Aurora woke up once around five in the morning, then fell back asleep until around nine when a nurse came in to check on her. The girl sat up and fiddled with the tubes in her arm. Soreness tore through her lower abdomen and her entire body ached. It hurt to move, but she forced herself out of bed and into the hall. There, she found a pair of someone's clothes on a cart outside a room. Aurora took them, slipped into them in a corner at the end of the hall, then hurried outside.
Because of the painkillers in her system, she would stumble just a little every few steps, and she could hardly feel the cold. The hotel was right down the street--no more than a three minute walk--so she didn't get a taxi.
The funny looks she was getting because of her bare feet and loose clothes were annoying, so she stopped in the small resale shop nearby and bought some clothes with a twenty in the pocket of the pants. It was nothing more than a cheap pair of socks, worn grey v-neck, black leggings with a small hole at the knee, and thoroughly used black leather boots.
"That'll be twenty-one twenty-five," the cashier with a name tag reading 'Bob' stated with a bored smile.
"Twenty-one twenty-five, ma'am."
Aurora sighed and slid the socks to the side, pressing her lips into a hard line and sticking the twenty across the counter. Never, in her entire life, was money as issue.
"Nineteen, then," he said and took the twenty, pulling out a plastic bag.
"I don't need that. And keep the change." Aurora smiled politely and gathered up her things.
"Have a nice day," Bob requested and headed to the back of the store.
She glanced around the threshold of the door he walked through and, not seeing him, snatched the socks when she took off to the streets. The next building over was an old Chinese restaurant, which she slipped into for the bathroom. She changed quickly, leaving the clothes in the trash.
Aurora made it to the hotel soon after. On one of the couches in the upscale lobby was a white peacoat. The girl took it gratefully, trying to get warm from walking through the snow in a t-shirt. Plus, it covered her arm and the rest of her bruised skin. Throwing her hair up in a messy bun, she went approached the receptionist. He gave her a funny look and the room number. Aurora thanked him and walked over to the elevator. With each step, she winced just a little. Everything hurt.
Once on the top floor, she went to one of the twelve rooms and knocked softly, the beating on her knuckles making her hold her breath.
It swung open silently.
"Miss Rider, won't you come inside?" Ra's stepped back, allowing her to enter. He walked to the kitchen of the penthouse. "Make yourself comfortable," he said. The Gotham City News channel played on the massive television, broadcasting a segment on the explosions and chaos caused by the Joker.
Aurora hesitantly walked to the black leather couch he gestured toward, taking a seat on it. Her lips pressed into a hard line and her body tensed in pain when she sat, but she forced herself to relax immediately after. Ra's took a seat near her, sipping from a glass of red wine.
"So you've considered my offer. You understand the evil that the detective has created, and that Gotham is doomed to this so long as the Batman exists," Ra's explained. He took another sip of his wine, pausing to collect his next words. "You understand that if you accept my offer, you will be pushed to the limit. Both physically and mentally. You will travel the world and learn all aspects of life. You will become familiar with every culture, religion, and ethnicity. You will become the world, and you will learn the skills you will need to take back your city. Only after you have learned from me will you be ready for this," he sat back.
"I don't think I have limits anymore," she stated softly, barely smiling. "And I understand. I want to do this. I can keep it from happening to anyone else. He won't hurt anyone again." Whether she was referring to Bruce, Batman or the Joker was unclear. It was all of them, really. She would end them all not out of sole hatred, but because it needed to be done or more pain was all they would accomplish. "How did you know who I am?" Aurora asked after a beat. Her throat was already healing from her screams, but her body ached and the deep cuts in her arm felt like they were burning.
Ra's smirked. She was confident. He could see it in her eyes. She confessed that there were no limits anymore, and her lips twitched into an almost-smile. He knew he was inside her head. He knew that through her he would finally achieve his goal. He was throwing the detective a curveball that he would never see coming.
"I've been keeping an eye on the detective ever since he returned to Gotham. Obviously, I did the right research on you. I planned to take the Bat down myself. But I now understand that it's a right that you deserve. A right you have earned through the pain you have endured. You will survive, purely by your will to free Gotham from him and the evil he has created," Ra's explained, drinking again from his glass. "You will abandon everything. You will pick up new possessions in your travels. We will depart in the morning. I suggest getting sleep while you can. You're welcome to the master bedroom. I do not sleep," he explained, remaining in his chair and sipping his wine. His multiple trips to the Lazarus Pits to restore his youth caused his endless insomnia. He remained awake. Ever vigilant. Ever aware.
"Could you show me where the bedroom is?" Aurora asked. He pointed to one of two doors.
The penthouse cost a small fortune for the evening, but Ra's had an inexhaustible supply of wealth. Ra's would use the same name he always did, Henri Ducard, and Aurora would be Talia Head. He had already gotten their passports ready, as well as paid for their one-way plane tickets.
Ra's watched her as she went into the bedroom and shut the door. He crossed one leg over the other, and looked out the large windows before him, waiting for the sunrise with a devious smirk.
In a matter of minutes, he could hear Aurora quietly sobbing in her bedroom. Eventually, silence fell, and he knew sleep found her. He pitied the girl for the horrible pain she experienced at the hands of the Joker. An abomination created by the Batman.
Ra's remembered the training he provided Bruce Wayne. The memories took the place of dreams. He remembered the rage he felt when Bruce betrayed his trust. The detective was soon going to experience the same betrayal at the hands of his lover.
It was early morning when Aurora came out of the bedroom. Her eyes were red and poofy, probably from all of the crying.
"Yes? What is it?" he replied, taking his attention away from the television and bringing it to her. He could see her attempting to cover the horrible scar on her arm and he frowned slightly. "Don't hide your scars. They give you strength. Resolve," he explained, motioning her to roll her sleeve back up.
Aurora followed the direction he pointed, getting to the bedroom as fast as she was able (which wasn't very fast due to the pain the pressure put on her legs). Once there, she closed the door gently and looked around. The room was almost as big as the living area, and just as grand. She barely smiled and went to the bed. It almost felt like she was home when she curled up under the covers.
Sleep didn't come as soon as she hoped, so the tears she was repressing for so long started to fall.
The weight of everything dropped on her in that instant. Crushed her. Everything she held in and everything the painkillers shoved down came out. She felt sick. Her life was over.
Aurora buried her face on a pillow to try to keep herself quiet, but it did little. She kept it up until her body could take no more and she fell asleep to protect what little sanity she had left.
When she woke up, it was from a terrible dream. A repeat of what happened to her the previous night. It was dark outside and the alarm clock next to her bed read 2:00 AM. She sighed and slowly sat up.
Even more sore than yesterday, she realized and swung her feet over the side of the bed. Next to her bed were two outfits--one pajamas and one what she assumed she would be wearing to the airport. The girl slipped out of the dirty, used clothes and swapped them for the pajamas. She padded out to the main room where Ra's was still sitting.
"Mister...um...Ra's?" Aurora began, standing outside the bedroom door, unsure. Her hand fiddled with the long sleeve covering her left arm. He replied and gestured for her to stop and roll it up, walking from the kitchen with an untouched cup of tea, sitting on the couch.
Figuring she shouldn't already be disobeying him, she did as he said and reluctantly rolled it up. When her eyes fell on the scars, it was for the first time. Her chest tightened and she stared down at the carved markings. It was clean, but still disgusted her. She could clearly make out the words written around the sensitive part of her left forearm. Aurora thought she might cry again, but forced the tears away.
As soon as she got over the image, she walked over to him and sat on the other end of the couch. He handed her the tea with a small smile.
"I was wondering if you could tell me about Bruce. Not how he is now--I know him plenty and I don't want to know any more--but about how he was. When he met you." Her hand absently traced the sore cuts that already began to scar. "It's okay if you don't want to. I just..." Can't stop thinking about him. And at least this could serve some purpose.
"Very well," he agreed with a sigh. "He came to me with little knowledge of the criminal nature. He left Gotham, traveling the world penniless. He learned the ways of criminals, the way they think. And criminals are a superstitious lot," Ra's explained. "He was young. Reckless. Untrained. Undisciplined. With an unquenchable thirst for revenge," he paused and shut the television off. "I trained him. He was just another student at first. But he evolved into something more. He would be my successor. Saving the world one city at a time. But he betrayed me. He let his own selfishness cloud his vision. He burned down my home and left me for dead," Ra's exhaled sharply. His gaze went out over Gotham and Aurora wrapped her arms around herself. "I swore I would have vengeance. And now the both of us have a common enemy. I will train you."
Enemy? Ra's was right--Bruce was an enemy now.
"I won't do that," she swore with a serious face. Aurora pulled her feet up on the couch and shifted so her entire right side was leaning against the leather. Her head relaxed against it and she looked up at the man. "I promise I won't betray you like he did. I don't understand why he would do what he did to you." She shook her head slightly then directed her gaze to the scar on her arm. A sharp pain shot across her abdomen when her eyes fell on it and Aurora winced a little. She stood up so she wouldn't fall asleep on the couch and went back to the room. "Thank you," she smiled just a little at him before she closed the door again and went back to sleep.
The next day, the flight went smoothly. She and Ra's didn't speak much. Only when she questioned him or he needed to tell her something. He wasn't one for small talk. Watching Gotham fade behind her was almost painful. Her hands shook the entire time, and kept it up even when they got to where he was taking her. She kept them in her pockets to conceal it, or played with the forming scar.
Months passed. Years passed. With each day, her insanity was brought more and more to light. Ra's told her it was okay and to embrace it--that it would make her stronger--but it didn't really work like that. Instead of becoming stronger, she became harder, colder, and more torn apart internally. Killing felt like nothing, and it was simple to defeat the toughest Ra's could throw at her. It became instinct. Something that needed to be done. Something that Aurora would do at the order of Ra's without even thinking. When she did, she would just look up at him with a stoic face as if expecting more than that. Another. She learned everything possible about language and culture just as Ra's told her. When he finally told her it was time to return to Gotham, she did nothing but smile darkly and nod.
The night she arrived was particularly freezing.
Thinking back, Aurora realized it was the day before the date she went missing five years ago. The day before the Joker took her and killed her baby.
Forevermore, it would be remembered as the day fate crumbled.