A/N: This is what procrastination during exam time results in. Though I suppose this is rather more productive procrastination than most. :) All characters belong to DC Comics. I don't own them; I just take them out and play with them before putting them back in their places. This has not been beta-read so I apologize for any mistakes/spelling/grammar errors.
By Gaeriel Mallory
Being commissioner is mostly a desk job. But sometimes, I get antsy. I miss being out in the field all the time, being on the front lines. Sometimes, if it was a slow night and the paperwork was not piling up too high on my desk, I still went out on patrol. It kept me young, if not physically, then at least at heart.
It was a routine breaking and entering at a jewelry story on 5th. Batman had showed up so by the time we got there, the two would-be-thieves were strung up by their heels on a nearby lamppost. I almost laughed at the look of terror on their faces as they begged to be cut down. The Bat always did have a way with striking fear into people.
I have known him for almost twenty years now. Hard to imagine. I am proud to be one of the few people who could call him 'friend'.
People have asked me if I knew who was underneath the mask. I have always answered 'no'. Technically, it is not lying because I really don't know. But I have a good guess—a very good guess. And considering that none in the 'Batfamily' has ever said anything about their identities, it will just have to remain a guess. Maybe one day though, when I am no longer Commissioner, I can let them know that I know.
I knew that he was watching from somewhere. He exuded a presence that I can feel in my bones; a darkness that was a part of everything concentrated into this one man. I scanned the surroundings, finally seeing a flicker of movement in a nearby alley. I causally strolled over and leaned against the wall, watching as two of my officers cut down the two men from the streetlamp.
"Nice work," I commented.
"There are rumors of something going down soon down the docks. Do you have any information?"
I inwardly chuckled. It's always business with my old friend. "I doubt that anything I could give you would help. You always seem to know everything already."
"Tommy Pulowski was picked up the other day for a parole violation. Car theft. He turned stoolpigeon in order to get a reduced sentence. Seems that Two-Face is bringing in a shipment of something two days from now. I'm not sure what it is—might be guns, might be drugs."
"Not drugs. It's not his style." He paused. "I'll be in touch."
I nodded and pushed away from the wall. The next thing I know, there was this great pain in my chest and my eyes were watering. "Jim!" He was there supporting me as I doubled over. I was briefly amused that he would reveal his presence to my officers.
He laid me on the ground gently and felt my neck for a pulse. I was breaking out in a sweat. The last thing I saw was Batman, his mouth tight in worry.
* * *
I was standing, staring down at my body lying on the cold hard cement. The Batman was kneeling down beside me performing CPR. "Dammit, Jim," he muttered under his breath, "Don't you dare die on me."
I suppose this is what you would call an out of body experience. I looked at my body and information flooded me. I knew that I had had a heart attack. I looked at my friend and I knew that he was worried. His thoughts raced and I could hear them…If he dies, I don't think I could ever face Barbara again. So you can't die on me, Jim. You hear me? Do you want your daughter coming after me?
I chuckled. Barbara. My little girl. She had a mean temper on her, to match that fiery red hair.
"Oracle!" Batman called out as he pushed down on my chest. "Get an ambulance to my location. Gordon's down; heart attack."
I heard the voice that answered him and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Barbara…
"What?" There was disbelief in her voice. "You can't be—I'm on it." There was a pause and then she was back. "How is he?" she whispered.
"Not good. I'm performing CPR now." He placed two fingers on my neck. "I have a pulse. It's weak, but it's there."
"Thank God. I've got an ambulance coming. ETA seven minutes."
Barbara…Why didn't you ever tell me? This insight I had been granted flashed again and scenes raced through my brain. Barbara, swinging through the air from building to building dressed as Batgirl. Barbara again, still in costume, this time punching Joker in the face. Barbara and the first Robin, sitting on top of a building, laughing. Opening the door…getting shot in the stomach. And then finally, typing furiously at a keyboard as she directed the Black Canary on a mission.
Barbara Gordon…my daughter…Batgirl…Oracle.
* * *
A blink, and then I was in a hospital room, looking down at myself again. My body was hooked up to numerous machines that beeped and glowed. Barbara was at my bedside, crying silently into a handkerchief. "Come on, Daddy," she pleaded. "Come back to me." She picked up one of my old hands in hers and squeezed gently.
The window opened and she looked up to see Nightwing enter. He was unusually quiet and subdued. "How is he doing?"
I looked at the man I knew to be Dick Grayson and I was looking into his soul. He loved Barbara, and for that I thanked him, but I felt pained that she kept pushing him back. I glanced over at her and realized that she loved him back but was afraid to acknowledge it because of her disability. I sighed.
This insight allowed me to know those closest around me in a far more intimate way than I had ever had before. It was a mixed blessing. I finally knew their innermost secrets and thoughts, yes, but it seemed a violation. They had not granted me permission to probe into their thoughts. Yet I was and I did not know how to control it. I wondered if all ghosts could do this, just look into someone's soul and pick out their thoughts and emotions. Their past.
Barbara looked down at me and smoothed back my hair from my forehead. Almost all white now, my hair. Where has the time gone? "I'm scared, Dick," she whispered. "I'm scared that I'll lose him and that I'll be all alone."
He walked over and knelt down beside her. He picked up her hand and laced their fingers together. "You won't be alone, Babs. You'll have me."
She looked back at him and smiled slightly. "Thank you."
"Not just me. There's Bruce, Tim, Cass, Alfred, Leslie, Dinah…" He gazed into her eyes. "You'll never be alone again if you don't want to. I promise you, Barbara Gordon."
She leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek. "Thanks, Shortpants." She chuckled briefly and wiped her eyes. I guess that was a nickname she had for him. I smiled softly myself as I remembered the first Robin and his costume. Shortpants. I snorted. It fit.
* * *
Nightwing had left; he had his own city to look after now. Barbara still sat beside my unconscious body. She had already dozed off when he finally showed up.
He crept through the window, moving softly so as not to wake Barbara. I was glad for his consideration. She does not get enough sleep; never did. At least, now I knew why.
Batman stared down at me for a moment. "I'm sorry," he whispered. I was surprised. Did he blame himself? Why? It was a heart attack; he could have done nothing. There was another flash and I saw him standing over the body of his parents. Guilt, hurt, and self-blame…all in this one little child. More memories: murders that he did not stop, Barbara's shooting, my own shooting, Sarah's death. He blamed himself for all of these and more. What a weight that must be on his soul. I had always admired the Batman for his seemingly dauntless courage. Now, I pitied him.
He did not say anything else for a very long time. Finally, "I don't want you to die, Jim. I've lost too many people I care for already. I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can…please come back."
He then left.
I can hear you, I thought. And I want to come back. I just don't know how.
* * *
The voice was from behind me. I started in surprise before turning around. Standing there were two familiar faces. Sometimes, they haunt my dreams.
I nodded to them. "Thomas. Martha." Bruce Wayne's murdered parents.
"We can't stay long," Thomas said. "We just wanted to give you message to give to our son."
"Tell him…tell him that we're very proud of him and what he is doing."
"Tell him that we love him very much and that we miss him." Martha smiled at me. "And also, tell him not to obsess so much."
I smiled in return. He did have this habit of obsessing, didn't he?
They two started fading away. "One last thing," Thomas said before they disappeared, "Tell him to spend more time with that son of his. It won't hurt him to tell Dick that he loves him every once in a while."
"I'll tell him," I promised. I had a feeling he needed to hear it.
They were gone and I was the only specter in the room once again. At least I had hope now that I would not die.
* * *
Pain. Darkness. Hurt.
Where was I? What was the beeping sound? I tried to move and the pain in my chest made me gasp. Memories started flooding back to me. The meeting in the alleyway. The heart attack. The very odd sensation of seeing my own body lying on the sidewalk and then in the hospital bed. And finally, the appearance of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
I had to wonder at their love for their son to come back after all these years just to give him a simple message. Though I suppose that their son was no ordinary man. It was no ordinary man who single-handedly fights the crime in the city of Gotham. Well, maybe not so single-handedly anymore. I felt my lips curve slightly as I remembered Robin, now Nightwing, Batgirl, the next two Robins, the second Batgirl, Oracle…and then there was me. No, Batman was not so alone anymore.
It was good for him.
I opened my eyes and gazed around the stark hospital room. Barbara was still asleep in her wheelchair. I tried to sit up but groaned again at the pain. Her eyelids fluttered and she woke up. "Dad?" She looked at me and smiled when she saw I was awake.
She wheeled over to the door and flung it open. "He's awake!" she called out to whoever was outside. The next thing I knew, the room was filled with people. Montoya, Bullock…every one of the officers I considered my friend was there.
I felt my eyes filled with tears and I surreptitiously wiped them away. Imagine, a man my age crying! It felt good though, knowing that I was loved.
* * *
After Barbara had shooed everyone away, claiming that I needed my rest, he came back. He nodded at Barbara and she exited the room. He pulled a chair over and sat down next to me. "Jim."
There was a long silence. I finally broke it. "You know, we really suck at this emotion stuff."
His lips twitched, though I might have just imagined it.
"Nearly dying makes you more aware of everything. You get some pretty amazing insights." I fiddled with the hospital-issue blanket. "I saw your parents tonight."
He did not say a word but I sensed that I had surprised him. I hid a smile; that was a first.
"They gave me a couple of messages for you. They're proud of you and that they love you and miss you."
He stared down at his gloved hands.
"They also told you to stop obsessing over everything. Every bad thing that happens in Gotham is not your fault. Not my heart attack, not Barbara getting shot, not some random person getting murdered. Don't put all the blame on yourself."
"Barbara tries to tell me that," he murmured softly.
"Well, listen to her." I smiled. "And also, they told you spend some more time with your son and to tell him that you love him every once in awhile. I got the feeling that they wished they had spent more time with you when you were younger."
There was a long pause and for a moment, I was afraid that I had overstepped my boundaries. But then he spoke in a very low voice, "Thank you, Jim. That…that means a lot to me."
He looked up at me and I smiled gently. "I should be thanking you. Thank you for looking over my city. Thank you for looking after Barbara. Thank you for being a friend."
He nodded awkwardly and left again. He never was one for goodbyes.
I called out to Barbara and she opened the door, poking her head in the doorway. I smiled at her. "Don't worry, he's gone," I told her.
She smiled back and entered the room, retaking her place by my bed. I thought back to the conversation I had had with Thomas and Martha. I reached over and clasped one of Barbara's hands in my own. I vowed that I would spend more time with her, become a bigger part in her life. Show her that she was not alone.