Bruce sits at the kitchen island with a slight grimace upon his normally closely guarded features.
"What's wrong, Master Wayne?" probes Alfred. "Is something troubling you?"
"Hm? No, no, it's fine--I'm fine," he replies with a forced-looking grin.
"Forgive me if I'm disinclined to believe you, sir. You've hardly touched your breakfast and until a minute ago you had what, for you, passes as quite a distressed look on your face."
Bruce sighs and looks up from his plate. "You know I don't like to admit when I'm in pain, Alfred. But... my jaw hurts. A lot."
"Well, have you used your face to stop many punches lately?"
"That's just it; I haven't. I've been wracking my brain and I don't remember anything like that lately. The crime rate has been way down this month..." Bruce shakes his head, confused.
"Does the pain seem to be radiating out from within your jaw, sir?"
"Yeah. And it hurts to chew. But it doesn't feel like a cavity or anything like that."
"Oh, Master Wayne. You spent the lion's share of your twenties traipsing all over God's green Earth. We never had your wisdom teeth out!"
"This is hugely embarrassing."
"It's really not, sir. It's just a precaution."
Bruce rolls his eyes and pouts. The billionaire playboy does look awfully out of place in the waiting room of an oral surgeon's office.
"I'll bet Donald Trump doesn't have to go to the dentist. The dentist goes to him."
"This isn't like having a cavity drilled, Master Wayne. You are having a quadruple extraction of your severely impacted wisdom teeth. You will be under a much higher than normal dose of anesthesia due to your high drug tolerance, and your surgeon and anesthesiologist would like to monitor you closely for any complications."
Bruce lets out an unhappy grunt and continues to sulk, staring at the wall opposite him.
"It'll be fine, sir. I'll be here to collect you when you come to. I'll remove you from the building with utmost discretion and drive us back to the penthouse. And, if you're a good patient, the doctor says I can stop and buy you an ice cream!"
"Very funny, Alfred," he says with a glare.
"You may not be laughing when the drugs wear off, sir."
A nurse appears in the doorway to the inner offices, staring down at a clipboard. She calls out, "Bruce?"
A bit overdressed for the procedure in an Armani suit, the man rises from his seat at the sound of his name. The nurse looks up at him and is struck by recognition.
She must be out of the loop of office gossip, poor thing, Bruce thinks.
"I'm so sorry! Mr. Wayne, right this way."
Bruce Wayne comes to in a different room from the one he remembers falling asleep in. His eyes snap open, but something is wrong. Everything is in slow motion. And hilarious. He summons his years of training and discipline to quell his own inexplicable amusement and tries to take in his surroundings.
He is reclined in a strange chair in a very small room with one door. If he listens carefully, he can hear signs of life outside his tiny cell.
He scrambles to his feet, falls down, rights himself, and staggers the last two feet to the door. Bruce is further perplexed to find it unlocked. He slowly (and as stealthily as he can manage in his woozy state) opens the door and peers through the gap. He sees... a doctor's office. Sniff. Strike that, a dentist's office. Wait... What was it that Alfred said?
And it all comes rushing back. Bruce flings the door open the rest of the way and stares the plaque on the outside of the door which reads RECOVERY ROOM 1.
A nurse happens upon him leaning against the doorjamb chuckling at the sign. "Mr. Wayne! You should go lie down, sir. You can go home in a few minutes, okay?" She ushers him back to the chair and leaves him to rest.
Bruce doesn't rest.
He's too busy laughing at his own panic and overreaction. He also gives in and allows himself to enjoy the slowly waning effects of the drugs. He's still busy grinning when his pocket emits a bleep and vibrates briefly.
"Oh!" Delighted, Bruce fishes his latest smartphone out from the depths of his breast pocket. "Oh," he repeats, crestfallen, when he sees that the alert was just a boring automated surveillance update:
Actually... Jim Gordon's out of the office. That thought sends Bruce into another fit of giggles.
Bruce gags and coughs. For the first time he becomes aware of thick cotton wads lodged in the back of his mouth. He fishes one out and sees it soaked in an unpleasant mixture of blood and saliva. But this, too, is funny.
Before he knows what his thumb is doing, Bruce scrolls through his contacts and hits send on Jim's cell phone number.
As it rings, Bruce alternates between laughing and humming a little tune. His song doesn't end until a fair few seconds after the spooty voicemail lady instructs him to leave a message.
"JIIIIIIIIIIIIM! ...hi! You know what's funny? Do you, do you, d'youuuu?" He pauses to wait for an answer, then shouts, "GIVE UP?" while gesticulating with the arm that still holds the gory cotton wad. "Everything is funny. You're funny. God, I love you so mushh. Hang on." Bruce drops his bit of cotton and extracts another one from his mouth. He drops that on the floor and wipes his hand on his pants.
"Ah, that's better. Less fuzzy now, I should think. Although..." Bruce's tongue finds the fresh sutures among the swelling in the back of his mouth. "Oooh, that's gonna hurt later. I've got stitches! Where was I? Heeheeee, oh yeah. Everything is funny! Wait. Or is it? Why didn't you answer your phone? Did you go to lunch and leave your phone at the office, Jim? Jim, Jim, Jimmy, James? Because that's not cool. Because security protocols or something, I think. I worry about you! You know? 'Cause you're always there for me and I want to protect you... I care about you a lot and your safety is, uh, like, a priority for me. And there's the part where I really really like you and junk, but I don't think you know about that? And, shhhhh, you didn't hear it from me--"
There's a quick double-knock on the door and it swings open a second later. "Master W--" Alfred freezes at the sight of a very drugged up man with a secret identity to protect talking animatedly on a cell phone.
The sight of Alfred, in turn, immediately sobers Bruce. "Oh, crap."
In his best American accent, Alfred continues with "Hey, there. Um, I think it's time to hang up now, man."
"Yeah. Yeah." Bruce says into the phone, "Um...bye?" He hurriedly disconnects and flings the phone away, terrified at what he might have said.
"Who was that, Master Wayne?"
"I don't remember," Bruce says beginning to panic. "I didn't hear a voice on the other line? Maybe I didn't call anyone."
Alfred picks up the phone and checks its recent activity. "No such luck. You don't remember? You were sitting up with your eyes open and you were talking!"
"Drugs are bad, Alfred. We should've gone with the awake surgery."
"I still doubt that, sir."
"Ugh. So how's the damage?" Bruce asks, indicating the phone.
"You placed one outgoing call...to Lieutenant Gordon of all people. You don't think you...?"
"I have no idea. I probably didn't confess my identity or anything... Maybe he won't be able to place my voice. It's a little rough. The number's blocked, right?"
"And Bruce Wayne would have no business calling his cell phone pretty much ever. So hopefully he'll assume it was a prank, or else his nocturnal friend got drunk in the daytime. We don't even know if he picked up! I might've been leaving a voice mail for those...?"
"Three minutes and forty-six seconds, sir."
"Right, and with any good sense, Gordon won't even bother listening to a strange voicemail," Bruce says, hoping against hope that it were true.
He accepts Alfred's proffered hand up and they exit the surgeon's office a little worse for the wear.
Exactly one week later, Batman responds to the signal atop Major Crimes. He lurks in the shadows for a minute, trying to assess Gordon's state. He seems fine: the usual cop stance, arms crossed, waiting for something to happen...
Batman gets closer and the gruff "Hey" already escapes his lips when he sees the paper rolled up in Gordon's hand. A far cry from an evidence bag or police report, it looks an awful lot like newsprint and triggers the fight-or-flight response deep in Bruce's brain. There was an article, almost microscopic, really, at the very bottom of page six in the Gotham times about a certain billionaire having "supposedly" non-cosmetic dental surgery. He very much wants to melt back into the shadows and flee, but Gordon's eyes lock onto his and Bruce is frozen where he stands.
Gordon says gently, and with a small, reassuring smile on his face, "So. How's the mouth?"
Batman covers his face with his gloved hands in a feeble attempt to disappear, but still answers, "Better... Thanks for asking."
"Good. I did a little research so I could figure out how long I should give you to heal before I called you back."
"That's--that's great, Gordon."
"Listen, Br--" Batman cringes and holds up a hand to stop him. "Fine, Batman. Don't you think we should talk about this?"
After a long pause, he replies, "I don't know what to think, because I don't remember what I said. Obviously, you're a better cop than even I give you credit for. And I appreciate you not arresting me at my home or anything, but I really don't know where I stand here. And I'm trying. I'm trying very very hard not to run away right now." Bruce stands stiffly with his eyes shut and his hands balled into fists at his sides.
Gordon smiles again. "I appreciate that. I didn't realize how little you remembered. But now that I know I hold all the cards, I'm kind of enjoying this a little bit."
"Jim," Bruce pleads.
"Alright, alright. You called my cell and left me a voicemail. I got it about an hour later when I checked my phone. ...There have been clues, you know. Over these past however many months. Clues that I have willingly ignored because I didn't want to know. For plausible deniability. For my own safety, what-have-you. But you said some...things...last week and I just had to know. A few hints you dropped, the voice slipping, and this article, and it wasn't hard to make you." Jim slowly closes the gap between them, approaching Bruce exactly as you would a wounded animal.
Bruce peers down into Jim's eyes, confused as to why they're so close to his own.
"I don't understand," he admits.
"A little birdie told me that you like me." And before this has time to fully register in Bruce's mind, Jim has an arm hooked around the bat cowl and is tugging him down into a surprisingly tender kiss.
When they separate a too-brief moment later, Bruce stammers, "I-I-I still don't understand."
Jim's thumb traces its way along the cowl and caresses Bruce's exposed chin. He gives a small sigh and smiles a crooked smile as he answers, "And maybe you never will. You're awfully cute when you're confused."