Title: Solitary Existence
Disclaimer: DC Comics & WB get all the money; I get nothing but fun.
Summary: Batman fights, guards, and suffers alone. Usually.
Notes: Written as a penalty drabble. Hope it's all right.
It was no match for the solitary protector of Gotham City. It was haunting him, stalking him, following him everywhere he went. He couldn't hide from it and couldn't shake it. Every attempt was met with the same response: utter and complete failure.
Frowning and trying to concentrate on the empty streets below, Batman crouched on the rooftop of Wayne Enterprises. He felt the wind whip against his cheeks and the rain beat against his back. Rain couldn't penetrate his costume, though it made the black shine with slickness. But the rain did trickle down his face, against his lips and chin. Drops ran down his neck beneath his neckplate. And though his nose was protected under his mask, it ran as well.
Then it struck him, seemingly out of nowhere. His chest constricted and his body shook with harsh coughs. He kept his mouth closed which kept his coughs silent. Though he was so far above the city that it was inconceivable anyone might hear him, he still valued silence and stealth, simple as those tools might be. When this cough had showed up, he'd tried fighting it and tried taking care. But cough drops, tea with honey, and the best medicine a billionaire's money could buy hadn't gotten rid of this thing. Weeks later, the coughing still assaulted him on a regular basis.
Tonight, however, it brought with it the misery of the cold temperatures and the strong rain and a whole host of other symptoms. “huhrrr… EHShhhh! Ehsh! Ehsh! Ehshoo!” Batman shivered ferociously. The freezing rain was getting to him. The storm was making it impossible to pick up any transmissions. If the criminals out there had any sense at all, they'd be inside tonight anyway. It was awful out and Batman was in no mood to go easy on anyone. A fight might do him good, but going home to get warm would be even better.
“hehhhh-ershuhhh!” He sniffed hard and coughed again, with the same, painful, held-in coughs. Those seemed to break him, finding his limit at last, because he rose and headed for home.
Bruce sat hunched over on the edge of a chair. He stabbed at the kindling with an iron poker but the flames refused to catch hold of the logs he'd placed there. He shivered, swore, and sat back in his seat as he watched the rebellious fire die away.
“You'd think that in all your training and with all your skills, you'd have learned how to keep from catching a chill.”
Bruce turned his head to see Alfred approaching. “Strangely enough, my training did cover that.” He had his arms crossed tightly across his chest. His hands moved up and down, trying to warm himself. But he felt the awful need to cough again and closed his eyes as his body shook involuntarily.
“What did you think you were doing going out again tonight when you still have that cough?”
“I thought I was doing what I always do-- looking after the city.” With a clearing of his throat and a liquid sniff, Bruce corrected Alfred, “And, actually, I have a cold now.”
Alfred crouched down in the small space between Bruce and the fireplace. He readjusted the logs and added several handfuls of twigs and sticks. “I shouldn't wonder if it might not be closer to pneumonia by now.”
“It's not.” His voice was low and harsh, like it was when he had his mask on. Only now he had on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. He was half-wrapped in a thick, gray fleece blanket. “I… only h-have… her-herschhhhhh!” He sniffled and dragged the edge of the blanket against his nose.
“I think you can afford tissues, Master Bruce.” Alfred set a small box down on the arm of the chair. “God bless.”
Bruce sniffed and rubbed his nose with a tissue. “Where did those come from?”
Alfred smiled and turned back to the fire. He blew into the fireplace carefully a few times before he answered. “You're not the only one allowed to exercise a little stealth once in a while. I had a feeling they might come in useful. Ah, there we go.” The fire leapt at the wood in a strong, steady blaze. When Alfred stood and moved aside, Bruce felt the beautiful warmth from the flames against his skin. Bruce held his hands out, rubbing them together, getting as close to the flames as he dared. He knew the warmth would do nothing for his cough, which was not unexpected considering he couldn't find a thing that would touch it. And he knew the fire would not help the rest of his cold either. But it felt damn good to be warm again and that was a start.
“Thank you,” Bruce said, his voice rough but full of gratitude. When he looked over, however, Alfred had already gone. Bruce cracked a smile.