Pairing: Jim/Bruce, eventually.
Rating: PG-13 for now.
Word count: 1620
He got Montoya’s message the moment he got off the plane and turned the phone back on, and a mere half an hour later he was standing in the autopsy room at the morgue, listening to the report on the sixth victim.
It was a jarring contrast to just a few hours ago, when he’d been making pancakes for the kids and listening to Babs’ rant on some tv show she was watching being unfairly cancelled.
“How much did you actually sleep?” Barbara had asked quietly, taking in the files barely stuffed into his briefcase hurriedly, and the deep shadows under his eyes.
“Sleep?” he had said, shrugging, and she had rolled her eyes at him and proceeded to pour him another cup of coffee, pointedly biting her lower lip to indicate how troublesome it was not to say anything.
“I hope you don’t mind me saying, boss,” Montoya muttered with a small smirk that always heralded her most insubordinate and insolent comments, “but you don’t look much better than he does,” she said, pointing at the body on the table.
“Thank you Renee, I appreciate the sentiment,” he told her dryly. Considering the extent of the injuries on the vic, he would be entirely justified in glaring at her, but she had handed him a large cup of black coffee the moment he had arrived, so he settled on just not scowling too much.
It turned out that the new body had something new to tell them, there was still not much in the ways of clues or evidence, but the murder weapon had splintered, and the smallest bit of it was stuck inside one of the deeper wounds.
“It’s something,” Montoya remarked, shrugging, as they stepped outside.
“Afraid I don’t have any more good news,” Sparks said, joining them in the corridor, giving Montoya a customary smile, which she promptly ignored quite pointedly. “We’ve researched every possible connection between the victims, and came up with absolutely nothing. Not a single link or similarity between all of them, and we’ve been grasping at straws to connect even two or three with anything.”
“All they had in common was how they died,” Gordon nodded. They at least had the Narrows connection until this one, but the morning murder had happened few blocks away from the district.
“Even that is stretching it. The wounds aren’t precise, there’s no method in it,” Sparks shrugged. “We probably wouldn’t have anything to point towards a single killer if the murders didn’t happen in such a short time.”
Jim nodded again, pausing to think. There was still something nagging at his brain, slowly taking shape. The thought was unfortunate, but he couldn’t let it go. He stepped away from the wall and headed down the corridor, ignoring Sparks’ slightly startled look.
“Great. Now he started doing that,” Montoya announced mournfully.
“Not complaining, since it leaves you and me alone,” Sparks said.
“Can it,” she laughed and hurried after Gordon. “Boss?”
“I need to check something. I’ll see you back at MCU, detective.”
She didn’t argue, just rolled her eyes some more for good measure. He could have taken her with him, to be honest, but he wasn’t entirely sure it would work, he hadn’t really called up on the Bat for a long while, and wasn’t sure how he worked now. The crime scene few days ago was a pleasant surprise, but there was no longer any light, or any system in place.
But Batman seemed to know how to find him when he wanted, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he had some sort of surveillance on him. Jim chose not to think of the implications of that, of the breach of privacy, of the shaky trust between them. It was better not to think of that, sometimes.
He drove to his flat, one of the two places he was pretty sure the Bat was watching, this and the MCU, but it wasn’t exactly safe there with the hunt still officially on. Once was fine, for sentimentality’s sake, but two would be foolish.
The afternoon was slowly turning into the early evening, the heavy clouds making the sky gray. It wasn’t nearly dark enough for the Bat to appear, but it would soon be. He sat on the small balcony and waited, lighting up the cigarette, letting the smoke slowly settle around him. He placed a small flashlight beside him, turned upward. It wasn’t strong enough to be visible from even few floors away, but if there was surveillance, the sign would be loud and clear, or at least he hoped it would.
“Nice,” the Bat said, small movement of the cowl indicating the light.
Gordon smiled, remembering. “Best I could do on the short notice. I assume you know about the last victim?”
No answer, just a nod, waiting. Not for the first time, Gordon wondered what sources the man had; he seemed to know everything. Barbara’s advice rung in his ears, and he decided to ignore it.
“Few years ago, we arrested Zsasz for a killing spree, not unlike this one. He had escaped from Arkham during the whole drug-induced extravaganza, and was presumed dead in the resulting chaos, but we’ve never found the body. Not surprising, since there was a lot of bodies we hadn’t found, mostly finding their place at the bottom of the river, but he hadn’t resurfaced for a long while, so we assumed…” he paused, shrugging. They’ve been too busy, and the resources had been too thin to follow every lead, and just the fact that no bodies had turned up was enough to end the investigation into that particular case.
“He’d been killing outside of Gotham. I’ve notified my sources outside of the city, but he never stayed in one place for long enough,” Batman offered, voice gravely and unflinching, and Gordon looked up sharply.
“You could have let us know.”
“There were other things. And not a lot you could do,” ‘since I couldn’t do anything’ was left unsaid but plainly obvious. It was true, however uncomfortable, they didn’t have the people or the means to launch a pursuit, and all they could do was sent notices to other departments across the country, which was probably what the Bat had done, but…
“You could let me be the judge of that,” he said, sighing, leaning against the railing.
There was no answer for a long while, enough that Jim started to think Batman had pulled the walking away stunt again, which would be mildly disappointing but not surprising, but when he glanced to the side, he could make out the pointy ears of the cowl against other shadows.
“There was the mob to take care of. And then the Joker. And then there was no one to actually take any intel from me,” Batman finally offered, and it stung, however it was intended. His voice didn’t sound particularly resentful, but you couldn’t tell the emotions under the affected growl, so it wasn’t much of a consolation.
Besides, finally, voiced aloud what Jim had been thinking all along.
“I know I shouldn’t have left,” he said slowly, not expecting any answer and not getting one. “But it was the only thing I could have done.” It sounded a little bit too defensive, but he didn’t care.
“I know,” the Bat said finally, moving to turn away, for once giving Jim some sort of a warning with actually making a damned whisper of a noise when he moved.
“I wonder,” Jim said, stopping him before he melted into the shadows. “If I asked you who you were, would you answer?”
His words came out rushed, before he could talk himself out of the question, before he second guessed it again. He shouldn’t have asked, but maybe it stung a little bit more than he cared to admit, maybe the warm feeling in his chest was resentment, maybe that something rising in his throat was anger. He wasn’t sure, and he certainly wasn’t thinking clearly, but he had asked, and he was not taking it back.
The Bat froze, two steps away from Jim, facing away. Jim waited, for what seemed to be an eternity, waited for the inevitable and cold ‘are you asking’, or maybe just the swift movement as Batman disappeared. He wanted, briefly, to take the question back, it went against every unspoken agreement they had, but that was the trouble with it, all their agreements were unspoken, nothing was certain or tangible, and he couldn’t forever trust that the shadows will bring the answer.
“Yes,” Batman said, not moving, and for a moment Jim thought he must have misheard. No questions, no anger at Jim’s audacity, just a flat admission that resonated in his head almost deafeningly.
He nodded finally, discarding the cigarette that he didn’t have time to really smoke but which burned out slowly, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his coat. “I’ll be at the MCU if you have anything on the case. Don’t endanger yourself unnecessarily, I do have a phone and a fax machine,” he said pointedly and turned to leave, not looking back.
He could feel the Bat watching him, and hurried out before he could do something else foolish this evening. It was one of the rare occasions when he was the one walking away first, but it felt more like running than anything else.