The circumstances under which they met were not important. How they fell in love hardly mattered. That they had to keep their bond a secret and Thomas was pressured into taking a wife was of little consequence.
What truly mattered was that they would still be together forever.
Of course Martha knew. What woman wouldn't? Still, she never breathed a word.
Alfred didn't even mind the work. In the early days, he managed to turn heads in his neatly tailored uniform. Never Thomas', not while there was company. They were always careful about that.
There was pressure for Thomas to produce an heir to the family empire; he and Martha complied. Young Master Bruce was born into a loving family. The eight years that followed were bliss for all involved.
Then it happened.
It rocked Alfred to the very core of his being. He had given up everything for the chance to grow old with Thomas. With the only two people who knew he was more than just the butler dead, he could never mourn properly. He—oh, God—he had to stay strong for poor Bruce. Alfred had known that boy his entire life, knew him better than anyone, and already loved him like a son, but... How do you comfort a child who has been through hell at the same time you're grieving the loss of your partner?
Alfred did the best he could. He swore to himself that no more harm would come to the boy. The Waynes' wills granted him sole custody of Bruce, an oddity explained away with the old 'trusted friend and confidant' line. No one bothered to ask too many questions. The whole of Gotham was mourning, too.
Years passed, but Bruce never truly recovered. He was moody and distant, even for a teenage boy. His resemblance to Thomas was so strong on occasion that it would stop Alfred dead in his tracks. Every day was a battle, but he cherished the small piece of Thomas still alive in Bruce.
When Bruce left to attend university, Alfred felt the same amount of anxiety any parent would.
When Bruce disappeared, he all but fell to pieces.
Those long years were a tremendous crisis of faith for Alfred. He knew Bruce was smart. He wanted to believe he could take care of himself in any situation. But every passing day without hearing from him was another twist of the dagger.
Alfred grew so depressed that he barely put up a fight when board members suggested they have Bruce Wayne declared legally dead.
One static-filled long-distance collect call in the middle of the night, and Alfred's life changed again.
With Master Wayne back from the dead and bursting with renewed ambition, Alfred's life was given new purpose. He was able to put his feelings on the back burner and resume his normal butler duties as well as devote all the rest of his time and energy to the project that would become Batman. Between managing Master Wayne's actual affairs and fabricating alibis to cover up his other activities, Alfred began to think that everything might be okay after all. It was familiar territory at least: living two lives and keeping massive secrets.
They had talked about it, even planned for and anticipated it. But in all honesty, Alfred was ill prepared for Bruce to suffer serious injury. The suit only protected him up to a point. Right from the beginning, the butler had to combat a variety of scrapes and sprains and bruises. He quickly developed a skill for applying stitches. Every time Bruce was badly hurt, Alfred's confidence was shaken. He so hated seeing Bruce beaten and broken.
But Master Bruce always insisted on shaking it off. He'd talk about Pain with a capital 'P' and only express regret in the fact that an injury might interfere with the mission. He didn't understand why it should bother Alfred so much.
One night, though, after Bruce had suffered a potentially debilitating spinal injury, Alfred couldn't keep quiet any more. They got into something of a shouting match over the details of how it happened. After they had both let off some steam, Alfred said, “You are as precious to me as you were to your own mother and father. I swore to them that I would protect you... and I haven't.”
Bruce sat silently trying to avoid Alfred's eye because he really didn't want to see the tears he knew were there.
“Alfred,” he began tentatively, “this whole thing was my idea. You couldn't have stopped me, but without your help, I would have been so much worse off. I'd be lost without you.”
“I still don't think you understand. You're not the only one who lost something the nigh—that night. I can't go through that again, sir. To have another ripped from me in a violent manner... It simply won't do. I'd have to bring you back just so I could bloody kill you myself. Understood?”
Bruce tried to ignore the sniffles and voice cracks coming from the older man. “I... I'll try to be more careful.” He quirked a little smile in a vague effort to cheer Alfred up.
And Alfred let him believe that it worked. “All right. Good. Excuse me.”
Alfred left the room and broke down. He pulled from his wallet the faded picture of Thomas wearing that very same smile and looked at it while trying his best not to drench it in tears. He said a small prayer for Bruce's safety and tried to regain his composure before going about his duties.