Rating: PG-13 for now.
Word count: 2025 for this part.
After calling Barbara and talking to Alfred, Jim falls into silence, his head resting against the car's window, his eyes half-closed. His hands are in his lap, listless, almost curled into fists but not quite, as if he didn't have energy for that. Bruce can tell that all the adrenaline that buzzed through him during the search is gone now, it had been since the moment they'd learned that the bomb had been located and disabled. Jim sighed, long and hard, shoulders slumping, and it might have looked like relief, but it was a little bit too tired and weary for that.
This is one of the worst cases, Bruce knows, one that hits hard and doesn't let go easily, one where you feel guilty not only for those you couldn't save, but you feel guilty about every decision that might have been wrong even though it wasn't. They both had been through cases like this, all too often, and it doesn't get easier.
"I think I'm getting too old for this," Jim muses almost casually, and Bruce doesn't even look at him, just presses down on the accelerator.
"You're not," he says plainly, and switches gears. Chances of Jim, no matter how much he hates this job sometimes, giving it up, are about as slim as Bruce retiring the cape. In other words, bordering on nonexistent. "Besides, whom would you name as your replacement? Montoya? She'd shoot you before you had the chance."
"You might be right," there's no smile, though, no smirk, and Bruce was really counting on getting one for this remark. Fine, let's do it the hard way, he thinks, and takes the left at the next intersection.
Jim opens his eyes, glancing at him questioningly. "That's not the way to the Manor."
"I'm kidnapping you and we're taking a detour. Don't worry, won't take long," he says, speeding up a bit, which gets him to about a double of the speed limit here, but he doesn't care.
"The kids..." Jim starts, but stops when Bruce throws him a pointed look.
"You're going to explain your mood to them? You need a moment, to unwind, gather your thoughts. Remember the rule about bringing work home?" he asks lightly, and, slowly, Jim nods, giving in, his hands uncurling, one hand briefly reaching out to cover Bruce's, just a gentle brush of fingertips over the knuckles, as if to reassure himself.
He pulls over into the underground garage of the apartment building where he still keeps the penthouse; you never know when it may be of use. Like now. Jim lets himself be ushered out of the car and into the elevator, more puzzled now than anything else, but his movements are still slow and unsure, a distant echo of shock and exhaustion.
"Coffee?" Bruce asks as the elevator doors open soundlessly, letting them into the apartment, and Jim throws him a suspicious glance, but nods, shrugging.
The kitchen is well stocked with things that don't spoil easily, Alfred takes care of this for emergencies, just in case it was needed at some point; it may be slightly paranoid but it's definitely one of Alfred's better qualities. Bruce measures out the brown powder and starts the coffee maker, cups clinking as he takes them out of the cupboard.
While he busies himself with the task, Jim stands by the window, looking out at the city, his hand briefly hovering near the glass before he lets it fall. Bruce sighs, he can't say how many times he stood like that, looking out and over the city, and his thoughts were never of the pleasant kind. "Jim," he says, taking few steps towards him, hesitating before he reaches out, which he does only when there's no response. "Jim," he repeats, hand on the shoulder, and Jim shifts his head to the side slightly, his cheek gently resting on the back of Bruce's hand.
"I'm fine," he says, his breath warming Bruce's fingers, and the tone tells Bruce that he's not, but he will be. He moves closer, his body fitting against Jim's with well practiced ease, and after a very long moment, when their breaths find the same rhythm, Jim turns, mouth covering Bruce's. His tongue slides over Bruce's lips hungrily, and Bruce groans somewhere deep in his throat, making step forward, pushing Jim against the glass just as Jim's teeth and tongue travel down the side of his neck, taking their time.
And this wasn't exactly what he had in mind in bringing Jim here, but if it works, he's not going to complain, especially not now, when Jim's fingers are tugging his shirt up and buttons undone, as if he wasn't sure what he wanted to do first, but was just intent on exposing as much of Bruce's skin as possible, get closer for warmth.
"Bruce," Jim says, soft whisper against his skin, and it doesn't sound tired anymore, it sounds nothing if not alive and it sends Bruce's pulse racing under Jim's fingertips. Maybe he did have a little of that in mind, he'll admit.
By the time Dad and Bruce get to the Manor, Alfred had commandeered end to the picnic, and got them inside, predicting it was going to rain soon. Biscuit is rather unhappy, looking out through the glass door, but Jimmy spies the dvd shelf with surprising speed, and starts flicking through them, announcing that Bruce has better taste than he thought grown-ups did. Alfred rolls his eyes slightly, apparently not agreeing with the statement, and Barbara has to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
"We can watch something after dinner," Bruce offers, walking in with Dad in tow, and looking at Alfred. "What's for dinner?"
It only makes Alfred roll his eyes harder, in that Alfred way where you don't see the eyeroll at all, but you know he so does roll his eyes mentally. Babs really needs to ask him how he does that, one of these days.
Alfred starts responding, pausing at the sound of a cellphone, and Babs jumps up, reaching for it. "Please, please," she mutters, checking the caller ID, then takes a deep breath and waits out two next signals. Dad is giving her a strange look, but she ignores him, taking few steps to the side, leaning against the doorframe. "Hello?" she says, trying her best to sound nonchalant. "Oh, hi, Steve."
As she finishes the conversation, Jimmy starts making faces at her, batting his lashes and pouting his lips, and she calmly walks to the couch, picks up the largest pillow, and hits him over the head with it.
"Dad," Jimmy protests whiningly, and she points her finger at him.
"He started it," she points out.
Dad sighs. "Cut it out, both of you."
"Fine," she says, sticking her tongue out at Jimmy. "He still started it," she adds.
Bruce snorts, and she glances at him, starting to point out that the faces were totally a declaration of war, when something catches her eye, and all the words disappear.
"I so did not," Jimmy yells from next to the dvd player, and she doesn't even look at him, because oh, my, god, she must be having hallucinations caused by the joy on Steve asking her out again, but why would she imagine this of all things? Because there it is, red and really visible on Bruce's neck, and if Bruce has a hickey than it means that... Dad...
"Excuse me, I have to go bleach my brain," she mutters, and she didn't intend for this to come out loud, but it apparently did.
"What?" Jimmy wants to know, craning his neck to look around, and Babs closes her eyes pointedly.
"Nothing. I had seen nothing."
She really wishes that was true. Because she thought it was bad when she happened upon them kissing, but this is... bad. She can't find the right word for it, except... bad.
"Oh, good," she mutters, and proceeds to walk to the kitchen without opening her eyes, feeling her way carefully.
"What's going on?" Dad asks, his voice wondering, and she hears Bruce laugh softly.
"You don't want to know."
Sure, he can laugh. She's going to need years of therapy.
Few weeks after Joker had been incarcerated in Arkham (the first time), someone had put a sign on the noticeboard at the MCU: '22 days free of freaks', reminiscent of old factory signs about no accidents. Gordon had taken one look, rolled his eyes, and took it down, but it was back two days later, pronouncing 24, and this time it was an electronic sign, with bright red letters. Commish had left that one up, figuring it was a loosing battle.
Renee realises she's one of the prime suspects for all of the pranks taking place at the station, but at least she can't be blamed for this one, she had just been promoted at the time, and hadn't yet started to test the limits and everyone's sense of humour. If you ask her, she suspects Bullock, but hadn't shared that opinion with anyone.
Right now, the sign reads 41, and had been going up since the Riddler's arrest. They won't make it till 42, unfortunately. Renee knocks on the half-opened door of Gordon's office, and places the afternoon edition of Gotham Times on his desk wordlessly.
He sighs, and pushes his glasses up his nose, studying the headlines, frowning. "You think Miss Vale could for once not go for the very obvious nickname."
"Her ideas catch on quickly," Montoya shrugs, "even with the perps themselves." There's no answer apart from a slightly disgusted snort, and she ploughs forward with the real subject of conversation. "Good picture of you, though. But I bet you've been misquoted."
"Gravely," Gordon agrees, making a note on his legal pad. Not yet the reaction she was waiting for, but she has time. It's not that she's curious... oh, hell, of course she is curious. Figuring out what exactly was the deal with, for the lack of a better word, friendship, between the Commish and Batman, was one of her favourite pastimes. When Stephens wasn't around to be bugged, of course.
"What was it, really, that you said about Batman?" she asks, and Gordon glances up, and then, after watching her suspiciously, rolls his eyes.
"Don't you have work to get to? If not, I can make sure you do," he offers almost pleasantly, and she grimaces.
"No, thanks." She hovers for a moment, trying to think of her next question, when Gordon's phone rings, and with a warning look at her, he picks up.
"What is it?" he asks, and she can tell this isn't the first phonecall like this in the last hour. "No, Babs, we had a deal, you stay within the funds limit. No, you are not touching your college money. Barbara," he adds sternly, and then moves the phone away from his ear, as if surprised. "She hung up," he mutters, and Montoya is trying not to laugh at the dry surprise. He looks up at her. "Homecoming dance. Dress catastrophe."
"That bad, huh?" she asks without a shade of sympathy, and he waves towards the doors pointedly.
"Yes. Now, out with you, I need to make a phonecall." This is close enough to a direct order, and she doesn't have much to say to that. She does hesitate before closing the doors behind, though, and her reward is the opening sentence of 'Babs is going to call you in a moment, don't get roped into paying for the dress.' then a pause, and then 'What?'
She sighs. It's not fair, with the mysteries piling. up.