Rating: NC-17 for the whole fic, various for parts.
Wordcount: 2,779 for this part.
It wasn’t the best of plans. In fact, if you asked Jim, it was a rather bad one from all sides except that one: it could work.
The system wasn’t completed yet, the control set was just slowly put together, bare bones of what would become a collection of screens.
“If I had more time,” Bruce shrugged. “But I have only just learned of the sonar idea. Lucius had it amongst other proposals for my tech improvements, and I didn’t really have time to go through all of them…”
“Well, if you weren’t spending so much time crashing your sports cars…” Jim said absently, watching the installation. “I don’t like it,” he muttered.
It was too much. He has had an uneasy feeling about some of Bruce’s methods before, but never like this, it was never the utmost certainty, like a ball of lead in his stomach.
“You took the sonar idea and applied it to every cellphone in the city,” Lucius Fox said, entering the room. “It’s…”
“Necessary,” Bruce said.
“Unethical,” Lucius muttered. “Dangerous.”
“Wrong,” Jim agreed, catching Bruce’s wounded look. “I know we need to find him, but there are other ways. There are proper channels to deal with men like him.”
And yet, if it kept the Joker from killing any more people, if it helped to reign in the chaos… Jim was never the one to accept the hand he was dealt, he kept looking for other ways. He went against the rules over and over again, working with Bruce, because this was Bruce, and because this was Gotham, and Gotham needed every ounce of help it could get.
But for what price?
“I never signed up for this,” Lucius said quietly. “I can’t stay in this company if this machine is here. I won’t.”
Bruce nodded slowly. “I know. I know what I’m asking of you. And it’s this once. Help me this once, and I promise you, this system will be destroyed right after we find the Joker. It’s too much power for anyone to have, but it’s what needs to be done.”
Jim could see Lucius’ resolve melting, and he knew they were thinking the same thing: Harvey Dent, Commissioner Loeb, judge Surillo, all the others… it was a way of finding the man responsible, of getting him behind bars.
“Just this once,” Lucius nodded. “I’ll oversee the last stages of construction,” he added, his tone tired and resigned.
That was pretty much exactly how Jim felt. The resignation was a bit easier to hide than the weariness, and he knew it was beginning to be noticeable, from the look Bruce was giving him.
“Don’t even,” he muttered, but Bruce shook his head.
“I’m taking you home. You’re going to be pretty useless if you don’t get any rest.”
“Well, I’d argue…” Jim said, forcing a smile. “But I’m afraid of slurring my words if I go for longer sentences.”
“There’s that. Lucius has it covered here, and I’m pretty sure Stephens can deal with the coordination of the hospitals and the recovery teams,” Bruce’s hand rested comfortably on Jim’s shoulder, his fingers idly skimming Jim’s collar. It was a familiar gesture, and Jim instinctively tilted his head into the touch, his eyes closing on their own accord. “You’re really out of it, aren’t you?” he said softly and Jim rolled his eyes.
“I think it’s just sinking in now. How tired I actually am.”
“The getting shot parts probably didn’t help either.”
“Probably,” Jim agreed. “By home, you meant my place or yours?”
Bruce snorted a laugh. “I didn’t think that sentence in your mouth could sound not at all attractive, but apparently there’s a line.”
“I’ll alert the press. Bruce Wayne has limits,” he said, aiming at light and teasing, but it didn’t sound right at the moment, the exhaustion tainting his voice into something darker.
“Alfred would be happy I’m coming to know them,” Bruce muttered, and it sounded like something Jim should ask about, but that could wait until much later, until he could fully concentrate. “Let’s go, then. And to answer your question, the penthouse. I think there’s one really worried butler I’m going to answer to.”
“Didn’t check in after the crash, did you?” Jim asked as they got into the elevator, the doors sliding soundlessly.
“Guilty,” Bruce admitted. “He probably saw it all on tv. Maybe he’ll cut his lecture short if he has to give one more, to you.”
It was the last thing he said for a while, as once outside, in the Wayne Enterprises lobby and garage, they fell into a companionable silence that had some to do with the presence of the company’s employees passing them by. Jim’s visit could be easily explained if needed; the commissioner visiting one of the city’s most generous benefactors in the time when GCPD could use any help in rebuilding Joker’s damage wasn’t out of a realm of possibility. Some of their conversation, if continued, could however prove problematic, so they kept silent.
In the garage they both stepped towards the driver’s side of Jim’s car. Jim drove them here after Bruce’s car, or what was left of it, was towed away, but apparently Bruce had a different idea for the way home.
“You have difficulties standing up straight.”
“I’ll be sitting down,” Jim shot back.
“It’ll be faster if I drive.”
“You crashed one car today already, and mine isn’t as easily replaced as your toys.”
“Easily changed, if you let me buy you a car.”
“So, you do intend to crash this one?”
Bruce rolled his eyes. “Touche. Fine,” he muttered, stepping back, pulling at the door handle to let Jim in.
Jim tossed his keys up and caught them absently, frowning. He then tossed the keys to Bruce. “I’m too tired for this.”
“Then why argue?” Bruce asked, shaking his head.
Jim shrugged, getting into the car and fastening his seatbelt. “Because it’s damn entertaining.”
Bruce laughed, shaking his head, and it was that laugh Jim liked on him; open and free of any bitterness, the one Jim usually tried for. Getting it tonight, that was a small victory against the world.
Thankfully, Bruce could actually restrain himself while driving if he wanted to. They travelled at a larger speed than Jim’s old car was used to, yes, but not really over the speed limits, so there was something. By the time they pulled over in Bruce’s garage, Jim was on his way to falling asleep, head resting against the cold glass.
“Come on, I’m not carrying you. Unless you are into it.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Har, har,” he muttered but he let Bruce pull him out of the car. He didn’t quite need to lean against Bruce so much, even though his leg was beginning to act up again, but he did so anyway.
They were greeted by Alfred’s solemn face, who must have been pacing in front of the elevator or something similar.
“Evening, Alfred,” Bruce muttered, offering a smile that was only slightly forced.
“Good lord, he can speak,” Alfred said dryly and pointedly. “I have been afraid you’ve finally lost your voice completely and couldn’t call.”
“Finally lost my voice?” Bruce asked automatically and Jim snorted.
“The bat voice. It does sound quite unhealthy,” he explained.
“Everyone’s a critic.”
“Quite so, sir,” Alfred nodded with one final look of disapproval and straightened up, snapping back into his mother hen mode. “I’ll make tea. You both look like you need it, and I suppose the ladies could use a refill.”
“Ladies?” Bruce asked, the surprise on his face reaching comical proportions.
“Montoya,” Jim reminded him.
“And Miss Dawes,” Alfred added, his voice softening. “They have been trying to make a run for it for the last hour or so,” he continued in a mock-tirade, “but I resorted to scones and tea and managed to stall for a while. Good thing the reinforcements arrived.”
Bruce looked at him skeptically but Jim just nodded. “Safest place in the city for them now. For anyone,” he muttered. “And we have no idea of knowing Joker’s next move.”
“Yet,” Bruce corrected, and Jim’s thoughts went back to the sonar machine in the Wayne Enterprises’ basement. Somehow, it still wasn’t a comforting thought, but it was the only thing they had working for them now.
He slowly nodded and stepped forward, towards the main area, from where the faint echo of Renee’s voice was coming, and grimaced as he placed his foot at the wrong angle, pain shooting through it. “Maybe some painkillers, Alfred, if it’s not too much trouble.”
Alfred gave him a look he reserved for people being stupid, which usually meant Bruce but all too often seemed to encompass Jim. “No trouble at all. I’ll make my special tea, then,” he said firmly and headed towards the kitchen.
Jim gave Bruce a look. “Is this the one that contains enough drugs to knock me out for days?”
“Wonderful,” Jim sighed. The worst part was that it didn’t sound half bad. Maybe someone else could take over ridding the city from the fucking insane clown and he could sleep it through in Bruce’s bed.
“Hey, boss,” Montoya greeted him as they walked into the living room. “Hey, Bat,” she added with a sly smile and Bruce stared.
“Yes, she figured it out,” Jim told him pleasantly, limping over to the couch and gingerly sitting down. It didn’t actually hurt that much the last time he got shot. Of course, it wasn’t a good thing that he even have been shot enough times to have the chance of comparison… “Considering that today the entire city came close to learning who you are, I’d suggest finding some better ways of securing your anonymity,” he added. “And you, Montoya, stop yapping about it.”
“Aww, boss, just this once. And I’ve been told we’re all in the know here,” she added with a nod of her head towards Rachel. “It’s awesome, like a secret club.”
The corner of Rachel’s lips twitched and she quickly shifted, covering her mouth with her hand briefly. Jim wanted to tell her that it was okay to smile, but it was too soon for this. It would be too soon for a while. But whatever she and Montoya’s been talking about, this must have helped a little, so there was that.
“Tea,” Alfred announced, placing the tray on the coffee table and distributing the cups. The china plate handed to Jim had two pills on it, and he could see that so did Bruce’s. Well, if he was being drugged, at least it was in good company. “And I think it’s time for your medicines too, Miss Montoya,” Alfred pointed gently and she nodded, fishing out a tube from her pocket and spilling out three differently shaped pills into her hand.
“Yes, sir,” she saluted at Alfred and swallowed the drugs, washing them down with the tea.
Rachel looked at them, from one to the other, and shook her head. “You really throw the best parties, Bruce,” she said dryly.
“I do try,” he said, raising his teacup at her. “Next time we will exchange gardening tips. I’m sure Jim knows a few, he has been thinking about getting a rose garden.”
Jim glared at Bruce, and Montoya spit her tea, laughing. “Rose garden, commissioner? Seriously?”
“Oh, laugh it up,” he said, waving his hand at her. “And don’t call me commissioner, it sounds strange,” he added. Not to mention that the only person who seemed stuck on the title was Joker, and that made the word sound wrong to Jim’s ears now.
“Sure, commish,” she nodded and that sounded better, especially as Montoya said it, fond and exasperated.
Rolling his eyes at her, Jim stood up. “Well, you must party without me, because I think that Alfred’s tea is starting to work and I should move while I still have some chances of making it to the bedroom.”
Bruce stood up as well. “I’ll come with.”
Montoya grinned at them. “Awesome.”
Jim sighed at her. “When did they let you out of kindergarten?”
“Never. I broke out,” she offered cheerfully.
Rachel drew herself up with a slightly forced smile. “I should probably go to bed as well. It’s been a long day,” she added, and that was an understatement and half. “Goodnight, Renee,” she said to the other woman and got a nod in return.
“Night, Rachel,” Renee said softly and then leaned over the couch’s back, craning her head to peer into the kitchen. “Hey, Alfred, I guess it’s you and me now. How about a round of poker?”
Jim gave Bruce a terrified look, one he could see mirrored in the other man’s face. “This has a potential to be disastrous.”
“You think?” Bruce muttered, shaking his head. “Let’s evacuate. See you tomorrow, Rachel.”
“Goodnight,” she nodded at them and headed for the guest room, to the left of where Jim and Bruce were going.
Once the doors closed, to the distant sound of Alfred and Montoya discussing the stakes of their game, Jim headed straight for the bed. He’d toss himself onto it, except that he didn’t even have enough energy for that.
“Not even going to bother with the shoes?” Bruce asked dryly and Jim opened his eyes, giving the shoes a considering glance.
“No,” he decided.
Bruce nodded and walked across the room, kneeling down by the bed, efficiently doing off with Jim’s shoes. Jim watched him from under half closed lids. “I’m not getting shot ever again,” he decided.
“Good call,” Bruce said seriously. “I’d like to be there when you’re putting your money where your mouth is.”
He couldn’t help but snort at that. “Speaking of,” he muttered and make an effort to move, reaching out to pull Bruce closer, kissing him.
It wasn’t one of the kisses that could lead somewhere, and at this moment neither of them was up to anything more than this, pun not intended, really. But the last few days had been, well, to say a nightmare would be to understate it, and Jim needed this moment, needed to feel Bruce’s body pressed against him, even if in few moments the reality would intrude and the dull ache in his bones would return.
“I have a new plan,” Bruce said, moments later, after they came up for air, after Bruce rolled to the side, his breathing sped up and his eyes closed. “After this whole thing is over, you’re taking some time off and we’re going on vacation.”
“Anywhere that’s far away.”
Bruce snorted and shook his head, propping himself up on his elbow to look at Jim. “You need new jokes, this one’s getting old.”
“It’s a classic,” Jim protested, then sighed. “About the other plan.”
“I know. You don’t like it. But there’s no time to play it by the book, and we need to get to Joker before he pulls a new trick.”
“I know that,” Jim muttered. He might not like it, and he pretty much hated the whole plan, but the facts were facts. “But what after you find him? We had him in custody already, didn’t stick.”
“And that’s why your men will be prepared now,” Bruce said, but his expression hinted that he had already thought about what Jim said. “But if you’re worrying about keeping him in prison… you probably don’t have to, he’s not going to make it there,” he added grimly.
“He does have an insanity defense airtight,” Jim muttered. “No prosecutor will be able to get around that one. Not even Rachel.”
“Especially not Rachel. She’s too good a lawyer to let her personal feelings interfere.”
It was going to be psych ward, even if they caught Joker. And yes, the man was completely insane, Jim could very well go on the witness stand and swear to it, but he was also completely aware of everything he had done and was still planning to do.
Sometimes, just sometimes, Jim wasn’t exactly fond of all the trappings of the system. And yes, it was slightly hypocritical to resent some of Bruce’s methods because they went outside that same system, but them were the brakes.
“Stop thinking about it,” Bruce said quietly. “You were supposed to rest and your mind’s working a mile a minute.”
“I blame the lack of drugs in my tea.”
“I’ll tell Alfred you missed them. Now, sleep.”
Jim was going to say it wasn’t that simple, just to try, but his mind was already drifting off, and somewhere there he actually managed to fall asleep.