Okay, quick little oneshot, an attempt to get my brain to function again. Sorry for the delay with Foundations and Jeremiah's Well… I'm working on it. XP
Anyway… an interlude with Gordon. This concept was originally part of Foundations, but I figured that with all the other stuff that's gonna happen it would be too much. It may yet show up. It's possible that this is part of a Foundations/Jeremiah AU where Gordon didn't get shot at the party… but regardless, it's self-contained.
Warning for a dirty word.
Never in his wildest dreams had Jim believed he would one day be police commissioner.
He simply wasn't the type for that sort of job—in Gotham, anyway. Commissioners were self-promoters, only a step below politicians. In some ways they were the rejects of the political class: if one couldn't be a councilman, then one became a commissioner of something or another. Nobody who could be on the council would take such a job, least of all that of police commissioner; for he had not only to deal with threats against his life, but also with the simpering upper class—and the knowledge that no matter what he did, one side or the other would hate him. While he could take the hatred, Jim knew, he could never find any enjoyment in political maneuvering. Jim never wanted to be into politics. Not only was he terrible at it, but it tended to suck the life out of him.
Thus for a long while he'd escaped notice. In this town an honest cop was a rare breed, and any commissioner with half a brain tried to ferret them out and promote them. Yet being paired up with a partner numbered with the worst of the moral slugs had tarnished Jim's performance enough to keep him under the radar. Then the Batman had shown up, and well… the rest was history.
Now for the first time in a two-decade career, Jim Gordon was in a position to actually do something. He'd been happy about his promotion to the head of the Major Crimes Unit; in some ways that job—the building of his own private fortress, the snatching up of any good officer he could get his hands on—had prepared him for this. Even three years ago, if he'd been asked to become Commissioner, Sergeant Jim Gordon would have thought hard, said no, and been immensely guilty about it afterward. But Lieutenant Gordon had gained enough experience to realize that such a thing was possible. That yes, perhaps, maybe… maybe he could do some good if given the "big job." Still, when the Mayor had announced it, Jim couldn't deny that a feeling of panic welled up in him. In numb shock he'd shaken Garcia's hand, sealing the deal, while his friends and even that maniac clown clapped for him.
Perhaps if the Batman hadn't taken the fall for Harvey Dent, or if Dent hadn't gone mad in the first place, then Jim's promotion would have turned the three of them into an unstoppable triumvirate. With Gordon as the head of investigations, Dent as the prosecutor of the guilty, and the Batman as everything in-between, criminals would have had no escape except to give up their lives of corruption. For about half a year they'd been close. So, so close. The mob had its funds cut off, the gangs had been having trouble recruiting, and the druggies had begun to crawl back into the pits of hell from whence they came. As it was, with the knocking out of the third leg, the table couldn't stand; Jim found that his job as commissioner was more a scramble to cover for the Batman, to protect the vigilante from one harebrained scheme of city hall after another, than anything truly concrete. Within a month after Dent's death the mob had begun its resurgence. They were stealthier now. The Joker had taught Gotham a lesson, even if it wasn't the lesson that the lunatic had been hoping for.
There was one good thing about being commissioner, though. When it came to anything important, Jim always knew about it first.
That was how he found himself at his desk, late Friday evening, staring at the object that had been recently deposited in his office. In some ways it was a message from the past, a reminder of how he came to be here. In others, it was a startling revelation of his current position: in the older days, even as head of MCU, Gordon would never have been able to get his hands on something like this. Then again, in the old days there hadn't been a huge price on the Batman's head, either.
Jim couldn't say that it looked "innocent" on his desk—nothing connected with the Batman ever did, unlike so many other things. Even weapons, such as firearms, had a tendency to look deceptively peaceful when lying untouched in a plastic bag, no matter what crime their owners had used them for. He'd been around far too many guns to find them ominous. But this… this was something else. Gordon wasn't sure what its true title was: he personally called it a "prong," because that simply seemed to fit it best. In some ways he wanted to laugh—only the Batman could have things like prongs, tanks, and screeching bat calls, and still not have people bat an eye… no pun intended.
It looked like a talon. Sharp. Wicked, like the claw of some bloodthirsty beast. The people who had handled it, searching for fingerprints and DNA, had carefully taped up the barbed side. Apparently it had cut through several plastic bags before this solution had been discovered. The yellowish tape looked garish on its obsidian surface, tasteless, even as it obscured the dried blood on the blade. The Joker's blood.
Gordon had seen this sort of metal thorn many times. Whenever the Batman appeared, he always had hooked prongs on the sides of his arm's armor. Jim guessed that such things were helpful with gripping and so forth. Maybe it was also for intimidation purposes—he really had no clue, and didn't plan on asking. What troubled him was that the SWAT team had actually found this little gem. He hadn't even known that the prongs came off. Yet this one, and several others, had indeed been discovered—and, as was typical for any evidence from a crime scene, had been automatically whisked away to the lab. The blood was the Joker's; that much was obvious, for the clown's forehead had been sliced open, red trails dripping into his eyes, as he laughed obscenely on his way to his new holding cell. And so the dried crimson did not worry Gordon.
The idea that the lab might actually find something on the dark knight, however, did.
Chances of this happening were small. Whoever the Batman was, he obviously believed in justice; the thought of him being a murderer, a sex offender, or even a petty thief almost made Jim shake his head. Still, rare though it was, Gordon had seen instances where the prison system had done something good to a man. In Gotham, rehabilitation was rare… but even a rare thing happens upon occasion. It was possible that the Batman had once been a criminal himself—he certainly seemed to know his way around the underground. And if that were so, if he'd done anything of importance, then his DNA would be on file. His identity would be an easy match.
Sometimes—less often now, but quite frequently at the beginning—when it was a slow day, and there was little else to do, Jim would wonder about who was under the mask. All Gotham did this, he knew. Every journalist in the state had his or her heart set aflutter at the mere inquiry. Perhaps this pondering was in some ways the Batman's own fault; one couldn't put on a mask without begging the question of what was underneath. Was it to hide some deformity? Was his face easily recognizable, easily hunted down? Jim didn't ever ask, and he honestly didn't like to think about such things. He worked with the fellow, after all. In some ways, he might even say that the Batman was his friend, as far as an occasional meeting on a rooftop could take that term. But surely being a vigilante was a full-time job. The Batman couldn't do anything in the daytime, could he?
When would he find time to sleep? Jim wanted to laugh. The thought of the caped crusader being a normal man, getting up all groggy-eyed in the morning to face a bowl of cheerios, driving to his job, chatting with his office mates… it was absurd. Absurd to the highest degree. What about all his injuries? More than once Gordon himself had seen the Batman take a hit. These undeniably had to set him apart. No man was so good of an actor that he could hide such hurts so consistently. What would his excuse be? My wife has fits?
Did the Batman even have a wife? Jim hoped so. A wife was a great help. On the job he was always Gordon, taking control, wielding a firearm, wrestling with the bad guys. But at home he was just Jim. He sat on the couch and watched TV while Barbara did dishes, Babs her homework, and Jimmy his legos. It was nice, to have people that loved him unconditionally—nice to sit down and just relax, unwind, be asked by Babs about this or that math problem… it helped Jim to know that his officers likewise had a stable home environment to rely on. Granted, the Batman was not necessarily his employee; but he cared for the other man nonetheless.
Did the vigilante have someone who loved him? Did he have children who would pull off his boots in a charted evening ritual, a welcome home ceremony that signaled the end of his nightly cares? Were they a source of strength, the reason that he donned the mask each night? Did his wife give him a kiss and tenderly ask that he come home in one piece?
Or was he alone? Was the drive to do something, to help the city, too much for him to settle down? Did he push others away with his sheer willpower, his silent intensity that had initially terrified (and sometimes still did) Gordon's honest sensibilities? Maybe the Batman had no one but himself and an empty home.
Jim didn't know. In some ways he felt like it wasn't his right to know, not really. In others… in others he wished he knew at least something, just a little, if only for his own peace of mind. The Batman deserved a good life. He didn't deserve to be hunted, or shot at, or lambasted by press and mobster alike. Yet while Jim's new position had granted him many things, he still did not have the power to grant that. He didn't think anybody did—not even the mayor, the press, or billionaires like Bruce Wayne.
His musings were interrupted by a soft knock on the door. Glancing up, the commissioner found himself looking at two worried faces. Anna Ramirez and Gerard Stephens.
Stephens was one of the older cops on call, a transfer from MCU, and the moment Jim could afford it he intended to send Gerard back there—only this time, as the head of the unit. As for Ramirez… she had once been one of his most trusted officers, even privy to the top of the building when the "bat light" was on, but suspicions concerning her actions during the night of Harvey Dent's abduction had put Jim's trust in her on hold. He had transferred her from MCU as well, not because she was an asset but because he desired to keep his eye on her. Barbara was certain that it had been Anna who called her and the children out of the house, delivering them up to Harvey Dent's "mercy." This one fact always made Jim's blood boil when she was in the room—this was still better than Stephens, however, seeing as the other man was in favor of firing her immediately, and to follow this up with a slight "accident." Good man though he was, Stephens was not above taking things into his own hands—and ever since Gordon had refused to go along with his plan, Gerard had taken it upon himself to be Anna's shadow, watching her like a hawk. One wrong move, and Jim had the feeling that Stephens would rather ask his commissioner's forgiveness, instead of waiting for explicit permission.
Irony had a way of haunting him, however. Even while not in Jim's good graces, Anna Ramirez still shared in Gordon's deepest, darkest secrets. Of all the cops on duty, she alone probably knew what Dent had become during the DA's last hours of life. She had been found the morning after the Joker's capture, unconscious, and could not give a reasonable explanation. Stephens was suspicious that this was connected somehow to her links with the mob. Gordon suspected something more. Anna was too stealthy to call Barbara and the kids with her own voice—that left a trail; that was sloppy. There were other ways that she could have lured his family from their house without revealing herself. The only answer Jim could come up with was that she had not done so of her own free will; and she had been whipped in the face with a revolver, the indentations of the bullet chamber leaving a distinctively patterned bruise… it was the same sort of pistol that Dent had aimed at Jim's son. Ramirez said nothing about it, and Jim hoped that things would stay that way.
In any case, it also happened that during the mob's initial, chaotic reform period, Anna's sick mother had been in need of an emergency surgery. Yet the miraculous funds of the Ramirez family seemed to have gone suddenly missing… the older woman was now dead. Gordon had refused to allow Anna any off-time, simply out of personal spite—it was a decision that chipped away at him, whenever he caught her in some corner, wiping her eyes and trying not to look as if she'd been crying. The memory of Barbara's own tearstained face always saved him from his guilt. One could never rely on the mob—it was a hard lesson, a conclusion that he was hoping she'd reach, because the idea of having a triple agent in the mob's ranks was too good for him to pass up. He never informed Stephens of this option, and until it became necessary, he saw no reason to. Anna needed to have an honest cop on her trail—Gerard might even be the push to get her to come clean.
Seeing them together, therefore, was not surprising; seeing the look of solemnity on both their faces was.
"Commissioner," Anna said, biting her lip. Stephens pushed her somewhat awkwardly, moving both of them into the room and shutting the door. The woman held out a file in her hand. "It's the results of the lab on Batman."
"I tried to stop her," Stephens interrupted. Normally clenched fists would have accompanied such a dynamic phrase, a look of frustration and anger on his countenance. Yet these were both lacking—his face was drained, almost as if in pain. Shaken, even.
Jim did not see this, though. No sooner had Anna revealed what she held than his eyes zeroed in on the case file, nothing else but the manila folder consuming his vision. He held out his palm, wordlessly.
It felt smooth in his hands. Paper. Fresh, new… clean. In many ways it was quite the opposite of the prong lying on his desk; not cruel, not flashy, not dirtied with blood or sharp enough to give more than a thin and pathetic papercut. This object appeared innocent. Yet this could potentially have more danger than a hundred little prongs, work more disaster on the city than a rainstorm of hooked talons descending from threatening clouds.
The chances of them finding anything were small, Jim reminded himself. Anna and Gerard had a habit of being overdramatic, especially in one another's presence. "The drama club," Gordon had once caught his secretary referring to the two of them, and he'd wisely chosen to keep that title to himself. Surely there was nothing of importance in the folder. Maybe some fingerprints—if the prongs had ever come off before, then the Batman had to push them back into position, and it was possible that he'd forgotten to wear gloves—and some DNA. But without anything on file that information was useless. The United States was not some dictatorship, registering and categorizing the very lifeblood of its citizens. And even if there was something, perhaps the Joker's blood had tainted the results.
Gerard and Anna said nothing. Jim was unsure if their silence prolonged and intensified his dread, or somehow helped alleviate it. With a deep breath he flipped it open.
One word met his eyes: MATCH.
There was not a "NO" in front of it.
He would have dropped the paper, if he hadn't had company. If he hadn't had the two officers there, he would have torn the damned document to pieces, despite that he knew there possibly could be duplicates. Still, this information was a new discovery; perhaps this was the only copy. Perhaps he could mysteriously lose it, keep it from going on file. He hadn't even read the blasted thing and he was already planning a cover-up.
Still, he could not make his eyes move lower. Peculiar. All this time wondering who was under the mask, and yet now he couldn't bring himself to peek. This felt wrong, somehow. It was like a violation. Just like happening upon another human being in the shower, seeing what was under the layers of fabric that people routinely shielded themselves with. Just the sort of mistake with one's in-laws that could cost one happiness in one's marriage, or that could make friendship with someone into an awkward social event. Like looking upon a corpse, twisted into an unnatural position; peeping into someone's window or into someone's private diary. Never in his whole life had Jim felt dirtier.
But if Ramirez and Stephens had read it… Stephens was conflicted about the Batman, but would bring him in if he had the chance. Ramirez… Jim didn't know.
"Did anybody else see this?" he asked, glancing up just long enough to see Stephens' eyes darken.
"Yeah, the technician who put it together. But I told him to keep quiet on it until you decide what to do."
Three people. Dear God, Gordon prayed, have mercy. Mercy, please, mercy. Three people in law enforcement; one who would take the Batman in, one who was connected to the mob, and one who was a complete unknown. Worse even than Colman Reese. How quickly a secret could be spread…
Yet Jim found something else creeping up into the back of his mind. Curiosity. It was perverse and he found he hated himself for it, but it was the truth. What had the Batman done? The list of offenses for getting on the DNA list was small, compared to the number of crimes one could commit. Foremost was sexual predators—with extremely low rates of rehabilitation all around the country (and hence, in Gotham, with a rate of practically zero), they struck repeatedly throughout their lives, ruining one human being after another, in a sordid string of selfish exploitation. Somehow the thought of the Batman molesting someone, anyone, but most especially a child… Jim's stomach churned, adding nausea to his self-loathing. No. Not possible.
Murder was next on the list. Somehow this seemed more plausible. Hadn't the Batman sworn not to kill? Jim could understand that scenario—after causing the death of one human being, it was possible that the Batman had vowed to make up for his mistake. That was something that Gordon could tolerate. Maybe it was even honorable, in some way.
Well, he had to look anyway, so it was pointless to ponder when the answer was finally in front of him.
Unfortunately the first thing his sight alit upon was not the cause of the offense, but the name of the offender. Gordon's eyes went impossibly wide, almost wider than the rims of his glasses. The name was unmistakable, but the bearer was the last person he would have suspected. Bruce Wayne.
"Son of a bitch."
"Yeah," muttered Stephens. "That was my reaction, too."
Anna said nothing.
All the questions Jim had previously had were given the worst possible answers. The Batman didn't have a family—long ago that had been taken from him, and Jim had been the one to try and offer fruitless comfort to a lonely and frightened boy. Nor had the hero made a new one—Wayne was unmarried, the perpetuator of fling after fling to the delight of the gossip mongers. No wife, no children, no happy home. The best Jim could hope for was that the array of women was just an act—the worst, that Batman was a crusader by night and a propagator of venereal disease by day.
He wanted to set the file down, now more than ever, if only to hold his head in his hands. His mind seemed heavy, his brain a dead weight. It was too much. Appearances be damned—he wanted to do it, so he did. Jim was the bloody commissioner, this was all on his plate… he had the right to be overwhelmed.
For the longest time the three police officers sat in the office, absentmindedly watching the minutes and hours ticking by into the wispy hours of the morning. It turned out that Bruce Wayne had done nothing, except for a few bouts of public drunkenness. The reason his DNA was on file was far more innocent: years ago the Prince of Gotham had gone mysteriously missing, and as a celebrity, the son of the city's most beloved couple, the searchers for his whereabouts had gone to every length. His DNA had been added to the list in case some clue was found, a murder weapon, a gruesome body… and when the billionaire returned, the corruption and general lack of coordination in the police offices had meant that his file had never been removed. If he had been someone else—anyone else—he would have had no trace… but by freak coincidence, chance and chaos meeting in a stroke of terrible misfortune, Gotham's Dark Knight had thus been unmasked as Gotham's Prince. Matched DNA and fingerprints, both solid, stood out in dark black ink on the paper, heralding news of coming doom.
The debate between the three of them raged all night long. Stephens argued first for one side, then the other, and then switched yet again. Jim tried to placate him; Gerard, in his frenzy, was practically holding a conversation with himself. Anna Ramirez was mostly silent. No doubt this was mostly because she knew Stephens, in his current mood, would have come down on her hard for speaking up on either side of the issue—but Gordon also had to question whether she was consumed also with weighing her options. This was a secret that could fetch quite a hefty price… but without a mother to spend it on, would she take the opportunity? Or had her mother's sickness just been an excuse, a talking point to justify her betrayals to herself and anyone who discovered her? Maybe revenge was on her mind. Batman and the Joker both had a hand in creating Dent… however small the Batman's part had been, with the Joker in Arkham there was nobody else to blame.
At last Jim, realizing that they were getting nowhere, called the conversation to a halt. He instructed Gerard and Anna to remain quiet, and to likewise tell the technician who had done the lab work to keep his mouth shut. No matter what decision he eventually made, whether to catch the Batman in his day job or to overlook the new data, if anyone let it slip then someone would beat the police to it. They didn't want to see a report of a dead Bruce Wayne on the news. Gordon stared straight at Anna as he said this, his eyes attempting to communicate his suspicion, and she swallowed and looked away. Stephens' face contorted into a sneer at her reaction, though he said nothing.
The two of them left Jim's office, but their absence did little to alleviate the Commissioner's troubled mind. Taking off his glasses, he pinched his nose, took a deep breath through his mouth. Even this didn't help.
Barbara didn't call. For the rest of the hours of darkness, as Jim moved about his office restlessly, his phone remained silent. He wished she had, though—they could chat about Babs' new crush, or Jimmy's new friend, or the set of dishes that Barbara had been wanting to buy (Jim had been intentionally stalling that decision, hoping that he could get them for her on their anniversary). Once or twice Gordon almost picked up the phone himself. It would be nice to forget, if only for a few minutes, about the burden on his desk. Nice not to think about the coming fate of the hero of Gotham. Not to frantically think of other options, to wonder if any escape from the situation was possible. If only, if only…
An absurd thought came to him. The Batman didn't have a family. Nobody he could call if he received bad news. Nobody to visit him in prison, should Gordon find that he couldn't conjure up a way out for the man. True, he didn't have to worry about the latest crush, bad influence, or set of china dishes… but still these troubles seemed a small price to pay for a family.
Suddenly Jim felt something new welling up in his heart. He tried to stop it but failed. Pity. If nothing else, at this moment Jim Gordon felt extremely sorry for the Batman.
It was a feeling that he'd never thought he would associate with the masked vigilante. The city's silent guardian was a fearsome thing, a creature of mystery and terror that could make even seasoned killers crawl under their beds. His strength was unfailing, his mental intensity staggering. Within his body and soul there was nothing but pure power. Surely such a man was infallible. Yet here Jim found himself, pitying the one man in the whole world whose presence could make even the good guys afraid.
Jim glanced at the manila folder on his desk. The cheerful color suddenly looked garish, like the tape on the prong had been. This was more than a messenger of coming doom—more than a terrible responsibility on Gordon's mind. It was the herald of far worse news. News that Gotham's Dark Knight did not have the life that Jim had wished and prayed for him. News that he lived his life alone, in a big empty house, nobody to share in his joys and hurts, pleasures and disappointments… nobody to share himself with. A man like Bruce Wayne could have the world on his platter, a well-fed and happy family at home. That he didn't showed Gordon that he simply had chosen not to. Gotham must be all that the vigilante cared about; all things, including himself and his own happiness, must come last in his mind.
Nothing Jim had ever heard sounded more wrong. A travesty of justice. Fate laughed at him.
The Batman deserved a good life. He didn't deserve to be hunted, or shot at, or lambasted by press and mobster alike. Yet while Jim's new position had granted him many things, he still did not have the power to grant that. He didn't think anybody did—not even the Batman himself.
000 . Author's Note . 000
It's been a while since I wrote Gordon, and even then I barely have. I just thought about giving this a little whirl.
Hope you liked it. See ya. :D