TO RAISE A PRINCE

*CHAPTER 1*

It had been a peaceful day at Wayne Manor—an occurrence that was not only rare, but one which Alfred considered much-needed. The phone had been ringing off the hook of late, with each and every member of Gotham's so-called 'elite' wishing to inform Master Wayne exactly what they did and did not like about the city's new Wayne-sponsored public transportation system.

Thus, when the last of the callers had received their replies and well-wishes from the Master himself, and after the charity banquet two nights past, Alfred's job had quieted down considerably. The Master and Mrs. Wayne were going to take Bruce out to see an opera tonight, and although they had gladly invited Alfred along, he had declined. The past few days had left him remarkably drained, and a night to spend in the solitude of the empty manor was perhaps just what he needed.

So, at about six o'clock, Alfred saw the family on their way. It is a moment he has reflected on perhaps a thousand times, recalling every instant in surreal but vivid detail.

He recalls helping Mrs. Wayne with her elegant coat, as well as the kiss she planted on his cheek before moving to her husband's side.

"Goodnight, Alfred. Get some rest tonight," she smiled, and Alfred could not help but smile in return.

"Of course, Madame. I shall look forward to seeing you in the morning."

He recalls handing the Master his long black coat, bidding him goodnight.

"Goodnight, Alfred. I trust you'll hold down the fort while we're gone. Right, Bruce?" Alfred smirked as he watched father and son exchange a knowing wink.

He recalls the way Bruce threw his arms around his waist, hugging him goodbye. "Goodnight, Alfred. See you at breakfast!" Alfred wrapped his arms around the small boy in return, ruffling the messy shock of auburn hair, when the excitable boy piped up once more. "Oh, and Alfred, you can't forget that tomorrow is the day you promised you'd take me and Rachel to the museum! Aren't you excited?"

Alfred recalls sharing an amused look with his employers, as they all chuckled at the bright-eyed, adventurous prince of Gotham. Gazing down at the grinning child before him, he straightened the child's suit jacket. "Of course, Master Bruce," he replies, and he means every word of it, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

He recalls that he is met with a smile, and hand-in-hand, Mrs. Wayne and Master Bruce head out to the awaiting limo.

He recalls that Master Wayne follows behind them, but stops for a moment at the door.

"Alfred, thank you for everything you do for us." Thomas Wayne rested a hand on the shoulder of his butler and friend. "This family wouldn't be where it is if you weren't a part of it."

The two gazes locked, and Alfred noted the sincerity that marked his employer and friend's features.

Nodding graciously, Alfred replied. "Much obliged, Master Wayne. There's no other family I'd be more honored to be a part of."

With a last appreciative glance, Thomas Wayne turned to meet his wife and son in the car. Alfred stood in the doorframe, ignoring the night air's wintry chill. As he had made a habit of doing, he watched as the vehicle trailed away from the manor, towards the bustling lights of the city, waiting until it had passed out of his sight.

Keeping the Waynes under his watchful gaze—an action he had made utterly central to his existence. A practice so commonplace, so painfully ordinary, that nothing about tonight stood out in the least.

But when Alfred remembers this night, it is always with a tear, and the image that strikes him first is always that of the limo driving away.

He recalls that it was the last time.