Disclaimer: I would love to claim ownership but I do not have it. Even though I'm Batman. My apologies. Apparently even Batman can't own him(her)self.
Summary: Batman visits his parents' graves and notices he's being watched. Can this visitor help him finally accept his parents' deaths? Can he let go of his unnecessary guilt?
A/N: Okay, so this is based off a RP which is based off a picture. (Said picture is the image of this story—which I do NOT own by the way.)
Why Batman was here at this very spot right now, he didn't know. He knew why Bruce would want to be here, but he was not Bruce. If one was technical, they would argue that he actually was Bruce, but he wasn't being technical. He was dressed as Batman and therefore took on the persona of Batman. Though if he was being honest with himself, he did know why he was here as Batman and not Bruce.
He hadn't visited his parents' graves in a very long time. He couldn't bring himself to do it. Somewhere deep down he knew he needed to. He needed to see them but he couldn't face them. Though Alfred and countless others tried to convince him their deaths was not his fault, he still felt guilty and he could not return to their tombstones alone. He couldn't do it. He could not face them, though he wished he could. So instead Bruce put on his mask and went as Batman. They needed to be introduced to this side of him, he reasoned. He wasn't afraid to go as Bruce; no, he just wanted them to meet Batman. Meet the man that became of their deaths. Meet the man whom was trying all he could to get vengeance for their deaths against the scum of Gotham.
So that's how he found himself here, standing in front of their tombstones with a make-shift bouquet of flowers. He read their names engraved in the stone and a tear slipped from his eye. He shook his head; Batman did not cry. He was the strong one. "Mom, Dad," he addressed them quietly. "It's me, your son. I—I know I probably look ridiculous and it's not even Halloween or anything," he laughed nervously.
He was reverting to a younger version of himself. Being here brought back memories of happiness and of his family. He was remembering being a son to someone—two someones. His many shields he had put up after their deaths were slowly fading away the longer he stood here. "I'm a little too old for trick-or-treating. I... I just wanted..." He couldn't form the words. What did one say to his parents' graves? Scratch that; what did Batman say to his parents' graves? He took a deep breath. Speak from your heart, he coached himself. "You're probably wondering why I'm doing this, why I'm fighting. It's... it's for you. It'll always be for you."
His throat constricted but he refused to cry. Batman didn't cry. Unshed tears glassed over his eyes and blurred his vision but he wouldn't let them fall. Batman closed his eyes, listening in his heart for a sign that they had heard him but all he heard was silence. There was a hole in his heart—two actually—where they had once filled. He couldn't even feel them anymore.
It might mean something poetic, this silence. It might be their disapproval from his declaration; it could be their shock; their thoughtfulness of it; or their way of telling him that he would not get a response until he truly visited him there at their graves as himself and himself only—as Bruce.
He knew somewhere deep down it was the last one. He didn't know how he knew but he did. They didn't want him to come back to them, back home, while wearing a mask. They wanted their son, not Batman.
But he couldn't do it. He wasn't strong enough. It's been many years since their deaths but he still couldn't bring himself to face them. Not yet.
Just as he was about to turn and leave, he felt a presence around him. Someone was watching him. He opened his eyes (now suddenly free of tears) and listened; his hearing as good as a bat's. Some snow crunched to his right—it was quiet but he could hear it. It might have been something as trivial as his follower shifting their weight but he heard it. Batman turned and spotted the person.
He recognized him immediately. It wasn't just anyone. It was Alfred.
Alfred, the man who had picked up the pieces as best as he could when tragedy struck the Wayne family, was standing there watching out for him just as he always has.
The man strode towards him through the snow and stood by his side, staring at the graves of his former masters. Batman turned his gaze back at the tombstones as well and they both stood in silence for he didn't know how long.
Finally, Alfred broke the silence. He turned to Batman and said quietly, "I think your parents would appreciate it if you took off your mask."
"I can't," denied Batman immediately. "I'm not ready."
"You are an adult," his butler said reasonably. "And as an adult, it is time to grieve. I fear this has gone on far too long. You've spent too much time feeling guilty over something you had no control of. It is time to let go. It is time to move on."
"I can't just forget that night."
"I'm not saying you should. I am saying that you should accept it and move past it. It is time."
He wanted to argue. He wanted to do as he's always done—brush it off and bottle his feelings. However, he knew that this time Alfred wouldn't let him. His faithful butler was not going to take his bullshit lines and let him put on his mask (this one having nothing to do with the cowl). He was going to see right past it anyway, as he always had, and Batman got the feeling that he would not leave, nor let him leave, until he ridded himself of his mask; both of them.
Slowly, he reached up and lifted the cowl off his head. He shut his eyes tightly, not wanting to face the tombstones while he was without a disguise.
He might be wearing the suit, but without the mask he wasn't Batman. Finally, he was Bruce.
"Open your eyes, Master Bruce," Alfred commanded.
He started to shake his head but Alfred wouldn't have it. "Bruce. Open your eyes. Communicate with your parents."
"Alfred," he pleaded in a small voice. He was pathetic. Here he was, a grown man, sounding like a complete child. His fingers twitched to put the cowl back on, but Alfred snatched it out of his grasp.
"You don't need a mask. Open your eyes, Bruce, and open yourself up to them. They will respond." It was almost as if he knew they hadn't spoken to him in any spiritual way when he spoke to them earlier. He should have known Alfred would know—Alfred knew everything about Bruce even if Bruce himself didn't know it.
Bruce gradually allowed one eye to open. "Now the other," Alfred demanded and Bruce did as he was told like he was a child listening to an authority figure again.
As soon as both eyes were uncovered, a gust of chilly wind whipped at Bruce's face and burned it with that icy frost. He shivered, and suddenly his heart felt heavy and like it was singing. His eyes widened. The holes that had been there before were filled with something that didn't exactly patch the hole but replaced it with a new feeling. It was his parents' presences that he felt in those holes. Before he couldn't feel them at all, couldn't feel their love anymore, but now it was almost like they were still alive. He turned his head to describe it to Alfred but he found he didn't know how to begin.
Alfred was grinning ear-to-ear with pride and he spoke as if he was reading Bruce's mind. "That feeling is you accepting them in your heart. They are gone in body but they have never left you."
"But I couldn't feel them before," said Bruce. "How could they always be there if I'm just feeling them now?"
"That's because you are allowing yourself to feel them. You are permitting yourself to accept their deaths and grieve."
His heart sang one gorgeous note to him and he didn't need a translator to interpret it: "It was never your fault. We are here, son, and we have never left you nor will we ever. We love you. You have to let it go…"
Let what go? He wasn't about to let them go. He just got them back, even if it was only in spirit. He shook his head silently, willing them to understand.
"Let the guilt go, Bruce," his parents urged. "We will be here for you always but you have to let your guilt go. It was not your fault and we would never blame you. Let it go."
Bruce suddenly burst into tears of long held guilt, letting them fall where they may, and a weight was lifted off him. With every tear drop, he felt lighter.
He put his head in his hands and sobbed. He then felt three sets of arms around him, though only one was actually there physically. And those arms just held him tightly until his tears faded.
"Home is where the heart is, Master Wayne, and you have let them into it. You've gotten rid of the guilt and made room for them in your home."
The mask he had worn for so long was gone and he was finally Bruce—the real one. Alfred was right; he was finally home.