Pairing: Jim/Bruce, eventually.
Rating: PG-13 for now.
Word count: 1143
“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.”