The sun began its ascent above the horizon; fiery orange tendrils reached out across the ruins of the warehouse. As its light bathed the wreckage in a golden hue, it drew the focus on my greatest failure, my greatest shame. Smoke continued to rise from the shattered stone and twisted steel. It seemed the very soul of the building was leaving and making its way toward Heaven.

There was one soul that I wished would remain on earth. One smile I wanted to see just one more time, but it wasn’t possible. Where I stood was once a nondescript warehouse that now served as a grave marker, a final resting place for someone I held very dear. I had fought so hard to protect her. She had trusted me, believed in me.  I had failed her. I let her die. The Joker took her, and I didn’t get there in time to save her.

Bowing my head, I closed my eyes, bringing her image to mind. What came to mind was a reel of my favorite things about her, the many beautiful reasons why I love her. Her grey blue eyes always seem to have a kind glint to them, even if she was glaring at me. That glint told me no matter what she’d never be truly mad at me, upset maybe but never truly mad. It killed me to know I made her upset so I found a way to make her smile. Sometimes it took me a while but I found a way. Her smiles always blew me away, when she turned them on me. Her smile was unlike any smile I’d seen before, and I had seen a lot in my day. When Rachel smiled, it didn’t just reach her eyes; her whole body smiled. A glow seemed to form underneath her skin; lighting her up like a firefly and it was so contagious. I found myself really smiling, which was rare.Her smiles were never enough; I was and still am a selfish man. When I got a smile out of her; I took things one step further and made her laugh. When I tickled her in just the right place, she laughed, and it was a deep belly laugh. It wasn’t high pitched and lyrical, it was deep and real and one of my favorite sounds in all the world.

Rachel. No woman challenged me quick like she did. Honestly, I couldn’t say no to her, not when she looked at me with that determined smirk on her perfect lips. I really couldn’t say no when she put her soft, smooth hand to my cheek and looked right into my soul. When she touched me, not only did the contact ignite every nerve ending in my body, it opened me up. I never let anyone in, but with Rachel, all she had to do was touch me and I opened myself up to her. With her hand on my face and her eyes staring into mine; I opened up my soul and she looked right into it and didn’t even blink. The man I was deep down never bothered her and I was always thankful for that.

In those moments, I was simply Bruce Wayne. Not the billionaire playboy. Not the CEO of a company. Not even Batman. I was just a man who was head over heels for one woman. One who always kept me on my toes and never put up with my crap. Swallowing against the lump forming in my throat, I fought against the tears burning the back of my eyes. Now I’d never get to see her again, our future was gone; stolen from us; her life was stolen from her and it was my fault.

Opening my eyes, I looked across the fallen debris and wondered what her final moments were like. Was she afraid? Probably not. My Rachel wasn’t scared of much. Even when she was, she kept up a brave face.

When I stormed into that warehouse thinking that it was her face I would see, I won’t lie and say I was not disappointed when Harvey’s face came into view. However when I heard her voice, the relief that colored her tone made me proud to know her. Even in the face of death, Rachel was thinking about others, concerned that they would live. In her final moments when most people would be making peace with their maker, Rachel was concerned for Harvey. She died knowing that I got him out of there and that he would live to see another day.

 How I loved her, my Rachel. 

My vision began to swim as the tears welled within my eyes and I quickly blinked them away.  Rachel wouldn’t want me to cry, she’d want me to continue the fight, to stop the Joker and save Gotham once more. For her, I will do just that but what about when the fight is over? What do I have left to live for? I was finishing what I started so that she and I could be together. She told me the day Gotham no longer needed a hero would be our time and I had almost achieved that.

I had been so close.

The sound of a snap brought me out of my musing. A wind had picked up and caught my cape in its fingers, sending it swaying back and forth as if it was flag at half-mast. Even my batsuit was paying its last respects to Rachel, if only she could see it.

Looking around, I watched a few of the city workers picking at the wreckage and knew my time with Rachel was ending. Looking down a glimmer caught my eye. Bending down I brushed away some fragments of stone and found a coin sitting among the ruins. Picking it up, I turned it back and forth in my gloved fingers. One side damaged while the other looked good as new. I knew this coin from some place.

I continued to turn it repeatedly as I remembered where I had seen it. Not seen it, Rachel told me about it. Harvey had a thing about luck and so when he needed to make a decision he flipped his special coin with two heads. He always told Rachel he made his own luck. He must have given it to her when he saw her last. Feeling the familiar knot of tears form in the back of my throat, I fisted the coin and brought it to my chest. It was as if Rachel was giving me a sign, telling me what I needed to do. Even from the grave, she was trying to tell me what to do and I couldn’t fight the grim smile that came to my lips.

Placing the coin in a safe place, I took one last look around the space that once was a warehouse. I committed every piece of debris to memory. One day when things calmed down, I would come back here and pay my respects to Rachel once again. Maybe I would buy the space and build a building in her honor; something that she would have wanted. For now though, I would burn the image in my mind and use it to fuel my fight against the Joker. He would pay for what he did to the city but he would pay to me and no one else. This fight was personal now and I wasn’t going to stop until justice was served. For his crimes, The Joker’s punishment would come by the hands of Batman. His crime was snuffing out one of the brightest lights Gotham city had ever see.

With each step that led me away from the ruins,heaviness settled on my heart and with each step, it threatened to suffocate the life right out of me.  When I finally returned to my vehicle, I felt as though a weight was pushing the air from my lungs. I had found purpose in Rachel’s death but the reality of it all was beginning to slowly press upon me. Tears threatened again but I refused to cry, Batman did not cry. He is the face that causes criminals of Gotham to cower and flee. If they looked upon the face of their demise and saw tears they would laugh and Batman’s image shattered.

I have to keep it together.

I have to remain stoic.

This is Bruce Wayne’s battle, not Batman’s.

Taking one last look at the wreckage, I realized they served not just as a burial ground for someone I loved. They were a representation of my life. My life was in ruins and it was up to me to put them back together again. Tough times were ahead of me but if Rachel taught me anything in my life, it was never give up, even if everyone around me was.

Rachel’s life ended far too early but I would make sure that she did not die in vain. The pain and sorrow weighing heavily on my heart would drive me forward. It would fuel the fire that ignited inside of me when the building exploded.

For Rachel, I will carry on and complete what I set out to do in the first place. For her The Dark Knight will continue to fight against crime. He will stop those who oppress and prey on the weak. It is for Rachel that I will not let this overtake me and drag me down.

Mounting my bike, my eyes moved across the ruins, letting the sight stoke my desire for justice.

I will find the Joker and I will make him pay.

For Her. For Me. For Gotham.


A Hero's Sadness – by Nicol Bowen
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