Disclaimer: I don't own anything Batman. That belongs to DC Comics and the genius that is Christopher Nolan.
The year I turned three was the year Gotham lost two of its most upstanding citizens- Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gunned down in an alley way outside the Gotham Theater by a man desperate for money. The tragedy was even witnessed by the heir to the vast Wayne fortune: Bruce Wayne. Only eight years old, having to watch his parents slaughtered right in front of him, was enough to leave a lasting impression.
I remember when my father-Dr. Alexander Martin- heard that his good friend and colleague had been murdered. He went into denial: saying it was a mistake, it wasn't true; it couldn't be true, etc. My mother, Jennifer, just cried. Great wracking sobs that echoed through the house and scared me out of my wits. She and Martha had also been close friends- not the fake, society friends you usually saw in upper class families- but real, true friends. I just stood in the entrance of the sitting room, clutching an old worn out stuffed bunny rabbit I couldn't recall the origin of. I observed my parents in their misery until my Aunt Sophie, who lived with us until I was ten, took me by the arm and towed me back to my bedroom.
"Don't worry your pretty head about anything, ma chérie," she'd cooed to me as she tucked my covers around me, "There was a great loss suffered tonight. We must keep our heads held high. La tête haute."
I worshipped Aunt Sophie. She'd been born in France before the family moved to Gotham for my grandfather's job- a heart surgeon. One of the best in Rennes. She'd tutored me in French until I could speak fluently and then we moved onto Italian and Spanish. I knew her word was law, and so I kissed her good-night, cuddled to my bunny, and fell into a deep slumber.
The next morning, my mother dressed me in my church clothes and we drove into the Palisades, a more fancy area of Gotham. I stared in awe at the rolling green lawns and stately manor homes we passed until we entered the circular drive of a downright palace.
Being told I was a little princess all my life, I'd always expected to at least see a castle. Now that my family had taken me to visit one, my three year old heart couldn't take it. As soon as I was free of my car seat, I took off to delight myself in the grandeur. My dreams were crushed, however, when my father caught the back of my coat and hauled me back.
"Delaney Marie Martin! You know better than to just run off. Please wait," he scolded gently, his comforting brown eyes peering into my matching pair. Chastised, I nodded humbly before taking his hand as he led my mother and I up the steps and knocked on the door. A stately older man answered and shook my father's hand.
"Mr. Martin. Mrs. Martin," he nodded politely at my mother and gave her a warm smile before catching sight of me. He also gave me a grin.
"This must be Miss Delaney," he said. I hid shyly behind my father's leg, still in my phase of 'strangers are dragons in hiding.' My father chuckled and ushered me inside before him.
We were led to a grandly furnished sitting room where my mother and father sat me between them on a plush white lounge. I sat perfectly still, folding my hands delicately in my lap and gazing at the older man in reverence. He studied me in turn as my parents situated themselves next to me.
"She's quite well-mannered. Master Bruce was a terror at this age," he commented. I smiled demurely at him and my father beamed, before his face fell when he remembered the real reason we'd come.
"Alfred… is it true? Thomas and Martha are-gone?" he finished, giving me a sideways look. I didn't seem to catch the faltering in his words.
Being only three years old, I'd never experienced what death was before and my parents weren't sure how I'd take it. They felt they'd explain it when I was older and more mature with the capability to handle it. Alfred seemed to notice their hesitation and came to their rescue.
"If you like, Miss Delaney may explore the manor. Master Bruce is just… in his room," I missed the significant look he gave my mother as I was grateful to be excused to entertain myself however I pleased.
Wayne Manor was, in my expert three year old opinion, magical. Large and ominous hallways led into enormous, elegant rooms that were adorned with stylish and charming furniture. If a little girl ever wanted to be a princess, this would be the place to go.
Giggling, I made up a small game that I was Princess Laney (my nickname), hiding from the scary dragon while at the same time searching for my Prince Charming. I rounded corners in mock desperation, crying out "Oh my prince! My prince! Come to me at last!" while toddling out of the way of the dragon's 'fire-breath.' Finally, after about a half hour of these antics, I came across a closed door on the third floor.
I've found my prince! I cheered internally. Slowly, like a cat stalking a mouse, I reached for the door handle and yanked it open.
"I found you!" I cried, before catching sight of a figure by the window. I screamed in fright and fell to the floor as the figure also cried out and hid inside the folds of the drapes.
For a minute, we were both petrified, refusing to show ourselves to the other, before I heard shuffling.
"Uh… I won't…hurt you," came the child-like voice of a young boy cautiously. I peered over the bed I'd hidden under, only to come face to face with a boy no older than eight.
His light brown hair was combed back out of his face and he had rounder features, not yet chiseled from puberty. What surprised me most was the deep sorrow etched in his face. His eyebrows were drawn and his dark brown eyes-only a few shades darker than my own-held a deep gloom that seemed as bottomless as the pure puddles of dark chocolate it drowned in.
"Who are you?" he asked, not impolitely. My heart beat raced and I found my usually chatty personality grow silent. We continued to stare at each other before I finally found the words to speak.
"D-Delaney. B-B-But, momma and papa call me Laney sometimes," I added. He nodded kindly, slightly awkwardly.
"I'm Bruce. Nice to meet you," he held out his hand and I stepped forward to take it. We shook hands and he went back to staring out the window. I huffed lightly.
Normally when I met someone, they would comment on how adorable I was and shower me with attention. This time, however, I knew I would have to use my cuteness factor to be noticed.
I ambled over to where Bruce was and pulled my tiny body up onto the window seat, facing the boy I'd just met. I peered into his lined face and cocked my head.
"Why are you so sad?" I asked innocently. He gazed at me in confusion, like it was odd that I didn't already know.
"My mom and dad are… dead," he whispered, eyes brimming with tears. My brows furrowed.
"What's 'dead' mean, Bruce?" I questioned. He shook his head as tears streamed down his cheeks.
"I don't have a mom or dad anymore!" he burst out, beginning to sob.
This upset me more than anything. I didn't know what losing my parents meant, but when someone other than myself cried it cut me deeply. I found myself begin to weep along with him and before I knew it, I'd reached forward and hugged this boy I'd never met before. I hated to see someone in pain, even at that young age. So when Bruce tentatively wrapped his arms around me in return, it was a small victory on my part.
We sat there for I wasn't sure how long before I felt Bruce tug away from me. We released each other and he sniffled.
"I'm sorry for crying," he apologized.
"It's okay. Papa says everyone cries," I answered matter-of-factly. For the first time since we'd met, Bruce cracked a smile and my chest swelled with happiness. I'd succeeded in making him happy again.
"Do you wanna play prince and princess with me?" I asked excitedly. Without waiting for an answer, I pulled Bruce to his feet and began to direct him in what to do. For another hour or so, we continued this and my mother opened Bruce's bedroom door to see me laying on the bed, arguing with my prince-to-be about waking me up from the enchanted sleep.
"You have to, Bruce! I need to wake-up from my sleep with true-love's kiss!" I whined. He shook his head furiously, crossing his arms as a rose blush tinted his cheeks.
"Nuh-uh," he refused pointedly. My mother, father, and Alfred laughed, alerting us to their presence.
"C'mon, princess. We have to get home to Aunt Sophie now," my father explained. I leapt off the bed and hugged my new playmate goodbye as I bounded into my father's arms.
"Goodbye, Bruce!" I waved as my parents led me out to the car. Before they buckled me into the car seat, I caught a glimpse of the sad boy's arm waving back to me before disappearing back into the shadows.
That was the day I became Bruce Wayne's friend.
ma chérie: my darling
La tête haute: Head up/head held high
A/N: Well, here is a trial run of my new story The Princess and The Bat. I don't have a lot written, but since publishing my other stories I've decided to put up the first chapter of every new story I write to see how the readers feel about it. This isn't set in stone so things like the title (kinda lame I know, but it was all I could think of) and other ideas can be changed. So leave me a review and tell me how you feel! If you like the story, if you don't, if you want to cuss me out and tell me how horrible a writer I am, etc. I take ALL feedback, member or annonymous reviewer. Ok, I've prattled on enough. REVIEW PLEASE! Thanks a bunch! ~Brooke