A/N So now that I've let "the end" of the story sit for a while, it's time for the epilogue! YAY! One more chapter! I'm thinking about a sequel, but I really don't know. This is the part where you spam me with reviews to make up my mind in your opinion ;)
Chapter Eighteen: Epilogue
The funeral was a quiet affair. Only trusted employees of the grieving man were milling around, trying to come up with some sort of story about the elusive deceased. Halfway through the service it had begun to pour and now the survivor stood by the freshly dug grave, soaking wet and unable to move. After everyone he had lost, now the last one was gone. A soul-shattering sense of grief welled up inside the man. Wave after wave of pain and sorrow battered against his tough exterior. By now he knew that it would be nearly impossible to keep up his line of work. There was no one to work for. No one to save.
"Bruce." A deep voice called out through the downpour. The Dark Night flinched. He knew whoever it was, but the sound was a little off. It was a sad day considering that the world's greatest detective didn't even take the time to figure out who was now approaching him. He just didn't care. "I'm sorry." The new-comer put his hand on Bruce's shoulder and the man finally looked up to be met with electric blue eyes.
The man behind-the-cowl made a little yelping sound. "Richard?" Suddenly the two were embracing; Bruce sobbing on Nightwing's shoulder while the forever-nineteen-year-old's tears slipped down his already wet face silently. They stood like that for what seemed like an eternity, holding on to the past through each other. Eventually Batman's shoulders began to shake and from the cold and the rain and Richard ushered his former guardian inside the funeral home.
"Did you drive here yourself?" The only reply Nightwing got was the slow blink of tired eyes. The immortal was apparently left to his own devices so he searched the crowd for Bruce's usual driver. It was déjà vu to the extreme. All these people that Richard had grown up with were now looking ancient. True, it had been nearly a decade since the ex-ward of the millionaire had been at the manor, and at least 6 years since his change. After a thorough sweep of the crowd, Richard came to the conclusion that Bruce had somehow managed to drive a car down to the old Gotham cemetery by himself. The same cemetery where his parents were buried.
By the time everyone had left the rain had let up some. Now it was just a dismal mist that seemed to cling to everything, making it heavier than ever before. Nightwing, who had simply walked to the funeral, found himself driving the Dark Night's limo as the man seemingly slept in the passengers seat. Richard kept a wary eye on him. Bruce looked...old for lack of a better description. He had bags under his eyes, his whole body seemed to collapse in on itself with the weight of sadness. The immortal one felt a pang of guilt but quickly shoved it away. Batman had chosen this life, knowing the outcome. He was not going to ruin his existence just because his ex-mentor had.
It was quiet at the manor. When they had first arrived Richard had almost expected to smell the delicious scent of cookies wafting through the huge house like every other time he had visited. And then reality had come crashing down as the ex-hero realized that Alfred was gone. Gone. Gone forever. Gone for good. The thought had the deceased's "grandson" shaking even though he tried to hide it. Richard used every technique he had ever learned about keeping a straight face as he made his way into the kitchen and made some hot tea. After pouring two cups Nightwing searched for Bruce, finding him sitting in a high-backed armchair, staring at the fireplace as if there was actually a fire in it. Richard briefly entertained the idea of lighting one, but then decided the current environment suited the current situation just fine. So instead he handed his ex-guardian a cup of tea and settled onto a nearby couch, listening to wind howl away through the manor.
"Why are you here?" Bruce asked eventually. He never drank the tea, he only held it in his steady grip while his voice shook.
"Alfred was practically my grandfather. Why wouldn't I come to his funeral?" Richard answered in a hollow voice. It would do no good to get mad at the man now.
"You should leave." The familiar scowl crept into the Dark Knight's voice, though it was no where near as threatening as it used to be.
"Actually I was hoping to stay the night." At this Bruce seemed to snap out of the trance he had been in and flew to his feet. The cup fell from his hand but Richard's arm shot out a second before it hit the ground in an amazing display of the immortal's new powers.
"Murderers do not sleep in my house!" Bruce roared, his despair turning into a bubbling pit of anger. But Nightwing made no move.
"Well let me ask you this: would you have let me stay here after I killed Plasmus those many years ago? Because I have not killed since then and I don't plan on killing ever again." The two were caught in a stare down, one set of tired blue eyes against another set of fake-looking blue eyes. Eventually Bruce sighed, and his ramrod straight back slumped over in defeat as he sat back down.
"I hear that you and Slade have taken over Blüdhaven." The man said conversationally. Still Richard knew that he had to tread lightly.
"Yes. Nearly all the organized crime and corruption is gone thanks to us."
"And instead it has been replaced with your own organized crime and corruption." Bruce commented bitterly. "I don't understand why you are ruling with Slade."
"He is my partner."
"And how would you know? Huh?" Nightwing yelled back, tensing up. He hadn't liked where this conversation was going from the start. "How would you know anything about me or my life?" The silence that followed was deafening. It was left ringing in the ex-hero's ears long after Bruce adverted his eyes.
"Do what you want, I give up." The caped-crusader muttered before making his way to the grand staircase. This surprised Richard. Normally the man would be on his way to the Batcave. What if... No. The ex-hero refused to let himself think that way. Batman was just going through some hard times, and would be right back at it in a week or so. At least that's what he hoped. Even though Richard wasn't exactly working on the right side of the law, he still supported it. Without Batman Gotham would fall, become worse than Blüdhaven had been. And as far as Nightwing was concerned him and Slade didn't want to expand their evil-empire anytime soon.
With a sigh Richard stood up, placed the two tea cups on a nearby table, and went to the front door. It was apparent that he wasn't welcome here and he really didn't feel like staying in this empty shell of the manor's former glory. Outside it was nearly freezing, but the rain had stopped completely. Nightwing walked as if he had no time-limit, as if he had no where to go, as if he was just waiting for something to happen. He walked and walked, never growing tired, until he came to the outskirts of Gotham.
"Nightwing." A deep voice rumbled from above him and suddenly a large figure jumped down from the roof of an abandoned building.
"Slade." The forever-nineteen-year-old acknowledged back, making it clear that he really didn't want to talk.
"Let's go home." The older man wrapped an arm around Nightwing's waist and the two began walking once more.
Richard glance over his shoulder one last time at the city where he first became Robin. If he absolutely needed to the immortal could convince Slade that they needed to take on Gotham, but the ex-ward of Bruce Wayne really didn't want to. Deep down he prayed that Batman made it through, that he would keep doing what he did best. Because the world needed its superheroes, just as it needed its super villains.
A/N THE END! I'm DONE with this story! Unless I do a sequel. But I'm not sure. Now that I'm free of this I'm going to focus on Island of the Birds more and finish that story too. Thank you all who read and reviewed! It means a lot!