The Darkest Night

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

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17. Failure

It must have been a few hours that Bruce was asleep in his study. When he awoke, he looked out the nearby window. Night had fallen. He reached to the small table beside his soft armchair for his cell phone. He checked it, only to find that Aurora still hadn't called.

Strange, he thought, her flight would have landed by now. He stood from the chair and slowly walked to the window in his study, looking out toward the city. A spotlight shone up into the sky, in the center of it the familiar darkened symbol of the bat. 

Over the past few weeks, Bruce had slowly become closer to Gordon, gaining his trust, as well as giving his to Gordon. Bruce had done a good job of keeping the remnants of the mob off of the streets, and as such Gordon installed what he liked to call the "Bat Signal", should he ever need to get ahold of Bruce. It reflected off the clouds, and Bruce narrowed his eyes. For some reason, he had a bad feeling.

He met Gordon only a few minutes later on the roof of the GCPD, kneeling on top of the entrance to building from the roof. Gordon took a drag off his cigarette.

Bruce must've startled him because the cigarette fell to the ground.

"Still smoking, Jim?" Bruce asked.

"Jesus! You'll give me a heart attack one of these days," Gordon replied. 

"What is it? More of Maroni's men trying to cause trouble?" Bruce asked, jumping down from the door so he was level with Jim.

"No. Something worse. It's him, Batman," Gordon explained, stomping out his cigarette on the snow covered roof. Bruce's eyes widened slightly in surprise. It couldn't be the Joker. He was in Blackgate. "I've alerted the bomb squad, as well as the Major Crimes Unit."

"How do you know it's him?" Bruce asked. Gordon dug into his pocket and pulled a joker card from it. Bruce's jaw clenched. He took several quick strides to the edge of the roof and stepped up on to it. "Wait for my signal," Bruce ordered, jumping from the roof top, and gliding through the night sky. He prayed for Aurora's safety and hoped she made it to her parents' house okay.

 

 

Bruce tracked down the warehouse through the use of his usual undercover informants. The Joker had help from the inside, one of the psychotherapists at Blackgate whose name no one seemed to know. He looked all around for an entrance, some way that he could sneak in, but he only found the front door, which was marked with a colorful sign that read: Welcome Batman!

He clenched his fists. What was Joker planning? "Gordon, I've found the place. I'm sending you the coordinates now. Remember to wait for my signal."

He took a deep breath as he entered the huge warehouse. It was decorated to look like a circus.

Bruce looked to the center of the warehouse, and lying on the dirt floor was a woman, her body covered in blood and bruises, several thugs just a few feet away. Animals, Bruce thought. The Joker rode into sight on an oversized tricycle.

"Well, hello, Bats! Good to see you again! I bet you thought that was the last you'd get out of me! NOT! Bahahahaha! You'll find I'm quite the stubborn one," he explained, stepping from the tricycle. Batman was silent as the clown slowly approached him. He couldn't stop staring at the body on the floor.

"Who is she?" Bruce asked quietly, the Joker only inches away.

"Oh, just some nobody I picked up. She was going to the airport earlier today for some family reunion or something."

Bruce's eyes widened at the clown's words. Slowly, he walked to the body of the woman on the floor and collapsed down to his knees beside her. He cradled the unconscious body of the woman in his arms. She was still breathing, but she clearly suffered unfathomable abuse. Probably from the horde of men just a few feet away. He looked closer at the bruised face of the woman, and felt his stomach drop. He laid her to the ground, feeling as though he may vomit out of the horror of what he'd seen.

Bruce rose to his feet and clenched his fists.

He failed again.

He failed her again.

The one person that he wanted to protect the most.

He shouted, no, screamed with rage. Meanwhile, the Joker cackled behind him.

"Get him, gents!" he commanded. The Joker's men surrounded him.

Bruce was a different person, his power unmatched. In an instant, there were limbs broken, bones shattered, and bodies beaten beyond recognition. The Joker took a step back, the smile fading slightly from his face as the last of his goons fell to the floor in a bloody heap. Bruce's knuckles dripped blood.

Then the smile returned. "Good job, Bats! But they were expendable! Why don't you have a go at the ring leader? Come on! Show me what you've really got up your sleeves."

The Joker held a blood-dripping knife in his gloved hand, and Bruce felt wrath take him again. He knew it was her blood.

Bruce growled.

"The GCPD are waiting outside, Joker! Your game is over!" he shouted across the warehouse. The clown simply checked his watch and held up a finger. Outside the warehouse a large explosion could be heard, as well as a big, orange flare extending what must've been fifty feet into the air. Suddenly, screams of terror and pain could be hear coming from the outside. The Joker cackled, jumping around as if he were a child on Christmas. Batman quickly contacted Gordon.

"Gordon...Gordon, are you there?" he asked into his radio system.

"B..Batman? Yes, I'm here...There was a bomb...under the ground. I'm okay..." Gordon breathed out. He must've been trapped under rubble. Bruce knew that he couldn't waste any time between rescuing Aurora and Gordon.

"Let's make this fast you son of a bitch," Bruce said in a low growl, taking slow steps toward The Joker.

"Didn't your mother teach you to respect woman like mine taught me, Bats?" he inquired, pointing at Aurora with a chuckle. "Looks like you'll have to kill me! Booohahahahahahaha!"

The Joker charged head first and tackled him to the ground. He brandished his knife overhead and brought it down toward Bruce's head. Bruce tilted his head to the side to avoid the blow and rolled over so he straddled the Joker. The deranged clown attempted to lodge his knife in Bruce's neck, but Bruce caught his hand and held a tight grip on it, causing the Joker to drop the knife on the floor just beside him. Bruce crushed his hand. All of the bones could be heard crumbling. Bruce punched the Joker in the jaw with his left hand, sending a few teeth flying out of his mouth. The Joker still cackled with joy at every hit that Batman delivered to him.

Bruce didn't stop. Couldn't stop.

"Master Bruce! STOP!" Alfred's voice called.

Bruce wound up for one more punch and stopped as he cocked back his elbow. He looked down at the disfigured face of the clown. Among all of the bruises and cuts on his face, the smile still remained. Bruce let out one last angry grunt as he headbutted the Joker against the bridge of his nose, putting the clown into a very deep state of unconsciousness. He stood, the world swirling around him as adrenaline coursed through his veins.

"Aurora..." he muttered. "Aurora!" He ran to the broken girl and cradled her in his arms as he did earlier, "Aurora, please wake up. Can you hear me? Aurora!"

She made a small noise--something of a whimper and groan. He shook her slightly and that only made the sound pass her lips once more, a little weaker this time.

Bruised, cut, violated. She was shattered to pieces. And Bruce couldn't save her. He didn't save her.

"It's dead," she whispered vaguely.

 It's dead? he thought. What was she talking about?

He looked over to where he left the Joker's body. Perhaps she meant him. To Bruce's surprise, the clown had vanished.

Damn, he cursed.

She blinked and took a breath, and the red surrounding the grey in her once baby blue eyes told him the pain wracking her. Her eyes opened fully for just a moment, meeting his before they fluttered shut again.

He detached the cape from his shoulders and wrapped Aurora's bruised and broken body in it, slowly lifting her in his arms.

"Oh, God," Bruce whispered, carrying her toward the exit in slow motion, like she was a porcelain doll and any wrong move would shatter her.

As he stepped out into the cold of Gotham, there were overturned, flaming police cars everywhere. He could see Gordon trapped within one. Bruce quickly and carefully made his way to Gordon's car and kicked the window open, allowing him to crawl out.

"Thanks. Does she need a bus?" Gordon asked. He was pretty beat up himself.

"No time. I'll take her," Bruce explained as the tumbler, which he sent for as he left warehouse, pulled around the corner. The drivers hatch opened automatically and Bruce climbed in, laying Aurora gently on the seat beside him. He throttled away, heading in the direction of Gotham General Hospital.

He pulled in the front and quickly got out, carrying Aurora inside. People waiting in the ER gave him strange looks, the doctors acting simply terrified.

"She needs help. Now!" Bruce ordered.

Quickly, one of the nurses came around with a gurney, which Bruce gently laid Aurora down on. As they wheeled Aurora to the X-Ray to see how much damage had been done, Bruce slowly and gently removed his cape from Aurora's body, throwing it back over his shoulders. It was damp with her blood. He waited outside the X-Ray room, refusing to leave.

"Um... Mr. Batman, sir?" one of the nurses asked. Bruce looked down to her. "She's undergone heavy trauma. And she has miscarried."

Bruce looked at the woman in surprise. "What do you mean?"

"She was pregnant, sir," the woman explained. Bruce looked into the X-Ray room at unconscious Aurora laying on the table. She was pregnant. With his child.

Tears welled in Bruce's eyes and his fists clenched. He turned away from the nurse and called out to Alfred.

"Penny One," Bruce said into the radio.

"Yes, sir?" Alfred replied.

"Find him."

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