It's him, I know it. I can just trace the shape of him thrown against the moonlight.

He's here.

I stand in the shadows, safe in their snare. Looking out from them makes me feel like I can hide, and they fit so perfectly like a mask. I can see him but he can't see me. If I could, I'd say here forever, watch him as he perches on the edge of some crumbling building, staring out at the city lights as they burn like white fire. He's so beautiful when he's still. No ghosts of anger moving through the bones in his face. He's always making lines when he's moving, lines that don't belong to his young skin. Right now, with the silvery moon beams smiling down on him just right, he looks like he could be carved from marble. White and ageless. Time couldn't touch him if it tried. He's always beautiful – but I like him best when he's here, looming over the city like a giant, and no one can see him like this but me.

Something thick and greasy moves in my stomach. I recognize the shame. Whenever I stumble in on one of his private moments, it's the first feeling that hits me - disgust with my appearance. Skirt too short. Heels too high. Ribs poking out beneath a too short top. I have to resist the urge to bend down into some oily puddle nearby, wash the clown makeup off my face so he doesn't have to see me like this. I promised him I'd get out, get clean, find a home in this place and try to make do with the nine to five life. I promise a lot of things. Most of the time, I don't come through.

I wish I could. God knows, I've tried. I've tried to keep my promise – and if I couldn't to anyone else, at least to him. He deserves it. Life is hard enough for the rest of us, but for John Blake it's war. It's struggle. He's a fighter – he makes it through. But sometimes I can see it in the way he holds himself. His shoulders sag underneath a weight I've never had to carry. He wants reprieve. He wants it to be over. And I wish I could give it to him – that peace I know he deserves.

As if a street walker had enough heart left in her to give away to one man. She belongs to many, to no one at all. I'd like to try, for his sake.

Lost in my thoughts, I don't hear him turn around.

His shadow has turned. "Who's there?"

"Don't gotta piss yourself, Blake. It's just me."

Something softens in his voice. "Charlotte?"

I emerge from the shadows. I've never felt more naked in my life than in that instant, standing before him in the moonlight – bare and vulnerable. "Expecting someone else, officer?"

He gives me a crooked smile. "I was hoping…"

"Batman." I shrug. "Ain't we all…"

"I thought you were getting out."

"Yeah, well, easier said than done."

He gently takes me by the chin, holds my face in the light. "Which one of your sleazebags smacked you this time?"

I tear myself out of his grip. "Nothin' I can't handle. Really, Blake – you're worse than my mother."

It feels cold all of the sudden. I run my hands over my arms, trying to catch the chill running through them. "Just the way it is. No use bitching."

"Hey…look at me," he says gently. I lift my eyes, finding his. "You don't have to live like this. I can help you."

"Really? How you gonna do that? Beat the shit out of every paying customer who doesn't measure up to your high standards?"

"If that's what it takes, sure."

We both laugh at how ridiculous it sounds. John Blake, aspiring beat cop, stalking the streets of Gotham like some nocturnal vigilante trying to keep its hookers safe.

He sighs, all traces of levity gone. "Look it's just…I don't wanna see you get hurt."

I watch his face, my heart pounding with anticipation. "Why do you care so much?"

I don't have much faith in love. In my line of work, it's hard to believe in. That first night, I took every hope I ever had, every dream I was always too afraid to chase, and I buried them so deep I could never find them again. I'm still searching. I dig in so deep I graze the shallowest surface of my soul, but I can never find those old remnants of myself. I don't want to believe they're gone forever, those fairytales of girlhood that I clung to, but after all these years I still can't reach them.

Besides, little girls have to grow up sometime. The person I am now, she wouldn't fit into those fragile little molds I made for myself when I was young. She'd break them easily, like porcelain. Too hardened. Too callused. The world has taken me and made for me its own mold. I fit that one well.

But if there's anyone who ever made me believe in knights in shining armor, it's John Blake. The care he takes in showing me there's still kindness in this cold place. He has breathed life back into my soul. The only reason my heart hasn't turned completely to ice is because of him. The warmth of his voice, his gentleness, his hands when he takes my face into his palm, scolds me gently for the scars and bruises he finds there. Gentle John Blake, who salvages the broken things the world leaves behind. I owe him everything. I only wish I knew a way to show my gratitude.

For a long time, he doesn't say anything. I can't tell his eyes from the darkness. They mesh together.

"Blake…" I resist the urge to take his hand. Too personal. "I…you know, you've done so much for me."

"I haven't done anything, Charlotte." He laughs, a bitter sound. "You won't let me."

"But you have," I tell him. "You don't realize it, do you? I know I get on your case, about you nagging me to death. But…you actually give a shit. Do you know how long it's been since someone gave a shit?"

"I know how it feels," he replies. His voice sticks for a second. "To be left out in the cold."

Second nature kicks in. I run my fingertips down the length of his arm. "Isn't there anything…?" I reach his hand. "Nothing at all?"

He backs away. "Charlotte, don't."

"I'm not hustling, John," I retort. "I just…"

"Don't." His voice is soft, like velvet. "Please, don't."

I'm suddenly aware of how close he is. How the smell of him sticks to my skin, warm and close and sweet. Our breaths tangle in between us. I can feel him, the hum of his body pulsing in my ears - life rushing just beneath the flesh. He's so close I could reach out and touch him. Take him and he would be mine.

The sound of his radio intercedes. He clears his throat. "I've gotta go."

"Sounds like it."

"Listen…if you ever want to let go of your pride for once and ask for help - " He pushes a piece of crumpled paper into my hands. "I'll be waiting for you."

He lingers for just a moment, then releases me from his grip.

The emergency escape swings shut behind him.

He's gone.

a/n: didn't see very many john blake fics in the archive, which is truly sad. so here's one for you blake fans out there.

disclaimer - i don't own john blake. he belongs to nolan and dc comics.