They could reason with her, of course, that it’s what Bruce wanted, and from Lucius and Alfred, that would work out just fine, they had ties to Bruce, it’s what they would do. But Jim? His priorities were with Harleen, and before that, Batman. As far as he was concerned Batman was dead, so he hadn’t lied, but he hadn’t been forthright with his knowledge of Wayne either.
“Sounds about right.” Jim downed his other glass and patted his pockets to make sure the lighter and cigarettes were there, his emergency pack that he was sure he was going to smoke on the way home.
"I suppose this leaves us with the where and the when of the matter." Lucius held the smoldering cigar before him and stared at the embers. "All three of us care for her. I look on her as a friend and a colleague, though unofficially so. Most of all as a friend. I won’t speak for Alfred on this but I suspect he feels even closer to her than I do."
It was an observation someone unknown to the three men would make. Harleen had been the one who had actually lived with Bruce Wayne, after all of the models and dancers and actresses he dated for spectacle, she was the one he had invited into his home. As Alfred was a part of that home, the implication was that the elderly man cared as much for her well being as he did for his charge’s.
"She is your fiancée however. I won’t say a word unless you think it is the right time or place.” He shifted to look at Jim. “I believe that this is for the best but if at any point you think this would do more harm than good…” Uncharacteristically his voice trailed off.
“He’s our best man to determine candidates best suited to run the preliminary field tests with. I assume Detective Blake is no longer with the force?” I gave a look towards both of them, then towards Lucius.
“There’s another side to this as well, we start manufacturing these things en masse, we’re going to need a production facility specifically for the project. We build that, we give another opportunity for people to find work. I’m sure Mr Fox wouldn’t mind an expansion to the Applied Sciences division.”
"Agreed on that point. To your question, no, Mr. Blake did as he — and I can safely assume as you intended for him to do. If memory serves, he resigned before the reading of the will."
Lucius began to slowly pace around the desk, tapping a finger to his chin. “We’ll also need a means of funding the expansion, the new facility, and the ordering of goods and materials.” He paused when he was alongside Mr. White. “I’ve recently been in contact with someone who may be able to help us recover what Mr. Daggett illicitly gained. In addition, we may yet see legal satisfaction from Mr. Daggett’s estate with regard to damages. Have you spoken with the Commissioner by chance?”
Harleen deserved a lot more than the truth; she deserved not to be hurt again, and that was exactly what would come of this. The three men that were closer to her now than most of her family had kept something dear from her, something important for the sake of Bruce and her. It was going to break her and Jim wasn’t sure he could see that again.
“She does,” Jim agreed with Alfred, pinching the bridge of his nose under where his glasses sat, lifting them a little as he did. He shook his head, like he was trying to fend off a headache. “But it’s been a year already. She won’t be happy about this.”
"She is bound to find out. After all, she discerned the truth of what Mr. Wayne did for Gotham." Lucius took another draw of the cigar. "Would Harleen be better served by finding out from us or from finding out on her own? What would be our reasoning then?"
He hunched over the glass and stared into the liquor. “You’d know better than either of us, Jim. We know of Harleen’s DID and her alters but I haven’t seen Harley in quite some time. How has Harleen been this year, mourning Bruce? How would she take news of this nature?” He finished off his scotch in one swallow. “Which would cause more harm, for her to know we’ve been withholding the truth or for us to come clean on it?”
“It was, something far more practical than what I was doing at the time. Something I should have done to help more than just myself.” I slowly open the folder, the title page read “Concept and Design GCPD Bat-Inc”. The following pages were detailed drawings and specifications for body armor and equipment based around the old costume. Resistant to handgun fire, effective in dealing with groups, special respirators in case of toxin warfare similar to Crane’s methods. I look up at Lucius, hoping he would see where I was going with this. “These are only prototype designs, and can be changed around based on job specific needs. If we successfully test this and get it out, Wayne Enterprise can overcome the massive financial losses and Gotham’s police force will be better prepared for those like the League of Shadows.”
I looked towards them both.
“Your input would be appreciated.”
Alfred pulled out a pair of bifocals and moved closer to the desk as he looked over the documents. “Your resources and your knowledge,” he murmured. He reached a hand out to rifle through the pages, picking up the pages covering body armor. “There has always been a propensity for you to take my words at a literal value,” he commented airily.
As he flipped through the designs, he handed a page to Lucius. “Doesn’t this remind you a bit of what a certain someone put together for herself?” He pointed to the posterior view of a vest and ran a finger down the back plates shown in the diagram. “Particularly the protection shown here.”
Lucius took the page and raised both eyebrows as he reviewed the design. “It is reminiscent of what she came up with. That’s an interesting coincidence. And these,” he said, motioning to the specifications, “are nothing short of what I would expect. If we’re able to bring these to market, not only with the Gotham Police Department benefit, but the NYPD, Chicago PD, law enforcement on a local, state, and the federal level will be better equipped for what we’ve had to face.”
He leaned against the desk to get a closer look at the schematics. “Non-lethal long-range and close-range weapons would be in keeping as well.”
Jim rubbed a hand over his face, smoothing down the coarse hairs of this bristling mustache, watching Alfred carefully, and trying not to get any ideas for himself. He was trying so hard to kick the habit, and for, likely, the same reason they were all here.
“The floor is yours, Mister Fox.”
Lucius nodded. He reached into a jacket pocket, producing a cigar tube, lighter, and a cutter. He prepared the cigar and once it was fully lit he drew in a breath, letting the smoke swirl in his mouth before exhaling.
"The three of us know why that grave is empty," he said. "We know the truth of the matter. While we were once burdened with a necessary deceit and then a terrible lie. Now we have a hard truth."
He took a drink of his scotch. “Harleen doesn’t know that he’s alive or that he had the ability to escape from the detonation. I don’t believe she should know, either. While we can’t protect her from what she may learn on her own from alternate versions of Bruce, we can safeguard her from our reality.” Lucius turned to face both Jim and Alfred. “Our Bruce has chosen a life away from Gotham and wishes the world to think of him as dead.”
“I think you might be right,” Jim replied, cozying up to a seat at the bar with the men, far enough away from anyone else to let their conversation be heard, but close enough that the the bar tender wandered over and Jim ordered three fingers of scotch. He’d walked here for a reason.
Once drink was in hand, Jim turned the men, no openly expressive smile, just a worn, weathered look that was clear in his eyes and across his wrinkles in his forehead.
Lucius had expected resistance from the Englishman. He also expected the same of the police commissioner. He sighed audibly and took his own scotch in hand. “I have to admit that alcohol is necessary.” He sipped at it, his eyes closed.
“Should I begin before or after you’ve had that drink, Jim?” He used the man’s first name to signal the shift from associates talking about business to friends talking about something of a personal nature. Lucius only hoped the friendship with Jim and also with Alfred would remain after he broached his suggestion.
It was a sordid business, as far as Lucius was concerned, but also necessary.
Months, nearly a year had passed since he and Commissioner Gordon had spoken in person. It was the same for he and Alfred Pennyworth. They hadn’t socialized much before the occupation of Gotham; with their common bound lessened by one and the responsibilities placed on them, contact had become infrequent.
It occurred to Lucius that the meeting would be their first since Bruce Wayne’s funeral.
He adjusted his suit jacket as he waited for the Commissioner. The guilt he felt over what he would ask of the man was a weight on him, one of almost the same measure of what he had felt in the final hours of Gotham’s struggle against the League of Shadows.
I looked down towards my shoes, holding my bottom lip between my teeth trying to hold back the storm of emotion I felt as I listened to “his” Alfred. No, he’s still Alfred, one and the same despite different “universes”. I took a breath and looked up towards both men, my eyes moistened as I managed to speak;
“Very well gentlemen, let’s begin.” I took the folder I was holding at my side and handed it slowly over to Lucius, giving a quick glance at Alfred as I approached closer. “I’m sure its no surprise to either of you, but what Bruce Wayne did here in Gotham was good, and I’m sure you all received your parts in what he left.”
I looked over to Lucius. “Speaking from personal experience, it wasn’t all that difficult to figure out once I spent some time with the program.” I stepped towards the desk, looking towards the window. “But, I realized something in the final hours of the occupation. Something that Alfred had told me before everything went to hell.” I looked towards Alfred now, a small smile curling my lips. ” And I have a fairly good idea of how to do it.”
Lucius laughed at that, a low chuckle at first, which rolled into a hearty chortle. “It was why I mentioned it in the first place.” He smiled and nodded in appreciation. “It was also why I held onto the Bat and decided to make a show of it. For old times’ sake.”
The executive glanced at his friend, the Waynes’ former retainer, with a questioning look. “Something Alfred told you? If you didn’t have my attention before, Mr. White, you certainly have it now.”
He moved toward the desk to take note of the folder. “I admit to not knowing what it is Alfred spoke to you about,” he commented, “but if previous experience holds true, I’m sure it was something practical and profound.”
Everything was in the exact place I remembered them being in “my” Gotham. The secret back entrance, the stairs and of course, Lucius’s private entrance. I made my way through, finding both Lucius and someone else in the room.
“Mr Fox, I assumed this would be a private meeting.”
Lucius rose from his seat and faced the man who, for all intents and purposes, was exactly the same as the Bruce Wayne he once knew. “It is, Mr. White,” he said in a calm voice. “I believe, through experience, you know that you can trust Mr. Pennyworth explicitly in these matters.” He looked to his friend expectantly.