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When Jimmy is not quite 1, he gives his dad a picture of himself in the hospital, newly born. The frame is silver, engraved, with ‘I love my Daddy’ on it.

“Is it okay?” Barbara asks him. Both of them are haggard and snarly from too little sleep and too much baby. The lines that fatigue have drawn on her face make her look like the woman she’ll be, the woman Gordon is planning to be old with. She looks beautiful.

“It’s perfect,” he tells her.

She smells like milk and sweat, like she hasn’t showered in a couple of days. Neither has he.  The cleanest thing in the house right now is Jimmy, who is also the cause of most of the mess.

Not that this is enough to prevent him from hugging his wife. Or from picking up his son, who is vaguely indignant at being interrupted in his current preoccupation. He is trying to eat a rubber penguin, a process that apparently requires a lot of drool. Jimmy smells like warm toast. When Gordon lowers his face to kiss his son’s cheek, tiny, determined gums close wetly around his nose. 

“Look at that,” Gordon says. “He’s already taking after your mother.”

“Shut up,” Barbara says, but she smiles wearily at him and kisses him under the ear. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he says, and kisses her back.

This is the night he isn’t paying attention on his way to serve his shift, yawning and bleary-eyed from late night feedings and colic. This is the night he pulls into the parking garage beside the precinct and doesn’t clear his corners while he’s locking the car door. This is the night Sergeant Eckert and three of Falcone’s boys jump him on the way into the building, and break two of his ribs for talking to the DA. 

“Get smart, Jimbo,” says Eckert when they’re done and he’s a battered, bleeding mess curled up on the ground. The sergeant crouches down to pat Gordon on the cheek. “Happy Father’s Day.”

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 3, he gives his dad a trip to Urgent Care. 

He’s had a wheezy, barking cough for two days, though he’s been active enough that they think he’ll get over it. They turn on the humidifier and coat his chest with Vicks during the night, and then on the third day Barbara calls him in the middle of a shift. “He can’t breathe,” she says, trying to be calm but failing utterly. “He’s barely moving.”

“I’ll meet you at the clinic,” Gordon says.

This is the day he’s supposed to be meeting with Internal Affairs, who have been riding his ass for the last three weeks. They’re going after him because he’s got a reputation for being honest, and the newly assigned ADA thinks that means exploitable. He calls Stephens, who agrees to cover the rest of his shift, then calls his Police Association lawyer to let him know where he’s going. 

“Your meeting’s at three,” his lawyer says. 

“I’ve got nothing to say that they want to hear. They can wait.”

“Jim,” the lawyer says sharply, “these guys aren’t dicking around. This one’s serious. You could lose your job.”

The P.A. guy is a decent man, honest insofar as lawyers go, and he’s actually drunk the kool-aid about guarding the guardians. But he’s still young, and he doesn’t have a child. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have your heart running around outside your body.

Gordon doesn’t hesitate. “Screw them,” he says, and hangs up the phone.

Jimmy is barely responsive, his head drooping, his breathing an agonized, whining thing that terrifies his parents more than anything they’ve ever experienced. The waiting room at the clinic is crowded, but the nurse listens to his son’s painful breathing and calls the doctor. She comes exuding quiet kindness, dark-skinned, doe-eyed. Leads them into a private room. Examines Jimmy. 

When she touches Barbara’s shoulder with reassuring fingers and says, “We’ll set him up with a nebulizer,” Gordon’s heart eases at the matter-of-fact tones. He’s a professional; he can recognize confidence when he sees it.

By the time Gordon’s phone rings, the mask is on Jimmy’s face, and he’s already starting to stir. His eyelids flutter; his head shifts where it’s settled against Barbara’s breast. Gordon answers still holding his son’s dimpled hand.

“Where the fuck are you?” the lawyer demands, the edge of hysteria in his voice. “Dent is talking about grand juries.”

“Go. Go. We’ll be okay now. Happy Father’s Day,” Barbara says, tipping her face back for his kiss.

He’s already checking his watch when he leaves the exam room, hating Gotham, hating himself even more.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 5, he makes his dad an ashtray.

Gordon doesn’t smoke, and neither does Barbara. He’s pretty sure that Jimmy doesn’t know what an ashtray is -- probably none of this newer generation will, with the new laws about smoking in public places -- but Jimmy’s proud of it. He’s stuck bits of colored wood, spangles and feathers on it, all of them flammable. 

“I made it myself,” he tells Gordon for the ninth time, curled up against his ribs in a slender curlicue of pride. “Happy Daddy’s day, Daddy.”

“It’s Father’s Day, dear,” says Barbara, bending over to kiss his sleepy head. “And it’s not until tomorrow.”

“It’s whatever day he wants to call it, whenever he wants to have it,” Gordon says. He kisses Jimmy too, and carries him up to bed because he still can. The day’s coming when he won’t be able to, so each time he does this is a treasure to hoard away,  tucked carefully in the tissue of these precious, fleeting years. 

Gordon takes it to the office the next day because Jimmy wants him to.  He isn’t too proud to put it on his desk, though it wouldn’t be the smart thing to do if he had a desk out in the pit with the rest of the department. That’s where being a sergeant has its perks. He puts it next to the photo of Babs just home from the hospital, and then doesn’t think about it again because one of Falcone’s caporegimes calls to say he wants to flip, then disappears off the face of the map.

This is the night he comes back to his desk after hunting for the missing (dead) man with Flass, for all the good that does anybody, and sits down in the dark to feel a gun pressed to the back of his neck. This is the night he chases a masked man up to the roof and watches him do something so incredibly, suicidally stupid, he can’t help but be impressed. This is the night he goes back to his office and finds his own stapler on the floor.

This is the night he goes home early, thinking numbly that it could have been a real gun. It could have been the last time he ever saw his wife and his kids. 

This is the night he thinks that would have been okay if he could think he was leaving them a gift, a Gotham that was worthy of them.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 6, he gives Gordon a family portrait in poster paints. Babs gives him a mug bearing a photograph of herself and her big brother.

“It’s great,” Gordon says, admiring the portrait while Jimmy pretends not to care. “Why is Babs’s hair red?”

“It’s not her hair, it’s horns,” says Jimmy. He narrows his eyes and hisses, making sure first that his mother can’t hear, “She’s evil.” Two years in, he still isn’t a fan of the competition.

This is the day Batman delivers a capo who was supposed to have left the country, hogtied and gagged with duct tape. He’s left on the hood of Gordon’s car, a neat trick given the car was in the secured police parking lot. The sign taped to his chest is just this side of thumbing his nose at Loeb: Special delivery for Lt. Gordon. 

The capo is pissed and so is the Commissioner, but the DA grins like he’s just gotten the Rockettes for Christmas. 

Gordon hides his amusement when he’s called on the carpet by the brass. “There’s no proof it’s Batman,” he says. “Maybe Spiccati just decided to turn himself in.” If he’s going to lie, he might as well make it a glaring one.

When he gets back to his desk four hours after he’s supposed to have left for the day, two hours after the special dinner Barbara was going to make for the family, he finds a long, thin box on his desk. He doesn’t try to open it until Stephens confirms it was brought in by bonded messenger and checked already for booby traps.

Inside, there’s a hinged leather box, black and gold-hinged. Inside that is a tie, striped in shades of silver and grey. There’s no note, though the elegant lettering on the box clearly reads, ‘Lieutenant Jim Gordon.’

“Shit,” says Stephens, running a reverent finger over the silk before flipping it over. He whistles. “You got a secret admirer with taste.”

“Maybe it’s some kind of message.”

“Seems like an expensive message to send,” Stephens says, and since Gordon doesn’t know anything about the higher end of life, tells him how much the thing probably cost. These days Gordon is dressing better (Barbara’s doing) but he still doesn’t spend that much on his suits, much less his ties, so he’s taken aback. Then he’s alarmed.

“Find out who sent it,” Gordon says, “because like hell am I putting a noose around my neck that came from Maroni or any of those other bastards.”

Stephens just grins at him. “It’s Father’s Day. Got a skeleton in your closet, Jimbo? Maybe the tie’s supposed to go with a paternity suit.”

Dammit,” Gordon says.

He dumps the tie in his desk drawer and races for home. The kids are already in bed by the time he gets home, and dinner is cold. Barbara’s face is tight, but resigned. “Go kiss Jimmy,” she says. “He’s still awake and waiting for you.”

Babs is a tiny plump rosebud in her big girl bed. Jimmy’s eyes reflect the nightlight, expectant on the door. He sits up when Gordon enters the room, his pale hair rumpled, his thin face enchanted.

“Were you working with Batman?” Jimmy whispers.

“Yup,” Gordon whispers back. “He’s still catching the bad guys.”

Jimmy’s smile lights up the night, better and brighter than the searchlight on MCU ever could.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 7, he gives Gordon a picture of a policeman that he drew himself. Babs gives him a sticky card made out of construction paper and an excessive amount of glitter. 

He doesn’t have time to shower again and change his clothes before he goes to work. It’s going to be a difficult day. Fighting the mob is hard enough, not to have to do it while sparkling like a fairy.

“Do you love it?” Babs asks, while Jimmy rolls his eyes.

“It’s beautiful, sweetheart,” he says, and means it. 

“My present’s less girly,” Jimmy whispers into his ear. “You can throw hers away if you want. I won’t tell.”

The box he finds on his desk when he shows up for his shift looks the same as the first one. In fact, he thinks for a moment that it’s the same one, that someone pulled it out of his desk drawer where he dumped it and forgot about it, but when he opens the drawer up, its twin stares back up at him.

This time the tie is blue jacquard. It goes with his spare suit, the one that he keeps hanging around in the office for times when something happens to make whatever he’s wearing unwearable. Blood spray or vomit, usually. Less commonly, a spilled coffee. Being Lieutenant has its perks, but the body fluids quota isn’t one of them. At least, not the way he does the job.

He dumps this one into the drawer as well, next to the first one. “You ever find out who’s sending these?” he asks Stephens.

“Oh, shit,” Stephens says, and looks guilty. “I forgot to look.”

Gordon can’t really blame him; there isn’t a lot of down time in MCU, and a tie doesn’t weigh highly against the other stuff they’re trying to pin down. He retreats to his office and picks up the phone to call the courier company, but Bullock comes in yelling about the DA’s office, and that puts it completely out of his mind.

This is the day they find Ramazanov’s girlfriend ripped to shreds by dogs. Incredibly, she’s still alive, and Jim kneels over her, frantically trying to apply first aid to things that are spraying more blood than her body should contain.

“Who did this?” he demands, thinking, dying declaration, we can use this.

Her eyes are glazed over; she probably can’t even hear him. She dies less than a minute later, without saying a word.

“Jesus Christ, what a mess,” Wuertz says, standing over the body.

Gordon is heartsick and exhausted, his head hanging. “Dammit,” he says, feeling his knees and hair matted with blood. There’s a picture of a smiling boy in the frames on the walls. Jimmy’s age.

“You’re gonna need a shower.”

Child Protective Services comes for the dead woman’s son before the coroner even gets there, a first in Gordon’s experience. One of the uniforms has a jumpsuit in the back of his car, so he changes into that and dumps his sodden clothes into a plastic bag. Back at the barn, he showers in the locker room, then changes into his spare suit and shirt. He realizes all of his spare ties are being cleaned or need to be cleaned, so reluctantly dons the one his secret admirer gave him that morning.

It makes the rest of his outfit look cheap, but then again, it is. Gordon has never really cared much about how he looks -- that’s always been Barbara’s thing -- but he’s learned by now that clothes can be a weapon too, and he can’t afford not to arm himself in every way he can when he’s out facing down guys like Maroni and Gambol.

He rants at Batman that night on the roof, still feeling the sticky, clammy skin of the dying woman under his hands, and the fever heat of blood dotting his face. After he winds down, he’s hit by Batman’s stoic silence and an awareness of shame at the outburst. He’s taking out his frustrations on the one man in Gotham who doesn’t deserve it. “Sorry,” he says. “Bad day.”

Batman says, “You can’t save everyone.”

“I can try,” Gordon says tiredly, then smiles a little because they’ve had this conversation before, although last time he was the one giving the good advice. 

Batman stirs, his cape whispering around his legs. “Go home. It’s Father’s Day.”

Gordon says, “Dammit,” and turns hastily for the stairs.

Behind him, he hears, “Nice tie.”

“What?” Gordon says, and stops to look down. When he looks back around again, Batman is gone.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 8, he gives his dad a slammed door and a scatter of confetti that was the comic book he made for him at school. Babs gives him a bouquet of origami flowers glued to pipe cleaners that she says she made herself. (Mommy helped.)

“Jimmy,” Gordon calls through the door, looking down at the shredded bits of paper and the bright, fractal shapes that paint them. “Why did you do that?”

There are muffled sounds inside the room, books being thrown, feet stomping noisily and dramatically across the floor. Jimmy’s at an age where he thinks rage should be loud and expressive, which is why the things in his room are the things that have proven themselves worthy through Darwinian selection. 

“Son!”

“It was a comic about Batman!” Jimmy shouts through another crash. “Go away! I hate you! I hope you die! I wish you’d stayed dead!”

“The therapist says this is normal after trauma,” Barbara says in a neutral voice, when Gordon comes back down the stairs, the fragments of the comic book cupped in his hands like broken bones. “He doesn’t mean it.”

I love you, Daddy,” Babs chirps, and raises her face for a kiss.

“I love you too, princess,” he says. Her kiss is like the touch of flower petals; she smells like fresh baked bread and the yogurt she is busily smacking into submission.

Barbara’s kiss is quiet. Cautious. It tastes like coffee.

They haven’t been able to finish cleaning up the explosion in the precinct. Most of his office survived, though Jimmy’s ashtray took a beating. The new office in City Hall feels oppressive, like a chain around his neck, but it has all his stuff in it for now, so it’ll do until he can get the old house fixed. 

This time the box on his desk is labeled ‘Commissioner Jim Gordon’ and the tie is dark, black on black, mourning colors. He’s been to too many funerals in the last month, and there are probably going to be more in the offing. There always are, in Gotham. He lets it slide through his hands, watching the shimmer of light across the silk, and thinks idly about how much better it’ll look than the old black polyester one he’s been wearing up until now.

“Aw, crap,” says Stephens, pausing in the doorway.

“Never mind,” Gordon says. “It’s not important.”

He has his suspicions now, but it’s not like he can confirm them. He hasn’t seen Batman since the night Dent died, though he still goes to the precinct some evenings, climbs the stairs to the roof to sit by the ruined spotlight. It could be a coincidence that the first tie came a year to the day that Batman entered his life. 

He’s not paid to believe in coincidences. If he’s right, it’s confirmation, at least, that his partner is still alive. He can only hope that it also means he’s all right. 

This is the night he comes home past midnight to a dark house, and hears the sound of crying coming from behind his son’s closed door. He opens it, wary; he hasn’t been welcome in the room for over a week, but Jimmy sits up in his bed and holds out his arms, tears shining like stars in the dark.

“I don’t really wish you were dead,” Jimmy sobs, when Gordon wraps his boy in his arms and holds him like he’s about to fall over the edge. 

“I know,” Gordon says hoarsely into his hair.

“Don’t die again, Daddy.”

Gordon doesn’t makes promises he can’t keep. “I love you, son,” he whispers. “I'll always love you.”

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 10, he gives his dad a Hallmark card, signed inside by Babs and himself. “Babs picked it,” he says. His signature inside says simply, J. 

“Thanks, son,” Gordon says, and tries to ruffle Jimmy’s hair, but Jimmy shoves away his hand and gives him a cool, challenging look before turning away.

Jimmy can’t understand why Batman is gone, just like he can’t understand why his father stands in front of television cameras and does nothing but lie. He’s 10, he can’t be expected to understand, but Gordon sometimes can’t either, and he’s old enough to know better. Jimmy’s heroes have been stolen away one by one, Batman by the media, his father by the deceit that is making his hands filthy. Gordon, who would scoop out his own heart with his bare hands to spare his son a second’s pain, is left to watch helplessly while the trust in his little boy’s eyes is replaced by resentment and anger and disappointment.

This year, the tie inside the box is a formal one, the kind that goes with tuxedos rather than the suit he wears on the job. It isn’t as plain as the one that he usually wears, a pattern barely visible except under direct lighting, but it’s simple enough not to draw attention to itself.

“What do you think?” he asks Barbara, when he takes it home that night.

She looks at it with curiosity, then ties it around his collar, her fingers nimble and practiced on the complicated folds. He’s never had the knack, himself.

“It suits you,” she decides. “It’s better than the other one.”

“Come watch me wear it tomorrow,” he suggests. He catches her hand, dropping a kiss on fingers rough from dishes and scrubbing and the daily struggle to make a house into a home. “We can get a babysitter.”

She smiles a bit, but shakes her head and draws away. “I promised the kids,” she says distantly. “We’re having a movie night. Just the three of us.” Again, he hears, but she doesn’t say it. 

Gordon wears it the next night to the opening of the new justice building, and is drawn aside by the Mayor. “Make sure you spend some time with Mr. Daggett tonight,” Garcia orders. “We want his support on the new assault weapon bill. For God’s sake, Jim. Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy a tuxedo instead of renting one every time?”

Gordon touches the tie through the night, feeling the smooth, expensive fabric under his fingers, and wonders wearily if it’s a sign of something that he prefers the noose. 

This is the night that they get a tip on Zsasz at last. He gets the call from Montoya halfway through the speeches, and ducks out of the gala to finish the conversation. When he’s done giving orders, and the black-and-whites are racing through the streets of Gotham to spread their nets, he turns to find himself face-to-face with Gotham’s Prince himself, Bruce Wayne.

“Sorry,” Bruce says, catching him by the arm before they collide. His teeth flash white. “Running away already?”

“Work calls,” Gordon excuses, conscious of the impeccable tailoring of the other man’s clothes and the terrible fit of his own. 

“Your tie’s crooked.” Bruce reaches out to adjust it with the familiarity and overly deliberate care of the exceedingly drunk. His fingers are confident though, and practiced as they twitch the folds into place. 

“I don’t need a straight tie in order to arrest my perp, Mr. Wayne.”

“You should always look the part,” Bruce says, and smiles as he steps back. His eyes, Gordon notes, are curiously dead, for all their brightness. “All work and no play, Commissioner.”

It’s true that Gordon is the best-dressed cop in the dragnet that finally scoops up Zsasz that night. Zsasz, though, doesn’t seem to care.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 13, Barbara gives Gordon a trial separation.

“I think we should think about it,” Barbara says on the phone, because it’s been two days since Gordon has been able to get away from the office. The GPD is in the middle of an operation, a massive effort with the ATF, DEA, and Homeland Defense to bring down a complicated network of organized crime and drug runners. Every time he’s even thought of leaving, a piece of this precarious partnership he’s pulled together begins to fall apart. Gotham can’t afford to mess this one up.

His first thought is that it’s a joke. The second, that it’s a poorly timed one.

“Can we talk about this later?” Gordon says. “Whatever it is that you’re mad about--”

“Do you even realize that it’s Father’s Day?” Barbara asks, while people shout around him, squabbling in jurisdictional one-upmanship. “Babs made you a scarf. She knitted it herself. She stayed up almost all night for three days in a row to finish it in time.”

“Barb--” he says helplessly, unsure of how he’ll finish the sentence.

“Just come home when you can, Jim,” his wife says tiredly. “We can talk then.”

There’s a finality to her voice that he can’t argue with, even if he could have the conversation with cranky feds crowding his office.

He can’t concentrate after that, the taste of ashes and fear in the back of his mouth, vaguely sick with the realization that the world is crumbling to pieces in his hands. When the courier brings the box ten minutes later, he reaches for it like a drowning man tossed a rope.

This year, the tie is dark green, almost jaunty, though not so far beyond the somber colors he favors these days that he wouldn’t wear it. There are seven ties now, all of them in their original boxes, stacked on top of each other and hidden away inside his desk drawer. On top of the seventeen he has at home, that gives him an even twenty-four.

Gordon really does have too many ties.

He wears these ties, these gifts, on special occasions. Not political events or media opportunities, but real ones, ones that matter; when lives are on the line. He wears them when he feels like he needs a helping hand to get through the next few hours. They’re not Batman, but when he wears them, he almost feels like his old partner is watching their backs, somewhere out there. It’s all he’s got, so it has to be good enough.

If Gordon really needs him, he thinks, if push comes to shove and the ship of Gotham’s future he’s trying to steer with a prayer and a hope and a handful of bullets actually starts to go down -- that’s when Batman will come back. He has to tell himself that, because the alternative is unthinkable. And maybe the fact Batman hasn’t come back means they’re doing all right despite it all. 

The ties are like totems now, talismans for luck. These days, Gordon’s not the only one who has a superstitious feeling about them, either. His people watch him now, as he undoes the tie he has on and replaces it with the new one. 

“Nice,” says Montoya, and grins at Gordon.

Stephens says, “It works with the suit, too.”

Gordon thinks back to the black on black on black favored by the suspected gifter, and says, “I guess whoever sent it has an eye.”

This is the day the a tongue-twisting jumble of three-letter acronyms run a successful joint operation, and seize $10.5 million in illegal weapons and drugs, not to mention forty-two high-level mafia and gang members. This is the day Commissioner Jim Gordon of the GPD is injured saving the life of a DEA agent, and ends up in the hospital with a bullet in his shoulder. This is the day he convinces his guilt-ridden wife to give him another chance, one last chance, before she gives him up to Gotham forever.

This is the night he writes two copies of his confession, one to give to Garcia when Gotham’s ready, and one to be stapled to his will. Just in case he’s ready before Gotham is.

 

::

 

When Jimmy is 15, he gives his dad silence. Babs calls from Cleveland, where Barbara is looking for a new house. 

“Amazon is slow,” she says, “but I sent you a Father’s Day present.”

He still has the card she made him when she was 3, sitting on his desk. It’s framed now so it will stop transferring pink glitter to the paperwork he sends on to Garcia, although sometimes one escapes from the glass to show up, shiny and smug, on the corner of a page.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he says.

“Sure I did,” she says. “You’re my dad. Happy Father’s Day. I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, honey,” he says, and closes his eyes over the ache in his chest. 

Jimmy is laconic on the phone, almost sullen, though he’s outgrown the broodiness of his early adolescence. Now he’s just quiet when they talk, though Barbara tells him that he’s loud and cheerful enough with his friends. 

They don’t seem to have much in common anymore. Somewhere along the way, they’ve lost the ability to speak the same language. Gordon asks him about what’s going on at school, and is told, Nuthin’. He asks how sports is, and learns, Enh. How is his girlfriend? he wonders, and hears that she’s Okay

“I love you, son,” Gordon says.

“Bye,” Jimmy says. He hasn’t said I love you since the divorce.

Gordon has shifted his office back into the MCU building, where he can keep a finger on the pulse of his force and coincidentally stay out of arm’s reach of Garcia. The person sending the ties seems to have no difficulty keeping up with his moves. 

This year, it’s a blue-grey color. “Hey. It’s the same color as your eyes. Nice,” Montoya says, holding it up to his face when she and Stephens wander in to inspect this year’s delivery. 

“It is?”

“You never look in a mirror?” Montoya asks. 

He has, but then again, he hasn’t. He puts it on because it looks better than the one he has on, and these days, he needs a little help to get through the holidays that matter. The ones where he should be a father, but can’t be, because he wasn’t. 

This is the day he’s called to Arkham because Joker is dead, stabbed through the eye by his psychiatrist. She’s taken away in cuffs with a strange, set smile on her face, and offers no explanation. Not that Joker’s psychiatrist would need one, all things considered. Joker is the embodiment of first causes.

Was.

Gordon stands over the body, looking down at a face that would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for the scars, and thinks with detached astonishment, I’m the only one left.

“Who says therapy doesn’t work?” says Stephens with satisfaction.

“He never did tell us who he really was.” The head of Arkham is a nervous man, obsessed with lawsuits. He hovers behind them, wringing his hands. “What are they going to put on the death certificate?”

“His name,” Gordon says. “Joker.”

This is the night he goes up to the roof with a bottle of scotch and stands by the broken spotlight, thinking that maybe tonight, this night of all nights, he’ll hear that voice again in the dark. For the space of one question, maybe. Is it true? or Did you see him? or maybe even, Are you all right?

Nobody comes, so he drinks his glass alone, then pours another one over the spotlight. For old times’ sake.

 

::

 

 

When Jimmy is 16, he gives his dad five words. 

“How’re things going?” he asks Gordon on the phone that day.

“Better,” Gordon says. “The Army Corps has a suspension worked out for the East Bridge, so it’s back in use now, on a limited basis. And Gotham General is fully operational now. St. Francis and Maimonides are the only ones left to go.”

“How are you, Dad?” asks Jimmy.

Gordon hesitates. “Still missing him,” he says at last. 

After a moment, his son says, “Me too.”

They’ve started talking since Gotham opened up again, really talking, the first time they’ve really talked in years. They’re strangers to each other, but Gordon’s used to getting to know strangers, and Jimmy is still the little boy -- young man, now -- who, with his sister, is Gordon’s heart running around outside of his body. He reaches out, like he’s always reached out, like he always will. This time, Jimmy reaches back. It’s wary, this connection, because they’ve hurt each other more times than they can count, but it’s something, where there was nothing before. It’s something Gordon thinks they can build on, if Jimmy’s willing.

Gordon’s good at building. He’s had plenty of practice.

The calls since the Liberation (the media’s word, not Gordon’s) have been erratic, but good. They’re moments snatched in time, out of the hungry mouths of all the things demanding Gordon’s attention. The reclamation of the streets. The military occupation. The reconstruction of the city government. The identification of the missing. 

He does the work because someone has to. His men still look to him, refusing his resignation with the same gritty stubbornness with which they survived five months underground, a battle in the streets, a winter under siege. He can’t disappoint them any more than he has. Gotham needs the GPD, the heroes of the hour. The GPD has decided that it needs Gordon.

And so he goes on.

There are people outside of Gotham, politicians who threw their weight behind the passage and success of Dent’s Law, who want to see Gordon brought up on charges. Most days, Gordon wishes that he was. 

“Are you going to go to jail?” Jimmy asks him.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I probably deserve it if I do though, don’t you think?”

There’s a pause on the phone. “You just did what you had to do, to protect everyone,” Jimmy says. “You and Batman together.”

“I love you, son,” Gordon says, like he’s said almost every day since Jimmy was born.

This time, for the first time since he was 13 years old, Jimmy says, “I love you too, Dad.”

The first meeting of the day is with Colonel Warwick, the commander of the forces helping restore Gotham. Warwick is a decent man, though he’s a bit hidebound for Gordon’s tastes. Gordon likes him. Warwick reciprocates with a faintly reverential respect that sometimes makes Gordon uncomfortable. 

“Of course they’re not going to bring charges against you,” says the Judge Advocate officer with Warwick, looking amused. “What could they possibly file? You didn’t pass the law. They did. Everything you did under it was legal.”

“And you’re a hero. A national hero. You led the resistance. Your men reclaimed the city. You helped save 8.5 million people from nuclear disaster.” There’s that note in Warwick’s voice again.

“Batman saved the--” Gordon tries to say, but is cut off.

“He wouldn’t have made it in time if it wasn’t for you.”

The Judge Advocate adds pragmatically, “They couldn’t press charges against you anyway. They’re going to announce tomorrow that you’re being awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’d be politically embarrassing if they tried to throw you in jail after that.”

“You didn’t know?” Warwick asks, surprised, at the look on Gordon’s face. “I told you. You’re a hero.”

Sick to his stomach, Gordon bows out of the rest of the meeting.

The MCU building is the headquarters of the GPD now, the hub of the work that is reclaiming law and order in Gotham’s streets. Like City Hall, like all buildings dedicated to the bureaucracy and structure of government under Isolation (again, the media’s word, not his) it was ripped to shreds by roving mobs and Bane’s people.

Almost everything in Gordon’s office was gone or destroyed when he returned to it, but he never needed much to do his work. The things that are irreplaceable are memories, not tools: Jimmy’s ashtray; Babs’s glitter card; their photographs. 

The ties.

The work to reconstruct is taking time, but the worst of the clean-up is well underway. Civilians have done a lot of it, volunteers, the best in Gotham’s citizens brought out by the day that Gotham’s Finest laid down their lives to free their city.

It is almost like old times when he walks into the building. There is the ring of phones, the rattle of voices, the bustle of bodies knowing where they are going and what they stand for. He greets each of them by name as he goes, feeling the holes where good men and women used to be. 

“John,” he pauses to recognize, startled.

“Commissioner,” Blake says, and looks sheepish. He is carrying a box of half-burned files. “I had some free time. Thought I’d help out a bit.”

Gordon grips his upper arm, silently grateful.

“Check it out,” says Stephens, jerking his head towards Gordon’s office. “Right on schedule.”

“What is?”

Montoya grins. “Take a look. Death, taxes, and your secret admirer. Guess whoever it was made it out of the city before it all went down.”

The three of them crowd into his office with him, trailing after him like hopeful puppies. When Gordon sees the box on his desk, he thinks at first that it’s a sick joke. The labels on the wrapping are different than the ones he’s gotten in years past. Gotham, they used to say. Firenze, says this one. The date on it is a week old.

“How did it get here?” he asks, because the mail isn’t running yet, won’t be running for a few days still.

“Messenger dropped it off,” Stephens says. He shrugs. “One of those Army guys. Your secret admirer’s got friends high up, I guess.”

This time the tie is dark red, dignified, but surprisingly cheerful. He ghosts his trembling hand across it, shaken by its reality, and feels the small snags as silk catches against the roughness of calluses.

“Nice one,” says Stephens. “Like clockwork, isn’t she?”

“Or he,” Montoya says. “You never know. They could be from a guy. Don’t be a bigot, Gerry.”

“Aw, Christ. Now I just got images.

“What’s this about?” Blake asks, the only one out of the loop.

Gordon holds the tie in his hand, imagining the road it has traveled to get here, on this day, while the two detectives let John Blake in on the mysterious tradition that started who knows when. He can feel Blake’s eyes on him, curious, but doesn’t look up to meet them. 

“It’s nice to think some things haven’t changed,” Stephens says, when they’re done.

“Huh,” says Blake. “Firenze. That’s Florence, isn’t it? Italy?”

“That’ll go good with what you have on,” Montoya points out. “Want me to put it on for you?”

This is the day Gordon’s mouth twitches, curving up to the first smile he’s had in weeks, longer than he can remember. This is the day he feels happiness, real happiness, the first he’s felt since his family broke. “I’ve got this,” he says, stripping off the tie he has on. “The only nooses that go around my neck are the ones I put there.”

“Speaking of which, I completely forgot. It's Father’s Day,” Montoya says.

"Oh yeah," Stephens says, while Blake looks blank. "Happy Father's Day, Jimbo."

“Thanks,” Gordon says, and slides red silk around his neck, satisfaction in his voice. “It really is.”