John is angry. He realises that he didn't have time during the Occupation for anger. He had pushed the anger away so he could do his fucking job. Because being an outlaw hadn't meant he hadn't been a cop anymore.
Now, well, fuck, John thinks, now he has no idea what the hell he is. Or who he is supposed to be. He is not a cop anymore, even if he hasn't made it official yet. But throwing your badge away is pretty much the definition of quitting the job.
Bringing Bane's second in command into the Cave (in capitals, because deep down John is still just a kid with a hopeless crush) isn't helping him finding out who he is either. Or maybe it is. John is too tired and messed up to think about it.
He watches Barsad sleeping and feels a bit like a creep for doing it. On the other hand, someone has to make sure he doesn't die from the fucking bullet-wound that John just cleaned and re-wrapped. How Barsad even made it this far without bleeding to death or getting a goddamn infection John isn't sure. But then, Barsad always had more luck than brains. And that says a lot, John thinks, because for all the stupid shit Barsad's done John would never call him dumb.
“Are you going to keep staring?”
“You should be out cold from the pain,” John answers.
Barsad smiles. “Can't you get the good stuff from somewhere?” He's actually amused by this, and John wants to break something.
He takes a deep breath instead. “I'm not-”
“Bullshit,” Barsad interrupts. “You are. You always were resourceful.”
John can't really argue that. “Oh, this is your twisted way of punishing me.” Barsad closes his eyes. He must be in so much fucking pain, John thinks. “I wonder for what exactly. Throwing my lot in with Bane, trying to destroy the city?” he asks. Then, quieter: “Leaving you?”
John swallows. He doesn't know. “People think you're dead.”
“Good for me,” Barsad replies. He sounds between smug and not giving a fuck.
“You should sleep. It'll help with the pain,” John says.
John is way out of his league here. And he knows it. He has no one to blame but himself for the mess he finds himself in.
“If people see you-”
“People think I'm dead. You made sure of that,” Barsad interrupts.
John wants to punch him in his stupid, smug face. “I am sure people would still recognize you. You just had to stand beside Bane while he was on TV.” And a dark alley isn't really the place to be having this conversation and John is on patrol, but he doesn't think Barsad cares.
“And I bet your eyes were on me the whole time,” Barsad answers.
They weren't. John hadn't even registered it until after, because there was so much shit going down and he was too preoccupied with losing his hero figure. One of them. He isn't proud of it, but maybe in the end it made things easier for John.
“There were more pressing things to think about,” John says.
Barsad leans in closer and John lets him back him into the cold alley wall. He can hardly feel it anyway through the suit.
“That was always your problem,” Barsad whispers, and he's so close now, and they've never done this before, but... What the hell, John thinks, and bites his lip. Barsad smiles, leans in and kisses him. “You are in so much fucking trouble,” Barsad breathes against his lips.
“I know,” John answers.
John tries to be a good... whatever he's trying to be while wearing the cowl.
He tries, but with Barsad stalking in the shadows, it's pretty fucking hard to concentrate. And it's embarrassing to find out that Barsad, of all people, is more suited to being a vigilante than John.
“It's because I was properly trained. And you, you have basic police training,” he says. His voice amused, but he spits the word 'police' out like it makes him sick. It probably does.
“Not all of us could train under freaking psycho terrorists.” He says, because it stings that Barsad is better at this and the reason why he is better is because the bad guys train their people better.
Barsad shrugs. “Why do you even want this?”
“You wouldn't understand.”
“No, I get your fucked up crush on Batman,” Barsad answers and John wants to hit him; he always knows how to push John's buttons.
“Were you jealous? Is that why you-”
“No,” Barsad cuts in sharply, “it's because this city is rotten to the core. You know that. You of all people know that.”
It stings, because John does know that, but John can't give up hope. He never could give up hope. “You're messed up, because of him,” Barsad adds, softer.
“I can give that right back,” John says and doesn't let himself wonder what he did for Bane, or other people. With them. “Did you think you could win?”
“Yes. It was a good plan.”
“And what about the kids?”
“Collateral damage. Regrettable, but...” He shrugs, but he isn't looking at John.
“And what about me?”
“I looked for you,” he answers earnestly.
“And what would you have told Bane?”
“To the victor go the spoils,” he answers.
And John punches him in the face for that one. Barsad curses while John shakes out his hand. “We are not- we could never-” he breathes hard.
“We could have been.”
“You fucked off and left me here!” John explodes, because apparently he still isn't over this thing with Barsad or maybe it's because it seems like everyone John cares about leaves him.
“Just don't,” John says sharply and leaves, because he doesn't want to fuck up Barsad's face. Or maybe because he really wants to.
“I could teach you,” he says a few days later, and John really shouldn't wonder. He doesn't even ask how Barsad found him, here on a windy rooftop. Barsad has means and ways. John is on a stake-out and Barsad being here isn't promising; John is sure he won't get anything done tonight.
“Teach me what?” he asks.
“To be a better vigilante.”
“Why?” He has to ask, because he knows that Barsad doesn't fucking approve of his life choices. He has made that clear on several occasions. But then, the feeling is mutual.
“Because you so obviously want to be. Want to please him.”
John clenches his hands into fists. He doesn't want to please Wayne, or Batman. He's doing this for himself. “You don't get it. You don't get me. I wonder if you ever did,” John says.
“I wonder the same thing about you.”
And John wants to say: I believed in you, and I believed in him, and he didn't let me down when I needed someone to save me.
And it shouldn't be this fucking easy to fall into this thing they're doing, but it is. Because Barsad knew him back when he was just a thirteen year old kid, freaking out and angry and desperate for someone, something -- and maybe he never really outgrew that need.
And when Barsad kisses him hard it's what he needs, and when he brushes his fingers against John's cheek gently it's what he needs, too. He just knows, and that's why he was such a fucking great second in command. John tries not to think about all the things Barsad did since he left the orphanage at sixteen. Since he left the city, since he left John. But he thinks there are so many bodies, so many bodies paving his way. (His way back here.)
“One day I'm going to ask,” John says against his lips.
“And I will answer.”
“Lie, you mean.”
“If that is what you need to hear, yes,” Barsad answers, and John kisses him again, his fingers digging hard into Barad's sides. Everything he feels is muted through the suit. He needs to get out of it. He needs to - he doesn't know. This is such a bad idea. And even if an alley in the middle of the night isn't very public, it's still not a good place to make out with a wanted criminal.
“Get in the car,” he says after another too-hard kiss.
And Barsad does, because he's always been good at taking orders when he finds someone worth the trouble.
John has never asked, but he wants to. When he looks at Barsad sitting at the kitchen table in his apartment, he wants to ask what the hell went wrong. How he ended up being a mercenary. How he ended up with Bane of all the people.
John doesn't ask.
John has his own problems and they have nothing to do with the wanted mercenary in his kitchen.
(Sometimes John likes to lie to himself for a while.)
“Did you quit already?” Barsad asks.
“Your day job? Did you quit it already?”
“What is it to you?” John asks, crossing his arms over his chest. He feels constantly defensive when he's around Barsad. It's because, of all the people John knows, Barsad and Batman are the only two who really know him. It's unnerving.
Barsad shrugs. “Nothing. Just curious. I like to know things.”
John thinks he's developing the mother of all headaches. “It's none of your business, so leave it alone,” he snaps.
He doesn't mean to, but he is really freaking irritated and he doesn't know if it's him or Barsad or Batman fucking off and leaving him here to pick up the pieces. Or Gordon being on his case so he'll come back to the force already.
He leaves the kitchen before he loses it completely.
Barsad plays with the spoon (and even that looks like a deadly weapon in his hands) and smiles. “I heard a rumour.”
“You aren't even supposed to be outside,” John sighs. Not that John has any illusions left about his former...whatever they used to be. Not brothers. Friends, maybe.
“I can't help it. And I know how to stay out of trouble-”
“Right,” John cuts in sarcastically.
“Do you want to hear it or not?!” Barsad snaps.
John is sure he doesn't want to hear it, but he also knows that he should hear it. “Shoot.”
“Let's say I know someone who knows someone who knows where Crane is holed up these days.”
Crane isn't the number one on John's imaginary list, but he is in the top ten. “I'm listening.”
“Under one condition.”
Of course, John thinks. Of course. “What?”
“I'm coming with you.”
“I don't need you,” John says, and he knows it's a lie.
“Take it or leave it, Blake,” he replies.
John counts to 33 in his head and then again. “Fine. You stay out of my business. And you can...” he waves his hand.
“Watch?” Barsad asks with a smirk.
It sounds so dirty, John thinks. He nods anyway.
They don't find Crane that night, but then, John didn't think they would. Sources like that are unreliable. John was a cop long enough to know that.
Barsad can make people talk, but John doesn't approve of his methods. Even if he suspects that Batman had his own ways that weren't about sitting down and having a chat over tea.
“Your idealism will kill you.”
“You're one to talk,” John replies. His back hurts, and his thigh hurts where he got stabbed, and there is an ugly bruise forming on his side. This isn't as much fun as John had thought the first time he put on the suit. He wonders how many scars Batman has, or Bruce, because he isn't Batman anymore. John needs to stop thinking of him like that. Batman is dead.
Barsad keeps quiet as John peels out of the suit, but John can feel his eyes on his back.
“Looks ugly,” he comments.
“I've had worse,” John says. And he had, too, before Mister Fox adjusted the suit for John's needs. John wasn't trained by ninjas, so he has a different way of dealing with things. He is very aware he is still too much of a cop to be a vigilante, but he doesn't know how to turn that off. Doesn't know if he wants to, either.
“I know,” Barsad says, his voice soft.
John closes his eyes and doesn't think about the days, months, years in the orphanage when he got into fights constantly. “You need to start fighting dirty,” he says, as he kisses John's shoulder and at the same time digs his fingers into his side where the bruise is forming. John bites his lip. Fuck him, fuck him to hell and back.
“You were there when Bane got to Batman,” John says over coffee. He isn't looking at Barsad. He's looking out the kitchen window. It's raining again. The weather seems bleaker this year. Maybe these are the first consequences of the bomb.
“Yes,” Barsad answers, taking a sip of coffee.
“You watched as-”
“I did,” Barsad interrupts. “What do you want to know? Want a blow by blow report? Want me to tell you everything? Every broken bone, every scream of pain, every-”
“Shut up,” John hisses.
“You started it,” Barsad replies, putting his cup down. John looks at him as he hears the porcelain on the table.
“You watched the whole time?”
“And it never occurred to you that what he did was maybe wrong?” John wants to know.
“He was the enemy-”
“He was trying to save the whole city, the kids, the people he cared about-”
“Like you,” Barsad says.
John nods. He knows Batman cared about him, still maybe cares about him. Just not in a way-he stops right there. “He tried to do the right thing.”
“I won't deny he thought it was the right thing to do, but isn't it always that way? Wars always start with good intentions.”
“So what? We should stop having good intentions? We should stop trying to save the world? We should stop hoping?” John asks sharply.
“It would be better for your health, I think. But it would destroy who you are. You need something to believe in.”
“And you need someone to believe in,” John counters.
Barsad nods and looks out the window. The rain is pattering against the glass. “I just wish you could have believed in someone else,” John adds.
“You know what?” Barsad says. “I wish that for you too.”
John wonders if he means Batman or if he means himself. “You came back.”
“Not for you,” Barsad says, because he is a bastard, and cruel and sincere when it suits him. Fuck him, seriously.
John curses all the way back to the Cave. He should have known better. He's bleeding all over the seats of the car and he probably should drive himself to a hospital, but he is still in the stupid suit and-
“Fuck!” Barsad says when he sees him. “What the hell did you do?”
“You aren't even paid for this shit-”
“Not now,” John cuts in weakly. “I'm bleeding out...”
Barsad curses again, then helps John to the chair and grabs the first aid kit. “Take it off.”
“Can't,” John says. He feels weak and the suit is damaged. It feels like he's locked inside. Like he's fighting his own exoskeleton.
He leans against the back of the chair and lets Barsad cut him out of it. His side is a mess.
“It's not that bad,” Barsad says.
John laughs painfully.
When he wakes up again, he's at his apartment and his body feels pleasantly numb. Someone gave him the good stuff. He knows better than to get up so he just stays where he is and waits, listens.
There's someone in his apartment. Two someones. Their low voices sound angry; they would probably be yelling if they didn't think John was sleeping...
“I'm awake,” John calls. His voice is weak, but the door is open, so he hopes Barsad heard him.
“You're awake,” he says as he enters the bedroom.
John smiles at him. He can't help it. Maybe it's the drugs. Maybe it's the fact that Barsad saved his life. “I'm all fucked up. Where did you get the good stuff?”
“I have ways and means,” Barsad answers. There is a bruise forming on his cheek.
“What the hell happened?”
“Courtesy of your hero,” Barsad shrugs.
“You called Batman to rescue me?”
“Shouldn't you be calling him Bruce by now?”
“Barsad,” John says.
“You were bleeding out, I couldn't get hold of any of my contacts and he was the next best thing.” Barsad answers. John is pretty sure he doesn't think Batman is the 'next best' to anyone at all.
“Did you get that before or after?”
“He's your hero first, and a psycho vigilante second,” Barsad answers, shrugging.
John nearly laughs. His life, seriously. “He's lurking around, isn't he?”
“Yeah, he is. Want to see him?”
John nods. Better to get it out of the way now so that he still can capitalize on his injury if things get too heated.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like I was run over by a truck. You?” John asks.
“Worried,” Wayne answers.
“It's fine. I'm fine-”
“About the mercenary you're living with, John,” Bruce says.
“None of your business. You aren't the Dark Knight anymore. You left to live a life that wasn't this, wasn't here. With someone who-” he bites his lip and holds his tongue.
“I didn't think you would hook up with Bane's right hand, John.”
“I needed someone to have my back,” John says quietly, and it's the truth. Now that Barsad has no one else, has nothing else; now that he needs a new cause, a new meaning, something new, someone to believe in, John knows he can count on him.
“I thought you could handle it on you own.”
“Did you?” John shoots back. “No, you didn't. You were trained by the League of Shadows, you had Alfred and Fox and millions of dollars for your cause.”
“I gave you what I could,” Wayne counters, and John knows it's the truth. The thing is, it was never going to be enough.
“He cares. He called you well knowing you would freak out and do something unheroic.”
“I did less damage than I wanted to,” Wayne admits. John wonders how much that costs him. Maybe nothing, maybe he can tell John all these things because John knows him.
“He's not a bad guy.”
“He wanted to blow up a whole city, John! You included.” Wayne replies. There is something sharp and dangerous in his voice.
“I can't argue with that and you know it. He thought it was the right thing to do--and with his background, I can't really blame him. When I was growing up I wanted this city to burn too. Didn't you?”
Wayne looks away. It's answer enough. John grabs his hand and squeezes gently for a second or two. ”It took so much away from us, Wayne. It took everything and replaced it with this need to hide who we are. This is not a good city-”
“John. There are good people here. I fought for them, you are fighting for them.”
“If it were a good city, it would fight for itself. They wouldn't need you, or me,” John replies.
Wayne snatches his hand away. “Do you want to hang up the cowl?”
“No, I just want you to understand that I am not you. That I don't fight like you, that I still need someone, and that I chose him, or the universe made me choose, whatever. But thing is, he is the someone who will have my back. ”
“I don't trust him.”
“I know, but it doesn't matter. I do,” John says. And admitting it to Wayne is admitting it to himself.
“I hope you know what you're doing, John.”
“I'm still alive. You're here and he's not dead. I think I'm golden.”
Wayne smiles, shaking his head.
“Did he give you the 'If you hurt him I will hurt you' speech?” John asks.
Barsad hands him a mug and a few pills and grins. “Not in so many words.”
John smiles at him. “He likes to keep things short and very, very clear.”
“He made sure I know that he doesn't trust me, or like me, or think that I am good company for you or any other human being on the planet.”
“He said all that?”
“It was implied in the parting glare,” Barsad answers.
John takes the pills. “Thanks for saving my life.”
“I didn't. He did. He's still connected. Knows his stuff,” Barsad shrugs.
“You could have left me there. No one would have ever known.”
“I would have, and I am sure he would've figured it out soon enough,” Barsad answers. “He would have hunted me down.”
“Ah, you did it to protect your ass.”
“Yes,” Barsad says, and John knows it's a lie. It doesn't matter because Barsad knows that John knows. “Sleep now, so you can live to be reckless another day.”
John hears about the whole thing from Gordon.
“You put on the suit?” he asks. He's feeling better now, but he still isn't in any condition to go out and jump from rooftops.
“I think it's a good thing we are both so scrawny,” Barsad answers.
“Because the suits fits us both-”
“No, why did you put it on and go after the guys that did this to me?” John clarifies, even if he thinks Barsad got it the first time.
“While you're in bed and Gordon is holding your hand, he can verify that you aren't a masked vigilante. Perfect cover, don't you think?”
“I wanted to see them bleed and I wanted to see their fear,” he answers calmly.
“That is not why I am doing this.”
“But it's my reason,” he replies.
“Are they dead?”
“You know they're not. Gordon told you. Just banged up a bit.”
“More than a bit.”
“No worse than what Batman did in his days,” Barsad shrugs. “Take your pills.”
John has no idea what they are doing. It's one thing that Barsad has his back when he's out and hunting down the scum of the city. When he's deep in the underbelly of it. Walking through sewers or whatever. It's good to know that Barsad can always pinpoint where he is, that he can call for backup if he needs it. It's good that he can train with someone who matches his skill, who is even better. When he spars with Barsad he learns things. Not always things he thinks he'll use, but knowing them prevents him from being surprised when his enemies are using those tactics against him.
He is becoming a better vigilante with Barsad's help, whether he wants to admit it or not.
“Mister Fox should take a look at the car,” Barsad says, frowning.
John holds out a mug of coffee for him. He is too tired to be up yet, but what can you do? He has to make money somehow, and he doesn't think it's a good idea to let Barsad do it. So he's a private detective by day and a vigilante by night. Not every night. Some nights Barsad puts on the cowl.
“I'll let him know. Any trouble?” John asks, leaning against the kitchen counter.
“Just another night in the city,” Barsad answers, taking the offered mug.
This, John thinks, is becoming domestic pretty fast. If he isn't careful things will- who is he even kidding? Things already are a mess. He and Barsad are living together like a married couple. With the new papers Wayne got for Barsad he can even go outside and be a real boy. Next thing John knows he'll be working at a grocery store. He shakes his head, smiling.
“Go to bed. You look like an extra from The Walking Dead.”
“Charming as always, Blake,” Barsad answers, kissing his cheek before he disappears into the bedroom.
And this is another one of those things John doesn't think too deeply about. How Barsad is still living here with no intention of moving out. And how John doesn't make him, doesn't even bring it up. He likes knowing that Barsad is here, that John won't come home to an empty apartment. He even likes Barsad's flirting. And, even though he's toned it down, John likes the touching, too. John wonders what that's about, and then wonders why he cares. It's not like they were lovers before Barsad left, or when he came back to destroy the city, or in-between when John didn't even know if Barsad was alive. It's not like they're in a relationship...But maybe they are, kind of.
Or maybe they're on their way there. Maybe Barsad's waiting.
“Are you waiting?” John asks over coffee. He took a week to think about it, and still has no answers. And sure, he likes to figure shit out on his own, but sometimes all you need to do to solve a mystery is ask.
“For what?” Barsad asks. There's a cut on his upper arm, but it doesn't seem to be very deep. He didn't even bandage it up.
“For me?” It sounds stupid said like that, John thinks.
“To come around or whatever... I don't know. You're still here, you're-”
“You want me to find myself a new place to hang around?” Barsad asks.
John shakes his head. That is not what he meant. Barsad's deflecting. “It's not that and you know it. You know me. Just answer the question.”
“If I am waiting for you to come around?”
“Around to do what?” Barsad asks again. He is such a bastard, John thinks.
“I have to go,” John says, frustrated, and gets up.
“For what? You clearly don't want to talk about it, so why should I waste my time?”
“Are you waiting?”
“Should I?” John has no idea what they're even talking about anymore. He thought he and Barsad were on their way to something more than what they have now, whatever that is. “This is what it was like for you when you were with Bane, isn't it?” John asks suddenly.
“Yes, it is. You were his second in command, you knew what he wanted without him having to say it. I know you; that's exactly what you're like. You just know things. You know people. Were you waiting for him to come around too? Even knowing he was heads over heels for someone else?”
“It wasn't like that with him.”
“Do you think I am heads over heels for someone I can't have too?” John asks, because suddenly he can see all the parallels, as fucked up as they are. Second in command, John thinks. Very important, but not the person who comes first.
“Aren't you?” Barsad asks. “You put him on a pedestal and you made him your god. You even took his place! You are continuing what he started. You were in love with him from the first time you saw him.”
“Maybe,” John admits.
“And he gave you what he could.”
“Yes,” John says. “But you are willing to give me everything.”
Barsad runs a hand over his face and then just lets it rest there so he doesn't have to look at John. “Maybe,” he answers quietly.
“I wonder, is it because I'm your cause? I'm the thing you're choosing to believe in until something more suitable comes along, or-”
Barsad looks up sharply, interrupting. “It's because it's you.”
“What? You don't believe in saving this rotting city? Why put the cowl on then?”
“I'm an adrenaline junkie,” Barsad answers.
John smiles. “That you are.” He steps closer to where Barsad is sitting, putting his hand over Barsad's. “I wonder how good your ability to tell what someone needs is,” he whispers.
“John,” Barsad warns.
“What do I want now?” John asks, ignoring the warning.
“To be fucked,” Barsad answers.
“Slowly,” he says, looking up at John, “Deliberately, thoroughly.”
“You've done this before, right?” Barsad asks.
John gives him a look. “I am not a clueless teenager anymore. You weren't there to witness my sexual liberation and exploits but I assure you that-”
“Oh shut up Blake,” Barsad interrupts, grinning and kisses him.
As tactics for convincing him to stop talking go, John can admit that this one is pretty good. Top three, even. He grabs Barsad's t-shirt and pulls him closer. John can feel the rhythm of his heart and how hard it's beating, and he bites Barsad's lip gently. Barsad makes a noise that goes straight to John's dick, so he does it again. He's pressed against the dresser for his trouble, and he really doesn't mind.
“Slowly and thoroughly,” he reminds Barsad.
“Bed then,” Barsad replies, licking from the corner of John's lips down his chin to his neck. His hands are strong, keeping John in place. John's fingers almost hurt from the grip he has on Barsad's t-shirt. The cheap fabric is going to rip any moment, he thinks, just before it happens. “Bed,” Barsad says again and takes a step back.
John makes himself let go, watching as Barsad strips off his ruined shirt. He grabs his own shirt. “Don't. Thoroughly and slowly was the deal. I'll do it,” Barsad says. He strips until he's down to his boxers, and then grabs John's hand. The simple touch makes John moan. He lets Barsad manhandle him to the bed and strip him slowly. Barsad is kissing every bit of uncovered skin, pushing and pulling at fabric along the way. It's slow, tortuously thorough, John nearly regrets wanting it that way. He lets his hands wander over Barsad's body, his sides, his back, his shoulders. Feeling scars and scabs, seeing tender bruises and cuts. Old and new wounds.
“Comes with the territory,” Barsad whispers against the tender skin of John's inner thigh and then bites down gently. John jerks, his whole body arching into it, the soft lips and clever tongue against his skin. His fingers tangle in Barsad's hair and he tugs a bit, waiting until Barsad looks up at him.
“You're going to tell me about every single one of those,” he says quietly.
Barsad nods. “I will.”
It doesn't mean he'll tell the truth if he thinks John won't be able to stomach it.
But they'll get there, John thinks, and then Barsad takes his cock into his warm, wet mouth, and John bites his lip and doesn't think at all.
Barsad's thrusts are slow and measured. The sweat is glistening on his skin, and John wants to urge him on, and doesn't at the same time. He wonders how long Barsad can fuck him like this. His body feels heavy and tender after his first orgasm, but it's tingling too, because every now and then Barsad hits the right spot. John is sure he could hit it every single time, but that would probably drive John crazy. This here, this is so, so fucking good he doesn't even know if he wants to come or not. His hands are clenched at his sides and all he can do is feel, and stare at Barsad's face above him. Panting, skirting the pleasure/pain, the too much/not enough edge, and waiting, feeling, enjoying it. When he finally comes, he comes untouched, and it's a surprise.
His body just gives over to the wave that was building up slowly for so long. It's not the crushing orgasm he had before, it's gentle and feels like it's going on forever.
“There is a pack of smokes in the drawer,” John says.
Barsad punches him in the arm weakly. His breathing is still going too fast. John can't move at all.“You're such a romantic, Blake,” he answers, kissing John's shoulder, not the arm he just punched. Dick, John thinks fondly.
“I'm going to sleep now,” John says. “Open the window...”
“So, now you're a vigilante who lives with a former mercenary?” Wayne asks. John can hear people in the background and wonders where the hell Wayne is right now. And why he thinks it's the best place to have this conversation with John.
Not that John wants to have this conversation face to face with Wayne.
“You're on a honeymoon with a master thief,” John answers.
“She didn't try to blow up an entire city,” Wayne says.
Semantics, John thinks, even if he believes that there are shades of grey to people's shadiness or whatever. “Miranda Tate,” John replies.
“How do you even know about that?” Wayne wants to know.
John smiles. “I have ways and means...”
“Barsad,” Wayne says. There is something in his voice that could be fond exasperation one day. With many, many, many saved lives in between now and then.
“Means and ways. Why are you even calling?” John asks. He's on his way to the car. Another night in Gotham survived.
“Just wanting to hear how you're doing.”
“I bet you know all about my successes and failures. Still haven't found the Joker or Crane,” he replies, and it bugs him that he still has no idea where they are or what they're planning. He and Barsad have a shitload of stuff to do. Scum to catch. Small town gangsters and real sharks.
“I know you're working a day job,” Wayne says.
“Ah,” John replies. Now he gets it. “Don't worry. I'm fine.”
“If you need money, John-”
“You are dead and penniless-” John interrupts.
“We're talking, so you know that's not true-”
“As I was going to say: I'm fine. I can manage.”
“Your day job is as demanding as your night job, John,” Wayne says.
John takes a deep breath. Is it possible that Wayne doesn't know that he and Barsad are both wearing the cowl? “I'm not doing it alone.”
“Barsad is wearing the cowl when I just can't-” Get out of bed? Muster up the energy to go hunt scum in the streets when I just had to deal with a kidnapped kid? What? John leans against a brick wall and looks up at the night sky and says nothing.
“This is serious for you,” Wayne says eventually.
“Yeah,” John answers, because if sharing your whole life with someone isn't serious, then John doesn't know what serious means.
“And is he working a day job too?” Wayne asks.
“As if you don't know,” John answers.
“Just checking,” Wayne says. John can hear the smile in his voice. He bets it's sunny and nice where he is. He's probably walking around half-naked on a private beach in the evenings, listening to the ocean and burying his toes in the warm sand.
“Hey, Wayne?” John asks, exhaling slowly.
“Do you miss it?”
“On some days, yes. On most, I like being me,” Wayne answers. John always wondered what that meant in Wayne's case. Batman? Bruce Wayne? Someone entirely different?
“When I've had enough of this shit one day, you'll have to let me know where that beach you're staying at is.”
“Will do. Be careful John and if you need anything-”
“Thank you,” John replies and hangs up before he can say anything else, like something stupid. If Batman is as perceptive as he wants people to think, then he already knows all the things John could never tell him and he chooses to ignore them for both their sakes.
“You're late,” Barsad says. He doesn't look up from the laptop they're storing all the vigilante stuff on. Maybe he has a lead on Crane. He sure as hell can make people talk. The underworld probably thinks the new vigilante is crazier than the last. Not that John cares much.
“Bruce called,” John says, throwing his jacket over a chair.
“Yes. He thinks we need more money.”
“You mean he thinks you need more money,” Barsad says.
John smiles as he passes him on his way. He can hear the kettle in their small kitchen. “I told him.”
“Did he demand you give the cowl back?”
“No.” John takes out two mugs as the water boils and looks for the tea-tin. “I think you're growing on him.”
Barsad laughs, getting up. John can hear his footsteps on the linoleum floor and turns. “He isn't thrilled, but I told him he can't throw stones.”
“Ah, you played the Miranda Tate card.”
John shrugs. “He's not in the game anymore. I think we're doing fine.”
“He won't ever really quit playing that game, John. No one ever really does.”
“Whatever, it's not like there are many billionaires putting on a hood and stalking the shadows...”
“You'd be surprised,” Barsad says.
John gives him a look. “If this is about this Arrow guy - I don't want to know. At least, not now. We have our own problems.”
“I'll keep an eye on him,” Barsad promises and makes the tea.
John grabs his hand. “You tired?”
“No,” Barsad says and John drags him to the bedroom.
“We should fuck on a rooftop next time,” is the first thing Barsad says as John wakes up hours later.
“Over my dead body,” John replies. Barsad smirks. He has ways and means, John knows. He turns around to see Barsad better. “Hey, so...”
“Don't ask me that,” Barsad interrupts, but he doesn't sound angry.
“Will you lie to me about it?”
“I might, just because,” Barsad admits. “But mostly it's because he's dead, and it's still fresh, and -”
“You cared for him,” John realises, which is such a stupid thing to realise just now. He should have known. Barsad never simply believes in a cause; he believes in people. He knows them, he cares for them. He throws in his fucking heart. “I'm sorry.”
“That he's dead? I don't believe that,” Barsad answers calmly.
“No, but that you're hurting because of it.”
“It's not going to hurt forever,” Barsad says. “It's getting better with every time we fuck,” he grins.
John kisses his cheek and keeps quiet. It won't, he knows that. They both know that. They've lost enough people to be on a first name basis with loss. “Dirt,” John says after a while, because he knows Barsad too, knows how to distract, even if they are still on shaky ground on some days. But no relationship is perfect. You always have to work on it.
“What?” Barsad asks, but he's smirking.
“I was thinking in the dirt...”
“You like to get dirty, hmm?”
“Once in a while, but I like the smell of wet soil too, the gritty feeling of it between my fingertips and on my skin...”
“Inside your ass?”
“Maybe we'll stick to hand- or blowjobs...” John says, crinkling his nose a bit.
“Maybe,” Barsad replies.