Jim had never actually complained about the dull days at the office; not that they happened a lot. He complained about paperwork that he was doing on the dull days, yes, but complaining about paperwork was simply what you did on this job.
Yes, there were dozens of other things to complain about; the hours, the psychos, the stress, the parts where you were witness to the darkest side of the human nature… but those things you couldn’t complain about without hearing the big question: why you do it, then? And the answer was never easy.
But the paperwork was fine to complain about. Mostly on the dull days, which this one certainly wasn’t, so there was no good reason to complain at all.
Not that it ever stopped Montoya.
“It sucks,” she said as a welcome, handing him a coffee cup, the good stuff from the coffee shop down the block, which probably meant they were up the shit creek and the paddles had all been stolen.
“What sucks, Montoya?” he asked pleasantly, wondering how far she would follow the set-up, but she just sighed tiredly.
“My day. Yours is about to suck too, so at least there’s that,” at his look she shrugged. “Rossi tried to shoot Dent at court today. Dent punched him. This was actually kind of hilarious, watch the news, they’re running it on the constant loop.”
“Is Dent okay?”
“Yeah, he also called to say you’ll have your warrants later today, whatever that’s about,” she let her voice hang, but Jim didn’t raise to the bait and volunteer any information for now, so she just nodded and continued. “Fine. Anyway, we had something of a lead on Zsasz when the CSU found like some weird flower seeds or something on the crime scene, but that went to Gotham park and then nowhere.”
“Weird flower seeds?”
“It usually leads somewhere on TV,” she pointed out. “And then there’s Joker, and by there’s Joker I mean he’s nowhere to be seen, or heard, or smelt.”
“Day as usual, then.”
“Kinda. And Loeb wants a status report.”
“Of course he does,” Jim muttered and stepped into his office. Montoya, of course, followed him there, because that woman didn’t know when to step back and keep quiet. Which was partially why Jim hired her, but when directed at him, it wasn’t that amusing. “Do you want something?”
She nodded. “A pony. And that big flashy touch screen board. I mean, all we get are the boards we pin stuff on, what’s with that?”
“I want in on the Joker case,” she said quickly, eyes darting to the side. “Bullock says he’s fine with it, and considering that there’s nothing going on with Zsasz, he probably crawled underground somewhere, I can reasonably keep up with both, sides, not like all the others don’t have a few cases on the backburner as well, and…”
“Could you stop?” Jim asked, shaking his head. “If Bullock’s fine with it, knock yourself out. Didn’t know crazy clowns were your taste.”
She nodded again. “He creeps me out.”
“Good reason, if I ever heard one. Shoo, now, I have to call Loeb and you don’t want to be here for that.”
“God, I really don’t. At least, I don’t have to.”
Yes, unlike Jim. He shooed her away once more, waving his hand, and she made herself scarce, closing the doors carefully.
Joker’s bank heist drew some attention from the higher-ups, and Jim had to assure the commissioner his best people where on the case. After Montoya’s request he could even truthfully add that he just expanded the taskforce on that one, which met with cold approval.
The other question was, of course, about the mob. The stunt Rossi pulled at the witness stand that morning had the press clamoring for more information on Maroni and the family, and that meant the MCU better have something good to report soon.
“I may have something tomorrow,” Jim said and refused to elaborate. Maybe Bruce’s paranoia has rubbed off on him, but he was playing this one close to the vest: Harvey knew some of it, he had to, to get the warrants Jim needed, but other than that, only Bruce and Stephens were informed on the move.
Then there was Dent to call. Jim had apparently interrupted something, but judging from Rachel’s amused voice in the background, he didn’t want to know what he was interrupting exactly. ‘Lunch’ was Dent’s version and Jim was sticking to it.
“Seem like you had an eventful morning. You okay?”
“Assassination attempts aren’t what they used to be, honestly. I mean, the track record lately; you got out alive, I don’t have a scratch… makes you feel sorry for the criminals.”
“No, it really doesn’t,” Jim said flatly. “Too bad about Rossi’s testimony, though.”
“There was always a chance he was going to chicken out. Maroni made bail, but I’m not done. You have your warrants, I assume you’re planning something serious?”
“You’ve seen the irradiated bills. We’re fairly sure we know where the mob keeps its funds.”
“You better be damn sure, if you’re moving in. They spook all too easily, better keep it quiet.”
Jim nodded slowly, even though Dent couldn’t see that. His first instinct was to protest, say that he could trust his people. He could, he did, but there was a small part of him that kept wary. Maybe it was Bruce’s distrust of everything and everyone, maybe it was the fact that just a while ago someone did set up his car to explode.
“Me, Stephens, and you. That’s who knows for now.”
“And Batman, I assume,” Harvey said pointedly, and Jim could hear Rachel sigh heavily in the background. Well, maybe he imagined that, but he knew Rachel, and she was sighing, and shaking her head.
“I have no idea what gave you that impression,” Jim said flatly, not even trying for an actual convincing lie, there was no point.
“I want to meet him, Jim. I think I deserve that little bit of trust by now.”
There was a curious inflection put on that and Jim hesitated before going for evasiveness. “I’ll see what I can do,” was all he said and Harvey went with that.
Three minutes later, Rachel called, speaking in a suspiciously hushed voice.
“Are you calling from the bathroom?” Jim asked and the longer silence that followed was an answer enough. “Fine, okay. You think he knows?”
“I think he at least suspects,” she said thoughtfully. “I can’t just flat out go and ask if he knows it’s Bruce. And I can’t even go for the evasiveness and ask if he knows who Batman is, because then he can ask me back, and I’d rather not lie if I don’t have to.”
Jim thought it over. “You know, your love life might be more complicated than mine.”
“Jim,” she warned him.
“No, really, I don’t have to hide in the bathroom to discuss whether my boyfriend knows that the city’s favourite vigilante is my best friend.”
“Yes, that’s because your boyfriend and the vigilante are actually the same person.”
“I don’t think I like that word.”
“Boyfriend or vigilante?” she asked matter-of-factly and the hilarity of it hit them both at the same time. “It’s a nice bathroom,” Rachel said once she was done laughing.
“I’m happy for you. Get out of there before Harvey actually gets suspicious.”
“Yeah. Listen, I’m not pushing, but tell Bruce to deal with it, one way or another, I’m going crazy with all the subterfuge stuff.”
“Tell him yourself.”
She snorted. “Yes, because that would work. I’m counting on you being more convincing.”
“That better not be a double entendre, I get enough of those.”
“I’m sure you do,” she said, smile evident in her voice, and disconnected. Jim sighed and absently started at the board propped up in the corner.
Montoya was right, a touch screen would be nice, but he somehow liked the old-fashioned boards; they’ve been here before him and they will remain here for a lone while, the newfangled inventions just came and went. That’s why he was never all that interested in all the gadgets Bruce and Lucius Fox came up with, well, apart from the car.
Montoya left all the Zsasz files on the board, despite her words on the trail going cold. Studying it was only slightly preferable to going through the quarterly financial reports, but Jim was going to take any excuse to have those left for later and preferably never.
Zsasz had to have a hiding place; he wasn’t the smartest of criminals, but he knew to keep his head low after each murder, at least for a while. And he was quite recognizable, with the marks on his neck, so it was going to be very low, probably somewhere in the Narrows. Of course that didn’t help the situation much, Narrows was a vast area, and a still incredibly dangerous one. Ever since the Arkham break and Crane’s drug, people couldn’t move out from there fast enough, leaving it to the lowest element.
Which also meant that about half of the crimes committed there went unreported, and with the other half they were hard pressed for witnesses, or any workable evidence; bodies in the streets were an easy target for the thieves. And not only thieves and that wasn’t a pleasant thought, even if Jim was used to not so pleasant thoughts to begin with.
But still, some of the evidence and reports made their way to the homicide detectives, and at some point, the files were available to the MCU, landing somewhere in Jim’s inbox, among other pressing matters that he never had enough time to deal with.
Well, he had some time now, and any loose end from the Crane case was a sore spot to him. They were going to strike a major victory against the mob tomorrow, when the warrants came through, and it would be nice to have that minor one added to the score, too.
He sorted through the files slowly, but methodically. First, unsolved homicide cases; too much, but that was to be expected. Then, anything involving stabbing, Zsasz wasn’t one to change his MO; he liked steel and blood too much. After that, anything that was too easy and quick and, according to the autopsy reports, rather painless, was out as well.
Montoya tiptoed in some time later, Jim wasn’t exactly sure how much time had passed, but it must have been quite a while, as she was giving him a worried look and placing a cup of coffee in front of him.
“See, this is what Stephens warned me about,” she said, letting her voice hang, clearly inviting a question. Jim sighed, but he wasn’t one to deny someone their prepared speech.
“Warned you about what?”
“That you need to be watched when you bury yourself in work, and that someone needs to make sure you eat and sleep at some semi-regular intervals.”
“I had breakfast,” Jim said defensively and Montoya nodded slowly, raising her hand to mimic a patting gesture, still standing at a safe distance from Jim.
“Sure, boss. But it’s closer to dinner than it is too lunchtime now,” she pointed out.
“Is it?” he asked, glancing at his watch. Unfortunately, she was right, and that was a state he didn’t like all that much in Montoya when it wasn’t about one of her cases.
“It is,” she confirmed. “Now, you are either going to eat something,” she offered, producing a sandwich from behind her back, placing it next to the coffee cup, and then crossing her arms decisively. “Or I’m going to tell on you.”
Jim raised his eyebrows questioningly and she nodded firmly.
“Yeah. I mean, I do realize you can fire me, but you won’t, if not because you like me, then because you don’t think it would be fair. And I don’t have any such qualms, and I will go to any length, even call Bruce.”
Damn her. She was right about that firing thing, he wouldn’t. He’d threaten to do it until his voice got hoarse, yes, but he actually encouraged some insolence, it lead to people thinking independently, and that lead to cases getting solved.
Besides, his traitorous stomach had chosen that precise moment to grumble, and there was no point arguing without losing whatever he had left of his dignity.
“This better not be a vegetarian sandwich,” he muttered, looking down and breaking the staring contest. She smiled, he could tell without looking at her.
“Enough bacon to nudge you that closer to a heart attack.”
“Well done. Now, if you could…” he stopped at the sound of his cellphone ringing. One glance at the caller id was enough to glare at Montoya again. She shook her head.
“Didn’t tell on you,” she swore and he nodded, shooing her away and picking the phone up.
“You sound as if you’re working too much. Get back home,” Bruce said matter-of-factly, leading Jim to wonder if there actually was Batman’s surveillance in his office, the one he always joked about. He wouldn’t be exactly surprised, but still, there should be some limits.
What was more surprising was a quickly following thought that he didn’t care about those limits all that much. He should; just because it was Bruce didn’t mean all the rules could be broken and all the limits of the law disposed with. Even though it apparently did.
“I have cases,” Jim argued flatly, mostly for the sake of it. He would never admit it out loud, of course, but spending most of the day in the chair, looking through the casefiles, made an impression on his muscles and bones, and his head was starting to hurt from staring at the screen for far too long. Maybe he was actually getting old.
“And I have a whole plate of Alfred’s lemon cake sitting on your kitchen table. If you don’t get over here soon, I’ll just have to take care of it myself.”
“And bribery. The question, officer, is what are you going to do about it.”
There were moments when Bruce’s flippant teasing was not his most flattering feature, but then again it absolutely was. Jim should honestly examine his head at some point as to what the hell he suddenly found attractive.
“Fine. I’ll be c… leaving soon,” he said, exchanging the verb at the last moment; there was no point in giving Bruce more ammunition. He seemed to do fine on his own.
It took him a while to get home, apparently when you finished work at something the rest of the world considered a normal hour, you were bound to end up in a traffic jam. Jim couldn’t help but think that his system; working till it was so late it could be called early – wasn’t such a bad one. Traffic was a waste of time, and he always felt slightly guilty if he turned on the siren without a good reason, so he just resigned himself to the snail pace for at least part of the way.
When he finally reached his apartment, it was already dark outside, and Bruce apparently had learned how to use the key.
“Does it mean your days of juvenile delinquency are finally over?” Jim asked curiously.
“I didn’t exactly fit the ‘juvenile’ part of the description for a while.”
“I know some people who would disagree.” Jim stepped towards the couch, where Bruce already made himself more than comfortable, after he apparently once more lost his shoes somewhere. “Harvey wants to meet you.”
“We’ve met,” Bruce said pointedly, causing Jim to roll his eyes.
“Don’t play stupid, it doesn’t become you, no matter what the tabloids may let you to believe. Rachel thinks he might actually suspect Batman’s identity, she’s not sure.”
Bruce fell quiet, seemingly mulling it over. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“It’s your call,” Jim confirmed, looking around. “Where’s my lemon cake?”
“In the kitchen. Speaking of Rachel,” Bruce said, and Jim froze in the middle of standing up and sat back down. From the various degrees of seriousness Bruce could call up in an instant, this was the real one, the one that went all the way, chilling you to the bones.
“What about her?” Jim asked, growing worried. Bruce shook his head quickly, flashing a brief smile; not a real one, just a way of showing that no, nothing bad happened to Rachel. Jim sighed, letting out some of the worry with the air. “More of the same, then.”
Bruce shrugged slightly. “They went out for dinner, from what I know, Harvey’s proposing right about now.”
There was that. “You know, you’re sulking about it so much, I’m beginning to wonder which one of them I should be jealous of.”
“You tell me, I’m envious of them both,” Bruce said quietly, shifting carefully, turning in his seat so his head could rest against Jim’s shoulder. “But well, the story the press will go with is that I’ve lost my one chance at a fairy tale life with Rachel,” he added, smiling wryly.
“What is the actual story?” Jim asked gently.
“I don’t even know what the fuck a fairy tale life entails, but sometimes I think a slice of normal wouldn’t be so bad.”
Jim poked his shoulder at that. “This is normal, you idiot. Not by everyone’s definition, I’ll give you that, but the world is full of dickheads.”
Bruce snorted a laugh, surprised. “Well, now that I got you to swear, it’s actually kind of attractive.”
Rolling his eyes, Jim moved in his seat, just so he could look at Bruce. “Not that I deny you the right to be irrevocably screwed in the head, god knows anyone in this town has a right to that, but if you’re going to sulk about Rachel and Harvey, then I’m taking my lemon cake and having a party by my own to which you’re not invited.”
“You should honestly start your own therapy practice.”
“I would make a killing.”
“Yes, literally, in suicide rates,” Bruce nodded, but he was smiling slightly now.
He didn’t actually move to get the cake for a long while, because it was easier to stay like this, in the darkened room and silence, on the couch, Bruce’s breathing evening out. At some point in his life, that became filled with gunshots and sirens, Jim had learned to appreciate the quiet.
Well, some of the quiet, because he had not been trained in some zen monastery in Tibet, or among ninjas, or whatever it had been, and after a long moment his leg started to fall asleep and he was sure to follow suit, if not for the fact that once he moved a little, Bruce shifted too, turning slightly, his lips finding Jim’s.
His body went from tired and sleepy to wide awake and alert in a span of a few seconds, Bruce suddenly straddling his thighs, working on Jim’s shirt. “I like this shirt,” Jim warned him quickly, because the buttons thing was getting a little ridiculous.
“Yes, I’ve figured, it’s an awful shirt,” Bruce agreed pleasantly. Fine, Jim thought, he had no fashion sense, could everyone please move on? But there was something appealing in the way Bruce was always very determined to get Jim out of his clothes, and that was probably partially due to those clothes offending his fashion sensibilities, so Jim planned on continuing with his chosen ties.
“Do I criticize your suits? And by suits I mean the one with pointy ears and a damn cape?”
“Changing it, though. Talked to Fox about it. Want to be able to turn my head,” Bruce muttered, his voice slightly muffled by Jim’s own neck, as the words came out roughly in between kisses laid down Jim’s collarbone.
“This is the moment you want to talk shop?” Jim said with disbelief. Actually, when you thought about it, it was exactly like Bruce to talk shop at such a junction. “Is it going to be completely bulletproof this time, at least?”
Bruce ignored the question, which was of course an answer in its own. Sure, what masked vigilante went for safety when designing their costume?
“You could forego the ears,” Jim suggested, working to keep his voice even, which wasn’t quite so easy when Bruce worked his pants open, sliding to his knees in front of the couch.
“The ears are all the point,” Bruce said, smiling widely at the unexpected pun. He would. “Now, last chance to move it to the bedroom.”
“I missed all the previous chances,” Jim said harshly. “And I don’t think I would be able to stand up right now,” he added. Not after Bruce’s fingers tightened on his cock and started to stroke slowly, with clear intentions of making it last. Or of making Jim go absolutely insane, both choices were likely and not mutually exclusive.
“There’s a good joke about standing up somewhere there,” Bruce muttered, his breath warm against Jim’s thigh. “But I’m not going to make it.”
“Small mercies,” Jim managed even as Bruce’s mouth closed on him and most of everything went dark in front of his eyes.
Half an hour later, approximately, they relocated to the bedroom and Bruce complained about the lumpy bed as he always did before taking two seconds to find a comfortable place and all but falling asleep.
His breathing leveled out and his heartbeat slowed down, and Jim was almost sure he had indeed fallen asleep, until Bruce volunteered a seemingly random bit of information. “We were right, it’s Lau.”
It took Jim a good ten seconds to have his brain switch gears and process the words. Although, to be honest, it was a testimony to the kind of relationship they had that it was only ten seconds. “They didn’t have a choice, probably, considering Harvey put all the local money launderers behind bars. That what your meeting was about?”
Bruce shrugged. “It got Lau to come to Gotham. Have people ready to arrest him as you move on the banks, otherwise he’ll be in Hong Kong before you get another chance. I don’t think your jurisdiction goes there.”
“As if you worried about jurisdiction,” Jim muttered, shaking his head. “You know, it is kind of worrying, how often Gotham’s criminal make their way into our bed.”
Bruce snorted, but his gaze flickered down, then back to Jim’s eyes, making Jim consider his words. So, fine, he did say ‘our’, but he’ll be damned if he gets into a lengthy discussion on the nature of their relationship now, while his brain was still slightly fuzzy. “Yes, I said it, moving on.”
A small smirk appeared in the corner of Bruce’s mouth. “I hope you meant it literally, not metaphorically, because if I now own half of the bed I can throw it away. It’s lumpy, Jim. I know your salary isn’t exactly sky high, but with the lieutenant’s raise and the hazard pay, you should be able to afford a better bed.”
“Shut up and go to sleep.”
It wasn’t the greatest come back, but amazingly it worked for then, mostly because Bruce was fast asleep already before Jim finished speaking.
Rachel woke him up with a phonecall at seven in the morning, and honestly, Jim envied her working hours if she could be cheerful at such a time.
She was also strangely quiet, speaking in a hushed voice as she pretended to worry that she woke Jim up.
“I’m fine,” he lied. “And are you hiding in the bathroom again?” Her silence was enough of an answer and he rolled his eyes. “It’s becoming a problem, maybe you should talk to someone about it?”
“Yes, I’ll talk to someone about my idiosyncrasies if you talk to someone about yours. And don’t tell me you don’t have any, or I’ll be saying things like ‘boyfriends with penchants for black Kevlar and pointy ears’, you know.”
“Fair enough. How can I help you this lovely, early morning?”
She fell silent again, but this time Jim just waited, letting her work it through. He had a nagging feeling he knew what it was about, and disliked being used as an intermediary in this case, but it was what it was.
“Harvey and I got engaged.”
“Congratulations,” Jim said, a bit too quickly; Rachel was not an idiot, and by now she could read him well even over the phone lines.
“So, Bruce knows too.”
“He’s the one who told me. But don’t worry, I’m sure he’s only stalking you because he cares.”
It startled a laugh out of her that she immediately tried to keep down, probably due to that hiding in the bathroom thing. Not that Jim judged her. Much. “And how’s he taking it?”
It probably should bother Jim, how well Rachel knew Bruce, but it didn’t; having her be there for Bruce when necessary was a good thing. “He went through a brief brooding phase, mourning the loss of a possible fairy tale alternative, but he’ll be fine. He’s throwing you an engagement party, so you might not be as fine, though.”
“Lovely,” she groaned. Jim could sympathize, even though considering the whole subterfuge element of their relationship, Bruce couldn’t exactly throw a party in his honour, luckily. “And at least he had you to distract him from the sulking part…?”
“If you’re fishing for details, I have a suggestion.”
“Get yourself cable TV,” he muttered and disconnected on her laughter. He made his way into the kitchen and started the coffee maker, feeling fairly sure the smell would bring Bruce out of the bedroom. He wasn’t mistaken; it took only forty seconds, and Jim timed it. “That engagement party for Rachel, make it really flashy.”
“Did she wake you up?” Bruce guessed immediately, poking inside the fridge, muttering something inaudible about its contents. “She should know you get cranky when you don’t get your beauty sleep.”
“I take pride in being cranky all the time, sleep has nothing to do with it,” he said dryly, filling his coffee cup to the brim.
“It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it,” Bruce agreed pleasantly, his voice still rough from sleep, but a far cry from the rasp he insisted on using as Batman. And that was a good thing as Jim’s throat hurt in sympathy every time he heard it. “Speaking of work, you’re still moving on the banks this morning?”
Bruce didn’t have to say what his problem with the timing was, Jim knew him that bit too well. “Gotham’s police force doesn’t run on your schedule. We’re talking about banks; we’re executing the warrants during their working hours, so the managers and the personnel can be there for questioning.”
“Well, if you’re going to use logic,” Bruce drawled, faking disgust.