A/N: This takes place somewhere in the eight years where our very own Bruce Wayne is a recluse.
Alfred was surprised to say the least, to find young Master Wayne standing atop the roof of Wayne Manor. He was even more surprised to realize it was Master Wayne and not the 'Batman' that stood in front of him. Bruce had traded in his cowl and spandex in favor of sweat pants and a T-shirt. Concerned by the multi-billionaires lack of movement, Alfred decided to make his prescence known.
Clearing his throat lightly, he inclined his head forward the slightest. "Master Wayne?"
Bruce gave a start but other than that didn't awknowledge his old time butler. Continuing to stare off into the distance he waited for the man to pose the question he was waiting for.
"What are you doing up here, Master Wayne?" The British man's voice shook, only slightly, but the tremor was noticable to the rich man.
"It's all me, Alfred." Wayne couldn't stop the shaking of his voice either. There was a prominent pain laced into his words that you'd have to be a fool to overlook.
Alfred took a hesitant step toward his superior and swallowed a lump in his throat.
"Master Wayne, I do not believe you to be in your right-" Bruce whipped around then, staring cold hard ice sickles at his butler.
"In my right what, Alfred? Finish your sentence!" Master Wayne's voice had risen to a loud bellow.
Mr. Pennyworth shook his head slightly, sad eyes gazing at his master. In that moment he thought that the Batman had truly gotten to Master Wayne's sanity. That the Joker had broken him and that maybe they should have a cell at Arkham together. "Mind, Master Wayne. I do not believe you to be in your right mind."
Bruce gave a curt nod to the old man and turned back to look at Gotham's skyline. If Alfred could see his face now he'd see the billionaires emotionless mask crack the slightest, a hint of pain pooling to the surface on the otherwise emotionless face. The knuckles holding on to his cane whitened brightly with the pressure he was exerting.
Alfred risked a few more steps toward the broken man before voicing the next question, "You're not planning on jumping, are you? That's a mighty high jump and you don't seem to have a grappling hook on your person."
Bruce laughed a manical laugh, something akin to the Joker's mindless giggle. "That would be the point, Alfred."
Recognition leaped across the British-man's face like a wild fire. "Mr. Wayne, surely you're not thinking of-" Bruce's crazed laughter cut him off once again.
"Oh, but Alfred. Surely I am." Shaking his head in an anything but comedic way he let one small chocked sob escape his tightly shut lips. Alfred could do nothing but give his master a pitying look.
"It hurts, Alfred." Master Wayne sucked in a trembling breath before continuing on. He would tell Alfred. He needed him to hear this, he needed anyone to hear this.
"Everytime I breathe I hear it Alfred! I hear them. Their screams!" He began wobbly pacing the outskirts of the roof, every now and then teetering dangerously over the edge.
"Harvey's, Rachel's, my parents! Gordon's son, Alfred! I hear it every time I hear someone's voice, overpowering theirs. I hear it everytime I close my eyes. I see them, all of them, die."
By now Wayne was shaking without abandon, tear trails prominent on his sunken in face. "It was my fault they died. All my fault because I was too damn weak to do anything about it!"
Alfred took this as his time to interveen. "Master Wa-"
"NO." Bruce glared at his butler, white hot rage seeping from his posture. "No," he said, almost a whisper, more tears leaking from his stony brown eyes.
"I'm so sorry Alfred, " His bad knees got the best of him and he collapsed into a broken heap ontop of Wayne Manor roof. Ignoring his protests, Alfred stepped forward and wrapped him into a warm embrace. Reluctantly, Bruce relaxed into it, still sobbing.
"It hurts Alfred. It's like a knife slowly digging into my spinal chord. Everytime I think I'm going to get better, that their screams will stop haunting and tormenting me. Someone comes along and gives the knife a punch. It's brutal and unforgiving but I just can't complain because I know; I know that I deserve it. All of it."
Alfred said nothing and just held onto the young man.