I wanted to write something regarding the events in Lovecraft, in particular - Bruce Wayne realizing that Alfred got injured. Originally, the kid was going to actually see blooded shirt of his butler, but I decided that it would be better, if he wouldn't (especially, because I had a really stupid idea as to how the characters would got to that part).
I'm not very happy with this story. I probably even made Bruce a bit OOC. But, on the other hand, it's not the worst thing I've ever written XD.
Just a flesh wound
Coming home after such eventful day was both refreshing and kind of awkward to say at least. After all, not every day Bruce was forced to escape Wayne Manor because of assassins sent to kill his guess and then – run away the streets of Gotham. Also not every day he was threatened with gun… And all of this while being constantly worried over Alfred, who stayed in Wayne Manor to fight with assassins. During his run with Selina Bruce wasn't entirely sure if his butler was still alive. Yeah, right, he was a skillful fighter, a former marine and even a great fencer… but still the assassins could be much more skillful fighters than Alfred. And have a lot better weapons at their side than him.
Bruce had a lot on his head, either way. He and Selina had to hide from people, who wanted to kill her and Selina believed that the best way to do it, was to disappear in the crowd. That meant, they couldn't inform neither Alfred, nor detective Gordon, where they were. Selina directed him through the parts of Gotham he didn't know – a parts filled with homeless children and criminals. Bruce had to put his trust in others. He had to trust that Selina knew what she was doing. He had to trust that detective Gordon and his partner will be able to track them down and render the assassins harmless. He had to trust that Alfred survived the attack and was okay.
The thought he might not be okay was constantly coming to the boy in moments of halt – when he and Selina lost the assassins, when he found the phone, when he was changing his clothes, when he was walking with Selina in the underground market… Bruce tried to rationalize with his own brain, just to shoo this thought away, but he couldn't help the feeling of dread and coldness accompanying the notion that maybe Alfred… that Alfred might be…
And Selina asked Bruce why he cared so much about Alfred. He could understand why she was saying that, really. For her Alfred was just a butler, who was cleaning, cooking and taking care of the schedule being carried off. She probably thought that Bruce, being spoiled brat, living in a manor, would see Alfred the same as other rich kids – as just a servant. Spoiled brats didn't care for their servants.
But Alfred wasn't a servant. He was working with Waynes since Bruce remembered, always taking care of the house and its inhabitants. And that night when Bruce's parents were murdered; when Bruce was talking with detective Gordon, trying not to look at the black covers hiding the dead bodies of his mother and father, the familiar car arrived at the scene of the crime and a familiar person came out of it. The moment he saw his butler, the boy quickly ran to him and embraced him tightly. The presence of Alfred meant that Bruce won't be all alone as he thought only few seconds ago. And for the next weeks Alfred tried really hard to take care of his young master – he was not only doing his usual chores, but also training him, giving advices, worrying sick for boy's health, protecting him from harm. He even was helping Bruce with his investigation from time to time. In a really short time Alfred became something more than just a butler; he became the only family member Bruce had now.
So it was quite understandable that the thought of losing Alfred was making Bruce so distraught.
And that thought disappeared completely when Alfred came at Bruce's aid. Seeing the butler holding a gun was enough for the assassin to retreat, apparently. Nevertheless, Bruce was relieved. Alfred was safe and sound. He wasn't hurt or anything. He seemed to be perfectly fine…
Or so Bruce thought. After all, when he asked Alfred about how he's doing, the butler only said:
"You really scared me, master Bruce. If you'd die… Who employs butlers anymore?"
At that moment Bruce was too happy to notice the oddity of this sudden change of subject; to notice that Alfred actually dismissed his question. But this fact came back to Bruce later, when the boy realized something very important…
The way home was spent in silence. Neither Bruce, nor Alfred had anything to say. They were just glad that everything was over. After returning to Wayne Manor, they both changed their clothes. Alfred started to make supper, while Bruce sat in the living room. The house was still a bit messy after the fight, but Bruce was too exhausted after this eventful day to bother. The boy seized the room with lazy eyes… and then he saw something odd on the table. It was a gauze. Moreover – a used gauze with red stain. Bruce blinked and slowly leaned towards the table to examine the unusual finding. His brain quickly made few connections. Before going home, Bruce and Alfred met with detective Gordon's partner. Alfred explained that detective Bullock was helping him with the assassins and that detective Gordon was also doing something with this case, but in different part of the town.
There were three explanations as to why the gauze was here. One – one of the assassins was hurt during fight with Alfred and decided to fix their wounds in Wayne Manor's living room. But this was very unlikely, because they would rather try not to leave the blood stains that could later serve as an evidence (unless, of course, the injury was serious and the assassin couldn't be moved to other place, but then there would be a lot more blood around). Two – Alfred got hurt and decided to quickly fix his wound before going any further. And three – Alfred got hurt and called detective Gordon, detective Gordon, on the other hand, brought paramedics with him, just in case. Bruce decided that the third theory was the most probable. Of course, the theory that said paramedics would be taking care of one of the assassins was equally as good, but Bruce somehow couldn't get out of his head that the blood on the gauze belonged to Alfred.
Bruce was holding the cloth in his hand, observing the all too familiar redness. And suddenly the thought that haunted him this whole day, returned. Alfred was wounded after the fight with assassins. Well, it was inevitable, after all, he was one against at least three of them. But what kind of wound he got? Was it just a little cut? Or maybe, something more serious? And did he received a proper medical care?
However, Bruce's train of thought had been disturbed.
"I've made you a sandwich, master Bruce!"
Hearing Alfred's voice, Bruce quickly put the gauze into his pocket and sank in the coach.
"Cheese and beef. Just the way you like it." Alfred entered the living room, holding a silver tray with food.
He acted like his usual, proper self. He put the tray in front of Bruce and straightened himself as always. His face had the same kind expression as every other day. Obviously, Alfred tried to act like the whole incident with assassins never happened and this was just another evening in Wayne Manor. Bruce observed him for a few seconds and one thought crossed his mind: Alfred was a tough man.
Hardly letting himself show his emotions… No, scratch that. He was showing his emotions fairly often. There were times when Bruce could read them from his butler's face and tone of voice, if the kid was examining it with enough attention. The thing is – he wasn't good in articulating his feelings… Actually it wasn't entirely true either, because Alfred was telling Bruce once in a while that he was worried about him… But other than that, he had problems with telling the boy how he felt, especially outside the Wayne Manor. It was weird, because Alfred encouraged Bruce to tell him about his nightmares, so he believed (in some way) that it was good to express negative emotions. But he himself was never speaking about his feelings. Bruce guessed that it might be some adult thing. A little boy was allowed to cry (maybe not in public, but still) and tell other people that he's sad, worried or scared. He could even confess to someone that he cares for them. But a man… a man should be a rock. He should not show the sign of weakness, nor say some sappy confessions. His actions should speak for him, not his words. The real man should also never admit that he's in pain.
"Please, eat, master Bruce." Alfred's voice took the boy out of his gloomy thoughts. "If is it because you're worried about miss Selina, remember that she can take care of…"
"Alfred," Bruce cut in. "can I ask you something?"
For a moment Alfred was silent, probably wondering what Bruce wanted to ask about and if it's gonna be a troublesome question. Finally, after few seconds of thinking, the butler smiled softly and replied:
"Sure, master Bruce. You can ask me anything."
His young employer needed a moment to find the best way to articulate his question, before he finally began:
"I've asked you earlier, how are you. And you didn't tell me."
Alfred looked surprised by this statement, but then he only raised his eyebrows.
"I don't remember, master Bruce."
But Bruce knew that Alfred remembered perfectly. He just wanted to dismiss it, as earlier.
"It was when that assassin escaped." Nevertheless, Bruce decided to 'remind' Alfred about the event. "You asked me if everything was alright. I told you I was fine and then I asked you in return, how are you. And you only said that I scared you."
"Well, you did, master Bruce. You're pulling very dangerous stunts and that woman nearly killed you…"
"Are you hurt, Alfred?" The boy cut in again.
He did it so abruptly that for a few seconds Alfred was just standing with open mouth, speechless. However, he quickly regained his composure, cleared his throat and said:
"I assure you, master Bruce, that I'm fine."
The boy took a deep breath and looked at the man with expression of worry. This, on the other hand, got Alfred worried.
"Please, sit down." Bruce spoke. "I have something to discuss with you."
The butler didn't say anything, but did as he was asked. Bruce could read concern on his face. The boy looked down, before turning his gaze back on his guardian. What he was going to say, was already hard to say for a kid like him. And he wasn't sure of Alfred's reaction.
"When I was on the run, I was worried about you." Bruce began. "I left you here with all those assassins and I wasn't sure if you…"
"I can take care of myself, master Bruce." This time it was Alfred, who cut in. He smiled to the boy with soft smile. "I was in the marines, remember?"
"I know." Bruce almost whispered these words. Nevertheless in the quietness of the evening, it was clearly hearable. "I kept telling myself this… but I was still worried."
"Well," Alfred started to wriggle in his place. "I'm flattered by your concern, master Bruce, but as you can see, I'm alright."
Without further ado Bruce pulled out the gauze from his pocket and put it on the table. Alfred was observing it with sad eyes, before he looked again at the boy on the couch.
"Please, don't lie to me, Alfred. If you're injured, I can give you time to recover."
"It's just a flesh wound, master Bruce." The butler said quietly. "I've got worse injuries in my military days."
Bruce wasn't convinced. But at least this time Alfred stopped saying that he wasn't hurt.
"Where is it? Can you show me?"
"I would prefer not, master Bruce."
"Because there's nothing to show. It's just a scratch."
"Is it aching you?"
Before he answered that question, Alfred's eyes gazed at the gauze, before they focused on the boy's face.
"A bit, yes. But I can live with that."
"Can you promise me one thing, Alfred?"
"What kind of thing?"
"Can you promise me that if you ever get seriously hurt or sick, you will tell me? So I could try to help you?"
Alfred was silent for a moment. He straightened himself in his seat and with serious expression said:
"Look, master Bruce, I'm the one who's supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around."
Bruce wanted to tell him about the feeling of dread he felt, when he thought that Alfred might be dead or injured; he wanted to tell him that after the death of his parents, Alfred was the closest thing to a family to him; and he wanted to tell him that he would do anything to help him. However, the boy had hard time to express all of this. So he had to find other words, more suited for a tough man like Alfred to hear. He finally found the right ones.
"But someone should take care for you."
Alfred only smiled.
"I guess, someone should. But I still can do it myself, anyway." He said and then suddenly stood up. "Now, excuse me, master Bruce, but I have a lot to do. The whole house is in horrible state."
For a few seconds Bruce was observing Alfred directing towards the door, but before the butler even entered the hallway, his young master replied:
"We can do it tomorrow. You should get some rest."
Alfred looked at him with surprise, then smiled:
"You should get it too, master Bruce. But, knowing you, you won't."
And then he left Bruce alone in the living room. The boy looked one last time at the gauze. Maybe the blood on it didn't belonged to Alfred's, nevertheless, Bruce was absolutely sure that he wanted to keep him safe more than ever.