Title: Petered Dawn
Summary: Because Jim Gordon knows he's there, not far beneath the mask.
Characters: Jim Gordon & Bruce Wayne
Jim Gordon has known Bruce Wayne almost all of this life. He knows him in the same way that the rest of Gotham knows him; the millionaire playboy that parties all night, sleeps all day and attends one or two board meetings in the evening before jetting off to the latest lucrative party. But Jim Gordon also knows him in a way that the rest of Gotham doesn't; what he remembers when he thinks of Bruce Wayne is the scared little boy, clinging to his father's jacket. The scared little boy who had sat, surrounded by people he didn't really know and didn't shed a tear as they talked about his parents' deaths.
Standing at the end of the short, white pebbled pathway, Jim Gordon knows that the Bruce Wayne in front of him is the one from all those years ago. Shed is the mask of the playboy and left to the open air is the boy who lost his parents twenty three years before.
Gordon doesn't know why he comes here; he didn't know the Wayne's. He doesn't know Bruce. But he finds himself there, year after year, standing for long minutes in front of the headstone where the parents of the little boy were buried.
It's the first time he's seen anyone else there. He knows that Bruce comes; fresh flowers are laid out delicately across the base of the gravestone when he arrives but he's early this year, his late night turmoil with Gotham City underworld keeping him awake far longer than he normally would be and he catches the man he usually always misses.
The pebbles crunch under his feet as he walks slowly towards Bruce and the younger man turns to him quickly, assessing the commissioner in a way that leaves Jim feeling exposed.
The man before him turns his head and stares back at the headstone, his eyes fixed on the words Jim knows by heart. He comes to a stop beside Wayne, his breath appearing before him in the chill morning air and he turns his eyes to Wayne.
He looks tired and gaunt, the deep circles around his eyes highlighting his pale skin, the prominent cheek bones where a purple bruise is only beginning to flourish and he wonders just what else the young man hides behind his mask.
"Do you come here often?"
There's something in the voice that Jim recognises but he pushes it away. The words in any other context – as though in a pre-dawn cemetery isn't bad enough – would have made Jim laugh and shake his head, but the weary eyes Bruce Wayne levels him with erase any thoughts of candour.
"Every year," he answers honestly instead, turning his eyes back to the dewy grass, his eyes not quite ready to meet the words he knows he'll see just yet. There are no flowers, he notes with a frown but he doesn't question it. "Do you?"
Bruce nods silently beside him, his lips pursing as he stares, unseeing at Jim Gordon's face.
Minutes pass in silence and as Bruce Wayne sniffs in the cold air, as his hands ring around one another, Jim Gordon can't help but feel he's intruding. He waits a moment longer, says a silent prayer for the souls of the little boy's parents before turning slowly on his heel and making to move away.
"You can stay," he murmurs quietly, his voice brittle in the hazy morning air and Jim pauses, thoughtful before glancing at the pensive face of the man before him before nodding.
He watches as Bruce closes his eyes, opening them to search for a spot amongst the other grave stones, his brown orbs coming to rest on the corner in the far right. Jim Gordon's not an expert and if the pained expression on Wayne's face is anything to go by, he knows who's buried over there.
"Do you visit her as well?" Bruce turns sharply back to Gordon, his eyes fiery and for a moment, Gordon thinks he recognises something in them; a familiar darkness that speaks of a tormented soul. Bruce shakes his head and Gordon nods slightly, swallowing the sudden lump in his throat. "I try to," he says quietly, avoiding the eyes that are staring at the side of his head. "But it's hard; knowing that I'm partially to blame for what happened to her."
He can almost hear Bruce Wayne's frown.
Gordon turns to him, his eyes flickering past his shoulder to the spot where she rests before gazing back to Bruce's guarded features.
He shrugs stiffly, wishing the dampness didn't ache his joints so much. "We didn't get there in time." Bruce licks his lips and turns away and for a moment, Gordon thought he could see a flash of raw pain in the other man's features. "Maybe if we... I don't know – got him to talk sooner, realised how corrupt out department was..." He doesn't say anything else, only sighs. Selfishly, he feels better.
"It wasn't your fault," Bruce says after long minutes of silence, his features neutral as he turns back to Gordon. "There's only one man to blame for what happened to Rachel." He turns back to the gravestone in front of him. "Just like there's only one man to blame for my parents' death."
Jim Gordon can't help but think that Bruce Wayne is talking about himself.
"There was nothing you could have done."
Bruce turns to him then, his face a mask of ignorance, his half-shrug one of disbelief. He holds his eye for a moment longer before Wayne glances down to his feet, his Adam's apple rising and falling quickly.
Gordon knows he has overstayed his welcome. He wants to lay a comforting hand on Wayne's arm but he doesn't think the gesture would be fitting, nor welcomed. Instead, he turns and walks away. This time Bruce doesn't ask him to stay.
At the end of the pebbled pathway, Gordon turns and looks back up to the dark silhouette at the top of the ridge and as the long coat Wayne wears billows in the wind, Gordon feels a flash of recognition.
Pushing it aside, he murmurs a silent prayer for the soul of the little boy who lost his parents all those years ago.
Because Jim Gordon knows he's there, not far beneath the mask.