Bloody Jack Flint (rhye) wrote in vintageflame,
Bloody Jack Flint
rhye
vintageflame

Dropping Masks [The Dark Knight]

Title: Dropping Masks
Fandom: The Dark Knight
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Jim Gordon/Batman, Jim Gordon/Bruce Wayne
Summary: Jim never needed to know who was under the suit; he already knew the man. He didn't know the man's name, but he didn't mind. But the places Jim's mind has been taking him recently opened up new questions... There were many things the costume would not allow a person to do.
A/N: Thanks to boogabooga_xx for the beta!
Word Count: 4197

Dropping Masks

The divorce had been the hardest, but divorces were meant to be hard. Seeing pain on his childrens' faces and knowing he had played the greater part in putting it there nearly made him drop back into the charade. He didn't, though, because secrets once told cannot be taken back. Jim Gordon's mask was gone. He could never return to that alternate persona; his wife knew he was gay.

Batman was no help. Silly to expect that he could be, when he so often wasn't. Jim was selfless by nature, but letting go of the comfort that ought to be his so that the city could have someone to hate, and therein find its own comfort-- it was all a little much. The Batman stayed far away from Jim, and Jim knew it was best. If they were caught in each other's company, the city would crumble under its own agony. But Jim's world had already crumbled when he'd seen his children cry, and his personal agony was difficult to bear. So he did what he always did, and channeled the energy into cleaning the streets, telling himself that he was helping his kids, giving them a brighter future. Even if he could not dry their tears today, he could take care of future woes. It was something.

The Batman did eventually return, and, predictably, in the middle of the night. He didn't comment on why Jim was still at work. Jim didn't comment on the sticky moroseness that clung to the black suit. Some things were easily understood between them. Both of them were still mourning, in their own ways and for their own reasons. Jim only knew his own, and that was good enough.

"Rye?" Jim asked, gesturing to a bottle, the one clean item on a dusty bookshelf.

"I don't drink on the job," The Batman answered.

Jim hid a smile. "You're here for work, then." It was a challenge.

His bluff called, The Batman took a tumbler from Jim's desk and half filled it with rye, knocking back a good portion immediately. "Pleasure," he growled.

"How can I help you?" It wasn't intentional; Jim was distracted, filling out paperwork, and he only heard how it sounded once silence filled the office.

It was hard to tell with the mask, and harder to tell from not having any previous experience with which to compare it, but it was possible The Batman was grinning at him.

"I just meant--" Jim started

"I know." Yes, there was humor in the growl.

Jim didn't suppress a return smile. "I'm sorry. I'm just very distracted. We're tracking this drug ring--"

"The divorce--" Batman interrupted.

"It's over. There's nothing to talk about." Jim wasn't angry that The Batman had asked. He was simply tired of being asked.

"Why did you do it?"

"Why did I do what?" Jim's hand stopped pretending to move over his notes on the evidence sheets, brow furrowing.

"Why did you get a divorce?"

"Isn't that a bit... personal?"

The Batman didn't answer. He didn't ask again, but neither did he apologize or retract the question. At length, Jim mocked the reason, his voice light and song-like when he spoke. "Irreconcilable differences."

The Batman didn't respond. It was obvious he wouldn't accept the sarcasm, the mockery of a tragedy in Jim's life. Jim sighed. "I'm... not interested in women," he did not look up as he said it. "Once I let that slip, Barbara had trouble forgiving it." Another joke, and The Batman didn't move or answer. Jim felt an odd stab of guilt, as though he were in trouble for joking about this, as though he should apologize. "I'm gay. There you have it." He looked up pointedly and met those unmasked eyes.

When The Batman said nothing, Jim continued without much choice-- it just started coming out. "It's not that I don't love Barbara. I do. And I miss her every day." He sighed and put down the pen. "Here, bring that bottle over here," he gestured at the whiskey. The Batman passed it and, tumbler poured, Jim made the amber fire disappear.

"You shouldn't drink on the job," The Batman answered, but there was humor in his voice.

"Aren't you going to say you're sorry? Everyone else does. About the divorce. Can't go anywhere without talking about it."

The Batman was silent for a long time and Jim stared straight ahead, lost in his own thoughts.

"I'm not sorry," The Batman said at last. It jerked Jim's mind from its steady progress through morose self-pity. He stared up at The Batman. Their eyes searched each other long and hard but neither spoke.

Finally Jim sighed and tapped the evidence files. "We'd be able to break this case if we had a proper crime lab. Ours is just too old and by the time we get returns on our evidence the results are too old to be useful."

"Maybe I can help," The Batman offered.

"You know I can't--" Jim started, but he never finished. The man was gone, and Jim was once again alone with his own thoughts. He wondered if the things he'd seen in those green-blue-brown eyes were simply his imagining.

One thing was certain: Jim had never seen eyes quite that color, and he wondered why he'd never noticed them before.

****

"Commissioner?" Jim rubbed his forehead and tried not to look half asleep when Lieutenant Callner entered his office. Actually, Jim had two offices: the one at City Hall, and one he kept at the MCU, but he never saw a reason to be at City Hall. The best thing about being Commissioner was the ability to steer the GCPD in directions that would better it and the city. The worst was that any reform or improvement usually carried some sort of City-Council-approval caveat, and Jim did not have the time or energy to play politics.

"What is it, Callner?"

"Council rejected the Crime Lab Bill."

"'Course they did," Jim muttered to himself.

"Sorry about that, sir. Better luck next time."

Jim waved the rookie away impatiently, though they both knew his frustration was with the City Council and not with Callner.

****

"Too much money, they say," he sighed and refilled The Batman's tumbler. They weren't even pretending to be working. They were just drinking. "You know, we're a bit pathetic."

"How so?"

"Well, we haven't got any other friends, have we? Look at me, I'm drinking with a man who dresses up like a-- a bird!" But Jim laughed.

"Bats are mammals. Who says I haven't got other friends?" The Batman protested.

"Well if you do, I don't know why you'd be here in the middle of the night."

The Batman didn't answer and the silence grew long and awkward. Jim suspected that they both knew why they were both here, and it was about as dead-end a road as a road could be. Their need for each other's company was growing, and it could only lead to dangerous places.

"Look," Jim started, "this is a really bad idea. You know I can't be seen with you. We can't ask you to analyze our forensics any more."

"You're worried about forensics." There was disappointment in The Batman's voice.

"No-- I mean, yes, but, no. Look, if this is going where I think it's going, it can't go anywhere."

The Batman was utterly silent and as still as stone, just as Jim knew he would be.

"I can't be seen with you, and it's not as if--" He waved his hand to gesture towards the suit, worried that he'd overstepped his bounds. He had never worried before about who was under the suit. Everyone else cared about that, everyone else went about speculating. Jim was always more concerned with the man in front of him, and The Batman was never in front of him without a mask, so Jim did not bother himself with that hypothetical person out there somewhere. A name, a costume-- none of that really mattered. He knew how The Batman thought, and he saw how The Batman watched him. They shared the restive minds of detectives. They watched each other and waited for slowly-unfolding mysteries. The Batman always trusted Jim and always knew what Jim needed most. Jim never needed to know who was under the suit; he already knew the man. He didn't know the man's name, but he didn't mind.

But the places Jim's mind has been taking him recently opened up new questions. It would simply be awkward to kiss around the, uh, rubber, or plastic, or metal, or whatever strange material the costume was made of. And there were many things the costume would not allow a person to do no matter how awkward. Jim wondered briefly if being blindfolded was an option. He certainly trusted this man that much, but it wasn't about sex either. You couldn't sit down to dinner with the city's Most Wanted or a Masked Knight-in-Armor, and it was extremely difficult to sit down to dinner with someone who happened to be both. Jim was lonely, and he wanted more than a half hour every couple nights. That last bit came out of his mouth. It sounded alright and hopefully explained what he was thinking without sounding as if he couldn't trust a man without seeing his face.

The topic had been broached. Neither of them had discussed the thing that was slowly growing between them, but Jim had waited until he was sure it was real, then he'd cracked right into it because it could not be avoided. He knew The Batman sometimes avoided the more emotional sides of life, but The Batman would also know by now that Jim didn't.

"Gordon," the gravelly voice finally spoke. "Jim." It almost seemed to crack as The Batman used his first name for the first time-- possibly ever. Jim was impressed and smiled, tipping his head to show as much.

The Batman stood. "I'll get you your crime lab," he promised. Then, in one smooth motion of ebony fabric, he lifted a window and jumped from it.

Jim slipped his head back onto his chair and sighed as his office filled with wintry air. "Don't mind me," he muttered, "I'll just close the window after you." The window didn't really annoy him. He was troubled by the lack of closure. The Batman had avoided the real emotional issue yet again, and through his usual method-- jumping out a window.

****

"Commisioner Gordon, sir?"

"Yes, Callner?"

"Certified letter. For you." Callner dropped a tiny envelope on Jim's desk. The return address was calligraphied and clear: Bruce Wayne. He frowned and glared down at it. Callner stood by curiously.

"Anything else Lieutenant?" Jim looked up at Callner.

"Oh, no. Sorry sir." Callner left.

Jim considered ignoring it. Wayne probably had some fundraiser in mind and thought that an appearance by the police commissioner would add some legitimacy. Maybe City Council members would be there and Jim was supposed to hob-knob with them. He was not interested. Still, the rejection of the Crime Lab Bill ought to have taught him a lesson. He needed to hob-knob at some point. He would rather talk to criminals than council members; at least criminals usually said something worth listening to.

The letter opened easily and an invitation slipped out, all deco designs and vellum and calligraphy. If Wayne gave his vellum-and-calligraphy money to the poor, the city probably wouldn't have any left, Jim thought dully. He liked Wayne just fine, but Wayne wasn't what one would call a man of philosophical substance.

The actual words, though, left Jim in a bit of shock. It was a fundraiser, alright. Worse, the City Council was going to be there. But the fundraiser was for-- of all things-- a GCPD Crime Lab. Wayne industries, it read, was going to donate a state-of-the-art crime lab to the GCPD, and was accepting donations for R&D and Construction, as this was a non-profit venture being provided to the city at no cost. Inside of Jim's invite was another note, simply stating that Mr. Wayne would like to request his attendance as guest of honor and that he could go to such-and-such a place on such-and-such a date to be fitted for a tuxedo. He was welcomed to bring a guest as well. Jim dropped the note as though he had been burned.

He felt set up. He knew who and why, but the how was a mystery. How had The Batman managed to wiggle Wayne into this monstrosity of a fundraiser on top of getting Wayne to agree to donate a crime lab? No doubt when Wayne Industries said the lab would be state-of-the-art, they meant every word. It would probably be better than any crime lab the military had. It may even be better than The Batman's. Jim's head spun. It was a gift and he knew he should accept it as such, but it was too much, too large. He could never give back anything of this caliber. He was starting to get a headache.

At least it finished their last conversation. It seemed as though The Batman had little intention of walking away from this thing while both of them were still unscathed.

****

Jim couldn't remember the last time he had worn a tuxedo, though it was possibly his wedding day. Every usual police department function involved a dress uniform, if he bothered at all. He wasn't really much of one for "functions". It was showing tonight, he was afraid. Wayne had given some great speech about how a gift of a crime lab was a gift to all of Gotham, about how he understood the rejection of the bill and the lack of city funds right now, but that, by building the lab himself, he could ensure that not a cent was wasted. He asked Jim to say a few words, and Jim was not surprised. Far from it: he had prepared words just in case. They were simple. He thanked Wayne Industries and Mr. Wayne and said though he could never repay them, he would do his best to see that the city repaid them in clean streets, calm evenings and the quiet beauty of the city they loved and refused to give up on.

Now, though, he was off on the sidelines, watching City Council members with their pretty wives, knowing Barbara would have liked this. There was a sushi chef station along one wall and Barbara liked sushi. Jim never got up the motivation to try it. There was no reason to now. He did have the kids this coming weekend and that was some comfort, but he was anxious also. He might be called in to work at any moment and it was not as if he could just dump them off with anyone. Being a single dad could not fit with being the police commissioner, and Jim was not willing to give either up. It reminded him of other things that did not fit together, other things he did not want to give up. Being police commissioner was costing him more than he was being paid, but he felt as though the city was another child of his. Giving it away would tear him up. He didn't bother to articulate who the other guardian of the city was-- he knew the answer already. He hoped it was more than that bringing them together.

"No guest?" A too-smooth voice interrupted Jim's thoughts and he turned to see Bruce Wayne gnawing carelessly on the olives fished from his martini.

"Unfortunately, no. You may not have heard, but my wife and I are divorcing."

Wayne's eyes flicked over to his, but the young man's face was still jovial. "I had heard, actually."

Jim didn't answer and they fell into a profound-- if strangely comfortable-- silence. Finally, Jim broke it.

"Mr. Wayne--"

"Please, call me Bruce."

"Right. Bruce. If you don't mind me asking, how did you get this idea for the crime lab?"

"Well, I saw that the bill didn't pass. It just seemed like something important. A good technical challenge for our R&D team, also." He shrugged.

"No one else spoke to you about it?"

"Like who?" Wayne was the picture of innocence.

"Nevermind." More silence.

"Mr. Wa-- Bruce, I noticed you don't have a date tonight either." Jim was trying to tease and to lighten the mood, to be the guest that Wayne had no doubt thought he'd invited and not the real workaholic stick-in-the-mud that he was.

"Who says I haven't?" Wayne laughed.

"I haven't seen you with anyone," Jim answered, his curiosity was piqued and his humor was becoming genuine.

Wayne met his eyes again. "Maybe you aren't looking hard enough."

Something in Jim's gut twisted. There was something about those eyes. They were more familiar than the rest of the man standing before him, and he felt his jaw drop open, a small noise come out.

Wayn-- Bruce-- slapped him on the shoulder and said with careless ease, "Enjoy the rest of your evening, Commissioner. I have some people I have to pretend to be interested in."

"Will I-- When will I--" Jim started.

"Are you working tonight?" Bruce had already begun walking away, but he spun to ask this last.

"I don't-- I wasn't planning to, but I can be."

"Don't? Stick around. I'll need a little peace and quiet when all this is over."

Jim hoped he wasn't grinning like a schoolboy, though it sure felt that way.

"Try the sushi," Bruce interrupted, "this guy is the best." He walked away before Jim could answer, disappearing in a fog of tuxedos and evening gowns as if he'd never been there. Jim was not surprised. He did that.

Jim Gordon spent the rest of the evening savoring strange raw fish and watching the way Bruce Wayne moved around the room with social ease. He was the best actor, and how ingenious: his real mask was just his face, the face of a young and innocent playboy.

"Care to retire to the drawing room for drinks, Commissioner?" Bruce's butler was at Jim's arm, and Jim jumped in surprise.

Jim stood and followed Alfred, feeling sure but also unsteady on his feet. "You know," he accused the butler.

"Know? Know what sir?" But Alfred was smiling with twinkling eyes when he left Jim alone in the room. A decanter of whiskey was his only company for now, but he knew the solitude wouldn't last.

****

Not much changed. The Crime Lab was installed in record time. Wayne Industries seemed to have been researching and developing this technology for quite a while. Jim, of course, was nonplussed. He supervised the installation and was not surprised to see Bruce Wayne there as well. Bruce seemed more adept at using the equipment than most of the techs who were supposed to be teaching Jim's people. A warm feeling spread through Jim's chest, but work called and he had to leave the site.

Once, he had been called to work on a weekend when he had the kids. Without any other idea of what to do with them, he found himself calling The Wayne Penthouse. There was only one person in the city Jim trusted with his kids. In under ten minutes a limousine pulled up and Alfred was taking backpacks and pillows from two overly-boisterous blonds. When he picked them up late that night, they were babbling, yelling excitedly about how The Batman had come to visit them in the Penthouse. Jim smiled and started taking their belongings. "Is that so?"

"He likes your kids," a voice said suddenly from somewhere behind him.

"Well I think it's clear they like him too. Sorry about this. Work, you know."

"It's no problem," the footsteps neared until Bruce Wayne was standing next to him. "I like your kids. This city needs you."

"Yeah, well." Jim shrugged. "Will I be seeing you soon?"

"You'll be working late tomorrow." It was not a question. He always does work late after he's returned the kids to Barbara. His apartment is too empty afterwards. The Batman-- Bruce in the suit-- always came to see him when he worked late. Sometimes he got work done, sometimes not.

"I-- I don't have to," Jim paused. This was unfamiliar ground, and he was nervous.

"Dinner, then? Here. Eight?"

"Alright. I'll be there."

"Daddy, let's go, I want to ride in the limo!" little Barbara chirped. Jim laughed. "Sweetie we're riding home in the squad car."

"I can take them in the limo, Master Gordon," Alfred was smiling. The title-- Master Gordon-- it sounded final somehow, as though Jim had been inducted into some club.

Alfred's offer got both of them going, and now he had two little kids screaming about limos. "Alright, alright, limo, but don't think this is going to be a regular thing."

"Oh, I don't know," Alfred's eyes twinkled subtly, "You're welcome to call or come by any time." Alfred shepherded the excited kids from the room, and Jim found himself hoping to god he wasn't blushing. If there was one thing police commissioners do not do, it is blush.

The not-blushing was difficult, though, when he realized that he no longer needed a damned floodlight to find the man he was sure he might be in love with. He didn't know when he'd blinked and everything had changed, but all of the artifice was gone. No masks, no suits, no lights, no text messages-- well, maybe there would still be text messages. And he hoped they could still maintain their professional relationship as perfectly as ever, though he didn't see why not because it was clear to himself that he'd cared about this man for far longer than he'd admitted.

"Hey." A hand came down on Jim's shoulder, and the voice that went with it was deeper, gravelly, very familiar. Jim turned to smile.

"Thank you," Jim said. "Really."

Bruce's hand clenched on his shoulder. "No. Thank you. But enough talk about work."

Jim laughed. "How do you know what I was thanking you for?"

"I haven't done anything for you outside of work, yet," Bruce answered. His expression was playful, and Jim drank it in. He knew the man and the voice, but the expressions were so new and he found himself craving them.

"I don't have much outside of work," Jim answered. "Or I haven't had, anyway."

Bruce nodded but didn't look back up. He seemed nervous. Jim finally understood what Bruce was trying to work towards here. "Hey. I'm not the one who's supposed to be the intimidating mass-murderer here. Come on. I won't hurt you."

Bruce looked up, teasing and playfulness all over his face again, but didn't move any closer. Jim was tired of letting this man slip away, of not moving fast enough and then finding him gone, of other things interfering. He closed the inches between them quickly and took the kiss, his hand strong on the back of Bruce's neck, trying to impress upon Bruce that this was owed Jim, owed for all The Batman couldn't do, the spaces he left vacant. Owed for the emptiness Jim's life had been after the divorce, when The Batman was still leading the GCPD and the FBI halfway across the country on a crazy manhunt before disappearing entirely. Bruce Wayne kissed like he fought: as though more than his own life hung in the balance and there simply was no cost too high for victory. Jim guessed it would be the end of them one day: their mutual dedication to the city was going to claim either himself or Bruce, or, if they were lucky, both. Jim broke the kiss to stare into the green eyes that were also blue or brown sometimes.

"I've never kissed anyone with a mustache before," Bruce laughed.

"Yeah, well, I'm not shaving it for you."

"I'll keep that as collateral for the day you want me to change my ways."

"God help me if I want you to change anything."

Bruce smiled what could honestly be considered an endearing and shy smile, and Jim realized that Bruce, most-likely-not-gay Bruce Wayne, probably had experience with women trying to change him. The face of Rachel Dawes passed through his head and give him a jolt of pain.

"Right, eight pm," Bruce answered, walking away already.

"See you then," Jim called as he swung open the door. He found himself genuinely looking forward to the day when he and The Batman could work together again. Until that day, though, there were plenty of other things they could do together. Build their teamwork, stuff like that. Jim laughed out loud to himself for the first time since-- maybe since before his wedding, and thought tomorrow could not come soon enough.

---

A/N2: You are reading this at my brand-spanking-new fic community, but I wouldn't recommend watching it yet as I plan to transfer all my fics here and your friend's page may get busy with them.
Tags: fandom: the dark knight, pairing: gordon/batman
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