The manor was quiet. The manor had not been this still since before the arrival of Bruce’s first young ward. The same ward, who was now a young man attempting to save the entire world, along with the streets of Gotham and Bludhaven. The same ward, who refused to return to the manor or even to the cave once he noticed that Alfred had switched his coffee to decaf and had added sedatives to the antidote to Ivy’s latest toxin.
Alfred did not regret his choices. No, the young sir needed rest desperately. He did, however, regret the obviousness of his sedative choice. Had he chosen a milder sedative, there was a good chance the young sir would have not noticed and assumed he had simply passed out from exhaustion. But what’s done was done.
The young sir had not returned in over a week, and Alfred was not worried. No, the old gentleman followed the news of Batman’s and Nightwing’s whereabouts. His youngest charge was indeed alive and according to the press, unharmed. Not that the reporters would truly have an accurate assessment of Richard’s health, but at the very least, it meant that the vigilante was still able to perform adequately.
No, the elderly butler was not worried. He was, however, concerned. Richard had accrued a rather substantial sleep debt since Bruce was forced to leave to stand trial on Rimbor.
The stress of attempting to protect the world from the Reach, the secrets he kept from the others, and his asinine decision that Batman and Nightwing must be seen patrolling and protecting their cities had depleted the young sir’s impressive resources. The depression that lurked behind his laughter as a teenager was resurfacing, and there was little Alfred could do to prevent it.
Well now that the young sir had seen fit to remove himself from Alfred’s watch, there was nothing he could do to prevent it. No matter how adequately Richard performed under these trials, Bruce would be displeased to hear about his son’s worsening mental condition. Alfred had already failed one child, was he doomed to fail another?
Perhaps if Jason had survived – no. He would not focus on what ifs. That was no way forward. He returned his attention to the stove. If nothing else, he would make sure that whatever location the young man had taken residence in was stocked with his charge’s favorite dishes.
The doorbell rang. He placed the wooden utensil on the spoon rest beside the stove and walked to the door. It was a quarter after three, which meant Timothy had returned to the manor instead of his own home or to the team. He prayed that didn’t spell disaster.
He opened the door and took Timothy’s jacket. Alfred did not know how the young sir could tell, but as soon as the door closed, his face fell.
“He hasn’t returned yet?” There was a note of hope dying as the young teenager spoke.
Alfred did not appreciate Richard passing off his responsibilities with Timothy, while he saved the world. That was a habit he wished his charge had not emulated from his eldest.
“I am afraid not, Master Timothy.”
“I don’t understand, Alfred. Is he trying to get himself killed?”
“I am certain Master Richard will recognize his limitations soon.” There was no reason to concern the latest Robin with his own doubts.
The frankly adorable mini-batglare directed at him proved that the boy was not fooled. Still, it was more productive to solve problems, rather than analyze them. Alfred led the young boy into the kitchen.
“I trust you will be able to guarantee that this food is delivered to Master Richard and not the others.”
Timothy’s glare turned into a small smile. “Only if you also baked cookies for the others.”
The timer dinged and Alfred pulled a fresh sheet of cookies out of the oven with a smile.
Timothy sat down on a stool by the kitchen island and reached for a cookie off the plate Alfred handed him. “You’re the best, Alfred.”
Alfred offered a smile to the boy – if only his grandson felt the same.