Warnings: death!fic as per the prompt. My apologies in advance.
Summary: Leaving things unsaid in a city that shows no mercy will only lead to heartbreak and regret.
A/N: Written for this prompt over at thck_as_thieves . This prompt was a challenge to myself as I've never written tragedy successfully (I'm a sucker for happy-ending angst). That said, any thoughts would be welcome and appreciated.
It isn’t anything new in their relationship. As Gotham’s commissioner, Jim faces the possibility of dying at any given moment. But it never should have happened like this. The fight should never have happened. Words said in a surge of fear and anger now hung unresolved, all chances of forgiveness lost.
This wasn’t how it was all meant to end. There shouldn’t be a group of Gordon’s most loyal officers standing around dumbstruck as Gotham’s most wanted vigilante is kneeling in the middle of the street cradling the lifeless body of the commissioner.
Jim was tired. He could feel it in the ache of his bones and the painful stiffness of his muscles when he got up every morning. But more than that, he was weary of pretending, of the deception that threatened to take away one of the most important people in his life.
It had been five years since the night Jim had told the most devastating lie of his life. Five years since he had branded an innocent man as a murderer and a villain, launching Gotham City on one of the greatest manhunts it had ever seen.
It was meant to be temporary, a ruse that Gotham’s commissioner and Gotham’s dark knight would foster until they could find a way to clear Batman’s name without destroying all that Harvey had accomplished before his fall from grace.
Four years since Barbara had finally conceded defeat to the city that had her husband firmly in its grasp. One thousand four hundred and sixty-one days since Jim had watched her pack up hers and the kids’ bags, leaving him standing on the porch, staring vacantly into the night.
Three years since the night Jim came home to find the Batman unconscious and bleeding in his kitchen. One thousand and ninety-five days since that brief moment of consciousness while Jim tried to stem the blood flow, and those three words that changed their whole relationship. I trust you. Three powerful words, uttered as Batman weakly guided Jim’s hands toward his cowled face before passing out. Three words that changed everything.
In the heat of the moment, as Jim fought to save the life of his closest friend and ally, he didn’t have much energy to spare at the revelation of Batman’s identity. When Jim had looked back on the moment, after Bruce was bandaged and recovering in Jim’s bedroom, he found that he was not nearly as surprised to find that there was so much more to the Prince of Gotham than anyone had ever dreamed. And when Bruce woke two days later, the absolute trust that Jim witnessed within those twin hazel pools shook him to his core.
The removal of that last major barrier between Jim and Batman…Bruce…unlocked the growing well of feelings that had lingered beneath the surface of their interactions for the better part of a year, longer if Jim was being honest. They were swept up in a passionate dance of heated kisses, lust fueled nights, and looks filled with such honest adoration and love that slowly but surely, they had pulled each other from the breaking point they hadn’t even realized they’d reached.
Three years of love and unquenchable ardor, but they were also years filled with too many close calls and near misses. Gotham’s finest still pursued the hunt for Batman with a savage fervor, and sooner or later Jim was afraid that despite all of Bruce’s skill, something was going to go horribly or, heaven forbid, fatally wrong.
“You’re brooding again,” Bruce whispered, warm arms wrapping around Jim’s waist from behind, pulling him into the solid warmth of Bruce’s chest. “You need to relax.”
Jim huffed a small laugh. “And what would you know about relaxing?”
“Oh I can think of quite a few ways for you to loosen up a bit,” Bruce mouthed against Jim’s neck, warm breath sending shivers down Jim’s spine. Jim turned into his lover’s embrace, capturing those sinfully full lips in a fiery kiss.
“Feel free to enlighten me,” Jim panted as they broke for air. The naked desire in Bruce’s focused gaze sent his heart racing even faster. Bruce’s only response was to claim Jim’s mouth in another searing kiss as he steered them both to Bruce’s bedroom.
No one could have anticipated the setup Gordon and his officers had walked into. The thugs they’d cornered in the Narrows were small time drug dealers, supposedly unorganized and amateurish. None of their digging had indicated that they were being moved by Falcone’s ambitious son behind the scenes, or that a sniper was lying in wait on a nearby rooftop.
Bruce had been conducting his rounds through the Narrows early in an effort to calm his agitation when he intercepted the unknown frequency.
“Target will be in position in t-minus sixty seconds,” the voice crackled ominously. “The Commissioner won’t know what hit him.”
Bruce’s heart lodged in his throat. The speaker was targeting Jim. Shaking fingers flipped open the GPS/communicator Lucius had given him, calling up the GPS he’d secretly embedded in Gordon’s phone.
Jim’s dot was moving six blocks southwest of his current position and Bruce took off in his direction. He tried calling Jim’s phone to no avail. Five blocks, four…He pushed his body faster. Two, one…the shot rings out as Bruce lands on the roof of a dilapidated apartment building, just in time for him to see Jim crumple to the asphalt.
The animalistic cry that leaves him draws the attention of the horrified officers, the dealers, and the smug sniper. Blind rage fills the Dark Knight, and he descends on the criminals with a terrifying vengeance.
The fight began the same way most of their disagreements did, with Jim insisting that it was time they came clean about Batman’s role in ending the Joker’s reign of terror and Bruce growling his disagreement.
“Absolutely not,” Bruce answered without hesitation.
“It’s been five years, Bruce,” Jim pointed out, trying to curb his irritation. “The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be to convince people of the truth.”
“It’s not the right time,” Bruce persisted. Normally Jim would drop the matter at this point, but the remembered terror as he tried to slow the bleeding from a close-range shot to Bruce’s ribs the week before still haunts him, pushing Jim to force his partner to see sense.
“This is Gotham City! There is no such thing as a good time,” Jim pointed out. “What are you waiting for, Bruce?”
“Gotham isn’t ready to know what really happened that night,” Bruce said, voice growing uncharacteristically quiet.
Gordon’s eyes narrowed at his lover’s change in mood. “If not now, then when?” He met Bruce’s gaze when the younger man didn’t immediately respond, and the truth suddenly clicked. “You don’t ever plan to tell anyone…do you?”
Wayne’s silence and grim expression were all the answer Jim needed, and he felt his anger flare.
“You selfish son of a bitch!” Jim yelled. “How dare you…”
Bruce’s hazel eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
“Did you ever consider what that decision would mean for me…what it would do to us?!”
“This isn’t about us, Jim,” Bruce ground out, feeling his own irritation rise. “This is about what Gotham needs.”
“Wrong! This has everything to do with us,” Jim could feel the angry flush rising, but this tirade had been building for too long. “Every day I go to work and listen to the people I work with talking about how badly they want to take down the Batman, the cop-killing freak. Garcia just issued a shoot-on-sight order for Christ’s sake!!”
“I didn’t become Batman for recognition, Jim. It doesn’t matter what happens to me,” Bruce insisted, no hesitation or doubt in his voice. It was the wrong thing to say.
“It matters to me!!” Jim shouted. “I love you, goddamnit and I’m terrified that one day I’m going to walk onto a crime scene to find your dead body riddled with GCPD bullets.”
Jim paused for a moment, panting. He searched his lover’s eyes for a sign that he’d gotten through to him. All he found was the same masochistic determination, and he sighed heavily in defeat.
“I won’t watch as you get yourself killed needlessly,” Jim whispered sadly, and left before Bruce could respond.
He didn’t see the shock and panic dawning, nor the flinch Bruce couldn’t hold back as the front door slammed shut.
When the violent haze lifts, all of the thugs are incapacitated and groaning in pain. The sniper makes no sound save the gurgling wheeze as he breathes. He would live…barely.
Bruce sees none of this, nor does he acknowledge any of the shell-shocked officers who stare at him with astonishment and undisguised fear. He only has eyes for Jim, lying motionless with his head cradled in Montoya’s lap as Stephens and Bullock do their best to slow the bleeding.
It isn’t enough. Bruce can tell by the watery eyes of the two men and the tears streaming outright down Montoya’s cheeks as she looks up and meets Bruce’s eyes.
He can feel his world, or maybe it’s his heart, beginning to splinter. He approaches numbly, barely registering the officers training their weapons upon him or Stephens’ yell for them to stand down. Bruce feels his heart stutter as he realizes that Jim is still breathing, though it’s weak and labored. Montoya, ever more perceptive than people give her credit for, gives him a shaky nod and rises from her position. He gives her a small grateful nod as she whispers for Stephens and Bullock to move away, an effort to give Batman some semblance of privacy with his dying partner.
Bruce can hear sirens in the distance, but he knows that there’s nothing they’ll be able to do. There’s already been too much blood loss, and the wound is close enough to the heart that Bruce is almost positive the bullet nicked it. Jim has maybe seconds left.
Drops begin to fall gently upon Jim’s pale skin, and it takes Bruce a moment to realize that they are tears…his tears. Bruce removes his right glove and gently lays his hand on Jim’s cheek.
“Jim, I’m–” he starts, but it’s too late. Jim goes still in Bruce’s arms and Bruce feels his splintering heart shatter.
None of the officers know how to react as they bear witness to the agonizing picture of Gotham’s dark knight silently shaking as he cradles the body of their fallen commissioner.