A/N: This is Teen Titans with a liberal amount of Bat-shaped sprinkles.
Hello there. I've migrated over from the Transformers section to try my hand at some other old favorites and this was the result. Given that this is the first time I've ever witten for this fandom before, feedback and criticism of the constructive sort will be received with the greatest enthusiasm.
Disclaimer: If I really owned Teen Titans and everything that goes with it, I just don't think I'd be writing fanfiction about it.
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A Patchwork Christmas
Chapter One: Holiday Death
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It was cold tonight, Lars Bauer mused as he picked his teeth clean of the small meal he had managed to scavenge. It had been an unopened can of chicken soup; moderately filling and a more hearty meal than he had gotten in recent weeks. The chill of winter had set in by the third week of October and the hard frost that had followed shortly after had killed off a lot of edible plants for the winter. Lars had been living on the streets for a depressingly large amount of his adult life. After fallout from a nasty divorce and losing his job, he just hadn't been able to climb his way back into the driver's seat. Life had already crashed once on him and he didn't want to crash a second time.
Besides, he had already hit rock bottom; huddled up in ten layers of clothes and sleeping in a cardboard box with a tiny electric heater he had used for cooking his soup hidden under a trash can. He didn't see how he could possibly sink any lower.
At least he had managed to procure a particularly cozy nook that was shielded from most of the elements. It was a coveted spot, but Lars made sure that his fellow homeless knew that this was his spot. When he was dead, then they could fight each other for it all they wanted, but he had to be stone-cold dead before that happened.
He pulled a raggedy blanket up around his neck, yanked his knitted hat lower over his ears and settled in for the night. If there was one thing he could really appreciate about Jump City, it was the silent winter nights. It was a far cry from old Gotham City, Lars's old home, where his life had crashed. In Gotham, the streets were filled with the sound of gunshots and screams and police sirens wailing all night long. A fellow couldn't even get a decent night's sleep, what with all the scoundrels scurrying about with a knife to stab you in the back and the Bat. One should not get Lars started on the Bat unless they desired to go deaf. Lars had hopped on a freight train one night and traveled cross-country to find a way to live without that meddlesome idiot in a ridiculous costume.
Not to say that Jump didn't have its own connection to the Bat in the form of some fourteen-year old kid who wore a costume that was entirely too colorful for those in the vigilante business, but Lars had discovered he could easily disassociate the Bird from the Bat. The Bird was far, far less threatening.
Nevertheless, Lars had few complaints about Jump City and its routinely quiet nights. Sometimes, he felt that he was going soft; Gotham kept one rubber-necking, even on the quietest of nights. Jump was so still at times that, in his first few months of living on the wrong side of the tracks in this city, Lars sometimes woke up with the fleeting thought that he had died. Now, after four years, the feeling had passed and he was secure in the knowledge that he could go to sleep at night and wake up alive the next morning.
But even he should have known not to get too comfortable with the current arrangements.
He must have had his eyes closed for only fifteen minutes when he was first disturbed. Bags of rotting garbage and moldy old boxes rustled in something that wasn't a breeze. Maybe it was just a cat. Yeah, just a cat.
Ten minutes later, the rustling noise came again and Lars's eyes flew open, instantly on alert, his adrenal glands releasing a rush of energy in preparation for whatever was coming next. That had come from much closer at hand and too loud to have been caused by a cat. Someone was trying to sneak up on him. Maybe it was Old Phil. Old Phil had had his greedy little eyes on this lovely spot ever since Lars had moved in. Maybe the older man was finally going to make his move.
Hah! That wasn't going to happen! Not tonight, if he had anything to say about it.
Lars slid his hand quietly underneath his ratty coat, behind his back and his fingers closed around the lukewarm metal of the cro-bar he had always kept with him. Making sure he had a firm grip, he slid as silently as he could out of his box and crept to the narrow mouth of the short alley he had taken up residence in four years ago. It opened into a larger alley that ran the length of the wrong side of the tracks. Some clever soul on the other side had had the balls to refer to it as "Beggar's Alley" and the name had stuck ever since.
Back to the dirty bricks, Lars breathed slowly, trying to limit the amount of white mist that escaped his mouth. It was snowing again and the wind had a very biting nip to it, but that wasn't deterring whatever was determinedly foraging through the garbage bins. It sounded like some great dog was rooting around in the refuse, searching for a late-night snack. Lars didn't care what it was; it was in his territory and he couldn't have anyone or anything lurking around here for any reason.
Bracing himself, he leapt out into the main alley, brandishing the tarnished cro-bar at a stretch of empty pavement. He stared stupidly at the empty alley laying before him, eyes darting this way and that for the intruder on his territory. But no matter which way he looked, the immediate area was empty. Hmm, must have just been a cat after all. Lars let the cro-bar swing down to his side and he was about to return to the safety of his hide-away when he saw it.
Not five feet from the soles of his worn shoes was a pile of black trash bags; the ten-gallon drum variety. And every single last one of them had been torn wide open by something that had done it in one swipe.
"Jeezus..." he breathed and strode over to have a closer look. Whatever had done this must have had some monstrous claws. The garbage inside was no longer recognizable for what it had been in a happier life. What had done this?
A sudden tingle ran down Lars's spine and his head snapped up from his inspection, neck ramrod straight. One did not survive on the streets of Gotham without developing some kind of sixth sense and though he had not needed it much in this city, it was still there. Lars knew one fact right away. He was being watched very, very closely. He stood up and turned around to face the person hiding there.
"All right, come out ya bastard." he growled, raising the cro-bar threateningly.
Warm, rank breath blew on the back of his neck and there was an animalistic growl directly in his ear.
Lars Bauer never stood a chance.
His dying scream echoed for miles on frigid air, but there was no one to hear it.
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The holiday season was fast approaching and the spirit of Christmas was in the crisp, cold air. One could almost breathe it in and become infected by it; much like the poisonous gas that was sometimes released upon the unsuspecting citizens by the villain of the week. The random criminals and insane psychopaths that regularly plagued Jump City were locked away in the prison or the newly rebuilt Asylum for the Criminally Insane that had shiny, improved facilities to hold freaks of nature like Cinderblock and Overload. The current lack of crime -- super villain-instigated or otherwise -- helped with cultivating a sense of goodwill and peace that was supposed to be present at this time of year and the folks of Jump had a good feeling that they just might get through this holiday season without some world-ending calamity befalling their beloved city.
There were five teen vigilantes who worked their butts off to keep the city safe and for them, this lack of activity meant a lot less work for them. While some of them (read: Robin, the Boy Wonder) were overtly suspicious about this and paranoid that some creep was planning something reality-bending -- having be taught that crime never took a holiday and therefore, neither could the vigilantes -- the others just couldn't find a reason to complain too much. It was the holiday season and the heavy, record-breaking snowfalls were keeping a lot of the petty small-time criminals bunked up somewhere warm and snug. Even crime was allowed take a break for the holidays.
Regardless, the five teen vigilantes, known to their city and part of the rest of the world as the Teen Titans, had decided that so long as no criminals were rearing their heads, they had deserved a little bit of a break as well.
"I've said it once and I'll say it again... BOO-YA! In yo face, BB! You just got owned!"
Beast Boy was staring open-mouthed in blank shock at the screen, the video game controller clutched in limps hands as Cyborg moon-walked his way across the floor in victory. They had been playing Mega-Mutilation Part VI: The Creature from the Black Lagoon Strikes Back (special edition). Particularly, they were competing in the two-player unlockable combat round. The commando ninja-pirate hero faced off to the death against the Creature from the Black Lagoon in a one-on-one fistfight. There were no special weapons or swampy henchmen. Beast Boy had been playing as the Creature.
And he had lost terribly.
"You cheated!" the changeling accused Cyborg, who was break-dancing by this time with a gleeful grin on his face. "You did some weird mind-meld thingie with the GameStation and cheated!"
"Nope! I'm just the best commando ninja-pirate hero there is!" Cyborg said triumphantly, one hand at his waist, the other fist banging on his chest. It created a loud clanging noise that echoed weirdly through the living area.
"Rematch." Beast Boy demanded in a low voice.
"C'mon BB, you're just gonna get trashed again--" Cyborg started complacently, but Beast Boy was having none of that.
No one ever beat him at Mega-Mutilation Part VI: The Creature from the Black Lagoon Strikes Back (special edition)! No one!
Across the room, doing her best to use the book as a shield from the idiocy of her team-mates, Raven wondered why she just hadn't retreated to her bedroom yet. Surely, it would be nice and quiet in there. Just her and her book. There would only be the hiss of the heater and the soft rush of the snow falling past the window from an iron-gray sky. Her own peaceful, and more importantly, private sanctuary.
But for reasons unknown to her -- or more likely, reasons she wasn't about to fess up to -- she had decided to stay in the main living area with all the loud noises and distracting colors flashing around her.
Christmas was still three or so weeks away, but Starfire had already buzzed around and put up the decorations, cheerfully singing carols and baking truly hideous concoctions that were supposed to be the traditional foods of a similar celebration back on her home world. Naturally, no one touched whatever she made. It was rule they had developed for the sake of their stomachs. If you can't identify it or its component parts, then don't eat it.
Cyborg and Beast Boy started their rematch with much yelling and somewhat good-natured sportsmanship. Starfire sang loudly and cheerfully as she threw together something call "faleglonk" which was supposed to a traditional Tamaranean cake of happiness and peace, but as it contained soy sauce, it would go uneaten, end up in the fridge, grow blue fuzzy mold, and eventually sprout eyes and teeth. They could repair the Tower whenever it got trashed -- which was an occurrence that happened with regular frequency -- but it seemed that no one could spare an hour or two to go grocery shopping. They lived off of frozen pizza and take-out food.
When Raven really thought about, she realized that she had absolutely no idea where their finances were coming from. They weren't exactly hurting for money, but they certainly didn't get a check from the city every month as an extension of their gratitude from saving them millions in building repair. Beast Boy's tofu certainly didn't buy itself and Starfire had to get her shopping money from somewhere.
But, Raven supposed, as long as those checks that were slid under their bedroom doors once a month didn't stop coming, the question of where their money was coming from wouldn't become an issue.
With supreme effort brought on by daily meditation, the empath was able to return her attention to The Anthologies of Poe; Volume One. As for Robin, the Boy Wonder... Well, he was out retrieving their mail.
The Titan Tower had an impressive view of the city and the harbor. It was a relatively peaceful location with few interruptions, except for the annual seagull nesting season when dozens upon dozens of gulls would descend on the small island to have their babies on the rocky shores. Starfire loved watching the little chicklets hatch and peep at their parents. Beast Boy hated the gulls because they always mobbed him for no obvious reason. He was usually picking white and gray feathers out of his hair and clothes and being disgruntled about the beak marks for days.
The downside of living on a small island in the middle of the harbor was that they couldn't get deliveries of any kind. If they wanted pizza or Chinese food or any other kind of takeout, they had to go into the city and get it themselves. They also had a post office box that only got checked about once every two months and that was if things were going well.
The doors to the main living area swished open, revealing the snow-encrusted Boy Wonder. He hadn't gotten the chance to shake the snow off yet and resembled a rather ugly snowman. The entire Tower was hell to heat during the winter, so only the main living areas were warm enough to be habitable. The air outside was only a few degrees colder than the parts of the Tower that weren't heated.
"Friend Robin! You have returned!" Starfire cried from the kitchen area. She was holding a spoon that was covered in some purple goop and wearing one of Cyborg's "Kiss the Cook" aprons. "Was your trip pleasant?"
"I only went to the post office." Robin said, shedding large amounts of snow with every movement he made.
"Anything good?" Cyborg asked distractedly, in middle of thrashing Beast Boy's character a second time.
"Lots of junk mail." Robin replied, wiping the snow out of his spiky hair. "Some fan mail--"
"Dude. We get fan mail?" Beast Boy asked in wonderment. "Anything for me?"
He had suddenly forgotten about the game and Cyborg seized the opportunity to crush his opponent.
"Trust me, Beast Boy. You really don't want to know what people have been writing to us." Robin told him sincerely. He had once taken a peek at one such letter addressed to him. Out of curiosity and nothing more. It had come from a teenaged girl and the contents of it had been enough to give him nightmares for weeks. He was not an angst-filled person who wore a mask all the time because he was so hideously scarred underneath and there were not wounds on his heart or his soul or his spirit and he was not even going to start on those idiots who wanted to marry him. And if one more love-struck girl dare compare him to the Dark Knight...
Where did those girls get crazy ideas like that anyways?
"Are you sure?" Beast Boy asked slyly, staring at the bundle of letters Robin was still holding. "You know the girls love me."
With a scowl, Robin dropped the letters to the floor and their pet grub Silky instantly pounced on the papery goodness.
"No! Silky, don't eat those!" Beast Boy cried, lunging for the envelopes; he had to know what his fans were saying! It would be crime if he didn't know! But Silky had learned his table manners from Starfire and the envelopes were gone in seconds, ink, stamps and all.
"Starfire was saying just the other day that Silky needs more fiber in his diet." Robin said with just a hint of cheek and a wide grin.
"That's right!" the Tamaranean princess chimed from the kitchen area. "Silky is a growing boy!"
"But -- those were my fans." Beast Boy protested half-heartedly, staring at the tiny scraps that were left and the satisfied grub.
"Hey BB." Cyborg called tauntingly from the couch, dangling the game controller by the wire. "Wanna go for round three?"
The green changeling suddenly went from gazing despondently at the floor to leaping over to the couch and announcing that Cyborg was going down hard. Robin placed the large package he had been carrying down beside Raven, who calmly reached for it without actually looking. The empath had gotten subscribed to a book-list and every month, she was sent a new book of the dark and spooky variety.
Robin looked around the living area and felt a funny swell of warmth in his chest. Hmm, maybe it was that holiday spirit everyone was talking about. Starfire had done a bang-up job with the decorations. Copious amounts colorful lights and tinsel and ribbons were draped along the walls to the point where one wall looked like a great, fuzzy, many-eyed being with a bad dye-job. There was a Christmas wreath above the door and hanging from the ceiling were two great brass bells decorated with fake holly and red ribbons. No one knew where those bells had come from and Starfire wasn't telling. She had started looking embarrassed when asked.
The Tamaranean princess was utterly enamored with Christmas. Coming from a very emotionally-oriented race of people, the swell of holiday cheer and goodwill caused her to float just about everywhere; she hadn't put her feet on the ground for longer than a few seconds since Thanksgiving. Starfire was utterly determined to make sure that her friends enjoyed Christmas to the fullest possible extent and her efforts seemed to be working.
Another contribution had been made to the Tower that Starfire had not been responsible for. A wintry, Christmas scene had been painted onto one of the windows; depicting two people in a horse-drawn sled with a full moon and falling snow. Father Christmas and his eight reindeer were crossing in front of the golden moon. None of them knew who had painted it, as it had appeared overnight. But Robin had spotted flecks of paint on Cyborg's fingers the morning after. Just for the sake of not embarrassing his friend, he didn't call him out on it. They currently lacked a Christmas tree, but there was still time left and they all had this feeling that if they got it too soon, Silky would eat it.
The lovely spell was broken when a cold trickle of snow suddenly melted down the back of his neck and Robin excused himself to change his clothes. He wore a slightly altered costume for fighting crime in the winter; long sleeves and a longer, heavier cape that kept him protected from the bite of winter. It just kept him too warm in the Tower.
In the privacy of his room, he shook the last of the snow out of his clothes and dried his hair off. Then he extracted another envelope he had hidden in the depths of his cape; one he had absolutely no intention of showing to the others. There was no return address, but Robin could recognize the spiky handwriting that the forward address had been written in. He would recognize that handwriting blindfolded; quite a feat.
"Please, please just be a Christmas card." Robin pleaded, shutting his eyes as he slit open the envelope. But he knew better; Batman just wasn't a Christmas card man.
And Bruce Wayne couldn't afford to be caught dead sending a Christmas card to the Boy Wonder. In addition to just being plain weird, it was a potential weak point that crazies like the Joker would pounce upon without mercy.
The note was almost curtly short in its length; eight words long and written by an impatient hand. The entire piece of paper bled of impatience; not even a simple "Hi, how are you, I'm fine". Nope, just straight down to business and no time for idle chit-chat. He was going to have to send the Bat a very interestingly-worded Christmas greeting card just for this.
Perhaps it was a good thing that Robin had delayed slightly in changing, for the lights in the corridor suddenly began to flash red, accompanied by the whine of a siren. There was trouble going on downtown. Groaning, he wadded up the note and tossed it right into the waste bin -- it bounced off the rim and hit the floor, but he didn't notice. Then he darted out of his room and high-tailed it back to the main room. The various activities of his comrades had ceased and the video game had been replaced by a map of the city, bearing one flashing red light in the middle of a long stretch of road on the wrong side of the tracks.
"What's going on?" Robin asked.
"Reported murder." Cyborg replied.
"This close to Christmas too." Robin sighed, to ignore the cold feeling that was settling in his stomach. But crime never took a holiday and he had told his team that. The notion had been emphasized last year with the Toymaker and his special brand name of havoc (bad pun completely intended). "Where is it?"
"Beggar's Alley." Raven replied, the screen zooming in over the exact location. "The body is fairly torn up. So far, they're saying it was a dog attack." Blue-violet eyes zeroed in on Robin. "Are we going in?"
"Yes! We must be certain that this was not an attack of the dog!" Starfire said, already burning her usual righteous fire.
"Dude, it's freezing out there!" Beast Boy protested, jabbing a finger towards the window. Beyond it, snow was falling thickly.
"Crime doesn't take a holiday, Beast Boy." Robin repeated; practically his mantra for this time of year. It kept him from getting too complacent. "And neither can we. Titans! Go!"
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The police had been quick to rope off that part of the alley and descend upon the body. Homeless or not, a murder must be investigated; in case the murderer desired to be a danger to the rest of society.
Her collar turned up against the cold, the Chief of police, Pacifica Reilly, made her way over to the scene with two shadows at her shoulder. The forensics team were still scoping out the area, making notes and taking pictures and such. There was someone who needed to have a look at the body before they got their hands on it. Reilly and her two shadows were allowed under the yellow tape and onto the scene.
"Mother of God!..." Detective Henley, one of the Police Chief's shadows, burst out, revulsion dripping off his tone. "Ain't no dog that did that!"
Reilly swallowed down what she guessed was vomit and locked the part of her that was freaking out behind a metaphorical door so she could look at the situation from a purely analytical perspective. She stared in horrified fascination at the frozen corpse, or at least what was left of it. Just barely recognizable as being human, the body had been ripped open; ribs torn asunder, throat slashed, various internal organs no longer internal. What was worse, the body looked as though it had been chewed on and great chunks of it were just plain missing. It wasn't until someone behind her started to gag slightly did she remember that she had a guest with her.
"Well Gordon? Does that look like one of your murders?" Reilly inquired, happy for an excuse to take her eyes away from the gruesome death.
Police Commissioner James Gordon of Gotham City rubbed at his throat and suppressed the urge to gag again. This was the eighth body that he had seen in this state, but he did not expect himself to grow used to it.
"Yes." he said, grimacing. "Yes, that looks exactly like one of the murders we had."
His voice tightened as he attempted not to vomit. Gotham had just recently seen a string of murders that mirrored this one exactly and the culprits behind it had not been captured. They had vanished without a trace.
"Shit!" Detective Henley spat, wiping his chin. He had not quite been able to repress the gag reflex and there was now a small puddle of sick on the ground. "Any ideas about the damn thing that did this?"
"Isn't that your area of expertise, Detective?" Reilly asked, not sounding the least bit condescending or hostile.
Detective Henley pulled a face.
"I don't even know where to begin on this one." he admitted, edging closer to what was left of the body, covering his mouth and nose with a handkerchief. He kneeled down beside the cro-bar that was still clutched in one dead hand. "Hey! Someone come check this thing for prints!"
As one of the forensics came forwards, Gordon took one of Reilly's arms and steered her back to the other side of the police tape and out of sight of the murder scene.
"Are you sure that he can handle this?" the Commissioner asked in a low voice after making sure that everyone around them was too preoccupied to listen in.
"Martin Henley is the best detective on the force." Reilly replied, defensive about her men. "I realized from the moment you warned me about this serial killer that Henley would be the best person to set on the case, if the murderer ever came to Jump."
"I'm not doubting his skills." Gordon started, well-aware that that was exactly what it sounded like. "I'm just hoping that he knows when to pull out of an investigation before it gets ugly and he runs the risk of getting himself killed."
Reilly gave him a curious and questioning look, but didn't say anything so he went on.
"Whoever our murderer is, he has people working for him. People with access to some serious firepower." the Gotham Police Commissioner explained. He glanced around again and leaned a little closer. "You know of Gotham's Dark Knight?"
"Hailed as the greatest detective of all time." Reilly said, nodding. Like almost all superheroes, the Batman was known nation-wide; not for his amazing powers, but for his lack thereof. He used technology and simple brain-power to solve his crimes and he was well-respected for that.
"Well, the greatest detective of all time got himself in just a little too deep with this exact case and ended up with several broken ribs and a nasty cut on the leg." Gordon replied, wincing very slightly at the memory. They had been getting close to closing on a solid lead. The police had had the building surrounded, Batman had been inside with some mooks, no doubt being all dangerous and threatening... Then the Dark Knight had come flying out a window on the top floor, followed by a great gout of flame and shattering glass. He had hit the frozen ground like a rag doll, swearing up a blue streak at the knife that had been jammed in his thigh beside a three-inch long and heavily bleeding gash. He had still managed to stagger away from the incident, more or less, under his own power, even with what was later discovered to be four broken ribs. It was sometimes jarring to remember that Batman was only human under that mask and that even he made mistakes that were almost fatal. "The suspect took that as his opportunity to get away. That was nine days ago. Right after Thanksgiving. Batman has been laid up ever since."
"And now it looks like the killer has come here." Reilly finished, glancing towards the murder scene. Detective Henley was emerging and heading for them, mopping the sweat off his brow.
"We got some prints off the cro-bar." he told the Chief and Gotham Commissioner. "Should have an I.D. on the guy tomorrow morning at the earliest."
"Good." Reilly turned to her guest. "Commissioner Gordon, I don't want to be the one who keeps you away from your job and your family, but would you be willing to stay here and help us out? Your city has already dealt with this and it's my hope that you have some useful information that'll help us get to the bottom of this."
"Of course I will." Gordon said. "This killer was initially Gotham's responsibility and Gotham should have a hand at bringing him down."
"Thank you for your assistance." Reilly said sincerely, seizing the commissioner's hand and squeezing it gratefully. "Truly, thank you. We would be at a loss to explain this if you hadn't come here to warn us personally--"
"Why did you come here?" Detective Henley asked bluntly, cutting right into the chief's sentence.
Gordon didn't answer that question and settled for frowning. Detective Martin Henley had all the tact of the former Gotham detective, Harvey Bullock, who had been forced into early retirement because of circumstances he didn't like to talk about. And similar mannerisms too. Truth be told, Gordon had wanted to see if the whispers about Jump City were true. He had come here hoping to catch a glimpse of the vigilante team that kept this city safe and maybe finally put to rest a rumor that had fueled a long-running bet in his office. The winner's pot had been reaching disgustingly high numbers lately.
"I mean," Detective Henley went on, apparently unperturbed by the lack of response. "This ain't even your city--"
"Henley!" Reilly snapped and the detective shut up at once. "Commissioner Gordon is willing to give up his time to help us solve this case and he is a guest here. You will show respect where it is due."
Detective Henley nodded sullenly and muttered something that sounded apologetic to the Commissioner. Gordon didn't expect any more than that. His office would be in good, capable hands in his absence and Batgirl could easily handle Gotham's criminal underworld while Batman was recovering. Batman was not the sort of vigilante to be trifled with; it was just common sense to assume that those who had trained under him were not vigilantes to be trifled with either. If Gotham's underworld taught its inhabitants only one thing, it was that Batman and his ilk were to be regarded in a strictly professional manner.
"While I'm here, is there any chance that I would be able to meet..." Gordon trailed off. He couldn't remember the name Jump's vigilante team went by.
"The Titans?" Reilly asked. Gordon nodded. He understood that the Titans were viewed more as a sort of extension of the police force rather than a totally separate branch. Meeting with them would be beneficial if he was going to be staying here.
Detective Henley's mouth pulled down in a scowl. He was the prideful sort of man who enjoyed his role of protecting his city and detested it when his job as an enforcer of the law was routinely usurped by five teenagers. There couldn't even be a jewelry store robbery without those kids showing up. As far as he was concerned, that lot was far too young to be mixing themselves up in this side of the law.
"Knowing them, they'll be here soon." the detective snorted, swiping at the droplet of mucus clinging to the tip of his nose.
"Henley." Reilly started in a warning tone. "The Titans have helped us out a number of times in the past. Their assistance has been more than valuable."
Gordon was pleased to see Jump's Chief of police standing up for the Titans. Too many times in the past, other cities had been completely willing to throw their masked saviors to the dogs at the slightest provocation. Gotham was guilty of that, but slowly, times were changing. Batman was now an accepted part of Gotham's law enforcement. It had just taken nearly a decade to get to that point.
There was a familiar whipping noise of heavy cloth and thick-soled boots coming to a halt somewhere very close by. Above Gordon's head, snow was pushed off the edge of the roof behind him. He couldn't help but smile a little -- had someone been taking notes?-- being well-acquainted with both of those noises.
Just as he was well-acquainted with the voice that burst out with a startled: "Commissioner Gordon?!"