Disclaimer: Batman belongs to DC Comics and Warner Bros.

A/N: This drabble was written for the "Solitary" theme at batfic-contest(dot)livejournal(dot)com.

Haven


When Martha Wayne noted that Brucie wasn't getting out of the house enough, Thomas Wayne thought he had the perfect solution.

A week later, Thomas revealed the newly remodeled backyard to his young son. It had been transformed into his own personal playground. There was a jungle gym, a seesaw, a pair of swings, and even a working carousel, with flashing lights and playful music, all shining and brightly colored. That would surely fix the problem.

But Bruce hardly seemed interested. Martha would usher him outside day after day, telling him to go play, but when Thomas came home from work, he always found his son sitting idly on the swings.

"What's the matter, Bruce? Don't you like it?"

"It's fine… it's just… there's no one to play with."

"Oh, right," Thomas said, glancing at the seesaw, as new and untarnished as the day it was installed. He cast an inquisitive eye toward Alfred, who looked mortified and firmly shook his head.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't fancy my bum would fit."

-

When Thomas went inside, he said to Martha, "Isn't it time we hired an additional housekeeper?"

"I think the others are getting along fine—oh," Martha said, when Thomas motioned with his eyes toward the window where they could see Bruce sitting dejectedly on the swings. "Now that you mention it, Thomas, we do need more help around here."

Thomas smiled. "I thought so."

-

"I can't thank you enough for hiring me, Dr. Wayne. I don't have much experience, but I'll do a good job. Ever since my husband passed, I need the work so bad. It's so nice of you to take me in, even though I have a kid."

"Actually," Thomas grinned, "that was the deciding factor, Mrs. Dawes."

The little girl in brown pigtails tugged at her mother's dress impatiently. "Can I go play now, Mommy? Do they really have a real merry-go-round?"

Thomas laughed and nodded. "Yes, let me show it to you. There's someone there I'd like to introduce you to."

-

Rachel got along with Bruce immediately. He showed her the carousel, and asked, "Do you want to ride it?"

"Can I?" she squealed with delight and rushed to take a seat on one of the plastic circus animals. "Here, sit next to me," she said, motioning toward a shiny green clown car with big gaudy grins painted on its sides.

"Nah," Bruce said, "I don't like that one." And he took a seat on her other side.

-

Several years later, and a week after the funeral, the playground was gone.

"You took it down," Rachel said sadly.

"I don't feel like playing anymore," Bruce replied. He couldn't tell her he wanted to tear it all down, not just the playground, but the mansion, too. But for now, this was all he had the power to do.

When he was with Rachel, in that bright, colorful haven that his father had built for him, he never felt more alone.