"Hey, you ok?"
Bruce isn't up to dealing with this right now. A well-meaning blond kid, face screaming that he knew just exactly who Bruce was and what he was doing on these courthouse steps and thought he was doing Bruce some great favor but not acknowledging that fact. Bruce wants to take a swing at him, just ball it up, smash his face. Maybe the kid senses it; he's leaning away now. His eyes are flickering up and down, catching on Bruce's tatty old coat, Bruce's bruised face, the scrapes where he'd hit the pavement earlier.
Figures. Figures the one goddamn person who won't back away from him this evening is the one he can't hit. Hours, hours stalking the streets, dark alleys, dangerous. Hours, looking for another one, another him because maybe that would make it better, to hit him (not shoot him, Rachel's right, she's right goddamit but maybe he will, maybe he will), hurt him, hurt someone else before they can hurt someone else and leave them with something like Bruce's shattered joke of a life.
But they wouldn't come, goddamit. Hours, hours in the slums and nothing, nothing more than crunching gravel, flickering shadows, a couple of junkies passed out in doorways and they weren't right, not at all. He'd thought about it, hitting them, hitting them and their dealers and every scumbag in this goddamn town but he couldn't, he just couldn't, not them, not when they weren't hurting anybody, not when they weren't the bad guys, the scary ones who must sense it in him, the rage, the violence. Bruce knows he's about to snap, how couldn't he know, how couldn't they know. Probably saw it all the time and ran for cover.
He's not sure how he got here, right back to where he started today, back here without Rachel to tether him down, give him someone to be strong for, strong enough to shove the tempest into a box for later when no one can see.
A deep breath. He's suddenly glad for this stranger. Here's someone, someone watching him and he's got to get under control, get back to himself. Control, Bruce. He musters up a smile. "I'm all right, thanks."
The kid smoothes a hand through his hair. "This isn't the best neighborhood at this time of night."
"Hey, you're walking here, too." His grin slides onto his face now, familiar.
Blondie shrugs, looks down. "I just like to walk by."
The square they're standing in is bare, unappealing office buildings and trashy delis that cater to the harried workers they harbor, garbage blowing across the pavement. "It's not exactly scenic."
Blondie seems nervous, now, or embarrassed, maybe. "I like to see the courthouse. I don't know… I guess it reminds me why I'd better study this hard." He hefts the schoolbag over one arm, filled to bursting. He looks up, now, and something in ugly in Bruce twists in the face of Blondie's soft eyes. "I'll bet that's not why you're here." An uncomfortable chuckle. "I… " The kid blows out a breath, squares his stance like he's decided something. "I saw it on the news today."
"Yeah." His tone is normal, but he can't say anything more than that. He doesn't know what to say, doesn't know what he'd say to this stranger with soft eyes and an obsession with the courthouse.
Thankfully, Blondie doesn't press. "Is there somebody I can call for you?" he asks, soft as anything.
Bruce takes a deep breath, feels it shake. The adrenaline's dissipating and Blondie's right, it's time to put an end to this evening. He fumbles in his pocket for the phone. Fuck. Not there. Not in the other. Jesus, he must have left it in his coat pocket, left it back with that bum. Think, Bruce. You must know Alfred's number. It starts with a 3. Maybe a 7. He doesn't know, doesn't know, he always just punches the name on his cell phone.
"I've got a phone," Blondie says, eyeing the frantic hands wandering over Bruce's pockets.
"I guess I don't know the number," Bruce mutters, and his laugh is just this side of hysterical. God, he's stupid. Stupid, so stupid, how's he gonna get home and oh god Alfred, he must be frantic by now, calling and calling and calling with no answer, calling Rachel and all she knows is that he walked straight into the court of the crime king and what the hell was he thinking, it'd been hours…
"It's ok." Blondie's concerned hand on his shoulder is warm and steadying. "We'll get you a taxi, ok?"
"Sorry." He laughs, again, too short but the edge is gone from it. "It's been… a really long day."
"It's ok," Blondie says, squeezing Bruce's shoulder, letting his hand drop. "I'll walk you to 7th. Cabs never come around here."
"I wouldn't want to trouble you," Bruce begins, but Blondie shakes his head.
"It's only a couple blocks. No trouble at all."
Bruce knows he should argue – what is he thinking, forcing this poor guy, this stranger, to walk with him at 3 am – but he can't make himself. He feels steady for the first time in hours.
"I'm Harvey, by the way," Blondie says, rucking his bag up to offer a hand.
Bruce grasps it, shakes it. Another laugh is threatening to escape him and he'd better get it under control. "Bruce."
Blond- no, Harvey – inclines his head. "Nice to meet you, Bruce."
Their footsteps are too heavy, echoing around the empty street. Bruce starts to speak, break the eerie vibe, but his voice catches. His throat's raw, he realizes, like he's been screaming but he hasn't, not at all, only walking.
Harvey's a good companion. Not going to force conversation. Except maybe Bruce wants conversation, anything other than this step step step echoing through his head. "So you're a law student?" he asks, and Harvey…
Harvey lights up, eyes wide, stance straighter. "First year," he says, a little too fast. "It's amazing. Amazing. It's not like school at all! It's like…" he frowns, takes a cuticle between his teeth. "Imagine school, except the teachers expect you to argue and every single thing you learn is useful and you can see why?"
"Useful?" Bruce laughs and Harvey deflates, just a little. He feels abruptly guilty, but. "My dad would have had something to say about that."
There. He did it. Passed his own test, mentioned Dad and not so much as a tremble in his voice as he did it.
Oh. Oh. Harvey's looking at him, like it's his turn. "Sorry. Missed that last part."
"I said," Harvey's voice is a little impatient now, the first hint that he's not all guardian angel, "that corporate lawyers are one thing. But I'm gonna be a prosecutor."
"Yeah?" Harvey just smiles, a blinding all-American sort of smile. "I believe it."
"I'll take criminals off the streets." Harvey's voice is soft, too compassionate and Bruce is suddenly, horribly conscious of the storm brewing in his gut. He stuffs it down with a vicious breath, thankful that Harvey's back is turned to him as he hails a cab.
It's a rickety looking affair the reeks of over-sweet cigars even from the curb. Harvey rocks back on his heels. "Well."
"Thanks." Bruce meets his eyes, just for a moment, and wills him to see that he means it. He really means it. This… This, Harvey, is the Gotham his parents saw, that Bruce tries so hard to see around the garbage and sneak thieves, murderers and soot.
"Do you want me to go with you?" His blue eyes are wide, sincere. Worried, maybe, about the spate of murders in gypsy cabs splashed across the front pages of Alfred's newspapers.
But Bruce isn't quite that selfish. "Nah. Can't have you falling asleep in prosecutor class."
"Ok, but…" and he's scrambling with the bag, looking for something. Behind them, the cab driver honks impatiently. "Here," Harvey says, scribbling furiously. "Call me when you get there, ok?"
"I mean it." Those wide eyes… "I want to know you made it safe."
"All right," Bruce says, and reaches out before he can think about it, grasps Harvey's hand. "Thanks." There's got to be something, something better he can say. "Just… thanks."
And just like that he's in the cab, shutting the door on Harvey's soft, "no problem."
"Palisades," he tells the driver, slipping his eyes shut against the onslaught of his storm.