Pairing: Bruce/Jim, past Bruce/Rachel
Characters: Ensemble, including OCs.
Summary/Notes: Still a Batman kidfic, still kubis's fault.
Wordcount: 3,310 for this part.
It seemed that turning your entire life upside down was, well, time-consuming. Elizabeth was going to be in town for a week, to help Daniel settle into the new, but she didn’t want to accept Bruce’s invitation to stay any longer.
“The longer I stay, the harder it will be to leave you boys, and I need to leave,” she said with a shrug, bending over one of the boxes she was filling up with Rachel’s things. This box was going to go with Daniel, some others, mostly with clothes, were intended for charity, and two boxes of photos and knick-knacks were to travel with Elizabeth. “Not for long,” she had said. “Whoever manages my things after I die will send those back to you.”
Bruce didn’t quite know what to say, but Elizabeth didn’t seem to expect anything else. “Now, let’s talk about that ridiculous place of yours,” she added, sitting down, arms crossed.
Bruce really suspected Alfred put her up to this.
But she was right, and so was Alfred, unfortunately and unsurprisingly. The penthouse wasn’t the best place for a kid to live in, in fact, it wasn’t actually a place to live; just one to throw parties in and invite supermodels to. If pressed, Bruce would admit he didn’t like it much, but it was a place to hand your jacket in while you went out into the night as a masked vigilante.
And that was another thing, of course. Nothing about the situation could be described as fortunate or even convenient, but, well, with Daniel Bruce couldn’t allow himself to be Batman, and the city didn’t want Batman right now either.
He wasn’t giving up, he just needed to be much more subtle.
“Subtle,” Alfred repeated dryly, shaking his head. “I see.”
It wasn’t all that helpful, Bruce thought. And fine, maybe some of his methods even now weren’t exactly going unnoticed, but this was different.
The press was both bewildered and pissing themselves with joy at ‘the new Bruce Wayne’ as they chose to call it; Gotham Times was first, but every rag picked up the phrase and run with it. Harvey’s death was a shock, and so was Batman’s involvement, but what captured the human interest most was Rachel Dawes, the tragically lost Assistant DA, who apparently has been romantically involved with Gotham’s errant prince and who would have guessed it? The two had a son.
Daniel didn’t need the spotlight, especially not now. It was something Bruce and Elizabeth agreed on, and even Alfred approved of their decision. “People like a good story,” he said and Bruce nodded.
“Who am I to deny them one?”
And so, Bruce Wayne, the city’s prodigal son, had gone through a very public and well advertised change. Rachel’s death prompted him to look at his life, and at the direction it was taking. ‘I didn’t have any purpose for too long. Things have changed, and my priority is Daniel, and being a good father. And since I can’t imagine anyone better than my own father, I wish to follow in his footsteps in all the areas,’ he said in the one exclusive interview he gave.
Vicki Vale probably didn’t buy it, judging from the suspicious look she gave his carefully honest expression, but she printed it word for word, along with a heart-warming story that created a Pulitzer buzz for her.
“Well played, Master Bruce,” Alfred said, in that tone of his that didn’t betray whether it was approval or annoyance. “Incidentally, the foundation for rebuilding Gotham General has called.”
“Write the check,” Bruce muttered. It was, after all, a way of helping the city, one of the few available to him at the moment.
Thankfully, the criminals seemed to be taking a break as well. It wasn’t going to last long, the peace never did, but for now, they were licking their wounds after Joker’s mad run just like anyone else was.
But, quiet or not, subtle or not, there were things Bruce couldn’t leave alone, people he couldn’t ignore.
The MCU had moved to a new building, closer to the city hall. Bruce had no way of telling how much say Gordon had in it, but somehow the roof was flat and with an easy access, yet surrounded by a raised wall, providing at least some cover of shadows. It was like a promise for Gotham’s future, but it was still unsafe, especially for Gordon to be meeting with the Bat.
And yes, it was unsafe everywhere else, too, but there were risks Bruce had to take, and he suspected Gordon wouldn’t appreciate being kept in the dark just because Bruce was concerned for the commissioner’s safety.
He waited until Gordon was heading home, stuck in traffic few blocks away, and left the box on the porch. He got the message few minutes later, didn’t even have time to get back home.
“I’m here,” he told Gordon, setting foot in the back garden again. Gordon didn’t look up from the device he was turning in his hands.
“Clever,” he said, pocketing the communicator. “So, that’s your sign? Have to say, from experience I expected something much more dramatic.”
“Safer this way.”
“For whom?” Gordon asked, and wasn’t that the million dollars question. “Oh, well,” he shrugged it off, not expecting an answer. “Good to know you’re alive, at least. Joker’s trial’s done, and he’s staying at Arkham for a dozen consecutive lifetimes… it should be a relief, but you know how it is,” he said dryly, expressing the same doubt Bruce had in the security of Arkham’s walls.
“The mob?” Bruce prompted.
“Fighting for scraps. No one made a bid for the leadership position as of yet. I think they’re afraid of you. Anyone named the father of the family would inevitably draw attention, and now that you’ve taken to actually killing people, they might think twice of that.”
“So there are good sides to being a wanted murderer,” Bruce muttered and this time Gordon looked up, sharply. It occurred to Bruce that so far this was the most he ever said that wasn’t in any way case-related, that was personal.
Gordon slowly nodded and took off his glasses, rubbing at his eye tiredly. “It would seem so. Still, probably not something I would recommend to anyone in the long run,” he said and hesitated. “Including you, actually. Any idea of clearing your name?”
It felt incredibly good to hear, to learn that Jim Gordon apparently waited for the moment when things could get back to the way they were. For a brief moment it made Bruce believe they could.
“We can’t,” he said flatly, keeping his voice level. “It would cost us Harvey’s reputation, all he worked for, all of his cases and convictions thrown out. We can’t afford it.”
“There has to be another way, then,” Gordon said stubbornly, earnestly. He looked as tired as Bruce felt, the few last week had not been kind on anyone, it seemed. “I have all this free time now,” he added mockingly. “I could use a new hobby.”
The house had been completely dark during the whole conversation; it seemed that wherever Barbara Gordon and the kids were they planned on staying there. Bruce wasn’t a stranger to loneliness, but it seemed that Jim Gordon was just discovering it.
There was a part of Bruce that wished he could offer some sort of comfort, but it wasn’t in Batman’s nature to be comforting. Somehow the Kevlar armour and the portable weaponry didn’t lend themselves to friendly gestures.
Gordon smiled, almost imperceptibly. “I did miss the positive nature of these meetings,” he deadpanned. “Don’t be a stranger,” he said, his mouth twitching as if the turn of phrase provided him with some amusement. “The city might not know it, but it still needs you,” he moved to step back into the house. “Try and don’t get killed,” he added instead of a farewell and Bruce smirked under the safe cover of the cowl.
It wasn’t often that Batman was dismissed, but if anyone earned the right to not be walked out on, it was Gordon. Bruce was going to step back and leave it at that, but instead he found himself rooted to the spot for a moment longer. “Jim,” he said, and the other man stopped, half-turning with a question on his face. “It goes for you, too.”
“Oh, you know me. I don’t take risks,” Gordon said, somehow managing to keep a straight face around the straight-out lie before giving Bruce one final nod and turning on the lights in the house, getting in.
Considering some of the recent events in Gotham, or indeed its entire history, it would probably take a lot to leave the press flabbergasted, but Bruce achieved it simply by changing residences. The thought of Bruce Wayne moving into a modest townhouse with a small back garden and good proximity to primary schools was apparently more than they could take.
“I like it,” Alfred said matter-of-factly, “but where will we keep the armory and the underground garage?”
Bruce really didn’t appreciate sarcasm these days.
Well, fine, not true. He just snorted at that and shook his head. “We’re keeping the warehouse until the Manor is done.” Which would take ages, probably; Bruce had put the rebuilding on hold as the city needed all the workforce to deal with its own projects, and even the most locally patriotic constructors would choose a Wayne project over renovating city’s roads and bridges.
“You know, Rachel is probably laughing herself silly, wherever she is,” Elizabeth said fondly, as they were moving the last of Daniel’s things into the new house. “But she’d be proud of you, kid,” he told Bruce, hugging him briefly, her hand ruffling his hair absently. “Don’t screw up,” she added.
“Yes, ma’am,” he muttered back, allowing himself a moment of just holding her, his cheek resting atop of her head.
Daniel moved in that day, his eyes wide and his expression carefully schooled down as he took everything in.
Bruce still had no idea what to make of the kid, how to approach him. He understood Rachel’s decision to keep the secret, especially once she learned of his double identity, but it still left him in a rather difficult situation.
The last few days, besides a frantic retooling of most areas of his life, were filled with trying to get to know Daniel. The boy seemed serious and shy, but everyone would, given the circumstances, so it wasn’t saying anything.
After the will-reading, under orders from Elizabeth, Bruce had gone back with her to Rachel’s place for dinner. Elizabeth had gathered Daniel in her arms, sitting down in the big armchair in the living room, balancing the boy on her lap as she waved at Bruce to sit on the couch.
He shuffled his feet for a while before awkwardly sitting down. He had approached knife fights with less trepidation.
“What did Mom tell you about your Dad?” Elizabeth asked and Daniel shrugged, obviously not comfortable himself with the attention or the subject.
“She said he was a good man and that she loved him but he had to go away,” he said in a slightly sing-song voice, as if reciting. He frowned at Elizabeth, then at Bruce, suspicious.
“Well, she was right about that,” Elizabeth said, glancing at Bruce briefly.
“Is it you?” Daniel asked Bruce, shocking a hell out of him. “Only, Mom said you used to be friends,” he added, as if it explained something, but whether it was in support or denial of Bruce being Daniel’s father, Bruce wasn’t sure.
“We were friends. And yes, it’s me. I’m your…Dad,” he said, stumbling over the word. ‘Father’ sounded too serious, and too much like an inane movie quote. ‘Dad’ didn’t sound much better, sounded hollow to his ears and strange on his tongue.
Elizabeth was smiling sympathetically at him, but Daniel just nodded, still frowning in thought. “Does it mean I have to live with you now?”
Have to. Bruce wasn’t sure what it meant, was it as bad as it could sound. “I don’t think you have to, but I would very much like it if you did.”
Daniel nodded slowly, as if considering. “Okay.”
And it seemed to be that. Daniel took a lot in stride, most of the time looking at Bruce searchingly, as if he was still not ready to give his opinion, but at least it wasn’t a straight-out rejection Bruce had worried about.
“You have a few days before the school starts again, you can use that,” Elizabeth told him, and it seemed like a good idea to do just that, to try to learn what Daniel ate for breakfast and what subjects at school he didn’t like and what books he read; try and catch up on eight years in about eight days.
They went to the zoo on Wednesday. Bruce Wayne at the zoo, it was kind of funny in itself, but really, not many people could share the joke.
“Do you know that sloths can swim really well?” Daniel asked, watching the animals hanging from the trees as he absently ate ice cream from the cone, staining his shirt with some of it.
“I didn’t know that,” Bruce admitted. “Do you like sloths?”
Daniel shrugged. “They’re okay.”
Bruce took it as yes, it seemed that very few things were more than okay. “How about we move forward, then? There’s a lot of things to see,” he added, and Daniel nodded, turning, and then abruptly stopped in his tracks.
“Not there,” he said, his fingers tightening on the ice cream cone, squashing it so the ice cream melted down his fingers. He didn’t seem to notice.
Bruce followed his gaze, which seemed to be fixed on the building hosting the night animals. The entrance was, if you squinted at it, shaped rather like a bat.
“We don’t have to go there,” Bruce said carefully. Daniel nodded, reaching out to take his hand, his own sticky with the ice cream.
“Can we go home?”
“Of course.” And they had, Daniel silent most of the way, his gaze firmly turned to the things outside the car’s window, shutting Bruce out.
That evening, after Daniel excused himself from dinner and said he was tired from the trip, Bruce sat with Elizabeth for a while, discussing the houses his realtor brought to his attention. Most of them were unsuitable, too grand and secluded, and he wasn’t looking for a second manor.
Bruce had honed hearing and picked up the sound quickly, before Elizabeth could, and he was on his way upstairs before she even stood up. Daniel was tossing and turning in his nightmare, muttering something incomprehensible, kicking the covers off himself.
“Daniel,” Bruce said, sitting on the bed and reaching out, holding the boy’s arm as he tried to wake him up without scaring him unnecessarily. He could feel Elizabeth’s presence, but she stopped in the doorway, watching them. “Daniel, it’s okay. It’s okay now.”
Daniel’s eyes opened wide and he was breathing hard, looking around disoriented. “Is he gone?”
“There’s no one here,” Bruce said soothingly. “Just me and your Grandma.”
Daniel nodded slowly, as if unconvinced. His eyes flickered to the side over and over again, as he searched the shadows for the remnants of the nightmare, then looked at the window with some worry. Bruce stood up and locked the window, bolting it for the good measure and moving the curtain so it hid it completely. “Is this alright?”
The boy just nodded, pulling the cover he had kicked back up, settling himself against the pillow.
“I’ll get you some cocoa,” Elizabeth muttered. “Bruce?”
“I could go for that,” he agreed and moved back to the bed, sitting down once more. “You don’t have to, but do you want to tell me what it was about?”
“They said he killed Harvey,” Daniel said quietly, and it took a moment for Bruce to make out the words and then understand the meaning, a shiver running through him once he did. “Maybe he killed Mom, too. I don’t…” he stopped, shaking his head, his eyes red as he blinked fast.
“It’s okay,” Bruce repeated, a distant echo of the words resonating in his skull. “You’re safe. Batman can’t hurt you,” he said, and even though it was the truth, it hurt to say it.
Daniel looked at him for a moment, then slowly moved to tug at Bruce’s hand, making him lie down, Daniel’s head resting on his chest as the boy closed his eyes and breathed unevenly, his little hand closed into a tight fist.
“It’s okay,” Bruce said and kept repeating it until the words almost lost their meaning and turned into a nonsensical murmur, times with Daniel’s now even breaths.
That was few days ago, and even though Daniel seemed to trust Bruce more now, it came with the price of knowing that Batman haunted his son’s nightmares.
“You created Batman to be the face of fear,” Alfred pointed out softly.
“Yes,” Bruce admitted flatly. “But not his.”
Daniel moved in two days before school was supposed to start, and on the day Elizabeth left. This was enough of changes for the boy, and Bruce didn’t want to add to that list, so Daniel was to go to the same school he did the year before. It wasn’t an elite private school people expected the new Wayne heir to attend, but Rachel had chosen a small school in a good neighbourhood and that was enough for Bruce.
The days settled into a routine fairly quickly. They had breakfast together, then Alfred drove Daniel to school and Bruce went to the Wayne Enterprises offices or attended meetings. It was expected now, as he was deemed respectable. ‘He cleaned up’ the press had decided, and so it wasn’t alright for him to feign sleep during meetings anymore.
He still was determined to play a fool for the board, at least for a while, but a fool willing to learn about the company. Lucius found it all incredibly amusing, especially the board meetings had him hide his smile behind his hand or a coffee cup.
“Watching the board trying to figure you out is the most entertaining part of my day,” he admitted to Bruce. “Especially since I’m not challenged by new requests for various inventions anymore,” he said casually, searching Bruce’s expression.
“Not the best time,” Bruce offered flatly.
“What with the bounty on your head? I’ve figured it would only motivate you more.”
“Things change, Lucius.”
Lucius nodded, smiling sadly. “Yes they do, Mr. Wayne.”
In the afternoons the routine varied, depending on the day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Daniel had baseball training. On other days he came straight home and reluctantly did his homework, after weaseling a cookie as an incentive from Alfred. They had dinner, all three of them, because Daniel always insisted Alfred joined them. He took to the older man fairly quickly, appreciating the dry manner and the lack of questions. Alfred was good at that.
They watched movies or read books in the evening, and more often than not Daniel managed to get at least half an hour to spend on playing some space flight games on his computer.
Once he had fallen asleep, Bruce had time to check on his sources, make sure nothing out of ordinary was happening in Gotham’s criminal underworld. The mob was slowly picking themselves up, the organized crime seemed less disorganized again.
All Bruce could really do now was to send his findings to Gordon, to ask him to keep him in the loop, just in case.
He hadn’t worn the suit for weeks now, and still couldn’t say if that was a good thing or not.