A/N: yes, two parts in a day, because LJ has stupid word limits.
In fighting against Gotham’s criminals there were better and worse days, and sometimes, there were better and worse weeks. If Jim happened to think that the car explosion would work him up some karma to ensure the rest of his month would be nice and easy, then he’d be gravely mistaken.
But he had known Gotham for a while and it might have been his beloved city, but it was also a bitch and what he got instead as a welcome back present was a merry chase across the Narrows.
“Someone had seen Zsasz,” Montoya reported, her call coming through the moment Jim actually turned on his cellphone on his first day back in. “Yesterday night.”
Jim frowned. “And I’m learning about it now?” His cellphone might have been off for the night, but nothing ever stopped anyone from calling him on the landline, usually at the worst possible moment. He got so used to that he came to expect it.
“I called, Bruce said you were already sleeping and asked if it was very important. I’ve figured, anonymous tipline, could be a bust anyway… Sides, I told Bats, he happened across the roof quite soon. Said he’d look into that.”
Sure he had. Explained why Bruce was nowhere to be seen in the morning. And also, happened across the roof… “What were you doing on the roof, Montoya?” Jim asked with some suspicion and she answered immediately, clearly rehearsed.
“Went out for a smoke.”
“You don’t smoke.”
“Right, I forgot that part,” she offered cheerfully, completely unabashed. If she figured it out, Jim didn’t want to know. Mostly because he’d be forced to either kill her or give her a raise.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes, prepare the briefing. Who caught the case first?”
“Me. Stephens has Bullock supervising me, so don’t worry.”
“You and Bullock together on the same case? I’m worrying already,” he snorted. They were a great team, except that they could probably power up the entire city with the force of their combined snark and sarcasm. Jim had no objections against sarcasm per se, obviously, but still, the team of Montoya and Bullock worried him just slightly.
“We don’t have much,” Montoya warned him first thing after he arrived.
Jim laughed, shaking his head. “That should be our motto. We’ll put it over the door,” he added dryly. “What do we actually have?”
Montoya shrugged. “A woman called the tip line yesterday,” she said, leaning over Bullock’s desk to press play on his computer. The message played out; nothing special, just a worried woman, probably older, who thought she had seen a criminal whose face she recognized from the news leaving a building on her street. She didn’t leave her name or address, just the name of the street and the number. “We have the uniforms knocking on the doors since morning,” Montoya told Jim.
“Nothing so far, but it’s a long street,” Bullock added. “Voice recognition wasn’t helpful with the message, so all we have is the name of the street. They went through that building first thing, but not everyone in that area opens their doors to cops.”
Jim nodded. “Especially not if they’re harboring a criminal. So, basically, we have nothing?”
“Not exactly,” Montoya handed him an envelope. “It was in your inbox this morning.”
“Why were you going through my post?” he asked conversationally before shaking his head. “You know, don’t answer that.”
It was a plain brown envelope, stained in the corner, and if you squinted, the stain could look like a bat. Jim wasn’t going to ask. Oh, who was he kidding, he was absolutely going to ask, and depending on the answer, either have his eyes rechecked and new glasses ordered, or he was going to point and laugh and mock Bruce mercilessly, because really.
Nothing in the envelope was actually helpful for this case. At first, Jim wasn’t really sure what it was he was looking at: parole records, standing arrest warrants, unpaid tickets, logs of complaints on everything, from domestic violence to noise… And then he noticed the main point. “I’ll be damned.”
“What?” Montoya craned her neck to see, and even Bullock shifted slightly to take a look. “What’s that?”
“A whole bunch of invitations,” Jim muttered, already going through the list of contacts on his cellphone. Harvey answered only after the second ring, which was in itself unusual, must be a slow day over at the DA’s office. “Jim here.”
“What for?” Harvey asked upfront, and didn’t even wait for Jim to ask what the hell. “Come on, it’s not a social call and we both know that. Those are handled by Alfred who does a round robin, and they go to Rachel, not to me, anyway. So, what’s the warrant for and how bad do you need it?”
“You’re not going to like it,” Jim said, smiling, and proceeded to explain.
“So, let me get this straight, you don’t even have a single link to Zsasz on any of the persons who live in the building and you’re just going to go door by door? How many warrants is that?”
“Seventeen,” Jim said, checking. “I do realize it’s idiotic, and if we don’t find anything I’m going to be explaining myself to both the commissioner and the mayor, but…”
“It’s Zsasz,” Harvey muttered. “Twenty-seven victims that we know of. Yeah, I know.”
And that was Gotham for you; it was hard to get by without bending the rules somehow. And Jim didn’t have to like it, but he would do it to take Zsasz of the streets. Thankfully, Harvey was willing to risk it too.
“Besides,” Harvey added after a moment, “if I don’t get you those warrants I bet I’ll be hearing from Rachel in a few minutes.”
“I wouldn’t go to such lengths,” Jim lied pleasantly.
“Of course not. Stay put, I’ll have them for you as soon as possible.”
As he disconnected, Montoya was giving him a strange look, as if she was trying to figure something out. Jim glared back at her, raising his eyebrows, until she looked away, smiling slightly. He did right hiring her, she made an excellent detective, but of course, it wasn’t always good news.
“Well, we’ll head there, then,” Bullock said, reaching for his coat. “Send the warrants when they’re ready.”
“If you think I’m not…” Jim started and Bullock shook his head vehemently.
“You’re not going anywhere, boss.”
Montoya nodded. “Strict orders to keep you away from the field. And bombs. And bullets. And knives. And blunt instruments. And…”
“I get the picture,” Jim cut her off. “Orders from whom?”
“Oh, everyone,” she said, sunshine smile and steel underneath. “Your doctors, Stephens, Bruce…”
“I outrank Stephens,” he pointed out, and Montoya gave him a look.
“Sure you do, boss. That still leaves the doctors and Bruce.”
Jim was going to argue that point too, but he could see where it was going, so he just sighed. “Fine. You keep me posted every step of the way. I need one of you glued to the phone, and I think it’s going to be you, Renee. Updates every fifteen minutes.”
“Anyone told you that you’re going to get an ulcer one day? Or a heart attack?” she asked with interest and Bullock snorted, pulling at her sleeve.
“Come on, kid, before Gordon has you manning the phone for the foreseeable future. That’s not fun.”
No, it wasn’t. And Jim hadn’t thought of doing that before, but apparently Bullock could have helpful ideas. “Updates,” he reminded them.
It didn’t take long, which was fortunate in that Jim didn’t have to occupy himself with paperwork for long, but on the other hand the news were bad.
“Three bodies,” Montoya said. “Only the second apartment we checked, too. One’s a drug dealer Bullock knows, well, knew, Joey Rosedale. It gets really bad with the other two, probably his wife or girlfriend, and a teenage girl, maybe the daughter.”
It wouldn’t do to just have good news of finding something, no, it had to be something like that. Jim sighed. “I’ll let Dent know, you keep me posted on the CSU’s findings. Have Bullock carry out the interviews with the neighbors, I’ll need you here working out the motive.”
“Joey wasn’t on the list of residents, the flat belongs to one Louise Candellini, so we didn’t have his name before. Maybe it will help.”
Jim didn’t bother with hoping for that; hoping for a break in a case usually was just setting yourself up for disappointment. “Maybe,” was all he said before disconnecting.
He called Harvey to let him know how it went, then called Bruce, who picked up immediately, which usually meant he was in the suit and using the cowl’s built-in communicator, but it was broad daylight still, so Jim couldn’t be sure.
“I’ve heard,” Bruce said as a manner of greeting.
“Did you tap to the police frequency again? I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it,” Jim muttered. “And how it’s actually a felony.”
“Add it to my list.”
“I might actually start keeping one, so watch yourself. Anything you can tell me?”
“Rosedale used to work for Falcone, so did Zsasz. But in this town it doesn’t mean much, as it could be said about half of the people here.”
Bruce clearly had gotten up on the positive side of the bed. “I need something more if I am to have any chance of finding Zsasz. He’s the last of the Arkham inmates still at large, and now racking an impressive tally of thirty known victims.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Bruce muttered, finishing the call.
Yes, definitely having a splendid day, Jim thought. Well, it was about to get worse, as Montoya came back with the first batch of crime scene photos, and they were of the kind that made you happy you forego breakfast again. Jim didn’t have a delicate stomach to begin with, and he had seen his share of crime scenes, but Zsasz was in a league of his own.
“Yeah, I puked,” Montoya admitted freely but quietly, once she put two of the photos on the newly cleaned out board. “We didn’t get that much entertainment in patrol.”
And she wasn’t on any of the more violent cases in her few months here, either. But she was going to get used to it all too soon.
“You okay?” he asked and she shrugged.
“Hell no. When I’m off shift I plan to get stinking drunk and hide under my covers. But for now, yeah, I can work it through.”
Jim nodded, squeezing her shoulder and looking at the printout of Rosedale’s file. “There must be a connection somewhere here. Zsasz probably wouldn’t kill a guy he never met,” he muttered, then rethought that. “Well, maybe. But he went to that guy’s girlfriend’s place. That’s intent, and planning.”
“Zsasz doesn’t look to me like someone who makes plans,” Montoya said thoughtfully. “He used to take on hit jobs, right?”
“More like capitalize on the natural born talent, but yes. I thought Rosedale was too small a fish to warrant that kind of attention, but who knows…” he looked through the few crime scene photos Montoya had brought. “Anything seemed out of place? Anything was stolen?”
Renee gave him a look. “Yeah, because I had time to check in between puking my guts out. Ask Bullock, he has an iron stomach and actually had some time to snoop around. Or better yet, the CSU analysis should be on your desk first thing tomorrow.”
Not soon enough for his liking, and something had been nagging at his mind. “Candellini, where did I hear that name?”
Montoya just shrugged, as if to say she wasn’t there to read his mind or run his address book for him. Jim sighed.
“Wonderful, it’s going to be bothering me for the entire evening.”
“Could be just a name. We’ve run her name through the databases, she had a lot of unpaid tickets and a juvie record for shoplifting, but nothing that would stand out; in that building she was almost a model citizen.”
It was never just a name. Jim had learned to go with his gut, and right now his gut was in cahoots with his memory, insisting there was something Jim knew but couldn’t quite remember. “Wonderful, a night reviewing all my cases. This is going to be fun.”
Montoya waited for a beat, quickly glancing at the door, as if checking if it was indeed closed. “You know, considering your love life, this does sound like a fun date for you.”
“Out, get to work. If you don’t have work, I’ll find you some.”
“Out already, boss,” she said, dancing out, grinning.
He sighed and gathered some of the newer files, stacking them up neatly. He had most of it home already; the load that Montoya brought to the hospital. It was going to be a rather long night, and whatever was left of the day.
“I’m going home,” he told Montoya and she nodded.
“Glad to see you’re taking the doctors’ advice, boss, and taking it slow,” she said, making a rather obvious point of not looking at the files in his hands. “Remember what they said, no stress and a lot of rest.”
They did say that. Oh, what did they know anyway.
“Keep me posted,” he told her flatly and she nodded, turning back to her own files, studying something that looked like phone records. Jim left her to it; she knew enough to keep him informed on the important stuff, and he trusted her to know what was important.
He had full intention of spending that evening at home, having a wonderful date with casefiles, but once back at his flat, he found himself packing up the files and a change of clothes and driving to Bruce’s penthouse.
Alfred opened the door on the first ring, spent maybe two seconds studying Jim’s face, and sighed. “I see I better make more coffee,” he said dryly, standing aside to let Jim in. “Master Bruce is in his study, and by study I mean his bedroom. We’re looking into other venues but he hadn’t liked any so far; I think it’s because they were actually nice. Sadly, not everything can be a damp cave.”
Jim nodded, not bothering to argue any of the points; apparently Alfred was in one of his more irritable moods, and the only thing to do was agree meekly with everything he chose to rant about.
“Just go on in, Jim,” Alfred sighed, turning to head towards the kitchen. “Normally I’d ask you to distract him before he worries himself into an early heart attack, but I see you brought your own homework,” he added with a tone that was an old mixture of displeased and fond. Jim had given up on reading Alfred a long time ago, but there were moments when he wished he could tell what the older man was thinking.
“I think Alfred is annoyed with us,” he said, walking into the bedroom, glancing around at the scattered files.
Bruce didn’t even look up. “I’ve noticed. He gave me a lukewarm tea; the worst punishment he could imagine.”
“I’m sure he could come up with worse.”
“Yes, killing me with an umbrella was next on the list.”
Jim settled himself on the floor, propped up against the bed, as he flicked through the first file he picked up. “Looking for motive?”
“Rosedale wasn’t important enough to deserve that kind of visit from Zsasz on official business. And there’s absolutely nothing to indicate those two had ever met before, so a personal vendetta seems unlikely.”
This was exactly what they had, and if Bruce, with all his resources, couldn’t find the connection, well, maybe there was nothing to find.
“What do you know about Louise Candellini?
“The girlfriend?” Bruce looked up this time, frowning, squinting to the side as if recalling all the necessary information. “No record to speak of, really, I took her for collateral. What are you thinking?”
“The name sounds familiar, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it lately.”
Bruce nodded and froze for a longer moment, looking somewhere to the left of Jim’s face, his gaze fixed as he worked out through all the data stored somewhere deep in his mind. Jim waited patiently, absently shifting through some of the files spread on the floor.
“Rossi,” Bruce said finally, leaning forward to dig into the pile Jim brought, running his finger over the labels on the sides. “You’ve worked that case few months ago, Rossi was one of the lieutenants in the Falcone’s family,” he muttered, fishing out the file and throwing it to Jim.
“I should be worried that you know my cases better than I do, but let’s stick with being relieved,” Jim said dryly and flicked through the folder. “His mother’s maiden name is Candellini. Louise is too young… sister, cousin?”
“Whoever she is, she could be the intended target. Rossi was close to cracking few months ago, she could be a punishment, or a warning.”
Jim sighed. “There used to be a time when the mobsters wouldn’t go after your family.”
“Things change,” Bruce agreed, his mouth settled into a tight line. “But clearly Rossi and Maroni don’t see eye to eye. Maybe if you get the rest of his family into the protective custody, Dent could have the witness he needs.”
“Witness would make his case, all he has now is circumstantial…” Jim nodded, standing up with new energy. It wasn’t a sure lead, but his gut told him it was a good one. “Doesn’t bring us closer to Zsasz, though.”
“Maybe Maroni’s trial will. And besides, I’m looking into other leads.”
“Of course you are,” Jim nodded, dialing Bullock’s number. He and Montoya were going to pay Rossi a visit and see where it got them. Hopefully, somewhere closer to bringing Maroni down.
When Jim finished the call, Bruce appeared to be lost in thought, staring at nothing again, which usually meant he was processing. He was best left to it, so Jim decided it was a good moment for a cup of coffee, heading for the kitchen, pausing only to briefly touch Bruce’s shoulder in acknowledgement.
The coffee had just finished brewing when Bruce padded it over to the kitchen, barefoot, and propped himself up on the bar stool. Jim took one look on his face and sighed, filling up the largest cup up to the brim and placing it on the kitchen counter in front of Bruce. “I’m not going to like it, am I?”
Bruce shrugged, which was just as well as a nod in confirming Jim’s suspicions. “I think Maroni was behind the explosion.”
“That’s very thoughtful of him, I’ll be sure to get him on my Christmas cards’ list in return,” Jim said slowly, taking on Bruce’s glare before sighing heavily. “He’s close to the top of our suspects list, yes, but have fun trying to prove that.”
“It’s Harvey’s case, it’s making him nervous. In addition, Batman took down a good part of his business ventures as of late, and you were talking to Rossi…”
“Poor crime lord, can’t catch a break, my heart bleeds for him,” Jim said flippantly, taking a sip of his own coffee. Bruce was already rolling his eyes, but Jim wasn’t quite done yet. “And do we need to have that talk about referring to yourself in third person again?”
Bruce didn’t raise to the bait. “If he’s nervous enough to turn to someone as unpredictable as Zsasz…”
“We don’t know if it’s him, yet,” Jim interjected.
“It’s drastic measures if I’ve seen any, Jim. You should take steps to discourage any future attempts.”
Jim could see where this was going. He could see where this was going for a good moment, but kind of hoped he was mistaken.
“If you even as much as suggest a security detail, I may strangle you,” he warned.
“That threat would work if you could be sure I wouldn’t like it.”
“Oh, don’t even,” Jim muttered, shaking his head and trying not to laugh at that. “Security would be a waste of time, anyone wants to get me, they can hire a sniper and no amount of detail would help that.”
“Morbid, but realistic,” Bruce sighed. “And it has nothing to do with the fact that having uniforms trail after you would, how I can say it, cramp your style?”
“Interfere with my investigations, I was going to say,” Jim muttered dryly, sipping his coffee with a slightly overdone mustering-all-dignity display.
“Well, fine, I can keep an eye on you if I have to, and no, you don’t have anything to say about this.”
Jim wasn’t going to. Fine, he might have wanted to, but there were things he wouldn’t argue. Well, not too argue too much.
“I kind of figured you already have. And one of these days, we’re going to have to have a talk about this.”
“What sort of a talk?”
“I’ll tell you to stop and you’ll ignore me.”
“Oh, that sort of a talk. You should talk to Alfred, compare notes…” Bruce said, smiling half-heartedly. “But if you’re making Maroni nervous, and if Rossi is, then there’s no saying how pissed off he must be with Harvey.”
“And I don’t think Rachel will take kindly to you keeping tabs on her boyfriend.”
“She won’t like it one bit,” Bruce muttered. It probably wasn’t going to stop him, but at least Jim will have an excuse once Rachel barged in yelling at them, he could calmly say he told Bruce it was a very bad idea.
“Then again, if all I did were things that met with Rachel’s approval…”
Then maybe a whole lot of people would sleep better, to be honest. But Gotham probably would be worse for it, too.
Next morning, for once, Bruce was up before Jim woke up, a rare occurrence in itself, made even stranger by the absence of Alfred. Which meant that Bruce was trying to cook breakfast.
“Should I just go on and call the fire department now?”
Bruce gave him an unkind look. “I let you know I am perfectly capable of preparing a meal. I’ve fed myself for a few years, you know?”
“Was that before or after the Chinese prison?”
“Was the Chinese prison diet an improvement on it?”
Bruce rolled his eyes and got back to making scrambled eggs. There wasn’t much one could do wrong with that, but Bruce valiantly tried.
“Not bad,” Jim said finally, upon trying. “Stay away from the salt and they should be edible next time.” Bruce rolled his eyes at that and leaned in, kissing Jim briefly. He tasted mostly of coffee, which meant he had been up for a while.
“Alfred went to look at a warehouse,” Bruce said, seemingly out of the blue, but he probably just once again read Jim’s mind. One got used to that. “With the manor taking some time to rebuild, I need a better working space.”
“And at least a place to park the Tumbler. Where are you keeping it now?”
“I did figure you’d have a parking spot there, yes,” Jim muttered absently, reaching for the newspaper. Bruce glanced up at him.
“Just remember the doctors told you to watch your blood pressure.”
“What are you…” he paused and swore under his breath. “I’m going to kill them.”
“That,” Bruce muttered. “It’s actually a good thing.”
Sure it was. The first page proudly proclaimed that Maroni had been arrested, and that DA Harvey Dent had built-up a strong case against him. “What happened to keeping me posted?” Jim muttered and Bruce shrugged, sipping his coffee.
“Montoya called half an hour ago, but I’ve figured you needed your sleep,” Bruce said, as if he was one to take any time convalescing after any of his injuries. Pot, kettle. But it was also a very Bruce way to look after those he cares about, by subterfuge and avoidance, and Jim didn’t like it all that much, but he couldn’t get angry about it.
“And what did she say?” he asked instead.
“Rossi decided to testify, after Dent promised him protective custody for both him and his mother, so Stephens went ahead and arrested Maroni.”
“So now I have the protective custody to arrange,” Jim muttered, reaching for his cellphone. “You know, it isn’t even my jurisdiction. Mob shouldn’t be either. But I’ve seen maybe one FBI agent in my entire career in Gotham and it didn’t really work out well for him…”
“Not the easiest place to live,” Bruce agreed, but his voice was soft and fond and just slightly in love.
“We got lucky finding someone to testify,” Rachel said during the next dinner, once they moved on to dessert and all the light topics that accompanied it. “No one in this town wants to go against Maroni.”
“Depends on your definition of lucky,” Jim said gravely, dabbing at his lemon cake with a little fork. “Wouldn’t call finding three bodies lucky.”
Rachel nodded, her mouth twisting. “There’s that.”
“On the other hand, it’s a chance to prevent other murders, if we manage to get a conviction, hell, if we manage to make half of the charges stand then he’s going away for a long time.”
“There’s always someone else to take over the family,” Jim offered, and Harvey grinned slightly.
“Ever the optimist, Jim.”
“Just a realist,” he muttered, and only had himself to blame for the slightly depressed lull in the conversation.
“What I’ve been wondering,” Bruce drawled, and Jim watched Rachel tense and lower herself slightly in the seat, as if she was unconsciously reading herself to kick Bruce in the shin. “Is what is it with clowns. Read the paper again this morning, and there was some clown robbing a jewelry store. Why the hell would a clown need jewelry?”
Rachel rolled her eyes but relaxed slightly; apparently the comment wasn’t as bad as she expected it to be. She actually still cared about the image Bruce insisted to project to the public, or, in this instance, to Harvey. Jim had given up before he could start worrying about that; unless Bruce really went for the outrageous, he didn’t bother with giving a damn.
“How much does the Joker actually bother you?” Jim asked later, once they bid goodnight to Rachel and Harvey.
“He can wait, there’s the mob to worry about, there’s Zsasz…”
“He bothers you,” Jim concluded. There was not that much reason to worry, considering, but the guy traded up fast, and the jewelry store was last in the long line of quickly escalating crimes. Better to step in now than regret later. “I’ll assign Bullock to the case, should be a nice change after the mobsters.”
“You do have the strangest definitions of nice,” Bruce said, shaking his head.
Maybe. But this, sitting in Bruce’s kitchen late at night and eating the rest of Alfred’s lemon cake, Bruce’s hand resting comfortably on Jim’s thigh; this was nice.
Joker traded up just next week, hitting up three banks in a quick succession; every next one bigger and more prestigious, getting reed of his cronies the moment the robbery was over.
“Means it’s above my paygrade, eh, boss?” Bullock muttered after Jim appeared on the latest crime scene, managing to escape the press on his way in. They ate up the clown angle, the one that actually worried Jim; he had bad experience with costumed criminals, they’ve only just arrested Crane few days ago, courtesy of Bruce.
“I’d gladly leave it to you, but Loeb’s getting worried. And he’s not the only one,” Jim said, taking the file, looking at the photos. “He’s really starting to annoy me.”
“Loeb? Thought it happened a long time ago,” Bullock laughed, then broke off sharply, noticing Batman who just stepped in. “Yeah, I’ll see what the CSU guys have for us,” he said quickly and made himself scarce with a speed of light.
“I think he’s afraid of you.”
“At least someone is, I curse the day Montoya decided I’m fuzzy and friendly.”
“I don’t think she phrased it exactly like that,” Jim mused and flicked the photo in Bruce’s direction. “It might be time to start worrying.”
Bruce nodded. “You might be right. But first,” he picked up a bundle of cash and checked it with one of the contraptions from his belt. It pinged, which Jim wasn’t sure was a good or a bad sign. “This could be good time to move in on the money.”
“Like there’s ever good time for anything,” he said, nodding, then giving Bruce a searching look. The suit disguised a lot, but Jim had learned to read all the signs by now. “How bad?”
“I’m fine,” Bruce lied through his teeth and Jim nodded, accepting it. Not a time or place, but there were going to be words later.
“Harvey will want to know what the warrants are for. And he’s been asking about you lately.”
“We’ll see,” Bruce said quietly and stepped back, disappearing as the CSU filed back in. Jim shook his head at that and got out of their way and out of the vault, breathing in the cold night air as he walked outside, bracing himself for the meeting with the press.
Bruce, of course, broke into Jim’s apartment again. It was actually kind of comforting by now. Unlike the bruises and what seemed to be an actually wound caused by something with large teeth taking out a good portion of Bruce’s skin. Bruce had been attempting to sew himself up and making a rather bad job out of it, but then again, the wound was in a problematic place on his side.
“Oh, just give me that,” Jim muttered, taking his coat off. “Hiding from Alfred? He won’t be impressed with this,” he added dryly.
“I’m not hiding,” Bruce protested with all the dignity he could muster, then winced. “Fine, maybe, but Alfred can actually be scary when he’s annoyed.”
“I did notice that. What did you do, get into a fight with a goat?”
“Why a goat?”
“They bite. Believe me, I was six at the time, very traumatic.”
“Dogs,” Bruce said, trying not to laugh.
Jim nodded, biting off a piece of thread, his hands occupied and unable to reach for the scissors. “Yes, I’ve heard Chechen has new pets. I’m just slightly worried what they will come up with next.”
“Very funny,” Jim said, hiding a smile, running his thumb across his handiwork, feeling for the damage. “You’ve had worse, and that isn’t actually a comforting thought, so don’t take it as such.”
“I don’t think you could do comforting if you tried,” Bruce muttered, but he leaned into Jim’s touch, warm skin pressing against Jim, head on his shoulder.
“I talked to Harvey, he’ll get us the warrants. He’s also not happy about being kept in the dark, maybe you should pay him a visit?”
“Rachel said the same thing. Tomorrow’s the trial, he should concentrate on that. Later, we’ll see,” Bruce said quietly, not moving an inch, his voice just a little lost in Jim’s shirt. “And I’m taking tonight off anyway.”
“That’s not something I hear often,” Jim teased, then looked down at Bruce’s face. He looked tired, and it was no wonder, but if he allowed Jim to see it, then it probably bordered on exhausted; Bruce didn’t go for the open book expression all that often. “What is it?”
“Harvey’s going to propose to Rachel,” Bruce said, shrugging. “He asked Alfred for advice on the ring, for some reason.”
“Well, Alfred is a man of impeccable taste. It bothers you that he didn’t ask you for hints?”
“Please,” Bruce muttered, gathering up the gaze and pieces of thread back into the first aid box Jim kept at home. “It’s just, I like Harvey most of the time, and he seems to adore Rachel, which bodes well for him, because I won’t have to beat him up, but…”
Jim waited patiently, leaning against the kitchen table, arms crossed.
“We grew up together, and now she’s getting married, and it’s a step away from starting a family. It sounds stupid when I say it out loud.”
“No, it sounds like you’re pining for her,” Jim said, smiling slightly. “Also, you’re an idiot,” he added fondly, stepping closer, fingers threading Bruce’s hair, tugging to make him look up.
“See, if I wanted to be told that I’m an idiot, I’d go to Alfred.”
“Alfred never says that. He implies, but doesn’t say it,” Jim pointed out and nudged Bruce’s knee, prompting him to spread his legs so Jim can stand closer. “You could have whatever you wanted, Bruce, you’re just choosing this.”
“There’s that,” Bruce muttered, bowing his head slightly, giving Jim a perfect opportunity to place a small kiss on his forehead. “You know what I want now?”
“I could probably hazard a guess,” Jim nodded, but let himself be silenced as Bruce tugged at his hand to bring him closer, down for a long, bruising kiss. “I would have guessed that.”
“I’m going to throw them an outrageous engagement party,” Bruce muttered, working on taking off Jim’s tie, this time without any comment on its ugliness; probably because it had been a Christmas gift from Rachel and therefore fault-free.
“You’re doing it just to piss her off,” Jim said, laughing, letting Bruce destroy another one of his shirts by not stopping to waste any time with the buttons.
“Guilty as charged, but this time, she won’t be able to say anything about it, because it will be a party in her honour and therefore a nice gesture on my part.”
“You stay up late thinking of the ways to annoy her, don’t you?” Jim accused him, much to Bruce’s amusement.
“It’s a hobby. Although I do stay up late doing other things,” he said, overdoing the drawl and Jim glared at him, which was actually an impressive feat, if he could say so himself, considering it was the moment Bruce stuck his hand down Jim’s pants.
“Is that an opening of a batman joke or a double entendre? I need to prepare my responses accordingly.”
“Oh, I have your response here alright,” Bruce muttered, stroking slowly. Jim was about to groan and pronounce the awfulness of Bruce’s pun, but the groan came out as something quite different, and he had to hold onto Bruce’s shoulders to remain standing.
They made it to the bedroom at some point, Bruce’s eyes closed as Jim’s mouth mapped out his injuries, the old, familiar ones, and the newest one, all the way on Bruce’s side.
“I never bought into that kisses make things better idea, but you could make a case for it,” Bruce muttered quietly, in the silence that finally descended.
“You get maudlin after sex, did you know that?” Jim asked lazily, once he actually thought he had his voice under control; it still came out a little rough.
“Yes, everyone tells me that,” Bruce muttered dryly, his voice slightly muffled by the pillow. Jim gently poked his good side at that, moving closer. Bruce radiated heat in spades, and Jim was not going to admit it, but those were his favourite moments, whenever they happened, laying close like this.
Bruce, on the verge of falling asleep, looked calm and open, and those were the times you could see how much of his expression was always a studied mask for the outside world, worn so constantly it became a habit even when unnecessary.
He also looked incredibly young, or actually maybe he finally looked his age, which was a terrifying thought.
“You’re thinking too much,” Bruce said quietly, not even opening his eyes, his lids just flickering briefly. “You get all tense when you’re overthinking things. Just relax.”
Coming from Bruce, of all people, the sage advice was just slightly surreal, but Jim didn’t bother to comment on that, especially not when Bruce moved closer, eyes still closed, his lips just briefly brushing across Jim’s shoulder.
“I have an early meeting tomorrow,” Bruce muttered sleepily.
“And by meeting we mean what now?”
“An actual meeting. A joint Chinese venture. Long story, you’ll hear the details when it pans out,” he said slowly. “And it takes a lot of work to pay as little attention as I do at the meetings.”
“I’m sure Lucius appreciates that,” Jim said dryly, but there was no answer, Bruce was already fast asleep, his breathing even and calm. It wasn’t a bad idea to follow his example.