Growing Pains

All right, Bats… So there's this boy, see? Real smart kid. 'Gifted,' you could say. And he's got this picture-perfect life. A mommy and a daddy to kill for; money, brains, friends—he's got it all, and he's not even ten years old.

Thing is, he's not happy. Nope, in fact quite the opposite; and his smart little brain is trying to figure out what's wrong, but things don't add up, see? Because you'd have to be crazy to be unhappy with everything he's got going for him.

It doesn't make sense and he doesn't know the answer. He hates that. Not knowing, I mean. It just eats him up. He's just got to know, got to find out, and soon he's spending more and more time alone in his room, thinking—no—brooding over the answer...but it's no good, 'cause reason just doesn't seem to cover this one.

Well of course, with him so preoccupied it doesn't take long for his grades to start dropping and for all those cute little friends of his to start drifting away. Doesn't matter to him, though; it's all boring anyway, but Mommy and Daddy start to worry. What could be the matter with their sweet, precious little boy?

The family doctor can't find anything wrong with him, and why would he? The kid's not sick, he's just busy. But these people, they don't see it; so they take him in to see this counselor, right? She's a big, ugly woman with fake blond hair and a fake smile to match, and she calls him things like 'sweetheart' and 'sugar.'

He hates her. Oh, how he hates her. He'd love to take her stupid face between his hands and…and…Well, he doesn't quite know what he'd do, but he knows he'd like to find out. Don't they get it? He doesn't need anyone's help; he can find his answer himself. But the fools just keep pressing him, see? Can't just leave well enough alone, can they? Oh no, it's 'our son' this, and 'my baby' that; talking, nagging, demanding until the kid's about to snap. But they won't stop, won't let up because they love him, and he knows they do, but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters. There is only the question, and the Answer.

Well, it's a year and a half later and now he's turning eleven years old. Mommy and Daddy give him a pocket knife 'cause he's a "big boy" now and they're thinking of putting him in scouts. You know, so he can 'socialize.'

Well I don't need to tell you what he thinks of that idea. Absolutely hates it, of course he does. But the knife…the knife is a completely different set of heads. This thing is magic. The handle fits in his palm like it's part of him, and when he flips the blade out of its hiding place it shines like he's just pulled a star from the sky. He's in love at first sight and he gets the feeling that this beautiful thing is the key that will unlock the secret of his Answer, and that together they will do wonderful, glorious things…

"Even though the year's begun already, pack sixty-six said that they'd be happy for you to join. The next meeting is on Friday, doesn't that sound like fun, darling?"

It doesn't sound fun. It sounds stupid. Don't they listen? Sitting in a room with a bunch of noisy, ill-behaved children isn't gonna make him happy. Not even close. Only his Answer can do that.

He looks up at his parents; sees their big, hopeful, loving smiles…and suddenly, he's angry. How is he supposed to do anything with these clowns around? They're always getting in the way, running around with their stupid ideas, their plans for him and his future. They're useless and worse, they're irritating. Why does he even need them at all?

He decides that he doesn't.

When he's finished, Mommy and Daddy are on the floor and his pretty knife is dripping crimson. For an instant, he knows fear. What had he done? But then he realizes something w o n d e r f u l .

He feels good, Bats. Better than good. I'm talking really loop-de-loop, mind-blowing, off the wall amazing. Better than he's felt in oh-so-long, and all the sudden his mind is screaming that this is it. This is the answer! He knows it must be because with this realization comes a beautiful, euphoric joy that slowly works its way through his veins until it fills him up completely. Almost of its own accord, his head is thrown back and he laughs.

It's a different laugh than the one he remembers having, but that's okay cuz it's better anyway. He's different, too, y'know, and that's okay too because you can't keep on with the same stuff all the time. Get's boring with a capital B, but this…this is anything but boring! He's complete at last and oh, does it feel good!

But he's a smart kid, remember? And soon his brain starts to kick in. he can't just leave things like this. Of course not. That would be stupid.

He's not stupid.

So out he goes, into the streets—and this is Gotham, remember?—so it doesn't take him long to find some street urchin who bears a passing resemblance to him.

He digs up his old people skills long enough to "make friends," before bringing him back to the house. He lets the boy shower and clean up, and even gives him some clothes to 'borrow.'

Then he mangles the kid's face with a baseball bat.

That should be enough, he knows, 'cause, like I said, this is Gotham. Innocent people get killed all the time, and the cops are really just as bad as the mob, so if a family with a blond-haired boy happens to turn up dead…well, no one's gonna look too close.


A/n: And that's a wrap! This originally started out as a single piece, but I'm turning it into a two-parter. Part two will cover the origin of his scars and the first encounter with the Batman.

Thank you so much for reading, please take a few moments to tell me what you thought!