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Sunlight-On-The-Sea I: Recluse

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Sunlight-on-the-sea,
Just you and me,
As the darkness disappears
And leaves me with tears,
Because I am so happy.


Jeanette Gold
"Sunlight-On-The-Sea"
1906 C.E.

Alfred carefully prepared the breakfast menu: fluffy eggs, crisp bacon, juicy sausage and fresh melon slices. He squeezed the oranges for juice and put the coffeepot on to boil.

He always liked early morning. There was something fresh about that time of day when the world was new in this old house. Though of course the house was new, built to look just like the original before the fire, but that was neither here nor there for the sake of his musings this morning.

He was more at home here in this kitchen than anywhere else in the world. He knew it intimately and remembered a small boy trying to sneak cookies out of the cookie jar shaped like a pumpkin and painted like a Jack O’Lantern. That little boy had always been rather shy before…that night, but he had smiled more. He had always been exceptionally bright and observant, and had been the joy of the Manor.

Alfred put a small bottle of red pepper flakes on the breakfast tray, poking at the sausages in the skillet. The bacon crackled as the eggs cooked. He popped a melon slice into his mouth from the tray as he remembered the years of grief, disappearance, and return.

Alfred turned the bacon slices over, careful not to spatter grease on the stove. There was the start of the grand adventure, though he had not been completely happy with his charge’s crusade, but once Master Wayne got something in his head, it was virtually impossible to get out. Running around dressed like a bat was one of his odder ideas, but it seemed to work. The symbolism was rather clever, actually.

Fortunately, young Bruce had been supported by Lucius and himself, and Jim Gordon on the streets.

He scrambled the eggs with a deft hand. Jim Gordon had been a godsend. His love for Gotham matched Master Wayne’s.

You’ve always been there for the young master, Commissioner. Even on that awful night, you took care of my boy at the police station until I could get there.

He took the bacon out of the skillet and set the slices on a paper towel to drain. Jim Gordon had shown good sense when he had refused to go along with the Batman’s absurd plan to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s murders. Such misplaced nobility was always stupid, in Alfred’s humble opinion.

He slid the eggs onto a plate and thought about the four years after Dent’s death. The Commissioner had said that the people of Gotham were strong. They would understand about Harvey losing his mind after his horrible disfigurement by the Joker and the murder of his fiancée, Rachel Dawes.

It still hurt to think of Rachel. Alfred put the sausage on a plate as he remembered the little girl who had played with young Master Wayne when they were both children.

He glanced out the window at the fields and the sparkling sea. Sunlight played upon the water, reminding him of his days in his seaside village in England. The ocean had always soothed him, helping orient him in a strange new land years ago when he had come to work for the Waynes.

No matter how dark it got in Gotham, there was always the freedom of the sea.

Four years after Dent, five after the young master’s return to Gotham, the Batman had successfully fought crime with Jim Gordon’s help as Police Commissioner.

Then four years ago, Jim had appeared at the Manor’s kitchen door half-carrying a bleeding Batman…

& & & & & &

“Commissioner?” Alfred’s astonishment was clear in his voice.

“Yes, Alfred. Quickly, we have to get Bruce inside.”

Alfred helped Jim bring in the injured Batman. “The infirmary is in the Cave.”

Jim raised an eyebrow but continued to support Bruce’s weight as they headed to the library. Alfred played the right keys on the piano and the bookcase slid aside, revealing the elevator. The trip down was quick but anxious, and Jim barely had time to register the Batcave’s surroundings, the roar of the waterfall as loud as Niagara to Alfred’s ears as the clean smell of the water could not quite cover the cloying smell of blood.

As always grateful for his medical training, Alfred began tending the deep cut in his young master’s side. “What happened?” he asked Jim.

“There was a gang rumble down in the Narrows. My men arrived but Batman was already engaged against dozens of the gang members. One of them got lucky.”

Alfred glanced up and saw the anguish in the Police Commissioner’s eyes.

“You’ve known…?”

“For awhile now. I didn’t let Bruce know. I was waiting for the right moment.” Jim caressed Bruce’s face, brushing his hair back from his brow.

Alfred worked steadily on the deep wound, asking for Jim to hold the bowl of water as he tried to staunch the flow of blood.

“This knife wound is treacherous.” He bit his lip. “If I can’t stop the bleeding, we may have to take him to a hospital.”

“I can try and tighten security.”

“It would be tricky at best.” Alfred’s hands were remarkably steady as he pressed bandages against Bruce side, the gauze soaking red. Jim handed him the necessary instruments and Alfred finally stopped the bleeding. He began to stitch the wound, frowning as he noticed the torn leather around his charge’s right knee. “This knee looks pretty torn up.”

“Yes, I’m afraid we got there too late.” Jim’s eyes never left Bruce’s face as he spoke. “He took quite a beating.” His voice was laced with pain.

The young master stirred and groaned. “Al…Alfred?” he rasped.

“It’s all right, Master Wayne. Commissioner Gordon brought you home.”

“Jim?”

“That’s right, Bruce.”

Alfred saw the realization of Jim’s knowledge in Master Bruce’s eyes.

& & & & & &

Alfred hummed a jaunty music hall ditty as he put the finishing touches on the tray, placing a yellow rose in the slim white china vase. He picked up the tray and left the kitchen.

The wounds suffered that fateful night had sidelined the Batman for the last four years. A shredded knee and debilitating chronic infections had kept the young master here at home as a virtual recluse.

Alfred walked up the main staircase and reflected on the years of seclusion. There had been pain and depression and frustration until a most welcome development.

Alfred walked down the hall until he reached the master bedroom. Quietly he slipped inside and placed the tray on the nightstand, a cane leaning against the wall in the corner. He was pleased to see his young charge with a smile on his face as he curled up around Jim Gordon in bed.

A most welcome development, indeed.

Alfred quietly slipped out of the master bedroom as the sun rose higher over the towers of Wayne Manor and the nearby sea.