stop. look. listen.

The Space Between.

The rain that welcomed Jim back in Gotham looked like it was never going to end, as if it was just the beginning of a great flood of biblical proportions, washing away the filth from the streets. It had rained two years ago, when he was leaving Gotham, too, and for a short moment, he had a surreal thought that maybe it was the same rain, maybe it wasn't two years at all, but mere minutes since the last time he drove through those streets.

Three weeks after Harvey Dent took his family captive, Barbara waited for him with dinner, a rare occurrence in itself, but her worry and weariness weren't strange at all. "We need to talk," she said, and Jim knew perfectly well what it was about; the long nights he spent at work, the nightmares Babs and Jimmy were suffering through, the way Barbara kept on trying to ignore the family falling apart.

"I think the kids would benefit from a change in the environment," she said, no doubt quoting the school guidance councilor, afraid that if she used her own words her voice would break. "I asked around, found a job in Philadelphia, and a nice house. The Police Department there is hiring," she added, like an afterthought, her fingers clenching the soft folds of her skirt. She sounded as if he was pretty damn sure what his answer would be, and was bracing herself to hear it, and she was probably right about that, but they never got to the moment where he could say it.

Jimmy woke up, calling for him, like he did every night now, and standing up, rushing up the stairs, he knew that Barbara was right, the city was destroying them, demanding too high a price, and she would leave no matter what was his decision. And if he stayed, he wouldn't get to do this, to hold his son through his nightmare, and after all, there was no choice really.

He handed Garcia his resignation the very next day, establishing the record for the shortest stint at the commissioner's office. When he told Barbara, she smiled, disbelieving and happy, and this made him even more sure.

Of course, that was two years ago, and now he was back, alone, driving through a mostly silent city, only the rhythmic sound of a rain against the windshield as his companion. Someone from the Mayor's office took care of finding him an apartment, and they also sent him the directions. Address would suffice, he thought, he had his personal map of the city ingrained in his brain. (A crime scene two blocks away, when he was just a detective, double homicide, mother and daughter, the kid not even ten years old. Some things you didn't forget, not ever.)

The job in Philadelphia was nice and boring, mostly paperwork and reports. Not the commissioner, of course, but he didn't even have time to get used to being one, and the apparent demotion was a bonus rather than a problem. He got home on time for dinner, and took time to go to Jimmy's games and Babs' science fairs, and for a long while it seemed to be working, until one day he realised that he and Barbara hadn't spoken a word that wasn't related to the kids in months.

"Where did it go wrong?" he asked one night, and her leveled breathing sped up for just a moment, before evening out again, and she didn't speak for a very long moment, making Jim think she had fallen asleep.

"I wish I knew," she said, eyes still closed. "You should go back," she added, and he didn't pretend to misunderstand. "The kids are doing fine, you can visit any time, and it's not that far away that they can't spend some weekends over at your place," she spoke of it as if it was a done deal, as if she was sure of his decision again, and this time, she was right. Once again, it wasn't really a decision to make.

"You know I love you," he said, not a question really, just a whispered statement that he wouldn't know how to repeat in the light of day.

"Oh, Jim," she muttered. "That's part of the problem."

He called Stephens the day after that, and chickened out from asking about coming back, but Gerry knew him all too well, and few weeks later, Garcia was calling him about possibly taking his old job back.

"Lieutenant Stephens informed me you were thinking of moving back to Gotham," he said without any preamble, not even the slightest pleasantries exchanged, and Jim thought that there were some things he actually liked about Garcia. "You probably heard about commissioner Owen," he said, not a question at all, and Jim didn't have anything to say to that, he followed the news religiously, almost desperate for the scraps of news concerning Gotham, concerning... Of course he heard about Owen, and the sniper, and the fact that it had been the fifth commissioner since him, and the fourth dead. Montoya e-mailed him the snopes link on urban legend concerning a curse on the job, but he ignored this, much as he ignored all other links he got from her.

He knew what was going on, Gotham's crime rate was up, Batman still at large (thank God), taking the job was synonymous with painting a target on yourself, and Garcia was up for reelection. And the press kept on reminding everyone that Gordon had been the one who locked Joker up twice. Garcia needed good press, and Gordon was still the hero cop in Gotham's eyes, blind as they were.

"He was desperate enough to offer me the job," Stephens said, through the crackling phoneline, over the sounds of a normal days at the precinct.

"What did you say?"

"I laughed in his face," he offered, startling a laugh out of Jim. "No, really. He surprised me, and I overreacted. I don't think I have any chances of promotion now," he added ruefully, but came through mostly as damn well pleased with himself. "Jim," he added after a long moment of silence. "Not that I take pleasure in adding to your worries, but the department could use you. Things used to be better when..." he started and didn't finish. He didn't have to, Jim was already nodding his agreement.

Three days before he left the city, he sat with Gerry in the rather dodgy pub Stephens favoured, and nursed his beer without conviction. "I'm not even sure if it'll do anything good," he said quietly, getting Stephens' worried attention. "But someone should know."

Someone should know not to shoot at shadows, not to ignore the evidence mysteriously arriving on his desk, someone should be there if the Bat needed help, and Jim was gone.

This was the hardest part, in ways he hadn't even expected it to be. He was furious at himself for even considering the thought of choosing anything, anyone, over his children, not to mention choosing to stay because a vigilante whose face he didn't even know might need his help at some vague point in the future.

In the two weeks between making the decision and leaving, he spent few hours every day on the roof, waiting. The last night, after most of their things had been sent over to their new house, when all that was left to do was get on the plane and leave, that last night he spent on the roof till the dawn, watching the clouds forming, signaling the incoming rain. The Bat never showed, and Jim was greatly disappointed and slightly relieved.

He took the longest possible route to his new apartment, driving almost aimlessly around the city, noting the changes. Few new buildings, an old cinema turned into a parking lot, the time hadn't stood still no matter what the rain suggests.

He couldn't regret leaving, it had been the right choice at the time, especially as it wasn't much of a one. Gotham will forgive him, too, the city's a cruel mistress, but it can be kind in accepting you back.
There's hoping that she's not the only one.


If Jim was hoping that the Bat would show up at his apartment, he would be disappointed, so it was a good thing he wasn't hoping at all. Of course he must have known Gordon was back, anyone paying the slightest attention to what was going on in the city knew; Garcia was on every news show, announcing it, but there was absolutely no reason for Batman to care for it at all.

He wasn't sure whom he was trying to fool, he was disappointed, though not surprised.

He was due at work on Monday, so the Sunday was spent unpacking the boxes, the ones that came with him from Philly, and the ones he got out of the storage in Gotham, because apparently he was as incapable of really leaving as Barbara thought him to be.

"You never really left," she said, helping him pack, making sure his shirts were pressed as she folded them carefully. She insisted he had no idea how to do that, and would arrive in Gotham with wrinkled clothes and no iron.

"I tried to," he said pleadingly, and she seemed to understand, nodding as she leaned over and kissed his forehead.

"I love you, you know?" she muttered, matter-of-factly and easily, something he never quite managed to do. "Now, I hope you're taking the plates we got from your mother for the first anniversary. They're even more ugly that I remembered."

"All yours," he shook his head, smiling.

Telling the kids was the worst, of course, but the last two years had been good for them, and they reacted more calmly than he expected. Babs quoted divorce statistics at him, which meant she really shouldn't be allowed free wikipedia reign whenever she wanted, and then added that she was one of the only four kids in her class with two-parents households, and that involved Marissa and her two Moms. Jimmy just asked if Jim was going to be there for his next soccer game, and upon being reassured that yes, he was, nodded seriously.

"You'll tell him," he started after a while, shrugging the rest of his words away, and Jim pulled him in for a hug. "Tell him we didn't forget, Dad," he said.

"I will," he promised.

Which, upon reflection, would be easier to do if he actually saw the Bat at some point.

On Monday, he drove to the City Hall, to be welcomed by a message that Garcia had an opening of a new hospital to attend, and would see him at a later date, which was just as well. He was also greeted by three smiling detectives taking over his office, and he rolled his eyes at them.

"Can't give me a day of respite?" he asked, and Montoya laughed, giving in to an impulse and hugging him briefly.

"Good to have you back, boss," she said, and cheerfully pointed at a fish tank on his desk. "We looked after your fish, fed them, and all."

"These aren't my fish," he pointed out.

"So, we didn't look after your fish," she shrugged. "All Stephens' fault, he really turned your office into a pigsty."

"Did not," Stephens said, before realising he had been conned into arguing like a twelve year old, and glaring at Montoya. "You're welcome to take the office back any time you want, Jim," he added, and Jim shook his head. He had been tempted, but it was Stephens' office now, and Stephens' job at the MCU, and he had to make do with the City Hall glassy fishbowl of an office. He was not used to that many windows. There was no wonder the previous commissioner had been taken out by a sniper.

"Glad you're back, boss," Bullock said with as much of a smile as Bullock ever allowed himself. "Maybe Montoya will stop cheating at poker."

"I do not cheat," she protested, pushing him out of the office none too gently. "You just can't bluff to save your life."

Stephens rolled his eyes, closing the door behind them. "I for one am relieved you're back. You can take over managing the kindergarten."

"How bad is it, really?" he asked, and Stephens shrugged.

"I take it you don't mean the pulling the pigtails routine there," he muttered and sighed. "Not as bad as the press makes it sound. We had a few breaks in dealing with the mob but, of course, the lawyers are still questioning anything that concerns evidence from earlier than two years ago, saying they can't trust anything that might have been brought in by Batman. Unless the chain of custody is airtight, we don't have much luck."

Mostly his fault, Jim knew. "That was to be expected."

"On the brighter side, no masked madmen or city wide panic, apart from that short shtick Nygma pulled off last year, but you know all about that. Also, not sure if you'll like it, but I had to tell Bullock about the Bat, or he would have probably shot him. Long story, I'm sure he can tell you, he's quite proud of catching Batman unaware," he added, causing Jim to wince. "And I think Montoya figured it out, but she hadn't said anything so far."

He nodded, making a mental note to talk to her about it. Of course, getting any relevant and useful information from Montoya was like pulling teeth, only more maddening.

Something was nagging at his thoughts, cold and ugly, and felt a momentary resentment at Bullock and Montoya, and even Stephens. It was ridiculous to the greatest degree, he had been the one who told Stephens, and he had be the one arguing with the Bat that people needed to know, and yet he couldn't help it. Maybe things would improve once he knew for sure that Batman was alright, knew how things stood between them.

"I've seen him last week," Gerry offered, as if reading his thoughts. This was the best and the worst thing about Stephens, he knew Jim too well. "Told him you were coming back."

Jim waited, and finally, upon encountering silence, prompted. "And what did he say?"

Stephens laughed. "Say? You know the guy, he doesn't say anything if he can help it. He had disappeared somewhere before I finished telling him."

Of course he had, that was exactly what he did. Gordon's chest tightened with something that might have been wistfulness. "Thank you, Gerry."

"Not a problem. As the kids said, good to have you back," he nodded and left, closing the door with exaggerated care, giving the glass surface a suspicious look.

The rest of the day had been filled by digging through a mountain of paperwork, too much of it budget related. He called Jimmy and Babs in the evening, like he had promised to do every day, and had a brief conversation with Barbara, chiding him for overworking himself on the first day. He could smile throughout, though, and that was welcomed.

He drove by the MCU on his way home, and made a slightly illegal u-turn at the end of the street, pulling into the parking lot, then walking in, his pulse racing.

"We thought you forgot where we were, boss," Montoya perked up, and he rolled his eyes at her, a familiar exasperation warming him up. He spent some time catching up with those he knew, and being introduced to the new recruits, and finally Montoya took pity and dragged him away, on all pretenses of showing him the new coffee maker, then pressed a coffee cup into his hands and disappeared. Sometimes he thought that hiring her was one of his more inspired decisions.

The rooftop was completely empty. He had expected that, in two years someone was bound to clean out the glass and remove the reflector, but it felt like a punch into the gut somehow. He moved to stand where it used to be, looking down at the patterns it left as it was moved.

"Gordon," Batman said behind him, and Jim moved slowly, trying to will his voice to sound even once he spoke.

"Didn't think you'd come," he lied, because maybe he didn't believe it completely, but he had been hoping. Batman didn't answer, as always reluctant to waste words, and Jim took a moment looking at him. The suit was different again, but in the darkness he couldn't say much about what changed. "So, I'm back," he said awkwardly, unnecessarily, thinking himself rather foolish for wasting the Bat's time for selfish reasons.

Batman nodded, as if to say that he could see that much. Jim sighed, turning to look out at the city.

"I left the city once," Batman offered, and Jim looked up, startled. It was probably the most personal thing he heard from the Bat, and one of the very few unprompted ones. He was almost afraid to speak, but nothing else followed, and he needed to ask.


"Didn't stick," he said and stepped away, leaving Gordon wondering if it was meant to be comforting, or Batman's attempt at humour. Either way, it was something.


Visiting the MCU's rooftop wasn't the smartest decision Bruce could have made, Alfred kept telling him that the hunt for the Batman was still on, so could he please be a little more careful, but it wasn't everyday that Jim Gordon returned to the city. Bruce wasn't prone to sentimentality, but it felt familiar and comfortable, as if everything was just as it used to be.

Of course, as even the absence of the signlight attested, a lot has changed.

The last time he had stood here was over two years ago, during the Joker madness. After that, the few times he had seen Gordon had been in alleyways and, once, on the man's porch, an unfortunate event that caused Barbara Gordon to walk upstairs and close the doors to the bathroom with shaking hands. There were things that shouldn't follow Jim home, she must have been thinking; the darkness of the job and the disfigured maniacs, and, most of all, the Batman.

Her decision to leave the city was not sudden or abrupt and not at all unexpected, Jim's choice to follow was a little more surprising. Bruce didn't know what exactly prompted the decision, or even when it was made; he knew Jim wanted to talk to him, but at first there was the reluctance to appear and be noticed and draw any attention to Jim's continued cooperation with him, and then... And then there were boxes packed at Jim's house, and a resignation letter on the Mayor's desk, and meeting with Jim seemed to be a bad idea, because he just might cave in and ask the man to stay.

“Batman doesn’t have that many allies,” Alfred had remarked after Bruce had been trying to hide his foul mood for a day or so. “And Bruce Wayne doesn’t have many friends. Which he could try and change. May I suggest online dating, sir?” he added, mostly designed to earn a snort or a glare and take Bruce’s mind off Gordon leaving.

Bruce wasn’t prone to sentimentality, no, but Jim was a link to his past in a similar but not the same way as Rachel had been. Gordon used to be one of the very few honest cops in the city, but even then he wasn’t the only one; Bruce chose him not for the insistence on refusing to take bribes, but because he remembered the man who put his father’s coat around him, long time ago.

He had made an excellent choice in this as it turned out; Gordon had stood by the man he hadn’t even known through thick and thin, even though it wasn’t conscious planning on Bruce’s part, but gut instinct of a kid he used to be.

How much difference did having Gordon on his side made was hammered home few months ago, during Nygma’s turn to terrorize the city with unclear threatening notes and lots of explosives. Batman had arrived on the scene before the police, but still a few minutes too late to prevent the explosion.

He had rushed in to get people out, and had the bad luck of almost having his leg crushed under a steel bar falling from the ceiling, and then an even worse luck of detective Harvey Bullock stumbling onto him in the back alley. Much to his embarrassment, Bruce hadn’t noticed him until he had heard the cold click of the gun safety lock.

“Stay right where you are, no sudden movements and no tricks,” Bullock muttered, tension and just a hint of smugness in his voice, and Bruce froze, evaluating the possible ways out of this.

“Put down your gun, Bullock,” someone said calmly, and Bruce chanced a look over his shoulder to see Stephens standing in the alley’s entrance. “And help us with securing the site.”

“It’s the Bat,” Bullock muttered harshly, and Stephens rolled his eyes, sighing heavily.

“I can see that. It’s fine,” he added, after Bullock hadn’t moved, the hold on his gun not wavering. “Jim said he’s still on our side.”

“Jim’s not here,” Bullock said, but he lowered his piece, relaxing just slightly, because here or not, Gordon’s word was still enough. He eyed Batman suspiciously, as Bruce pulled himself up and moved to step into the shadows, hesitating.

“Thank you,” he said quietly, words aimed somewhere between Bullock and Stephens, and acknowledged only by the latter, with a slightest nod.

“You don’t have to thank me,” Stephens said, and the words were familiar enough to be almost painful. “Just prove him right,” he added, and the gravity of the words was softened by the tired and resigned tone, as he turned to walk away, gesturing impatiently at Bullock, who scowled once more at the Bat for a good measure.

That had been about seven months ago, and the very night when Bruce broke the promise to himself and checked up on Jim, infiltrated the Philadelphia PD’s systems and helped himself to the information he didn’t have any right to and couldn’t justify with anything but curiosity, and maybe the need to make sure everything was fine, just as Jim had taken steps to give Batman the best chances, just in case.

There wasn’t anything extraordinary about the files, and that in itself was strange; Jim had a tendency to care too much and do even more, and turning into someone who left the office once his shift ended was unexpected and perplexing. And it might have been just him working on his marriage, but somehow Bruce didn’t think so, this was an indicator of something else, of Philadelphia not being Gotham, not the city Jim loved almost as much as Bruce did.

It wasn’t that much of a surprise then, when, just a few weeks ago, after he gave Stephens the docks surveillance tapes, the detective paused for a longer moment before saying “In case you’d be interested, Jim Gordon is taking over the commissioner’s desk again. The Mayor had just informed us today.”

He didn’t move, didn’t say anything, and Stephens looked around, squinting his eyes into the shadows that hid Bruce, and shook his head, snorting. “Typical,” he muttered, walking away, leaving Bruce behind.

It wasn’t that much of a surprise, but it still felt visceral and sudden, something tightening in his chest, preventing him from breathing for a brief moment.

He should have been worried and concerned, and look for deeper reasons, but mostly, he was just content.


There was hell, and it was full of paperwork, Jim concluded after two hours spent on the quarterly financial reports. His previous stint at the job had been blissfully free of that, he’d quit before he got to any serious paperwork, and now he wished he had stayed that way.

He called Barbara and told her that much and she laughed freely at him. It was a sure sign of how far they’ve gone in the last two years, how much pain between them had healed, but also how completely irreversible the divorce was. She laughed and teased him, and didn’t grow silent even for a moment, and didn’t say he might have stayed, or that he could come back still.

“No crime happening that you can rush in to solve?” she asked, just slightly mocking, and he felt both guilty and exasperated.

“No such luck,” he said dryly, already considering what kind of crime would warrant the commissioner’s attention.

In the end, after actually finishing up with the reports two days later, he asked Stephens what his most pressing cases were, and patiently waited through the suspicious silence.

“You must be bored out of your skull,” Gerry concluded finally, and sent over all the files.

“No one had even tried to kill me yet,” Jim deadpanned. Not for the lack of death threats, of course, he got a pile of those delivered to his desk on his first day back, but in Gotham that was just proof that he was doing his job, even if he had just started. It was quite flattering, actually, that the criminal element remembered him that fondly and gathered up such a warm welcome.

“I feel your pain,” Stephens said gravely before suggesting they met for a couple of beers after work, with the rest of the MCU bunch, but it really hadn’t been Jim’s day, and he had to decline mournfully, as Garcia had already requested his presence at a charity event. Jim had no idea what charity, but it didn’t matter, it was only an excuse to have the press write about Gordon’s return and maybe score a few points in the polls for the Mayor.

He might have preferred the paperwork, after all.

He had avoided the galas the last time as well, right after Dent’s death no one was eager to throw them, and in Philadelphia he had been too low on the foodchain to be obligated to attend. Barbara had been slightly disappointed about this one, and he had to don the tux a few times and take her to the parties anyway, but at least no one had paraded him in front of a hundred of flash cameras.

“Better you than me,” Stephens said, all too cheerfully, and added that they would choose a pub with a tv and watch the Gotham Tonight report from the event, and mock him mercilessly.

“I’ll be sure to tell Garcia that in event of my assassination, you’d be a perfect replacement,” Jim warned him and disconnected.

The party was much like he expected it to be, only a lot worse, and they didn’t serve any decent kind of alcohol to ease his pain, just the champagne, dry and sparkly.

“It might taste like one, but it isn’t actually poison, commissioner,” the older, distinguished man serving the drinks told him, voice even dryer than the champagne, if that was possible.

“I didn’t think…” he started, but the man was already gone, smirking. Score one for him, zero for Gordon, and it didn’t look as if the evening might improve, since Garcia was dragging him from one group of incredibly boring people to another. The polls must have been looking really bad, judging by the pained grimace of a smile he was sporting while introducing Jim to some people and reminding him to others.

Right now, ‘others’ included judge Ortiz, her husband, councilman Besant, Bruce Wayne, and two girls apparently surgically attached to Wayne’s arms, whose names Garcia didn’t seem to know, and apparently Wayne didn’t seem to recall either.

“Bruce, you remember James Gordon, don’t you?” Garcia asked, grin/grimace just slightly less forced, voice cheerful as if speaking to a child. “I’ve finally managed to talk him into coming back and taking over the force,” he added as an aside, glancing quickly at Besant, in some kind of reference to a previous argument, Jim was sure. He didn’t make a point of correcting the matter and saying that he wasn’t really persuaded into coming back, and definitely not by Garcia. He wasn’t good at playing politics, but he was far from being an idiot.

Wayne just frowned, as if thinking hard over something. “Coming back?” he asked finally, looking at Jim. “Were you gone, Gordon?”

Jim managed to keep a straight face and a pleasant smile, which couldn’t be said about judge Ortiz, who snorted into her glass and covered it with a cough, and Garcia, whose grin slowly faded away while the grimace still remained fixed on his face, a surreal process that was just made more creepy by the everlasting kohl he kept on using.

“Just for two years,” Jim said, shrugging. “I’m sure lots of people didn’t notice,” he added pleasantly, earning a glare from Garcia that told him that his mocking didn’t go unnoticed and he was going to hear about it later.

Wayne, however, just smiled wider and nodded. “Don’t you hate it when you go away and everyone makes such a fuss? Some time ago, I went off to see Europe, and believe it or not, they had me declared dead just after a few years. Next time, I just won’t bribe the paparazzi to keep the photos to themselves and everyone will know where I am,” he told one of the girls on his arm, the redheaded one, and she giggled obligingly.

“That’s one way to go about it,” Jim agreed seriously, getting a very quick, blink and you miss it, curious look from Wayne, as if he had expected a different response. “I’ll make sure note of this for later,” he added pleasantly, without a hint of sarcasm, just to make sure he hadn’t been mistaken about the reaction, and there it was again, a flicker of something in Wayne’s face. He filed the puzzle for later, as his cellphone perked up, showing Stephens’ caller id. “Excuse me,” he said and stepped aside, flicking the phone open with his thumb. “Yes?”

“Just promise you won’t ever put me up for promotion,” Stephens said dryly.

“I’ll consider it. What do you have?”

“The Narrows’ serial case, we had another body turn up. Montoya is on her way over if you want to meet her. The press is obsessed with the story, Garcia will be happy with you handling it personally, I’m sure,” he added, and Gordon felt brief pang of guilt at actually finding a good side to a murder.

“Tell Montoya I’ll be there in a few,” he said and disconnected, looking up to see Wayne’s gaze fixed on him with just a bit too much intensity than he associated with the billionaire. “I’m terribly sorry, but duty calls,” he said, trying to sound disappointed and probably failing miserably. “The Narrows’ case,” he added for Garcia benefit, and got a curt nod in return, proving Stephens right.

He stepped away with customary pleasantries to the rest of the group, and moved to walk out, already easing off the bow-tie. He had an uneasy feeling of someone watching him as he moved towards the elevator, but when he glanced back, Garcia was deep in conversation with judge Ortiz, Besant wandered off, and Bruce Wayne was preoccupied with maneuvering both of his companions out of the room.

Maybe the death threats were making him a bit paranoid, after all.


Montoya was incredibly efficient at running the crime scenes; the perimeter was secured, the CSU was already busy by the time Gordon arrived, and she always remembered to send a rookie to get coffee.

“Thank you,” he said, accepting a cup from a young cop, whose uniform proclaimed him to be called Gilbert, and who seemed like he should still be in high school, and as if he was sneaking out past his curfew to be on the scene.

“Nice suit, boss,” Montoya grinned widely at him. “You seem to have lost parts of it.”

“What do we have, Detective?” he asked, ignoring the comment. It was the only thing that worked with her, and even that was about fifty percent of the time.

“For example, I think a bow-tie is a customary part of the ensemble,” she said, indicating that this wasn’t the lucky percentage of the time. “How exactly did you lose it?”

“None of your business,” he told her pleasantly, not worrying about any implications this might have. Worrying about the conclusions Montoya would draw was never productive, since those were always the wrong, and always the worst possible conclusions. She seemed to like it that way.

She gave him a meaningful look, then grew serious, concentrating on the topic at hand. She did that, too, which was mostly why he tolerated the rest; her antics were good for morale, even if the jokes were occasionally at his expense and she never pushed too far and always came back to the seriousness of the job. Eventually.

“Did Stephens bring you up to speed?” she asked, and he shrugged.

“I read the files,” he muttered, getting a small understanding nod in return; the files were definitely not a pleasant read, however riveting.

“More of the same,” she gestured towards the alley. “I don’t know why Gerald bothered you all the way here, other than the excuse to abandon the Wayne party to which, I might add but I won’t, some of us weren’t invited, even if some of us might want to go, and finally have a good occasion to wear the dress that is hanging sadly in our closet, which we spent half of our paycheck on and…” she paused under his stare. “I suppose you might want to talk to the witnesses?” she suggested, maintaining his gaze with a deadpan expression.

“I think I might,” he agreed dryly. “Hint taken, next Wayne party, you can go in my place.”

“Don’t think I can pull off a good commissioner, but I’ll start looking around for a suitable fake mustache,” she assured him, then her gaze shifted to the left, her eyes narrowing. “Well.”

“Well?” he asked, turning, and catching the slight movement that could have been just a trick of light of the still flashing siren on the nearby car, but had his stomach tightening nonetheless.

“I think it’s for your benefit,” Montoya muttered. “He never bothered to show for simple murders while you were gone.”

He didn’t really have an answer to that, but the warm feeling in his chest at the idea was unexpected and just a little bit foolish, but he couldn’t help it. “Coincidence, probably,” he offered, and almost missed the eyeroll that followed from her.

“Sure. I’ll go and talk to our forensics friends,” she told him slowly, and marched off, waving at Sparks from the CSU.

“You’re becoming easier to spot, apparently,” he said to the shadow upon reaching the alleyway.

“When I want to,” Batman said, and if he was a person prone to shrugging, he probably would be, but since he wasn’t, he just stood there in perfect stillness. “Fourth body,” he added, not quite a question, and Gordon nodded.

“I’m sure the perp will be glad to know that fourth time’s the charm to get your attention,” he said, not really expecting an answer, but hopeful for one. It didn’t come, and he leaned against the wall, patting his pockets for a pack of smokes. One of these days he was going to quit, but one of these days was never that particular day. “Let me guess, you’ll look into it and let me know?”

“Something like that,” the Bat said, and Jim was almost sure he could see a small smile, closer to a smirk than anything else.

“Good.” It felt like that, too, things slowly easing back into normal, or at least as much of the normal as anyone could achieve in Gotham, anyone whose daily life included working closely with the city’s most wanted vigilante. “You probably know where to find me, too,” he added, lighting up the cigarette, shielding it from the wind. “Well, you might have some troubles this weekend, if you don’t plan on visiting Philadelphia, but you can call on Montoya then.”

“Philadelphia?” the Bat asked, his head turning just a fraction.

Jim nodded, looking thoughtfully out of the alley, where Montoya argued vehemently with one of the newest homicide detectives. “Jimmy has an important game. I promised I’ll be there.” He had missed enough of those before they moved, but attended every single on in Philly, and he wasn’t going to fall into old bad habits.

The Bat didn’t answer for a long time, and Jim started to think that once again he had melted into the shadows, leaving him in the middle of his sentence, but the feeling of being watched hadn’t disappeared, and he waited.

“Baseball?” Batman asked finally, and Jim nodded, smiling.

“The team isn’t very good,” he admitted, but couldn’t keep a note of pride from his voice, not when speaking of Jimmy. Speaking of… “He told me to tell you…” he started, pausing to inhale the smoke, giving himself a moment to find the words. Batman waited patiently, just a slight tilt of the cowl suggesting that he listened attentively. “That they didn’t forget. He got into a fight defending you, right at the beginning,” he added, shaking his head. “Babs keeps a scrapbook about you. Prints things out from the internet.”

“How are they?” the Bat asked, voice just a little bit lower than even his usual rasp.

Jim hated this question, everyone seemed to ask it, especially right after Dent and the entire wretched business, but Batman asking was different. He had asked that before, too, every time they met in the short time before Jim left Gotham, and at least this time, Jim wasn’t lying when he said “Fine. They’re doing fine.”

No answer this time, and the silence stretched between them, like the cloud of smoke from Jim’s cigarette, the ash falling onto the pavement. “What else?” he asked finally, and the Bat gave him a vaguely surprised look, causing Jim to smile. “I wouldn’t think that a straightforward murder warranted your attention. Hell, it probably doesn’t even need the city’s commissioner on the case, but I don’t really care about that. So, there’s something else you want to talk about, isn’t there?”

Of course, maybe Montoya was right, and it was just Batman being his usual friendly and welcoming self and extending a courtesy visit, but Jim wasn’t about to put money on that one. Montoya had the strangest ideas.

“It can wait until you come back,” the Bat said, something in his inflection puzzling Jim, but before he could comment on it, he realized he was alone again.

“Typical,” he muttered, forcing back a smile, and walked out of the alley, intent on saving the poor homicide detective from Montoya’s wrath.


Being back in Philadelphia turned out to be slightly less awkward than Jim had expected. The awkward part was, of course, Barbara showing him to the guest room, hovering in the doorway uncertainly, smiling hesitantly when she pointed where the bathroom was, and then caught herself, laughing nervously.

“How awful is it for you?” she asked, and he shrugged and told her that it was actually quite nice to see her, even if the levels of uncomfortable were amazingly high.

The easiest part was seeing the kids again, going to Jimmy’s game and letting himself be dragged to a science exhibit with Babs. It hadn’t been two weeks since he moved out, and he had already missed them terribly.

“I should have been doing this before,” he told Barbara on the Saturday evening, and she shrugged.

“Yes. But now you get to be the good parent, the one they do all the fun stuff with,” she muttered, but there was no real resentment behind the words, just a small smile and a mock complain. “I’m the who’s going to be telling them to wash their teeth and eat their greens.”

“Want me to call every night and tell them that?” he asked, and she laughed, shaking her head.

“No, it’s fine,” she said, and she was right, it was fine, they were making it work, despite all the worries they had before deciding on the divorce.

This was just a little bit unexpected and slightly worrying, he wasn’t used to things in his life falling into place without a glitch. It usually meant that events were going to take a sudden turn for much, much worse.

Or maybe something had already started, playing at the back of his mind, the nagging thought that he had missed something about the case they’ve been working on, the string of murders in the Narrows. There had been something eerily familiar about them, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

“See, now I know you’re back in Gotham,” Barbara said, looking at him seriously, head tilted at a thoughtful angle. “Blanking out on me again like that.”

“I’m sorry,” he said guiltily.

“No need. It’s actually better now that I don’t have a feeling of the entire city being a third person in our marriage,” she said breezily, with the confidence of someone who had two years to slowly understand that while she might have won over the city when it counted, the prize and the ever after wasn’t exactly how she wanted it. “So, how is he?” she asked casually, stretching on the couch, and even if he wasn’t absolutely sure whom she meant, the air of assumed nonchalance would clue him in.

Frankly, he was surprised it took her that long to ask. Jimmy hadn’t had the qualms, once Jim was inside this was almost his first question (after “did you bring ice cream? You said you were bringing ice cream.”), in hushed voice, looking up hopefully. “Have you seen him, Dad?”

Two years and he still remembered. It might have annoyed Barbara slightly, but to Jim it was a validation of his choice to work with the vigilante, and another reason to try and clear his name.

Barbara asked for different reasons, some concern, some curiosity, some resident jealousy that was impossible to let go off after fifteen years of marriage. Her reasons shaped his answer, and he nodded slowly, not looking up. “We’re working on a case,” he said flatly, and her features shifted, as she tried not to smile, the wry tightening of her lips an obvious tell.

“Of course you are,” she said, and the doubt in her voice was reminiscent of Montoya talking of coincidences. And the warm feeling spreading in his chest was new, but somehow familiar. It was ridiculous; all they had with Batman was a working alliance, and he wanted to point that out, but gave up even before the first word was out of his mouth. Barbara knew better, and for that matter, so did Jim, it was never quite just work, from the very beginning, not with the trust both he and the Bat had to put into this.

“All I’m saying is,” Barbara muttered, and he thought he might have blanked out some of the conversation again, “you be careful. You still don’t even know who he really is. And I know he saved our lives, and saved Jimmy, and I’m not ungrateful, but how well do you know him?”

In all the ways that matter, he wanted to say, but of course didn’t, because there was no arguing with Barbara on that one. It was an old, comfortable argument, without the viciousness that was there two years ago, just worry, and soon she was standing up and stretching, saying that she needed some sleep and that he could take over the kids’ breakfast for the next day.

There was a short moment when he moved to follow and stopped on realizing it wasn’t his place anymore, and they stood in silence for a good minute, before the sound of his cellphone brought them out of the quiet reverie.

“Sooner than I expected,” Barbara smiled and went upstairs, all the hesitance gone now.

Jim checked the caller id and sighed, answering. “Let me guess, bad news?”

“Fifth body turned up, our friend is escalating quickly. But hey, glass half full boss, at least we have some new evidence,” Montoya said, not even trying for fake cheerfulness, sounding as tired as he felt. She had been pulling her third shift when he left, all due to this case, she should be at home resting now, not at the crime scene. When he told her that much, she snorted. “No offence, boss, but the day I’ll take advice from you on taking days off…” she let it hang and he conceded the point.

“Anything I can help you with?” he asked and could almost hear her shrugging.

“Not really, until you get back at least. Maybe our pointy-eared friend will make an appearance then,” she added, a remark he was going to ignore. “Just thought you might want to know about the body. And I wanted to say that I went through your mail this morning, and you have an invitation to a Bruce Wayne shinding you’re going to take me to.”

He had promised, hadn’t he? Always getting himself into the worst situations. “And why were you going through my mail?”

“Well, I was in your office too feed your fish. And snoop around,” she said cheerfully, her voice lighter a few tones now, and that was part of why he always took the teasing and gave right back what he got; she was going to walk away from this phonecall with a brighter mood and a cleared head, and that was the important thing.

“Found anything of interest?”

“Apart from my ticket to an evening of little sandwiches and hot people in evening wear, you mean? You have some weird filing system.”

“It’s called the alphabet, Montoya, look it up. And go get some sleep, call me in the morning once the coroner and the forensic guys had a better look.”

“Will do, boss,” she agreed and disconnected.

Well, her mood might have been lifted, but the next victim appearing didn’t do anything for Jim’s peace. He sighed tiredly and called the precinct, telling the officer on duty to fax over all the case files. Barbara was going to disapprove of that use of the house fax machine, but he was going to leave worrying about her annoyance till morning. In a few minutes, he settled on the couch with the files and a cup of steaming coffee.

The bed in the guest room was really uncomfortable anyway.


He got Montoya’s message the moment he got off the plane and turned the phone back on, and a mere half an hour later he was standing in the autopsy room at the morgue, listening to the report on the sixth victim.

It was a jarring contrast to just a few hours ago, when he’d been making pancakes for the kids and listening to Babs’ rant on some tv show she was watching being unfairly cancelled.

“How much did you actually sleep?” Barbara had asked quietly, taking in the files barely stuffed into his briefcase hurriedly, and the deep shadows under his eyes.

“Sleep?” he had said, shrugging, and she had rolled her eyes at him and proceeded to pour him another cup of coffee, pointedly biting her lower lip to indicate how troublesome it was not to say anything.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, boss,” Montoya muttered with a small smirk that always heralded her most insubordinate and insolent comments, “but you don’t look much better than he does,” she said, pointing at the body on the table.

“Thank you Renee, I appreciate the sentiment,” he told her dryly. Considering the extent of the injuries on the vic, he would be entirely justified in glaring at her, but she had handed him a large cup of black coffee the moment he had arrived, so he settled on just not scowling too much.

It turned out that the new body had something new to tell them, there was still not much in the ways of clues or evidence, but the murder weapon had splintered, and the smallest bit of it was stuck inside one of the deeper wounds.

“It’s something,” Montoya remarked, shrugging, as they stepped outside.

“Afraid I don’t have any more good news,” Sparks said, joining them in the corridor, giving Montoya a customary smile, which she promptly ignored quite pointedly. “We’ve researched every possible connection between the victims, and came up with absolutely nothing. Not a single link or similarity between all of them, and we’ve been grasping at straws to connect even two or three with anything.”

“All they had in common was how they died,” Gordon nodded. They at least had the Narrows connection until this one, but the morning murder had happened few blocks away from the district.

“Even that is stretching it. The wounds aren’t precise, there’s no method in it,” Sparks shrugged. “We probably wouldn’t have anything to point towards a single killer if the murders didn’t happen in such a short time.”

Jim nodded again, pausing to think. There was still something nagging at his brain, slowly taking shape. The thought was unfortunate, but he couldn’t let it go. He stepped away from the wall and headed down the corridor, ignoring Sparks’ slightly startled look.

“Great. Now he started doing that,” Montoya announced mournfully.

“Not complaining, since it leaves you and me alone,” Sparks said.

“Can it,” she laughed and hurried after Gordon. “Boss?”

“I need to check something. I’ll see you back at MCU, detective.”

She didn’t argue, just rolled her eyes some more for good measure. He could have taken her with him, to be honest, but he wasn’t entirely sure it would work, he hadn’t really called up on the Bat for a long while, and wasn’t sure how he worked now. The crime scene few days ago was a pleasant surprise, but there was no longer any light, or any system in place.

But Batman seemed to know how to find him when he wanted, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he had some sort of surveillance on him. Jim chose not to think of the implications of that, of the breach of privacy, of the shaky trust between them. It was better not to think of that, sometimes.

He drove to his flat, one of the two places he was pretty sure the Bat was watching, this and the MCU, but it wasn’t exactly safe there with the hunt still officially on. Once was fine, for sentimentality’s sake, but two would be foolish.

The afternoon was slowly turning into the early evening, the heavy clouds making the sky gray. It wasn’t nearly dark enough for the Bat to appear, but it would soon be. He sat on the small balcony and waited, lighting up the cigarette, letting the smoke slowly settle around him. He placed a small flashlight beside him, turned upward. It wasn’t strong enough to be visible from even few floors away, but if there was surveillance, the sign would be loud and clear, or at least he hoped it would.

“Nice,” the Bat said, small movement of the cowl indicating the light.

Gordon smiled, remembering. “Best I could do on the short notice. I assume you know about the last victim?”

No answer, just a nod, waiting. Not for the first time, Gordon wondered what sources the man had; he seemed to know everything. Barbara’s advice rung in his ears, and he decided to ignore it.

“Few years ago, we arrested Zsasz for a killing spree, not unlike this one. He had escaped from Arkham during the whole drug-induced extravaganza, and was presumed dead in the resulting chaos, but we’ve never found the body. Not surprising, since there was a lot of bodies we hadn’t found, mostly finding their place at the bottom of the river, but he hadn’t resurfaced for a long while, so we assumed…” he paused, shrugging. They’ve been too busy, and the resources had been too thin to follow every lead, and just the fact that no bodies had turned up was enough to end the investigation into that particular case.

“He’d been killing outside of Gotham. I’ve notified my sources outside of the city, but he never stayed in one place for long enough,” Batman offered, voice gravely and unflinching, and Gordon looked up sharply.

“You could have let us know.”

“There were other things. And not a lot you could do,” ‘since I couldn’t do anything’ was left unsaid but plainly obvious. It was true, however uncomfortable, they didn’t have the people or the means to launch a pursuit, and all they could do was sent notices to other departments across the country, which was probably what the Bat had done, but…

“You could let me be the judge of that,” he said, sighing, leaning against the railing.

There was no answer for a long while, enough that Jim started to think Batman had pulled the walking away stunt again, which would be mildly disappointing but not surprising, but when he glanced to the side, he could make out the pointy ears of the cowl against other shadows.

“There was the mob to take care of. And then the Joker. And then there was no one to actually take any intel from me,” Batman finally offered, and it stung, however it was intended. His voice didn’t sound particularly resentful, but you couldn’t tell the emotions under the affected growl, so it wasn’t much of a consolation.

Besides, finally, voiced aloud what Jim had been thinking all along.

“I know I shouldn’t have left,” he said slowly, not expecting any answer and not getting one. “But it was the only thing I could have done.” It sounded a little bit too defensive, but he didn’t care.

“I know,” the Bat said finally, moving to turn away, for once giving Jim some sort of a warning with actually making a damned whisper of a noise when he moved.

“I wonder,” Jim said, stopping him before he melted into the shadows. “If I asked you who you were, would you answer?”

His words came out rushed, before he could talk himself out of the question, before he second guessed it again. He shouldn’t have asked, but maybe it stung a little bit more than he cared to admit, maybe the warm feeling in his chest was resentment, maybe that something rising in his throat was anger. He wasn’t sure, and he certainly wasn’t thinking clearly, but he had asked, and he was not taking it back.

The Bat froze, two steps away from Jim, facing away. Jim waited, for what seemed to be an eternity, waited for the inevitable and cold ‘are you asking’, or maybe just the swift movement as Batman disappeared. He wanted, briefly, to take the question back, it went against every unspoken agreement they had, but that was the trouble with it, all their agreements were unspoken, nothing was certain or tangible, and he couldn’t forever trust that the shadows will bring the answer.

“Yes,” Batman said, not moving, and for a moment Jim thought he must have misheard. No questions, no anger at Jim’s audacity, just a flat admission that resonated in his head almost deafeningly.

He nodded finally, discarding the cigarette that he didn’t have time to really smoke but which burned out slowly, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his coat. “I’ll be at the MCU if you have anything on the case. Don’t endanger yourself unnecessarily, I do have a phone and a fax machine,” he said pointedly and turned to leave, not looking back.

He could feel the Bat watching him, and hurried out before he could do something else foolish this evening. It was one of the rare occasions when he was the one walking away first, but it felt more like running than anything else.


“If I asked you who you were, would you answer?” Jim had asked, and Bruce couldn’t say he hadn’t seen that coming. He had expected the question to arise sooner or later, he even thought it would be sooner, years ago, at the beginning.

He didn’t know if he would have answered then, at the fire escape by Jim’s house, at the roof after the madness and the trial by fire. Bruce couldn’t tell, but then Jim hadn’t asked, for the answer or for anything else, which was probably why Bruce was ready to answer now freely.

And yet, Jim still didn’t ask, even after being sure he would get the answer. Not everyone would.

Bruce turned his thoughts to the matter at hand. Zsasz would have kept on killing wherever he was. Whom and why could point to why he came back to Gotham now; he wasn’t exactly a sentimental type.

Getting the files on unsolved cases that matched the MO wasn’t a problem, he had gained access to pretty much every law enforcement database in the country and a few international ones a while ago, mostly by illegal and questionable means, but he was a firm believer in the end justifying them. The problem lied with narrowing all of them down to the possibly useful and relevant.

There was even more cases than he expected, too many for comfort. Unexplained and without motive, bloody and brutal. Every city had some of those, and it was making an already difficult search into an almost impossible one. Bruce wouldn’t admit to it out loud, but he almost wished Zsasz was one of the psychos with a signature; bodies with their tongues cut out might be disturbing, but at least they didn’t leave any questions as to the identity of the perpetrator.

But no, any mutilation in this instance was on Zsasz’s own body, if you believed the urban legends and the press (Bruce didn’t) and the police reports (he did). One would think that a man covered in a net of bruises looking like tally charts would be easy to find, but that certain one would be an incurable optimist.

He sent the preliminary findings over to Jim’s office, but not before hesitating briefly. Someone over at GCPD was probably going through the same files and looking for the same connection. Knowing Jim Gordon, probably himself. And that was the research that was going to count in court, not the help provided by a vigilante. Any intel from him would probably hurt the chances for the conviction. But then again, even if they were looking for the same thing, chances are they both could have missed something the other had found.

They were better when working together, even if for now it had to be done covertly and in secret.

It all had somehow came back to the subject of him, Jim, and secrets, the one thing he was trying not to think about. Not that one particular secret, and not the sudden desire he had, back on Jim’s balcony, to answer that question differently, to take the cowl off and let Jim see for himself.

“Are we researching or sulking, Master Wayne?” Alfred asked from the doorway, looking at him critically. “I ask to prepare myself accordingly,” he added.

“Researching,” Bruce lied flatly, turning his attention back to the screen. “There must be something that brought Zsasz back to Gotham. I’ve been going through his known associates, but they’re either dead or imprisoned…”

“So, there are people with less of a social life than you, Sir?” Alfred asked in a driest way possible, with a perfectly deadpan expression.

“Hilarious,” he acknowledged without meaning it, and nodded at the clothes bag Alfred was holding up. “What’s that?”

Alfred gave him that certain look that meant ‘I really do hope you’re joking, sir,’ before answering slowly, enunciating the words as if speaking to a child. “Your tux. For the soirée at the Mallorys’.”

“Cancel,” Bruce muttered. He had forgotten about that, but even if he hadn’t, the case at hand was more important than anything else right now. If not friends or employers, what else could there be to bring the man back to Gotham, one city where he was sure to be recognized by every police officer?

“An hour before the event?” Alfred asked disapprovingly.

“You’re right. Wait until it’s five minutes before.”

The silence coming from Alfred did everything to express his complete dislike of the idea. For a man who took great pleasure in setting up ridiculous alibis and endeavors for the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, Alfred also seemed displeased whenever Bruce blew off the social obligations like any flaky socialite would. Well, fine, not always, just when he thought it was for ‘the wrong reasons’.

“Speaking of galas and polite behavior,” Alfred intoned, as if half of the previous conversation didn’t take place, “Commissioner Gordon’s office RSVPd to the invitation.”

This was a typical Alfred comment, seemingly random and yet hitting all too close for comfort. “As did most of the city’s officials,” he shrugged.

“Quite so, sir. Of course, I imagine that the commissioner must be settling into playing politics again, and an event like this is a good place to do so.” There was clearly going to be a point to this, and Bruce paused his typing of the search criteria and looked at Alfred, raising his eyebrows inquiringly. Alfred stared back innocently. “I do hope he and his companion enjoy themselves despite the obligations.”

Something in his stomach clenched at that, surprise mixed with irritation, and that was not a good thing to think about right now. He was not an idiot, he knew what that cold feeling meant, but he was going to ignore it for as long as possible.

‘Companion?’ Bruce didn’t ask, but Alfred felt obliged to answer nonetheless.

“The invitation was accepted for the Commissioner and his ‘plus one’, Sir. Just thought you might want to know, considering your interest in James Gordon’s well-being.”

Of course he did. He also was openly watching Bruce’s face for any reaction, which only confirmed that all the signs Bruce had in the recent days as to his ‘interest’ in Gordon hadn’t gone unnoticed. Which meant it was worse than he thought, if he was becoming that transparent.

Thankfully, being transparent to Alfred meant he still probably was an enigma to anyone else, but it didn’t save him from Alfred’s looks and comments.

“My interest in Gordon is purely professional,” he lied, and Alfred nodded, holding back what seemed to be a small smile.

“That’s exactly what I meant, Master Wayne.”


“So, what did he have to say?” Montoya asked, after knocking on his open door and letting herself in.

“What did who have to say?” Jim shot back, not looking away from the screen, going through the cold cases reports. He didn’t have to look at her to know she eyerolled pretty hard before ignoring his clear reluctance to have this conversation.

“I know there is this stereotype that hot women must be stupid, but I didn’t think you subscribed to it,” she said dryly. “I am very disappointed, boss.”

“Montoya,” he said tiredly, leaning back in his chair and pushing his glasses up, pinching the bridge of his nose. He should have caught some sleep on the plane, but instead he had just continued on reading the same files for a hundredth time.

“Present and accounted for,” she announced, then apparently decided to give him a break. “I may not know officially, but it’s pretty easy to figure out that the Bat is still on our side. And I’m slightly offended that you told Stephens and Bullock and not me.”

“Need to know, Detective. File a formal complaint if you think you’re being treated unfairly, I’ll be sure to look into it,” he told her dryly, then sighed. “I told Stephens,” he admitted flatly. “Who had to tell Bullock once Harvey pulled his gun on Batman.”

She whistled quietly. “He did that? That’s actually kind of impressive. Stupid, but impressive.”

She really reminded him of his own kids, and not in a good way, sometimes. He sighed, and clicked the cold cases system closed. The Bat was probably looking into that, and he would be more thorough than Gordon could be, and had better access to other cities’ systems, not having to jump through the legal hoops to get it. And Gordon should care much more about that one than he did.

“Montoya, point, any time soon?” he asked pleadingly, and she immediately grew serious.

“Unless you’re taking over the case, I think I’m still the primary. Would be nice to know if you had something. Or are you taking over the case?”

She was more than right, and he hated when that happened. On the other hand, he hired her specifically for those more annoying qualities of her, they made her a good cop. “No, it’s yours. My working theory is that our friend Mr Zsasz is back in town.”

“Shit,” she muttered, expressing his own sentiments succinctly. “I thought he was dead?”

“That was our assumption too, but it looks like him. I suppose the first time he run rampant around the city was before your time?” he asked more than stated, and she nodded.

“Before my time at the MCU, yeah. But I guess everyone had a chance to admire his handiwork, the news get around between the departments.”

So they did. There was no stopping the gossip mill on the force, which was mostly why he was reluctant to bring anyone but Stephens on the big secret a while back, once the news got out, they were bound to travel far, and his agreement with the Bat about Dent still stood, no matter his personal opinion on it.

“My sources,” he gave her a quick look to make sure she understood, “are supporting the theory, looking into it. I’ll keep you posted on what I have. Take Bullock to ride with you as the secondary, and whoever else you need. I want this case closed fast.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, nodding curtly. “Do we know why he’s back? I mean, I know all the crazy roads lead to Gotham, but why now?”

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to figure out,” he shook his head. “No luck so far.”

His computer pinged, announcing a message, and he clicked it open, skimming through the files. “He’s definitely efficient,” he muttered, not completely able to keep the fond note out of his voice. “I’ll send this over to you, have fun with figuring out which could be Zsasz’ work.”

“I’m sure there’s great fun to be had,” she agreed gravely and stood up. “Speaking of fun, I had Stacy accept the Wayne invite for you. No need to thank me.”

“Why am I not sending you to Patrol, Detective?” he asked tiredly, making a note in his calendar for the day after the next, hoping against hope that something else would come up in the meantime, something important and requiring his personal attention.

“Because I’m delightful to have around, boss,” she said with a winning smile and headed out, reaching for her cellphone.

Jim was pretty sure that was not the reason, really, but yelling it after her would be unbecoming of a commissioner. Sadly.

He reached for his own phone, wanting to call the kids before it was too late in the night to do so. He hadn’t missed a day so far, and he wasn’t going to, vexing case or no case.

Once Barbara picked up the phone, he turned around in his chair, facing away from the computer screen. There was a clear line between personal and professional, and this was it, this was not thinking of the case when he was talking to Babs about her horse-riding lessons and to Jimmy about his practice.

Jim made allowances now, took work home because home was only his apartment and nothing else, but the line was still there.

“Take care of yourself,” Barbara told him at the end of the conversation. “I don’t know what you’re working on, and I don’t think I want to know, but you sound tired, Jim.”

That was because he was tired, but he didn’t tell her that, just thanked her for the concern and promised to rest sometime soon. He lied, of course, but she was used to that, and didn’t even call him on it. Disconnecting, he turned back to the screen. Batman had done part of his work for him, but that wasn’t any excuse, there were still things to be checked out.

He briefly considered stopping for the day, but quickly discarded the thought and opened the reports from all the murders Zsasz was officially responsible for. Maybe there was something to be found there.

After the seventh one, he began to rethink this particular brilliant idea. He needed rest, or at least a cup of coffee. Stacy went home hours ago, as most of the sane people tended to do once their shift ended, and so the only coffee he was going to get, was one he made for himself. It limited his options somehow, as Stacy had her stash of good coffee hidden somewhere, and he was doomed to the travesty from the office coffee machine.

He filled the cup to the brim, and slowly made his way back to his office, managing not to spill any of it, or at least not until one of the shadows moved, startling him enough to spill some of the scalding liquid over his hand.

“Fuck,” he muttered, and kicked the doors closed before stepping in, placing the cup on his desk, away from the heap of files, and looking for something to wipe his hands with. “Didn’t I tell you not to do that?” he asked, mostly rhetorically.

“You’ve been looking into the old cases,” the Bat said, glancing at the screen, and Jim nodded, deciding to leave the discussion on how these visits were dangerous and unnecessary, since they could be meeting someplace else. Last time that someplace else was his apartment, though, and he was not thinking about the implications of that one, of inviting the Bat over for… Well, he wasn’t thinking about it.

And he did think he had more time before facing Batman again, after their last conversation, after the things said and those unsaid.

“You found something there?” he asked instead.

“Zsasz killed thirty six people in Gotham before he was arrested. Attacked thirty eight altogether. One of those who got out alive was in a coma for the last five years,” Bat said, all business, making Jim feel slightly uncomfortable with his own line of thoughts moments ago. Personal and professional, there was a line.

Was in a coma?”

“Woke up three weeks ago. This can’t be a coincidence. And I don’t think a man like Zsasz would want any unfinished business.”

“Yes, he’s as efficient as he is deranged,” Gordon agreed wearily, shaking his head, calling up the file. He remembered the victim, a kid, really, barely out of high school, freshman at the GSU, walking down a wrong street at a wrong time. “I’ll arrange for a protection detail for him,” he said, reaching for the phone, but something in the air, a small drop in the temperature, stopped him short. “What is it?” he asked, afraid that he already knew.

“How did Zsasz know? It wasn’t a news item, I checked the reports from the last weeks, there was nothing.”

People who would have known would be the friends and family, the doctors, and the police officers handling his case, who would have been informed. Jim had a sinking feeling that he knew the answer, and he didn’t like it one bit.

Zsasz kept a tally of his victims etched into his skin, one that got away must have been a sore spot. But he must have had someone here, in the city, informing him, and Jim doubted it was someone from the vic’s family.

“I hate this,” he muttered, not caring if the Bat was still there to hear this. “Every time I think I have a department I can work with, something like this happens, something to make me doubt again.”

“It gets better,” Batman said after a moment, his voice more hoarse than usual, rough with some emotion Jim couldn’t decipher clearly. “You’re making it better,” he added, his gloved hand briefly resting on Jim’s shoulder before he moved back, the slightest gesture of comfort meaning that much more because of who was offering it. “I’ll keep you informed of anything I find. There are some… sources I can look into.”

He stepped away, disappearing in the shadows somehow, as was his wont. Jim stayed still for a long while, his eyes half closed. His screen darkened, putting itself to sleep, the steam from the coffee cup slowly disappeared. He was still tired, and still worried and disappointed, but somehow, in the midst of it, he did feel slightly better.


Jim managed to get about two hours of sleep between getting home and Montoya’s morning call to his cell.

“Boss, I think I have something on why Zsasz is back,” she said the moment he picked up and gave a semi-coherent hello.

“That about Timmy Fallon waking up from his coma?” he asked, feeling blindly for his glasses and almost managing to knock over the lamp on the bedside table.

There was a pause, and then she sighed. “I’m not sure if I should be impressed or annoyed when you do that,” she told him dryly. “You have him under the security detail already?”

“Of course,” he put on his glasses and sat up, glancing at the clock. “Listen, get Bullock and Stephens and meet me for breakfast at Kelly’s, there’s something we need to go over.”

She was quiet for another moment, pondering the implications, then he could almost hear her smile. “If you’re buying, boss, I’m there,” she said before disconnecting.

By the time he got to Kelly’s, Stephens was already there, studying his heart attack in making of a meal with fascination. “I missed this,” he informed Jim before digging in happily.

“I would think you capable of getting a breakfast on your own,” Jim said, waving at the waitress, Sandy, who had been working here two years ago and who hadn’t changed one bit.

“Easier said than done. The wife insists I eat healthily. And besides, it’s really not the same without you. And it’s not politeness, it’s the harsh truth; they like you better than me and when you’re here, we get better food.”

Jim shook his head at that, stopping only when the waitress approached. “Your usual, commissioner?” she asked, and he raised his eyebrows.

“You actually still remember?” he asked, pleased, and Sandy shrugged.

“Told you so,” Stephens said pointedly. “They like you better.”

“I tip better,” Jim said, turning in the direction of raised voices entering the diner, belonging to Montoya and Bullock.

“All I’m saying is, you should introduce the guy to us, Renee. We’ll see if he’s good for you, and threaten him a little, just in case.”

“One, I do my own threatening when necessary. Two, there’s no guy, Harvey,” she said, a little bit too loud, all too close to stomping her foot. Stephens snorted into his coffee, which meant that he apparently figured it out sometime while Jim was gone. Bullock apparently hadn’t.

“Renee, come on, we worry,” Bullock insisted, causing Gerry to snort more openly. Montoya just gave Bullock a hard look, and proceeded to order enough pancakes to feed an army.

“Why we here, commish?” Harvey asked finally, after half of their breakfast was gone, and Jim sighed.

“Montoya probably told you about Timmy Fallon already,” he paused to get the nods before continuing. “Someone had to clue Zsasz in to his awakening, we need to find out who.”

“You think it’s someone on the force. One of us,” Montoya got it first, pushing away her plate, grimacing as if she had just lost all the appetite.

“I don’t think anything, Montoya. But I have a rather bad feeling about it and would like this figured out sooner rather than later.”

Just the suspicion was enough to ruin the cheerful mood for a long while, as they seriously discussed the steps and ways to find out the leak. Montoya’s tea had gone completely cold, and she grimaced drinking it, but downed it nonetheless.

“You know,” she said slowly, pushing pieces of pancakes around her plate aimlessly. “Me and Anna, we joined the force around the same time. She lived three streets away. I wonder sometimes, what if it was me?”

“Don’t be stupid, Montoya,” Bullock said gruffly. “It would never be you.”

She shrugged, smiling sadly, fingers tightening around the fork. “What if it was my mother? My hospital bills?”

“Montoya,” Jim said sharply, looking at her long enough for her to look back. “I don’t think you would ever expose my family to any danger,” he said, letting his voice rise in a question and she shook her head wordlessly, her expression enough of an answer. “So no, it would never be you.”

She nodded, and sat silently for a long moment, before nodding again, more decidedly. “I have a few C.I.s that may know if anyone is selling out the information. Provided it’s not just Zsasz’ informant, we might have some luck.”

“It’s a start,” Jim agreed. “I know someone else who’s looking into that,” he said slowly. “Along with Montoya’s informants, let’s hope something will turn up. The other priority now, is getting Zsasz off the streets, we can look for the leak later. I want everyone who is available on this one, six bodies is more than enough.”

“On it,” Montoya nodded, standing up and reaching for her wallet. Jim waved her away.

“You’re getting the next one, detective. Take Harvey and start on those informants of yours,” he added and she hesitated before leaving, already being bugged by Harvey about her ‘boyfriend’ again.

“One day someone has to take Bullock aside and explain things to him,” Stephens said wonderingly. “Or else Montoya will lose her patience and spell them out, and that isn’t going to be pretty.”

“Be my guest,” Jim shrugged, taking a sip of his cold coffee and grimacing. “I had no idea she was so worked up about Ramirez.”

“They were sort of friends. It got to everyone, she was one of us, from the MCU…” he glanced at Gordon pointedly. “You’re not the only one beating yourself up about the corruption and the dirty cops, Jim. But if you don’t mind me saying, we’re also not the only city in the world that’s fighting those.”

“It somehow seems worse here,” he muttered and Stephens shrugged again, tearing off a piece of bread and wiping the remnants of the melted butter from his plate with it.

“Everything does,” he agreed. “Speaking of,” he added, seemingly a propos of nothing, “how are things with the Bat?”

“What do you mean?”

“Jim, how long have we known each other?” Gerry asked, but from the way he continued immediately it was clear that he meant it as a rhetorical question. “I’m here if you want to talk about anything, although if it’s what I think it is, I’d rather you didn’t want to talk about it,” he declared and stood up, dropping two notes on the table, then, after glancing at Sandy, adding another two. “We’ll see if the coffee improves for me,” he said in a wondering tone of someone conducting an experiment.

Jim rolled his eyes after him, but it was not really heartfelt. If Stephens had seen it, it meant the entire thing was worse than he thought. He would be more comfortable in ignoring it, but in the last few days he had seen the Bat more times than in months before he had left.

It was slowly shaping up to be inevitable, and, to be honest, he had no real desire to fight it. Which meant that he was going to be spending at least a part of his evening on his balcony, pretending to be enjoying the night air, pretending to wait only for the information on the case.


Jim had barely entered the apartment, his hand hovering over the light switch, when his cellphone perked up, showing Montoya’s caller id.

The day had been incredibly long and tiring, he had been going through the files of every person connected with Timmy Fallon’s case, coming up with nothing substantial or relevant or helpful. Montoya hadn’t had any luck with her informants, and switched into looking for Zsasz’ hiding place, coordinating with other detectives. He really hoped she was calling about a break on one aspect of the case or another, they could use it.

“Gordon,” he muttered into the phone, and from her first word could tell she was in a good mood, her voice chipper and loud over the background noises.

“We have Zsasz. Anonymous call to the tip line, and he had some bad luck with his residence, minor accident with the stairs, you know how it is in deserted buildings…” she reported in an almost sing-songing voice, as if she was reciting a nursery rhyme, which meant that this was the official, press conference material and not the true story.

Anonymous call probably translated into Batman leaving her a message, and ‘accident with the stairs’ was a flimsy excuse for any cuts and bruises Zsasz might have suffered in the encounter with the vigilante. Jim hated the lies and half truths, but right now they were necessary if they hoped for the conviction to stick.

“You have him at Central?” he asked, and upon getting an affirmative ‘mhm’, he sighed. “I don’t suppose there’s a chance he’ll talk?”

She sighed into the phone. “I know those were good news, but let’s not get carried away. He did confess to all the murders happily, but is not giving us the name of the dirtbag who snitched. ‘Heard it on the street’ is his story, and he’s sticking to it.”

Hoping for a bigger break would be too much, Gordon supposed. They were going to have to do all the legwork themselves. “I’ll be over there in half an hour,” he said, taking a step back and fishing his car keys from his pocket. “If you…”

“Boss, we got it,” she interrupted him pointedly. “He’s not going anywhere, you’ll have the entire day tomorrow to play mind games in the interrogation room. And I bet it’ll be even easier when you’re not sleep deprived.”

She was right, of course, which would have been annoying all on its own, without the added discomfort of sounding like his ex-wife. “I guess you might have a point.”

“Of course I do. And yes, I’ll be taking my own advice and getting some shuteye myself,” she added, stealing his line. “Can’t look exhausted at the party tomorrow. And you’re not getting out of that either, boss,” she finished and disconnected, before he could protest, which was probably the point.

One of these days, he was going to fire her for insubordination. He’d have to rehire her later, which was just additional paperwork, but it might be worth it.

“Zsasz is not going to talk,” Batman said from where he was standing next to the window, and it took a lot of effort for Jim not to jump at that.

“You really think it’s wise, adding a breaking and entering to your already impressive rap sheet?” he asked tiredly, moving away from the light switch, and closing the doors carefully.

“I don’t think it constitutes breaking in, considering your security measures.”

“Was that a joke?” Jim asked suspiciously, stepping further in, sitting down on the armrest of the couch. With the Bat, it was usually hard to tell, the deadpan was very dead in his case.

“Not really. Your locks, however, certainly are.” It was a little too tired to be an attempt at humour, a little too angry. “Unless you really are aiming to be the sixth Gotham Commissioner killed in as many years.”

There was that. Of course, getting lectures on being cautious and careful from Batman was just a little surreal, and about as convincing as Jim giving advice on workaholism.

Jim thought about pointing that out, but it was late, and he didn’t think he had the strength to argue about anything right now. “Well, since you have no trouble letting yourself in, I suppose you wouldn’t have any qualms about taking care of that, too,” he offered, just a little bit irritatingly.

“Jim,” Batman said, making one step forward, his voice full of exasperation and something else. Jim had expected it, but no yet, not so soon, not now.

He looked up anyway, instinctively reaching to take off his glasses, the world becoming slightly blurred as well as dark. They were close enough now; he could reach out and touch the Kevlar. His fingers itched a little with impatience, but he didn’t move.

“I don’t,” the Bat started and didn’t finish; an unfamiliar note in his voice, slight shake that took Jim a long moment to identify as uncertainty. Paradoxically, it made him decide, no matter how bad of an idea it probably was.

“Me neither,” he shrugged, moving before he could talk himself out of it.

Kissing Batman should, as a rule, be surreal and strange. Jim doubted anyone ever thought about the man beyond the suit and the symbol. Even if they had, this wasn’t what would come to mind first, it was natural and surprisingly easy. And once you started, it was incredibly difficult to stop.

“Of all the bad ideas I ever had,” Jim muttered, somewhere between the moment when Batman’s gloves came off and the one when he was tugging at Jim’s tie and shirt. “No,” he decided. “It’s not even in the top ten of the worst ones,” he finished, shaking his head slightly.

Batman huffed, something that might have been a laugh, and then reached to his cowl, unlocking something before Jim could stop him. He closed his eyes, exhaling slowly, wondering, if it was dark enough, if his vision was bad enough not to make out the features.

He wanted all of this, wanted Batman’s hands back on him almost desperately, and wanted to know and to be there for the man under the mask, but he wasn’t sure if they were ready for even part of it, much less everything. That Batman trusted him enough, this was astonishing and amazing, but Jim wasn’t sure he deserved that much yet. He had left the city and just came back, and it still felt too much like a betrayal.

“Jim,” Batman muttered impatiently, and Jim unconsciously shifted closer. The voice was low and harsh, but not quite the usual growl, just a normal voice clouded with need and arousal, and Jim opened his eyes, breathing harsh.

It wasn’t only his need, and it wasn’t only him taking risks here, and that was all he really needed to know. The room was still dark and blurry, and even with the cowl out of the way, he still had no idea how the Bat looked like, but that didn’t matter. He knew what he needed to know.


Jim Gordon has had his share of sleepless nights, long weeks of exhaustion, and of sharp sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night. It had ensured that he slept soundly and dreamlessly whenever he actually slept, and that he went from dead to the world to wide awake in the space of few seconds once awoken.

There was no morning confusion now either, he was perfectly aware of both his surroundings and the last night’s events, and so he kept his eyes firmly shut just in case, even though he was pretty sure Batman was already gone.

He didn’t have much experience with one night stands (and to be honest, he didn’t think that’s what it was), but he was pretty sure that mornings were enough of an awkward ordeal without the added complications of learning a wanted vigilante’s secret identity. Batman’s leaving was a preferable alternative, no matter what the brief cold feeling in his stomach implied.

It still felt surreal, but this feeling was going to pass once he moved on from thinking of it as a night spent with the city’s most wanted, and concentrated more on it being a man he respected and trusted. The ‘man’ part of the situation was adding to the strangeness; it hadn’t been the first time, but it’s been a long while, and of course, it has been a long while since anyone but Barbara, since anything but familiar and comfortable.

And on that subject; not Barbara, he wasn’t going to think of her now; but speaking of familiar and comfortable, he was pretty sure he could feel something, which, in a few moments it took for him to get to the kitchen, turned out to be the smell of a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

Batman taking time to make it was firmly in the realm of surreal, but it also made Jim shake his head and smile like a lunatic, so that was alright.

Especially since the rest of his morning and all of the afternoon turned out to have very little to smile about. Zsasz wasn’t talking, much as Montoya said he wasn’t. He was incredibly forthcoming on all the gruesome details of the murders, but he was not giving up his source. Jim really didn’t expect him to, but sometimes it would be nice to be wrong about those things.

“I don’t envy whoever is going to be writing the report from the interrogations,” Montoya announced mournfully, downing her cup of mediocre office coffee.

“Your case, Montoya,” Gordon pointed out and she scowled, much to everyone’s amusement. One of the rookies snorted loudly, the one who had been looking slightly nauseated for a good few hours now, ever since Zsasz started talking about his handiwork. Montoya sent him a mock glare, and then winked at Jim cheerfully.

Sometimes she was quicker than anyone in reading the mood of the precinct, and right now, everyone wasn’t in the best form, even not knowing of the leak, but picking up on the moods of Gordon, Stephens and Bullock. Montoya had been the only one to keep her general displeasure completely under wraps, but then again, she was the one with the best poker face, useful both on the job and dodging Bullock’s questions on her love life.

“Too late to pawn the case off on Harvey?” she asked dryly, then shrugged. “Thought so. In the meantime, I’ll be down at the lab, Sparks wanted to talk to me about something,” she added. “And then I’m going home to change, and when I come back, some people better be in their tux and ready to take me out,” she said to Gordon, narrowing her eyes menacingly.

“What?” Bullock asked, a little bit too loud, his head turning so fast it was bound to make him dizzy. “Don’t tell me that Jim is that mystery boyfriend of yours.”

Jim was grateful that he wasn’t taking a sip of his coffee at this moment. Stephens was, however, and he spit it out, coughing madly. Montoya rolled her eyes. “There’s no boyfriend, and if there was, it certainly wouldn’t be commish. No offence,” she told Gordon, and he held back a smirk.

“None taken,” he assured her.

Bullock didn’t seem entirely convinced, but he turned back to his screen, throwing Jim an occasional suspicious glance.

Jim left the office in the late afternoon to go home and change, but not before a lengthy and unpleasant phone conversation with the Mayor, who had apparently decided Jim had enough time to settle back into the job and that it was high time to discuss budget cuts. In theory, he understood that the financial crisis was going to affect the city budget, but he failed to see why his department was to be the one to suffer. Garcia, of course, had a different opinion. Which made for over an hour of restraining himself from telling his de facto boss off for being an idiot.

To add insult to the injury, Garcia finished the conversation by telling Jim they’d see each other at Bruce Wayne’s party, which was just one more argument for ditching the thing altogether. He would have, if not for the fact that Montoya would shoot him, and then get Sparks to dispose of his body. He supposed he needed to make more friends at the CSU, just in case.

But there was at least one positive aspect of the entire thing, which was the reaction of everyone in the office, and especially Bullock, to Montoya’s dress.

“I don’t want to know where you hid your gun,” Bullock muttered, shaking his head, just slightly flustered.

“You don’t want to know,” Montoya agreed happily. At Jim’s look, she shrugged. “What, like you’re not taking your piece. At Wayne’s parties, I hear that’s a necessity.”

It was an exaggeration, of course, but there was a rumour that one in three parties thrown by Bruce Wayne had ended with a police being called in, and not because of the noise. Jim had checked the reports and the dispatch logs, and it was sheer rubbish, but there still was an unusually high number of interventions.

He was almost hoping this would be one of those times, just so he could get out of talking budget with Garcia. Not anything major or life-threatening, but a jewelry theft could do nicely. There were recent casess of a cat burglar hitting the residences of the rich and famous, was it that much to ask for the perp to choose this evening and this house?

Probably, yes.


It didn’t start half bad. The event was a fundraiser, which meant less glamorous but more politically-minded crowd than some of Wayne’s parties, and that in turn meant better alcohol and music that wasn’t making Jim want to borrow Montoya’s gun to shoot himself.

Their host was nowhere to be seen, but it was early, and no one really expected Bruce Wayne to be on time to his own party, it would mean no grand entrance of the kind he was famous of.

“He drove into the house on a motorcycle last month,” Montoya informed him, a little glint in her eye, and he sighed, even more heavily once he noticed that Garcia was glancing towards them.

“What did Sparks want?” Jim asked, and the abrupt change of the topic caused her to look at him suspiciously, all raised eyebrows and ‘really, now and here?’ painted all over her face, but something in his expression must have clued her in, because she just rolled her eyes briefly.

“They have something that might tie in to our leak, small stuff, some evidence gone missing, nothing major like guns or drugs, but a bullet here, a flash drive there…”

“And I wasn’t aware of that because?” he asked dryly, causing her to shrug, biting her lower lip to hold a remark back.

“You know that the CSU likes to handle their own affairs. A report would have probably made your desk at some point.”

That was true, and at least it saved him another long argument with the Head of the CSU. Especially, if Garcia did what he planned to do, that they had one incoming, about the budget cuts.

“Can I go and enjoy little cheese cubes now?” she asked pointedly, and he reached out to touch her shoulder, stopping her from turning.

“Just a moment. Montoya, how do they even know we have a leak?”

“You pay them to be smart. Well, not you, the city, but still,” she sighed heavily. “Everyone has heard about Zsasz through the grapevine by now, and the rumours are starting, and people start to figure out he must have had a source. Being suspicious bastards is kind of in the job description.”

Yes, he supposed it was. At least it was his excuse for being one. At least Garcia seemed to be heavily involved in a heated discussion with the DA, which meant Jim was relatively safe for the next fifteen minutes or so.

“Cheese cubes, boss. They wait for no woman,” she said cheerfully, and was spinning on her heel to march away, when Bruce Wayne appeared to her side, smiling widely. Apparently they had either missed his grand entrance, or he abandoned flashiness in favour of surprisingly stealthy sneaking up on people.

“Commissioner, how good to see you,” he announced, for once remembering who Gordon was, apparently. Lucky him. “And…” he turned to look at Montoya, smile firmly in place, growing even wider if that was possible, but something didn’t seem right, his expression just a little forced, just a little out of place.

And Jim was pretty sure it qualified for the ‘suspicious bastard’ territory, but he was intrigued anyway.

Then Wayne’s smile turned genuine, after a brief flicker of recognition, and he raised Montoya’s hand to his lips, which wasn’t as strange as her not snatching it away immediately, just frowning slightly. Apparently, Wayne’s charm did work on everyone, which was probably a good thing, because if she shot him right there and then, it would have been damn hard to cover up.

“Detective, how nice to see you here,” Wayne told her, and she half laughed and half rolled her eyes. He requested a dance, and she begged off, and the conversation went for a longer moment, without Gordon’s involvement, mostly to his relief.

There was something off about the entire conversation, but he couldn’t quite place it. If it wasn’t Bruce Wayne, he’d assume the man was nervous for some reason, anxious, but the idea seemed inconceivable. And there was the fact that he had spent a good ten minutes flirting with Montoya, who, while certainly very attractive, was not one of the starlets and socialites Wayne usually surrounded himself with. At the very moment, the room was full of young women who would have a different response to his flirting, not Montoya’s morbid fascination and amusement.

At least, until one of the aforementioned young women had apparently decided enough was enough and dragged Wayne away, insisting he had to meet someone or other. And that was pretty much when the most surreal event occurred, Wayne glancing at Jim finally, a brief look of regret, and what was that all about?

“How does he even know you?” he asked Montoya quietly, and she shrugged.

“No idea… no, wait. Six months ago or so, I think. He crashed his motorbike into a car we were pursuing… apparently didn’t think anyone else would be speeding in this city.”

“Yes, he does that,” Jim muttered, shaking his head.

“I wrote him a ticket, he offered sexual favours to get out of paying… or I think it was sexual favours, I do not speak billionaire playboy very fluently,” she grinned. “Talk about barking and wrong trees,” she added and stepped aside, her eyes brightening. “Crab puffs. See you later, boss.”

He snorted at that; only Montoya would come to a party like this only for the free buffet. Unfortunately, her quest for food had left him alone in the middle of a rather large room, and it wasn’t just Garcia he didn’t really want to talk to, there was a whole list of people, longer than his arm.

He strolled towards the balcony, reaching for his cellphone for appearances’ sake. Of course, once he had, he did call Stephens, to make sure everything was alright in the city, and got mocked for his trouble.

“Do I have to call Montoya and tell her to make sure you’re enjoying yourself?”

“Her approach to this would be threatening me at gunpoint. Not exactly leading to enjoyment,” Jim muttered and Stephens laughed.

“I wouldn’t know, but I’ve heard some people actually like that,” he offered and disconnected, leaving Jim without a chance to retaliate, which was just that little bit irritating.

“Not enjoying the evening, commissioner Gordon?” Wayne asked, walking out into the balcony, and leaning against the railing. “I grant it, one of the more boring of my parties, but it can’t be that bad.”

“Which would be why you’re here, and not inside?” Gordon asked dryly, not really in the mood for this particular type of conversation.

There was a lengthy pause, Wayne’s expression so neutral it had to take some effort. “Yes, that would be why,” he agreed, lying through his teeth, but Jim couldn’t quite figure out why would he.

The silence that followed shouldn’t have been companionable, but it was, somehow. Wayne looked away, relaxed and peaceful, none of the almost manic cheerfulness he wore just moments ago, inside. His gaze was fixed on something distant, giving Jim a chance to study his profile, a little too blatantly, but apparently they weren’t adhering to social conventions anyway.

He had the weirdest feeling of déjà vu, both comfortable and strange at the same time, and he shook his head, trying to get rid of it.

“Gordon,” Wayne started, turning towards him, then apparently rethinking whatever he was going to say. “Nevermind. I’d better get inside. Things to do, people to…” he let his voice fall into a rather obvious innuendo and stepped back, turning away.

“Wayne,” Jim said before he thought, forgetting the honorific, but then again, Wayne started it. Wayne stopped, making half a turn, not looking at Jim, and the moment was gone, whatever it was. “Sorry, nevermind,” Jim repeated, and a second later, Wayne was gone, back inside.


It had been a rather spectacularly bad idea, Bruce had realized three seconds after starting the conversation with Jim. He blamed it on surprise; leading a double life apparently wasn’t that easy, and he all but forgot that Jim was supposed to be at the party, with a date no less.

Who turned out to be Detective Montoya, much to Bruce’s relief. And he hadn’t realized how much did the idea of Jim taking a date to the party bother him until the feeling was gone.

He shouldn’t have started the conversation, earning himself the suspicious glances from Gordon, who was never easily fooled. He could have bought the persona amidst the chaos after a car accident, or once or twice at a party, but not staring Bruce right in the face and trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

This would be a very good thing to find out, Bruce had to admit, and got him right back to the topic of the things he shouldn’t have done. Like sleeping with Jim Gordon.

In itself, it wasn’t a bad thing, quite the opposite. But as the Batman, in the darkness, speaking with a voice that wasn’t really his own, it felt like a fraud and like a lie, and not something he wanted for quite a while now, even thought it had been just that.

But then there was that other feeling, the pleasure at the complete trust Jim had shown, nothing held back, no questions asked. It might have been a bad idea in many regards, but Bruce couldn’t quite bring himself to regretting it.

And of course, he wasn’t going to kid himself and think it was a one time thing. Bruce Wayne could have one night stands, and he had, mostly because it was going to get highly suspicious very fast, if he dated a new woman every week and didn’t sleep with any of them. But there were things Bruce Wayne did, and there were things Bruce wanted, and they rarely were the same.

The party passed without surprises, if one ignored his pathetic attempt at a conversation with Jim, and he was damn right ignoring it. He had sneaked out earlier, coincidentally at the same time three pretty girls were leaving, it was enough to suggest his direction, and enough to allow him to go down into the cave and change. There were things to look into, before he was heading to Jim’s apartment, and he was, no kidding himself about that either.

“I was wondering if you’d show up,” Jim said, voice low and relaxed as he leaned against the railing on his balcony. It almost seemed like the last few hours hadn’t passed, as they stood side by side in silence for a moment, but this time it was Bruce searching Jim’s face for clues, and the cowl getting in the way.

“I had things I needed to look into,” he said, and Jim nodded, still looking at the city below.

“Philadelphia was different,” Jim said, a non sequitur if Bruce had ever heard one. “You’d think big cities would feel the same at night, but the rhythm was different. Always seemed a little off,” he added, a note of regret colouring his voice, causing Bruce to take a step closer without even thinking about it. “What things?” Jim asked then, matter-of-fact again, and Bruce shrugged.

“Your leak. Some suspicious items had been for sale for a while, but it never seemed serious enough to…”

“To warrant your attention,” Jim nodded. “Someone from the CSU?”

“I’d suggest getting a warrant to search Corrigan’s house,” Bruce said and hesitated. He had said everything he needed to, but he wasn’t sure how exactly would they be getting from the professional to the more personal moment, it seemed like mixing the two was a bad idea, but at the same time it was rather inevitable.

“Where does one really go to buy stolen evidence?” Jim asked wonderingly, stepping out of the balcony, shaking his head as he reached to take off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly.


Jim snorted, and waited for Bruce to follow him inside, and apparently he didn’t have that many problems with getting from the professional to the personal quite easily as Bruce had, because few seconds later, Jim’s eyes were closed, his face inches away from Bruce’s, fingers skimming across the fastenings of the cowl.

Bruce slowly covered Jim’s hand with his own, and guided his fingers to the lock, showing him where to press to remove the cowl safely. Jim’s breath hitched, a sharp intake as his hands found Bruce’s skin, fingertips running down his exposed neck, feeling for the rapidly speeding up pulse, thumb sliding just across his jaw.

“You know how to take it off now,” Bruce said, not even trying for the growl, but his voice came out strangled anyway, low and rough. “You can…” he started, and didn’t get to finish, Jim’s mouth on his, tongue sliding across his lips.

As a tactic, it wasn’t a bad one and it certainly succeeded in shutting him up for a long moment, Jim’s hands learning how to unlock and dispose of other parts of the suit. Jim had already taken off his tie and jacket before Bruce arrived, but there was still a shirt to be dealt with, and pants, discarded somewhere on their slow way to the bedroom.

It was even darker there, the window hidden by the thick curtain, and Jim opened his eyes, his gaze unfocused and dazed, clearly not able to make out Bruce’s features, which was probably the point here, but it still didn’t make Bruce feel good about it.

“Jim, I need to,” he started, pulling away for a moment, trying to calm his breathing down, his lips swollen and his hands itching to reach out again.

“No, you don’t,” Jim said, shaking his head slowly, stepping back to sit on the bed, sighing as he prepared himself for the conversation, the mood shifting to something much more serious. “You don’t need to tell me. I don’t need to know, either, and for all too many reasons it’s better if I don’t,” he added sadly, running his hand through his already messed up hair.

“You don’t want to know,” Bruce guessed, something cold setting in his stomach. He knew the reasons why, the ongoing search for the Batman, the eventuality of lying in court, all good reasons, but maybe Jim was just protecting himself from disappointment, and finding out that it was Bruce Wayne… it could be somewhat disappointing.

Jim looked up, his brow furrowing for a second, then he slowly shook his head, eyes fixed on Bruce’s face, even though he probably didn’t see much in the room’s darkness. Bruce, however, was used to the shadows, and could read the emotions on Jim’s face, or rather, he would be able to if they weren’t so damn confusing.

“I have no idea,” Jim said finally, shrugging. “For a long while, I tried very hard not to guess, not look for the clues about you. Now… I might want to know, at some point. But I don’t need to know. The question is, I suppose, do you want me to know.”

Bruce was going to answer in affirmative, the yes already forming on his lips, but he hesitated, thinking of the last two years, when Jim was gone, and the last two weeks, since he returned. Everything was happening so fast it all but made his head spin, and maybe there was a deeper reason in his desire to tell Jim everything, to tie them together much more closely. Maybe he was just looking for something to connect them, just in case.

‘If I asked you, would you tell me?’ Jim had asked, but the actual question never followed, the answer to that one was enough. And maybe the knowledge that Jim didn’t care for this answer enough to ask was somehow enough for Bruce. Maybe the trust inherent in this was more than enough of a connection.

“I might want to, at some point,” he said, and Jim nodded, smiling.

“I think that’s enough,” he said, somehow echoing Bruce’s thoughts, and then reached out, the smile softening. “Is that enough of the seriousness, do you think? Because it’s been a very long day.”

“It’s enough,” Bruce agreed, to both, and moved forward, leaning over Jim, his knee between Jim’s legs, spreading them lightly. He captured Jim’s lips in a slow kiss, at the same time reaching down to cup his cock through the soft cotton of his boxers.

“Oh, God,” Jim groaned, back arching as he shifted closer, pushing himself into Bruce’s hand, his head thrown back leaving the throat trustingly exposed. Bruce run his tongue down its inviting line, teeth grazing across Jim’s collarbone as he moved lower, sinking to his knees.

Jim reached out again, fingers tangling in Bruce’s hair, Bruce’s hands tightening on Jim’s hips. The fingernails would leave mark, but that was a good thing, something tangible and real to come out of the night of half shadows.

Jim’s whole body was almost a perfect arch now, the hand not clutching at Bruce’s hair was tangled up in the sheets, when Bruce ran his tongue over the tip of Jim’s cock.

“Oh,” Jim groaned, and Bruce was pretty sure that what would follow would be his name, if it wasn’t one of the things left unsaid. “God,” was what Jim said instead, and for a moment, it worked as if there was no hesitation.

Moments later, when Jim pulled him up and kissed him hungrily, he thought how easy it would be to reach out and turn on the night light. His fingers itched to do so, but to reach out would mean to lose the contact of Jim’s skin, and it was proving too difficult.

And maybe the thing about trust wasn’t just being able to share the secret, but also being able to keep it to yourself.


Jim woke up to a scent of freshly brewed coffee, someone moving in his bedroom, and a still warm other side of the bed.

Opening his eyes just a little and squinting, he could see the window, the small part not covered by the curtain, dark gray sky. Not dark enough to be the middle of the night, which mean that Batman stayed the night; another little thing to add to the growing list of surreal.

“I could get used to the coffee,” he said lightly, busying himself with finding his cellphone and checking the time (five a.m.) and the messages (one, from Montoya, about getting a lead on their CSU leak and saying that she was going to request a warrant). He wondered, briefly, if the ‘lead’ was Batman, and if so, if he was worried about the case standing up in court.

Truthfully, though, at the very moment he had a hard time bringing himself to worry about anything all that much.

“Too much caffeine is unhealthy,” Batman said, sounding like a public service announcement of all things, and as if he had that line said to him a few times and was now reciting it from the memory.

Jim snorted and closed his eyes again, leaning against the headboard, giving the Bat enough time to put on the cowl and disappear. It took longer than it should, small hesitance in Batman’s movement, but Jim waited through it. The day was going to be difficult enough without starting it with an awkward morning.

He had a morning meeting with Garcia, because some things could be postponed but they couldn’t be avoided, and he emerged tired and irritated, but at least it went better than expected, due to a few charitable donations made to the department, the most significant one last night. It led Garcia to believe that Jim had done his job and impressed some people at the party, an odd theory Jim was happy to run with if it got Garcia to sign off on the budget.

Unfortunately, this seemed to exhaust his luck for the day, and he was welcomed by Stephens’ grave face upon his arrival at the MCU.

“Corrigan’s not our guy?” he asked with some surprise. Batman’s intel was usually right on the money.

“Oh, he’s our guy all right,” Stephens muttered, closing the doors behind him as they walked into his office. “Proving it won’t be easy, he knows the system and is not talking. Well, not talking about the stolen evidence and the leaked information. He is saying quite a lot about other things.”

He dreaded to ask. “What things?”

“His arresting officer’s sex life, you, MCU’s incompetence in general, Batman,” Stephens shrugged. “You name it, he’s probably mouthed on about it.”

Jim sighed. That was a predictable route that many of the suspects took, mostly to blow off steam and see the reaction on the interrogating cop’s face. Corrigan doing that was disappointing. But Stephens seriousness was clearly indicating that it wasn’t all.

“Gerry,” he prompted.

“His arresting officer was Montoya,” Stephens said, sighing. “She was the one interrogating him, too.”

Now Jim could see the reasons for the worry. Montoya was a good cop and an even better detective, but her short temper wasn’t always the best thing in the interrogation room, and she had been worked up about this case for days.

“How bad is it?”

Stephens shrugged. “Bullock dragged her out of the room before it could get really bad, but she punched him twice. His lawyer is having a field day with it. Now even if by some miracle we get a confession, it won’t stand, and the evidence we have is mostly circumstantial. Getting a conviction will be fucking difficult bordering on impossible, and that’s if we get a sympathetic judge.”

“Fantastic,” Jim muttered, fighting an urge to punch the wall. “He’ll walk.”

“Probably,” Stephens agreed. “Probably won’t work in the CSU for much longer, you know how much Matthews cares about the integrity of the lab, or whatever he calls it.”

It wasn’t very comforting, but it was something. Jim sighed again, trying to relax just a little; he was going to be calm and composed for the next conversation. “Where’s Montoya?”

“Rec room. Hopefully not getting more caffeinated.”

She wasn’t, an untouched coffee cup sitting in front of her as she banged her fingers on the table in a disjointed rhythm. Bullock was sitting on the chair opposite her, discussing the advantages of one kind of a car over another, Jim couldn’t tell which, and probably neither could Montoya.

“Bullock, Stephens is asking for you,” he lied, nodding at Harvey and getting a short nod in return, Bullock making himself scarce in a matter of seconds.

“Sorry, Boss,” Montoya said immediately, not even looking up, and he rolled his eyes.

“From what Stephens said, Corrigan deserved it,” he said dryly. “But if it’s all the same to you, next time try not to hit the ones who know their rights, would you?”

She smiled weakly, and still didn’t look up.

“Renee,” he tried gently, and she did raise her head now. “Stephens will probably put you on desk duty for a while, and you’re off the case.” He waited for her nod and only then continued. “Are you okay?”

She shrugged. “What he said about me and… what he said about me, it was true. Mostly. I didn’t want everyone to know, it’s enough that Harvey’s on my case constantly…”

Jim nodded, waiting through the silence for her to continue. She searched his face and apparently found what she was looking for, because she forced a small smile.

“They always say the same things about cops, you know?” she asked, shrugging. “But Corrigan was sort of one of us, he should know better. He shouldn’t have said…” she didn’t look him in the eye now, gaze fixed on her coffee cup, which she turned slowly in her hands.

He could probably check the tapes from the interrogation room, but he knew already what Corrigan said, just from the way Stephens and Montoya moved around the subject. It had been one of the favourite topics among the skels two years ago, and apparently things didn’t change that much just because the Gotham PD was officially set to arrest Batman.

“How much do you trust him?” Montoya asked finally, after biting her lip for a long moment.

Jim shrugged. “Completely,” he said plainly, and she looked up this time, surprised at his quick admission and the matter-of-fact tone.

“Oh,” she said. “That’s… good, I suppose.”

He nodded and reached out, patting her hand briefly. “Go home, Montoya. I’m pretty sure you hadn’t slept much in the last few days. I’ll have Stephens find you some interesting files to look through as you’ll be riding the desk.”

She smiled and stood up, picking up her mug and emptying it into the sink. “I kind of miss the old times, when the Bat would help with the interrogation. I’d like to see Corrigan mouth off to him.”

Jim smiled slightly and followed her out to the main area, watching as she stopped by Bullock’s desk.

“Daria,” she said, loud enough for not only Bullock, but pretty much everyone in the room. “There’s no boyfriend,” she announced with fake cheerfulness. “There’s Daria,” she added and turned slightly to nod at Jim before she walked out.

“What?” Bullock asked, his voice pitched just a little bit higher than usual. Jim rolled his eyes, as Stephens slapped Bullock on the back and snorted.

“I’m sure someone will explain to you what ‘having a girlfriend’ means,” he said helpfully.


In the end, all they were able to pin on Corrigan was leaking some of the crime scene photos to the press and selling insignificant pieces of evidence online. It would get him fired, but not send him to prison, especially not in the light of Montoya’s outburst and his lawyer’s considerable skill.

Corrigan walked out of the precinct in the afternoon, and Gordon busied himself with paperwork to try and not think about it too much. He had called Montoya to let her know, but she had turned off her cellphone, which was probably a good thing.

He called Barbara and the kids too, and listened to Babs talking about her schoolwork for twenty minutes without scarcely a pause for breath, and discussed Phillies’ recent games, and the time slowly passed without him thinking of everything that happened throughout the day. Finally, Barbara took over the phone, sending the kids away to watch some tv show.

“Jim,” she said pleasantly, and he could tell he was busted. She always had an uncanny ability of reading him, which was beneficial when it cut through the awkwardness of him asking her out for the first time, but was rather irritating at the moment. “What’s going on?”

“Why do you think anything is going on?” he tried, and she sighed tiredly.

“Tough case, then?” she said and they were both silent for a long moment, neither having any desire to discuss his work. She had always asked, when they were married, but she didn’t want the answers then either, and he never wanted to burden her.

“You can say that,” he agreed and she sighed again, and he could tell she was moving, walking through the house, probably into the kitchen, shutting the doors behind her.

“Now, I know that tone. That tone says you’re trying not to make me worry,” she muttered, her tone clearly indicating it would be better for everyone involved if he cut the bullshit. “So, either you’ve been shot and you’re calling from the hospital to talk to the kids…?” she asked, her tone light enough to convey that she didn’t believe that one, but dark enough that he knew she realized the possibility all too well.

“No,” he told her quickly and could almost hear her nod.

“Or you’re thinking of dating someone and you’re worried of how I might react,” she concluded, smiling, and it stopped whatever he might wanted to say. “So, that one, huh?” she muttered.

“I don’t…” he started, but she interrupted quickly.

“Jim, we’re divorced. I’m pretty sure, I was there when we signed the papers,” she sighed, the exasperated one she used when he was being particularly dense. “And I do reserve the right to completely hate anyone you date, but I do want you to be happy,” she told him pointedly.

“Thank you,” he said softly, and waited for a beat. “Does it mean I get to threaten with bodily harm anyone you date, in case they ever hurt you?”

“Comes with the territory, I suppose,” she laughed. “So, is it anyone I know?”

“I’m not sure, maybe,” he lied and reached out to shift some papers before she could say anything else. “Listen, I need to go.”

“Sure you do. I’ll get it out of you at some point,” she threatened and walked out of the kitchen. “Kids, say good night to Dad,” she said, holding the phone up, and he heard the chorus of ‘good night’ from them before her voice returned clearly. “Take care, Jim,” she said quietly.

“You, too,” he smiled and disconnected, looking at the phone for a long moment, his thoughts absently picking at something she said but he couldn’t yet place, the nagging feeling of something on the tip of your tongue, an idea not yet fully formed.

“Why are you even still here?” Stephens asked, coming into his office. Jim almost snorted at that, as Stephens was almost as bad as him with adhering to working hours and actual shifts.

“You just don’t want to work with your boss looking over your shoulder,” Jim pointed out, but stood up, reaching for his coat. Stephens was right, it was late, and he had been procrastinating anyway.

It wasn’t an entirely new feeling, but still a strange one to have in this situation, but he actually looked forward to getting home, hoping that maybe Batman would show. It was a good feeling to have.

“You got that right,” Gerry agreed cheerfully. “Cramps my style.”

Jim gave him a look.

“Let me take that back,” Stephens muttered.

“Please do.”

The traffic was rather heavy, and he resisted putting on the siren just to avoid it. The sky darkened slowly, and by the time he got to his apartment, it was all shadows and darkness, and Jim didn’t turn on the lights, just walked into the kitchen in his coat and turned on the coffee maker, waiting.

He didn’t have to wait long, Batman appeared soon enough, and for once, he didn’t bother with all the stealthy approach and not making a sound. He still came through the window, of course, but Jim couldn’t really hold that one against him.

“Coffee?” he asked pleasantly, and didn’t get a real answer, just Batman’s arms around him, their bodies pressing close together. The cowl, was already gone, Batman’s lips on his neck, skin on skin, and apparently Jim wasn’t the only one who needed this after a long and difficult day.

“I take it you’ve heard about Corrigan?” he asked before he could stop, and cursed himself inwardly for bringing it up.

Batman nodded, and even though Jim couldn’t see his face, he was pretty sure it was set in the same grimace he wore at the thought.

“I wish I could talk to Zsasz, get him to give Corrigan up,” Batman said and Jim shrugged. He wished that too, but it was not going to help. “Maybe if I got Corrigan to…” Batman started.

“I think Montoya did enough of ‘talking’ in this case,” he muttered and reached out, running his hand down Batman’s face, feeling the tension slowly ease under his fingertips. “We have Zsasz, at least, and he’ll stay locked up for a few lifetimes.”

It wasn’t that much of a comforting thought, but it was better than nothing. Zsasz already had a life sentence before, the recent spree was just going to add up to that, making it certain that there would be no parole in twenty years or so. Even if Corrigan was going to walk, they had that.

It was the worst when it was one of them, one of the cops. Four years ago, before Batman arrived in the city, it wouldn’t have hit Jim that much, it was something he was all too used to. But things changed, and yet, not enough.

“Jim?” Batman asked, hand covering his, and Jim could read the concern in his voice, knowing that he drifted away in his thoughts for a moment.

“Why have you chosen me?” he asked, words forming without much of his conscious thoughts behind them, but it was something he needed to know for a long while now.

Batman’s fingers tightened on his, and for a moment, Jim expected him to dismiss the topic, to pretend he didn’t understand. Instead, he shrugged, tensing just a little, almost imperceptibly, if Jim wasn’t standing so close.

“You were one of the very few honest cops left in the city,” he said, and it wasn’t the truth, even if it might have been a fact. At the time, not taking bribes was more simply a stubborn foolishness than anything resembling honour, no matter what he chose to think of it.

“No, I wasn’t,” Jim muttered. He might have been sticking to the rules, but honesty had little to do with it.

“Jim,” the Bat repeated, his fingers threading Jim’s hair, hand resting on the back of his head, guiding him closer as they met in a rushed kiss that might have been doing a much better job of explaining things between them than whatever words they had.

Much later, in what looked to be the small hours, the sky slowly turning from black to gray, Jim woke up to the feeling of being watched. Batman’s breathing wasn’t even enough to suggest sleep, even if he hadn’t spoken for a long moment, waiting.

“I know you, don’t I?” Jim asked, closing his eyes again, feeling rather than hearing the small hitch in Batman’s breath. “I’ve been thinking, something someone said,” he shrugged. “You always took great pains to obscure the voice. And besides, it would be terribly anticlimactic if, one day, you took off that cowl and it was an unfamiliar face.”

“We’ve met,” Batman agreed, sidestepping the real question, his voice careful and restrained, not a trace of feeling colouring it.

Jim laughed, opening his eyes. “Wrong phrasing. Of course I know you,” he said, meaning not the name the man had in his driver’s license, but all the actually important things.

When he looked to the left and concentrated just enough, he could barely make out the features of the man beside him; he had no idea how familiar they really were.

“What’s your question, Jim?” Batman said, hiding his impatience rather well, Jim thought.

Jim shifted, leaning into a slow kiss, licking at Batman’s lips, slowly coaxing them open.

“Not a question,” he shook his head, the air he was breathing out mixing with Batman’s breath. “A request. Stay,” he said quietly, just a shade above whisper.

He could feel the moment Batman understood, the words he chose not to say breathed out slowly as he shifted, glancing at the slowly brightening sky.

They waited together, pressed closely. Jim watched the shadows shifting over Batman’s skin, daylight slowly bringing out familiar features.


The silence stretched between them, textured and heavy. Batman’s breathing was calm and even, and Jim couldn’t even begin to fathom how much self control it must had taken, all the tension contained deep under the skin, in the tightly coiled muscles.

His hand on Batman’s chest, he could feel it; the tightness and the expectancy, the breathing just a little bit too shallow.

Maybe it would be easier on both of them to get it over with fast, like ripping off a band-aid, but the dramatic unmasking was too grand a gesture, suited for a life or death situation, and not the quiet haven of the bedroom. Jim could flip the light switch right now, but he didn’t make a move, just waited.

And it felt right this way, to reach out and brush his thumb across Bruce’s lips, trail his fingers down the side of his face.

He couldn’t pinpoint the moment when he went from ignorance to suspicion to certainty, it was too gradual, slow and lazy like the crawling rays of sunshine filling the room, but the knowledge must have registered on his face somehow, because Bruce’s breath caught, his whole body tensing again, preparing for the worst.

Jim sighed. “At least some things make sense,” he said matter-of-factly, aware that he couldn’t hold back a small smile, and not trying all that much. Some things did make sense now, the coincidences, the resources, all the little and the big things that were puzzling and important and yet somehow insignificant here.

“And the other things?” Bruce asked, and Jim laughed, leaning into a slow kiss, tongue brushing across lips lightly.

“The other things still don’t make any sense,” he muttered, grinning, getting a slightly surprised snort in response.

“Jim,” Bruce said, and Jim thought that was a first; Bruce Wayne chastising him into seriousness.

“Whoever you’d turn out to be, it would have been fine,” he said, and it wasn’t even a lie, just a guess that didn’t have to be tested.

Bruce nodded slowly, his brow furrowed just slightly, as if he still wasn’t sure if he could let himself believe that. That was hesitance in him that Jim wished could fade away, but they had time for this now, and he supposed he could work with that.

He wished he could say something now, anything to help melt the worry and the insecurity that didn’t have a place in here, but the words on the tip of his tongue were forming too fast. All of this, all the wanting and needing and hoping and caring, it amounted to something profound and terrifying, but to say it now would be disastrous, they weren’t there yet.

“I should move and make that coffee,” Bruce said finally, looking away, as if the intensity of the moment was too much.

“Don’t even move,” Jim muttered, shifting to find a more comfortable position. “We have at least two hours before I need to get up, and I intend to take full advantage of the time.”

“Oh? How so?” Bruce asked, his tone light and teasing, just as it should be.

Maybe this wasn’t the time and place for grand gestures and declarations, but for the first time in a very long while, Jim Gordon felt like he was right where he wanted and needed to be.