The Darkest Night

"All things truly wicked start from innocence." Ernest Hemingway

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9. Belief in Bruce

Bruce turned to face her and scratched the back of his head. He stood from the bed and stretched his sore shoulders as he walked over to his dresser, and then pulled a pair of track pants from them. He slid his pants off and replaced them with a pair of jeans. He looked back at the bed to see Aurora still sound asleep. He approached the bed slowly, his eyes still on her. He bent down and kissed her forehead softly, attempting to pull her out of sleep. "Aurora? Can you hear me?" Bruce asked her, placing his hand gently on her shoulder. "You need to get some food in your system in order for the drugs to continue working properly," he explained, searching for any sign of consciousness.

An extreme sense of guilt washed over him. He pulled back the collar of her shirt to reveal the wound caused by the barbs of the taser. There would be a small scar there. Small, but not invisible. His finger brushed over it and she shivered, her eyes opening and blinking up at him. How could he allow something so beautiful and so pure to be scarred? She did nothing but care for him, and he couldn't protect her. He was responsible for everything that happened to her. He put her in danger by returning to Gotham. It was his fault.

"Bruce?" she mumbled.

"It's okay. I'm right here," he told her, his voice soft and quiet. His hand went to her face, where he caressed her cheek softly. "I'm going to have Alfred make you something to eat, okay?" he asked, giving her a small smile. He couldn't shake his feeling of responsibility, and he had to admit that he wasn't trying to. He'd been hoping that Maroni would be arrested today, meaning Aurora would be safe. “I’m going to call Lucius Fox to come in and fix the security in the manor so you know you’re safe here.”

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that even with Maroni behind bars, and even with the security updated, Aurora still wouldn't be untouchable. If anyone were to discover that he was Batman, she would be at risk. Alfred was prepared to be targeted by Batman’s enemies, but Aurora... He couldn't let her be threatened.

He took a deep breath, and looked Aurora in her eyes. They were tired, but still managed to be so hypnotically beautiful. "Listen, Aurora. While you're still awake. I'm sorry that all this has happened to you. I realize that it's entirely my fault.” He paused. She was looking silently up at him, face completely innocent. He trudged on, “After all of this is over, and Maroni is behind bars, you and I aren't going to be together.” Another pause. “In any sense of the word," he finished. He hated every word that came out of his mouth, as if each one was a deadly dose of poison. It was the exact opposite of what he wanted.

He kept his eyes on Aurora, waiting for her response. All he did was break the promises he made her, and they had only been talking for a few days. They barely knew each other, yet managed to know everything about each other. That wouldn’t last much longer.

 

 

She just stared at him for a long time, unable to think or react to what he said. Everything was still so on edge, but numb at the same time. If her mind wasn't so dull, it would have been reeling. She could thank the drug for that.

"But I..." Aurora sat up slowly, clenching her jaw at the soreness and weakness throughout her body. "You said you wouldn't do this." Tears were pulling at her voice, making it raise an octave. "You said..." She was never like this; she was strong and smart and clever. He made her act the way she was. She felt aggressive and upset, but sedately, so she couldn't really comprehend it or act upon it how she should have. Her breathing increased speed. "You lied to me. You lied, Bruce. You said you've always felt this way for me, then you did those things, and I..." It was hard to breathe. It was impossible to form a solid thought. There was so much she wanted to scream at him, but she couldn't. Her breathing sped up more.

"Aurora, listen to me. You need to calm down. If you keep this up, you're going to start hyperventilating. I know what I said, and I didn't lie. I do feel that way about you, but it's too dangerous to be around me." She was staring at him, her eyes full of confusion and anger. "It's already dangerous enough for you to be around me as Bruce Wayne. Maroni doesn't even know that I'm Batman. Imagine if people knew this about me. You would be targeted constantly. I wouldn’t be able to handle it if something happened to you as a result of my actions," he stopped, searching her eyes.

She didn't know what he expected her to say. After what both of them did together and after the things that Bruce told her... There wasn't any way to make this less painful.

Her hand itched to hit him, but she held herself back. "So you thought it would be better to hurt me yourself than let someone else do it?" He was right, she was going to hyperventilate. But there was no stopping it now. How could he tell her to calm down? How could he be arrogant enough to act like this? "I don't think you get it, Bruce. The only danger I'm put in by being with you is what you dish out. Maroni already knew I was significant to you just because of who I am at Wayne Enterprises. He would have targeted me whether or not we went to dinner last night. And now that he knows this, you think he's going to stop because we ‘aren't together in any sense of the word?’" Last night felt like days ago. Her entire body was shaking, and her chest was tight. She kept on. "I'm fine. I'll be fine. I'm not eight years old anymore, Bruce. I can learn to protect myself. I should have known this was going to happen; I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at myself for being so naive." She paused to catch her breath, but couldn't. "Maybe you should have just let me go home by myself," Aurora exhaled, gripped the bed tight and tried to take in a breath.

She had to breathe by herself—she couldn't let him help her. She didn't want him to touch her. And if he did, she would deliver a severe blow somewhere he would not like.

"I'm just thinking about your safety, Aurora," he replied. "If I hadn't followed you home, there's no telling what would have happened to you today," he added.

She would have been beaten bloody, maybe even killed. And she knew that. But he hurt her, so now she was going to hurt him. He tried to make eye contact with her, but she wouldn’t let him. "Look at me, Aurora. I would love nothing more than to be with you, but I have to consider your own safety above everything else," he told her.

“If you considered my safety at all, you wouldn’t throw me to the wolves like this. You would keep your word. You wouldn’t lie to me.” Aurora shook her head, gripped the blanket tighter, and tried to get a normal airflow.

It was hard, and nothing she did worked, so her breathing became heavier, but less air got in.

 "Are you feeling any better?" he asked.

"Peachy," she stated sarcastically, glaring up at him temporarily before looking back down again. Her body ached, and her lungs felt like they might burst. She refused to make eye contact with him and listen to more of his lies. He lied to everyone. All the people in Gotham he tried to help, everyone who worked for him, and even her. Her skin had a cold, sick feeling: anything that touched her made her shiver uncomfortably.

"I am keeping my word. I’m going to keep you safe. I promise," he replied.

“Stop lying,” she whispered, since it was as loud as she could manage to get. His promises were beginning to mean little to her.

"Tell me then, Aurora. What’s your solution?" he asked her, a hint of condescension in his voice.

I don't have one, she thought, but anything is better than this. Why couldn't he just see that this would hurt her more than anything else? He was being sarcastic now, which only made it worse. It made her want to hit him again.

"You just need to understand that I'm doing this for you. Remember what I said? The thought of you suffering in Gotham while the city burns to the ground is what brought me back," he explained. “You aren't going to suffer because of my actions."

"I am suffering. Is this what you call safe?" Her hands squeezed the sheets tighter, and she made a slight choking noise. "I can't breathe," Aurora told him in a barely audible voice.

Panic washed through her and she started to take faster breaths. She wanted anything but for him to touch her and help her any more than he ‘already did’, but she couldn't get any air in, and the drugs wouldn't let her body fix itself.

"It's safer than you getting taken behind a dumpster and shot, then tossed in the Gotham River. Listen to me. You need to calm down. You'll go into arrhythmia if you keep this up," he explained, gently placing his hand on her shoulder. Aurora shuddered. "Damn," he muttered. "Aurora. You need to breathe, okay?" He placed his hands on her shoulders and stared into her eyes. "Breathe. Deep breaths. You can do it." The edges of her eyes were going dark, and there was immense pressure in her head. "On three, take a deep breath for me. One...two...three,” he counted, and she did her best to do what he said.

Aurora coughed and choked but she started to relax. He kept counting and she kept taking slow breaths. Her hands loosened from the bed and shook just a little. There was so much in her system, so much swirling in her mind, that she let her head hang in front of her while she recomposed herself. She didn't look up at him or say anything. The two just sat there.

When his hand slipped over hers, she pulled away about a centimeter or so, and then stopped herself. Aurora nearly gave herself a heart attack to keep him from disappearing again, so it made no sense to stop him from touching her.

“I meant every word I told you, Aurora.”

Every word? It didn't seem like it. He could play the part of trustworthy billionaire to anyone he wanted, just not her.

"Prove it, then," she whispered after a long pause. "Make me believe in you. Make me believe in Bruce Wayne. I don't need you to convince me to believe in Batman."

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