Pairing: Jim/Bruce, eventually.
Rating: PG-13 for now.
Word count: 1403.
A/N: Written for prompt by brushed_velvet: Fics set after TDK usually have Barbara leaving Jim with Jim staying in Gotham to do his duty but what if Jim decided to leave too? How would Bruce/Batman feel/react? And what would happen when Jim decided to return to Gotham either with or without his family beside him?.
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.