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Age: 55
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January 23, 2024


06/09/2024 07:06 PM 

First Blood: Reply #6 for Street Trash
Category: Blogging

But cruelty for no other reason than to be cruel? I don’t like it. I’m forever collecting strays…Bruce and I have that in common, I guess. In a way, we collected each other.

Once again, Selina Kyle had unknowingly channeled the ghosts of Alfred’s lived experiences. He would have preferred to disregard further proof of how he’d misjudged her capacity for self-reflection, but collecting strays was indeed an accurate summation of young Bruce Wayne’s innate compassion. The deep well of the boy’s natural empathy, from what his legal guardian had observed throughout the first decade of Bruce’s life, surpassed even the perceived altruism of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Witnessing their murders had only intensified Bruce’s burning desire to help others, a trait Alfred did admire about his charge.

That same trait could also be a source of contention between the billionaire orphan and his butler. Despite the ugliness of humanity exposed to him at an early age, the resilient Bruce Wayne still had much to learn about the world, and about trust. Serving as Bruce’s conscience through it all, Alfred Pennyworth frequently found himself questioning the lad’s reckless, impulsive decisions and lack of proper judgment.

But Alfred himself had been a stray once. Thomas Wayne collected him, too.

Collecting strays.
She described that perfectly.

Admitting such truth to Selina Kyle was as much off the table for Alfred as envisioning a time when the streetwise pickpocket and butler would come to view one another as actual friends. Showing a little kindness in her young life was one thing; she also needed structure, discipline and a strong nudge toward redemption. Alfred certainly hadn’t signed up to raise two special youngsters, after decades of purposely avoiding parenthood like the plague. Selina was not his responsibility. He’d do well to ignore the pangs of paternal instinct she awakened within him.

Constantly checking his trousers and waistcoat for any missing valuables after being in her company wasn’t something he particularly relished, either. Alfred had done that very thing as they’d stepped out of the precinct, a sympathetic nod given to Jim Gordon once Alfred’s hands swept over his own pockets.

He didn’t care at all for the subtle revelation that Salina was spying on Bruce’s interactions at school. If Alfred asked her to, that would, of course, be entirely different. Without his or Bruce’s prior knowledge, however, Alfred considered the invasion of privacy to be gross overstepping and a violation of personal boundaries.

“Your interest in Master Bruce’s friendships and other matters that do not actually concern you is duly noted, Miss Kyle,” Alfred snapped, not bothering to repeat the name of Mayor Galavan’s niece in his refined Cockney that was, unbeknownst to Selina, far from posh. He couldn’t quite shake the nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right about Silver McCloud, the pretty blonde rich girl who in recent days rendered Bruce starry-eyed and distracted. Reflecting upon it months later, Alfred would curse himself for somehow allowing Galavan’s nefarious plan for Bruce Wayne and all of Gotham to fly under his radar.

“As is your penchant for dropping from walls or breaking and entering as a means of avoiding proper interactions with other people.”

Not responding to the reprimand, Selina instead steered the conversation back to his offer of breakfast. Suddenly she was cozying up to him with the sweetest of smiles and an arm linked around the sleeve of his suit jacket. The girl must have been starving, shedding all the brass and swagger to accept the offer of a meal in Alfred Pennyworth’s kitchen. She’d insulted his culinary gifts in the past as being too posh for her simpler taste, but now?

Your cooking ain’t so bad, Jeeves. You can teach me how to make one of those Key-she things.

“Right, then.” Blinking down at the new-and-improved-got-manners-for-a-fleeting-moment Selina Kyle hanging on his arm, Alfred made a mental note to recheck his pockets as he escorted her to the Rolls-Royce parked outside the GCPD. “If I can manage to get some proper food down at least one of you today, I shall take that as a win.”

When they reached the car, Alfred dutifully tended to the opening of her door and made certain she was properly ensconced in the passenger seat before slipping behind the wheel. The luxury coupe, with its gunmetal exterior, four bucket seats with massage options for the front and exceptional air suspension for a smoother ride, was the sort of travel to which Alfred Pennyworth had become accustomed during his employment at Wayne Manor. But his childhood had more closely resembled Selina’s than Bruce’s in terms of transportation and finances.

At least I wasn’t an orphan. But he might as well have been, if not for his dear old mum making up for all that his old man lacked.

Expertly navigating the rolls through the bustling maze of downtown Gotham, Alfred pointedly avoided switching on the stereo. While he enjoyed making use of the car’s eighteen speakers for streaming his BBC programs or the occasional classical and classic rock stations, he didn’t fancy an argument with Selina over musical tastes while driving. The purr of the engine served as the soundtrack for their travels, an awkward silence occasionally interrupted by a growled oh bloody hell whenever some inattentive driver failed to use turn signals or ran a red light.

Keeping to the speed limit, taking care to keep them both safe on the road, the butler’s temper threatened to show itself more than once with the idiots in traffic, indicating he could switch into another gear just as easily as the rolls should the need present itself.

All the while, Alfred’s mind kept returning to Selina’s appearance, the circles under her eyes, the dismissive comments about her living conditions. He remembered viewing Reggie’s broken body after Selina pushed the deadly old turncoat out of a window to his death. He thought of Martha Wayne and her commitment to improving the lives of young girls at the Wayward House. Selina never had the fortune of meeting Bruce’s late mother, hearing only of Martha’s kindnesses later from the other girls. The memory of Selina’s description of those stories brought a deep frown to Alfred’s brow.

The girl was clearly quite clever, having survived the violent streets of Gotham City mostly on her own. Alfred knew from their personal interactions that she possessed a keen intelligence. And in the past two days, he discovered she observed more about human behavior on a deeper level than he ever gave her credit for. Why didn’t her path cross with a certain woman he knew could have made a difference? Why hadn’t she been at the Wayward House where it was safe, where her friends were, friends who later told her all about Martha Wayne’s positive impact on their young lives?

Where had Selina Kyle been while Bruce’s mother lived, instead of cowering in that dark alley seconds before Martha’s life ended at the side of her husband?

Oh, bloody hell.

“Is there no shelter you might get to, someplace safer than a box in the Narrows?” Keeping his attention on the road, Alfred allowed a quick glance at Selina’s profile beside him. That topic of conversation could be problematic with a flight risk like Selina Kyle. The coupe was accelerating toward the Kane Bridge, but how was he to know the unpredictable little feline aficionado wouldn’t jump out at forty just to avoid answering a question? The threat of her flight still wasn’t enough to keep Alfred from avoid that particular discussion. It was, in his mind at least, a valid subject under the circumstances.

“Surely there are other options preferable to your current living situation, Miss Kyle. I believe we may still have Mrs. Wayne’s old rolodex. I could make some calls after lunch, see about getting you someplace safer tonight, ey?”

Alfred knew a fine line existed between accepting a rare, unsolicited offer of help and guarding one’s pride. She could accept or refuse, that much was beyond Alfred’s control. Neither was under any obligation to the other. Yet still he defied logic and his own sanity and sense by addressing the matter aloud.

I must be mad. Mad as a bloody hatter. She’s trouble this one. But she’s also just a child.

He could almost feel Martha’s smile.



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