Disclaimer: I not own any of the Bat-characters or ubsequent franchise licenses. This was just for fun.
"Alfred's Prayer" was meant to be a one shot. I never intended to follow up with anything else. That being said, here is a follow up story. Mainly because I have severe writer's block on another story I am working on and needed the distraction. I would classify this as a bit of drabble...
Dedications: Thank you for the Beta, Heybats.
'Place the tie around the neck so that the left side is longer than the right. Cross the longer side over the shorter one, then bring the longer side up and under the loop. Take the shorter side and double it over itself. Loop the other end over the center of this loop. Now hold everything together while you take the longer end and double it back on itself, poking it through the loop behind the tie.'
He could still hear that steadfast voice in his memories, laced with patience and fortitude. Instructing the future Batman and teaching him the skills and life lessons needed to become a man. Lessons that Alfred still taught him on occasion.
Bruce Wayne gazed at his reflection in the mirror, cocking his head in the same direction of his black tie. For the fourth and final time he pulled the end of the cloth, loosening the annoying fabric and pulled it free from his neck. He had yet to learn this lesson of Alfred's without the lopsided results.
"Alfred," he shouted, dreading the cryptic replies he was certain to receive for his inability to completely dress himself.
"Alfred," he called again.
Only partially dressed in his tuxedo shirt and boxers, his bare feet carried him down the stairs and through the halls of Wayne Manor. The kitchen. That was the last place he saw Alfred, busily preparing dinner.
"Dinner?" he questioned the solitude around him rhetorically.
As he walked pass the den in search of his butler he stopped at an unfamiliar setting. Taking two steps back, he peered inside the dining room where an intimate candlelight table was formally set for a romantic evening for two. He couldn't stop the smile that spread thinly across his lips. "Leslie," he murmured to himself, happy that his two friends' relationship was a rock steady constant. He envied the closeness they shared but would not allow such a relationship for himself.
Reaching his destination he pushed open the swinging door leading into the kitchen. "Alfred," he shouted again.
"Here, Master Bruce. There is no need to shout." Alfred looked up from the now empty sink, just having completed rinsing the last soiled pot from the evening meal's preparation.
"Sorry," he mumbled, still fumbling with the tie. "Can you help me, please?"
"Still haven't learned to properly dress yourself, I see," Alfred clucked, taking the tie from Bruce.
"No. I can dress myself. I just can't tie a bow tie as well as you," he smirked.
"False flattery will get you no where, sir. I will, however, help you with your tie." Alfred began to loop and braid the black cloth with expert flourish. "You do have a reputation to upkeep. The fashion statement you make as Bruce Wayne compensates for the tights and mask that you seem to prefer most evenings."
Ignoring the butler's cryptic response he continued. "When will Leslie be here? I'd like to say hello before I leave," Bruce asked, his chin raised to give Alfred the room needed to tie a proper bow tie, one without his normal lopsided results.
"Miss Leslie, sir?"
"Yes, Leslie. You've been cooking all day and I saw the table. I assumed you planned a romantic evening for two."
"Ah, yes. That I did. But, the dinner I have prepared is not for myself and Miss Leslie."
"It's not? Then who?" Bruce asked. The Batman's senses were immediately alerted to something amiss. He knew that Alfred would not have forgotten his own plans for dinner in Gotham. A date with one of the many women that he used to help cement his reputation as a playboy. Although most of these dates ended with a slap on the face and an early night home. Just in time for patrols.
"For you, sir," Alfred answered as though it should have been completely clear.
"Alfred, I told you that Tiffany and I were dining out tonight. I'm picking her up in 15 minutes."
"Your plans have changed, sir. You will not be meeting Miss Tiffany this evening," Alfred told, completing the bow tie to perfection.
"I won't?" He questioned warily. He never knew what to expect from Alfred.
"No sir. You will not," the butler answered, returning to his kitchen duties.
"Am I to assume that I am meeting someone here, then?" Bruce asked, knowing from experience that he would have to play 20 questions to get the information out of Alfred. The man had sadistic streak.
"Very good assumption, sir. The title 'World's Greatest Detective' is well deserved this evening."
Sighing heavily Bruce continued with his questions. "Then, just who is coming to dinner?"
"Why, Princess Diana, sir. She should arrive shortly."
"Yes sir. I took the liberty of inviting her to the Manor for dinner. She was quite pleased with the invitation."
Gulping audibly, Bruce quickly covered his shocked, deer in the headlight expression at this revelation. But not before his ever observant butler and surrogate father (and all-time mother hen), noticed. "Why are you doing this to me?" The exasperation heard in his voice.
"Because I care, sir. You refuse to act on your feelings - feelings that you are having difficulty suppressing. Therefore, I reacted for you."
"There are reasons I can't do this, Alfred."
"It is a dinner, Master Bruce. It is neither a commitment nor a proposal of marriage. Simply dinner with a colleague and friend."
"Nothing is that simple."
"Only you make things difficult, sir."
"…" He glared at his butler silently.
"Now, go finish getting dressed before the young lady arrives. It would be unseemly for the host to be late to dinner in his own home."
Alfred was the only person who could ever leave the Batman flummoxed. Halfway through the door he stopped when Alfred spoke again. "Who knows...this may even be the beginning of many intimate dinners for you and the Princess."
Bruce turned to give his butler an all too familiar retort, but found the kitchen suddenly empty. 'How does he do that'? He mused, then made ready for his new arrangements for the evening. A small smile crept upon his lips as he realized the genuine gratitude he felt towards Alfred in meddling in his private affairs.
He might enjoy this evening after all.