As it releases one victim, it claims another, tendrils and all. The realization is taken away in an instant as he can hear a distant memory, a young boy's imaginary gestures, a dotting pair of parents, a rousing adventure film made their evening, but just then someone emerges from the alleyway.

"All evildoers beware my sword!" laughs Bruce.

"Slow down Bruce!" chuckles Thomas.

"Tom, over there!" gasps Martha.

"Pearls first!" shouts the stranger.

The rest as he truly knew was a blur, a double bang, a pool of blood, a scream and sob cut short and the pained expressions on their faces. However something shifts instead of what did happen, something else happens as the mugger pulls the gun, Thomas grips the mugger's wrist then proceeds to beat him up, Martha and Bruce watch with admiration. This is what could have happen, but this is not real, not as he knows it rather it is some part of him that wishes this were the real story now.

It is ever so slow, so subtle, he saw at last why it was so hard for his friend to abandon the fantasy, because it was convincing, it felt right, the mind begins to accept it unless someone or something cracks the image. All it took for him was the sound of her voice, her crying shout of his name, and then it all floods back to him. It happens as it did again the first bang, the blinding flash, the revulsion, the anguish, the pain, the sadness, the misery, all of it; every emotion like the blood drops that stream out to become pools on the pavement.

Her shout echoes in his ears…


He drops from its embrace and watches her wrestle to avoid its grip as well. Why was he so resistant to a better life or at least a less lonely life, he had no answer, just all his old lines for the why not explanations. She tumbles with that monstrosity, she who would call out his name, risk her trip to false happiness to break its grip on him, if anyone deserves the chance to save his heart, it would be her. However could he let her in, he spent so much of his life giving, fighting, struggling, did really know how to love her as she acts out her love for him.

He did not feel good enough for her, maybe that was the real cause for his resistance, he felt so undeserving of such a woman, but somehow he already saw she disagrees with all her heart. He recalls going to the gates of Tartarus for her, pulling her away from a fawning crowd for a dance, a cheek kiss for his dirty gloves in Gorilla City, a full on the lips kiss when hiding in that restaurant. He had all these memories of her, they all seem to point to one thing he does seem to love her, the only question is does he, and what would he do about it instead of avoiding it like he had been avoiding having a real love life since Andrea.

It was not just feeling undeserving, he also put up emotional and psychological walls inside to work his way through the kind of pain that gets one's heart. He recalls once more that dive into the water to get to the Fortress earlier, she did that on purpose he felt sure of it, and later as they leave Clark to repairs as well some alone time. On the flight back to Gotham, they sat almost entirely in silence. He asks her to drop him off at a certain cemetery, not that it was that day, but he felt it necessary to go there after what just happen with the Black Mercy. She does not ask what happen to him under the plant's influence, she does not want to pry, if he is going to share, it'll be on his terms, that's what he is like to her, his actions flow so much more smoothly than his words.

"I saw it again, just like I always do except the plant changed it, made it happen the way I used to wish it did, because as much as I care about and respect Alfred, there is no substitute for parents. He is a great man, greater than me, and as for them, all I have of them is their love, the memory of watching them die in front of me. I could never really understand why he left me alive."

He pulls back the cowl, his eyes are wet, no tears, not yet, and she is holding in tears of her own.

"Maybe the cops nearby heard the shots, maybe he was short on bullets, maybe the gun jammed, maybe it was a sick joke for him, maybe a lot of things, but I am just a polyglot who is never certain of his identity or what he deserves in life."

She quietly listens even as tears begin to stream down her face.

"I don't want to hurt anyone, I don't want to be hurt by anyone, but somehow it happens…"

She wraps her arms around him, he can hear her sobs, she chokes words between sobs, she is telling him to cry already, but somehow it is still not flowing from him. She shakes him almost roughly before seeing some tears on his face. He rubs his eyes, kisses her deeply on the lips, she softly moans, the wetness of the tears meshes against the other's skin. This time he would show how he felt about her as much as he kept trying to avoid it, deny it, or somehow believe he had infallible logic to keep her out of his life.

Undeserving maybe, mortality perhaps, but that is not what life is about, for the flicker of time that there is a Bruce Wayne or Batman, there is still a boy and a man called Bruce that in her mind has more than earned her love. She only wishes that he would take it, in this moment he had, and she wishes that they could stay there forever. The Bat Signal lights up the night sky by the time their trembling embrace separates because Gotham needs its hero for the moment. As she watches him take off towards the obsidian skyline, she knows that she will just have to wait him out because he is coming around, for how long she did not know, but she would take it.

She looks to the Wayne family headstone. It is a burden among many to bear, but that never means life or love is beyond reaching though of course Bruce is one of the most stubborn men she had ever known. The dark hair, the deep eyes, compassion too, but of course a man she could give her heart to in the hopes that he realizes this is for you too, not just me. She recalls that night after clubbing with Audrey, he was there watching her take off her shoes, and she notes a slight grin in the corner of his mouth before she makes a little pose. It would be moments like those that made her fall in love with him again and again.