Triptych Part Two:

Plausible Deniability

By

Tracey Claybon

--

This is the second story in a trilogy. Part one is BlindJustice; part three is Coin Toss.

Author's note:

The Water Cooler Dialogue Prologue snippet and the conversation and recollections of Triptych all take place before the events of Officer Down!.

The "quote" from Gordon's meeting with Superman and Batgirl is a paraphrase and not a direct quote, as is the NML Dialogue.

*Pyser – a type of hard pear cider.

---

Gordon told Bock and Montoya about his first meeting with the Bat, and some of the better anecdotes from the meetings the two had had over the years they worked together to keep Gotham City safe. Later after he went home, he sat in his favorite armchair, remembering a couple of stories he couldn't tell his officers.

He remembered a young, muscular, vivacious redhead in the garb of the Bat.

He also remembered the day he realized exactly who the Bat was.

--

Jim came home early from work one night; Barbara was working late at her off-campus job in the library as assistant to the head librarian, so she wasn't home to greet him that night.

Since he was coming home early, he stopped off at MacGinty's Pub and brought home Moira MacGinty's Irish stew, made with really succulent pieces of lamb and beef; while he was at the pub, a stuffed bear wearing the Gordon Clan kilt hopped in his paper bag and demanded to go home to a certain beautiful daughter's stuffed animal collection, so he had it wrapped for her as a present – he had been working REALLY long hours at the precinct since he'd taken the Commissioner's position, so he wanted to surprise his daughter by coming home early and with a pleasant dinner for a change.

He walked into his darkened house, turning on lights and depositing the stew in the kitchen, where he would heat it in a broiler pan to bubbling about 20 minutes before he knew Barbara would be home. He'd also purchased blueberry and lemon scones, good, sharp Cheddar, a few pints of MacGinty's best house cider and pyser * and two loaves of Mrs. MacGinty's brown bread as well, to make the meal especially special – it was a rare thing for him to bring in dinner, because of the crazy hours he and Babs were increasingly keeping.

After he deposited dinner in the kitchen, he wandered up to Babs' room to leave the new member of the collection on a prominent place on her bed. He had just put down the package when a bit of gray cloth poking from beneath Barbara's otherwise tidy bed's dust ruffle caught his eye.

Thinking it was a bit of laundry she'd missed putting in the hamper, he pulled it out from under the bed...

And stared for what seemed like endless moments at the smoky gray unitard with the bat symbol in yellow on it and the mask and boots that had been rolled inside.

It felt as if the world whirled in a hundred different directions, and then came to rest in place, and nothing was the same.

His Barbara – his beautiful, brilliant, sunny daughter – was _Batgirl_.

Rage, pain, fear – all those emotions, separately and together, raced through his heart, all at one time as Jim replaced the suit more securely under the bed and walked back downstairs again, to ready dinner.

Rationally, he knew what Batgirl, along with Batman and Robin, meant to - and FOR - Gotham. Without them, Gotham would resemble that toxic wasteland of a city just south of Gotham called Bludhaven; there were times when it seemed that the Batman and his partners were the *only*thing standing between Gotham as a livable city and Gotham as a clone of Bludhaven.

But, selfishly, Barbara was his daughter and the one light in his life. Without her, his life simply wasn't worth living. He found himself *enraged* at Batman for leading _his_ daughter into situations where she could be at the very least, maimed for life…!

And yet - when had _anyone_ "led" Barbara _anywhere?

With a mental chuckle of grim humor, Jim recalled that his daughter could also be one of the most stubborn individuals to walk the surface of Mother Earth too - she *never* did *anything* unaware and without careful thought; the Batman could never, and frankly, he thought *would never* have convinced or coerced Barbara into *anything.*

In fact, he remembered that in the very first days that he saw Batgirl with Batman, Batman looked annoyed and irritated with the fledgling heroine, and underneath the irritation, there was a vague hint of ... almost fatherly concern about the girl and her welfare, as well. Batgirl's attitude toward Batman, by contrast, seemed like a combination of genuine admiration of the morals and principles of Batman and a full-blown crush of a young woman on a much-older man she admires and finds interesting. Jim had also noticed (with some relief) that the "budding" sexual interest was *not* returned – instead, there was the vague impression that the man under the cloak of the Bat was a combination of a bit uncomfortable with the hero worship and crush he sensed from Batgirl and oddly enough, a little oblivious to it, as well, because he seemed - emotionally perhaps - not mature enough to respond to it.

It was also obvious that the Batman cared about the welfare of his partners, and shortly after that first meeting, Jim remembered noticing that Batgirl's offensive and defensive skills improved very quickly after that initial meeting. Within 6 weeks of working side by side with the Dark Knight, she'd moved with the same feline grace as Robin and Batman.

Jim realized that he'd seen that strange contradiction of images that he spotted in Batman before when speaking to an acquaintance of his, but he couldn't remember who it was at that moment. He knew, though, given time, he'd remember who that reaction had reminded him of. He knew that it was someone he knew fairly well and that he'd seen often enough for that person to make an impression on him..

--

That night at dinner, Jim struggled not to show his terror and consternation at his discovery that day to his daughter, who did most of the talking about a new computer upgrade that had just arrived at the library. He couldn't help thinking, though - what dangers would she meet up with tonight?

The thought gave him three days of sleepless nights. At the end of the third night, he knew he had to rationalize that his daughter was a young adult and could make her own decisions, maturely – but that didn't mean he had to like the situation. His meetings with Batman the week after the discovery were a bit less cordial than usual, but as he came to the decision to let Barbara make her own decisions for and in her own life, the unmentioned tension between the two men slowly subsided during the weeks that followed.

--

Six weeks later:

The annual Gotham City Policeman's Ball was also one of the high society social events of the year for Gotham City's rich and famous as well as the yearly meet-and-mingle networking hobnob for Gotham's police. This year it was being held in the Kane Convention Center, an elegant Art Deco building that was something of a bright spot in Gotham City's slightly grim streets. Built before the darker times had come to the city in the mid-60's, the convention center was an oasis of beauty, like a diamond set in tarnished silver. The organizers of the ball stopped at no cost, for once, to honor the *official* protectors of the city.

Jim really hated starchy, showy, one-upmanship black tie affairs, but as commissioner of Gotham City's police force, he was required to be at the ball at least until 9 o'clock that evening.

After having to literally inch away, step by step, from a group of Gotham's society register headed by Veronica Vreeland discussing how the new city zoning and the newly passed earthquake retrofitting and new building construction code laws would drive down the property values in the rich section of Gotham City on the West Side of town, Jim felt the need of some air.

He made his way out toward the Kane Memorial Fountain, the center point of the courtyard of the convention center, partly because the coolness of the air around the fountain was refreshing after being in a stuffy ballroom most of the autumn evening. Jim could smell the crisp scent of apples and of drying fall leaves on the wind that was cooled by the fountain, and he stopped to perch on the corner of the fountain to clear his head.

As he was sitting on the edge of the fountain, he noticed the increasing volume of an argument between a couple beginning in a semi-shaded corner of the courtyard.

"No, Billy, I will NOT go with you to your place tonight. I told you, I have to go back home at 10 so that I can take over my brother's shift at my family's store… ! " the young woman hissed at her date.

"C'mon, Renee, you *know* you want to go home with me… C'mon, we've been dating for six weeks now... Can't you call home and tell Mommy and Daddy to let you off one night?" the woman's blond –haired date loudly – and drunkenly – slurred back

Jim recognized Billy as Lieutenant William Pettit, the young SWAT team officer that George Colson, the current SWAT team leader was looking at as a future replacement; Pettit was already three-sheets-to-the-wind - intoxicated, and was obviously ignoring the young woman's objections to going home with him.

"No, I can't! My brother Manny's leaving early so he can study for his midterms, and tonight till tomorrow's night shift was the only time off I had, and I promised that I'd do this a month ago to help out!!!" Renee replied looking VERY irritated with her date..

Jim noticed that the woman speaking was one of his hardest working young officers, Renee Montoya; her devotion to job and family had already gotten her noticed, and Jim was quietly considering putting the young officer on the fast track to Detective – good, hard working cops like this youngster certainly deserved the opportunity to move ahead.

He couldn't help thinking that she should have had better taste in men, though.

Billy suddenly grabbed Renee's arm, roughly, and was going to attempt to drag her to the door, and presumably, out to his car. Jim straightened up, prepared to intervene, but Pettit was stopped suddenly when he collided with a tall, seemingly equally intoxicated dark-haired man in a tailored-to- fit Armani suit who was exiting to the courtyard.

It seemed as though the man who collided with Pettit only stumbled and brushed his arm, but Pettit suddenly let go of Renee's hand with a grunt of pain and an expression of agony. The dark-haired man recovered from his stumble, apologizing, and Pettit, who looked at first like he was going to pick a fight with – or just plain deck - the other man, suddenly blanched stark white, mumbled something, and left without Renee, quickly.

Renee, who had also noticed the identity of the dark-haired man, also looked a little surprised at who her erstwhile savior was, but after a momentary conversation with him, she smiled and walked back into the party through the door he held open for her, charmed by the courtesy of the dark- haired man's smile, words and actions.

Jim noticed then that this man was Bruce Wayne, richest man in Gotham City and all-around ladies' man, as well as all-around notorious klutz and stumblebum.

He also noticed a sudden, abrupt change in Wayne's face on watching Renee walk away that lasted for about 30 seconds before it was hidden under the – mask – of the empty-headed playboy socialite. The expression on Wayne's went in an instant from vapid drunk to …a battle hardened look mixed with satisfaction, then back to intoxicated vacuousness, but not so quickly that Jim failed to notice the change.

Wayne finally noticed Gordon standing in the mist of the fountain and ambled toward the Commissioner.

Jim exchanged pleasantries with Wayne for a few moments; afterward, Wayne wandered back into the ballroom. While talking with Wayne, he noticed the exact same feeling of duality he'd perceived from Batman in this man – he had known him for years.

However, while talking to Bruce Wayne now, he got the impression that although Wayne was talking about commonplaces, his mind was somewhere else, and also that there was a lot more going on behind those dark sapphire eyes than

Jim knew Bruce socially, from events like this; his daughter babysat for Bruce's young ward, Dick Grayson – but, this was the first time he'd really thought about the little things about the Bruce Wayne he'd known for years that didn't quite add up in the man's image; since finding out that Barbara was Batgirl, he'd looked at everyone he knew, trying to remember the individual that triggered that sense of twin-ness... Now, Jim saw it *clearly*.

Bruce Wayne *was* the Batman. The attitudes he displayed most of the time, his obvious emotional immaturity reaction to the deaths of his parents, murdered in front of him as a child; noticing that he seemed to just... disappear when trouble was around - and although everyone remembered he was there at the beginning of a crisis where the Batman appeared, no one remembered seeing him in the crowd during the crisis - but the Batman was there, instead.

After their conversation concluded, Bruce announced that he was having more champagne and turned back to wander back into the party. Jim noticed, also, at that moment, that he was drinking sparkling *water* - not champagne, too.

The champagne this year was a amber-colored Asti, specially imported from France and gifted to the Policeman's Ball by a Belgian Ambassador that the GCPD escorted around town as guards on his first trip to the US and Gotham City.

The glass in Bruce Wayne's hand contained a clear, sparkling liquid that was purely white clear.

Bruce Wayne wandered back into the party indoors.

Jim, however, stood in the cool mists of the fountain, going into shock again with realization as he put two and two together and made four .

--

Later that evening:

The shock still hadn't worn off; Jim was alternating between absolute rage and surprise, as he put more and more of the puzzle together.

If his suspicions were correct, someone he'd known for YEARS had not only lied to him for at least the 5+ years he'd known him, but he was risking the life of his daughter - and, he realized with that revelation that Dick Grayson *had* to be *Robin* if Batman was Bruce Wayne – which meant he was also risking the life of his ward as well...

It made his blood boil just thinking about it.

But, then, that rational corner of his mind grabbed the raging side of his mind and made it listen to reason: He didn't officially KNOW that Bruce Wayne was Batman. He had already decided to accept Barbara's decision to be Batgirl, and he knew from watching Batman and Robin work together that the two of them alone could – and usually did – take down entire gangs of thugs with their bare hands, sheer nerves and fighting skills just short of supernatural.

And, if that were the case, then confronting him wasn't necessary; Batman – like Gordon would have in his shoes – had taken as many precautions as could be reasonably – and, frankly, *un*reasonably be done to keep his proteges safe. Like when he'd decided to let Barbara make her own decisions, he decided now to let things lie, and not "out" Wayne as the Batman. Since the knowledge wasn't official, he could deny it if asked directly, and that plausible deniability kept Batman, Robin – and especially Batgirl – safe, and as a sworn officer of the law, he couldn't chase vigilantes that "officially" existed.

--

Three weeks later

Gordon met up with Superman and Batgirl when they were attempting to stop the thieves of the 100 Gang out of Metropolis; Superman had made some comment about watching Batgirl's back, and Jim had almost given away the store when he said to Superman as he flew Batgirl to confront the 100, "Be careful, …'cause Batgirl's still somebody's daughter...

And he watched them fly away thinking – That's *MY* daughter. Please, please, Superman – and any listening angels, too - keep my beautiful daughter safe…"

Last year, near the middle of the NML: late August 2001

All the anger, rage and hatred that his rational mind had managed to bury, deep in his heart and mind, were exploding from the end of his right fist as he roundhouse-punched Batman in the jaw – and, in a corner of his mind, he noticed that Batman didn't duck – he even looked defeated, like a lost child for all his size and obvious strength. He was telling him to leave his home, leave the Blue Boys territory, and at this moment, all the emotions he'd pent up over the years could all be expressed with that one punch. For once, Batman listened, leaving his garden as he'd asked, but he left a parting comment that Two-Face really couldn't be trusted.

Plausible deniability really meant nothing when someone you had depended on for so very long betrayed you - especially when you'd been loyal to him - at least, that was how Jim felt at the time.

Jim also had finally expressed in that punch the rage he felt that Batman hadn't killed the Joker when he had the chance - the grinning hyena-like freak madman who'd put his beautiful daughter in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

--

Last year, near the end of the NML: late November 2001

Batman and Jim stood in the garden, exchanging "niceties", but really dancing around the words each really wanted to say. But, when they finally started talking, Jim finally got most of what he'd needed to say to Batman off his chest. Then, when Batman felt he needed to prove his loyalty to Jim as a person as an absolute certainty by showing him who he truly was - Jim realized that 1- he had always been right and 2 - he didn't *have* to know for certain that Bruce Wayne was Batman. He begged him to put the mask back on - because not officially knowing meant that the protection of the city both loved so much was secure again, and also - it kept a little "mystery" in the … friendship, and yes, also - *partnership* between himself and Batman.

Now:

Jim sat at the kitchen table, drinking a quiet pint of MacGinty's best pyser, and thinking about all that had occurred over the years that he'd known - and dealt with - Batman and his proteges. His thoughts turned, as they often did, to his daughter, Barbara, and as if thinking of her summoned her, his cell phone rang, startling him from his reminiscing with a jolt. It was Barbara.

"Hi, Dad!" she said.

"Hi, beautiful, how are you?" he said, feeling his mood brightening just speaking to her.

"Wonderful, Dad - I called to find out - are you free for dinner tomorrow night?"

"For you, any time. What's the occasion?"

"... And, why does there have to be an *occasion* to take my Dad to dinner? You're not turning down a free dinner, are you?"

"No, no, of course not…"

His thoughts were distracted from heavy-weighted issues of secrets as the two talked on for an hour, discussing their dinner plans for the next evening.

At that particular moment, Jim Gordon felt like the richest man in the world, and that was a fact that there was no need whatsoever to *deny*.

-FIN-