Chapter 2: Strangled By Life
And where are all the gods?
Normal. Was there such a thing as normal anymore? Probably not. Things would never be normal again, or at least not the normal she had known. Greer Wayne sighed as the sunlight streamed in through the tall windows as she lay on a large comfortable bed beside her softly-snoring little brother. She smoothed his hair with her hand and sighed. The last couple of nights since her parents' murders she had slept beside Bruce calming him when the night terrors and cries eventually came. She had always loved her brother, but their relationship had vastly changed over the past few days.
Usually, Greer just thought of him as her annoying little brother who seemed set out to ruin her fun or completely embarrass her. This was especially annoying when he wanted to do nothing but hang around her whenever he saw her. The typical older sister, younger brother stuff. But now, he was her sole source of comfort in this time of tragedy. Unexpectedly, her role of sister had morphed into the role of mother. It was a role she wasn't so sure she was able to fill, but for Bruce, she would try. She would try anything if it meant Bruce even having some sense of normalcy as he continued to grow up. It wasn't fair that he should have to grow up otherwise.
Greer pressed a kiss against his forehead. She loved the little twerp. As much as he annoyed her, she couldn't help but love him. Greer rolled onto her back and stared straight ahead at the ceiling, releasing the breath she had been holding. Everything had changed. Only a few days ago she had been a carefree college student, only worrying about turning papers in on time, and now here she was attempting to raise a child. Talk about a turnaround.
Well, she had Alfred to help her with Bruce, but Greer hadn't returned to school nor had she turned in that paper she had been working on the night her parents had died. While the professor had called to give his condolences and offer her an extension, Greer hadn't responded to any calls from the university. All they wanted was her money. They didn't truly care. Or so she told herself.
Her friends, if you could really call them that, had tried calling her at first but the phone calls quickly faded after a few days. She knew she had mostly surrounded herself with people who had really only wanted to be friends with her for her parents' name and money. But that was college, right? It was a place where one was supposed to screw things up and learn from past mistakes. It just seemed that she had to do the learning a lot sooner than she had been anticipating. And those so-called friends just didn't get that.
There was a gentle knock at the door before Alfred came waltzing through the door. He walked over to the windows and flung the curtains open without notice. Greer squealed. The intense sunlight hurt her eyes and made her take cover under the blankets to shield her eyes. But Alfred wasn't going to deal with her nonsense. He walked over to the bed and pulled the blankets off her.
"What the hell, Alfred?" Greer groaned, shielding her eyes with her hands as her eyes attempted to adjust to focus on the butler. He did not look amused. She sighed. "What time is it?"
"It's time for you and Master Bruce to eat some breakfast," Alfred responded as he walked around the bed toward the side where Bruce lay.
Greer glanced over at her brother and sighed. "Let him sleep, Alfred. He's been through enough the past few days. A little extra sleep won't kill him."
Alfred arched an eyebrow. "I beg to differ, Miss Greer. He needs an established routine to get him back into the swing of things. You both do. And don't bother arguing with me, Miss Greer, I have a few more years of experience on me than you do."
"I wasn't going to argue." Greer's brow furrowed as she folded her arms across her chest. Her expression spoke volumes of the immaturity she still clung to. "I just thought that he could use some extra sleep because he woke up screaming several times last night."
"I'm very well aware of that fact, Miss Greer. I have ears. But you seemed to get him quieted in hardly any time at all." Alfred glanced at Greer. That was probably about as high of praise she was going to get in this situation, so Green nodded her head in thanks. Alfred then continued, "Now, how about breakfast then."
Greer rolled her eyes and fell back against the fluffy pillows. She knew that Alfred was only trying to help, but she had a feeling that she was going to be butting heads with him quite a bit in the foreseeable future when it came to raising Bruce. Granted, she knew that Alfred was older, more mature, and had many more years of life experience than she did, but she was still Bruce's flesh and blood...she was Thomas and Martha's flesh and blood. That had to count for something, right?
Alfred walked to Bruce's side and moved to wake him, but Greer told him that she would do it. Alfred seemed somewhat surprised, but he motioned for her to give it a go, almost as if it were a challenge. Greer rolled onto her side and began to gently shake her little brother. "Bruce," she whispered into his ear. "Brucey, it's time to get up."
Bruce groaned and buried his face further into his pillow. Alfred cocked an eyebrow at her. Not wanting Alfred having another thing to lord-over her, Greer bit her bottom lip and shook her brother a little harder. "You'd better get up, you twerp, or I'm giving your breakfast to the strays."
Rolling toward her, Bruce opened one eye and looked at his sister. He then closed his eye before he hid his face beneath the blankets. Greer refused to look up at Alfred because he was without a doubt enjoying her misfortune. "Bruce, C'mon," Greer said shaking her brother once more. "Up and at 'em before Alfred decides to starve both of us."
Bruce slowly pulled his covers so that just his eyes were showing. Greer jutted her lip out like she had many times as a child in order to get her way. "You wouldn't do that to me, would you?" she asked her brother.
He rolled his eyes and groaned before he slowly sat up. Greer shook her head. He was already taking after her and she wasn't sure that was necessarily a good thing.
"Good morning, Master Bruce," Alfred greeted him.
"What's for breakfast?" Bruce asked groggily as he stretched his body after a restless night's sleep.
"French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream," Alfred announced with a smile toward Greer. Greer sighed and tried to smile back, but she wasn't entirely sure what her expression ended up. He knew that was her favorite breakfast. Despite being a damn hardass at times, it was obvious that Alfred did care about her...almost as if she were the annoying daughter he never wanted. She couldn't help but think back on the times when she would sneak out of the house. He was always there to chastise her the next morning but was always there with a hangover remedy in hand.
Bruce jumped out of bed and beelined out of the room, headed toward the kitchen. "C'mon, Greer!" Bruce called from the hallway. "Don't make me give your food to the strays."
Greer shook her head at her own words being played against her before she stood up and followed Bruce and Alfred downstairs to the kitchen. Her feet slid across the hardwood floors in her socks and with each step, she took memories began to haunt her. She could remember running down these halls with Bruce when they were both younger. They'd both fall flat on their asses in fits of giggles, after purposeful and accidental slides. Their mother would hear the ruckus from downstairs and then run upstairs to check on them. They both quickly learned to play innocent when Mother came upstairs. Either that or scramble into their bedrooms.
Pausing, Greer smiled in her reverie for a moment at the thought, but when she realized that a scene like that would never play out again, her heart sank and her smile faded. The past few days had been really hard-trying to put on a brave face for Bruce, but truth was, it hurt like hell. Her heart had shattered and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it. Greer wiped a stray tear from her cheek before she stepped into the kitchen.
As she entered, Alfred pulled the already made French Toast out of the warmer and motioned for Greer and Bruce to sit at the table in the breakfast nook. Bruce sat down first and Greer slid into place beside him as Alfred set the pan on the table. Bruce immediately stabbed at a piece of French Toast with his fork and took several pieces before Greer cleared her throat. He looked at his sister sheepishly, before his fork retreated so that Greer could get a chance to grab a few pieces.
Greer spooned a healthy serving of strawberries on top before a huge dollop of whipped cream. This sight would normally bring an enormous smile to her face, but she couldn't bring herself to smile, not over food. It would feel wrong. Greer then glanced at Alfred to find him staring off into the distance. It was obvious this was affecting him too and honestly, it pained her that she hadn't thought of that.
"Alfred, want to join us?" Greer asked him.
"I already ate hours ago, Miss Greer," Alfred responded lamely.
Greer patted the table across from here where no one was sitting. "Well, at least have a seat then. We don't bite." Normally, she would smile, but she wasn't even going to force it this time.
"That's not entirely true, Miss Greer. You bit me plenty of times as a child." Greer looked up at Alfred who had a slight glint in his eye, but a moment later the hard facade had returned. She simply shook her head before taking a bite of her breakfast as Alfred sat down across from them at the table. "Miss Greer, have you anything scheduled for today?"
Greer was surprised by his question. Honestly, she had planned on staying in bed forever and never leaving the manor ever again. Greer swallowed a bite of food and wiped the corner of her mouth with a napkin before she responded, "I-uh-why?" She blinked several times at him, her youthful naivety clearly showing.
Alfred appeared somewhat hesitant to respond before he said, "Master Bruce needs a new suit for the funeral tomorrow…"
Those words hit Greer like a ton of bricks that she didn't even pay attention to the rest of what Alfred said. Tomorrow it would actually become a reality. The past few days, while having been painful, hadn't really seemed entirely real. It almost seemed as if their parents were just away on some sort of trip without them, not entirely unheard of. But tomorrow, they would be buried in the ground. The cold, hard, unforgiving ground never to be returned to their former lives. Her throat choked up and tears stung her eyes just thinking about it. Everything still felt so raw.
"Greer," Bruce said nudging his older sister. "Greer."
"Mm-sorry, what?" Greer said running her fingers through her hair as she turned to look at her brother.
"Alfred asked you if you needed a new dress for the…"
Bruce hung his head before he could finish his sentence. He couldn't even say the word funeral. She knew how terribly this was hurting him too. He was only a child. So much life still ahead of him. He would grow up knowing that his parents had been dead most of his life. Greer's eyes watered even more as she wrapped her arm around her brother's shoulder and drew him closer to her before she kissed the top of his head.
Bruce's immediate reaction was very typical for a boy his age. "Why are you always kissing me? It's disgusting."
Greer sighed, unable to bring herself to smile. She was just glad that Bruce was still in there somewhere. Her annoying little brother. She decided to keep the mood light, for his sake. "Would you rather I give you a wedgie instead?" Greer arched her eyebrow.
Bruce looked shocked for a brief moment and then he responded, "No. Just don't kiss me in public. It's still disgusting."
Greer made a silly duck face toward her brother to which he simply responded by shaking his head before sighing heavily and stabbing his fork at his breakfast once more. Knowing that it was going to take more than just acting silly to be strong for Bruce, Greer turned to Alfred who was watching the scene between the Wayne siblings.
"Alfred, I think I'll take you up on that offer. Since when have I been known to turn down a chance at shopping?" She forced a fake smile on her face, for Bruce's sake before Alfred nodded, acknowledging what she said.
A couple of hours later, Greer found herself in the backseat with Bruce as they headed downtown. Greer made sure to wear sunglasses this time to shield her eyes from the prying paparazzi. She knew that since the shocking murder of her parents that any photograph of her or Bruce was worth a lot of money. It wasn't as if the city of Gotham actually cared how her brother or she were doing, they just wanted to know for the sake of gossip. The car pulled around to an alley at the back of the store. Hopefully, this way they wouldn't be as much of a public spectacle as they would have been walking through the front door.
A nicely dressed man waited for them outside the back door to usher them inside the store. Greer made sure to exit the car first as a lone photographer ran his way around the building with his camera in hand. She quickly turned and held out a hand for Bruce to grab, practically dragging him out of the car. They sprinted to the back door as several more photographers ran back to find them. Greer could hear the cameras snapping photographs.
Alfred and the other man tried to shield the Wayne children with their bodies, standing between them and the photags, until Greer and Bruce made it safely inside the building. The back door slammed shut behind them. Greer pulled her sunglasses on to the top of her head and tried to catch her breath as she stood there with her hands on her hips. Bruce surprisingly seemed unfazed by things. It was Alfred who was the most upset. He pinned the other man to the wall. Clearly, Alfred was pissed.
"How the bloody hell did they know?" Alfred hissed. Greer looped her arm through Bruce's as they watched the show.
"I-I don't know. Some-someone must have leaked the information," the man squealed in a panic. His eyes were wide and his brow was sweaty. He was just as shocked as they were, but Alfred continued to lay into him.
"We paid you to keep them safe. Haven't these kids been through enough? Or did you feel the need to add to their misery? Or worse yet, profit off it."
"I-I'm sorry. This wasn't supposed to happen. I will find the mole and I swear to god they will be fired."
Alfred took a step back from the man and nodded his head. He then dusted off the lapels of his jacket, adjusted his tie, before he turned toward the Wayne siblings. "Shall we?" Alfred motioned toward the door to the front of the store. Greer nodded her head as she pulled Bruce with her into the store behind Alfred.
They first walked to Bruce's section of the store. It was going to take him longer to find something and get it fitted than it was for her to find a dress. Or at least, in theory, that's how it was supposed to work.
Greer walked beside Bruce as he went through the racks of suit coats. Every once in a while, Bruce would pick one, but Greer would put it back on the rack which would frustrate him. She knew that Bruce was trying to act more grown-up and in a sense, become the man of the house, but having your big sister disagree with your decisions was embarrassing. After about the fourth time, Greer took a hint at Bruce's frustrated groan and went over to the ladies section to find a dress while allowing Alfred to help Bruce instead. It was probably for the best because Alfred wore suits more often than she did.
There weren't too many people in the store. Although, to be honest, she didn't expect anyone else to be in the store. Alfred must not have demanded that they have the place to themselves. He only concerned himself about the paparazzi, but sometimes the people of Gotham were just as bad, trying to snap pics or sell fake stories of an encounter. If it was money they wanted, Greer would rather just give them the money than have to go through all the tabloid junk, but life didn't work that way.
Greer glanced out the window to find men with cameras waiting to snap something from outside the window. She made sure to try and walk with her face away from the glass windows, despite having pulled her sunglasses back over her eyes again. She didn't need her face in the papers again. It was hard enough explaining to Bruce the picture with the officer from that night when he saw it. The tabloids went wild, everything was utterly fabricated. It no doubt sold a bunch of money. Greer was just thankful that Bruce understood, but it wasn't an easy thing to explain to a kid.
She wandered through the racks of dresses. Most of the seemed hopeful and cheery, two things Greer Wayne was not. Their bright colors weren't appealing, not to mention that she was in mourning and black was the expected color, not that she minded terribly. Greer picked a few black dresses off the rack and headed back to the dressing room to try them on.
Quickly closing the door to her small room behind her, Greer leaned back against it and slowly exhaled. Shopping used to be something she enjoyed...something she enjoyed with her mother. She rubbed her hand over her face before she tried on the first dress. It was a little too snug for her liking so she took it off and placed it back on the hanger. She wanted to be able to breathe tomorrow. Although passing out and not seeing all those people didn't seem such a terrible alternative.
Reaching for the second dress, she slipped it on over her head before she sucked in her stomach for a moment. You couldn't really tell the difference from the way the dress hung. Greer sighed and shrugged her shoulders before wanting to get a better look at herself in the dress with the help of a three-way mirror.
With her feet bare, Greer's feet padded across the carpet until she stood in front of the mirror. She once again pushed her sunglasses back on top of her head before she rested her hands on her stomach and looked in the mirror. Turning from side to side, she scrutinized her appearance when an attractive blonde woman walked back into the dressing room area with her hands full. Greer quickly removed her hands from her stomach and put them behind her back as the woman looked at her.
"I wouldn't get that if I were you," the blonde woman said somewhat annoyingly. "It's not very flattering on your figure."
Greer blinked rapidly. "Ex-excuse me?" she stammered. Just who did this lady think she was? She hadn't asked for an opinion, but then again, Greer got unwanted opinions quite frequently. She took a deep breath and sighed, forcing a fake smile.
The woman also gave a fake smile before responding. "It looks like you're wearing sackcloth. You won't be turning any heads in it, that's for sure. Believe me, if I wore that, my fiance he wouldn't give me a second look."
Greer wasn't sure if the woman was trying to be sincere or not. So she simply responded, "It's for a funeral. Besides, it will probably be covered up with a coat anyway."
"Oh. Right." There was an awkward silence between the two women. It was as if the woman had been so caught up in herself and in the moment, that she hadn't realized why Greer would possibly be dress shopping for a black dress. The woman chewed her bottom lip. "I was just trying to help, you know."
Greer awkwardly nodded her head before she turned on her heel, but the woman wasn't done yet.
"You're Greer Wayne, aren't you?"
Greer turned to look at the blonde over her shoulder. Childishly, she wanted to respond well, duh, but now certainly wasn't the time for such a response. Instead, with a slightly worried expression, she bit her bottom lip and gave her head a slight nod.
The blonde squealed a bit before rushing up to Greer and grabbing her arms. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. But wait 'til I tell Jim that I met Greer Wayne today. That I gave Greer Wayne fashion advice…"
"I-uh-I should probably change." It took the blonde woman a moment to understand. She glanced down at her hands resting on Greer's arms before she quickly removed them and muttered an apology.
Greer didn't say anything. She just escaped back to the dressing room. She sat down on the bench in the room and rested her elbows on her knees and her head on her hands. For being something she had once enjoyed, Greer wasn't finding shopping much of an enjoyable experience. It made her miss her mom.
Standing up, Greer examined the dress once more. There was nothing wrong with the dress. Besides, something about the woman irked her and made her want to buy the dress out of spite. So, that's what she was going to do. She was going to buy a dress out of spite. Sometimes grief made one do crazy things.
Greer quickly changed back into the clothes she had been wearing before she walked out of the dressing room, holding onto the dress she had been told not to get. Greer peered out to see if the woman was nowhere in sight. Thankfully she wasn't anywhere that Greer could see. So, Greer quickly escaped and walked quickly back over to where her brother was now standing on a platform in front of a tailor.
Slumping into a chair, Greer rested the dress on her lap. "How much longer?" she asked her brother.
It was Alfred who answered. "Lawrence just began measurements," he commented. "Have you more pressing matters?"
"No. I was just wondering." Greer sighed before she folded her arms across her chest and crossing her legs. Alfred didn't miss her looking around the store before she nervously bit her bottom lip. He could tell that she was just about spent.
"Change of plans, Lawrence. Would it be possible to deliver this to the manor when you're finished with it?"
Lawrence nodded. "Yes, of course. I will see to the delivery myself," he responded as he put a pin in the suit coat Bruce was wearing. "Miss Wayne, does the dress need any alterations?"
"I-uh-no, it's fine, thanks," Greer responded somewhat distractedly as she smoothed the fabric of the dress.
Lawrence looked at her quizzically. She always had dresses altered. Always. He had never known her to just take something off the rack. Never. "You're sure?" he asked somewhat hesitantly. "It would be no problem to do so."
"No, thanks," Greer said rather lamely.
"If you're sure then." Lawrence glanced at her and Greer nodded her head. "Then just let me take that from you. I'll be sure it's delivered with your brother's."
Greer didn't say anything as she handed the dress over to him. Instead, she watched as he set it down on the back of a chair beside Bruce's pants. Lawrence finished up Bruce's measurements and Bruce changed back into the clothes he had come to the store in.
"That will be all, Lawrence. Thank you," Alfred said shaking hands with the man. "Now then, Master Bruce, Miss Greer, we best be off."
Alfred, Greer, and Bruce exited the store through the back. This time, police officers had set up a barricade and were waiting in the back to keep the paparazzi from getting too close. Greer couldn't help but look for the detective from a few nights ago, but obviously, he wasn't there. She slumped into the car after her brother. Bruce rested his head on her shoulder once they were buckled. Next stop, Wayne Manor.
Later that night, after Bruce had gone to sleep, Greer sat on a sofa in front of the fireplace in her father's study. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn't do this. She couldn't say goodbye. As much as she tried to convince herself that she had to do it for Bruce-it wasn't enough. It just hurt too much. She hated acting like everything was fine when it obviously wasn't. Thinking she heard footsteps, Greer quickly wiped at her face to hide the evidence of her tears; but no one entered the study. She must be hearing things. Greer then plopped onto the rug and curled up into a ball as she thought of her parents.
Greer remembered when she was very young and on occasion when her father allowed her in his study, she would often curl up in front of the fireplace like she was doing right now. Her father would stop whatever he had been doing and lay beside her, holding her tight against him in his strong arms. She wished that he was here right now, holding her and comforting her. That he would just pop out and tell her that it was all some sort of sick joke.
But that was childish. He was gone...and she should have been there that night. Despite what Detective Gordon had told her, she couldn't help but wonder how things might be different now if she had been there. What if she had been there to protect her family? In her head, every time she managed to push her parents out of the way or sometimes she would even kick the creep's ass. But then her mind couldn't help but wander to the scenario where it would have been her that died that night. She knew it wasn't right to think like that, but then again, that would never be reality. The reality was that she was lying in her deceased father's study...alone.
Greer cried herself to sleep as Alfred watched from a small opening of the door. He knew how much she was hurting. He also knew she was trying her best, but the amount of responsibility thrust upon Greer was overwhelming. Some of the responsibilities she wasn't even aware of yet. They wanted to wait until the funeral had passed before they rested the burden on the shoulders of a young twenty-one-year-old woman.
Seeing that Greer's breathing had significantly slowed, Alfred walked into the room. He grabbed a pillow and blanket from the sofa before walking over to Greer. Placing the pillow under her head and the blanket around her body, Alfred wished there was more he could do for her-but how she got through this situation was up to her. This was either going to make or break her.