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I Am the Night

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Jake opens his presentation on Monday morning with, "Guess who just got a new superhero!"

"Is it us or is it Manhattan?" asks Terry. "Because it's usually Manhattan."

"He serves all five boroughs, Terry! Don't try to take this away from me."

"So he's in Manhattan," Rosa surmises.

"Moving on," Jake says, hitting the button on his powerpoint to show a grainy image of a form dressed in all black with a cape. "He's been spotted every night for the past week all over all five boroughs, including Brooklyn. So far he seems to be on our side." He hits the next slide, a group of people in an alley, tied together somehow. "Catching perps and calling in tips to let police know where they are."

"But still a criminal," says Captain Holt.

"Come on, Captain, we need all the help we can get. And he's so cool! I haven't told you his name yet."

"I assume something juvenile and non-descriptive."

"Batman!" Jake exclaims.

"Is he a furry?" Rosa asks.

"No, Rosa, he's not a furry."

"How do you know he's not a furry?"

"Actually, that's a good question," Amy puts in. "Maybe not specifically the furry thing, but how much do you know about this guy?"

He hits the button for the next slide. "This is the best shot we have of his costume. Does that look like a fursuit to you?"

"Why do you know what a fursuit looks like?" Terry asks.

"Because I did my research! Look, we're getting away from the point. The point is: Batman is now a presence in the city. So far he is non-hostile to law enforcement and helping us!"

"But he is still a vigilante and if you encounter him, you should bring him in," says Captain Holt.

"Counterpoint: he has cool stuff and we should ask him if he wants to share it."

"Peralta, do you believe that the NYPD is a good thing?"

Jake pauses. "I believe the 99 is. Other than that, I'd say it's a pretty mixed bag."

"Yeah, NYPD's had some issues," Rosa puts in. "Can't trust cops."

"Fair enough," says Holt. "Peralta, do you believe that the NYPD is a theoretically good thing that we should be improving?"

"Definitely."

"If this--Batman character believes the same, he should be working within the system. If you want to fight crime, put on a police uniform, not a fursuit."

"I disagree with you on a fundamental level but also can you say fursuit again?"

"No."

"Damn it." He sobers. "Look, the system doesn't work for everyone, Captain. As long as Batman is on our side, we shouldn't be trying to stop him."

"I don't believe we know enough about his so-called side to be saying he's an ally. Regardless, unless you encounter the Batman, I don't see any reason to pay any attention to him. However, it is useful to know about local vigilantes, so I appreciate the presentation, Peralta. Is that all?"

Jake clicks rapidly through a few more slides. "Bat fursuit for comparison, picture of his symbol, a few more cell phone pics, yup, that's it."

"Good. Dismissed."

"You're going to go look for Batman, huh," Rosa murmurs, as they leave.

"Obviously," says Jake. "He's a hero."

"He's gonna be a furry."

"He's not a furry!" Jake calls at her, and she just waves over her shoulder, dismissive. "Not a furry."

Amy manages a weak smile. "Sure he's not."

*

Charles is the first to actually encounter Batman.

"I was terrified!" he reports.

Jake makes a face. "You shouldn't sound so happy when you say that."

"Think about it Jake, if he scares me, he'll scare criminals."

"Wrong," says Rosa. "You're afraid of way more things than criminals are."

"Yeah, Charles," Amy adds. "You were scared of the My Little Pony movie."

"Hey, that got dark."

"So, what was he like, tell me everything," says Jake.

"Well, he spoke in a deep, raspy voice. He told me to stay out of his way, and I asked him if he was a furry. Apparently he gets that a lot!"

"Well, that sounds like about what I would expect," says Jake. "Did he at least give you some perps to round up?"

"Nope! He shot a grappling hook into the air and swung away."

"Still cool! Counting that as a win." He rubs his hands together. "Who's next?"

*

It's Rosa, three days later.

"I told him his car was dope. He told me my bike was dope. End of interaction."

"How dope was his car?" Jake asks.

"So dope."

"I knew it."

*

Amy doesn't mean to find Batman; it just happens.

"Tell me everything," Jake says, when she gets home.

"There's really not much to tell. Honestly, he was kind of a letdown."

"Letdown? How could he be a letdown?"

"Well, I was walking home--"

"Uh huh, uh huh."

"This is going to take forever if you react to everything."

"Good feedback, continue."

"I was walking home and I heard a fight. I went to investigate and I found him fighting with one guy, two already down. I put down my bags, got out my gun, and told them to freeze. Batman punched the last guy while he was distracted, and then he said, They're all yours."

"How is that a letdown?"

"I feel like he could have had a cooler line. Also, his voice was almost too gravely? He was trying way too hard."

"He's still new, he'll grow into it. Maybe we could help him out."

"You want to help Batman?"

"You've seen my diary full of quippy one-liners, you know I could give him suggestions." The noise she makes is non-committal, and he protests, "Lots of those are good!"

"Some of them are."

"They're better than they're all yours."

"True. I just don't think you should get too attached to this guy. I'm not sure he has what it takes to make it as a superhero."

"Agree to disagree! I will be putting all my hopes and dreams onto him and will be crushed if he ever lets me down."

Amy sighs. "That's what I thought."

*

Terry starts the care packages, albeit accidentally.

"I don't think he's eating right, and he definitely needs a better workout routine. Terry would make a much better vigilante."

"Terry would," Jake agrees. "We could make that happen."

"I don't want to be a vigilante, Jake."

"But if you did, you would be an amazing one."

"I would."

"You really think Batman needs workout tips?" Amy asks, putting the conversation back on track.

"Everyone needs workout tips. Even Terry is still learning!"

"Then it's settled," says Jake. "Terry will prepare a care package, which we will deliver to Batman!"

"That's not what I said," Terry protests.

"Don't you want to help him become his best self?"

Terry shifts, uncomfortable. "You know I do."

"Perfect! You get the baskets done and we'll do the rest."

"How are you possibly going to give Batman a care package," Rosa says, so dubious it doesn't really qualify as a question.

"That's for me to know and you to find out."

"You don't know, do you."

"No, so I guess it's for everyone to find out! Get me that basket, Sarge."

*

"Oh my god oh my god oh my god it's really him."

"Stay calm, Jake." Amy waves. "Excuse me, Batman?" The man turns. He's definitely not as big as Terry, in any dimension. "Santiago and Peralta, NYPD. We have something for you."

"What?" he says. His voice might be even deeper than the last time Amy heard it.

Jake thrusts the basket out. "We're big fans and we just want you to be your best self, so--here! It's a lot of yogurt and some exercises you can use to build your core."

"Whose core doesn't need a little work, right?" Amy asks.

Batman looks between their faces and the basket for a second, and then reaches out and accepts it, fast, like a wild animal.

"Thank you," he says.

"And thank you for helping protect our city," Jake says, too fast. "Do you have your grappling hook? Can you take me for an amazing ride through the city in your big strong arms?"

"Dial it back, babe," Amy murmurs.

"Good call. If you ever need help in Brooklyn, come to the 99!"

"Understood," he says, and then has to try to grappling hook away from the scene while juggling the basket, which is a little awkward.

"We're going to work on that!" Jake calls. "And your one-liners!" He turns to Amy with a smile. "I think that went well."

Amy pats his arm. "The best."

*

"Attention, squad," says Captain Holt, after a few weeks of covert Batman-helping. "It has come to my attention that you have been aiding and abetting the Batman in his vigilante activities."

"No and no," says Jake. "Why would you think that?"

"For one thing, the sergeant told me."

"Damn it, Terry!"

"I had to! Terry's conscience got the better of him!"

"Look, Captain, we're not doing that much. Giving him some snacks, some workout tips, maybe a few ideas for witty banter. It's not like we're teaming up with him or anything, although I think that would be great PR and we should do it if at all possible."

"Ah, yes, the excellent public-relations strategy of law enforcement working with someone who is actively breaking the law."

"Jake's right, Captain," Gina pipes up. "People like the Batman way more than they like us. If we could find some way to leech some of his popularity it would deffo be great for the precinct. Like if he endorsed us? It would be amazing."

"See, Captain? The people love Batman!" Jake pauses. "Is it Batman or the Batman? Ames?"

"Honestly, it's very inconsistent across publications and social media. I wrote a letter to the New York Times editorial board to see why they'd elected to use the definite article but I haven't heard back yet. They're probably really busy."

"Excellent, keep us posted. See, Captain? He's so popular!"

"Stop giving the Batman care packages," says the Captain. "Dismissed."

"He never said we had to stop giving him stuff."

"Jake!"

"Come on, it's getting cold! I don't think he's adequately insulated for winter. And, let's be real, he's probably some broke college kid who put all this stuff together in his garage. If we don't help him, he'll starve and/or freeze."

Amy gasps, about half genuinely. "Are you trying to be a caretaker?"

"Maybe I'm finally becoming responsible!"

"Hey, let's not carried away."

"Yeah, okay, giving stuff to an adult man dressed as a bat is definitely a baby step. Still, baby step!"

"Baby step!"

"Do you think I could knit him a scarf?"

Amy smiles. "I think you could definitely try."

*

"Attention, squad," Gina announces, one morning in December. "I am thrilled to inform you that our campaign to gain public support through our support of the Batman has worked."

"Do not say that," says Captain Holt. "We have no way of knowing if that this has anything to do with the Batman."

"What is it?" asks Terry.

"We received a large anonymous donation, for our service to the city. I'm sure it's unrelated."

"And I'm sure it's not!" says Jake. "We're the cops who knitted Batman a sweater and the people support us. How much money is it? Did we get it in bags? Is there a pool we could fill with the money and then we go swimming?"

"There is not and the money is going to the precinct, not to us personally. There will be no swimming in it. And I will once again ask you to stop giving the Batman sweaters."

"Request denied, this is the best thing that's ever happened to us. Merry Christmas to all!"

*

In the Wayne manor, twenty-three-year-old Bruce Wayne is sitting in front of the fire, wearing a very poorly made black sweater with a yellow circle on the front, when Alfred comes in a letter. "A thank-you note. From Brooklyn's 99th precinct, for your generous contribution."

Bruce smiles. "Thank you, Alfred. That will be all."