A/N: So, I was going to wait with this part until I've finished the between-Begins-and-TDK interlude, figuring it would be 5-6 thousand words... 21k into the interlude, I think not. So, here goes a part of it.
“I can finally move out of the hotel,” Bruce announced and Jim rolled his eyes, not bothering to look up from the files he had been going through.
“You were never really staying at the hotel,” he pointed out absently, crossing another name off the list. “You’re out chasing criminals during the nights and, more often than not, you crash here once you’re done. Not that I’m complaining, but from time to time, you could bother to replace all the coffee you drink.”
Bruce muttered something that probably went along the lines of ‘who? me?’ and splayed himself on the couch, reaching out for the top file from the coffee table. “As I’ve been saying, I’m moving into the penthouse.”
“Since when do you have…” Jim stopped himself in time. “You bought a penthouse,” he muttered. Of course. “Well, the press is going to love it, at least.”
It had been two weeks since Bruce had allegedly burned down the mansion, and the press was still happily speculating what new scandal he was going to cause next. Jim had suggested that he went and got himself a zebra farm, but he had been outvoted.
“You sound bitter,” Bruce said and it sounded like a flippant remark, but Jim knew better, it was actual concern underneath.
He sighed. “I understand why you’re both pushing for the whole playboy persona.” Alfred had a point there, it kept people far from wondering what Bruce Wayne was doing with his fortune. “But the scene last week at the opera was overdoing it, and I don’t think it’s the last stunt you’re pulling.”
Bruce smiled slightly. “I thought Rachel was going to kill me. She’s never going out with me again.”
“Smart girl,” Jim said fondly, but he gave Bruce a small smile that belied his words. “Well, you don’t have a shortage of girls lining up to date you, so you needn’t worry.”
“And did we just arrive at the main point of the conversation, or what?” Bruce shook his head. “I knew it was bothering you.”
“I understand the necessity,” he said, and he did. Bruce Wayne was the most eligible bachelor in the state, and the seven neighboring states as well. Someone was going to notice if he wasn’t dating, and then they’d come digging through his trash and finally someone would stumble upon something leading them to Jim, and they also didn’t need that. Gotham didn’t lack in smart people, and some of them even worked for the press. The fewer clues to figuring out Batman’s identity and his relationship with the head of the MCU, the better.
“It bothers you,” Bruce concluded and leaned over the couch’s armrest, catching Jim’s hand. Jim squeezed it back, lacing his fingers with Bruce’s as he looked back at the paperwork.
“It’s fine,” he said and mostly meant it.
They somehow stumbled into this, into spending what little was left of their nights at home, Jim still working and Bruce offering his comments before drifting off finally, until Jim woke him up gently and steered him towards the bedroom. They weren’t dating, and they certainly weren’t going out, it seemed as if they moved into the old married couple territory without even noticing.
Still, the calm of those moments felt wonderful. Jim could do with more peace in his life.
The situation in the Narrows was mostly under control. The antidote had been distributed among the habitants, and most of the inmates were back in Arkham, which had been equipped in new security measures, courtesy of Lucius Fox and the Applied Sciences department of Wayne Enterprises. (The press had been a little curious about that. When asked, Bruce’s comment had been ‘we have an Applied Sciences department? Wonderful, what does it do?’).
The Major Crimes Unit was getting close to actually being open for business. Jim had asked, and received, an old GCPD building downtown, with a decent parking space and, most importantly, a vast and flat rooftop.
“Why the fuck would you care about a rooftop, Jimbo?” Stephens had asked, shaking his head. “Could get us decent bathrooms, but no. We do get an awesome rooftop instead.”
But the city needed more than organization and order, it needed a symbol, and a symbol it was going to get.
“You’re insane,” Bruce told him, when he saw the reflector, but he had been smiling widely, eyes shining, and it was worth it. It was also worth it when Jim saw the statistics from the first night he turned it on: the petty crime rate went down 36 percent. That was something, that was more than something.
All that he needed now was to work out the final roster. He had gotten the proposed squad list from Loeb, and he knew most of the people on it. And that was the trouble; he knew them, he had worked with them, and he didn’t trust them one bit. And stealing people from other departments was going to be tricky, and depend too much on luck for Jim to like it.
“I’m down to twenty-four possibilities,” he said, thumb absently running up and down Bruce’s wrist.
“For the remaining two spots? So glad you’re narrowing it down,” Bruce muttered, but there was no real sting behind the teasing, they both knew the importance of being able to trust the people around you.
And the Gotham PD was proving to be increasingly untrustworthy, with the internal affairs investigations launched during last two week’s madness uncovering more and more of the corruption deep within the force.
“Speaking of,” Bruce said, even though they weren’t really speaking of anything. But then again, Bruce did have an uncanny ability to read in Jim’s thoughts, so maybe that was what he was referring to. “Alfred is making me host a small house-warming party. And I do mean an actual house-warming party, not the house-warming bash that we’re going to throw for show next week. Rachel’s bringing Harvey.”
Ah, speaking of that. Rachel and Harvey had been something of a surprise, to Jim at least. Bruce didn’t seem shocked at all, but Jim suspected him of keeping tabs on everyone even from the Chinese prison.
“Wonderful,” he said dryly. Not that he disliked Harvey Dent, he had never actually met the man. But at least seven out of his twenty-four possible choices for the MCU had been under Dent’s investigation, and there had been a moment where Jim had started to wonder how many of Dent’s investigations were in earnest, and how many were a part of his campaign for the city’s next district attorney.
“That’s what I said,” Bruce agreed, trying to hide a smile. “But Alfred ordered us to be civil, so you better be on your good behavior. And wear that one non-hideous tie that you have.”
“I have no idea why everyone has this obsession with my ties. They’re perfectly acceptable, and so are my suits.”
Bruce laughed. “Jim, this suit? It’s ancient. You had it when I was in high school.”
“Now I feel old, well done,” Jim said gravely, taking off his glasses. Bruce smiled.
“I’ll take you to the bedroom and show you how old you are not, what say you?”
It didn’t sound half bad.
“All I’m saying,” Harvey said, waving with the fork he was holding, “is that you are building the unit that’s supposed to fight organized crime out of people who might be in the mob’s pockets.”
That wasn’t all that he was saying, Jim wanted to point out, but the discussion had been going on for too long already.
“If I wanted to hire only those you didn’t have investigated, I’d be working alone,” he pointed out. “I’m doing the best I can with what I have.”
“And is that enough?” Harvey asked, and before Jim could answer, he was interrupted by Alfred bringing dessert. He was pretty sure Alfred worked out on that timing, so Harvey could have the perfect parting line. Alfred was a damn traitor, but he was going to be forgiven, for there was lemon cake, and Jim loved lemon cake.
“You know what’s the worst thing?” he asked Bruce later, after the dinner and before the coffee, while Harvey and Rachel stood on the balcony, talking in hushed voices.
“That you like him?”
“No. Well, yes.” It was bad enough, but it turned out that Rachel indeed had a good taste in people, and, internal investigations or not, Jim actually liked Dent. He seemed to care about the city almost as much as Bruce and Jim did, and that was a great plus in Jim’s book.
“That he’s right?” Bruce said, his voice dropping. Jim glanced at him and nodded. “You do need people you can trust on this one. You need the ones who are not going to shoot you in the back, or sell you out to the mob.”
“It’s just a little bit like building a house of cards that must withstand a storm, isn’t it?” Jim laughed, but it wasn’t funny at all. “I’ve figured that much.”
“Well, you knew what you were getting into when you accepted,” Bruce pointed out.
“I really didn’t.” Jim sighed and shook his head. “Fine, I’m dropping Wuertz and Ramirez. But if Harvey as much as starts with ‘I told you so’, I will stab him with a fork.”
“Oh, good, I’ve been saying the dinner lacks excitement,” Bruce muttered. At Jim’s look he shrugged. “Well, I have. And Rachel expressly forbade me from overdoing the asshole act, which is just plainly unfair.”
“I think she’s looking out for you. Meaning, making sure she isn’t the one forced to stab you with a fork,” Jim laughed, reaching out to smoothen Bruce’s tie. It didn’t need it, the knot was as perfect as it always was, but it was as good an excuse as any to run his fingers down the pulse point on Bruce’s neck, however briefly.
“Who are you going to hire, then? I thought you were running out of candidates.”
“Suitable candidates with an actual experience,” he corrected. “But I’ve been thinking about Montoya,” he said, glancing up to gauge Bruce’s reaction, but his face remained impassive. “I know she’s only been in patrol for a short while, but…”
“Oh, no need to sell that idea to me, save that for the other people you’d need to convince,” Bruce finally nodded, smiling slightly. “I liked her.”
Renee Montoya became a legend in Patrol after she gave Bruce seven tickets during one week. He deserved every one of them, to be honest, as he had been showing off with a new flashy car that even Alfred referred to as a ‘penis-extension’ at least once, but Montoya had been the only cop brave enough, or insane enough, to have him pulled over, and then write out tickets for every single law he had broken.
And that was even after Bruce had unleashed his entire charm reserves, and after he offered her a mindblowing bribe. She threatened to shoot him. Jim had been amused for the entire week.
“She’ll be going places,” Bruce said. “She might not like those places, but she’s definitely going there.”
The MCU officially opened for business two weeks later, without much fanfare, but with many tasks ahead of it. The press had been very interested in the proceedings, at least in the beginning, but soon the interest faded, and Jim found himself constantly pushed back to the page three and four, usually into one of the smaller columns, which suited him just fine, and he could easily live without it.
Bruce managed to go three days before he stumbled into the building at ten in the morning, tie askew and sunglasses on, and announced that he wanted to pay his tickets, sending Montoya a wide grin. Jim wasn’t there for that, but from what he heard later, it went something like this:
“It’s the MCU,” Montoya said slowly, as if speaking to a child. “You pay your tickets at the precinct, Mr. Wayne, not…”
“What’s the difference?” Bruce asked, shrugging, and didn’t wait for the answer. “’Sides, if I didn’t come here, I wouldn’t have the chance to see your lovely self, now would I?”
Stephens said later that Montoya’s fingers twitched and everyone was happy her gun was actually in her desk’s drawer at the time, but this was about the moment when Jim came out of his office, worried about the sudden silence outside his door.
“Mr. Wayne,” Jim said, all of his willpower going into trying not to roll his eyes or, worse, laugh out loud. “What can I do for you?”
There was a quick flicker in Bruce’s expression that told Jim his question was interpreted in a manner not intended, or rather, not intended for the situation, but then Bruce shrugged theatrically, taking off his sunglasses. “Well, I wanted to pay my tickets, but apparently I can’t.”
“I tried to…” Montoya started and Jim raised his hand.
“It’s alright, detective. Mr. Wayne, if you could please step into my office?” The entire office waited until the doors closed, and on the cue, the voices rose then fell, as everyone tried to hush themselves. Jim shook his head. “Well, that was quite a show. Happy?”
“Ecstatic,” Bruce grinned, checking that the blinds were indeed closed before he leaned in for a quick kiss hello. “Montoya’s a firecracker. Pair her up with Stephens, he’ll keep her in check.”
“Yes, and together, they’ll make my life a living hell. So, what do you think?” Jim asked, not even bothering to ask why exactly Bruce had shown up.
“It’s a good building, your office is hard to see from the outside. Security measures could use some work, and the layout of the main working area could be improved on, but it’s not bad.”
“I still think you’re paranoid,” Jim muttered.
“Far from it. You’re said to be leading the war on crime in the city. I’m pretty sure you’re close to the top of the mob’s hit list.”
That probably meant that he was doing something right, actually. “And of course you’re keeping a close eye on the rest of the list as well?”
Bruce shrugged. “Mostly. You, Dent, Rachel…”
“I’m beginning to see that all the mob has to do is poison Alfred’s Sunday dinner,” Jim muttered.
“I’d like to see them try. Alfred hates when someone messes up with his cooking, he’d bring them down in an instant,” Bruce said, stepping closer to the window, looking out from between the blinds. “It looks like it’s going to be Maroni,” he said finally.
Jim frowned at that. “He wasn’t even in our top three, what happened?”
“A small altercation that basically ended up with Morelli getting killed. Send your detectives here,” he muttered, scribbling an address on a piece of paper he picked up from Jim’s desk. “Looks like a routine deal gone wrong, but the power balance is shifting, Maroni is going to use it.”
Jim sighed. “I know it sounds wrong to pick your mob bosses, but I liked Morelli for it. He was greedy and sloppy, I could use that.”
“Well, maybe if we move fast enough, Maroni won’t have time to rise in power. Rachel says Harvey has a source who could lead him to someone who’d testify. It’s a long shot, but…”
“Worth trying,” Jim agreed, taking the piece of paper and turning it in his fingers. “Thank you for that. Now, write me that check for the tickets.”
Stephens cornered him few days later, after a semi-successful drug bust, as they drove back to the MCU. “Are you going to tell me what’s the deal with Bruce Wayne?”
It was a loaded question, and so many possible answers. Jim went for the easiest one, and pretended he had no idea what was going on, at least until Gerald specified. There was no point in digging his own grave so soon.
“What do you mean?”
Gerry just shook his head. “You’re a shitty liar, Jimbo. Everyone knows you’ve kept in touch after Wayne’s murder, it’s just that no one ever really knew what it was about. Now he’s back and people get curious, especially the new kids. And the press.”
There was that, of course. At the very beginning, the press had been obsessed with the murder, and Bruce had been in the centre of the media circus; after Alfred got Jim involved it would be foolish to try and hide it. They went with, or rather, Alfred went with, a simple and mostly true version of Jim being his good acquaintance who happened to have good influence on the boy. The press liked that, it had a nice human interest ring to the story, but they got bored and moved on quickly.
Now Bruce was back and a centre of attention again, and there was going to be a spin put on their relationship, whether they wanted or not. It was no use trying to avoid it, they just needed to get ahead on it.
“I know I’m going to be outvoted,” Rachel said slowly, twirling a stripe of Alfred’s pasta around her fork, “but why can’t you just go with the truth? It’s a novel approach, sure, but I wouldn’t underestimate it.”
Bruce shook his head. “Not exactly the kind of publicity the MCU needs right now.”
She glanced at Jim who nodded. “And I’m quite fine without my love life being dragged all over the front pages, thank you. Or, you know, any part of my life,” he added pointedly and she rolled her eyes.
“I already said I was sorry for the quotes, but tell me, which part of what I said was untrue?”
“Not the point,” Jim muttered, glaring darkly at Bruce, who was laughing already. “Oh, shut up.”
They went with the mildest version of the truth; renewing old acquaintance. Rachel seemed disappointed, but she had other things on her plate than bother them about it.
Harvey’s campaign was in full swing by December, and it was both the time when the internal affairs investigations had come to the close and when the fundraising parties started. Jim was thankful for the first and really annoyed by the second, especially since it gave Rachel something new to bug him about; the girl had a real gift.
“She does it because she cares,” Bruce pointed out with a wide smile, and Jim had felt as if it was some kind of payback for all the times he sided with Rachel in the past. At least back then Rachel had a point; Bruce could do better, and now he was doing better. Jim just really hated parties.
“Just sign my name on whatever supporting statement you need,” he told her pleadingly. “Hell, I can spout that spiel the next time I’m talking to the press. I’m just really not cut out for all that black tie business.”
Of course he did end up going to the main fundraiser, especially after Loeb remarked that the MCU doesn’t finance itself, and it would be good for the same people who backed up Harvey’s campaign to see the other man said to be cleaning Gotham of crime and corruption.
Bruce laughed for a solid three minutes at Jim’s disgruntled annoyance, and then proceeded to instruct him how to tie a bow-tie. Jim was just going to wear a clip on, but that of course didn’t go over very well.
“Well, who knew,” Bruce muttered as he smoothened down Jim’s collar. “You clean up well. If you didn’t scowl so much you’d be almost attractive.”
Jim rolled his eyes and didn’t give in to the impulse of telling Bruce to go fuck himself; mostly because he was pretty sure what his response was going to be, and they didn’t have time for that now.
Bruce went to the party ostensibly because he let Harvey rope him into it at the last Sunday dinner, he even put a good show of complaining about stuffed shirts and a distinct lack of supermodels. To Jim however, he remarked that the entire city council was going to be there, along with some prominent judges and police officers, and those people usually watched their words, but no one cared what they said to drunk billionaire playboys, and you could learn a lot when you looked like you didn’t pay the slightest attention.
“Is that something you’ve learned in that temple in Tibet?” Jim asked dryly, and of course it was the wrong thing to say, still. Bruce might have told him about Ducard, but a lot about that period of his life was a closed book, and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It was what created Batman, but it was something that weighed down Bruce, too.
“Among other things,” Bruce said evasively, then offered one of his better fake smiles. “Along with the one handed clap. I’ll show you one day. The trick is, you use only one hand,” he whispered, waggling his eyebrows, and there really was no use arguing when he got like that, when he bothered to put the façade on for Jim too.
The party went just as expected, which was: everyone loved Harvey, Bruce caused a minor scandal, and Jim was bored out of his mind and run his voice to the ground by explaining why supporting the MCU’s cause was a very good idea indeed.
(He wasn’t sure if anyone would remember that part after Bruce’s stunt, but apparently he did make an impression, for Loeb informed him the next morning that seven checks had been written in the department’s name, and that Jim should go on doing the good job, which now also included putting appearances at parties. Fuck his life.)
Bruce found time in-between ‘not listening’ to the guests to get caught in the coat room, making out with a Alyssa Newton, daughter of judge Newton, who happened to also attend the party. The only reason it didn’t come to blows was because of the significant presence of the police at the party, and Harvey’s diplomatic intervention.
“Really, Bruce? Really?” was all that Rachel said with a rather disappointed look, and a sympathetic one sent Jim’s way.
“And here I was, thinking it was going to be a boring party,” Jim said dryly, once everyone left the room. Bruce shrugged and wiped the lipstick off his neck with a sleeve of someone’s expensive-looking coat. “Come on, I’m going to play your designated driver, Loeb should like that little show of responsibility.
“Got what you wanted?” he asked in the car and Bruce grinned.
“Alyssa’s a nice girl, I’m almost sorry for all the things that are going to surface during the trial. At least she’ll have her trust fund, her father couldn’t touch that one.”
Harvey was building a case against Newton for months, and it looked like Batman was going to give him a much needed break.
“Well, I can’t argue with your results,” he muttered, taking a turn towards his apartment. Sure, maybe he was supposed to drive Bruce home, but he didn’t hear any arguments from the passenger seat, so there it was. “Your methods are rather less impressive in this particular case.”
Bruce grinned, clearly finding a spin on Jim’s words that was not intended and guaranteed to make him cringe. “Oh, my methods are very impressive. You’ve seen my methods, and I’m pretty certain you agreed as to how impressive they are.”
Jim cringed, as expected, then rolled his eyes. Also just as expected. “You know, I’m not sure what’s worse, you finding your dick a new nickname, or the fact that you’re referring to it in the plural.”
“Would you like to discuss this dilemma at length here, or would you prefer to move it upstairs to your apartment?” Bruce asked as they pulled over to the parking space at Jim’s building. It wasn’t really a difficult question.
Two minutes later, Bruce’s insistent fingers were tugging at Jim’s bow-tie before they even really made it out through the doors. “I have wanted to do this since I tied it up,” Bruce confessed, leaning in, pressing Jim against the now closed doors. “You do clean up well,” he added, licking at Jim’s mouth to pry them open. It didn’t really take much coaxing.
“If you now make a comment about getting dirty now, I’m revoking your speaking license for the rest of the evening,” Jim warned him and watched Bruce bite his lip, either to keep from laughing or to hold back the very comment Jim suspected him of trying to make. It didn’t matter that much, because Bruce biting his lip was a good sight to be treated to, and all Jim could do was move in and nibble on that lip himself. “I’d be worried if I didn’t know why exactly you have lipstick on,” he muttered after a long moment, once they came out for breath.
Bruce’s eyes flickered, in that certain way that always worried Jim, it meant Bruce had stumbled upon a thought that no one else was going to like. “You liked that.”
Jim didn’t even bother to try and decipher whatever strange processes went on in Bruce’s head. “Liked what? You wearing lipstick? I could live without that,” he observed dryly, but Bruce shook his head, smiling cheerfully.
“Me and Alyssa.”
“Not exactly the highlight of my evening,” Jim said, undoing Bruce’s own tie and easing it off from under the collar, working on the buttons slowly.
“No, but taking me home and then taking me just might be.” Bruce’s tone had a pointed edge to it, and Jim took a moment to consider what he meant.
And there it was. Somehow, he managed to maneuver them around, so for once it was Bruce pressed against the wall, Jim’s knee spreading his legs, and it was Bruce’s shirt that was half undone, a dark smudge of lipstick on his neck now even more blurred out, after Jim’s thumb run across it, smearing it over Bruce’s pulse point.
“Well,” he said and Bruce laughed, low and breathless.
“Well,” Bruce repeated, his body relaxing, legs spreading further apart, back arching as if he was trying to ensure Jim had a much better access. “I kind of really like that.”
So did Jim. It was surprising, to say the least. He must have known it subconsciously, but the conscious part of his brain was in for a shock when he realized. It was a new feeling, too. He was never a possessive man, he let Thelma go without fight, he left town when Sarah left him… seemed Bruce was an exception to many rules.
“So, what now?” he asked and Bruce smirked.
“Not sure yet. But you do realize that if you actually don’t want me going around and kissing people, going about it this way is counterproductive?”
“Maybe,” Jim muttered, fingers closing around Bruce’s wrist, pulling him towards the bedroom. “But I’ll be fine as long as you remember who it is you’re going home with.”
“I know that one. That guy, what’s his name…” Bruce’s laughter died out under another kiss, rougher than anything they’ve done before, and Jim was pretty sure he just ruined a shirt that must have cost Bruce a fortune, but there was plenty more where this one came from, and Bruce didn’t even seem to notice.
It was intoxicating to watch Bruce actually give in, let go of the almost desperate control over every situation he was in, and all because he trusted Jim. That need for control and that distrust of the world at large wasn’t always there, Bruce had never been particularly touchy-feely, but he didn’t always have the need for masks that now he carried constantly. But not here and not with Jim, and that too was a heady feeling.
“This is it,” Jim said, and the small nod Bruce gave before coming completely undone was the best confirmation he could get.
“This is it.”
In January, he introduced Batman to three of the MCU detectives. They had countless arguments about it with Bruce, always coming back to the same statements. Bruce didn’t want to drag anyone into this unless highly necessary, and Jim needed to make sure that his people knew whom to trust if anything happened.
“It’s morbid, planning for the worst,” Bruce told him and Jim rolled his eyes.
“Like you don’t.”
It had been one of the lightest winters in Gotham in Jim’s memory, but the night air was still really fucking cold, and standing on the rooftop, waiting for the Batman who was as fashionably late as Bruce always was, Jim thought that if Bruce didn’t show, Jim was going to kill him.
“Detectives,” Batman said and Montoya jumped half a meter up, then held on to Stephens, her eyes shooting daggers towards the bat. Jim just rolled his eyes, then turned off the signlight.
It didn’t exactly count as exchanging pleasantries, when all that Batman said was a news recap on the lives of the Gotham mob, and all of that already old news to Jim, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise; the point was to make sure that Gerry, Bullock, and Montoya knew where the sides were, and where Batman stood.
“At least they won’t shoot at you,” Jim said, once he sent them away, feeling just a little bit like a teacher dismissing the class, especially after Montoya had that look on her face that said she had a lots of questions and was going to raise her hand any minute now.
“The official policy is still to arrest Batman on sight,” Bruce reminded him, voice turning to normal, and one of these days Jim was going to tell him the rasp wasn’t really working but to keep on trying, maybe he’d hit the right pitch at some point.
“Which is exactly why it was necessary,” Jim pointed out, and kept the ‘I told you so’ limited to a glance. “What do you think?”
“Bullock doesn’t trust me at all, but he trusts you enough. Stephens was relieved, I don’t think he actually believed we were on the same side. Montoya… it’s hard to get a good read on her.”
This was surprising, Montoya usually wore her emotions on her sleeve, and she had a famously short temper. “What do you mean?”
“She guards herself around me, keeps her distance. Not exactly how I remember her from previous meetings.”
“Well, you are rather terrifying right now.”
“Good to know.”
“Must be the giant bat costume. You never know what to expect from a guy who wears a giant bat costume. He could murder you in your sleep or break into song at any given moment.”
Bruce snorted. “It’s like you’ve been taking lessons in comedy. If you paid for them, demand a refund. And Montoya doesn’t trust me, especially when it comes to you. She stood halfway between us, as if you needed to be protected.”
This was just slightly funny, Jim had to admit. “I will have to talk to her, then. Thank you.”
Bruce made a slight gesture, as if to say ‘don’t mention it’ and stepped away. “I’ll see you later,” he said and took flight, and Jim was never getting used to that part. Flying, honestly.
“My office, Montoya,” he announced when he made his way back downstairs and didn’t wait to see if she followed.
She stepped into the office hesitantly and he nodded. “Close the door, pull up the chair.”
“Sir,” she muttered, worry clear on her face, and god, she was easy to read, so she must have been really trying up there, to hide whatever was going on.
“How’s the MCU working for you, Renee?” he asked and she frowned, probably taken aback by the switch to the first name. He waited, curious as to how she would react.
“Coffee’s terrible, sir,” she said finally and Jim grinned. She was going to fit right in, apparently. But there was one more thing.
“Do you have a problem working with Batman?” he asked kindly, keeping a politely curious smile on his face. She needed to know any answer was fine.
“No, sir,” she said instantly, but there was clearly more that she wanted to add, and Jim waited patiently. “He just swept in, like…” she paused, considering, head tilted as she searched for words, probably ones that weren’t ‘like a giant bat’. “No one knows who he is or where he’s from, sir. Or what he wants.”
There was that. He sighed. “You probably won’t even see him much, so don’t worry. I just need a contingency plan, I’ve been getting enough of death threats to think it prudent,” he said, his tone light and joking, but from the way she blinked and frowned, he knew she got the not funny part. After all, most of it wasn’t very funny.
“And could you stop with that? I’ve read your files, I thought your degree of insolence was much higher, so don’t disappoint me,” he said, smiling, and it took her a moment to smile back, but at least it was genuine.
In February Maroni officially took over the family business. Everyone knew it, but no one could prove it.
“What with Harvey’s source?” Jim asked curiously and Rachel shrugged, turning the coffee cup in her hands a few times, warming up her fingers.
“Elusive as all hell. You try making a mobster talk,” she added, then glanced at Bruce before he could say anything. “It wasn’t a challenge.”
Bruce didn’t even look up from over the newspaper. “That’s what she said,” he offered; an instinctual remark, and Jim and Rachel gave in to the synchronized eyerolling that they were becoming better and better at.
“Something interesting?” Rachel asked and Bruce looked up this time, handing her the paper.
“Just the clown. There’s something about that particular spree that bothers me. Still, there’ll be time to deal with him after we take down Maroni.”
“Easier said than done,” Jim muttered. “I wouldn’t want to go for the obvious…”
“You love going for the obvious,” Bruce muttered but Jim promptly ignored him.
“…and quote the hydra story, but all we’re doing with our time is cutting off those damn heads, and I’m beginning to get bored with that.”
Rachel grinned. “And we wouldn’t want you getting bored,” she muttered. “Well, if I may go for the obvious then; mobsters aren’t exactly complicated creatures. If you want to hit them where it hurts, you go for the money.”
“Again, easier said than done. We know they’re keeping the money somewhere in Gotham’s banks, but the city has more banks than the entire country has churches, it’s not going to be easy to figure out.”
Bruce looked up to the ceiling, nodding in time with his own thoughts. Rachel tilted her head regarding him curiously and Jim waited. “Radiation.”
“Madame Curie,” Rachel muttered, then shrugged their looks off. “Well, I’m not sure what are the rules of this particular game. Radiation what?”
“What we need is to figure out which bank the money ends up, so we have all the cops you have undercover feed the criminals slightly radiated bills. When they make their way into the banks in large amounts…”
“We’ll know where they keep the money,” Jim nodded. “And I know someone who can get us warrants for that,” he added and Rachel rolled her eyes.
“I knew that’s the only reason you guys let me hang out with you,” she said, but she was smiling proudly. “Who wants some hot chocolate? I’m going to convince Alfred to make me some, with the small marshmallows, and then we can party like it’s 1995.”
Jim frowned. “Why would we want to remember 1995, again?”
Rachel laughed, balancing on her heels as she took off her shoes and run downstairs into the kitchen.
Bruce shrugged. “I don’t care for 1995, but I do like the marshmallows.”
“I did know that, actually,” Jim said, shaking his head. He had known that for years, and it still felt just a little bit strange. He remembered the kid he loved and wanted to protect, and he knew it was still Bruce, but somehow the seven years of absence have created a disconnect in his mind, which served him well in the current circumstances, but still felt surreal.
He wondered sometimes, when did his feeling shift, but he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. It must have been at the time while Bruce was gone, and the worry turned into need and found a channel in feeling and desire, but that turn was difficult to place.
“You’re light years away,” Bruce said softly, running his fingers over the back of Jim’s hand to get his attention.
“Just years,” Jim muttered and smiled to show that he was fine.
Rachel came back, carrying a tray. “I also got Alfred to open the cookie jar, even though it’s past six,” she said in a stage whisper. “So a celebration is in order.”
“Not only the cookie jar, I see,” Jim muttered, picking the whiskey bottle from the tray. “Or its contents have changed since the last time I’ve been here.”
“You’d be surprised,” Bruce laughed.
“If it’s anything in a shape of a bat,” Rachel started thoughtfully, “then I really don’t want to know.”
Harvey won by a landslide. It was not a surprise to anyone who paid the slightest attention, but it was still a welcome break in what seemed to be a never-ending fight. It turned out it took a lot of time and effort to distribute enough of marked bills for them to count for anything, and it wasn’t like they could be fake. Loeb was not happy with the drain on the budget, and also wasn’t like Jim could just appear with a case of money and announce it fell from the sky, which just happened to be filled by a giant bat at the moment.
Thankfully, an anonymous donation of a rather significant amount somehow made its way to Loeb with directions for the MCU. “Don’t even,” Bruce said, shaking his head. “We need this to work.”
At around the same time, Harvey started to hint that he’d like to meet Batman. It was something to consider, and Jim even went as far as to ask if Harvey was going to be let in on the secret.
Bruce looked away. “Harvey’s a good man,” he said finally and Jim nodded, knowing exactly where it went.
“You don’t trust him with this,” he said, feeling much better for his own distrust. Harvey was a good man, yes, but sometimes good men were as dangerous as anything else. And Jim didn’t really trust anyone with Bruce’s identity, with his safety. Well, Alfred, and maybe Lucius Fox, but they’d known before Jim knew. And Rachel, because she was Rachel.
And even Rachel, who loved Harvey and who loved Bruce, didn’t push for this particular reveal, and that told Jim something. It wasn’t that they distrusted Harvey, but he hadn’t been there, not eight years ago when Bruce disappeared and not there in the Narrows, and that counted for a lot.
But all in all, things looked much better in Gotham than just a while ago. For once Jim didn’t feel like a stranger in his own department, and he actually trusted his coworkers. That was a nice feeling, one he hadn’t thought he’d ever experience.
There was, of course, Stephens trying to set Jim up with another one of his wife’s friends, but apparently there were always going to be trials in Jim’s life, so better take them when they came in such guises than wait for something worse.
“It’s just that from what I can tell, you haven’t gotten laid in over eight years, Jim. Who was last, that blonde from the CSU, almost nine years ago?”
Bruce Wayne, and twelve hours, but that wasn’t something Jim was going to say out loud. “Is there a particular reason you’re on my case? If it’s the problem with your caseload being too light, I can probably help you with that.”
“Come on, Jimbo, I just want to see you happy. And what can be better to that end if not getting some?”
“Or I could just shoot you,” Jim muttered, sighing. He owed his escape right there to Montoya, who barged into his office without knocking (which she finally learned to do just a week before) and with a break in her drug case, but he probably wouldn’t be as lucky as to get another drug dealer shot when he wanted to avoid that particular topic.
The conversation was left unfinished, mostly because that day was the first time Montoya flipped out during an investigation and punched the perp right out.
It wasn’t like Jim didn’t expect something like that from her, he just hoped it was going to be later rather than sooner. But the drug dealer had been selling around her neighborhood, directly contributing to the death of a kid she knew way back when, and as he gloated, she just couldn’t hold it in. Bullock dragged her out of the room and almost got punched himself for his trouble.
At least she had the grace to look contrite when Jim saw her an hour later, after frantic conversations with two lawyers and the Commissioner. Loeb hadn’t been happy about the situation.
“You still sure she’s a good fit for your unit?”
Jim had hoped he’d have one of these conversations much later, once he had enough of credit earned to cash it in, but you did what you could with what you had. “Just let this one slide,” he muttered. “This one time, I need it. And I need Montoya on the team, she’s a good detective.”
And the thing was, Loeb was going to give him this one. The commissioner didn’t expect any arguments of demands from Jim, and from the first moment Jim got the unit, he fought tooth and nail for everything. Now he’d owe Loeb a favour the man was bound to use at the worst possible moment.
“So, how long am I going to be riding the desk?” Montoya asked, awkwardly leaning against the doorframe in Jim’s office. He waved her in and she hesitated, closing the door. “Or is it back to Patrol?”
“Sit down, Renee,” he sighed. “You know, there are a few things a skell could say to make me want to punch him. You know what I do when I hear them?”
“Don’t punch them?” she tried, forcing a smile and he nodded.
“Got it in one. You’re a smart kid, Montoya, don’t fuck up,” he said and turned his eyes back to the paperwork on his desk. She frowned so hard he could almost hear her brown furrowing.
“That’s it,” he nodded, looking up again, directly at her. “It’s not a three strikes deal, so don’t even think you’re getting away with any other crazy stunts. Go home, sleep it off, your shift starts six am sharp tomorrow and you’re better be doing the morning coffee run. Other than that, in my book, he deserved it.”
She nodded seriously, and he could see she did get it, thankfully. “Thanks, boss,” was all she said, for once holding back smartass remarks. Bruce had been right, she was going places, but it was tricky to tell if they were places she wanted to go.
Bruce had found the entire thing more amusing that Jim did, but mostly because he had been saying for about a week that it was a time Montoya did something stupid, and Bruce did like being proven right.
“It wasn’t exactly stupid. Just rash and not thought through.”
Bruce just looked at him for a long while, making a point without having to get up and get the dictionary. There was something vexing about arguing semantics with someone who went to the damn Princeton, even though he bailed three months before graduation.
Then again, there were more vexing things about Bruce, so there was no point holding on to that one.
In the less vexing and more terrifying category was the first time Bruce got seriously injured. Jim wasn’t exactly stupid, he knew from the get-go how dangerous this job was, hell, his own job guaranteed hazard pay and he didn’t try to take on the whole criminal underground by himself.
The point had been brought home by the weaponised hallucinogen already, but other injuries followed suit; minor bruises and cuts, but nothing life threatening, not for a long while. The suit guaranteed a certain degree of protection, and other than that, Bruce had an almost catlike ability of always falling the right way.
And yet, Montoya had called Jim at two in the morning, slightly worried and unsure, and if Renee Montoya was nervous, it was going to be something serious. “What is it, Renee?” he asked, feeling around for his glasses in the dark.
“I’m not sure how reliable are the things idiot scum says in the interrogation, but apparently someone shot the Batman today,” she offered finally, and Jim was already stumbling out of bed, cursing as he almost tripped over his own shoes. “Bat got away and out of the warehouse, but judging from the bloodtrail…”
Jim froze. “How many people know about this?”
“You, me, and Vinnie DeLuca who just told me,” she said, then whistled. The kid was smart, apparently. “You better not ask me to destroy the evidence in my investigation, boss,” she said, her tone odd and fake.
Jim sighed, but before he could say anything, Montoya sighed right back at him, even louder.
“I guess the cleaning crew can get wrong orders and get there before the CSU. Lines can get crossed, and all that.”
From Renee Montoya, who didn’t trust Batman, this was astounding. “Renee…”
“I really hope he’s worth it, boss,” she said and disconnected, and Jim was left shaking his head in amazement, for the whole grand three seconds, before he was looking around for his clothes, and picking up the number on his speed dial already.
“He’s fine,” Alfred said. Jim didn’t bother calling Bruce, he’d be lied to anyway, but Alfred’s calm tone was reassuring, especially once the annoyance got through. If Alfred was annoyed, then Bruce was actually fine and getting a long lecture, which served him well. “I assume you’d want to come over, so I’ll leave you to it, while I get back to my needlework.”
Bruce was fine, and snarking right back at Alfred; by the time Jim got there, Alfred was cleaning up the scattered first aid kit, a truly impressive one Alfred must have been building for weeks.
“Before you say anything,” Bruce raised his hand and it was plainly visible he was keeping himself from wincing at the strain the movement put on the wound. “It wasn’t my fault, the guy just got lucky and hit a weaker spot on the suit by chance.”
“Why the hell does your suit even have weak spots?” Jim demanded, but instead of angry it came out weary, just as he felt at the moment. For god’s sake, they’ve just started this. The fight and this, and them, and Bruce wasn’t supposed to get shot, Batman was supposed to be indestructible, even if there was a man under the mask.
“I’ll complain to the manufacturer,” Bruce promised and Jim nodded tiredly, leaning against the pristine kitchen counter. No wonder Alfred chose this as his makeshift emergency room; this thing was cleaner than anything not-regularly sterilized had any right to be. “On a scale from one to ten, how angry are you?”
Jim shrugged. “I don’t have the energy for mild irritation, to be honest,” he said, leaning in, kissing Bruce’s forehead. “Come on, show me.”
“Show you, Jim? Show you what exactly?” Bruce asked, clearly aiming for an eyeroll and Jim obliged. Having gotten that, Bruce tugged at his shirt, pulling it up. He was right, it wasn’t serious at all, just a graze on his left side, evenly stitched up by Alfred, but it was there, visible and tangible, and Jim run his finger across it, to feel the texture of the stitch on his fingertip.
Bruce shivered, but instead of flinching away, he moved towards the touch.
Jim was mesmerized by this. He shouldn’t, probably, but he didn’t always do the things he should. He reached to tug at Bruce’s shirt further, pulling it up and off, Bruce’s head disappearing for a moment just to come out with tussled hair and eyes half-closed, breathing harsh in anticipation.
The kitchen lights were harsh and unforgiving, and every mark on Bruce’s skin stood out sharply, every discoloration and faded bruise, every new injury. Jim had seen them before, apart from the newest one, but never that clearly, he never took time to feel every one of them under his hand. There were ones so old he was sure they wouldn’t fade any more, and there were some that would be gone in days or weeks.
He couldn’t help the reverence that filled his touch as he moved his hands. It was a little as if Bruce, working to make his mark on Gotham, took on the marks given by the city; a peculiar map of bruises all over his skin.
“Does it hurt?” Jim asked, his voice dropping into an awed whisper.
“Yes,” Bruce said simply, and when Jim moved back, hand dropping, he just looked up, eyes fixed on Jim. “Doesn’t mean I want you to stop.”
It wasn’t the most sane and balanced thing Bruce had ever said, but Jim didn’t care right now. He dropped to his knees, his hands never losing contact with Bruce’s skin, running down his sides. It was Bruce’s turn to lean down now, rest his forehead against Jim’s, wait until their breathing calmed down to an even, matched rhythm.
“They don’t really matter,” Bruce said, meaning the bruises and lying through his teeth.
“Yes, they do.” Jim understood it, though, maybe better than ever before. The bruises were a constant reminder that Bruce was doing what was needed. In that way, they were welcomed. The pain was probably just an unpleasant side effect that Bruce decided he could deal with. “Does it hurt too much for me to try this…?” he asked with a small smile, fingers hooking against the belt of Bruce’s jeans.
“I don’t think anything ever would hurt too much for this.”
“Is being cheesy and overdramatic a job requirement for masked vigilantes?”
“They didn’t tell me that when I applied,” Bruce muttered, his back arching after Jim worked his pants open. The kitchen was probably the worst place to do this. The giant windows across the whole apartment weren’t helping. To see anything someone would have to probably fly by in a chopper, but it didn’t help Jim’s comfort at all.
But then again, moving would be troublesome and it would mean taking his hands off Bruce for a moment, and he felt rather disinclined to do that. And there were so many places he could touch right now, and they weren’t all as bruised as Bruce’s chest, but still no less sensitive.
Bruce groaned as Jim stroked him slowly, not rushing at all even if his heartbeat sped up, edging him on. He settled in between Bruce’s legs, nudging them gently apart, one hand on Bruce’s thigh, fingers digging into the rough material.
“Jim, I’m a patient man, but please,” Bruce’s voice broke just that little on the last word, and it was all Jim could do not to smirk or laugh; Bruce was the least patient man on Earth when it came to this, when it came to them two alone. Gotham should be glad that Bruce’s attention span was different when it came to fighting crime, but Jim was quite happy with the impatience now.
Neither of them really had any extensive experience with this, but the last few months of learning had been greatly entertaining. Jim had a few awkward nights back in the Academy, where it was mostly about not getting discovered; and Bruce chose to be a walking cliché and ‘experiment in college’ before he chose the life of adventure and a damn Chinese prison (no, Jim was never, ever, letting go of that one, it was just too good).
But the old adage about practice making perfect wasn’t a complete bullshit, and Jim knew now quite well how to make Bruce forget every coherent thought he might have had before Jim put his mouth on him.
Bruce’s hand was on Jim’s shoulder, holding on for balance, squeezing just a little bit too tight; there was the honed strength to take into account, but honestly, there was something comforting about the thought of bruises blooming there. Not the same reason, but still a match, and a memory etched into skin.
“Jim, please.” Bruce’s body tensed like a piano wire, stretched under Jim’s fingers. When he came, he was quiet, biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood, then letting himself fall back onto the chair bonelessly. It feels a little as if he forgot how to breathe properly, breaths coming out harsh and shallow and Jim waited, his chin resting on Bruce’s thigh.
“Kitchen was a very bad idea,” Bruce muttered after a long moment. “Because what I want to do with you will cause a lot of mess, and then Alfred will kill me.”
“Well done, you’ve just killed my mood,” Jim said dryly, getting up from the floor, pausing briefly to kiss Bruce. “Make yourself presentable enough to walk sixty feet to your bedroom,” he added.
They didn’t get there, at least not for a while. The moment Bruce stood up, doing up his pants, there was a commotion in the corridor by the elevator, one that could not be made by Alfred, as Alfred, in Jim’s opinion, had apparently gone through a much more extensive ninja training then Bruce had, going by the uncanny silence with which the man moved.
“Where is he?” Rachel asked, loud enough for it to carry towards the kitchen, and Jim cringed, looking between them, trying to judge how much she would be able to tell of what had just transpired. Probably everything, it was Rachel.
“Damn,” he muttered and it made Bruce smirk.
“Could be worse, she could have barged in here three minutes ago,” he said, reaching out to fix Jim’s tie. He liked doing that, for some strange reason, smoothing the collar with gentleness and care, even while he criticized Jim’s taste in colours and patterns and materials.
Rachel’s voice got closer and then, wonder of wonders, she paused and knocked, apparently on Alfred’s insistence.
“Come in,” Bruce said, laughing, not turning around, fingers still hooked at the edge of Jim’s collar.
“God, you’re alive,” Rachel breathed out. “My sources told me Batman’s been shot,” she added as an explanation. Jim shook his head at that.
“I think I want her sources,” he told.
“You kidding? I want her sources.”
Rachel just rolled her eyes at them both, then walked up to Bruce and hugged him briefly, then stepped back awkwardly, reaching to put a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. Bruce looked equally uncomfortable and for heaven’s sake, they knew each other since they were three or so, this was ridiculous.
“Well, how about some tea?” he asked, cursing himself, because yes, that wasn’t awkward at all. Bruce coughed, covering his mouth with his hand.
“By tea, he means sex. You kind of interrupted,” he told Rachel who punched him in the arm in response.
“I’m no longer surprised people want to shoot you,” she told Bruce cheerfully. “I’m glad you’re alive, never do this again. Have a good night, Jim,” she added, kissing Jim on the cheek and walking out.
Jim stared after her. “Why isn’t that girl running the city yet?”
Bruce gave him a blank look. “That’s your question now, Jim? Really? Of all the things?”
Jim snorted. “Fine, come on.”
At least Alfred was nowhere to be seen as they moved to the bedroom, because Jim wasn’t sure he could actually get through more interruptions, especially after Bruce pushed him against the bedroom’s door, fingers tightened against Jim’s tie, holding onto it with a little more need than Jim expected from this moment; he thought they had already came down from the desperate high, but you never could tell what was going on in Bruce’s head and what was going to send him into one of the stranger moods.
And to be honest, Jim didn’t mind the reassurance either; Bruce was impatiently stripping him down, and the skin on skin contact was like an anchor to the wandering thoughts, thoughts that hadn’t been completely pleasant ever since Montoya’s phone call.
“You know, I think Montoya likes you,” Jim mused and Bruce coughed, or laughed; whatever it was it sent him into a long spiel of shaking his head and trying to contain the attack. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s what you think when I’m a moment away from fucking you? Montoya?”
Jim gave a startled laugh. “God, just don’t ever think of mentioning this to anyone, I’d never live this down.”
Bruce smiled, pulling at Jim’s hand, guiding him towards the bed. “Like I’m going to let you live that down.”
Jim let himself be pushed onto the bed, not even reaching out to break the fall, just holding on to Bruce to pull him with him. “I’m sort of counting on that,” he muttered.