stop. look. listen.

Grounded in Fact and Fiction.

Babs knew it was going to be one of those days when her cellphone perked up at seven am. The second sign of the impending apocalypse was Jimmy's caller id flashing across it, because her brother had Views on getting up before nine, and him not ever doing so. In fact, so did she, especially on the first day she had free of any lectures or exams.

"What?" she barked into the receiver, blindly feeling for her glasses on the side table.

"Morning to you too, sunshine," Jimmy said with just the right dose of sarcasm to annoy her. She didn't take well to sarcasm before her first cup of coffee. "Whatever you do, don't leave the apartment."

"What?" she repeated, pushing the glasses up her nose and blinking, the world coming into focus.

"Bruce is sending a car for you, don't leave the apartment," he sighed tiredly, and she held back a few uncharitable words.

"Jimmy, my level of caffeine is lethally low, better start making some sense sometime soon, I beg of you," she said, wondering if anyone ever conducted a study on what made younger brothers so particularly annoying. "Is something wrong?"

"Depends on your definition of wrong, but, yeah," he paused. "It's a long story."

"Talk fast," she advised, moving to stand up and make a beeline for the coffee maker. There were priorities.

"Okay. But I'm not to be held responsible for any resulting trauma," Jimmy warned her before sighing again. It was beginning to be rather worrying. And annoying, not much with the beginning. "So, remember last week, when Bruce took us to that concert you were so excited about? The one I really, really hated, by the way, and next time we're doing baseball, not opera?"


"Someone took pictures. And they made it to the desk of someone doing the gossip page at Gotham Times, and yesterday evening they called Bruce to get a quote about him and you."

"Him and me what? Wait, what? How? Oh my God," she caught on, and sat down, holding on to the phone as it threatened to slip out of her hand. "Oh my God."

"Yes. And Bruce flipped out, as anyone would because, yes, oh your God, and gave them a rather good quote," Jimmy sounded both mortified and amused now, which was better than Babs felt, as she stopped on mortified and couldn't really move on.

"Oh my God. What quote?"

"Well, the story they went with was not his and yours impending marriage, so you can breathe freely, but Dad isn't so happy about being outed in the morning papers."

She gulped the coffee down from the jug, not bothering about finding a mug. This was probably still a dream, of a surreal nightmarish kind. "Do I even want to ask?"

"He threatened to kill some of the journalists who are right now camping outside the house, you can imagine how fun that is. And he's not talking to Bruce at the moment, which makes me fear for when they finally make up. I'm considering moving out, because the walls are way too thin for this."

She nodded, grimacing. The walls were too thin. "And why can't I leave the apartment?"

Jimmy paused for a moment. "Don't tell me you get lucky and you don't have a news van parked outside."

She stood up and tiptoed to the window, leaning against the wall and glancing aside, in a sneaky, ninja-like way that Jimmy could make fun of, but she had it well down since she started going out on dates. "Damn," she muttered. "Not that lucky."

"Just wait for the car," Jimmy sighed. "Boy, this is going to be a great day," he whined, and she didn't even bother to tell him to shut it. Mostly, because for once she agreed.

"Yeah. Talk to you later," she muttered, disconnecting, as her flatmate had stumbled out of her room, drawn by the scent of the coffee. She did a double take as she passed the window.

"What's with the siege?" she asked confusedly and Babs sighed.

"The press found out about my Dad's relationship with Bruce Wayne," she said, wincing slightly. She was so used to not talking about it that it felt very wrong to say that now.

Sheila, however, just blinked and nodded, whisking the coffee jug from Babs' hands and pouring herself a cup, dropping enough sugar in it to make Babs' teeth hurt in sympathy. "Oh," was all she said, losing all interest, but then again, Sheila was never into anything that happened after the Renaissance, with a notable exception of coffee makers and late night tv shows.

It was just a little bit anticlimactic, but Sheila always had an ability to dampen any drama tendencies, so they just sat there, drinking coffee, until she had to make an effort to get dressed before the car arrived.

The car was a discreet, Alfred-driven Bentley, which had the awesome side effect of all the journalists parting like the Red Sea. Babs was pretty sure that the old story of Alfred hitting a particularly annoying paparazzo over the head with an umbrella was just something Bruce made up, but the journalists apparently didn't share her conviction.

"So, how are things, Alfred?" she asked, sliding into the passenger seat in the front, much to Alfred's barely hidden annoyance; he had strong views on people refusing to just sit in the back seat and mind their own business. She and Jimmy refused to do that because it was much more fun to sit in the front and bother Alfred with questions, and Dad refused to do that because of his stubborn streak and some kind of moral conviction, she never could figure it out. The only person glad to take the back seat was Bruce, but that never stopped him from bothering Alfred; Bruce could bother people while he was in a different timezone. It was a gift.

"Business as usual, Miss Gordon," Alfred said smoothly, with barely contained amusement with which he approached most of the Bruce-caused disasters, or at least the ones that didn't involve someone needing stitches. "I think it's best if you see for yourself."

She nodded, fastening the seat belt and watching Alfred almost run over one of the photographers while he pulled out of the driveway. She figured she would see for herself, and soon.


Jim could tell something was up when Bruce was making a lot of noise in the kitchen at a damned six in the morning. Bruce Wayne getting up before noon was an unusual occurrence in itself, but this was bordering on surreal. And, judging from the sounds of clinking cutlery, dangerous.

"What's going on?" he asked, making it downstairs, and suspiciously looking around, partly because of Bruce's kitchen adventures, and partly because Biscuit once again stole his slippers during the night. Jim took to hiding them under the bed, and, on one occasion, in the side table's drawer, but that didn't help.

"Coffee," Bruce drawled, holding out a mug, his arms extended almost defensively, the oversized mug serving as a shield.

Jim accepted it with a certain dose of suspicion, but he was not a person to question large quantities of coffee handed to him first thing in the morning. "Did you get the paper on your way in?" he asked absently, running his hand through his hair, trying to achieve a different effect than a complete chaos and failing miserably.

Bruce didn't answer for a while, and when Jim finally looked up, he had a strangely guilty expression on his face that he proceeded to hide under a wide grin. "Coffee first," he said decidedly.

"Bruce," Jim muttered.

"Why are there news crews camping outside our house?" Jimmy asked, coming into the kitchen and walking up to the fridge, rummaging for the orange juice.

Jim could feel his eyebrows sneaking up almost to his hairline. "Bruce?"

Bruce sighed heavily. "Fine. But remember that you actually like me," he muttered, retrieving the newspaper from, inexplicably, the oven, and handing it to Jim.

It took a moment for his morning blurry vision to focus on the headline, and then another long moment for the words to make some actual sense. "Bruce," he said again, this time a plea for Bruce to make it disappear, or admit it was an elaborate hoax, or something.

"I can explain," Bruce said mournfully, and proceeded to do so immediately, words rushed as if he was worried Jim was going to stop him any second, and in a very painful way. "They got a hold on some pics of me and Babs, and they assumed what everyone assume when they see me with a pretty young girl, and some woman from Gotham Times called me to get a quote about it, assuming that considering ours," he gestured between them "rather public friendship this must be quite serious, and asking about upcoming nuptials or whatnot, and I might have said that this would be rather problematic considering that I've been living in sin with Babs' father for quite a while now," he finished, breathing out, and Jim looked at him, blinking.

He glanced down at the newspaper again, skimming the text. "God, you actually did say 'living in sin', didn't you," he muttered.

"At least I wasn't misquoted," Bruce offered cheerfully, and Jim threw him a glare, not feeling any satisfaction when the smile melted away.

"How many journalists?" he asked Jimmy, then made his way to the kitchen window, to look out for himself. He groaned. "I don't think I have enough ammo in the house. How unfortunate," he added mournfully, and raised his hand to stop Bruce, who stepped forward, explanation forming on his lips. "Any chances they're not camping outside Babs' appartment?"

Bruce shook his head. "I'll call Alfred, he'll send a car to get her," he offered and Jim nodded, downing the rest of his coffee and looking wistfully at the tin. First things first, however, he thought, moving to search for his cell.

"I'll call Babs," Jimmy volunteered, slightly too amused for Jim's liking.

"Jim," Bruce started again, but stopped when Jim waved at him angrily.

"Not now," he turned on the cell, wincing when it announced forty three messages. "I have to deal with this mess now," he muttered, squashing down the pangs of guilt at the sight of Bruce's crestfallen face, walking back to the bedroom, listening to a message after a message. One was from Montoya, with congratulations, and he silenced her after three seconds. One from the GCPD press liaison, requesting he called her as soon as he got the message to work on the official statement. The rest was from various newspapers and tv stations, asking for interviews.

"Fuck," he muttered, using one hand to search for a shirt while the messages played on.

"Sorry," Bruce said quietly behind him, and Jim didn't startle like he once would, he got used to being sneaked on, even comfortable with it. He turned to watch Bruce sit down on the bed, tiredly rubbing the back of his neck with his open palm, eyes fixed on the floor. "I should have thought this over," he added, and Jim stopped the message from someone over at Gotham Tonight and carefully placed the phone on the table.

"I don't..." he shook his head, not entirely sure what he was going to say. Bruce's expression wasn't helping, even with his eyes down, and hair falling over his face, Jim could see the look, and it was uncannily resembling the one the damn dog had after Jim yelled at him about stealing his shoes again. He almost snorted at that.

Then, slowly, he moved to sit next to Bruce, their shoulders brushing slightly. "Living in sin?" he asked quietly, shaking his head. "Really, Bruce."

"The conversation kind of got away from me," Bruce admitted, and that at least Jim could understand, he didn't even want to think how he would react if some journalist suggested this to him. "And, well, you have any words that would sound better?" he asked tiredly and Jim nodded, his palm resting comfortingly just above Bruce's knee, feeling the warmth even through the layer of clothing.

They had pretty much avoided the entire issue of defining the relationship and it worked well so far. Jim was always pretty hopeless at this, Barbara used to joke about it all the time, and Bruce wasn't that much better at communication.

But there were other ways to convey what he couldn't quite say, and he leaned in, just as Bruce instinctively shifted towards him, the kiss landing at the corner of Bruce's mouth, soft and slow, at least until Bruce moved further forward, deepening it quickly. Jim groaned, as the shirt he just put on was on the best way to be discarded again.

"Cough, cough," Jimmy said pointedly from the doorway. "I'm glad you made up and all, but if there's a chance of this becoming louder than intended you should know the journalists with a recording sound equipment are still right outside. And there are some people with delicate sensibilities and no desire to be scarred for life still inside," he added, turning to walk back downstairs. "I called Babs, she'll be here soon," he added over his shoulder, and procedeed with shaking his head sadly.

"They're going to completely destroy my lawn, aren't they?" Jim muttered, buttoning up the shirt again.

"Bright side, Jim, at least it's the lawn and not the rose garden," Bruce pointed out, suspiciously pleased, and Jim glared at him.

"Are you making fun of my hobby?" he asked suspiciously, and Bruce grinned unrepentantly.

"Yes. It's only fair, since you make fun of mine pretty much constantly."

"Yours involves designing everything to fit a shape of a bat. It's just that little bit disturbing," he muttered, choosing a tie and succeeding in getting it around his neck before Bruce tsked at him and pulled at the tie, sliding it off.

"You must be joking," he muttered, and picked up a different tie, proceeding to put it on Jim and tie the knot. "Did I miss the part where you're colorblind?" he asked pointedly and ignored the glare completely. "I don't think you can avoid giving a press statement," he added seriously, getting back to the main issue.

"I know," Jim sighed, reaching to correct the fit of the knot against his neck, his fingers covering Bruce's for a brief moment. "I have a lunch with the Mayor, and as much as I hate getting an input from her on a personal matter, the statement should wait until I know what she thinks of it."

"I'll try and get rid of the press for now. Promising them a press conference should do it," he muttered, not looking quite happy about it.

Jim didn't feel so happy about it either, the thought of having a press conference about his personal life was pretty damn irritating. He wondered briefly how on earth did he arrived at a point like this, and then Bruce squeezed his hand lightly and he remembered.


Bruce dealing with the press was actually quite fun to watch, because if he wasn't blowing a fuse when people were suggesting his illicit affair with Babs, he was actually very, very good at this, to the point of being a sneaky press-dealing ninja. Jimmy wondered if it was one of those things he had learned during the ninja training he didn't like to talk about. Dad, of course, didn't share Jimmy's fascination with ninja press-dealing tactics, and spent the time jabbing at his cellphone's keys, deleting every message with some satisfaction. Apparently, the concept of katharsis could be employed to wiping out a digital memory of the answering machine, who knew.

Jimmy leaned against the wall by the kitchen window, one of the greatest spots in the house to see the porch and the lawn without being seen yourself, often used by Babs before her dates. She claimed to be a ninja herself, but no one who had seen Bruce in action would have any doubt to where the real skills were.

Ninja skills, in this particular situation, meant that Bruce somehow knew the name of every journalist in attendance, and there was a hellish lot of them, too. He flirted left and right, as he usually did, but now the flirting directed at men was much less subtle than usual. It also meant that Bruce kept smiling even at the more outrageous questions, the ones that would make Dad either hit someone or at least dig into his deepest sarcasm resources. Watching this, you would think that Bruce was not only eternally patient, but that he also had no care in the world. Which, clearly, not true, considering Batman.

Sometimes, very rarely but sometimes, Jimmy could forget about the whole double identity thing. It wasn't that difficult, since Dad and Bruce had that insane and stubborn idea to keep the crime fighting part of their lives separate, even though Jimmy and Babs already knew. Jimmy mentioned something about it to Babs, slightly disappointed by the lack of the pointy-eared cowl in sight, and she shrugged, and muttered that Mom didn't like Batman all that much, as if that explained everything.

Babs refused to explain further, which was just typical, really.

And speaking of Babs, the black Bentley pulled over, and the scattering press had been so overly charmed by Bruce that all they managed was a few quick flashes of the cameras at slightly surprised Babs before they got into their vans and left, probably to go and camp out the precinct, where the afternoon conference was going to take place.

Alfred followed her, but stopped at the lawn, discussing something with Bruce quietly, shaking his head in some amusement, before turning and getting back into the car, much to Jimmy's dismay. Alfred's input on the situation would be very valuable - no one else here seemed to see the funny side. Right now his only hope was with Babs, and she was rarely helpful.

"So, what's the status?" she asked, walking in, dumping her bag on the floor. Biscuit, who was a damn traitor, bothered to get off the couch and come and greet her, and she crouched down to scratch his ears.

"Dad is having a press conference about his sex life," Jimmy said, taking some satisfaction in the phrasing. This was never going to get old.

He also glared at Biscuit, who was now sprawled on the floor, belly-up, happy as a clown. The dog was really annoying in that way, sure, he was Babs' dog, but Jimmy was the one walking him for the past four months, and he was the one sneaking him dinner leftovers.

"Sounds fun," Babs muttered, really not meaning it, and Jimmy was right, she had no sense of humor whatsoever.

"I don't think you have a right outlook on this," he told Babs regretfully, and she returned the glare, drawing herself up from the floor.

"I'll see the hilarious side after I had some coffee, I'm sure," she said, and judging by the zombie moves and panda eyes, she did need some caffeine, he supposed. He waited patiently until she made herself a cup, and wordlessly handed her the paper, then waited.

"Living in sin?" she asked, predictably.


"I get it, unfortunate phrasing," Bruce said, coming into the kitchen. "Can we get over this now?"

Babs gave him a look that said that no, never, not in a million years, and Jimmy for once was in a total agreement. "Nope. Too good," he shrugged.

"Someone made coffee?" Dad asked, coming in, cellphone still in hand. "Hey, honey," he greeted Babs, kissing her forehead. "And?" he glanced at Bruce.

"The press is gone, for now. Your lawn is absolutely ruined, and so is Mrs Darby's, which means we're completely screwed and she'll kill us in our sleep," Bruce shrugged, and Jimmy winced. Mrs Darby scared the hell out of him ever since she caught him trying to dress up one of her cats as a bat. For god's sake, he was eleven, in the middle of his Batman phase, and it was Halloween.

Dad nodded. "I talked to the Mayor, unfortunately I still have to go through the lunch, but she sounded surprisingly pleased."

"No wonder," Babs muttered, and they looked at her. "Well, apart from her stance on same sex marriage, there are other good points," she waved the paper at them, taking in the blank expression and sighing. She settled in into what Jimmy could tell was going to be a spiel. She did that. "Any of you even read that whole piece?"

"I got up to the 'living in sin' part," Dad said, with a look at Bruce that was less annoyed and more amused than before.

"Well, they make a big point out of the fact that Bruce had cleaned up his act in the last few years, cite the suspicious lack of affairs and his increasing interest in charity work..." she laughed. "Apparently Dad is a positive influence on you," she told Bruce.

"Don't even say it," Bruce warned, at the very same moment when Dad grinned and said "Well, of course I am."

Jimmy was just about to say something about that, but his cell perked up, and he sighed. It was only a matter of time until all the people from school woke up to the morning paper and the morning news, which were sure to be full of discussions on his father's sex life, which, again, hilarious and just a tad disturbing.

Then he saw the caller ID, and scrambled to answer it, trying not to smile. "Devika, hey," he said, and escaped from the kitchen before Babs could look too interested in the conversation. Over Devika's surprised reproach on not being told before, he could hear the conversation in the kitchen.

"The Not-Girlfriend?" Bruce was asking, and Babs snorted.

"She's quite nice," Dad said absently. "Keeps coming over to criticize Jimmy's CD collection and ignores me as much as she can," he added, the very tone of voice that told Jimmy he was trying very hard not to laugh too obviously.

"It's not like that," he muttered, coming back into the kitchen, phone safely tucked in his pocket, and Babs snorted again.

"So, you're not going to ask her to the prom?" she said, and he glared at her.

"I didn't say I was going to the prom at all," he said, and she just rolled her eyes, wordlessly calling bullshit. He figured a change in approach was in order. "Hey, and how's Steve?"

"Steve's fine," she said levelly, smirk gone from her face.

"Why did you break up, again?" Jimmy prodded, and this time, even Dad looked mildly interested. Bruce just hid his face in his hands, but whether he was laughing or rolling his eyes so hard they threatened to fall out, Jimmy wasn't sure.

"Because the idiot proposed after that summer pregnancy scare," Babs said matter-of-factly and stood up. "Excuse me."

"After a what?" Dad said, a tad too loudly, and Bruce looked up at that.

"Come on, Jim, you did know they were sleeping together."

"Sleeping, yes, it's the having sex part that I have problems with."

"Not everyone throws press conferences on their sex life," Jimmy said mournfully.


Barbara unpacked her things slowly, carefully placing the books on the shelves in her bedroom, into their rightful places. Jimmy still made fun of her retentiveness, but if they weren't within their genres, alphabetized by the author, she was going insane.

By the time she made it back downstairs, Dad and Jimmy were gone, and Bruce was making enough pancakes to feed an army, or probably one billionaire slash vigilante. There was a reason why they stocked up in sugar measured in tons.

"Blueberry?" he asked when she sat down to the kitchen table and she nodded.

"Sounds good. Where's everybody?"

"Jim wanted to swing by the precinct before his lunch meeting. Probably to check if Montoya hadn't painted his office in rainbow colours by now, or something along those lines."

Babs laughed at that, but then nodded. Renee could do that. "And Jimmy?"

"He was very mysterious about it, so I suppose he went to see Devika. I didn't ask," he said, placing the first batch of pancakes in front of Barbara. The part about not asking, she didn't really believe. Bruce was completely incapable of minding his own business. And she meant it in a good way. Mostly.

"Have you hear from Steve recently?" he asked, digging into his own plate and she looked at him for a long moment. That. Exactly what she meant.

But then again, he was Bruce, who slightly awkwardly advised her on getting the first date with Steve, and who had, earnestly, suggested going for gelato to Italy after she broke up with Steve. It ended with frozen yogurt downtown, but the point stood.

"Sure. We talk," she shrugged, and took a moment, chewing on the pancake. "Well, we call each other and share uncomfortable silences, at least. Once you turned guy down when he proposed, he tends to be a little skittish," she added bitterly.

"He came by three days ago," Bruce offered thoughtfully. "With the old excuse of returning some book you've left at his place, and how he thought you might need it. I think he was disappointed that you weren't back yet."

"How do you know it was just an excuse? Maybe he really thought I might need that book."

"Your math textbook from high school? Sure, maybe," Bruce agreed, grinning.

She smiled, a little. "Well. I suppose I can call him and thank him for the book, at least," she muttered, and he nodded.

"You do that. In the meantime, I'll go and set everything up to record Jim's press conference. I'm supposed to be there, so I can't really watch it with popcorn and mock." He caught Babs' amused look and shrugged. "Not every day you have your sex life discussed on every news network. It has to be commemorated."

"Bruce. With you, it is every day," Babs pointed out.

"Sure. But not every day it's actually true."

She blinked after him. "You're just going to discuss the relationship, not actual sex life, right? Because that would be... bad. And traumatic. And bad."

She didn't get an answer, Bruce was already busy with setting up the recording, and she sighed, then dug into another pancake, watching her cellphone thoughtfully.


Montoya had quite a few jobs in her life, starting from working at a video store when she was sixteen, and in her police career she went through a significant amount of sergeants and lieutenants, before she begun to work closely with commissioner Gordon. She was not a stranger to a boss having a bad day and a foul mood.

But with Gordon, even the most severe case of annoyance only caused him to regress into his workaholism and bury himself under the mountain of paperwork in his office. This time, she supposed, he might be counting on the additional effect of no one finding him in time for the press conference.

"How did the lunch go, sir?" she asked, coming in without knocking. He would have ignored the knocking anyway, she knew that.

"I think I'll retire again," he told her seriously, not looking up from the financial reports.

"Yes, sir. Because we all know how long that lasted the last time," she muttered under her breath. Two weeks, and he was going insane by the end of it, calling her every other hour. It might have been a stunt move, yes, but he was not likely to do so ever again.

She didn't think he heard her, but then he looked up, trying a stern expression and arriving mostly at a smirk, and she grinned back. "Ready for the conference?" she asked, and got a groan in return. "That's good. We'll all be watching, I even called my aunt in Montana and told her that she simply must see this."

"Have I fired you lately, Renee?" he asked pointedly, and she nodded.

"Yes, sir. I always come back, though. Like a bad penny."

"Speaking of bad pennies," Gordon said tiredly, fishing out a, sadly familiar, report. "What do you make of that?" he asked, and she didn't even have to look at the file.

"Copycat, or a fan. Must be, Joker's dead."

The look she got in return said pretty much everything Gordon thought of that. She grimaced, she had heard that exact line all too many times, and said it herself an additional few. You were never sure until you had seen the body, and with some, Joker included, not even then. "We'll look into that," she volunteered, and for a brief moment, Gordon looked really tired, enough that she would believe him now if he mentioned retiring again.

Thankfully, it didn't last long enough for her to feel awkward enough to break the silence, and someone else who didn't bother to knock rushed in, Gordon's expression relaxing immediately; and honestly, she really wondered how on earth it took so long for everyone to catch up, the relationship was easy to see by anyone who paid a modicum of attention.

"Mr Wayne," she said politely and stepped to the side, allowing Bruce to step further into the room. "I understand that some congratulations are in order," she grinned.

"Lieutenant," he nodded at her. "Thank you. But shouldn't it be best wishes?" he asked, and she stared him straight in the eye, serious and definitely ignoring the death glare Gordon had been aiming her way.

"I always thought best wishes for the bride, congratulations to the groom," she said smoothly, and made a step towards the doors, ready to duck and cover if necessary.

"Out, Montoya," Gordon said pointedly. "Before I really fire you," he added, and she looked at Bruce mournfully.

"He needs to work on the threats," she said, lowering her voice, then straightened, glancing at Gordon, opening the doors already. "I think it's time to meet the press, commissioner. Just leave your piece in your desk, wouldn't want any blood spill," she smiled and hightailed it out from the office.

Maybe openly making fun out of your boss wasn't the smartest thing to do, but she had to get her entertainment somehow. And this was beginning to be one of the best days ever.


"Sometimes the only thought that keeps me from retiring is that there's a great chance Montoya would be my replacement," Jim grumbled, and Bruce laughed.

"I take it the meeting with the Mayor was somehow tiring?"

Jim shrugged. "I'm quite used to having her annoyed with me, and berating me for something, usually not attending a function. Supportive approach is certainly a new and just slightly disturbing one."

"I feel your pain," Bruce nodded in mock sympathy, getting an exasperated look in return. They both were quite aware that Grange's support was valuable in this case, but logic never stopped Jim from complaining before, and it didn't look like it would now. "That's not the only thing that has you worried, though," he muttered, growing serious, and Jim nodded, pushing a folder his way. He flicked through it, grimacing.

"Montoya doesn't think it's the Joker, but..." Jim shrugged, standing up, pushing his chair away a little forcefully, metal scratching the floor.

"Better safe than sorry," Bruce agreed, stepping around the desk, just as Jim leaned against the windowframe, looking out. He moved to stand behind Jim, arms sneaking around his waist, resting his chin on Jim's shoulder. Before now, he wouldn't have allowed himself this while still in Jim's office, with the doors opened and some of the senior detectives cultivating a habit of coming in without knocking. There were at least some advantages to the situation. "Jim," he started quietly, and felt Jim shake his head, his cheek against Bruce's.

"I probably would have overreacted even more," he admitted. "Also, this is nice," he muttered, echoing Bruce's thoughts, and for a long moment they just stood there, their bodies pressed closely together and relaxed, the shared silence comforting.

Bruce nodded, reluctantly pulling away. "How about we get it over with? The sooner we start, the sooner I can watch it with popcorn and mock you relentlessly."

"It's good that at least one of us finds it funny," Jim said, but there was no real annoyance in his voice. "Unfortunately, I don't think you're the only one recording it for the future entertainment. All I can hope for is Montoya not putting it up on youtube."

"You're delusional if you think it won't hit the net before we even get back home."

"With your driving?" Jim said, evidently holding back a smile. "I think we have a good chance of making it."

They got downstairs, to the conference room where Julie, the press officer, had set everything up for the conference. She's having some difficulties holding back a smile when she looks at them, Bruce's hand resting just above the small of Jim's back, mostly because he could now. Bruce was quite certain she would coo at them given half the opportunity, and quietly thought he preferred Montoya's teasing approach.

"I limited the number of reporters admitted to those of the major media," she informed Jim. "Figured you would feel better with a smaller crowd."

Jim looked like he wanted to say that there was no way in hell to make him feel better about the entire thing, but he just nodded at Julie, forcing a smile. "Thank you."

It started easy enough; the reporters seemed to respect Jim and didn't go for the easiest, outrageous and baiting kind of questions. It was more than Bruce could hope for during his own meetings with the press, but he had to own it that he usually baited them first, and done enough to provoke the most daring questions. And now he really hoped this wouldn't matter and that he could offer more support than just standing at Jim's side and wonder if holding his hand would be too much.

It started easy enough, Becca from Gotham Tonight asking since when they were together, making a mild crack about hiding the relationship, and Bruce breathed out some of the air he'd been holding. The questions that followed were pretty much predictable, and even Jim seemed to relax just a little bit, until one of the two tabloid reporters Julie let in had apparently done some rather strange math, and wondered whether the affair had started before Barbara's death. For a moment Bruce wasn't sure whether he should be holding on to Jim, keeping him from shooting someone in the presence of at least a dozen cameras, some possibly reporting live, or whether he should simply strangle the reporter.

Even with the cameras, he should be able to get out of it easily; there were some things, or rather most of things, that Bruce Wayne could be forgiven and explained. It was almost depressing, when you thought about it.

Jim's fists were clenched to the point where it must have been painful, nails leaving angry red marks etched into his palms, but all he did was hold the reporter's gaze and offer an unflinching "No." It's straightforward and honest and just a little bit painful, because even now, Jim's still grieving and it's plain to see in his face.

There was a long silence after that, no one quite knowing what to say, and Bruce thought that, in a room full of journalists, that must have been a first.

"So, are you planning to have a commitment ceremony any time soon?" Becca asked, and Bruce gratefully made a mental note of agreeing to do any interviews she asks for from now on.

The rest of the questions that followed were almost dull, once everyone realised there was no scandal, and that beyond a suddenly domesticated playboy there was little to fill up the front page. But Bruce still held his breath when Frank from Gotham Times asked his final question, ready to close his notepad, inquiring what was the official status and the right word to use in the article. "Would 'boyfriend' be fine with you, commissioner?" he asked, much to everyone's amusement, and Bruce added another mental note, to shun Frank and his paper whenever possible. It was fine for Bruce to make fun of this, yes, but no one else was allowed. Well, apart from maybe Montoya, because she had earned herself the privilege a long time ago, through saving his and Jim's life on occasion.

Besides, this was a question he wanted to ask for a while now, and Frank getting to ask it first was really grating on his nerves.

And then Jim hesitated before shrugging and saying he didn't really like discussing semantics, and Bruce closed his eyes briefly. This shouldn't be a question asked here and now, and he was pretty damn certain Jim was going to deflect and change the subject.

"'Partner' is the one I can think of," Jim said, quietly, and the softness in his voice hinted at the hidden layer. This wasn't only the answer to the posed question, this was the moment Jim wished for when he hoped to admit working with Batman some day, the closest to full disclosure they'll ever come to.

Maybe Bruce wasn't the only one glad of coming clean of even this one secret.


It didn't take Steve long to get to the house, and Babs looked at him suspiciously. He didn't seem to notice, looking around and shaking his head. "Your lawn is something tragic," he offered, and she rolled her eyes.

"That's not the worst thing about this," she told him and opened the doors wider, letting him in. Biscuit made a mad dash down the stairs, from where he probably was having a peaceful nap in Dad's bedroom, and jumped at Steve, all waging tail and fluffed fur.

"Hey, buddy," Steve laughed, crouching to pet the dog, letting the furball lick his face enthusiastically. "See, at least he's happy to see me," he told Babs quietly, not looking up.

"Well, I'm not kissing you now," she said dryly. "Not after this," she indicated the dog. Steve looked up then, as if to ask if there would be any kissing otherwise, and she nodded slightly, smiling.

"I got you the papers," he offered, handing her the bundle of pretty much every paper ever; all of them apparently preempted the first page to discuss her father's love life. It was just a little bit scary.

"Thanks," she smiled cheerfully. "Want to help me with these? I'm pretty sure it'll take up a full notebook," she added. She had a few full scrapbooks already, separate ones for Batman, kept hidden in a box under the bed. It might have been a little retentive, but at least she never missed one scrap of an article to tease Dad with.

"Figured," Steve nodded, digging into his messenger bag. "That's why I got you this," he added shyly, handing her a new notebook, in soft brown leather. She laughed delightedly, and leaned in kissing him lightly before she could talk herself out of it. They stayed still for a long moment after the kiss, lips almost touching still, and she smiled.

"I'll get scissors," she said finally, trying to keep the silly smile off her face. "Turn the tv on, the conference should start soon."

Five minutes later, they were all settled on the couch, cutting the articles out and gluing them into the books. Another five minutes, and some of the glue was in her hair, and the paper strips fluttered onto the floor, forgotten the moment he kissed her again.

"Don't let me interrupt", Jimmy muttered, plopping himself onto the couch. She rolled her eyes at the same time as she was straightening her shirt just that little bit. Steve seemed to be even more shaken than she was, which was a tiny consolation.

"Don't you knock?"

"My house," Jimmy said, unfazed. "More than yours, since you moved out. Have it started yet?"

"Commercials," Steve supplied, shifting, and picking up some of the newspapers from the floor, dumping them onto the coffee table.

"Oh, good. Time to make popcorn," Jimmy grinned, and looked at Babs pointedly. "Come on, you'll help me."

She gave him a questioning look, but stood up to follow, leaving Steve to pick up the rest of the papers and paper scraps. "What is it?" she asked Jimmy, crossing her arms and leaning against the fridge.

"You and Steve, back on?" he asked matter-of-factly, and she glared briefly.

"Yes. Why?"

"Need to know if I'm supposed to be nice to him," Jimmy said wryly, then looked at her seriously. "You sure you know what you're doing? I'm unqualified for the protective brother routine, but I can always ask Bruce to beat him up. No one would find any evidence, too."

She felt the corner of her mouth twitch, even though she was trying not to smile. It was actually kind of endearing, as much as Jimmy could be endearing. He generally tended towards annoying. "Yes. It's a good thing," she said, and Jimmy nodded.

"Good. Now, I'll get the popcorn, you get the sodas," he said, turning towards the microwave.


After the conference Jim left the room wordlessly, Bruce following immediately, sending one final glare at the tabloid reporter, the look that said 'I'll remember you', which usually was more effective when it came from Batman, but it seemed to disconcert the man anyway.

Montoya stood in the corridor, grinning widely, a wisecrack already forming on her lips, but she bit it back when she saw Jim's face, and instead muttered 'Well done, commish,' which was acknowledged with a curt nod as Jim passed her by.

"I didn't think he was still..." she said to Bruce, once Jim was far away enough for her to be sure he couldn't hear her.

Bruce shrugged. "Of course he is," he said, dismissing her comforting smile. It was part of who Jim was, his completely inability to let go of anyone and anything he cared about. Bruce still hadn't decided if that was a good or a bad thing, but most of the time, he was somehow glad of it; if there was a chance that Jim would hold on to him with the same fierce determination...

"I'll make sure people don't interrupt the commish for the next hour or so," Renee said after a long moment, and he nodded gratefully, turning to walk to Jim's office.

"Better than expected," Bruce said lightly, closing the doors behind him. "Everyone survived," he added, laying on a great deal of astonished theatrics, and Jim turned his head just slightly in his direction, his gaze not leaving the city behind the window.

"Barely," Jim muttered. "Good thing I listened to your advice and left my gun behind."

"You didn't," Bruce pointed out, and Jim shrugged.

"Then I have more self control than I previously thought," he said bitterly and Bruce stepped closer, with a clear sense of deja vu, putting his arms around Jim. About half an hour since the last time they stood here, and somehow, a lot has changed, while nothing had.

"So," he drawled, unsure whether he was ready to push it or not, but unable to stop the words. "Partner, eh?"

Jim turned, pulling away just enough to look into Bruce's face searchingly, his jaw tightening defensively. "What's wrong with it?" he asked, and Bruce leaned in, breathing out, his forehead resting against Jim's.

"Absolutely nothing," he said quietly, and Jim relaxed into him, the tension melting away slowly. "Jim," he said thoughtfully, bowing his head to whisper against Jim's neck, his lips gently brushing Jim's ear. "Take the rest of the day off."

"I can't..." Jim said, predictably, and Bruce proceeded to kiss him until the protests died out. It was low, he would admit that, but it was also effective.

"Yes, you can. There's nothing pressing, and your department can manage without you quite well, you made sure of that. It's one afternoon," he added, going for the additional incentive of running his finger down Jim's neck, loosening his collar, fingernail scratching the skin. "We could stop by the mansion, find something to do while Alfred prepares dinner," he let his voice drop a little, just to leave no doubts as to what that 'something' might be. "And then we could take Alfred back home and have a family dinner."

Jim looked up sharply, something yet unreadable in his expression, then made a show of sighing. "If I say no, you'll just kidnap me and go with the plan anyway, won't you?"

"I'll get away with it, too," Bruce said, nodding cheerfully, getting a long awaited smile from Jim.


Bruce got away with maneuvering Jim into his car and taking over the wheel, which would never have happened if Jim wasn't almost too tired to think, and it was barely afternoon. Almost too tired to point out that Bruce's driving was a menace to everyone involved, and all the innocent bystanders as well.

"I had no idea that my car could even reach this speed," he noted conversationally, almost managing to keep the reproach out of his voice. Almost, because where would be the fun in that.

"I'm amazed myself. Mostly, that the car is still functioning at all. You should get a new one," Bruce said, and it was such an old argument, comfortable and worn out, that Jim only smiled, leaning his forehead against the cold glass. Bruce threw a slightly worried glance his way, but apparently whatever he saw in Jim's face reassured him, because he let go off the wheel just for a brief moment, fingers fleeting across the back of Jim's hand, then turned back to keep his gaze on the road ahead.

Back at the mansion, which they reached in record time, or a normal time if Bruce was the one driving, Alfred looked smug and omniscient, a usual look for Alfred, but now more than ever, which meant he had seen the conference, and Jim was never going to live down the cheesiness of his admission.

Bruce relied his dinner idea, and Alfred muttered something dryly, about wanting to be notified in advance when he was supposed to cook for five people, to which Bruce replied that they could order take-out. Of course, that got a dangerous glare out of Alfred, who regarded ordering take-out as one of the deadly sins. They got thrown out of the kitchen soon after, which might have been Bruce's plan all along.

"One day," Jim said thoughtfully, "he's going to kill you. With a spatula."

"While I know Alfred might be uncannily resourceful, I have years of martial arts training," Bruce muttered, already intently working out the knot of Jim's tie, grimacing at the tightness of it.

"You sleep sometimes. LIke a log, I might add," Jim rolled his eyes and caught Bruce's wrists, stilling them, then loosening the knot just enough to pull the tie over his head. He looked up just to see a smirk blossoming in the corner of Bruce's mouth. "If you're going to make an inappropriate remark, don't," he warned.

Bruce made a good show of pouting, spoiled only by his efforts to unbutton Jim's shirt at the same time. "You love the inappropriate remarks," he accused Jim, fingers brushing just above the waistband of his pants, a brief promise of things to come. Pun probably intended, Jim had to admit, even though it meant he was letting himself be dragged to Bruce's level of pointed conversation.

"No, I really don't," he said, breathless enough to make his words a blatant lie, but keeping his voice calm and even was practically impossible once Bruce's mouth started traveling along the line of his neck, soft and wet, his fingers treading Jim's hair, the other hand under Jim's shirt, palm flat and warm on his skin.

Jim hadn't realised how much he wanted this, needed it for the entire day, his hands clutching Bruce's shirt, pulling him just that little bit closer.

Bruce's eyes were closed, lips parting eagerly under Jim's tongue. Jim inhaled the soft sigh, the last of the tension melting away as Bruce's body molded into his. The day might have been exhausting, and in many ways not what he was ready for, but he remembered Bruce absently referring to his small house as 'home', and it might have been worth it.


"Dad called," Jimmy announced, cheerfully interrupting Babs and Steve before they even started making out on the couch. He took great pride in his timing, and this wasn't an exception. "They're on their way here, with Alfred, and food. Also, the conference is already up on youtube, and I think I'll print out some of the comments and pin them to the fridge."

"That good?" Babs asked, after a customary glare.

"Priceless. There's also a facebook group and a livejournal community devoted to them, and Devika found some stories I refuse to read on principle. Of course, this was only to be expected, after Dad dropped that 'partner' bomb."

Babs nodded, laughing, nodding at slightly confused Steve. (In Jimmy's opinion, slightly confused was Steve's default setup, so this wasn't surprising.) "That was a stoic cop version of holding hands and skipping through a field of flowers..." she said, smile slowly fading.

"Got the visual. Thanks, sis," Jimmy muttered, Steve's expression informing that he too had just been traumatized for life. Jimmy gulped. "You know what makes the visual even worse? If you imagine Bruce in..." he paused, catching himself. "You know," he waved vaguely at Babs, who cottoned on, and started laughing so hard she slid off the couch. Really, imagining Bruce in the Bat gear always added to hilarity, but this was infinitely ridiculous.

She was just starting to cry from laughter, when the doors opened, and all three, Bruce, Dad, and Alfred, looked at them with various degrees of confusion (mostly Dad) and amusement (Alfred). "What's so funny?" Bruce asked, setting Babs off again.

Bruce turned to look at Dad, smiling widely. "Seems like your tv career is a hit."

"Do shut up," Dad muttered, stepping further in, and around Bruce, finally catching the sight of Steve. "Hello, Steve," he said, friendly but wary, and Steve stood up, slightly uncomfortable.

"Sir," he said stiffly, and Babs was already waving her hand at Dad pointedly. Stealthy, she was not.

"We agreed on you not calling me that," Dad said finally, and Jimmy rolled his eyes. Dad caved in too fast when it came to Babs, especially for all his talking of shotguns and her not dating till she was forty.

"Yes, Sir," Steve said, winning the dork of the week award. Jimmy followed Alfred into the kitchen, deciding he had enough of the soap opera going on in the living room.

The day was looking up, however, he concluded, upon discovering Alfred brought dessert.


It was surprisingly easy to get back into the comfortable rhythm of family dinners at the Gordons', especially as Mr Gordon was too busy shooting down jabs about his conference to spend any time glaring at Steve. And Barbara was holding his hand under the table, that helped too, a lot.

And of course, there was Bruce Wayne discovering the blogosphere.

"Say what you want, but they do have some rather creative ideas," he said cheerfully, reading between bites.


Jimmy nodded sadly. "I think someone should explain fan fiction to Dad, and it's not going to be me."

Barbara made a face, plainly expressing her refusal to be involved in this.

Bruce gave them a slightly wounded look, before looking back at Mr Gordon, his expression growing thoughtful. "On another note, since the cat is out of the bag already, maybe we could think of you moving in to the mansion?" he said, his tone a poor attempt at casual nonchalance.

Alfred snorted and stood up, gathering plates, causing Barbara to scramble to help him, abandoning Steve. Steve had seen enough to know that Alfred is a rather accurate indicator as to when one should be evacuating oneself, preferably to a different country. He threw a worried glance at Jimmy, who sighed long-sufferingly. "I'm going to beat you at Wii tennis," he told Steve, who was so grateful for the excuse to leave the kitchen, he didn't point out the slim chances of that ever happening.

"Don't think so," Mr Gordon was saying, his voice unfortunately carrying through even over the sounds of the game starting. "But I will clean out one drawer for you, if you'd like to move in here."

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "Honestly, sometimes I think Bruce is saying those things just to get a reaction." Steve silently agreed with the assessment, being present at a few other occasions when a comment from Bruce Wayne started a quickly spiraling argument, but he also was of opinion that it would be safer for everyone concerned if those were conducted privately.

"I could deal, but there's no room for Alfred," Bruce argued, to the chorus of "I'd thank you for not dragging me into this," from Alfred, and an extremely amused "He could have my room," from Barbara.

"Just out of curiosity, what does Alfred really do with his days, when Bruce spends most of his time over here?" Steve asked quietly, making sure he wouldn't be heard in the kitchen. Alfred was a warm, wonderful person, but he was also downright scary.

Jimmy shrugged. "For all I know, writes scathing reviews on Television Without Pity," he offered, and served, and they both contemplated the thought for a long moment.

"I won't be able to stop thinking about it," Steve muttered, and Jimmy nodded in sad agreement.

"I don't even know why I say those things," he said.

Barbara emerged from the kitchen, covering her mouth with her hand, caught somewhere between laughter and mortification. "Alfred threw them out of the kitchen, so they're finishing the argument in the garden."

Jimmy looked slightly worried. "I really hope there's no more reporters around. Although, after telling them that no one benefits from being traumatized by all the making out, I kind of hope they'll be caught on tape."

"And watch it online for the whole eternity? I'll pass," Babs said with a wry smile, whisking the Wii control from Jimmy, to his silent protest. "And you just know Bruce would request a copy, and have it up on a big screen somewhere very public, just to see Dad sputtering."

"Speaking, off, it's suspiciously quiet," Steve pointed out, nodding his head in the general direction of the garden. Barbara raised her brow, tilting her head as she listened. Jimmy moved to switch off the game and the tv.

"I vote for getting the hell out of here," he said. "You know how they are after a difficult day," he told Babs, and her answering grimace told Steve everything he didn't want to know. "If we go to the movies, it's three blissful hours without being exposed to mental trauma," Jimmy added, and Steve had to admit he had a good point. "Steve's buying the tickets, since he needs to suck up to your younger brother if he wants to have an easy time joining the family."

Steve was about to protest, when he realised that Jimmy, once again, was kind of right, annoying as it was. There was a small consolation in Barbara smacking her younger brother over the head, laughing.

"I'll tell Dad and Bruce we're going out," she said, stepping out into the garden, and then quickly back again. "I don't think they'll miss us all that much," she muttered, shaking her head.

Steve didn't ask. It seemed safer.