by Te
August 27, 2011

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: No spoilers. Takes place during Year Two.

Summary: Bruce and Jim take a ride.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Mostly harmless.

Author's Note: Another for Sarah, though this one was just for fun. Sorry I couldn't get to the porn!

Acknowledgments: To Mildred and Jack for audiencing, encouragement, and suggestions.


"What the *hell* did you pay for this thing?" And Jim prods at the dash with his unsteady left hand -- thankfully missing the button which would cause a massive oil-slick.

Bruce guides him away from the button that releases the caltrops.

Jim *glares* at him --

And Bruce tries to smile like Batman.

Jim snorts. "Fine, don't tell me."

"Four hundred thousand dollars."

Jim coughs, eyes narrow and expression more than a little disgusted. He pulls his flask from his jacket pocket --

This is the fourth time he's forgotten that it was empty.

Bruce drives, far less showily than he normally does. He's not blushing. He --

"You're that damned rich."

Oh, Jim... "I have... support," Bruce says, trying to sound embarrassed, trying to make the lie seem embarrassingly *true* --

Jim snorts again, and this time it's deeply derisive.

Batman frowns. "Was something amusing."

"Yeah. *You*. Specifically, you pretending that there's anyone on God's green *earth* who you could work with that *closely*."

He's -- not blushing.

He'd like to have a partner someday --

But only sometimes. Only on the darkest, longest nights. He is strong. He has his vows. "Believe what you want," Batman grunts.

Jim's laugh is shockingly high-pitched as he stares into the mouth of his flask. Bruce knows it's a laugh which only gets used when the flask has been emptied.

"Jim --"

"Think I *will* believe what I want. No harm in that, right? Batman...?"

He doesn't squirm. Batman never would.

Jim laughs again, and pulls a cigarette from the battered pack in his breast pocket.

"I'd prefer you didn't smoke that in --"

"Well, that's funny, Batman. *I* would've preferred you leaving me in my office instead of carrying me out the damned *window*."

Bruce blushes. "You -- have a daughter at home," he says, and regrets it immediately. Jim's expression is bleak, *old* --

And a streetlight silvers every grey hair he's gained since he gained his captaincy. "She raises herself," and Jim lights his cigarette with a practiced flick before moving to tuck the lighter away. He drops it --

Bruce catches it and tucks it in his pocket.

Jim contrives not to notice. "She --" He frowns again. "Stay away from her."

Bruce blinks behind the cowl. "I had no intention --"

"Stay. Away. From her."

"Is there --"

"There's *nothing*," and Jim glares at him *balefully*.

Bruce swallows and promises himself to not so much as look at her. "All right."

Jim nods, but he seems dissatisfied --

There is no satisfaction when a child murderer is caught. Not truly. Bruce first learned that last year, with the Schoen woman. Jim... he doesn't know. "Will you tell me --"

"No," Jim says, scowling and puffing with equal ferocity.

Batman smiles. "All right..."

Jim offers a truly filthy curse under his breath.



Bruce sobers himself at speed. "It's only... I'd like to know what you do. For cases like these."

"There *are* no cases -- but of course that's a lie," Jim says, tugging his cigarette out of his mouth with one hand and scrubbing at his flushed and mildly sweaty face with the other.

Bruce turns the air conditioner on low --

"And you're asking me --" Jim cuts himself off with a sigh. "I drink," he says. "Too much. Much, much too much."

Bruce nods. "There's no... relief."

"If you honestly thought there would be, you're in the wrong damned line of work."

Batman smiles again. "Didn't you already think that...?" And Bruce is expecting a growl, or perhaps a harrumph -- maybe even another curse --

But Jim is only staring out the window. He seems...

He seems worse. "Jim..."

"I don't need a nursemaid in leather and armor, Batman."

Do you need a friend? Please -- no. "I wasn't planning on rocking you gently to sleep."

Jim scowls again --

Deeply --

And then chuckles, hoarse and low. The ash on his cigarette --

Bruce gets the tray he uses for relatively small computer equipment under it just in time.


"Yes, Jim?"

Jim shakes his head. "I don't know why it always surprises me that you've got a sense of humor under there."

"It could be my lanternous jaw and forbidding mien."

Jim blinks somewhat owlishly at him.

Batman shows his teeth --

"How old are you?"

"Jim --"

"Answer the question or don't. Don't throw out bullshit excuses," and Jim takes a drag of his cigarette.

"You're sobering... quickly."

"No, I'm not. But parts of me never get drunk, at all."

Bruce swallows, grateful for the thickness of the neck armor -- "It doesn't work that way."

Jim shows his own teeth. "You're afraid I'll figure out who you are."

Well. "You *are* a detective."

Jim nods slowly, thoughtfully. "It's true that there are all kinds of people in this town who'd love to have me turn my attention to figuring out *which* six-foot-three, two-hundred-fifty-pound, black-haired -- nice stubble tonight, by the way -- violent bastard of a local is running around at night beating the crap out of people." He stares at his cigarette for a long moment -- and then stubs it out. "Answer me."

"I'm twenty-eight."

Jim blinks. "Funny. I would've pegged you younger than that."

*Bruce* blinks -- no. "I might have been lying --"

"You weren't," Jim says, with a casual wave, then leans back in the passenger seat, shifts, feels around --

"Careful --"

"What --"

The restraints catch and hold him just the way they should.


"I'm sorry --"

"Get me the hell *out* of these!"

Batman hums. "Are you sure...?"

Jim's glare... isn't murderous. It never could be. It is, however, somewhat withering.

A part of me wants, very badly, to introduce you to Alfred, Bruce doesn't say, and presses the recessed, disguised, and deeply inconvenient release button. The restraints slither away from Jim at speed. "Perhaps you could tell me what you were looking for."

"A way to lean *back*!"

"Allow me," Bruce says, and tilts the chair back for Jim. "There are no controls for that sort of thing convenient to the passenger side."

"Because you transport so many -- criminals. Of course you do. Christ," Jim says, and scrubs his hand over his face again. He leans back, though, and breathes deeply and -- mostly -- smoothly.

"I know that I make you... uncomfortable."

"Was that an apology?"

Batman *wants* to smile -- but *Jim* is smiling, and that -- that's a gift. "Not truly, no --"

"Then what?"

"An expression of... sympathy. Understanding."

"From the guy who runs around with pointy little ears on his head."

"I have, in fact, used them as weapons --"


"Ah... no," Bruce says, and remembers nearly getting stabbed because he hadn't been able to clear the blood from his lenses fast enough. "They do wonders for my silhouette, however."

Another high-pitched laugh, though this one is followed by a throat-clearing and *something* of a harrumph.

Bruce lets himself smile internally and focuses on driving for the next two minutes and eleven seconds --

"Is there a woman?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Is there a *woman*. I can't for the life of me see any kind of *wife* putting up with you, but some women... younger women..." Jim frowns, obviously troubled by the thought.

Bruce blushes again. "No. No, there's. No one like that --"

"Is there a *man*?"

The silence in the car feels heavy, artificially weighted --

Bruce swallows.

Bruce tightens his grip on the wheel.

Bruce wonders if the cowl is cut low enough to *hide* --

And Jim nods thoughtfully, and without anything resembling surprise.

"There isn't --"

"But there *could* be."

"I have -- my vows," Bruce says, and feels weak, foolish, *bumbling* --

"Your *vows*. We've talked a little about those."

"Yes. You see --"

"I *see*... that you would've been better off in some church somewhere --"

"I. Jim. There are, ultimately, very few religions which are welcoming of people as violent as I am."

Jim chuckles again.

Bruce smiles cautiously --

"That's a deal-breaker for you. You can live without anyone to keep your *undoubtedly* gigantic house warm for you, without anyone to fight the *silence*, but --"

"Is the silence." Bruce licks his lips. "Is the silence very terrible for you?"

Jim hisses a breath in through his teeth --

"I -- never mind --"

"The silence. The silence is what it is, Batman. There's no good or terrible about it. It just *is*, and you either deal with it or you swallow your police-issue. Simple as that."

He wants, very badly, to ask about Barbara... but he thinks he can see her in the fierce determination in Jim's eyes, the *pained* love. "All right," he says, and turns more fully to the road --

"You were a violent kid, too, weren't you."

Only to bullies -- "Yes. Whenever feasible. And sometimes when it wasn't."

Jim nods. "What did it? How do I stop the next smart-assed little punk from growing into *you*?"

The blood grew so cold so *quickly* --

The rats' eyes *glowed* --

And Mother's hand twitched and twitched until it stopped. Bruce swallows and shakes his head once.

Jim stares at him, into him, through him --

Bruce watches the road.

Jim nods once. "All right, then. I think you're crazy."

"I'd noticed."

"You think I'm wrong?"

Bruce *and* Batman smile.

Jim grunts. "Right. *You* think you're just the right *kind* of crazy."

"For this city, if, perhaps, no other."

"How many languages do you speak?"

"Eight, with some degree of fluency. I'm in the process of teaching myself another four."

Jim blows out a breath and scratches at his mustache, which is bristling somewhat more than it usually does.


"How many times have you walked away from love?"

Bruce closes his eyes behind the cowl -- no, not that. "Twice. The first time... the first time, I wasn't aware that that was what I was doing."

Jim nods. "I already know you wouldn't have done a damned thing differently if you *had* known. How many times have you been shot?"

"Twice --"

"How many --" Jim shakes his head and winces, and turns to look out the passenger-side window.

"I'll... answer --"

"I know that. Batman."

"I." I'd like to be your friend. I'd like to touch your hand without my gauntlet on. I'd like to *know* you --

"What?" But Jim doesn't turn away from the window.

"It's not important."

This time, Jim *does* turn. "Batman."

"I promise. I promise that it's not important."

Jim narrows his eyes and stares. Bruce knows exactly how many arrests had turned into confessions under that stare.

(Your path will be a lonely one.)

Yes, Bruce thinks, and fills himself with the weight of stone, and cold.

There is never, truly, any silence, at all.

Eventually, Jim turns back to the road, as well. "Don't make a habit of this, Batman."

Batman shows his teeth. "Leisurely drives through the city of my heart...?"

Bruce can see the spark of humor in Jim's eyes --

Bruce can *feel* --

"There are about fifty *thousand* cabs and other cars for hire in this city, Batman. I feel *strongly* that I could've found *one*."

Batman hums obnoxiously.

"Got something to say?"

I'd like to *know* -- no. Batman smiles instead of saying a word.

Jim harrumphs and lights another cigarette.

After another three minutes and twenty-two seconds, Bruce pulls up in front of Jim's house. There's a light on in the room he knows belongs to Barbara, and when Jim sees it the lines of his face deepen with guilt.

Bruce wants to offer understanding and comfort, but Batman only unlocks the car and nods.

Jim mutters under his breath and goes, and the only sign of his inebriation is the slow and somewhat obsessive care he takes as he walks up the stairs and puts his key in the lock.

Bruce wants to --

Batman locks the car and drives until Bruce can think of the Mission again.

It gets much, much easier to do when the unmistakable sound of automatic weapons fire rings and crashes through the night.

He has his vows.