Partial Wish Fulfillment
by Adrian Tullberg
The gun bucked in the man's hand, a noisy living thing.
A terrible shot, but at that range, he couldn't miss, his target collapsing like an unstrung puppet.
She saw her husband turn from a person to a sack of meat in a split second, not believing it was actually happening.
It was only when the muzzle of the automatic turned towards her and her son that her disbelief was instantly replaced with an inhuman rage.
Shrieking, she lashed out, well cared for fingernails catching the wrist of his gun hand and his face with her right.
A wildly aimed knee intended for his groin hit his knee instead, sending the assailant crashing to the ground.
He was about to get up when he heard a siren in the distance, made a calculation based on the risk, and beat a hasty retreat.
The woman slumped to her knees, heaving for breath. What had happened hadn't registered yet, and she'd only fully suffer the consequences far later.
Right now, she hauled herself over to her son, who was staring at his father's broken body in front of him with a terrible intensity.
She did the only thing she could; hold her boy, whispering reassurances.
"It's all right Bruce. It's all right…"
He took a bracing breath. "Yes Mom?"
High heels took even measured steps downward. "Are you in the basement again?"
Bruce swivelled around in his chair. "It's a Cave Mom. A subterranean fortified headquarters designed for the express purpose of fighting the criminal element."
The society queen wearing a nice blue ensemble recent tailored for her recent five pound weight loss walked towards the computer console. "A man shouldn't spend all his time in the basement dear."
"It's not..." Bruce went over the impending argument several times and came to the same conclusion every time, and decided to skip to the end. "…no Mom."
Martha leaned down, brushing her hair back. "Shouldn't you've found a nice girl by now? Instead of spending all your time in the basement?"
Bruce closed his eyes, marshalling his strength. "If I find a nice girl you'll be the first to know, Mom."
Martha turned away, running her finger over the humming computer banks. "What about that Selina girl?"
"It's ... complicated, Mom."
"You're not scared by that big whip, are you?"
"Mrs Kensington used a whip on her husband and it saved their marriage..."
Bruce made the mental association with that – and wished he didn't. "First, I didn't need to know that. Second, it doesn't bother me ..."
Martha turned, making direct eye contact with an impeccably raised eyebrow.
"How about that Talia girl?"
"Her father and me don't ... we argue a lot."
A recollection brought a ghost of a smile to Martha's face. "Your father never really got along with my father either. But Thomas, bless his heart, bought daddy a new yacht, and they got along splendidly after that."
Bruce knew she went through his files, and yet…"I don't think Ra's Al Gul will be too impressed with a brand new eighty-footer, Mom."
Martha gave a derisive sniff. She couldn't honestly conceive of somebody that rude.
People had no class, no proper … upbringing …
The idea came to her in an instant. "How about that nice Diana?"
Bruce felt his heartrate jump in an instant. "We ... we sort of work together...?"
"And she's royalty…"
"Not anymore, you see..."
She waved his explanation away, already beginning to calculate a new strategy. "Oh you can't cover up good breeding dear. Tell you what, I'll invite her over for lunch and a few sets of tennis at the club."
Bruce got up from his chair while his mother headed upstairs. "It wouldn't be..."
She didn't bother to turn around while issuing instructions. "Wear that nice white sweater I got you two weeks ago. And don't misbehave!"
"But Mom ... Mom!"
He slumped back into the chair, feeling the excruciating mortification that only a grown man whose mother was still setting him up could feel.
"Your aspirin, Master Bruce?"
He took the pill and swallowed without argument. "Thank you ..."
"Should I inform Miss Diana to bring a suitable whip?"
Bruce glowered at the family butler. "Why do I keep you employed, Alfred?"
"There are many, many things I could tell your mother...?"