Banish the Ghosts
(Written for fun not profit. I do not own the Justice League or any of the characters.)
Chapter 1: Open Wounds
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye – 1932
He never did. Not one tear did he shed in all these years. Instead, he steeled himself and hardened his heart. He pushed himself to the limit, excelling in everything he touched. He equipped himself with vast knowledge and attained incredible physical agility and a skillfulness that could only be described as superhuman. While all his counterparts went out for the occasional drinks, on the frequent dates and eventually got married and had children, his agenda had not changed in years. He worked hard fervently, feverishly with obsessive monotony, driven by vengeance. An anger which replaced the terrible loss and got stronger and stronger with every obstacle he faced, with every drop of blood he shed. He was black, beyond redemption. It scared him sometimes. What he had become but there was no turning back. It was a downward spiral, a whirlpool that sucked you in deeper and deeper until you no longer could hear or see anything except the darkness. The harder you try to fight it, the more it takes out of you until you just give in and embrace your destiny. He had become the batman and no, there was no turning back.
He stood now, on the cold patio of his massive mansion. Staring out into the misty lake. Looking but not really seeing. While most people preferred to be huddled in front of the fire, wrapped in thick blankets with their feet up on such bitter cold nights, he enjoyed being out in the open. Over the years, he had learnt to maximize his threshold for extreme conditions, whether it was heat, cold or pain. He became so good at it that he started to enjoy it. Now, he felt his bones stiffen from the cold and his muscles were slowly becoming rigid but he had never felt more alive. He raised his head and breathed in the crisp, shockingly cold air, feeling the icy coldness travel down through his body. It was occasions like this which reminded him that he was still alive because otherwise, he felt dead. Dead to the world and to its people. His only purpose was to right the wrongs…to make sure that there would never be a reason for the world to give birth to another batman. The legacy would start and end with him. When his turn came to lie in the cold, hard ground, he wanted to make his peace and go with the fulfillment that he had cleaned up the mess that had created him. Until then, he would fight with every living breath, with every ounce of strength and with every fiber of his being.
His black nightcoat flapped about his ankles as a gale blew circles around him. A severe color for such incredibly soft cashmere. He liked it that way. A contradiction of sorts. His breathing was starting to labor from the rapidly falling temperature and lack of proper protective clothing and yet he refused to budge. He always had to wait and push his limits.
"Master Bruce! You'll catch your death out here," came the beloved shrill and outraged voice not a second later than expected. If he was not in such a somber mood, he might have smiled. If not for Alfred, he would probably have died on numerous occasions. Bruce knew that he could withstand the weather a little longer but decided to humor the old butler who was now nagging and fussing over him like a mother hen while ushering him inside.
"Whatever will I do with you? Always working my old heart into a fit. There's one thing that even Superman is no match for. Mother Nature! Don't try her patience."
Bruce watched silently as the old man, who moved swifter than many men half his age, scrambled to shut the doors, turn up the heater and then throw a blanket over his wide shoulders. He saw the sadness on the butler's wrinkled face and deciphered what he was thinking with precision. Alfred had been with his father even before he was born. He was fiercely loyal and loved the family like his own. The death of the master and mistress came upon him hard but he did his best with the young master. However, no matter how hard he tried, he could not prevent the dark side from taking precedence. He feared that a terrible fate would come upon his young ward because that would mean that he failed his master. To him, that would be worse than death.
"I'll be fine Alfred. I need to be alone now," he said quietly, starting upstairs towards the bedchamber but paused mid-step to add "Thank you."
Alfred nodded and moved back to the kitchen to prepare some hot tea. He understood perfectly. It was the anniversary of that fateful night. Every year it hit him hard and he would shut himself off from the world. The aged butler drenched the triangular teabags filled with aromatic chamomile flowers in a teapot of hot water and allowed it to steep. He knew the young master might be freezing on the outside but he did not so much as flinch from the biting cold because he was scorching on the inside. Perhaps some chamomile would help soothe his ravaged soul. Alfred sighed, a sad defeated sigh. If only it were that simple… I'm so sorry Sir. I tried my very best with the little one. I truly did.
Bruce lay down on his bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. He willed himself to shut off all the thoughts and emotions coursing through his veins, to feel nothing. With years of practice, he cultivated an impeccable sense of self-control and could turn his emotions on and off like a tap. All except one.
That was beyond even him. It came and went as it pleased. Whenever he heard a familiar tune being hummed, a mother singing a lullaby to her child, a proud father ruffling his son's hair, whenever he attended a funeral of someone who had lost their loved one, Whenever he saw a family sitting down together to share a meal. It bit through him hard, a poignant and unbearable pain that paralyzed him. The tears never came though. His well was dry from years of grieving. His only escape was to replace it with anger, with rage and soldier on to work harder. Yet, inside he was ashamed at what he had become. He knew it would have broken his mother's heart and thoroughly disappointed his father. They had always maintained a happy home. His mother's laughter ringed in his ears. Her bright smile that brought a ray of sunshine everywhere she went burned in his eyes. His father's constant jests and jovial demeanor was clear as day in his memories. And the son…a son that used to be happy with not a worry in the world, in a safe haven with his loving parents. Until he was robbed of it all in one fell swoop. It hurt beyond anything imaginable. A wound that never healed.
He did not dare close his eyes because he knew what he would see, what he would hear, what he would feel. Bang…and then twice more. The screams. A splatter of blood all over him. The terrible fear that racked him, the stench of impending death and the pain of it all. A scene that no child should ever have to see. He hated sleep because of the vivid nightmares. It was the reason he worked late and rose early. It was nearly dawn when he finally fell into an exhausted sleep, thanks to the spiked chamomile tea courtesy of Alfred.
Hi everyone. This is the introduction to a new series. Please do review. I'm sorry if it's a little dark and somber but well, that's the idea. Btw, if you're wondering about Nightwing or Terry, well this is way before that. I did not want to include Robin and will be sticking to the JLU lines.
I will leave it for a bit though and work on finishing off my other incomplete stories. Thanks for reading :)