, that’s big talk for a guy who hasn’t even picked up a wrench to help me yet.” Ted pointed at a pile of tools. “Think we can get this thing flying?”

“Well, if not, my *Batplane* can always give it a ride home.”

“Ouch. A palpable hit.” Kord shook his head. “Look, the problem mainly seems to be the stabilizers…”

Bruce turned his attention to the open panel.

* * * * *

There followed several years of occasional team-ups and collaborations. Bruce did eventually reveal his identity and Ted pretended he’d figured it out and they argued over the usefulness and safety of a laser cutter Ted was trying to integrate into the Bug.

Bruce didn’t have a lot of peers, even in the hero business. He sure as heck didn’t have a lot of friends. Ted had been one of the very few to fit in both categories, and now he was gone.

Bruce looked around Ted’s hideout again. Maybe, well, maybe someday there would be another hero that would need this place, so he’d keep it intact. And that corner over there, well, it’d be a good place for a small memorial. Surely Ted had kept Dan Garrett’s old costume…

Touching a hand to his forehead, Bruce spoke. “Goodbye, old friend. You’ll be missed.”

* * * * *

Now:

Jaime spent three days wondering before he finally gave up. “Scarab?”

It sent an interrogative.

“Um…why didn’t you work for Ted Kord? I mean, he was this great guy. He had to be if Batman thought that highly of him. He was really a hero, so…why didn’t you help him?”

The scarab’s answer can be best translated for those without a direct neural link as “didn’t need.”

“What do you mean, he didn’t need you? You’re–” Jaime waved a hand helplessly. “Powerful,” he finally settled on.

“Grown man. Smart. Power as crutch.”

Jaime put his chin in his hands and considered this for a while. “Are you saying I’m dumb?”

The scarab’s laugh tickled.

“Okay okay, I know what you mean. If he’d depended on you, he wouldn’t have been able to do stuff like build his ship.”

“Correct.”

“But I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to do anything like that. I’m not an engineer or inventor.”

“Different kind of hero.”

“Oh.”

“Trust. Will see.”

Jaime shrugged. “I do trust you, so… ”

“Together. Good.”

“Yeah, I’m glad to have you around too, buddy.”

And Jaime went to bed, because after all, he did have a big math test in the morning. But he stopped for a moment to look out his bedroom window at the night sky, waving a hand up at the stars. “Ted, I’m sorry I never got to meet you. But I’ll try to do right by your name.”

–end–

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