I startled awake from my nap on the couch (how could I be so reckless and fall into a deep sleep?) when I heard someone at the door. The little time I had only allowed me to jump up from the couch and move as quietly as possible and without running into the couch table towards the kitchen to hide behind its door. I peeked around the corner. Without having turned on a light, a figure dressed completely in black moved through the apartment with ease, gathering various things to put in a small travel bag. I quickly deduced that the person must be familiar with the layout of the flat. I moved my head back behind the door. My heart was racing. Could it be, I wondered. I dared to look again. Finally, in the light of the street lamp shining through the window, I saw a streak of greyish hair. Yes! I could not believe it.
“Alfred?” I whispered. I thought in this situation it would be a really bad idea to startle an ex-SAS soldier. As I expected, he turned around as fast as a bolt of lightning, gun in hand, aimed at me. I stupidly held up my arms in surrender, stepping from behind the kitchen door into full view. “It’s me.”, I said lamely. Well done.
For a quick second, I saw his face distort in disbelief before it took on a slightly annoyed (?!) expression. The gun was lowered. “Bloody hell, I could have killed you. First Master Bruce with his sneaking up on people and now you.” This was definitely Alfred, alright. Relief washed over me. For a few seconds we simply looked at each other, then Alfred opened his arms to invite me into his embrace. I took the invitation gladly.
As soon as my body collided with his I wasted no time to nuzzle the side of his face and let my hand slide across the side and back of his head. I just loved the feel of his short silver hair under my fingertips. I secretly hoped he did too. Even in all of this chaos, he still smelled like my Freddy. Even in all of this chaos, he could provide me with a feeling of warmth and security. As I pressed a lingering kiss to his temple, Alfred only pulled me closer as we slowly glided down onto our knees.
After a while, Alfred disentangled himself from our embrace and gently took my face into his large hands: “You alright?”, he asked in his raspy voice, laced with concern. Hearing and feeling him caused the last bit of composure that I held on to so tightly to crumble and I felt hot tears running down my cheeks. I smiled through them and nodded: “I was about to ask you the same thing.“ I put one of my hands on his. “Is Bruce ok?”
“Yeah.”, Alfred nodded. “I’m OK, Bruce is OK. He’s at the Police Station with Gordon.”
I thought I saw tears in his eyes or maybe it was just the reflection of the street lamp. At this moment, kneeling on the polished floor of the vast living room, in the darkness of the Wayne’s apartment in downtown Gotham, I wanted to kiss Alfred Pennyworth so badly. Instead, I moved his hand from my face and kissed its palm. When I looked at him I saw the confusion in Alfred’s eyes. He was not sure how to respond to my gesture. I simply buried myself into him again, not wanting to let go. I let my arms sneak underneath his jacket, along his sides, eventually letting them come to rest on his strong back. Alfred chuckled slightly in response, kissing the top of my head.
“I missed you.”, I said, my voice muffled by his jacket. I was surprised he could hear me.
“I missed you, too, darlin’.”, Alfred sighed. He put a hand on the back of my neck, asking for my attention. I reluctantly lifted my head from its comfortable position in between his shoulder and neck.
“Listen, I have to go back to Bruce.”, he said apologetically. I wondered why, surely I would go with him. I opened my mouth, but before I could say anything, Alfred spoke the words I feared the most: “I need you to stay here!” I looked at his chest, playing with a button of his waistcoat. Gotham was going to hell but Alfred could not forego one of men’s most formal wear. He was such a nerd in this regard. I loved him. I tried hard not to start crying again.
Alfred squeezed my neck gently. I looked up meeting his blue eyes. He looked at me with an intensity and addressed me in a stern voice, which he usually reserved for Bruce when he needed a good talking to. “You’ll be safer here. Do you understand?” I only nodded, my eyes misty, fingers still on his waistcoat button.
“I will come back for you.”, he said with determination. I could only nod again, swallowing against the lump in my throat. It was difficult. This time when I looked into his eyes again, I was sure that I saw them glisten. “Alright.”, I heard him say, though I was not sure if it was in response to my nod or if he wanted to convince himself that he actually would be able to come back.