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Flawed, Not Broken

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When Bruce opened his eyes he was greeted with pain. He pushed through the fog of his mind and came upon the realisation that this was not the usual aching of tired musclesfrom a night's patrol, but in fact a sharp agony emanating from his abdomen. The cold metal of a makeshift, underground operating table burned into his skin and he gritted his teeth, his eyes wide with shock. Talia - she had been with him, she had made their meeting personal, of course. She had… what had she done? Adrenaline and panic surged through his body as his eyes drifted down to his abdomen where a long, fresh incision waited for him. He inhaled sharply through his teeth, the sight of it - neatly and perfectly stitched - reaffirmed the huge amount of pain it brought with it. He felt sick, and worst of all, vulnerable. He pressed two fingers to his ear to activate the communications unit.

“Alfred,” he said, his voice strained and weak, “Alfred, come in.”

No response. He ripped the unit from his ear and threw it across the room with a shout. A wave of pain hit him and knocked what little progress he had made at sitting up back down to zero.

He swallowed hard, but nothing could stop the dryness in his mouth, “Fuck.”

His breathing was heavy, laboured, and full of rage at being rendered almost motionless by something as trivial as physical pain. He had been through worse than this and he cursed himself for being so weak. He pressed a gloved finger to his right forearm, the slimline button hidden in the fabric there made a beep and glowed a soft blue.

“Batwing. Collect,” he grunted and tried to relax against the table to conserve his strength.

The button beeped again in response. The Batwing was on its way.

He laid there on the operating table for what felt like hours. The pain came in tsunami waves as his muscles objected to the absence of the thing Bruce had barely given a thought to since starting hormone therapy. He tried to focus on anything else - the smell of the antiseptic, the tinge of blood, the darkness in the corners of the room, the dust caught in the brickwork. In that small room Bruce felt the hurt and absolute torture that was the betrayal of his trust by Talia; a woman whom he had regarded as an ally, albeit it a dangerous one. He wished that he could become numb to it all, as he so often did, but the trauma forced his mind to take it all in. He could feel the very details of the walls etching themselves into his memory. Finally, he heard the rumble of the Batwing above him. If he could hear it, he wasn’t as far underground as he had originally thought. Old brickwork, too, he noted as the noise of the engines shook the room slightly. He groaned with the effort as he rested a finger on the same button, “Batwing. Deploy.”

The ceiling crumpled in on itself as a thick cord from the bottom of the plane shot its way into the room. Bruce jumped as small pieces of debris hit him, his nerves alight and sensitive. He braced himself and reached upward to take ahold of the cord. It began to move and as it did, it slowly pulled him upwards. He gripped it as tight as he could and let out a strangled cry as his body left the table. With gravity acting on the incision, it felt as if his body were being ripped in two. His muscles spasmed and no matter what he did, he couldn’t escape the pain. Tears sprung to his eyes and he allowed himself to shed them if only so he could keep his grip. The Batwing swallowed him back into its darkness. There was safety in darkness. Bruce pushed a new communications unit into his ear and activated it.

“Sir?”

“Alfred,” he said, relieved to hear the man’s voice, “Prepare the wound care station.”

“You were offline for a number of hours, sir. Are you sure you’re alright?”

Bruce administered a small injectable painkiller and stretched himself out as flat as the seat of the Batwing would allow him, “No.”