Alfred's Prayer
by DC Lady

Disclaimer: I not own any of the Bat-characters or subsequent
franchise licenses. This was just for fun.

Dedication: My deepest thanks to Heybats who beta'd this fic. And
to Alexis, thank you for the kind words.


Generations of objects adorned the room, each filled with the
memories of a family long-lived, but whose future may be in doubt.
The heirlooms were not from his family, but nonetheless he shared in
the warmth of their memories. Memories he visited each night before
retiring to his bed, silently reaffirming a promise spoken long
ago. A promise to his slain friends for their son - a son he loved
as his own.

This evening proved no different than any other as he walked toward
his destination. A nightly prayer making its way to his lips for
the boy he'd raised to manhood. A prayer for the future of this
family. A prayer for the sake of their son.

Reaching the room's threshold, he noticed the man for whom this
short journey was made, standing motionless before the fireplace
mantel. He frowned, realizing he'd been in the same position some
two hours earlier. He would often find his charge brooding beneath
the portrait of the two people for whom he had dedicated his quest.
Seemingly finding comfort when his heart and mind were burdened.

Alfred silently moved across the room to the winged back chair that
had been a favorite of Mrs. Wayne. He smiled at the memories this
one piece of furniture stirred within him, gently caressing the
cushioned arms as he sat. Folding his hands atop his knees, he
waited. Bruce made no effort to acknowledge him, but Alfred was all
too aware that his keen senses had alerted him of his presence
before he'd entered the room.

The silence hung between them like a summer fog. Finally, Bruce
spoke, unmoving from his spot. "Tell me again, Alfred, what were
they like"

Alfred inwardly smiled, hearing the familiar beginning to what had
become a ritual since the deaths of Bruce's parents. As Bruce had
gotten older and more certain of his mission, the ritual had become
less frequent. Nevertheless, Alfred enjoyed the opportunity to
remind the younger man of his ties to the past, hoping to inspire
him to look to the future. "Your mother and father were the kindest
people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friends" he began.

"Your mother could be found most days tending her rose garden and
had even won several ribbons for her yellow hybrid variety. She was
the envy of her woman's circle. She also thought it the utmost
importance to dedicate both her time and resources in helping the
less fortunate. She had a natural warmth and beauty about her that
put people immediately at ease, whatever the situation" Alfred
paused, as Bruce nodded resignedly.

"Despite his social standing, your father was a highly regarded
physician with an even disposition and quiet manner. He was also a
strong-willed individual. A family trait, no doubt." Alfred saw
Bruce's lips soften in a rare smile, his pride in this similarity
with his father quite evident. "I know of no one who did not hold
him in the highest esteem. Your parents were lovingly devoted to
each other and to you."

Alfred formed his own smile at a particular memory. "I remember when
Mrs. Wayne first discovered that she was expecting. She radiated
with the joy and expectation of becoming a mother. And when you
were born, that was truly the happiest day of their lives.

Alfred watched the slight nod of Bruce's head at the account,
obviously lost in contemplation. Then quietly, as if afraid to
give voice to the question, Bruce continued. "Would they
approve"

Another question that Bruce asked throughout his childhood and
ceased asking the day he donned the mantel of the Bat. Alfred
suddenly realized how much the question still burned in the younger
man's heart.

"Yes... and no" Alfred admitted, pausing to compose his
thoughts.

Bruce bowed his head and Alfred saw the piercing effect of his
answer in the younger man's troubled countenance.

Placing both hands on the arms of the chair for support, Alfred
stood. He straightened his jacket in determination, then walked
over to his surrogate son, who had yet to move from his spot
underneath the portrait. Alfred took a moment to parse through his
emotions, realizing his strongest feeling was gratitude; grateful
for the opportunity to speak with Bruce on matters of the heart, yet
sadly acknowledging that those conversations had dwindled over the
years.

He straightened his shoulders and placed both hands behind his
back. He spoke with measured authority wanting the gravity of his
words to be understood. "Your oath to your parents has made you the
man you are today. A man that they would have been very'proud
of. A man of which I' am very proud. You have done more for this
city, and the world, than most are able to achieve in a lifetime."

"But…" Bruce almost whispered, with no small amount of trepidation.

"But, they would also have expected more 'for' you" Alfred inwardly
recoiled, having seen the expression of anguish on Bruce's face only
one other time. It was almost ten years since Andrea Beaumont had
almost drawn him away from the life of the Bat.

"Their wish for you was to find happiness and contentment in your
life" Alfred observed. "They would not wish that you would remain
alone."

"I'm not alone. I have you and Dick. I have a family" Bruce
stated, then averted his gaze. His action left Alfred with the
impression that he was trying to convince himself more than the
butler.

"Dear boy, we are your family and we love you dearly. But, do not
try to convince yourself of something that you know not to be true.
I am growing old and will one day be gone. Dick already leads a
life of his own in Bludhaven. Someday, he will start his own
family. Your parents' wish, and mine, is for you to experience the
joy of a woman's love and the family that you can both form from
that love."

Bruce shook his head, turning back to gaze at his parent's
portrait. Alfred watched the stoic mask of the Bat as it settled
firmly in place, knowing that his resolute promise to their memory
would not be easily compromised.

"Do you love her" Alfred questioned firmly, undeterred by Bruce's
hardened expression.

"Does it matter"

"Yes, it most certainly does."

"No, it doesn't. Not if nothing further can come from any
declaration on my part."

"And why not? She is your equal in every way that matters in this
life you have chosen. The previous excuses for not establishing any
form of lasting relationship do not apply to her. So, what are your
excuses now" The older man would not give up without a fight.
This may be his only opportunity to fulfill the dream his dear
friends had for their son. As well as his own dreams for the boy he
raised.

"It wouldn't work. We're too different."

"Being different can add spice to a relationship. It just may be
worth the effort. But you will never know if you do not try."

"She would get bored here. She would learn to hate the social
circles that Bruce Wayne lives in."

"Yes, well...we all know how much you love Gotham's social
elite."

"Touché" Bruce replied with a smirk.

"The only excuse you can give for not telling her your feelings are
the imagined scenarios conjured by Batman. Even he cannot foretell
the future, so why would you deny yourself an opportunity for
happiness for a hypothetical event which may not even occur"

"And if those events do occur" Bruce asked, his expression pained
once more by the thought of losing another loved one.

"It is a chance that we all take in life - both the masked and the
unmasked. You are no different."

"I think it may be best not to take that chance" Bruce said softly.

"Ah. I see. So if you never have her to begin with, you will never
lose her" Alfred nodded in understanding. "You've carried this
fear most of your life. With me after your parents were killed,
with your son and his subsequent exile from Gotham, and now with
Princess Diana." Alfred walked away, turning upon reaching the
room's exit. "It is ironic, sir. It seems that your fear of
abandonment, of being alone, will ultimately make you very lonely
indeed."

Alfred witnessed the shocked expression on his son's face at his
words. He walked out of the room, hopeful that he'd at least given
Bruce a different perspective on which to view his decision and
allow the Princess into his life.

In either case, Alfred determined to gently nudge his son in the
right direction. 'Perhaps a quiet, romantic dinner for two tomorrow
evening,' he thought to himself. 'I'll call Miss Diana in the
morning.' Alfred chuckled lightly at the idea. 'He should know
better than to second-guess me. He will most assuredly not win.'
Alfred smiled, his final task for the evening completed.

The End.