Author's Notes: The funniest part about writing this is that it is as much a story about Barbara Gordon as it is Bruce Wayne. No spoilers as to what happens, but it's more character-based – with a plot – than anything else. Loosely following Barbara Gordon canon. Big thanks Nikki/nfwbls for the fantastic beta work. Seriously, you are my hero. Feedback, dear readers, very much appreciated.
That Which is Infinite
When he started this, he wanted revenge. He wanted to clean up the city of Gotham. He wanted to do so many things and then he did them and it was impressive, to say the least (the newspapers say the most and he likes pretending to be modest). And yes, it cost him things – his house, Rachel, the remnants of his past burned and scattered in the wind – but he hopes it'll make him stronger (why do we fall?...)
He thinks his father would be proud.
The foundations laid in the southeast corner aren't even dry when he gets another lead on this new criminal, leaving a calling card at a second murder scene. Gordon looks worried, and he tries to put him at ease but it's not that easy. There's something about this which is much more menacing, perhaps because behind the mask of insanity he knows there may very well be clear-cut genius, not just idealism which was his first enemy's undoing.
Or maybe this new criminal is just a sociopath. Either way, it won't be easy.
Not to mention Crane still hasn't been caught.
And Arkham is still a wreck, inmates still missing and some turning up as far as Metropolis.
And Gotham's crime syndicate is in all-out warfare as each boss struggles to take Falcone's place.
And the Gotham City P.D. is as corrupt as ever.
And he's got to investigating to do.
The Gotham City Public Library looks exactly how Bruce remembers it. His better childhood memories are of this place: his mother used to take him here on Saturdays to listen to storytellers and have his face painted by clowns. He remembers the architecture, the way everything looked so big to him then and still looks big to him now.
Too bad he's not here for anything as simple as books.
There was an article in the newspaper today about a new exhibit on Batman in the library, which of course he is very interested in. He arrives and asks the woman at the front desk, who directs him towards a small alcove and, well, the newspaper didn't really give it any justice.
It's not an exhibit on him, not really – it's an exhibit on justice, the legal system, and law enforcement. "Is Justice Blind?" a large banner asks, and underneath it are not just pictures of him, but pictures of police, outlaws, vigilantes. There is an image of the notorious Green Arrow from Metropolis next to his own. There are books – dozens of them – on everything from law enforcement to the Constitution to superheroes who take the law into their own hand. No conclusion is drawn nor any interpretation given, just the suggestion that reading the literature presented may help individuals make up their own minds.
"Who put together that exhibit?" he asks the woman at the front desk, who pages someone and a few minutes later a young, pretty brunette is walking towards him.
"Good afternoon!" she greets him with a smile. "I heard you had questions about the display?" She is young, maybe mid-twenties, with intelligent eyes.
"I was just wondering who put together something so comprehensive," he asks. "The newspapers were right - this is a really great display."
"Thank you. It's more or less something we try to do monthly to get people reading. It was my turn this month so I thought why not something topical? I mean, all the city can talk about these days is Batman." She smiles, confident in her work and he thinks that she reminds him of Rachel but maybe no (she has bright green eyes, this girl).
"It's a very nice job. My name's Bruce," he says, introducing himself.
"Barbara Gordon. Do you have any questions or are you just interested in Batman?" she asks, very professional.
"Do you have more information available?" he asks. "On Batman, that is." She glances towards the front desk, where several women are watching.
"I do. If you don't mind stepping into my office," she says, voice dropping. He nods and follows her past circulation and the bank of computers towards a small office with a small desk and laptop. She offers him her chair, focusing on the computer as she types something into the browser window. A screen pops up, and he's surprised he's never found this before.
"Bat Files?" he asks.
"He's a public figure, so creating and maintaining an archive is almost a civic duty. It's been really useful to newspaper reporters." She laughs, a bit uneasily. "I'm sorry, I'm such a geek."
There's something about her that can't help but make him smile. "I don't think that," he says. "I think it's interesting."
"That's what my uncle calls it, so it's probably the best word to describe it." She pauses. "If you're looking for anything about him, might as well start there."
"What's your opinion on this Bat Man?" he asks, curious. She shrugs.
"I admire what he does, but I also think that there's a lot that can't be solved by merely capturing criminals. But…it's a start." She pauses. "People forget that we came so close to chaos only to be pulled back by him."
"I think he's insane," Bruce volunteers, and she laughs.
"Well, everyone has their own opinion. I happen to be a fan." She scribbles something on a yellow sticky note. "Here's the address – check it out, and if you have any suggestions, let me know. It's entirely my own doing, and not affiliated with the library."
She is earnest, and he likes that about her – though he's a bit wary of so much analysis of what he's doing each night.
"Thank you for your help," he says.
"No problem," she says.
He leaves wondering if she's any relation to the one Gotham city detective that actually trusts him.
People forget that we came so close to chaos only to be pulled back by him.
Her words linger in his ears until he reaches the mansion.
When he answers Gordon's signal that night, he knows that Barbara Gordon is the niece of Jim Gordon, adopted when her father drank himself to death after her mother's car crash (she was seven then). She went to Gotham High, then got a scholarship to Metropolis University before returning to Gotham to work in the public library. She is twenty-four.
He has also spent time going through her website. Not only does she have links to every newspaper article on him, but she's starting to speculate on his motivations, his suit (she thinks it's body armor, which isn't that hard but still - ) and soon he knows she'll start trying to pick out his identity from the mass of Gotham citizens. It worries him.
It is early – not yet nine – and the skies over the sky are so black that the signal gleams in the darkness, casting light over the city below the clouds.
"We've got another clue," Gordon says, pulling an evidence bag from his pocket and it's another card with a spot of blood in the middle.
"Who were the victims?" he asks, turning the bag over in his hands.
"Victim, then time," Gordon says. "Small business owner. A bookstore, actually. Closing up and –" Gordon pauses, swallows. "Took all the money in the register and the entire stock of performance arts books."
"Taste for the theatrical, huh?" he says.
"Yeah," Gordon says, and he can't help but notice the sadness in the old cop's voice.
"I need this," he says, and Gordon shrugs.
"I'll make you a copy," Gordon says, shifting nervously.
"I need this as soon as possible," he tells Gordon.
"Then take it, but bring it back," he says. "The lab work is already done but if I get in trouble for tampering with evidence –"
"I'll return it."
"This one's not going to be easy," Gordon says.
"They never are," he replies.
Sometimes Barbara thinks Bruce Wayne's visit to the library was the biggest thing to happen since sliced bread.
His visit is the top of staff gossip about for the next few days, which isn't surprising since they are women and he's a handsome (and single) billionaire. And since the only person he talked to was Barbara (the old lady at the main desk doesn't count) she's the definitive expert on him and has to reiterate exactly what he smelled like (he smelled really good) and the color of his eyes (hazel) numerous times an hour. She's not enjoying this new role, not nearly as much as she enjoyed actually meeting someone relatively famous – now she's one degree closer to some of those celebrities she idolizes and that's really freaking cool.
She really should have mentioned something to him about library funding, at least given him some sort of line about the necessity of libraries for the public good or something. It would have been shameless but how many billionaires regularly come into libraries and how many polo ponies do they really need? The Inquisitor says he has seven and seven polo ponies could equal so much for this shitty old place.
And, they really do need it. The library recently lost their web server to a virus. Another is on order from Wayne Enterprises but it's taking forever. She doesn't even want to think about the photocopiers they need. It's enough to make her feel exhausted, but she's already tired as it is.
She spent last night working on her site and so she is running on three hours of sleep. She is coming back from the break room, where she poured her third cup of coffee, which she almost spills when she see Bruce Wayne lingering outside her office.
"You're back," she says meekly. Out of the corner of her eye she sees one of the circulation librarians lingering in the hallway. She does not need this and, she thinks, neither does he. He smiles as she unlocks the door, taking her coffee from her as she fiddles with the old lock.
"Thanks. You're quite the topic of discussion around here," she says He leans on the doorframe, and she thinks he is very handsome in his nonchalance.
"I am?" he asks with a smug grin. He turns around to look at the two women – now four – staring at him. He smiles and waves and they twitter in their little corner. When he turns back to her, he rolls his eyes. Barbara tries not to spit her drink onto her recently dry-cleaned pants.
"So I read your Bat Files last night," he says.
Swallowing the hot coffee is suddenly the hardest thing in the world.
"You must have been very bored," she responds. She made that site in her spare time and the design is crap and while she's proud of it, she'd rather not have Bruce Wayne know what a big geek she is – even if she does work in a library, and it is searchable.
"Being a billionaire playboy is not all it's cracked up to be at times," Bruce admits, and she can't help but smile. He seems really nice for a guy with seven polo ponies.
"So what did you think of it?" she asks. She can't say she's not interested in his – or anyone else's - opinion.
"I thought it was very well done and very thorough," he says. "You put a lot of work into it. It's the most popular site in Gotham according to Google."
"That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with him," she points out, but she can't help but feel some pride at the fact that people besides herself find it interesting.
"You designed it," he points out.
"That I did," she says. She notices he's holding a book - ones on vigilantes. "And I see our display has encouraged you to do some additional reading." She smiles, because if the display can convince Bruce Wayne, it can convince anyone.
"I have a lot of free time on my hands," he tells her, examining the dust jacket. "But I did want to stop by and tell you I enjoyed your site."
"Well thank you," she says. "I hope you enjoy your book."
It's not until mid-afternoon that she realizes that billionaires can buy books by the dozen instead of checking them out of the library, and that her website has a special "Questions and Comments" form for visitors to fill out. She's not sure what the implications of any of this means, but it's enough to make her blush.
Barbara Gordon takes the train home to a small efficiency apartment in a middling neighborhood. She walks three blocks from the train station to her apartment every day.
Today, however, she is being followed. And she knows it. There is a tension in her shoulders that makes her seem like she's ready to defend herself, and it makes him sad to think that this is what Gotham has come to, young girls being accosted on the way home from work.
A blur of black leather and the attacker grabs for her purse.
She strikes out, a self-defense move that startles her attacker – this girl is stronger than she looks. A blow to the knees, another kick in the head, then she looks around to see if there are any more.
It's obvious she's not expecting to see a man dressed in black body-armor. She gasps.
"Are you really him?" she asks.
He nods. "You were expecting someone else?"
"I wasn't expecting anyone," she says.
"I need your help," he tells her. "Is there anywhere we can go to talk?"