Prologue

Prologue

I’m so tired of running.

I’m tired of the traps, the games, and so tired of always running.

More than anything though, I’m tired of the laughs. I fucking hate the laughs; his laughs.

It’s funny to him. Death is actually funny to him, but why wouldn’t it be? To this day, I’ve lost count of how many he himself has killed, harmed, or worst… Barbara. Jesus, he even got her. Still, I couldn’t let Jim do it. I should have, but I didn’t. Why? Why does he get to live? I don’t even think he knows, but that’s the joke isn’t it? That a single disturbed man who either can’t or won’t defend himself hand to hand can kill hundreds because a man who is literally trained to kill won’t do it.

I get the joke now.

I don’t know why his death was so brutal. It felt amazing though. It wasn’t justice, but I didn’t care. He was used to the beatings. Hell, sometimes I felt he enjoyed them, but not this time. I could see it in his eyes the moment he knew I was going too far. The smile was fading. Soon though, I had beaten him so hard he couldn’t tell what was going on. I kept going fist after fist after fist. I was trying so hard I could feel a slight vibration from each punch from the concrete. Even with the plating and armor, it hurt. I liked pain though. Always did to be honest and this pain was special. It was as if my pain was penance for my actions… For my neglect. He’d been dead for at least ten minutes before I stopped.

And finally, he was gone forever.

The whole way home I was just waiting for Jim. Where was he? There was no way he didn’t know by now. Once I arrived, Alfred asked how my night went? I can’t even remember what I said, either way he got the message and left me to myself for the rest of the night. I showered, put on pajamas for once, and poured a glass of my Father’s scotch and drank for the first time in 25 years. Could you believe with all I’ve been through that I’m a lightweight? I sat in my chair forever just looking around at my room, it truly is beautiful. I have so much and I never just sit and appreciate it. Half-way drunk I couldn’t help, but keep staring at the newest addition to my room. It was a picture of Damian and me on his first day in the cave. I was teaching him how to use the grapple hook. Once he became Nightwing, Dick told me to never train another Robin with safety nets because they must know the risks, but if they fall, catch them… Or don’t. I’m still not sure if he was kidding about that last part, but he was right.

Every Robin got the same treatment and every one of them, including Damian, fell the first time. Damian got the farthest though. I actually think he would have made if it weren’t for a tiny blue jay that flown in and hidden away for god only knows how long down there. The shock of it popping out at him caused him to fall but I caught him no problem. As I held him I asked if he was scared. He hopped out of my arms and flashed that cocky grin I’d given him and said, “Why, were you?” He pulled the biggest smiled out of me that I’d had in a while at the time. I remember looking at him for that moment in a bit of awe. Unknown to both of us until we heard the click, Alfred had brought a camera.

“My apologies Master Bruce and Master Damian.” I hadn’t seen a smile like that on his face in years. “I thought it best for historical records.” He couldn’t even contain his joy enough to think of a competent lie. No doubt he snuck the picture in my room. It’s not like I’m ever here really to catch him.

I couldn’t stop looking at the picture. Neither of us had on our gear so out of context it just looks like a father and son being active together. A father and son together. In that moment, most definitely drunk, I had to see him. I slightly stumbled down the long hall to his room hoping he hadn’t snuck out again; he hadn’t. He was so peaceful. My son just laid there. If I could’ve cried I would have. I wanted to hug him, but no kid needs to wake up to their drunk father no matter what his mood is. Though my stealth really wasn’t on par, I at least made it back to my room to find Selina waiting for me.

Her nightly visits had become more and more frequent over the years. At this point, I’m sure Alfred knew. Honestly, I’m pretty sure the whole league knows. Her always hypnotic gaze was finally broken to share in laughter as I stumbled in like some drunken prom date. She caught me as I tripped and sat me in a chair.

“You always have to start the celebrations without me don’t you, Bruce?” She said.

She poured herself a drink and sat on my lap caressing my face.

“The good scotch, huh? You know how often I wanted to steal this?” she nosed her glass, took a sip, and savored it.

“It’s what they drank, isn’t it? You’re parents I mean…”

I nodded.

“That’s why I never took it.” She said.

She raised her glass and I toasted with her.

“To the Waynes” She said.

“Are we celebrating?” I said.

“Well that’s what I figured.” She said.

“I… I killed Joker tonight about an hour ago.”

Selina leaned back confused and took another sip from the scotch.

“I know.” She casually said.

“You do?”

“Everybody knows, babe. Haven’t you been… Of course not.”

Selina picked up the remote.

“World’s greatest detective with a titantron tv doesn’t watch the news.” She says.

From the moment she flicked it on, I was assaulted with huge bold headline banners screaming “JOKER FOUND DEAD. BATMAN WANTED FOR QUESTIONING” Every channel was covering it. Suddenly, there he was, Jim. He looked just as tired as I was. He said the usual police bullshit.

“We have leads, but right now that’s all we have. Please allow us time to gather our resources.”

“Is it really worth investigating commissioner considering the life led by the Joker?”

“A life is a life. Nobody is more important than anyone else, and with that said, one death does not hold less weight than another.

“He knows I did it.” I said.

“We all know.” She said clearly succumbing to the drink.

“How can you celebrate then?”

“Well I’m certainly not going to mourn”

”I broke my rule.”

Selina pulled me closer to her beautiful face and kissed me passionately. I could still taste the scotch on her tongue. Afterwards, she looked deep into my eyes with her gaze.

“Fuck your rule.” She said.

In that moment, I agreed with her too, but then…

“How can I possible set an example this way.”

“Really? As opposed to continually beating the shit out of people only to rinse and repeat?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a god at what you do, Bruce, but if you’re rule was truly effective, don’t you think these repeat offenders would eventually stop? Of course, you’ve stopped their big plans, but their money flow continues and no prison can hold them. Do you know why? Because you’re making them work harder. Every second chance these guys get, they use to get stronger, smarter, and deadlier. And sure, you’ll always survive and stop them, but what about that one hostage, security guard, or cop that takes the first bullet to cause alarm for the bat-signal to even go up? You’ll never get a second chance to save them.”

I was in complete shock at what I had just heard when she finishes her glass and gives me the sexiest look I’ve ever seen and says.

“I know we use different methods, but there’s a reason I don’t have to worry about someone stealing from my home.”

Bruce sits in his room looking out the grand window that bathes him in sunlight. The news plays on mute in the background.

“She left early this morning without a word as usual. I wish she had stayed also as usual, but that’s what I’m left with. For the first time in a long time I have no idea what to think.”

Directly behind Bruce, Clark exhales and steps out of the shadows dressed business casual for his upcoming day at the Daily Planet.

“I think she’s right. “