A Batman Begins/Dark Knight/Dark Knight Rises Fanfic by SouthernImagineer/ecto1B
Chapter One - dedicated to Hope, the true inspiration behind my stories and the best friend and sister a girl could ever ask for.
"… nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should." – Julia Child
"The Waynes are here."
Eyes wide, Nancy De Luca gripped her husband's hand.
"Thomas and Martha? They haven't eaten here in years." Hastily, her gaze dove over her husband's shoulder, eager to spot the wealthy couple seated in the dining hall. "Are you certain it's them, and not another pair named Wayne? Look-alikes, perhaps?"
Giorgio spoke quietly enough so that his voice drowned in the sounds of the kitchen. He dipped his head. "It's them, Nan. I'm positive." Briefly, he caught himself smiling. "They brought their son. They're seeing a show tonight, and they stopped by for a light dinner beforehand. I just spoke with them." He tossed his head. "I was going to send Curtis over to wait on them, but I thought I'd run it by you first. Maybe you'd like to—"
The older woman held up a hand, smiling. "Have Curtis take their order. I'll stop by and visit while they're waiting for their meal. I don't want to interrupt them." She looked again at the family, admiring their bright faces from afar, and if only for a second, a sting of sorrow seemed to tinge her irises. It was fleeting; Giorgio wondered if he'd imagined it, for it came and went with such haste. He had no choice to ignore it.
Silently, Giorgio craned his neck and kissed the darkening laugh lines beside his wife's tired eyes. The despondent emotion was long gone by now. "That sounds just fine, darling. I just thought you'd like to know they were here. Do as you'd like." He paused, hesitant. "How long has it been…?"
"Since I've spoke with Martha?" Her voice cracked beneath its obvious weight. "It's been… ages. Her son was only a year old when I last saw her."
"He's ten now, I believe. It's been that long?"
Nancy nodded sadly. "I've done a poor job in keeping in touch with her. She's a busy lady, though. Her husband's philanthropy keeps her on her toes, what with scheduling banquets and charity events. I wouldn't expect her to pay the restaurant any regular visits."
Tightening his grip on his wife's hand, Giorgio kissed her cheek. "Well, now's your chance to catch up." He motioned with his head. "Go. I'll hold down the fort here in the kitchen."
Conveniently, Curtis, the aforementioned waiter, scurried into the kitchen just then, and Nancy caught him in a friendly hold. Her chuckle was light, ringing like a set of wind chimes hanging in the breeze, and the younger gentleman echoed it.
"Need something, Mrs. De Luca?"
"Yes, please. Have you already paid the Wayne family a visit?"
His grin glowed. "I have, ma'am. I'm just coming back from delivering them their drinks and taking their order."
"Good." Nancy patted his back. "Get their order in. I'm going over to their table to speak with them for a moment."
At this, Curtis tilted his head, his curiosity peaked. "I didn't know you knew the Waynes, ma'am."
Giorgio watched his wife sigh and bite her lip. She put a hand on the kitchen doorway, running her fingers across the wood there and contemplating its appearance. For a moment, just as it had before, the same melancholy gleam flashed across her face, dissolving when she looked to Giorgio.
"I did. Once."
"Nancy!" Martha Wayne stood from her chair and stepped away from the table, eager to pull the older woman into an affectionate hug. "It's been so long!"
Bruce watched the newcomer return the hug. He'd never met her before, let alone seen her—or had he? His parents surely knew her. He would ask his father later; Thomas Wayne's attention was already directed elsewhere as he reached to shake the woman's hand.
"It's been too long, Martha. How have you been? And Thomas, it's wonderful to see you!" Nancy directed a cordial smile at both of them, and then to Bruce. "You must be Bruce." She shook her head in disbelief. "My, you've grown. The last time I saw you, you were barely a year old."
From the corner of his eye, Bruce saw his mother mouth a few words of instruction, but Bruce already knew what to say. He'd been taught well. "Thank you, ma'am." He glanced around, sniffing the pizza-scented air and noting an Italian singer's crooning behind the customer chatter. "You have a very nice restaurant."
That was enough to win her over. Her face flushed a bit. "Why thank you!"
Martha and Thomas quickly reentered the conversation, which turned to topics that bored Bruce. The adults were 'catching up,' and he was obviously not included in the discussion. Instead, Bruce fiddled with his napkin, folding it numerous ways and pretending that he was competing to be the best napkin-folder in Gotham. Alfred had shown him a few tricks here and there, and what use was the knowledge if Bruce never experimented?
He didn't refrain from eavesdropping, however. Sometimes adults said the strangest things, and he was keen on hearing a few quirky phrases from his parents.
"How's your son doing?"
"Philip is well, thanks. Still living in Kentucky with Lillian. They've been busy taking care of my granddaughter. Apparently she's quite the handful."
"How old is she? Bruce's age?"
"Almost. Monty is just turning seven this year."
"Monty. What an interesting name. How often do they come to visit?"
"Not often. Lillian loathes Gotham. She hates staying here."
"I remember you saying something about that. Pity. She's probably used to the wide-open spaces of the Midwest. What state is she from, originally?"
"Poor girl's not used to the big city."
"That's what Philip gives as an excuse whenever we invite them up."
Bored, Bruce tuned out until there came a mention of his name.
"You're taking Bruce to see a show?"
"Mefistofele, yes. We'd originally planned on seeing The Mark of Zorro, but I thought an opera would be better for Bruce."
"A little culture never hurt anyone."
"I agree. I'm certain he'll enjoy it."
Seventeen folding styles later, Bruce was immersed in his work. He barely heard his mother speaking to him. "Bruce, stop playing with your napkin," Martha scolded lightly, and Bruce froze. Her voice had come from out of nowhere. "Our food is here."
Pasta. Yum. Bruce licked his lips and set his unfolded napkin on his lap.
"It's been wonderful seeing you again, Nancy," Martha went on, this time speaking again to the restaurant owner. She shook the woman's hand. "You and Giorgio should definitely stop by the manor sometime and have dinner with us. After all, you've graced us with a feast." Everyone's eyes darted to the waiter who'd joined them, depositing plates of mouthwatering Italian food to the three patrons. "It looks absolutely delicious, of course. I wouldn't expect anything else from De Luca's."
This time, the grin on Nancy's face was light. Bruce swore he saw a hint of something sad ridden in the way she looked at Martha. "I'm sure you'll enjoy the meal. And thank you for the invitation. We might have to take you up on that." Stepping back from the table, Nancy nodded at Bruce. "Enjoy your pasta!"
By that time, Bruce had already stabbed a few noodles onto his fork. He raised it heroically. "Yes ma'am!"
With another moderate smile and a genuflection, the older woman vanished behind the kitchen doors, leaving the Wayne family to partake in their meal.
"She hasn't changed a bit," Martha remarked. "Still the sweet motherly figure I remember."
"I'm glad to hear she and Giorgio are doing well," Thomas added, sipping his soup and pausing as he did so. "Wow. This… is fantastic. Remind me why we don't eat here more often?"
Martha laughed. "We really should come back soon. It's a shame I haven't seen Nancy in so long. I feel bad. All of the charity balls have done a number on my free time." Suddenly, she frowned, letting her voice grow softer. "You don't think she's upset with me, do you?"
Mid-bite, Bruce slowed his movements just enough to catch his father's response.
"No, I don't think so. Why would anyone be upset with you, dear?" Thomas reached across the table and squeezed his wife's hand. "You're doing the best that you can. Nancy's a smart woman; she understands."
Bruce loved how well his parents connected, how effortlessly they sought each other's opinions and valued them just the same. He listened further.
"You don't think she's busy, as well? She has an entire restaurant to run. Don't worry, Martha." Thomas gave her hand another firm squeeze, offering her a smile. "You did nothing wrong." He released her hand and picked up his spoon. "Now, let's hurry and finish our dinner." He glanced at Bruce, giving him a knowing look. "We don't want to be late for the show."
Swallowing thickly and returning to his plate, Bruce did as he was told.
It was death he smelled as he gripped Bruce's shoulder; death, wrapped in an impious red alcohol; pain, drawn out like a surgical stitch from a wound; intolerable grief, dribbled and dropped into the lifeless, strewn bodies of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The foul scent was strong, stronger than that of honey or apple pie, stronger than any good smell he'd ever known. A wicked odor, it dried his mouth and shut his eyes, attempting to avoid memorizing how vile it felt.
Alfred never visited Park Row that night. He didn't have to; Bruce reeked of the smell when he approached him, when he pulled the older gentleman into a tight hug and buried his face in his shirt.
"It's my f-fault, Alfred," Bruce wept. "All m-my fault."
Alfred knew at once that the boy was wrong. Despite the smell, the butler hugged the child back just as tightly. "It wasn't your fault, Master Bruce. I promise. It wasn't your fault."
Bruce only cried harder.
Placing a hand atop the boy's dark hair, Alfred attempted to speak again. "It wasn't your fault, Master Bruce."
The forced mantra stuck like glue between his teeth.
"It wasn't your fault."
Edit (7/27/12): Since when was Bruce ten years old at the beginning of Batman Begins? Did I miss something? Anyway. I fixed it, AND Monty's age. And I made it so Alfred calls him "Master Bruce" instead of "Master Wayne." Blah. That age thing ruins my whole set up of time spans... I could have SWORN he was eight! Damn you, Chris Nolan, for going non-canon with the origin story! Oh well.
Edit (7/28/12): GOD DANG IT. I forgot that Alfred says "Master Wayne" twice. Fixed them both to "Master Bruce." GOD DANG IT.
Edit (7/29/12): I really need to stop trusting Wikipedia. So, in the movies, yes, Bruce is eight years old. Damn. BUT, in my story, it works that he's ten... so he will be ten. End of story.