Rating: PG for now.
Word count: 2790.
A/N: ladynathena wanted something with Gordon's kids, and Bruce/Batman interacting with them. Then kubis started to enable me. So, here you are, a fic diverging a bit from the ending of TDK, contaning a minor character's death (I'm very sorry, honestly), buckets of angst, some shmoop, and quite soon, in next parts, enough fluff to make a dozen of pillows.
Barbara Gordon's funeral takes place in the early morning, the air is still crisp and fresh, like after a long storm. The timing is worked out perfectly so that there is a brief gathering at Jim's house afterwards, and he has enough time to make it to her killer's funeral and give a speech on what a hero he was.
The second funeral is large and pompous, with speeches, gigantic photos, the flag, and the damned honour guard. Barbara's funeral is small, just the family, some of the officers Jim's worked with for so long they're practically family as well, and Garcia making an appearance with some rarely evidenced real concern, telling Jim to take all the time he needs before getting back to work.
All the time he needs is a few hours before he wants to throw himself back into work, but there are the kids to think of. Jimmy spends the entire day practically glued to his side; at the cemetery he hides his face in Jim's coat, then trails after him through the house, watching Jim's every move. Babs just holds his hand tightly throughout the service, letting go only for a brief moment, to place a bunch of roses on the grave, and at the wake she sits in the armchair Barbara favoured and reads some heavy book, pointedly ignoring everyone who stops to say few words to her.
And this is also the biggest, and probably the only one, surprise of the entire day, penetrating the efficient haze Jim worked himself into. At the cemetery, there's a discreet black Bentley parked on the side, long enough to kick start Jim's paranoia, and he sends Stephens to check it out. Stephens comes back with a bewildered expression and Bruce Wayne in tow. Wayne just nods at Jim, and doesn't say much beyond the usual cliches, sorry for your loss and all that, and even though the curiosity is killing Jim, it's not like he can start the interrogation.
The bewilderment continues during the wake, but Jim's too busy dodging questions and sympathies to actually find time to talk to Wayne. Sometime at the end of the first hour he catches a glimpse of Wayne crouching next to the armchair Babs is occupying, saying something that actually gets her to look up. Jim can't disentangle himself from the conversation he's having, and he's trying to hear what Wayne is saying, but nothing makes it over the sound of the dishes clinking and people talking. Whatever he's saying has Babs nod solemnly, her mouth set into a determined line even as she's biting her lower lip.
Jim excuses himself and walks up to them, his hand still holding Jimmy's. "Mr Wayne," he says, a question more than a greeting, and Bruce looks up, doesn't move to stand, his eyes still on Babs and Jimmy's level.
"Commissioner," he says pleasantly, then lowers his head again. "And Jimmy, is that right?"
Jimmy nods shyly, fingers tightening in Jim's hand. He had enough of people offering their sympathy today, and enough of pats on the head for an entire lifetime. Jim briefly wishes he could stop Wayne before he does the same, but checks himself and just holds Jimmy's hand closer to himself.
Wayne, however, just nods politely. "Nice to meet you," he says seriously, as if making acquaintances with eleven years olds was something he did on the daily basis, proper and polite, no condescension at all. Jimmy nods back, and, wonder of wonders, extends his hand, not the one clasped in Jim's, but his left one. Wayne shakes it seriously, and only then he moves to stand up and look at Jim, reaching out to shake his hand as well, and Jim just extends it absently, baffled.
"My condolences," Wayne says, and Jim can only nod. This entire thing goes against his long lasting opinion of Bruce Wayne, but now, looking at him, Jim remembers that one day long ago, and thinks that everyone has something that hits too close.
"Thank you," Jim isn't exactly sure what to say, and he forces a nervous smile. "I'm not sure why..." he starts and shakes his head, not entirely sure what he's actually trying to say.
"Repaying old debts," Wayne offers quietly, looking at Jim intently and for once Jim has the surreal feeling that he's permitted to see something real and open. It's been a long while, and Wayne is no longer a scared kid, and looking at him now it's difficult to remember he ever was that boy in his father's coat, but at this very moment, Jim remembers it all too well. Same haunted look he sees on Jimmy's face now, same closed up expression Babs wears. It's like a kick to the gut, a very slow, excruciatingly painful one. Jim tightens his hold on Jimmy, makes a step forward to Barbara's chair without even thinking. Wayne nods. "Commissioner," he repeats and is gone, swiftly disappearing in the crowd of dark suits.
Babs carefully places a bookmark in her book, and closes it with a soft sound, putting it on the coffee table. Jim sits down on the armrest, pulling Jimmy up to sit on his knee; Jimmy had been protesting against those gestures for the last few months, some kid at school told him it was childish, but now he leans into Jim, resting his head on Jim's shoulder. Barbara just moves slightly towards him, not yet touching his arm, but close, and that's an achievement in itself, that and the way her tight expression softens a little, and she looks like she may finally cry.
Montoya gives the three of them a look, catching Jim's eyes, and plays interference for the next half an hour, letting them just sit there, undisturbed. Finally, people start leaving, most of them are going to attend the next funeral on the day's to-do list, and Jim is really not looking forward to this one, but couldn't find good enough an excuse to beg off, not with the version of events he had given everyone.
And that's another can of worms, that one. He had been too stricken at the time, too stunned by the events, by being alive when Barbara wasn't, that he hadn't thought the lie through. He knows Batman had, and that makes it even worse. For a while there, before he had time to consider everything, Jim had planned on clearing Batman's name as soon as possible, finding a way to make it everything go away, find another scapegoat, someone who wasn't as important to Gotham's sanity as Harvey Dent.
But in an effort to save his children from giving statements and adding to the already considerable trauma, he had given a very detailed one, clearly naming Batman as Harvey and Barbara's killer. There was no going back from this one. Batman must have known, damn him. There were other ways, and if they had paused and pondered, they might have found them then and there. But Barbara was lying lifeless on the ground, Babs holding her hand like an anchor, Jimmy hiding his face in his father's coat. There was no time, there was no other choice. They'll just have to deal with the consequences.
They hadn't planned for this with Barbara either. They had sat down and talked through all possible consequences of Jim's death, late at night after a close call on a drug bust, bullet lodged in his shoulder, the old wound still aching now, even though it was years ago. Barbara had kept her voice steady and ordered Jim to for once consider the possible fallout of him not coming home one day, of his fellow officers on the doorstep, bringing the worst of news. He had written letters that night, to his kids, for all the important events, for their birthdays, for their weddings, for everything that he might not be there to see. Barbara had given the kids first of those letters after the deception few days ago, and at least there was that. There was nothing from Barbara, no letters, not that many photos or mementos, just her everyday stuff, clothes, books. It will have to do.
With everyone gone, Jim leaves the kids in Montoya's care. He had some qualms about it, using senior detectives as babysitters was a bit too close to abusing his new power, but she had volunteered, said that she didn't like speeches and eulogies, and he gave in. He just tells her to don't let the kids watch tv under any circumstances. He had explained the necessity of lying in this one instance, but he still doesn't want them to listen to his empty speech.
He wonders, how many people can see through it, who can tell that he's lying through his teeth. He's never been good at bluffing, Barbara used to laugh at him about that. He looks among the faces gathered below the podium and no one seems to notice. Maybe he did get better at this.
Walking off the makeshift stage, Jim catches the expression on Bruce Wayne's face, and frowns. He hadn't expected the man to be here, seeing him twice on the same day is astonishing, considering their respective social circles; but of course, he remembers, Wayne was one of Harvey's supporters, even threw a fundraiser, the one that been brought to Jim's attention only because Joker had crashed the party. It's not such a surprise that he's here. But once Jim looks hard enough, the expression doesn't quite ring true, it's one of anger, not grief, however carefully controlled. It might not be obvious, but Jim had seen enough of it in the mirror to decipher the cold look in Wayne's eyes. It's another piece of the puzzle, more confusing than the others, but even though his interest is raised, Jim pushes the mystery into a far corner of his mind. He already has too much to think about.
When he gets home, the kids are just about passed out from exhaustion, as Montoya let them overindulge on popcorn and chocolate, and roped them into playing some video game with a guitar that puzzles Jim greatly.
"They weren't very enthusiastic," Renee says, shrugging and Jim nods. "But it's something."
It is something. "Thanks, Montoya," Jim forces a smile, and it feels a bit more genuine than all the others.
"Anytime, boss," she offers, and waves her goodbye before packing up the plastic guitar and walking out.
Babs sleeps soundly, and only mutters something inaudible when Jim picks her up and carries her to her room. She's already in her yellow pajamas, all Jim has to do is discard her cat-shaped slippers and cover her with the thick blanket and kiss her forehead, brushing her hair away from her face. When he gets back to the living room, Jimmy is awake, resting his head on his hands, elbows on his knees, staring absently out of the window.
"Ready to go to sleep?" Jim asks, and gets a shrug in return. "Alright, what is it?" he asks, sitting on the coach, gently nudging Jimmy with his elbow.
"Is Batman really gone?" Jimmy asks, his voice barely controlled, as if he was holding back tears. Jim blinks a few times, tugs off his glasses and closes his eyes briefly, then reaches out to pull Jimmy closer to him.
"Why do you ask?"
"Renee had been talking on the phone. She said that Batman was probably long gone now. Not going to show up again, she said."
Montoya is on the taskforce, of course, and Jim knows he'll have to have a talk with her sometime soon. Stephens knows, but no one else yet. As much as his idea of clearing up Batman's name is not going to take, at least he'll need to be sure his officers won't be shooting at the Bat on sight. "He's going to hide for a while, I think."
"But is he gone?" There's a note of real fear now, and Jim sighs, kissing the top of Jimmy's head. He can't even begin to imagine what they're going through, first his insane stunt of faking his own death, then Barbara. And Batman, whom Jimmy practically worshipped, blamed for her death, and quite probably on the run.
"I hope not," he says quietly. "I don't think Batman would leave us," he offers slowly, and it might even be the truth. Batman loves Gotham too much, and even though he should leave, Jim suspects he won't. He probably can't, not any more than Jim can, no matter what. "He's a hero, remember?"
Jimmy smiles softly, and nods his head, low, his eyes already closing. "Yeah."
"Come on, off to bed, before you fall asleep here," Jim says, voice crisp and even again, and Jimmy opens his eyes widely.
"You carried Babs," he says, just a hint of whine, and Jim snorts lightly.
"Fine. Hold on," he says, picking Jimmy up, making his way upstairs.
"Leave the light on?"
"Of course," Jim closes the door, frowning. He hopes against hope the nightmares will not come tonight, but there are slim chances. Jimmy had been having ever since Barbara... Babs sleeps soundly, thankfully, but Jim is not sure if that's an entirely good thing. She bottles everything up, too much, she's all too similar to him in this.
He changes in the bathroom, avoiding looking into the mirror as much as he can, then gets back to the living room, cleaning up the rest of the mess, leaving the dishes in the sink to take care of tomorrow. He's tired, and not just in the way he is after a long day, this weariness he feels deeper, in the muscles, in the bones. He picks up the folded blanket and the pillow from the armchair, and sets on the couch. It's lumpy, and doesn't do anything for his back, but he hadn't yet brought himself to sleep alone in his and Barbara's bed. He's not sentimental, and he's not melodramatic, but... the couch it is, for now.
He wakes up to the sound of something breaking, and jumps up just slightly, looking around. Jimmy is sitting on the floor next to the couch, watching a cartoon with some big-eyed flying girls, and the sounds of the tv are drowned in the cacophony coming from the kitchen. "Babs?" he yells, and in response, the clinking of glass or whatnot stops briefly, just to be resumed after she yells back 'In here, Dad.'
Jim walks into the kitchen, looking around suspiciously. Babs is apparently attempting to cook charcoal in the frying pan. "What is it?"
"Pancakes," she says, and pokes the charred one with a fork, trying to scrub it off the frying pan. Jim winces only briefly, and manages to cover it up with a cough.
"Sounds good. I'll get the syrup," he offers, and rummages through the cupboard. From the look of the already made pancakes, they're going to need a lot of syrup, enough to have the kids' teeth rotted through. "Jimmy, come here, your sister made us pancakes," he says loudly enough for it to carry to the leaving room, and turns to look at Babs. She looks just slightly different, concentrated on the task, biting her lip with a serious expression as she tries to move the last pancake from the pan onto a plate. This one is just dark brown, not black, which bears some hope for the future.
"Hey, Babs," Jim says casually, arranging the plates on the table, handing Jimmy forks and knives to set them down. "What did you talk about with Mr Wayne yesterday?"
She looks up. "Bruce?" she asks, to make sure, and at Jim's answering nod and a raised eyebrow, she shrugs. "Stuff."
"He said you're going to take good care of us," she offers matter-of-factly, opening the fridge to get some orange juice. Which is a good thing, as she doesn't notice Jim's jaw practically hitting the floor in surprise. "And that you're going to need someone to take care of you."