Rating: PG for now.
Word count: 2779 for this part.
A day after Barbara's funeral, and Jim's already breaking the first promise he had given her. He brings work home, and even though it's not crime scene photos, or anything even remotely dangerous, it's still something he didn't want to do. But it's that or staying in the office throughout the afternoon, and that he's not going to do. He drives up to the city hall while the kids are at school, and makes his assistant greatly irritated by having her round up the files for all the detectives employed by the Gotham PD. It's going to take ages, he knows, but he fully intends to go through every one of them, and hopefully end up with a department he can work with. And most importantly, a department that can work well without him. He takes the first portion of the files home, and stops for the groceries on the way.
He hadn't done that in ages, apart from the emergency runs of 'we've run out of cornflakes. Buy some on the way from work'. He probably buys too much, or the wrong stuff, and has to get back twice, once for milk, and once for toilet paper.
Kids get home about ten minutes after he does, and Jimmy is pointedly not looking at him. Jim supposes another kid at school had once more said something about Batman, it's that kind of look Jimmy gets at those times. He has been strictly forbidden to argue the point, and there's still some resentment over that. Jim doesn't exactly know how to approach the subject, so he goes on with avoiding it, which is probably the worst idea of the day, but he needs time to brace himself and prepare the arguments that won't end with Jimmy in tears.
Babs makes a beeline for the computer, predictably, and claims homework purposes. He doesn't call her on it even when the computer starts making noises definitely not related to anything remotely resembling homework. A day more, he gives them, before they work out some rules. This used to be things Barbara dealt with, time for homework, time for playing, the allowed candy amount, things like that. He doesn't look forward to stepping in, but it's one of the things he'll have to get used to.
A week later, he's still not used to it, but at least it's not as difficult as it was at the very beginning. Babs has taken over breakfasts, and they'd almost got Jimmy to make the lunches, but it turned out they'd be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, and even Babs vetoed that. She had really took the Wayne-appointed mission to heart, and makes sure Jim has breakfast, and doesn't stay up late. It's beginning to be just a little bit annoying, but at least it seems like she's dealing. That's Babs alright, give her a project and she fixes all her attention on it. He wonders how the hell did Wayne know that, or how did he get that lucky.
It's worse with Jimmy. Maybe because he was the one Harvey held at gunpoint, before Barbara moved, and... well, maybe. Four days after the funeral, he gets called in by Jimmy's teacher, and handed a drawing Jimmy did. There's their house, with some really creative perspective work, and Jimmy, Babs, Jim, with a rather large mustache that seems to cover most of his face, Barbara, away and above, although it's a bit hard to tell with the perspective. And there's Batman, in the corner, surrounded by rather a lot of dark crayon shadows. The teacher says Jimmy still fears the man who killed his mother, and Jim doesn't protest, just promises to look into the list of therapists she recommends.
"He watches over us," Jimmy says later, and Jim shrugs, unsure what to say. Barbara would know.
"I'm sure he does. Can he not do that on your pictures, though?" He explains, once again, and once again Jimmy just looks at him blankly. Jim feels he's loosing strength for this, how long can you argue the man who saved your life is not to be spoken of, and if it can't be avoided, has to be presented as a murderer?
Batman himself hadn't been around since that night, and that's probably a good thing. Jim had made changes in the taskforce responsible from bringing him in, only the officers he could trust implicitly, and who could be given the real version of events. The reactions ranged from shock to relief, but the only one voiced was Montoya's heartfelt 'Shit', followed soon by 'Sorry, boss'. She needn't have to apologise, he shared that sentiment.
He wonders, sometimes, briefly, how is Batman doing. It can't be easy on him either.
Jim is... dealing, he supposes is the term. He wouldn't know about that. On Saturday, he spends the whole morning sorting through Barbara's things. Piles of books, clothes, old letters, jewelry, things for Barbara and Jimmy to keep, things to send back to her mother in Chicago, things to give to Goodwill. He moves the bed half a meter closer to the window, and gives Babs Barbara's night table, and it somehow solves his problem of not being able to sleep in the bedroom. He still keeps to his side almost religiously, not daring to roll over to Barbara's even in his sleep, but it can be called dealing.
"Are we going tomorrow?" Babs asks on Saturday evening, and he seems to have lost a large chunk of conversation.
"Nutcracker," she says matter-of-factly, and he remembers. Barbara had gotten the tickets, for herself and Babs, they were hard to come by but she knew someone who knew someone from the cast, and so two tickets were obtained.
"You want me to go with you?" he asks, and Barbara shrugs, not looking at him, playing as if it didn't really matter. She's a bad liar, her cheeks are flushing scarlet, she takes that after him as well. "Jimmy, do you want to go?" he asks just to be on the safe side, but Jimmy just throws him a pitying look.
"Ballet is for girls."
There's that. He smiles at Babs, and nods. "Seems like it's you and me, kid."
She insists he wears a tux, too, the old one he actually wore to his wedding. Babs doesn't know that, of course, and he hides the slight shake in his hands as he puts it on, and ties the bow-tie. Babs tells him to show her how to do that, and they spent half an hour tying it and untying, until she's satisfied. It almost makes them late, but they manage five minutes before the show.
Babs is quiet throughout the ballet, but whether she's fascinated by the story, or just closed up like in the most recent days, Jim can't exactly tell. He really hopes it's the former, and the intermission seems to confirm the hopes.
"Sophie Clark goes to ballet classes," she says, and Jim has enough experience by now to correctly decipher the remark. Four months ago, it had been jujitsu. A year ago, riding lessons. Sometime before that, the piano. Of all these, only jujitsu continues, but if she's considering ballet, she might be losing enthusiasm for that too.
"I'll call Sophie's mom tomorrow and ask about those classes," he offers, and Barbara seems satisfied with the answer. It's not a no, after all. And Jim had met Sophie's mom a few times, during the kid's birthday parties, and last year on Halloween, and she seemed sensible and matter-of-fact, and if she thought it was a good idea for Babs, Jim would agree. Maybe a new activity would be good for her.
Apart from the newest craze for Babs, the intermission brings a surprise encounter in the hall, almost making Jim snort in disbelief. He had went on for a good twenty years with only encountering Bruce Wayne twice, and now it seemed the man was everywhere. He has on a tux that fits better than Jim's ever could, and is accompanied by a stunning young woman who looks vaguely familiar to Jim, which probably means that she's a famous actress or someone like that.
Even a few weeks ago, Jim would have expected them to pass him and Babs by without as much as a glance, but now he isn't all that surprised when Wayne stops in his tracks and smiles widely in greeting. "Commissioner," he says, and turns to Barbara with a small bow of his head. "Miss Gordon."
The introductions are made, and Wayne chats with Babs for a while about the ballet, occasionally directing a question or a remark at Jim who does his best in trying to answer, even though the whole thing is rather surreal. And, if he's not mistaken, although reading Wayne is an unexpected challenge, the younger man is carefully assessing them, looking with some concern at Barbara's face, casting quick searching glances at Jim. Gordon himself is beginning to form a vague impression of becoming Wayne's charity project of some sort, and he might want to take offense at that, but Babs is smiling widely and discussing Clara's escapades, and he can't.
After the second act, Babs looks around searchingly, and there's some disappointment written on her face when she realises Wayne is already gone. "What do you say we pick up some pizza after we get Jimmy from Robert's?" he asks, and she nods happily. It's been two weeks since the last time they had pizza, and he feels he had made good on his promise to himself to actually get them well-rounded meals, not take-away every night. He had even learned how to work the ancient oven, even though his first attempt was worse than Barbara's initial batch of pancakes.
To Jimmy's feeble protests, Babs proceeds to tell him the entire story of Nutcracker, and they're still chatting as Jim washes the dishes, handing them to Babs to dry off, and then to Jimmy to put them in their right cupboards and drawers, but the conversation had somehow turned into an argument about whether ninjas would win in a war against rats. Jim prefers not to ask.
Kids tucked in, an hour later, Jim turns his attention to another batch of files he had brought from the office. It seems like this is his entire job now, paperwork, and occasional lunch meetings, but he has been assured this was the case with being the commissioner. He's mildly disappointed, but it's probably for the better. Even though he probably could overrule the tradition and insist on being included in drug busts and such, he can't do that anymore. Paperwork it is, and at least he stays on top of everything that's going on within the department, and of the most important cases currently investigated.
A gust of wind ruffles the sheets of paper spread over the table, carrying a few off it. Jim curses, and then tenses briefly; he's pretty sure he had closed all the windows against the November cold.
"Don't turn around." The voice is certainly familiar, and Jim nods, absently reaching to pick up the papers from the floor and place them back on the table.
"Feels just like old times," he notes with a small smile, and tugs his glasses off, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Why the case of the sudden shyness?
"I didn't think the suit was a good idea, considering..." that every cop in the city would shoot at sight. Well, almost every cop.
"Of course. What brings you here? If it's the recent strings of murders in the Narrows, we have nothing new that you probably wouldn't know."
There's no answer for a moment, and Jim can tell without looking that the Bat shifts, a step closer to the back of the couch. "I had to..." he starts, an uncharacteristic hesitance, a long pause. "How are you doing?"
Jim can't help it, he laughs at that. "Not you too," he mutters, shaking his head. He's getting tired of this question, honestly. Batman doesn't answer, and Jim sighs. It's strange, thinking Batman would take that much of a risk to actually come by and check up on him. But apparently the tentative friendship that Jim felt beginning during this past year wasn't just something he had imagined. "I'm doing as well as I can," he finally says, not the standard answer but the one that rings close to being true.
He hears a slight shift and imagines it's a nod. The good thing about Batman, Jim thinks, is that he's not one for platitudes and empty phrases. But there is a hand resting on the back of the couch now, two inches away from Jim's shoulder, and this is not a bad thing, however strange it might be.
"Speaking of old times," Jim says thoughtfully. "And I'm not saying I miss the breaking in and staplers... You somehow dealt without the suit." Batman doesn't answer, and Jim wonders if he overstepped, but hell, he's not the one breaking in through the window. "I mean, only if you intend to stick around. There's a great discussion going on back at the MCU. Montoya bet ten bucks you're off to Europe."
Batman snorts slightly, much as Jim did after Renee's suggestion. "Tell Montoya to stop wasting money."
"Already have," he shrugs. "Does it mean you are sticking around?" he adds before he stops himself. At this very moment he might sound as wistful and needy as Jimmy, but they both came to rely on Batman almost too much, and right now Jim needs all reassurance he can get.
"I never liked Europe," Batman says quietly, and Jim nods in understanding. Another pause, the skin on his neck starts itching, and he knows he's being stared at. "How are the kids doing?"
Usually, this would be an odd conversation to have with Batman, he's not the sort to inquire about other people's families. But Jim can hear the underlying guilt, it's the same one that clouds his every thought of the night Barbara died. And logically, maybe in that very moment there was nothing either of them could do, but then Jim thinks of actions and consequences, and all the wrong choices he had made that led to that point. He should have listened, he should have done so many things differently.
He sighs, shaking his head. "I have no idea. Jimmy still has nightmares. Barbara seems to be doing better."
"Watch out for her. She's keeping everything in, that's not a good thing."
"And you have a degree in child psychology since when?" Jim mutters, but his tone doesn't have any resentment that the words might suggest. Batman's right, of course, and he knows that much, but knowing that and knowing what to do with it are very different things.
Batman's hand moves slowly, carefully placed on Jim's shoulder, no gloves, just the thin cloth of Jim's shirt in the way. It's just a simple touch, a gesture of comfort, but it's such an alien concept between them that Jim almost can't stand it, wishes to shake it off. He doesn't.
Before either of them can shift, or say anything, light floods the stairs from Jimmy's bedroom. "Dad?"
"He must have had another nightmare," Jim says, and stands up, making sure he doesn't look back, starting to walk to the stairs. The moment he sets foot on the first one, Batman's raspy voice breaks the silence.
"Jim," he starts and stops, as if surprised himself at the slip of the first name, but it can't really be taken back. Jim's rooted to the spot, hand on the railing of the stairs, fingers tightening. "Tell him I'm..." he stops, and Jim nods.
"I will. Thank you," he says, knowing fully well that he's talking to an empty room.