Title: Memorial Day

Author: DC Luder

Summary: Memorial Day was to be a day of prayer, peace and reflection.

Rating: T

Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.

Author's Note: "Trying" to get my feet wet again with this writing tomfoolery… a little holiday drabble from this summer that I somehow managed to write and not post here. Oops.

A/N 2: Continuity wise, let's wind the clocks way back, post BW: Murderer/Fugitive, pre-Hush…. Just to where Jason was still a good little ghost.

^V^

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Clyde Campbell

^V^

Reviewing my ledger and calendar at the start of my day, I was mildly surprised to find it was already the last Monday of May.

After a savage winter and dreary spring had cast us in darkness, the promise of summer was approaching. I had always been fond of the month of May as it was generally the first amount of truly decent weather to tend to the gardens. Although my charges over the years had appreciated my skills within the constraints of the Manor's walls, I had always taken more pride in my outdoor efforts.

The first week of May unveiled the early blooming rhododendrons and azaleas while the flowering dogwoods and late-flowering cherries came to life. The following week, the herb garden just outside the service entrance yielded a variety of aromas that always drifted through the kitchen windows. As the first half of the month gave way to the second, magnolias, lilacs and manicured yew became vibrant under the warm sun. And over the course of the final week, the lilies and tulips and old garden roses began to fill the air with their sweet scents.

A floral orchestra. One that went unnoticed by the only other resident of the property.

I had seen little of Master Bruce over the last few weeks, his responsibilities at Wayne Enterprises equally matched by those of the dark knight. Over the years of his self-proclaimed war on crime, he had always been willing to spend more time behind the mask and less as his counterpart. Regrettably, following his false-imprisonment at Blackgate and the consequences of his escape, Master Bruce had been diligently working to rebuild his image. Repairing his public relations had been infinitely easier than tending to his personal ones…

Time heals all wounds, I mused to myself while closing my ledger.

Rather than ascend the steps to rouse Master Bruce from his well-deserved slumber, I opted to make my way to the ground floor, silently making my way to the kitchen. Hitting the lights, I promptly put a kettle on to boil. It was just after six, a late start but given that my charge's day off meant he would sleep until noon, it would be a lax that went unnoticed. With his being the sole resident, it was easier to tend to my daily tasks when he was away or unconscious.

It also made it far too quiet in the great house.

Tea in hand, I retraced my steps down the corridor and to the rear terrace, quietly passing through the French doors. Taking a seat at the small table that rarely saw human guests, I mentally played back the meager list from my ledger. A federal holiday, there was no need to tend to the mail or the tasks at the bank. Groceries had been delivered on Saturday and I had trekked into town Sunday to shop for produce.

I had made a number of inquiries over the course of the week as to possibly planning a dinner but no one had seemed available.

Or interested.

With the house in order, save for the daily laundry and tidying, there honestly wasn't much to do. Fortunately, the forecast was favorable which opened the possibility to spend some time weeding and feeding the flowerbeds. The landscaper was due on Wednesday with fresh mulch and a crew of four to mow the seemingly endless lawns.

There was an event in town later that afternoon to honor local fallen veterans of a great spread of wars, including a small carnival of sorts with proceeds to benefit a number of reputable programs. The annual canoe regatta started at noon, with prizes for the wide variety of divisions in the competition. Festivities also included a barbeque dinner held at the VFW, leading up to fireworks after dusk.

When my charges had been young boys instead of grown men, I had attended the Memorial Day events with them. Master Dick had bested nearly every carnival game, save for landing three rings on one of dozens of closely spaced pegs. When he had moved on, I had taken Master Jason, although only just once. He had preferred the rides to the games, and had somehow devoured three spools of cotton candy without my knowing. Master Tim had accompanied me the previous year, far more quiet and reserved than his predecessors.

Master Bruce had not visited the event since he had been seven years old, and no doubt it would remain that way.

He, very much like myself, preferred a simpler and more private manner of remembering those no longer with us.

I had caught him numerous times starring down at the new rug in on the third floor corridor, his eyes studying the spot where Vesper Fairchild had taken her last breath.

On the rare occasion he was unaware of my presence in the Cave, I would notice him lingering briefly at the glass display case containing the guise of Jason Todd.

The various allies he had tried to distance himself from, only to have lost them forever.

The oil portrait above the study's fire place…

To my surprise, Master Bruce woke shortly after eight, finding me in the rose garden. Rather than dress for work in the Cave, he wore only a pair of running shorts and a dark pair of sneakers. He was curt in explaining that he was going for a run in the woods and would be back later, giving no specific time. As always, he would return when he felt his work was done. As a young boy, he had left me for seven years, returning when he was ready.

Resuming my weeding, I mused that after the travesties he had endured of late, he would hopefully return to me much sooner.

With the warmth of sunburn on my face, arms and neck, I decided to break for the warmest part of the day. Washing up in my quarters, I changed into fresh slacks and a shirt before preparing lunch, for myself and for Master Bruce. Given the high temperature, I went about making fresh lemonade, cold cut sandwiches and a dill potato salad. With it approaching one, I put away the meal to leave it chilled for his inevitable return.

Refreshed and fulfilled, I quickly went about tending to the master bedroom and bath, setting up the laundry and then making a trek to the study. Everything was in its usual place and in pristine order, leaving me with little to do.

Rather than head into town alone, I opted to take a seat back on the terrace, my eyes on the edge of the lawn as it surrendered to the wall of pines. After twenty minutes of silent thought, I returned to the kitchen briefly to retrieve the carafe of lemonade, topped with ice, and two glasses.

Two-thirty passed, meaning the small marching band and honor guard was performing at the Bristol Park.

Three-thirty came, the town no doubt filling with the aroma of barbeque and the laughter of children on the rides.

Four-thirty would mark the conclusion of the canoe regatta, the awards ceremony to follow promptly at five.

Five-thirty…

A figure appeared just after six, nearly eight hours after it had disappeared. He walked in a dead straight line across the open lawn, seemingly heading directly at me. As he came closer, I spotted the flesh of his arms and torso were red, not only with sunburn but with a flush of exertion. Sweat dripped off of him, rivets interrupted by small scrapes and cuts. Without directly acknowledging me, Master Bruce climbed the stone steps of the terrace, walked over and slowly sat down in the chair opposite mine.

I poured and offered him a glass but his eyes remained straight ahead as if he too expected something to appear from the woods.

Up close, I spotted rashes of poison ivy, deer fly bites and a jagged cut on his left shin that had long since coagulated. He had always been prone to pushing himself to his physical limits, often to clear his head or get a fresh perspective on a trying case.

There were times, however, that I felt he did to simply try to outrun the ghosts of his past.

After a long, silent hour, he finally exhaled slowly and said, "Thank you, Alfred," before raising the glass to his lips.

"You are very welcome, sir. I take it that it was a successful... nature hike."

Setting the condensation coated glass back down empty, Master Bruce replied, "In a way."

"And what way is that, sir?"

I expected a vague response, followed by him rising to his feet in order to head for the Cave. Instead, he answered, "I can't help but think about those that sacrifice themselves so willingly… without question."

"Much akin to yourself, sir."

He shook his head, "No… I question everything, Alfred. Why that after all I've been through, all I've seen, all I've done… that I'm still here. Reasonably sane and healthy… when I have every right not to be. When others should be…"

I allowed the silent pause to last longer than it should have.

He shook his head, letting his gaze find me briefly before looking back to the never ending green, "Fortune spares me, fate takes others…"

Clearing my throat, I offered, "You, more than anyone, understand that it is a cruel world. A world that offers justice as readily as injustice. Your very existence, your survival… is an attempt to fight back, to right the wrongs that have been dealt."

He sighed quietly, in deep thought or possibly allowing a crack in his physical façade to go along with the mental one.

I continued, "You are here to do good things. Fortune and fate have no control over you, sir. I believe you've proved that many times. Try as they might, they can not deter you, they can not confine you… they can only test you. To see just how determined you are to defeat them."

Seven-thirty marked the fifty-fifty raffle at the Memorial Day event.

Eight-thirty arrived with the first test fireworks making their way into the dusky sky.

Quarter of nine, a flash of light seared from a distance and Master Bruce rose from the chair and stepped into the house without saying a word. Leaving him to make a speedy departure via the Cave, I tended to locking doors and shutting the lights off on the ground floor. By the time I made it to the subterranean level, the Batmobile had long since departed, leaving the only faint sounds echoing from up high.

Memorial Day was to be a day of prayer, peace and reflection.

And it was just that.

^V^