"Now how's that?" asks the nurse. "Are you comfy?"
"Quite adequately so, thank you," he says, swallowing the wince. It's easier to breathe today than it was yesterday, and presumably if this trend continues, breathing will one day no longer be painful. Something to look forward to.
"Good. Janine will take down to the lobby. You take care now, you hear?" She's smiling, and Alfred manages a quirk of his mouth for her.
Janine wheels him out of the ward and into the service elevator. Alfred doubts they've replaced it since Thomas' grant allowed it to be built. The elevator clatters and clanks on its chain. He takes some comfort in the signed inspection certificate tacked on the wall, from a mere four years ago.
When it slows, he feels his gorge rise for a moment before it halts, and the doors open. The porter pushing his chair snaps her gum. His chair's wheels squeak faintly. He feels chilled, but he isn't going to ask for a lap robe like someone's querulous great-uncle.
Bruce is lounging strategically in the lobby, where he can make eyes at an off-duty doctor, but one might think he wasn't serious about her, the way he straightens so quickly when Alfred comes in. Alfred snorts.
"You good from here?" asks Janine.
"Fine. Thank you."
"Alfred! Looking pretty good, we'll have you on your feet and breaking hearts in no time, right... Janine? Here, let me." The sticky wheel that had caused Janine a few false starts doesn't trouble Bruce. Of course, Bruce has pushed more than a few chairs in his time. .They've all been hospitalized at one time or another, and it's a marvel Miss Gordon... well, she wasn't the only one.
The sun outside is warm on his face, and for a moment he squints.
"Thank you James, that will be all," says Bruce, and a boy gets out of the car waiting at the curb.
"You don't need any help with the old guy?" asks the boy.
"I can manage, thank you."
Bruce wheels him around to the passenger side, and Alfred can tell he'd rather lift him into his seat, but Alfred's look warns him off. It's important to train them when they're young. And if he has a sharp stabbing pain in his chest when he leans back in the seat, what of it? He's broken his heart over Bruce a hundred times; this doesn't really hurt in comparison.
Bruce slides into the driver's side, opposite. "Do you like it?"
Alfred takes in what he was too winded to notice before; the distinctive vents, rich paneling, soft leather, the-- "Master Bruce, this is a cabriolet."
Bruce starts the car. It makes a contented purr. "Well, I couldn't quite remember what the one I bought you looked like, so I picked this one up, hoping it would jog my memory."
"I really don't think that a convertible is suitable for an old man such as myself," says Alfred, gliding a hand over the panelling. Gotham slides past silently, outside the window.
"I asked the for one where the hood butterflies back, but apparently they haven't made those since the fifties."
Alfred's quelling look is wasted since Bruce is watching the traffic, but he knows Bruce expects it, so he gives it anyway.
Bruce is avoiding his gaze, silly child, because he's about to say something he knows Alfred will dislike. Alfred isn't the least surprised when Bruce says, "I've... arranged for a nurse to come out to the manor and check on you, until you start feeling better."
"No doubt because hospitals are in the habit of releasing patients who are on death's doorstep?" he asks, but doesn't really bother arguing. Bruce's fears are immovable.
When they slide out of the town, Bruce pulls over onto the shoulder and retracts the top. "Now we'll open her up," he promises.
"Reckless driving, sir?"
Bruce gives him a hurt look. With the roof down, the sun falls on Alfred's face, and he begins to feel warm again. Back on the road, Alfred shuts his eyes against the effect of the curves on his still delicate stomach, and feels the sun on his face. "Your memory has not deceived you. I believe this is the Bentley you bought me."