That was beautifully written and oh-so sweet.
Disclaimer: Without Prejudice. The names of all characters contained
here-in are not mine. No Infringements of these copyrights are
intended, and are used here without permission.
Summary: This story is yet another addition to my series of
vignettes (Alfred's Prayer, Dinner, Dinner Date, Family
Thank you, Heybats for the beta.
by DC Lady
He looked forward to her visits, which had become more frequent over
the past couple of months. The darkness that cast its usual shadow
over the massive house was not as foreboding in her presence,
especially this time of year.
The anniversary. Bruce Wayne would never be mistaken for congenial,
but during this particular time of year his disposition would
take a dramatic turn for the worse – keeping those near
him off balance and uncertain. They were no less fortunate than the
man himself, who would re-live the memories of that one event which
had changed the trajectory of his life.
This year, Alfred was more hopeful, believing that the Princess'
presence would somehow lessen the fury these anniversaries would
normally conjure. He'd allowed himself a hint of optimism he
hadn't felt since Thomas and Martha Wayne lorded over the Manor.
He placed on a tray the jasmine tea he prepared for her arrival then
made his way to the hidden elevator, taking him to the
Batcave. Yes, this year will be better,' he thought as he
stepped into the darkened cave. Hearing voices, he hesitated,
weighing whether his presence represented an intrusion. His optimism
was short-lived as Alfred heard the tormented tones of Batman
cryptically telling the Princess their relationship was over. My
mission has suffered because of us,' he heard him say and after a
moment of uncomfortable silence, Gotham must come first.'
Alfred briefly warned Diana what this month had meant and the
changes in temperament she would likely encounter. He never
expected this. Alfred was certain Bruce's newfound devotion to
Diana would lessen the emotional impact the anniversary
produced. Just wishful thinking,' he thought with remorse,
watching her tearful departure. Alfred sadly shook his head then
banged the tray roughly on the table. "Prideful,
arrogant…," he muttered under his breath.
"Not now, Alfred. I'm in no mood for a lecture," Batman
"Good, because I am in no mood to bloody give one." The
butler suddenly felt tired. Very tired.
"It's not like you to give up so easily," Batman replied,
his voice harsh with sarcasm.
"Perhaps I am old and tired. Perhaps for the first time I
realize that I've failed in my duty to you. Worse, I've
failed in my duty to your parents."
Batman dismissed the older man's ramblings. "You have not failed.
The decision is mine alone."
"A decision made out of fear." Alfred shook his head sadly.
"It is obvious that I have not given you the proper help and
guidance that you required as a child and require still. He turned
to leave. With his back to the Bat he continued. "You could at
least have faced her as yourself," he stated as Bruce was in full
Bat regalia in mid-day. "Was it necessary to use Batman for this
purpose? She deserved better." With that he left, leaving
Batman struggling to maintain his control.
Her heart ached as she mentally replayed the day's encounter. He'd
asked her to meet him in the cave. Initially, Diana had no reason
to doubt the invitation since she'd been spending a fair amount
of time at the Manor. During the last four months, occasional
dinners had evolved into overnight visits. He hadn't pressed her
on that issue but the surprise was evident on his face when she'd
asked him to take her upstairs a month before.
This day had been different. On her arrival that day in the Cave,
Diana had immediately felt anxious when she was met by Bruce – no
not Bruce, but Batman. An oddity given it was mid-day. Her first
thoughts were of Gotham and a possible situation that needed the
Bat's full attention. But, that wasn't the case. He
couldn't face her, she'd realized.
Alfred had warned her. Told her of the anniversary. But, neither
one was prepared for this outcome. The dull ache of her heart
proved too constant a reminder of the pain of the day, but more so
for the anguish felt by the man she had come to love. "Oh
Bruce," she whispered sympathetically, then her anger flared at
the injustice of it all. "Obstinate man." .
"And how is Bruce these days?" Superman walked into the
room, overhearing the near silent mutterings of his friend.
"Fine." She was in no mood for company, but the icy tone of
her voice stunned even her. Ignoring him, her fingers flashed
across the keyboard, updating the computer's logs. There was a
slight sigh from her friend that would have been missed if she were
not a meta. Then she remembered that he too was meta and probably
detected her anguish, super senses or not. Can he see the
missing pieces of my heart?' she silently wondered.
"What happened?" he asked.
"We will no longer see each other on a personal basis." She
murmured through clenched teeth. The words sounded hollow to her
ears. Not willing to succumb to her emotions, she returned to her
Superman stood closer, trying to offer what comfort he could.
"He's a fool."
She turned angrily to face him. "You don't understand,
Clark. This is a difficult time for him." She turned her back
to him, scanning the monitors as an escape from his imposing
He folded his arms, undeterred by her vehemence. "I know what
time of year it is. He's like this every anniversary. But, he
can get help. Talk to J'onn," he said softly.
"The cost of his pride is too high. And it just might get
someone killed." Superman thought of Bruce as a brother of
sorts, but his methods often left a bad taste in his mouth.
"J'onn may be able to help where no one else could."
"Bruce doesn't kill, Clark. You know that," she spat.
"I know that one day his rage will get the better of him and no
one will be there to stop him when it happens."
"His family will be there for him, as will I. But, he will never
kill." She turned away from the Man of Steel.
Clark placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "I hope
you're right, Diana. For his sake and yours."
The team had assembled as the anniversary drew near. The breakup
with Diana had cast a heavier burden than usual as their mentor's
inner turmoil had been vented over the past few days on Gotham's
rogue element. Even Nightwing had admitted that some of Gotham's
mobsters had taken more than their usual punishment.
Nightwing opened a secured channel to Batgirl. "Hey beautiful.
Anything going on I should know about?"
"Well, there's this incredibly gorgeous man here who wants to
cater to my every whim and fancy. But, other than that, no," she
"Someone moving in on my territory, heh?" he returned, then
addressed the man, or boy, in question. "Hey bro, how's it
"You know how it is. Tracking B isn't the easiest job
I've had," Tim said. He and Barbara had been electronically
tracking Batman from the Batcave for the duration while Nightwing
followed him on foot.
"Try it from Gotham's rooftops sometime," he snorted.
"Wing', I was just wondering. Why does he do this? I mean,
why after all this time?" Tim questioned.
"That's complicated," Nightwing responded.
"It's pretty simple, really. He never dealt with what
happened to him as a child. He just buried it within himself. And
compound that with the other losses in his life I'm surprised
this happens only once a year," Barbara offered. "Although,
it does explain other aspects of his personality," she added,
"Yeah, that makes sense, I guess," Tim said.
"I remember Alfred telling me that he never did talk about that
night. All they know of what happened was from the police reports
of the crime scene," Nightwing said. "I just wish there was
some solution to all of this."
"There is. Its called therapy'," Barbara stated.
Tim chuckled at the thought of Batman on a shrink's couch. "I
don't think I can see him in therapy."
"I know I can't. The psychiatrist would end up on his
couch," Nightwing laughed, then paused before continuing. "I
thought he was starting to get better, though. He seemed happy for
"You mean when Diana was around?" Tim questioned.
"Yeah. I really thought they'd make it," Nightwing
"Me too," Barbara said sadly.
"What happened to her, anyway?" Tim questioned.
Nightwing recalled Alfred's account of what happened. He'd
never seen the butler so deflated. "Batman decided she was
getting in the way of his mission."
Barbara rolled her eyes. "You mean he got scared."
"Yep," Nightwing agreed.
Batman's tracker showed movement "He's on the move
Nightwing." Barbara reported, changing the subject, "Looks
like he's heading to the docks." . "I'm right behind him. I'll check back with you later.
Nightwing out." Nightwing trailed his adoptive father through
the rooftops of the city, keeping a close but hidden view. He
wanted to make certain that he wasn't alone during this time,
which would usually end in an exhaustive rage at his parents'
final resting place.
Nightwing followed Batman to Gotham's docking district, keeping
to the shadows to avoid detection by his quarry: the Dark Knight. A
dimly lit warehouse caught his attention. He wiped the dirt covered
window with a gloved hand for a better look and witnessed five men
loading pallets of crates onto the back of a semi. A normal
occurrence during the day but not at one in the morning.
"Automatic assault rifles. You take the side entrance. I'll
come down from the roof."
Nightwing actually jumped. "How'd you know I was here?"
Batman ignored the question. "On my signal." He fired his
grapple that took him to the roof.
Nightwing shook his head, wondering with amazement if he would ever
achieve Batman's stealth prowess.
"Great! Guns! That's all we need during this particular
month," he muttered to himself knowing of Batman's
disinclination for guns. Peering through the window again, he waited
for the signal.
"Now," Batman's voice ordered over the comm. link.
Nightwing initiated a perfect somersault through the window, landing
on his feet in a defensive stance. The element of surprise was
definitely on their side as the five thugs stood, frozen at the
sight of a man sized bat gliding down from the ceiling.
Batman seemed unrestrained as he disarmed the gun-runners. Each
unfortunate hoodlum felt the Bat's rage, incapacitated by one or
two sharp blows. Initially anxious his mentor was inflicting too
much damage, Nightwing relaxed when he detected the mastery of each
non-lethal blow. Satisfied, he turned his attention to the remaining
"A hero's job is never done," he quipped, hog-tying the
last of the smugglers.
He turned to Batman, now prying open the crates with a nearby
crowbar. Filled with packaging materials, a loud crash reverberated
through the massive warehouse as Batman viciously kicked the crate
over onto its side, revealing the contents on the floor. Guns. Lots
"Well, well. What do we have here?" Nightwing asked, moving
toward the hog-tied thugs. "What do you suppose these guys were
gonna do with all this, Batman?" Before any answer could be
given, a shot rang in his ears. A searing pain spread through his
chest, collapsing him to the floor. He couldn't seem to catch his
breath. Worse, he couldn't move.
Time stood still as he tried to breathe. The pressure generated by
the bullet, even though it bounced off the Kevlar, was tremendous.
Batman must have already immobilized the would-be assassin as
Nightwing felt an ungloved hand run over his body, assessing
He was finally able to fill his lungs with much needed oxygen, which
caused another surge of pain to flood through his body.
"Nightwing?" Batman sounded anxious.
"Ahhh! That hurt!" Nightwing managed to gasp through
clenched teeth. He gratefully used Batman's arm for support as he
stood, clutching his chest.
Batman placed an unsteady hand on the younger man's chest, again
making certain that the bullet didn't penetrate the Kevlar, then
"Hey, I'm ok. Just stunned," Nightwing told Batman,
placing his own hand reassuringly on the other man's shoulder.
There was a slight quiver at the touch, accompanied by a quick
glance away from his own gaze. Reading the older man's body
language, Nightwing knew he had to do something fast before
Bruce's sublimated abandonment issues resurfaced - again.
Remembering that they'd collapsed as a team during another
anniversary a few years before, literally sparking Dick Grayson's
transformation from Robin into Nightwing almost overnight.
Nightwing was determined not to let that happen this time.
"I'm alright, Batman," he said again, his voice strong.
Again, no movement – no response. "Bruce, I'm alright.
The Kevlar stopped the bullet," he whispered. "Always
Batman simply nodded.
"Let's go home," Nightwing suggested. "I think this
evening calls for Alfred's chocolate chip cookies and milk."
He rubbed his sore chest, remembering that Alfred would soothe
childhood injuries with milk and cookies. He also hoped for a
familiar family occurrence to show Bruce that everything was fine.
It was early - he couldn't sleep. The night's patrol
replayed in his mind. "You could have lost him," he
whispered as he stood beneath his parents' portrait, the inner
conflict within him bubbling to the surface.
"But, you didn't lose him. He's well trained. He's
his own man now anyway," he argued with himself - against the
desire to automatically push his son away to protect him.
"You've already pushed her out of your life, do you want to
lose your son, too?"
Bruce softly touched the gilded edge of the framed pictured,
desperately trying to remember everything about them.
"It's alright to want to live, Bruce. I can't believe
that they wouldn't want it any other way." Diana answered as
she walked into the room. Wearing a simple pair of khaki pants and a
loose cotton blouse, she assumed a professional distance from him
across the room.
He wasn't surprised by her presence. He had to admit, though,
that he was relieved that she came back. "What are you doing
here?" His voice was rough and he immediately regretted the
harshness in his voice.
"I spoke with Dick. He told me you could probably use a friend
about now." She moved closer, but would not invade his personal
He paused wondering if she could ever forgive him. "I can't
do this anymore," he said quietly, looking to the ground.
"Be alone. You've ruined it for me." He turned to face
her. "Being alone used to be a comfort…."
"And I changed that?" she asked coyly.
"You made me fall in love with you, Princess," he admitted.
He saw the surprise in her eyes – surprised that he would admit
his feelings, but she remained quiet. She can't forgive
you,' he thought. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean…I
She put a finger to his lips, silencing him. "No. You have
nothing to be sorry about."
"I pushed you away. I…I just…It's just hard,
sometimes. Harder than I imagined it would be."
"Why did you push me away?"
"You made me forget a little – I was happy." He gazed at
the image of his parents.
"And that's a bad thing?"
"It happened so long ago. I remember every detail of that night
– the sound of the shots, the strand of pearls my mother was
wearing soaked in her own blood, the moans of pain as they lay
dying…then the silence." He paused, momentarily lost in the
memory. "But, I was young and sometimes I feel that I hardly know
what they were like anymore. At least as Batman I'm focused on
the mission and the reason for it. I'd never forget what
"Bruce, you don't have to feel guilty for surviving – for
living. They would want you to be happy." She stroked him arm in
"I know," he sighed. "Is it too late, Diana? – For
us?" He looked into her eyes hoping to see some glimmer of
"I love you, too, Bruce. I'm not going anywhere."
Relief flooded through him as he grabbed her in his arms in an
embrace. "There's something I have to do today." The
anniversary. He would visit their final resting place today.
"I'll wait," she reassured.
"No. Would you please come with me? I still visit often, but
today's different. I don't want to go alone this time."
"You won't ever have to go alone again, Bruce." The end (or is it?)
Whew, that was a brilliant story. I really enjoyed it!
PLEASE VOTE FOR THE DANCING EYEBROWS!
Everything is worth a carrot. 3C>
Ever think about the story of the first superhero? Please drop in for The Midnight Sweep if you have some time!
That was awesome! But i expected nothing less!
I hope there's more!
From the next room came the sound of someone trying to blow a whistle quietly.
Susan glanced at her grandfather.
“I don’t remember them asking for anything that made a noise,” she said.
OH, THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING IN THE STOCKING THAT MAKES A NOISE, said Death. OTHERWISE WHAT IS 4:30 AM FOR?
Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
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