Rating: NC-17 for the whole fic, various for parts.
Wordcount: 2,508 for this part.
Bruce was still fast asleep when Jim woke up, and Jim decided to let him stay that way for as long as possible. Which was mostly why he was alone in facing the rather frightening sight of Montoya and Alfred in a rather heated discussion about weaponry over oatmeal.
Well, heated from Montoya’s side, Alfred’s side consisted mostly of short remarks in his usual, dry tone.
“It takes too long to load a revolver,” she was arguing, gesturing with her spoon.
“But it has style, Renee,” Jim told her, sitting down at the kitchen counter and accepting a cup of coffee Alfred must have had on the ready for quite a while.
“Same thing Alfred said. But you need to move with the times, commish. I’m sure the revolvers were all the rage in your time…” she said with a quite impressively insolent smile. “I’ve heard they’ve been used to shoot the saber-toothed tigers,” she added, her lip twitching as she tried to hold back laughter.
He saluted her with his cup. “Nice, Montoya,” he admitted. “Shaky on the landing, but you get points for style.” He took a sip of his coffee. There was nothing like Alfred’s coffee in the morning. Could wake up the dead. “Rachel’s still asleep?”
“Nah, she’s long gone,” Renee shrugged. “Even before I woke up.”
“Miss Dawes had a court appointment,” Alfred explained. “She said that the normal course of things in the city didn’t stop for her, or for anyone else.”
Jim nodded. She would do that. “She took her car?” he asked, already reaching for the cellphone, but Alfred shook his head.
“I took the liberty of calling Detective Stephens and asking him for security detail for Miss Dawes. I might have overstepped by saying it was on your orders.”
“Good thinking,” Jim nodded. “Stephens said anything else?”
“That he had things under control and that you shouldn’t worry.”
Montoya raised her hand, waving it in circles as she chewed, indicating she wanted to say something. “I called Bullock. They’re done with the evacuation and placing people in hospitals. They had to send the least sick or injured to their homes, but apparently it was easier to organize house care for them. Something about Lucius Fox from Wayne Enterprises pitching in… Very curious,” she said with a smile. “They’re still missing a few people, but the current theory is that they just left the hospital and didn’t show up at any other, none of them was heavily injured or seriously ill…”
Jim shook his head. “I don’t like it. Joker must have had some angle by choosing Gotham General, apart from the widespread panic. Call Bullock and tell him to contact all the unaccounted for. Have patrols sent to their houses if necessary.”
“You think Joker has them?”
“I don’t think anything, but I have to take everything as possible.” He looked at her for a long moment. “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” she said, a bit too quickly for his liking. “I mean it, boss, I feel fine. I felt fine yesterday, too.”
“So you told me. Chose not to believe you, because god knows I feed people that same line all too often,” he said and ignored her glare.
After a long moment, she sighed and took a sip from her cup. “Alright, I’m gonna take a few days off. After this is over. Face it, commish, you need everyone on this.”
She did have a point, unfortunately, but Jim didn’t feel like admitting it out loud. Thankfully, she busied herself with calling Bullock to rely the orders about the patients who remained unaccounted for.
In the meantime, Bruce crawled out of the bedroom, eyes half closed, looking for all the world as if he was still fast asleep and sleepwalking. And, Jim couldn’t help thinking, almost too attractive for someone half-unconscious and desperately looking for coffee.
Montoya seemed to notice, too. “Nice,” she drawled, snapping her phone shut. “It’s just typical, I spend the night at a billionaire playboy’s penthouse, and of course he is gay. For my boss, I might add.”
Jim gave her an incredulous look, but Bruce just laughed. “Forgive me, Renee, but aren’t you actually interested in women?”
“I know. We’re so incompatibile it’s tragic. But hey, if you need a fake wife…” she raised her hand pointedly.
“Montoya…” Jim started, holding back a snort.
She nodded. “I know, I always get inappropriate before my second coffee. Alright, I’m gonna go and call Delia, and then I’m going over to the MCU… am I correct in assuming it’s mostly desk-riding for me today?” at Jim’s nod she sighed. “I hate desk-riding.”
“Too much to ask for you to do the same?” Bruce asked him after Renee left. Jim shrugged.
“Too much to ask for you to take it easy today?”
“Fair enough,” Bruce admitted, accepting a cup of…something from Alfred. It was green and thick, and Jim really didn’t like the radioactive shade, but he supposed it was something disgustingly healthy. At least Alfred had the sense not to try and serve it to Jim.
Alfred gave him a speculative look and Jim grimaced. “I’m fine with coffee.”
“I don’t think your blood pressure is fine with it, Jim,” Alfred pointed out calmly but left it at that.
“Lucius called,” Bruce said slowly.
“Woke you up? I knew there was a reason you get up at such an ungodly hour.”
“Some people have no consideration at all for the working hours of us masked vigilantes, yes,” Bruce agreed dryly. “They’re almost done, should have the system up by tomorrow.”
Jim wasn’t sure how one thing could make you worried and relieved at the same time, but that’s exactly how he felt at the news. “That’s…” he shrugged, conveying his general thoughts on the subject matter. Bruce nodded with some understanding.
“I know. But…” he stopped as Jim’s cellphone gave a low chirp, announcing Bullock’s calling.
“What is it?” Jim asked, and well, he didn’t expect any good news, not really, but the short silence before Bullock spoke indicated that the news were going to be really bad.
“We have seventeen patients unaccounted for, from Gotham General, along with two doctors and one nurse, and the Mike Engel’s news crew is gone, too. Twenty four people altogether. One of other nurses swears she saw Joker getting on the bus right after the explosion.”
Jim run his hand down his face, closing his eyes just for a moment. “Fantastic,” he said.
“Don’t get it wrong, boss, but I think I hate it when you’re right,” Bullock muttered, his voice slightly drowned out by the background noises. “We’ll keep looking.”
“Keep me posted. I’m heading to the office soon, if you can’t reach me, leave the message with Gerry, or the dispatch. I want to know about any trace you get, we need to find those people.”
“Will do,” Bullock hesitated. “Boss…” he started, in a slightly resigned tones, as if he didn’t want to say something but was going to anyway.
“Don’t try to tell me to take it easy,” Jim warned him.
Bullock snorted. “Be careful, boss,” he said instead and disconnected. Smart ass. Must have been taking lessons from Montoya.
Bruce was already on the move, stealing the rest of Jim’s coffee as he gathered to leave. “I’m going to see what I can do. People don’t just disappear easily, not the whole bus of them. If we find Joker…”
Jim nodded. Unfortunately, that was a rather big if.
Or, even more unfortunately, as it turned out, finding Joker was easier than Jim thought it would be.
Montoya left the apartment first, after she called dispatch and had one of the patrol cars pick her up. Jim briefly contemplated going with her, but he did catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and honestly, he did look like death warmed over, so it had to be dealt with.
The circles under his eyes were probably a hopeless case, but he could take a shower and shave, transforming into someone resembling a human being, if not a proper police commissioner.
Whatever a proper police commissioner should look like, Jim hadn’t yet figured it out.
But it did feel good, to stand under the hot stream of water for a while, to let it wash away a little of the bone-deep weariness and some of the muscle aches.
“Much better,” Alfred decided, after Jim emerged from the bathroom, almost ready but for a misplaced tie and his hair still drying. “I packed some lunch for you,” he added.
Jim smirked, not able to help it. “You packed some for Bruce, too?”
“In a bat lunch box,” Alfred deadpanned automatically. “We had it custom made.”
The worst part was, Jim could actually believe it. “Thank you,” he said, accepting the bag. It was much easier than arguing, because god knew arguing with Alfred never ended well for you.
Alfred nodded, hesitating briefly. “Should I prepare the car?” he asked, and Jim could see the concern in Alfred’s eyes, the unspoken ‘you should take it easy’ hovering in the air. Probably something Bruce have mentioned, too, before he went off to do whatever bat things he had planned. Jim sighed.
“No, I’ll just find a cab,” he said with resignation. There really was no point in trying to prove he could drive, there was decisive and proud and there was just plain stupid. But he really didn’t want to bother Alfred more than he had to, and calling for a squad car would mean hogging the resources that could be useful someplace else.
Of course, it was just his luck to get the cab that was driven by a psychotic clown. Jim swore things like that didn’t happen to normal people on normal days.
It went like this: the cab pulled over the moment Jim left the building. It didn’t surprise him, as such, in this part of town the taxis gathered in eager groups, hoping to pick up a client who’d be generous with his tips, the likes of Bruce Wayne who dropped hundred dollar bills like it was nothing.
He didn’t even glance at the driver, something he’s going to be doing every damn time from now on, once he actually decides to get into a cab, nothing that’s going to happen any time soon. He gave the MCU’s address and leaned against the seat, and only then looked up, meeting the familiar pair of eyes in the rearview mirror.
“Good morning, commissioner,” Joker said pleasantly, his mouth stretching into an almost cheerful smile, almost unrecognizable in his devoid of make-up face.
Jim’s hand instinctively went to his gun, obviously, but the Joker tsked at that, an annoying noise through his teeth, and slowly raised his hand to tap against the glass separating the driver from the passenger’s seat. “And honestly, commissioner,” he added in a tone of gentle reproach. “Shooting your own driver? Who does that, I ask?”
“What do you want?” Jim asked, as coldly as he could while the red-hot anger started to boil under the surface of his skin, so powerful he could taste it.
Joker shrugged, for a moment looking at the road. He wasn’t a bad driver, for a psychopathic murderer. “Many things. Great many things. Are you asking what I want from you specifically, eh?”
“Let’s say that I am,” Jim allowed.
Joker flashed his teeth in a brief smile, then licked his lips, head nodding as he seemed to consider this thoroughly. It was an act, Jim could tell, the speech seemed to have been prepared well beforehand. For someone who supposedly embodied chaos, Joker seemed all too well prepared.
“I want to see what you’re made of.”
“Didn’t we try that one already?” Jim said tiredly, through gritted teeth. And it ended in Harvey’s death, too. Pulling the trigger and risking the bulletproof glass, and risking the car veering off course? Sounded pretty damn tempting right now.
But of course, he couldn’t and he wouldn’t.
“Yes, yes we did. But you cheated, you went after them both. Not the rules. Choice is a choice, commissioner Gordon. Oh, nevermind, let bygones be bygones I always say. No, I have a new test,” he said, squinting at Jim in the mirror. “And you know, some people make it easy for me. They have families, friends I can threaten and maim and kill. Not that easy with you.”
“I’m so very sorry.”
Joker nodded. “But you do have something else. That’s interesting too. Everything is about the city, about the job. You care about your officers, don’t you? You went after that nice detective Montoya so fast, one would think she was your daughter. Or maybe a niece. Cousin twice removed?”
Jim felt a shiver creeping down his spine. “If you touched her…”
“No, no. Security detail, I know when I’m not wanted,” Joker swiftly maneuvered through the morning traffic. Jim watched the cars go by and it felt really fucking surreal, to see people go about their daily business and converse with the Joker at the same time, in a cab right in the middle of the traffic. But he couldn’t even try and get out, not even when the car slowed down to a walking pace. Not before he knew what the new game was.
“What do you want?” he repeated.
“To see whose interests you have at heart, commissioner. Who does the city need more? Its doctors, lawyers, policemen? Or our friend the neighbourhood vigilante? I know you’re this thick,” he raised his hand, fingers crossed. “And this is your final test, commissioner. If the Bat isn’t arrested by the time the sun goes down, I’m going to blow up a very nice group of twenty or so upstanding citizens. You know who I’m talking about.”
“Last time I heard, you wanted to keep Batman’s identity hidden.”
Joker shrugged. “What can I say, I’m an unpredictable guy. I work in mysterious ways. Speaking of mystery. Wanna know how I got this scars?”
“Not really,” Jim muttered, holding Joker’s gaze in the mirror.
Finally, Joker smiled, crooked and unnerving, and pulled over, a block from the MCU. “Very well, commissioner. Have a nice day.”
There wasn’t much to do, not at that very moment. He got out, swiftly, but not fast enough to pull open the driver’s doors. He turned and shot at the wheels of the speeding-away car, but missed, the sun in his eyes and his reflexes still dimmed by the haze of the painkillers and confusion.
“Damn it,” he muttered, rushing to get into the MCU.
“Boss?” Montoya looked up from her desk.
Jim shook his head. “Call all units. We have someone missing, I need to know who it is.” At her look he shrugged. “I’ll explain later, just do it.”
Final test, Joker had said. Well, if Jim had anything to say, it was indeed going to be final. He just needed to figure out how to make it so.