Slowly, Gotham recovered. With the Joker behind bars and no sign of the Batman, people felt safe again. People had hope again. In the months that followed Harvey Dent's death, the city mourned Dent's untimely death, bitterly marched in protest against the Batman who had dared to kill their White Knight, and then celebrated the end of the Joker's reign of terror.
At the spearhead of all three movements was Commissioner Gordon and at his side, after some appropriate time to settle her own grief, was newly-promoted Lieutenant Dawes. The pair led the wave as people cried for the injustice of Dent's death, ultimately ensuring that the Harvey Dent Act was established. The press staunchly assisted their endeavours, capturing many moments where Lieutenant Dawes looked emotionally drained or brushed aside tears to fuel the public opinion and pressure the city's justice department into faster action.
Rebecca was also seen shedding tears when Gordon smashed the Bat Light at the top of the police station with an axe while the whole station watched in support. Her fellow officers patted her shoulders sympathetically, consoled her in her apparent grief that Harvey had been killed at the hands of a man that the police had warily but implicitly trusted, and the city cried out once more against the man who had betrayed their finest. It was impossible, people agreed, that someone should manipulate innocent people so wickedly. But at least, heads nodded, he had been discovered even if a little too late. Nothing, it was declared, could surprise them now.
But the people were in for a surprise when the time came for the city to organize the celebration of the Joker's life imprisonment in Arkham. To the shock of almost the entire city, Bruce Wayne stepped up to finance the entire celebration and even more shockingly kept the program clean and without theatricalities. Even more surprisingly, it soon became known that the former playboy had been a pivotal player in establishing the Dent Act, garnering the support of all the influential people in Gotham with silken words and business promises.
Well, nothing could surprise them now, was the general consensus - only for the city to come to a screeching halt when a picture of Bruce Wayne and Lieutenant Rebecca Dawes walking out hand in hand splashed across the front pages.
Gossip spread like wildfire, and tongues wagged despite the official press release by Wayne Enterprises wherein Bruce cited Rachel's death and Dent's tragedy as the turning point in his decision to leave behind his shallow life and treasure those he had with him. Even after Bruce retired from the playboy lifestyle to focus on business, whispers followed the pair and for a while, Gordon was kept busy keeping the press away from Rebecca. Tabloids and gossip would follow the couple for another year, and news of tension or break-ups haunted their every footstep. Bruce declined to comment. Rebecca for her part was overheard commenting that at least if people had time to gossip, it meant they were moving on as life meant them to. People were divided in their opinions: some believed that the new couple were well-suited now that Bruce appeared to be taking life seriously. Others accused Rebecca of using her sister as a publicity stunt to garner sympathy and attention from the social elitist. More placed bets on how soon Bruce would crack and return to drinking and partying. And the general consensus was that they couldn't last.
No one knew that at the end of the day when she came home from heading the manhunt for Batman, Rebecca returned home to help nurse Bruce's many injuries. No one was aware that beneath his charm and appropriate seriousness as he pitched for support for the Dent Act, Bruce was sporting cracked ribs and enough bruises that his skin was more blue than peach. No one guessed that Rebecca began to take sleeping pills following the Joker's capture and no one imagined that Rebecca was tormented every night with nightmares. Bruce stopped counting the number of nights Rebecca woke up screaming for her sister. He did take note of the nights she woke up screaming for him before she'd sob against his chest with a mix of fear and relief when he embraced her soothingly. No one could know; but they would always know.
It was on one such night as he held Rebecca close against his heart that Bruce popped the question.
"Hm?" She hummed as she wiped her eyes dry and tossed aside yet another used tissue.
"Will you marry me?"
Rebecca stopped midway through wiping her face and she looked up at Bruce thoughtfully. Her nose was bright red and her cheeks were still streaked with barely dried tear tracks. But her eyes were clear and, after only a moment's deliberation, they softened.
"Yes." Rebecca whispered.
Five years later
Rebecca Dawes Wayne walked through the quiet mansion, humming an old nursery rhyme as she went.
It still boggled her mind sometimes how many years had passed and how somehow her life had returned to normal. Well, a relative normal. They had lost so much, but it seemed the saying was true. Time did heal all wounds. Maybe not completely and maybe they came out the other end different from before. But they didn't remain broken and bleeding.
Rebecca rubbed her hand absently, her finger running across the scar that had marred her skin for five years. She did that often whenever she found herself wondering. Rebecca wondered how her life might be now if they had managed to save Rachel. Or if it would have been different if Harvey had had someone the way she had Bruce after Rachel's death. If he'd had someone to help ease the pain of Rachel's passing, someone to hold onto and to remind him that revenge wasn't sweet but a disease, would things have turned out differently?
All she could do was wonder and it was a futile wish. But still, she wondered as she made her way toward the familiar corner of the Wayne mansion.
In the corner room in the wing he rarely used anymore, Bruce stood by the old piano. Sentiment had had him include the piano as they'd finished rebuilding the mansion and Bruce often found himself standing beside it whenever he needed to think. Now, as he weighed his latest choices in his mind, Bruce lightly touched the piano cover that hadn't been opened in years, and traced over where the familiar keys would be beneath the cover.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
A smile made its way unconsciously across Bruce's lips and he turned to meet Rebecca as she walked into the room.
"Maybe if you give me a dollar."
Rebecca scoffed. "Cheapskate."
Laughing softly, Bruce opened his arms and brought his wife close against his chest. Rebecca went willingly and she placed her head against the center of his chest where she listened to the steady beat of his heart, the sign that he was here and well before her.
"Have you thought about Alfred's suggestion?" Bruce asked, breaking the comfortable silence.
Rebecca nodded. It had been all she could think about ever since Alfred had gently suggested the couple leave Gotham for good. A part of her abhorred the idea: the city still had a ways to go before it was really safe, and besides, it was the place where both her and Bruce's only family members were forever laid at rest. But the more Rebecca thought about it, the more appealing the idea was. As much as they needed the lie, the propaganda that painted the man who had almost killed them all as a hero wore down on Rebecca's spirit. And most of all, the city no longer needed them.
"I think it's time." Rebecca admitted, turning to look up at Bruce.
"There's nothing left here for either of us besides memories and ghosts. Alfred is right - we need to move on. And we can't do that in the shadows we've built our lives in here in Gotham."
Her hands slid over the bump on her stomach as she spoke, cradling the additional life that was theirs. Bruce nodded slowly as he weighed Rebecca's words against the small voice in his head that said he needed to always be watching over his city. Except, that wasn't true anymore. The city had its protectors, people like Commissioner Gordon and the new Mayor who had their hearts in the right places. And in his heart, Bruce knew Alfred and Rebecca were right. It was time.
Bruce looked up from the piano, his fingers sliding off the cover.
"I believe I'm ready to leave too."
Three months later
Rebecca stood in the same room her husband had been in three months earlier, looking around with quiet melancholy. It was in this house where it had all started for her, and it was in this room that things had restarted for her and Bruce. She smiled as she remembered waking up to Bruce's dark eyes above her in the Bat cave. It was the first time she'd managed to do that since Rachel's death.
With a deep breath, Rebecca let out all the air in her lungs. Feeling lighter than she had in years, she gathered up her tiny son in her arms and kissed his head.
"Well, Tom." She murmured as she looked back at the piano room. "It looks like we're finally leaving Gotham. Your grandfather would have been shocked. Although I think he would have understood in the end."
Tom sniffled and yawned and Rebecca smiled.
"Oh, what do you know?" She chuckled, peppering her son's tiny face with more kisses. "And that's why we did what we did. So you could grow up not knowing."
Tom gurgled, making Rebecca laugh again.
Rebecca turned as Bruce poked his head in through the doorway. His shoulders relaxed and he raised a brow at her.
"I guess I should have known you'd be in here."
"Sorry. Were you looking for me?" Rebecca asked, lowering her son to cradle him more comfortably in her arms.
Bruce walked over to peer down at his miniature fondly even as he addressed his words to Rebecca. "I'm always going to be looking for you, Becky."
Suddenly, a memory rose unbidden in Rebecca's mind. A memory of a time she'd forgotten about in the years that had passed since.
"Rachel? Becky?" The boy called as he wandered into the greenhouse.
A small giggle, hurriedly stifled, alerted the boy to the presence under one of the greenhouse worktables, and he smiled.
"Got you two." Bruce Wayne grinned as he dropped down on his hunches, coming face to face with the two little girls hidden under the table.
Rebecca was broken from her thoughts at the high cry. Alarmed, the two parents turned as their three-year-old daughter ran into the room before jumping up at her father. Bruce caught the little girl easily, and he held the trembling little girl close to his chest.
"Hey, hey. What's wrong?" He asked, his eyes quickly scanning her before rising back to her face in relief as he saw she was uninjured. He did notice the flecks of mud on her boots and he questioned, "Were you out in the garden?"
His daughter nodded and Bruce asked, "And something scared you?"
She nodded again.
"What was it?"
"Bats." The little girl whispered shakily, burying her face into her father's shoulder for safety.
"Bats?" Rebecca repeated and the little girl nodded as she peeked out to check if the coast was clear.
"Bats." The child repeated, her tone still laced with terror.
Rebecca and Bruce's eyes met over their daughter's head. His eyes danced with faint amusement while Rebecca's was soft with memory.
Rebecca grasped Bruce's uninjured arm tightly as she whimpered, "There's something there."
"N-no, it's fine." Bruce struggled, trying not to scare Rebecca or himself any more than they already were.
But at the sound of his voice, something moved in the drain again. Rebecca grasped Bruce's arm tighter, when suddenly an entire swarm of bats came flying out of the drains and around the two children.
Rebecca screamed, Bruce screaming right with her as the two children cowered in utter terror while the bats flew about around their heads, the creatures shrieking their own high-pitched screams. The sounds seemed to echo all around the frightened children, and Rebecca turned into Bruce as he huddled with her, both crying out in pure fear.
Rebecca turned away to let Bruce comfort their daughter while she settled Tom as he fussed at all the noise.
Bruce meanwhile propped his daughter against his hip and he looked down at her seriously as he explained to her, "There's no need to be afraid, darling. Bats aren't scary at all, they're actually very useful and clever."
"They're so big and they make scary noises." The little girl whimpered.
"Do they make scarier noises than Mommy?" Bruce whispered conspiratorially. Rebecca rolled her eyes while their daughter giggled a little reluctantly.
"Are they bigger than Mommy?"
"See?" Bruce smiled, kissing his daughter. "So they can't be scarier than Mommy. Nothing's scarier than Mommy - but don't tell her I said that."
He winked at her and she laughed a little more naturally. Rebecca shook her head at them but she was smiling as Bruce put the little girl back down.
"Now, Rachel, would you go to Alfred and tell him we're ready to leave?"
Rachel Wayne kissed her father's cheek before dashing off in search of 'Alf'ed!'.
"Why am I always bad cop?" Rebecca pretended to pout and Bruce chuckled.
"Because you are a fierce, independent woman." He said with feigned seriousness before adding more cheekily, "And you're a pretty terrifying cop."
Rebecca swatted at him and Bruce ducked with a smile that turned melancholy as he also glanced around the room. Rebecca's smile faded slightly as well and she knew in that moment more than ever before, they'd made the right decision to leave.
Rachel was too young yet to fully comprehend the shadows that passed her parents' faces whenever she wandered into the old greenhouse. She would never quite understand the sorrow that settled in Rebecca's eyes when she saw her daughter dancing around the same playspots she had frequented as a child. Nor would she realize just how much it pained Bruce to see his child grow up in the large manor where by all rights she should have doting grandparents setting out tea and cakes whenever they could sneak them in under Rebecca and Bruce's noses. But Rachel was slowly growing old enough to notice their preoccupation and with another child brought into the world, they needed to live in a place free of those shadows.
Bruce met Rebecca's eyes and understanding passed between them. He smiled before they were distracted as footsteps sounded in the hallway. Familiar footsteps.
"Becky. Mr. Wayne." Gordon greeted as he appeared around the corner. Rebecca smiled while Bruce nodded as Gordon stopped just inside the doorway.
"I came to say goodbye."
Rebecca's smile dimmed slightly but she nodded. Handing Tom over to his father, she walked over to embrace her former boss.
"Goodbye, Jim." Rebecca whispered, her throat becoming tight as she hugged the man who had helped define her adult life. Her mentor, and her friend.
"Goodbye, Becky. I wish you all the best." Gordon murmured warmly before he let go of his finest officer and friend.
Gordon watched as Rebecca turned automatically into her husband, who never strayed far from her side. Bruce wrapped a secure arm around Rebecca's waist, holding her close to him in an absent gesture even as he handed Tom back to his mother; and Gordon knew in his heart that the couple would find peace despite the horrors they had faced. And as he looked up into those familiar, dark eyes, Gordon knew his former Lieutenant would be safe in the best hands that could ever protect her.
"Gotham has lost its greatest protector once again because of you, Mr. Wayne."
Bruce met Gordon's eyes steadily. In the last five years, this was the closest Gordon had ever gotten to saying aloud the truth that they all knew.
"I hope you are happy… so that it is never in vain." Gordon finished, sincerity ringing in every word. "Good luck."
Bruce bowed his head in a deep nod. "Thank you, sir."
With a final look, Gordon turned and saw himself out, waving off Rebecca when she suggested walking him out. Neither she nor Bruce doubted Gordon was off to look for Rachel to say farewell to the little girl he'd grown quite fond of since her birth. Rebecca smiled as she watched Gordon walk away before she looked at Bruce.
"You know, in spite of everything, I'll miss this." She admitted, gesturing with her head around them.
Bruce smiled. "So will I."
Grinning, Rebecca leaned up and he met her halfway. They kissed softly before finally breaking apart.
"Ready?" Bruce asked. Rebecca nodded.
Together, the couple walked out of the room together. Far away from the ghosts and monsters that had haunted them for too long. Toward a new and brighter future.
*A/N Thank you to each and every one of my readers who has stuck with this for so long. I am grateful to every single one of you for being the power to drive me to the finish line and I am so thankful to all of your sweet reviews, comments and messages. Special shout-out to ZabuzasGirl for always being so excited by updates from little old me, no matter how late I am with new chapters. Some of you may be disappointed that I will not be doing Dark Knight Rises, but to me it seemed more right for Rebecca's journey to end here. I just couldn't justify having Bruce going back into the field broken-spirited with Rebecca still around and I couldn't justify Rebecca wanting to stay where the ghosts of her past would continue to haunt her. I hope you'll all forgive me. Thank you once again, and with this, my friends, our journey ends.