Jim Gordon looked at the ringing phone with something akin to a death glare, though what good such a look would do when its subject was an inanimate object he didn't know. He had finally found the time to begin working on the growing mounds of paperwork flowering across the surfaces, and now the floor, of his office, only to be interrupted by a phone call. The phone rang again, the sound loud and sharp in the small space. With a sigh of frustration, Gordon threw down his pen, not noting where it landed when it bounced off of the desk.
"Commissioner Gordon," he said into the phone tiredly, regretting instantly the exhaustion he had allowed to cloud his voice.
"Commissioner," the voice on the other end of the line said politely, filled with a certain tinge of youthful playfulness. Gordon frowned as he tried to place the voice, his lips forming a surprised 'o.'
"Mr. Wayne," he replied, curiosity erasing the exhaustion brought on by sleepless nights. He glanced at his watch. "May I ask why you are calling my private line at two o'clock in the morning?"
"You may," Wayne replied, his voice light and cheerful, almost too much so for so early in the morning.
"And will I get an answer?" Wayne laughed at his question, the sound amused but not mocking. Jim allowed a smile to claim his face at the other's good mood.
"I will give you an answer, commissioner, but first I would like to tell you that the compensation for my vehicle's damages is completely unneeded. I am ripping up the check as we speak."
"No, Commissioner," Wayne said tolerantly, putting them on the same plain regardless of their age and income differences. Or maybe they were naturally equals when the two factors were combined. "I will not accept money for trying to beat a red light."
"Mr. Wayne, we both know that you were not just trying to make a green light."
Bruce was silent for a moment, making Gordon consider if he had in fact been to harsh on the young man at the scene of the incident.
"Do we now?" Wayne said quietly, surprising Jim after the silence. He glanced down at his watch and up to the partially angled blinds in his office. No one moved among the lower level cubicles, which, personally, he would have preferred. At least out there one could breathe. In his new office, the walls seemed to creep inward as the night wore on, pressing heat and tension onto his spine. Wayne laughed at the other man's silence, the sound a quiet chuckle over the line.
"Anyway, Commissioner, I called you for a different reason."
"You really won't accept the money?"
"Gordon," Wayne said, surprising the older man with the use of his name. "I don't need it as much as your squads do." Jim opened his mouth to protest that it wasn't true but closed it again. They both knew it was a lie.
"Thank you," Gordon said quietly, knowing that it was the only thing Wayne would agree to hear.
"You're welcome," the young billionaire replied. "But if you really want to pay me back, you should come to the party I'm throwing on Friday night in your honor. You'll be the esteemed guest of course." Bruce cut off any protests. "I'm glad you'll come," he said happily, "the limo will pick you up at six on Friday evening to get fitted for a tuxedo. You're welcome to bring a guest."
"No guest," Gordon replied curtly, then cursed himself for indirectly confirming his attendance.
Bruce was silent for a moment, and Gordon knew that it didn't take a genius to read much into his response. "I'm sorry."
"But you'll miss the kids, Gordon, don't tell me I'm wrong."
"And they'll be safer out of Gotham, as my former wife has pointed out time and time again. I would really prefer not to speak of this."
"Of course. So, tux around six, you'll be at the loft around seven thirty, the guests will begin to arrive fashionably late to my seven thirty party around eight."
"Alright," Gordon said with a smile. "But what is this party celebrating?"
"Your instatement as commissioner of course, Gordon. Gotham needs a man like you now, especially after losing its white knight." Jim pulled back from the phone in surprise, looking at the earpiece. The voice sounded far to familiar to another, but such a resemblance must surely be due to a bad connection.
"I'll be there."
"Good," Wayne said with a tone of finality before ending their connection. Gordon sat with the phone to his ear a moment longer, a pondering frown on his face. Slowly, he dropped the phone back into its cradle and pulled off his glasses, absently rubbing the thick lenses as his mind delved into memories of his last encounter with the elusive Batman.
"Not possible," he muttered, replacing his glasses and staring at the mountains of paperwork scattered about him. With a sigh of resignation he stood and moved to the front of his desk, nudging stray papers with his shoes as he tried to find his run away pen. Pushing all other thoughts from his mind, Jim Gordon scooped up the pen and moved back to his seat, absently filling in the many blanks on the forms with the pure black ink.
Gordon had been working for about an hour when one of the new officers assigned to his department knocked and popped their head in, looking in alarm at the toppling mounds of forms.
"Yes?" Gordon said wearily, not bothering to look up from yet another form. He couldn't quite remember why he had wanted this job. At least in his last position he had actually been able to get out from behind the desk.
"Commissioner, we have a Batman sighting."
"Alright. Give me a minute. I just need to get my coat."
"I, I don't think we should act on this one."
Gordon looked up with interest. "Why?"
"He pulled a woman and her baby from a burning building. He went back inside and got an elderly couple lowered to safety as well, but he hasn't come out of the building since then. The old lady said that no one else was in there."
"So he's stuck inside a burning building?"
The officer paused. "I don't know. He is Batman, he may have simply left, in which case it is pointless to bother chasing him."
"Who else knows about the sighting?"
"Only the officer on patrol. And me. Both us of rather like the guy, no offense."
Gordon smiled, though the expression only accented the weary lines about his face. "We have work to do here." The officer smiled, rushing out the door to radio his fellow. Gordon felt bad for forgetting the man's name. He stood and pulled his coat on from where it lay draped over the back of his swiveling chair. "I'm going home for a bit of sleep," he called as he exited the office. The office looked at him in relief. "Page me if you need anything."
Gordon forced a smile for the man as he slowly walked to the front doors of his precinct's office. As soon as he had cleared the door he sped up to a quick jog, fumbling his keys from his pockets and shoving them into his car's locks impatiently. He got in, gunning the engine and quickly adjusting his radio to find the emergency response station.
"Fire is mostly under control on New Bridgers," a voice called over the transmission. Gordon put his car into drive and sped away from the curb, thankful that most of the traffic was in the newer part of town at such an hour. He saw the smoke from the blazing apartment well before he reached it, alarm filling his stomach with twisting convulsions as he realized the sheer height of the blazes. Turning the final corner with a screeching of his wheels that was surely inaudible over the roaring flames, he pulled to a stop next to the fire truck, carefully avoiding blocking the giant truck's exit path. He stepped from the car, quickly picking out who was in charge.
"What happened?" he asked, drawing the man's attention and waving aside the man's angry glare with a showing of his badge.
"Stove, we believe," the fireman answered, gazing back at the blaze as three men tried to tame its wild force with their hoses. "Really wish we knew if anyone was still in there."
"Hopefully they're not."
"I certainly hope so. The building is too unstable from structural damage for anyone to risk entry."
"Even after the fire is out?"
"Afraid so. The third floor," the man pointed, "had a slight cave in just after the elderly couple got out. Thanks, of course, to the most wanted man in the city." Gordon glanced over at the fireman, noting his confused expression.
"You think he's still in there," Gordon stated, trying to eliminate the concern from his voice. The other man merely nodded glumly. They both stood watching the flames dance for a moment as the water finally began to take its effect. The blaze lowered, losing its source of fuel as the building was soaked by the powerful hoses. They stood still, side by side, for a few moments longer as the remaining fire was put out, leaving only smoke and steam. The ambulances pulled away, sure now that there would be no one else needing help. The fire truck was being loaded up as two men worked to wrap caution tape about the apartment's foundation.
"Would you mind having some of your boys keep watch over the place once we leave? I don't want the building to come down on any stupid kid's head."
"No problem. Thanks for you work." Gordon stood staring at the charred building as the fire truck pulled away. As soon as it turned the corner he began walking about the building, trying to find the fire escape. It was easy enough to find, located just around the building's corner. He stepped on the bottom ladder rung, happy to find that the heat of the flames hadn't seemed to damage the stability of the structure. Quickly, he scaled the ladder, relieved to come to the second floor, where the fire escape turned to stairs. With increasing speed, he ran up the stairs, stopping when he reached the third floor.
The walls here remained intact, though they had collapsed on the front edge of the building, leaving that section of the apartment entirely unstable and dangerous. With a determined outlet of breath, Jim stepped off the fire escape, dodging through the window that the elderly couple had probably tried to escape through. How it had come to Batman lowering them down the front with one of his utility belt's many gadgets was yet to be discovered. The floor creaked unnervingly as Gordon set his weight on it. He held onto the window frame and his breath as the sound subsided. Slowly and gingerly, esting his weight as he went, the commissioner moved through the room, eyes out for the Bat's black cape and Kevlar uniform.
He had nearly reached the front of the building when he stopped, peering over the wreckage and trying to see out the broken walls. Then his gaze was caught by the shape of a body, so deeply wrapped in shadow it had nearly escaped his notice. He moved forward slowly, wincing as the charred floors groaned in protest. He was on top of the spot the fireman had warned him about and praying to God the floor would hold out just a little longer. There! The Batman's cape lay billowing about his still body, trapped by the little breezes in a tumult of fabric and ash. Batman, Gotham's Dark Knight, lay absolutely still beneath the heavy wooden beam that had fallen across his back. Gordon's eyes widened in alarm as he forwent caution and moved quickly to the costumed crusader's side.
"Batman?" he called, feeling foolish yet wishing that the man would respond. He lay his hand over the man's turned face, feeling for the man's breath, life, existence. A soft puff of warm air billowed across his palm, enlivening Gordon with the strength he needed to pry the charred timber from the man's back. He slowly pulled the Batman away from the unstable part of the building, gingerly turning his over and exploring his utility belt. A small device which looked like a modified cell phone sat on the man's right hip. With a slight pause of hesitation, Gordon pulled the device free from its clasp and examined it. Six buttons, not enough to dial, lay across the front of it. But who would the man call, anyway? He was the most wanted figure in all of Gotham.
Maybe they were speed dial buttons? Gordon closed one eye and pressed the first button. Something was ringing.
"Don't say a name!" Gordon blurted. The other side of the line was silent, wary. "My name is Jim Gordon," he said quickly. "I found him in a burned building—"
"No name! Please," Jim pleaded. "Give me a location and I will bring him there as soon as my squad gets here to watch the building."
"Very well. As long as the Batman is safe with you."
"Take him to your home, Commissioner Gordon. Leave him in the car, unlocked, and I will pull up and take him off your hands. No one will be the wiser. Just don't look out the window once you go inside."
"Understood," Gordon replied, sure his voice showed his relief. He clicked off the phone, catching it again onto its designated place on the utility belt. Carefully, he shifted the Batman upward, draping the man's arm about his shoulders and holding the limp figure up with a hand wrapped under his shoulder blades and other arm. He groaned as he thought of the ladder, shuffling awkwardly across the floor with the extra weight. It was slow going, moving the damaged man—God pray he didn't have any broken ribs—out the window and down the fire escape. He managed to somehow hold onto the caped man's form as he descended the ladder, though he had not idea where the strength had come from. Perhaps it was because at some point the Batman had shifted slightly, regaining a little of his consciousness as the pain worked its way deeper into his system, grasping Gordon's jacket tightly as the man tried to move him as gently as possible.
Just as Jim opened the door to his back seat and slid the Batman in, thanking his luck for the darkness of this particular night and its gift for obscuring things that shouldn't be seen, one of his precinct's cars pulled up.
"Heard we're supposed to be watching over the place," the man called, wiping sleep from his eyes. Obviously someone had called him at home to take the job.
"We certainly are," Gordon replied, subtly closing the back door and moving to the driver's seat. "Thanks for coming," he said, closing his door and turning the key. He could hear his replacement grumbling as he settled in for the long hours before dawn. Gordon smiled grimly, carefully pushing the acceleration so as not to jar his passenger.
The car ride back to his house was one of the longest in Jim Gordon's memory. Again he was thankful for the lack of traffic, but he still got stuck at two of the busiest intersections on his way. Each time the car lurched forward as he picked up speed, Gordon was painfully aware of his passenger's moan of pain from the backseat. At one point he turned about, glancing at the masked face and noting the grimace of pain. Pity filled him as he realized how young the man in the mask must be. Curiosity surged over him. Who was the Batman? What was his real life identity? At one light he nearly reached back to pull the mask away from the man's face, only to stop himself as the red flickered to green. He mentally kicked himself. Just what he wanted: more responsibility. Who could handle the stress of knowing Gotham's most wanted criminal's identity?
Finally he pulled up before his house, the same one he and Barbara had shared with the kids. The 'sold' sign hung in the window, ready for him to move out on Thursday. With a sigh he remembered Bruce Wayne's party. It was Thursday morning now—how he was going to move into a new place, attend the billionaire's flashy party, and get some sleep in the next day and a half was beyond him. He turned off the engine, glancing one last time at his passenger before getting out of the car and leaving the doors unlocked, something he had never done in all his years in the city. He resolutely strode to the front door, fumbled for the key, and entered his home, looking dejectedly at the faint outlines of boxes about his small living room before trooping up the stairs and turning on the bedroom light. He quickly strode to the window, closing his eyes and pulling the black out curtains closed before backing to the bed and pulling off his shoes, shirt and pants. Without bothering to change, he fell into the bed's welcome fluff, quickly forgetting his worries as much needed sleep claimed his mind.
Bruce could vaguely hear Alfred's voice calling out to him as his butler tried to pull his limp form from Gordon's back seat.
"Master Wayne?" the man called again, his worry and agitation clear. "I need you to wake up and help me, else I shall be forced to go and retrieve the commissioner."
"Alright," Bruce grumbled, pain shooting up his back and sides as he sat up, growling with the pain. Between the two of them, they managed to get from Gordon's car to Alfred's. As soon as Alfred laid him in the backseat, Bruce was out cold, thankful for the relief unconsciousness provided from the pain.
The next day and a half was gruelingly long for Gordon, starting with a five o'clock page from the precinct, which firmly ended any fantasies of a good, long sleep. He groggily called in, telling someone that he would be there shortly. Then he fell back onto the bed, sleep claiming him again. He was rudely woken again at 5:30, this time by loud banging on his front door. With a stretch of his limbs as he struggled from the bed, Gordon tumbled down the stairs, opening the door and squinting at the person who stood there.
"Commissioner?" the person said in surprise, probably in note of his rumpled state.
"That would be me," Gordon replied wearily. "Just let me get dressed. I'll be right down." He could hear his officer's concerned whispers as he shuffled back up to his bedroom, ran his fingers through his perpetually messy bed head and threw on what he had worn last night, only to find large splotches of ash cloaking the fabric. With a series of grumbled curses he stripped these off again and ranged through his closet, pulling out the first things he found; namely plain khaki slacks and a blue dress shirt. Not that what he wore really mattered. His coat always covered that up anyway.
"Alright," he said tiredly when he got back to the door. "I'm ready. Let's go."
The officers nodded, leading the way out to their car. "We'll drive you, Jim."
"No, that's alright. I'll drive myself. Meet you there."
The officers shrugged to each other and got into the car, quickly driving back to the precinct. Walking to the side of his car and fishing the keys from his pocket, Gordon wondered for a moment if the vehicle would be locked. He needn't have worried. Whoever Batman's accomplice was, he was sure to be just as thorough as the caped crusader himself. Gordon looked at his watch as he slid into the driver's seat. Five forty-five. He had gotten about three hours of sleep in three days. How was he going to make it to Friday?
Six o'clock Friday evening. Jim Gordon sat in his swiveling chair, staring at the pile of papers before him with vacant eyes. A knock sounded at his door, startling him from daydreams.
"Uh, sir, a limo's here for you."
"Oh," Gordon said in surprise, looking at his watch. "Right. I'll be back later." He stood and pulled his coat from the chair back. The officer nodded and began to move out the door.
"Actually," Gordon called after him. "I will not be back tonight."
"Alright, sir," the man said, looking at him in surprise, no doubt trying to guess just what his workaholic commissioner was up to.
As the limo pulled up to Wayne's loft, Gordon couldn't help but think how ridiculous he must have looked. He hadn't worn anything other than a slightly formal suit and tie since his marriage a good fifteen years ago, at least. The limo came to a stop, and before Jim could manage to open the door himself, the driver opened it for him, bowing slightly as the commissioner stepped from the limo, utterly uncomfortable in the formal tux and foreign atmosphere.
"Commissioner Gordon!" Wade called fondly as he descended the stairs to meet him before the limo. The drive silently moved back to the wheel and pulled away. Gordon noted that the famous billionaire playboy had no trouble at all pulling off a tux.
"Just Gordon is fine, Mr. Wayne," Gordon said hastily, reaching out to shake Wayne's hand. "Actually, Jim if you prefer."
"Then you should call me Bruce, Gordon," the billionaire said with a magnetic smile. Jim couldn't help but grin a little in return. "Come on in, join me for an early drink. It may help you to loosen up a bit." The younger man winked at him conspiringly. Jim smiled in relief.
"That would be great, Bruce."
The pair entered the lobby and moved to stand before an elevator, each in a comfortable silence. Jim stared at the elevator in wonder, though on second thought perhaps he shouldn't have; after all, if a man owns half the city, surely he can afford a loft with an elevator. The electric ding of the elevator's arrival pulled both from their thoughts. Bruce waved Gordon into the elevator first, following slightly behind and punching in an access code to send the elevator to the top floor. Gordon respectfully directed his eyes elsewhere.
"You only need the code to go up," Bruce explained as the elevator began moving. "And I will turn it off once the first of the guests begin to arrive. Then the doorman has a busy job." He grinned, showing off pearly white teeth with a model-like smile.
"Sounds like a pretty tight security system, Bruce."
"Most of the time, yes," Bruce relied quietly. Gordon looked at him carefully, then remembered the last party the billionaire had thrown.
"Oh," he said.
The elevator pinged its arrival, stopping smoothly high above the ground. The dusted chrome doors slid open to reveal an open glass room looking out over the city. Tables were already laid out with platters of food, all of which surely exceeded Gordon's budget. Bruce ignored the delicacies, moving instead to the bar and pulling a bottle of wine from behind it. He held it up in question.
"Anything is fine," Gordon said faintly, his eyes flickering about the room as he moved closer to the bar and took the offered glass. He moved slowly to stand near the glass windows, looking out over the city as the sunlight faded behind the horizon.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Bruce asked quietly, coming up on silent feet beside him. Gordon nearly jumped.
"It certainly is," he replied, "I don't think I've seen it from this high up before."
"Probably not," the billionaire replied matter-of-factly. "This is one of the highest buildings in the city."
Gordon looked at the man standing beside him, doing a double take as the shadows covered the upper part of his face, almost like a mask. He frowned. Bruce looked almost exactly like—
"Master Wayne," a voice called. Bruce turned quickly to the source of the voice.
"The first of the guests are arriving. Perhaps you would like to disable the elevator code now?"
"Ah, yes. Thank you, Alfred."
"Would you like me to notify the doorman?"
"That would be wonderful, Alfred, thank you."
"No problem, sir." The elderly man inclined his head respectfully toward Gordon before leaving the room. Bruce moved to the elevator, flipping up one of the metallic tiles next to the door to punch in a code.
Gordon stood still, his mind racing as a thoughtful frown claimed his lips. Bruce Wayne looked disturbingly similar to the hero, and now villain, Gotham had come to know as the Batman. He was the right height, had a solid build, and, presumably, a lot of free time and money to fool around with as he pleased. Not to mention the fact that the man's voice, now that Jim thought of it, had a lighter, but still distinguishable hoarseness to it that was a frightening signature to the masked man. Then there was Alfred. Gordon had recognized the butler's voice as soon as he had spoken. The voice was an exact match for the man who had answered when he called from the Batman's cell phone device. That would mean—
"There," Bruce said with a smile, flipping the panel back down and stepping away. "Now it's all up to the doorman." Bruce turned to him again, tilting his head and dropping all the playboyish attitude as he caught Gordon's expression.
"Are you alright, Gordon?" he asked quietly, stepping forward. The younger man stopped a foot away from him, close enough that Jim could feel his breath as he looked into his tired eyes.
"I'm fine, Bruce," he managed to choke out, shaking his head to clear it. "Sorry. I'm just a little tired." He forced a smile onto his face, watching as the playboy mask resumed its place on Wayne's.
"Good," the younger man responded, though the tone didn't match his eyes. "We can't have our guest of honor passing out halfway through the party." The elevator pinged, signaling the arrival of the first guests. "Don't worry, Gordon," Bruce whispered with a smile, "I'll get you out of here and back in your bed soon enough." Gordon could feel himself flush as the man turned away. Surely he had misinterpreted? The words themselves seemed innocent enough, but the way in which Bruce had said them—
"Commissioner Gordon," Wayne called, "allow me to introduce you to my dear friends…