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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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He wakes up with a headache and a burning sensation in his throat; nauseous and in pain and so, so lonely, despite the way he could vaguely recollect that he’d been surrounded by people for the whole night.

He’d bought a club.

He’d kissed Grace.

He’d felt good at the time. Something had filled a void that had been left behind in his chest. Something had finally taken his mind off of the horrors that haunted both his dreams and his waking moments.

But a new day is here, and he feels even more terrible than before. Cut off from the world, too different from his peers to ever fit in, too much violence and rage inside of him to become the sort of person that his parents would have wanted him to be. He’s a disappointment, a failure, a murderer, the sort of person that only—

—that only a madman could care about.

His thoughts drift fuzzily towards Jerome, and his fingers skim against the faded scar on his hip.

Maybe it’s the lingering effects of the alcohol, or maybe he’s even crazier than he’s begun to think, but the sudden urge to see Jerome catches hold of him and won’t let him free.

It’s been so long since he’d come back to Gotham, since the virus spread through the city, since he’d hurt Alfred, since he’d felt so isolated that in a moment of weakness he’d reached out to the only person who would never turn their back on Bruce for the terrible things that he’d done.

It was a mistake. Nothing but a mistake.

But maybe his life was just a series of mistakes, so what was one more in the grand scheme of things?

He actually makes it all the way to the gates that separate Arkham Asylum from the rest of the city before he begins to realize what it would mean for him to step inside those halls. What it would mean if he actually, purposefully sought Jerome out.

He’d told Bruce that he could visit, but if Bruce went in there in the state of mind he was currently in there was no way that Jerome wouldn’t take advantage of it. He always took advantage of every foothold he could find.

Bruce stands in front of the gates, thoughts shifting quickly as if unable to settle on a single scene. The long-since healed corner of his mouth twinges as he thinks of the way Jerome would look at him, the way Jerome would speak to him, the way Jerome might touch him—through bars or fencing or even without anything in between, if Bruce bribed the right person and managed to either set him loose for a few moments or buy himself a free pass inside of Jerome’s cell—thinks about the way Jerome would kiss him—

“Name?” The security guard, clearly beginning to get a little annoyed at the teenager standing and staring through the gate with bloodshot eyes, frowns at him. “We can’t just let anyone in here, you know.”

“I’m—” Bruce croaks, thoughts snapping back to the present. His phone is vibrating in his pocket. “I’m not going in.”

The security guard gives him a look of frank disbelief, Bruce tries to ignore it by pulling out his phone and glancing down at a new message from a number that he only half remembers putting into his phone.

‘We should hang out again tonight.’

“You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Bruce tells him, not looking back up from the screen of his phone. If he looks back up, now that he’s made it all the way here, he might change his mind. And that would be catastrophic. The most terrible decision regarding Jerome that he’s ever made. Worse than the first time that he kissed Jerome back, or when he’d let himself be touched, or when he’d unlocked his window, or when he’d called and had foolishly admitted to Jerome that he was feeling lonely.

He feels even lonelier now than he did back then.

He turns and gets back into his car. He has other things he can focus on that will ease the lingering terror and darkness inside of him. Alcohol, surely, was a less destructive coping mechanism than going to Jerome for comfort.

Arkham disappears on the horizon behind him, and Bruce let’s himself believe that it’s over.

But it’s not.

Because any Maniac worth their salt remembers who Bruce Wayne is, and remembers the times that Jerome had tried to kill him. So when one such a man happens to catch sight of Bruce’s face on the security feed from the front gate, well...

Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to tell their illustrious leader that a certain billionaire brat had almost set foot inside of Jerome’s madhouse?