He looks into the mirror, an inarticulate moment the accumulation of days, months, years spent in preparation. So what he finds is no surprise.
Weeks earlier Thomas Elliot, Gotham’s contrary son, found himself in the clinic of Matthew Thorne. Thorne who also covered his face, the surgical-masked doctor to his bandaged patient. “If we’re going to make this work,” Tommy said (to himself he’s always Tommy whether he wants it or not, child’s scrawl in his skull echoing forward) “you’re going to have to take that thing off.” Thorne, thin-lipped emissary of criminals and filth, mirrored glasses revealing all he saw and nothing of himself, complied and showed his smile. His teeth were very white.
Tommy hates him. He hates the calm, even rhythm his words carried as he explained that doctor-patient confidentiality was guaranteed, that a breech would destroy his entire operation, that it would prove to the community at large (“community” of psychopaths and serial killers, monsters and murderers, street-thieving lowlifes who have no place in the world and desperately cling to each other like cancers) that he is untrustworthy and better left buried. A liability rather than advantage.
Thorne has no interest in the affairs of costumes beyond the professional opportunities they offer. Whatever knowledge he’s accumulated over the years is worthless to him personally. Killing Thorne could only cause ripples, and who knows if he’ll become necessary again.
If it was up to him, Tommy would have preferred to perform the whole procedure himself. Unfortunately, he is only a neurosurgeon. Even if he wasn’t this required precision, and if he faltered due to pain or fell unconscious under anesthesia he’d have only himself to blame.
He resents this dependence of course. But such are necessary evils.
Regardless, Thorne agreed to host him, help him, and hide him throughout his recovery. The environment is sub-par—full of old equipment and gleaming metal, concrete floors and scattered lighting. No sterile smell of chemicals he became accustomed to during his days in Philadelphia. He could have stayed there.
He couldn’t have.
Seventy-two hours and the bandages came off, revealing bruises and swelling scattered across a face that might have been the one he wanted but might have suffered some imperfection, some inconsistency. Thorne reassured him everything was moving smoothly, but it all looked alien under red hair regardless. Another piece of his mother holding on, pinning him beneath the weight of her memory, fingers curling into his shoulders as her throat strained and seized between his hands.
Tommy exhales, slowly.
It’s been six weeks now. That flaw has been remedied, and he finds his hair black, glossy. Correct. Green irises have been covered by contacts, which might not hold up to close inspection but work wonders otherwise. Blue, pale, cold. Clean.
Exactly as he should be. Should have been.
The jaw seems broader, but he notices its sharpness more. Thinner lips, deeper eyes, neater brows. That just-aquiline nose that made him appear so intelligent, framed by high cheekbones. He could grin (and does) like a rogue to win the hearts of anyone who looked at him.
Oh Bruce. Bruce who has… had so much and threw it away.
Tommy runs a hand over his own cheek. The gesture is slow, tentative. He stops, but his arm does not fall.
Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
What did that make them now?