Elizabeth was troubled by both her mind and her wounds, as she slowly took off the Nomex suit and placed the mask carefully beside her. The empty eyes stared back at her from the mask, and for a moment they seemed to be questioning her from inside her own mind. "Who are you? A Dark Knight? A widow? A murderer?" She shook her head as in denial, and quickly looked away from the mask. "I´m neither. I´m just a wounded cripple now", she thought to herself, as she started taking off the tech-prostetic, which made her able to walk. She had hoped she could sneak in unnoticed, but the sound of a door being opned ruined her chances. She braced herself for hellfire, as she heard the bumps of the cane, which had accompanied her uncle since his days in Vietnam. She took a deep breath and lowered herself into her wheelchair with her last ounce of strength.
"You disabled the tracker. Where have you been, Elizabeth?" Alfred´s voice was calm, but she could hear how he clenched his teeth in anger. "It was nothing. I just needed to get out a little", she lied without looking up, as her uncle walked up beside her and picked up her mask. "And why is your mask covered in mud? And your shoulder in blood?", he asked again coldly. "I ran into some thugs. Gave them a little greeting from the Dark Knights. Nothing special" She groned, as she reached out for some bandages for her shoulder. "Elizabeth, don´t you dare lie to me" He raised his voice. "What did you do? Where did you go? You are not a child anymore. But you are a Dark Knight, and you still answer to me!" Ellie bit her lip in anger. She just wanted to be left alone. She did not want his judgemental words or his nagging eyes, trying to penetrate her distant gaze, though she had not yet looked up at him. "You don´t trust me anymore after what happened to Halen, do you?" She began wrapping her shoulder in the bandages as she spoke, still not making eye contact with her uncle. She could hear his breath becoming more intense.
"You got too close. It became dangerous. What happened between you and Jason should have never happened" He burst into words, as he put the end of his cane on her chest, just under her wound. "Look at me, when I´m talking to you!" Elizabeth slowly raised her eyes from the wound on her shoulder to meet the furious gaze of her uncle. Her eyes darkened, as she grabbed his cane and pushed it away. "You take that back, Alfred, or so help me God or whatever miserable entity put me on this earth, I will wheel out of here and never look back!" She locked her eyes on his, and in an instant all her silly little lies were forgotten, and all she could feel was an unbearable heat centered in her chest. But her words did not make Alfred hesitate. "You´re becoming Bruce. You´re not thinking straight, and you´re putting everyone in great danger because of your emotions! I knew that rascal was trouble when he walked in" Elizabeth couldn´t rid herself of the burning heat in her chest. Hatred. "But he didn´t put me in this chair, did he? He didn´t put me in a mask and a cape, did he? He was the one good thing in my life!" She wanted to cry, but there was nothing left but anger. She turned the wheelchair towards the door, and continued without looking back at her uncle. "And I lost him because of this. You can throw all this on me, but you still have Anna, don´t you? We´re all trouble Alfred. That´s why we wear a mask" Alfred clenched his fist around his cane. He wanted to say something, but at the mention of Anna, he froze, while Elizabeth continued to wheel towards the door. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but nothing came out, and he watched the door close behind her. "Arrrrrh!", he screamed at the metal door, hurling his cane in the direction Elizabeth had gone. He slammed his fist into the table beside her mask. His breath was heavy, and he had to hold on to the table for support. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying hard to control his anger. Then he slowly opened his eyes again and looked down on Elizabeth´s mask. It was covered in mud stains, and as he took it up, he saw that it was stained on the inside too. What had she done? He realized that she was right; he did not trust her anymore. She had always been the sane one. The one who thought before she spoke, and the one who would rather solve problems with wit than with violence. But now... he didn´t feel like he knew her anymore. She was a widow of the war against crime.
Alfred picked up a piece of cloth and began to clean the mask. It was more of a reflex than anything else. He didn´t even look up, as he heard the lock on the metal door disable. He could tell by the sound of the heels approaching him, who had opened the door, and he braced himself for a conversation he did not wish to have.
"I´m losing her", he mumbled silently, as the footsteps came up behind him, and a feminine hand was placed on his shoulder. "You´re not losing her, dear. She´ll come back" Anna´s voice was soft and soothing like a handful of pills, as she spoke while returning his cane to him. He sighed. "But I don´t know if I want her to" Anna walked in front of him and lifted up his rough chin with a gentle hand. His guilty gaze met her pale blue eyes, and she smiled indulgently at her lover. "She´s just as frustrated as you are. Imagine if it had been m..." His eyes narrowed, and he cut her off, before she could even finish her sentence. "Shut up! I don´t want to hear another word, you... you..." He snorted angrily but hesitated to continue. Her voice was not soft anymore, but it was not cold either, as she replied: "But it´s the truth, isn´t it? She´s just trying her best to be strong" She held in the anger his outburst awakened in her, and focused on the cause and not the action. He was scared of losing her. Her anger morphed into a youthful warmth she thought she had long forgotten, and a smile came across her face, as she continued. "And she is a Pennyworth, isn´t she?" Alfred bit his lip. "She´s a loose canon, that´s what she is", he snorted as he looked at Anna´s smile. He felt guilty about cutting her off. He just couldn´t bare to even imagine the words she was about to say. He continued his work, cleaning Elizabeth´s mask. "But if I had only known... I could have stopped her... Couldn´t I?" Anna´s smile faded, as she removed his hand from the mask, and gave it a squeeze. "But would you?" She kissed him gently, and turned to leave. Her words and the smell of honey and magnolia lingered. He wanted to apologise, but again he was short of words. "I´ll wait up for you", she said, as she tapped in the 25 digit code at the panel by the metal door. He knew she would not let him be at peace with his anger for long. And that was why he loved her.