No Sacrifice Too Great

Disclaimer - I do not own Batman Beyond or any of the characters therein. Some VERY rich dude does.
Rating - General audiences. (Don't like. Do not read.)
Story Warnings - Emotional distress, Hints of prostitution, Hints of violence, Hints of homelessness, Hints of alcoholism, Hints of bullying (Don't like these topics? Do not read.)
Pairings - None (Don't like? Do not read.)
Universe - Batman Beyond only.
Ages - Coe is the age of 14, the age he is depicted in the series.

Summary - Coe makes a life changing choice.

No Sacrifice Too Great

It was cold.

Cold nights were to be expected in January, but not this cold, not in Gotham, not anymore. With all the pollution pumping factories, open-all-night businesses, and human traffic, nights this cold had become a thing of the past in this town.

The young man flipped the collar of his jacket up to help shield himself from the bitter cold. He looked up at the starless sky, exhaling forcefully. He stood there silently watching as his breath turned white, then faded away becoming a thing of the past.

He pushed off the lamppost he had been leaning against, and headed on down the street.

Yeah, a thing of the past, like a lot of other stuff in this world... and in his life.

Coe lightly swung a baseball bat as he walked. Every few steps, he would toss it into the air sending it end over end several times before catching it by the grip.

He was very careful not to let it hit anything.

He didn't want to scratch the wood, not yet.

The smooth, sleek surface would eventually become marred. He knew that, but he didn't want it to happen now.

The bat was a gift from his mom.

His birthday was last week, he had turned fourteen, and this bat had been the only thing he'd wanted.

He swung the bat up, letting the end cap drop into his open palm. He smiled, rubbing his hand over the smooth finish, appreciating the feel.

He had had no idea she was getting him a baseball bat. She must have saved six months to buy it, if not longer.

The smile faded from Coe's face.

At least he hoped she had saved up to buy it. He didn't want to think about the other options if she hadn't.

Coe stopped at the corner, and looked down both side streets. There were blue and red flashing lights down by the stadium. He could hear the far off scream of sirens heading his way.

There must have been an accident.

Or a gang fight.

He turned left, avoiding the scene.

Fifteen paces in, Coe stopped. He looked back over his shoulder at the flashing lights, and frowned.

He always walked away from trouble. It was what his mother had begged him to do.

Stay away from trouble.

Stay safe.

Stay alive.

Coe's grip on the baseball bat tightened until his knuckles turned white, and painful.

He couldn't do that anymore. He couldn't walk away.

He would be branded a coward.

Coe took a deep breath, slowly letting it out.

But tonight, he could.

Tonight he could walk away, and be true to himself.

One last time.

One last time to be the son his mother wanted him to be. One last time to be the brother his little sister looked up to.

He knew he would have to give it up, but not yet.

Not tonight.

Coe turned his back on the lights and sirens, walking determinedly down the street.

Tomorrow he would willingly give it up, that, and a lot more. But not tonight.

Tonight he would keep his self respect, and tomorrow he would give it up for the lesser of two evils.

When he started out, Coe had been excited, and a little scared. But now, he was angry!

He swung his bat smashing it into a trash can. The can clattered down the sidewalk, and out into the street strewing trash in it's wake.

He felt a momentary flash of fear.

What if the officers responding down the street had heard?

He quickly squashed the feeling down.

He didn't care!

They wouldn't come! Not for someone like him!

The cops only came to help rich, influential people, like Bruce Wayne, or Paxton Powers!

They didn't care about hard working people like his family! They didn't care enough to show up when his mom's car was stolen while she was at work! They didn't care that she now had to take the bus!

Coe lashed out with his bat, this time shattering the glass of an ATM machine.

They didn't care when his mom had gotten robbed on that bus, and beaten so badly she couldn't go to work for three days!

They didn't care that he and his little sister had went hungry that week!

They didn't care, period.

The cops hadn't cared then just like they hadn't cared when Coe's father was killed by the "T" gang.

Coe sniffed, rubbing his arm across his nose. He grimaced at the mess left behind on his sleeve. He ripped the sleeve off, and tossed it into a nearby, still standing trash can.

He looked up at the starless sky, blinking until the burn of unshed tears was gone.

Yeah, cops didn't care. Politicians didn't care. Social services didn't care. Nobody cared.

A dark shadow passed overhead, dimming the light from the surrounding lampposts. Coe looked up, and watched until the man-shaped blur was lost in the shadows of the city skyscrapers. He snorted humorlessly when he again caught sight of the shadow in the flashing lights down by the stadium.

That jerk bat didn't care either. Not about the little guy. Not about guys like him, and his family. Batman only cared about the same people the cops did. Rich people! People with power!

Coe did a quick jog across the street, crossing against the light. Instead of feeling guilty, this time he felt excited, free.

He was ready, and willing to embrace this newfound sense of rebellion. And embrace it he would!

Because he did care!

He cared about his mom, and her having to work two jobs to make ends meet! He cared about his little sister, and her going hungry! He cared about them being cold, or not able to cook because the electricity had been turned off!

He was the man of the house now, and it was his job to fix things and make them better!

He would fix it!

He would fix everything!

His mom would only have to work one job, and then only if she wanted to. His little sister would always have plenty to eat, and the best clothes to wear so she wouldn't get teased at school anymore. And they wouldn't be sitting around in the dark huddled under blankets any more because the heat had been cut off along with the electricity.

He would make sure of that!

Coe checked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching before he ducked in behind a tattoo shop. He navigated the pitch black, trash strewn alley with the confidence of someone who had traveled that way many times before.

The far end was closed off by a half rotten, busted-up wooden fence reinforced with rusted chain-link fence behind it. The barrier appeared impassable at first glance, but it didn't slow Coe in the least.

He kicked aside a loose board near the bottom corner of the wooden fence then slipped through a hole just large enough for a person in the metal links behind.

Standing up on the other side, Coe grinned, and straightened his jacket.

He could get used to this rebellious stuff, like Scab said, it was kinda fun.

Coe turned left walking behind an abandoned warehouse. He entered the warehouse through a doorway missing half its door, and continued on through the building. He strolled across the open expanse as if he didn't have a care in the world, kicking at random debris with carefree abandon.

He exited the warehouse several blocks away from where he had entered feeling happy and excited, sad and hesitant all at the same time.

He was almost home.

Coe's steps slowed to a stop. He turned around, gazing back across the city, a look of longing on his face.

His new home that is.

He didn't want to leave his mom and little sister behind. They were his whole life.

But he had to.

It would be best if they didn't know what kind of life he was getting himself into.

It would be safer.

For them.

As he stared, Coe's arm lifted away from his body. His fingers spread slightly, and his hand moved fractionally, as if the young man were saying goodbye.

Taking a deep breath, Coe squared his shoulders, and took a firmer grip on his bat. He spun on his heel, and took off down the street, his step sure and purposeful.

The sidewalk Coe now walked was in desperate need of repair. Most of the sections were broken with some places reduced to nothing more than cement colored gravel. Bits and pieces of trash stumbled over the broken slabs, collecting in cracks, or against prone figures huddled in dark corners sleeping off the day's ration of liquid nutrition, or trying to get a few hours of safe, undisturbed sleep.

As he walked, a feeling of unease began to creep in, nipping at the edges of Coe's determination.

This section of the city was more run down than he was used to, more run down, and seedy.

Scantily clad women lounged against lampposts, and on apartment steps smoking things Coe's mother had always warned him to stay away from. A few shouted teasing propositions to him as he passed. Their laughter rang out high pitched and tinkling when the young man tucked his face, and quickened his pace.

Scab had told him to expect this.

Half if not all of the people out on the street were members of the gang. The "working" girls really were working to earn their take, and the supposed drunks were in fact spies placed out on the street to warn of any undesirables, or easy targets who happened to wander into the territory.

Coe wasn't sure how he felt about his new family constantly being aware of his comings and goings, but it was too late to turn back now. He had passed the point of no return.

The gang was already aware of his presence.

Coe crossed the street and stopped in front of the house closest to the corner. It looked normal, like any other house on any other street in any other city.

It was soon to be Coe's new home.

He climbed the front steps eagerly, two at a time. He rapped out a complicated series of knocks on the plain white door, repeating the sequence twice more.

He sat on the rusted cast iron railing, and waited.

Scab had warned him about this too. If he was to leave, he wouldn't make it off the street alive.

"Whadda ya want, pipsqueak?" growled a voice from the speaker located to one side of the door.

"Scab told me come," Coe said.

Scab had warned him about the Doorman too. He had stressed the importance of Coe mentioning his name, said it would save the newcomer a few extra bruises.

The door opened. Scab stood in the doorway filling it with his massive frame. He looked Coe up and down, wrinkling his nose in disgust as if he was staring at last week's trash.

All of Coe's doubts came back in full force.

Scab's face suddenly lit up in a wide grin. He stepped back, giving Coe a mocking bow to usher the young man inside.

"Nice threads, man! It's a good look for you." Scab laughed, punching Coe on the shoulder.

Coe didn't have much time to process what was going on around him. Scab dropped a beefy arm around his shoulders, all but pulling him inside the room.

"Hey guys!" Scab called out. "Meet our new recruit!"

The room went silent at Scab's shout. All eyes turned to Coe.

"Well, well, well," a purple clad man with his face painted up like the Joker of years past stepped in front of Coe. "You want to join the Jokerz, huh, kid."

Coe swallowed hard. He quickly realized the man wasn't asking a question. He tightened his grip on his bat, hoping it would keep his hands from shaking.

A malicious grin spread across the gang leader's face. "Let's see what ya got."

Thanks for Reading.