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by MonaR.

I thought what I lacked was love.

I loved my parents with everything that I was when I was a boy, and I was loved back, and even when I lost them so brutally, even *then* I knew I hadn't lost their love. It was the warmth of their love that bonded me to sanity, even in the darkest hours. My anger and pain, as great as they both were, could be enough to never overcome the legacy that was their love.

And I had Alfred, too, the self-proclaimed watchman of my life, my keeper, my friend. Except for a genuine tie of blood, he has all but been my father and my brother my entire life; he is what I think of when I hear the word 'family'. He has been my overseer and the guardian of my life's secrets, the holder of my cowl. So much more than my friend that the word seems smaller than it should be when I apply it to him.

There were others, too, in small ways and great, fleeting acquaintances and long-standing confidants both who entered into my life and reminded me what it was to be alive. So it couldn't have been love that I lacked.

I thought perhaps it was friendship.

I - as myself and as Batman - have known the greatest friends that a man could want. I have been given respect and space and guidance, help and hope and protection. I have had my gloved hand clasped in camaraderie and in trust. I have sat across from my friend in a small space, cloaked by a persona that should by rights mark me and set me apart from all others, and have still shared the quiet of a small moment, and known that it was greater in ways that neither of us could possibly fathom, and that it was enough. It has been my privilege to have been given the friendship that I have so richly enjoyed.

It might have been need.

I, who had everything that anyone should have wanted for in life, have known loss, and have borne it, and have survived. I have lived with a gaping hole in my centre, but I have *lived*. I have understood privilege, and respected it - it taught me to give, it taught me to be humble, it taught me to be smarter than anyone could ever suspect, and quieter than anyone could ever notice. It gave me a persona to hide my good works, and it taught me that the works themselves were the import, not the recognition they engendered. Most importantly, it taught me to recognize need in others who would or could not speak of it, and it taught me to give to those people not charity, but compassion.

It should have been happiness.

I have known joy, you see; at times, I thought that I bore a mark that denied it to me, but that was never the case. At times, I denied it to myself, but it was always there, hiding as satisfaction, as self-respect, as empathy. When you are afraid of joy, you run from even the slightest hint of it, and that's what I did; but still, it sneaked up on me, and surprised me, and delighted me. No matter what anyone might believe, it *is* possible to have it all - once you can discover what 'all' is.

It could have been hope.

When it was ripped from my hands, I gave hope to myself - put one foot in front of the other even when I probably shouldn't have. I convinced myself that it was the fundamental goodness of humanity that was being covered up by the evil of a chosen few, not the other way around. I decided to make it my business to be part of the future, instead of living in the past. I knew that the solution could be at hand, if I wanted it enough, if I tried.

I have accused it of being freedom.

No matter what any others might think, it isn't the weight of old revenge that has bonded me to the Batman, and, although I once thought it myself, the cowl has never been more of a legacy than I could handle. I have fashioned my own wings, you see, and they have allowed me to soar. It isn't the city of Gotham itself that is my chosen charge, but her people, and I would have it no other way. I know no other way to be.

I am a rich man, in many ways that go far beyond the monetary. Despite my losses, I have very little to complain a lot; my suffering, though great, is no more than many others have felt, and yet - I have suddenly found myself with an emptiness in my life that I was at a loss to explain.


He was what I lacked.

When I found him, he was a boy. I didn't understand at that time what it was to be anyone but myself, so it was inevitable that when I saw him with the wounds that were so fresh and so familiar, I saw myself. I gave him what I thought he needed - what *I* had needed; I gave him a home, and space, and time to heal. I promised myself that by living with me and becoming my responsibility, he would want for nothing. I thought that would be enough for him to grow.

I was wrong.

He *did* grow, and I watched him without really seeing what was happening to him; I watched him emulate me, and grow stronger, taller, braver. I watched him become the things that were most important in life - inquisitive and smart and funny and even careful, sometimes. I wondered who he was under the mask and the cape, at times, and I came to rely on his presence and his help. I was proud of him and his sense of honour, and I delighted in him in so many ways that I couldn't possibly keep track of them all. I held my breath when he went farther, faster than I was ready,  and kept it held when he grew, in an instant, and suddenly wasn't there anymore. I wasn't ready for him to be gone, but I couldn't hold him back.

When he left, I suddenly noticed all of the echoes that had never before resounded so loudly in my life. I came to realize that there was something invaluable missing from my life that I hadn't even noticed wasn't there before he came. All of a sudden, my friend was gone, and my need, and my happiness, and my hope - and my love.

I'll never understand why it took me so long to discover that what I lacked was a partner - not just in work, but in *life*. Someone to whom the secrets were sacred, someone who could be everything that *I* needed - helper, lover, friend - without losing himself. Perhaps I wasn't meant to see it, before. Perhaps he had to go away a boy, and come back a man.

Although I have always taken great pains to create my own future, I know for sure now that there is such a thing as destiny, and that it is inevitable. Destiny isn't merely a matter of finding out what you are meant to *do*, it's about discovering what you are supposed to *be*, and part of that is learning whether or not there is to be another in your life - beside you.

A partner.

The End