One of those contemplation things about Bat-relationships with a guest appearance of Alfred (*cheers*) in a non-speaking role.
The eyes are the window to the soul. That's why I keep mine hidden behind one-way white plastic in my mask. The last thing I need is for the scum I fight every day to know I have a soul. If I have a soul. Sometimes, even I doubt it.
Everybody has a soul, according to Asrael. He should know; he's religious. Religious people know about this sort of thing. Of course, I put research into it; if you're fighting somebody who's committing crimes for "religious" reasons, it can help to know what they believe in.
But sometimes I find it difficult to believe that people with souls can possibly do some of the things that I have seen them do. If I find something difficult to believe, I think about it, analyse it, research it, study it, until I have no difficulty believing whether it's true or not. It doesn't always work.
For instance: I cannot understand Dick, or Robin, or Nightwing, or whatever you want to call him, however much I analyse. He'll always be Dick to me. That's why I fired him- he wasn't some invincible immortal vigilante, more of a symbol than a human being- it was Dick. My son. My son, my little boy, going out every night and having the crap beaten out of him by some psycho with no soul. Or a tortured one, as Asrael puts it.
And so it was Dick I saw thrown of his feet by the explosion last night. It was Dick who I saw, almost in slow motion, hit the scaffolding the other side of the street. It was Dick who's head snapped back against the steel poles, Dick who crumpled against the metal, and Dick who was covered in a mound of steel, concrete, bricks and wooden shafts.
My little boy.
And, like the angry mother who marches up to school to complain about the bullying policy, I came down on the mobsters like the very same ton of bricks that had engulfed my child.
I can cause devastation among criminals even when I'm in a good mood (a rare occurrence, even I'll admit), but tonight I was not in a good mood. I hit the gang like the mother hits the PTA, and like the mother drags the child to the school by the ear, so I would do to Dick when he recovered.
It's no great secret the I'm not a "people person", but considering that I have lost almost everybody I ever got close to, I'm probably doing a favour by keeping my bad luck away.
But I hated doing this to Dick. I wanted to be close to him. Eventually, he got to know me well enough to know how I felt about him, but I couldn't tell him, and I know he hated that as much as I did.
His wounds were extensive- more than I could handle alone in the cave (alone- story of my life) so I took him to Leslie's. Alfred was there. We spent several hours just sitting in awkward silence, at least, I felt awkward. Alfred never feels awkward; he was waiting for me to say something, perhaps to apologise.
Knowing I wouldn't.
So it was a punishment. By the time the news of an armed robbery at the Gotham fist bank arrived, I was so torn up in grief for Dick (now in a "stable" condition), guilt for Alfred and hatred of my own sociopathical tendencies, I couldn't concentrate on the heist and ended up getting shot.
Thankfully, that woke me up and I finished the night alive, but it was a near thing. I find I don't care, as Dick is still unconscious, surrounded by an anxious crowd of Robin, Batgirl, Alfred, and Leslie. We decided Spoiler didn't have to know, and a terrified Barbara was being updated every five minutes as Oracle.
I leave for an early meeting at Wayne Enterprises on whether we should have blue or green chamois leather on the seats in the latest car. I wouldn't have thought that it mattered, but Lucius tells me otherwise.
As I head for the Headquarters in a far more upmarket part of the city, I go over the questions I'm going to use to interrogate Dick when he wakes up (that's WHEN- IF is out of the question). What was he doing in Gotham? Why did he go after that gang? Why didn't he anticipate the bomb blast?
He'll answer the questions accurately but scathingly, not bothering to hide his annoyance at my lack of feeling. Then he'll leave, back to Bludhaven. And Alfred and Robin will return to Brentwood. And Batgirl will do back to wherever she goes, the clocktower?
And I'll go back to the vast, empty mansion. And I'll feed the cat. And put her out, like Alfred used to.
And I'll be alone.