A Blow To The Heart

Bruce Wayne stood straightly in front of his bedroom mirror, Alfred absently dusting the bureau reflecting beside him. He tweaked his tie and shifted his broad shoulders. Tonight was supposed to be a wonderful dinner party among fellow first-classman… But he didn't like the feeling he got whenever he glanced outside his window and out at Gotham. The city seemed dusted with dry dread, and guessing by the silence provided by Alfred, he assumed he could feel it too.

Finally, he broke the heavy stillness.

"Master Bruce, you wouldn't neglect your invite to this occasion just because of a hunch, would you?"
"No, Alfred, at least, I would hope I wouldn't have to."

Stepping down the stairs, he glanced at the parlor. Then at the clock, pin pointed at 10:47…
He sighed. Tonight, Gotham could wait. "Bruce Wayne" was still a person with a life he needed to live.
But nothing felt quite right…

.

On the way to the party, he couldn't help but try and resist the urge to have Alfred turn the car around, and then live the rest of his night as Gotham's dark vigilante. Unintentionally, "Bruce Wayne" had become more of a mask than "Batman" ever could be. He felt more comfortable in his cape and utility belt than a dry-cleaned suit from the most expensive retail shop in town. He'd much rather be fighting a maniacal plot of "The Joker's" than cooped up in a two-hour long conference at Wayne Tower. It was tiring wearing a mask to conceal a secret identity that wasn't so much a secret, or at least until he'd been arrested all those years ago. When revenge was all he could think about. That's when he'd revealed an immovable part of himself he didn't even know existed.
Most people knew him as "The Batman"; the masked mystery.
When through it all, it was really Bruce who was the man in disguise.

.

Alfred clicked open the passenger door and jolted Bruce from his thoughts.
Sliding out of the car, he observed the glamour of the diners and the scenery behind them.

This was "Bruce's" territory.

"Here we go…"

.

Of course, a bright smile lit his face as always, champagne fizzed in long-stemmed glasses, and he conversed with the guests gaily; the usual. And just as normal, he'd find more than one woman's interest in him. None of this would lighten Bruce's reputation. But none of it really mattered now.

Suddenly, he noticed a dim glimmer of yellow light impressed in the sky outside. Against the night-fallen clouds, the bat-signal loomed over the city.
His staring drew the attention of his female attendant, who gasped as she followed his gaze. Her sharp breath caught hold of the other guests' attention, and they all stared, awestruck, at the glowing plea alight in the sky.

Bruce tried to leave the party without gathering too much attention, but failed miserably when he bumped into a young lady wearing a netted, black-brimmed hat, knocking her off of her balance. He steadied her and took a step back, apologizing for his hastiness. She peeked out from under her red hair, and Bruce's heart jumped into his throat.

"Andrea?"