The Darkest Night

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


14. Order in the Court

When Aurora woke up, she and Bruce were in the same position they fell asleep in, except his hand was in hers. The girl yawned and gave him a drowsy smile. "I love you," was the first thing she said in her tired voice, followed by, "Me, too," after he commented on that being the best sleep he had in a long time.

“Master Bruce, I apologize if I have awoken you, but there is something on the news you might like to see,” Alfred’s voice explained through the house-wide PA system.

At the sound of the TV turning on, Aurora sat up just enough that she could see the screen, her head resting between Bruce's ribs and arm.

"They're putting him away," she smiled just a little and looked up at him with eyes like those of an excited child. It was the Gotham City News channel, broadcasting Maroni as he walked up the steps of city hall for his trial.  The headline that ran across the bottom of the screen read: Sal 'The Boss' Maroni arrested in police raid. “Because of you. You did it, Bruce."

"Well, that remains to be seen. We don't know how his trial will play out. But that little flash drive you gave Dent should tip the scales in our favor.” He paused to climb out of the bed. “It’s a public trial.” He moved toward his walk-in closet. “You know, I’ve always wondered what you’d look like as a brunette.”

"What do you-?" He pulled out an astonishingly realistic wig and handed it to her. "You want to go? Won't someone recognize us? Or at least you?"

“You don't need to worry about being recognized. I'll be wearing a fake beard. Besides, Bruce Wayne is in the Bahamas with Aurora Rider," he said playfully from his closet.

“I keep forgetting that we’re supposed to be on vacation,” Aurora stated, examining the wig in her hands. “I wouldn’t call the past week relaxing.”

“We can come back from our vacation after Maroni is locked up,” he called out from the huge closet.

She walked away from the bed with a small, tired smile, ending up in the bathroom. There, she searched around until she came across a drawer full of a few things a girl would use. She grimaced just a little—was it just for show in case someone came poking around at a party? Or was there a period when he just used and disposed of girls like napkins?

Pushing any thoughts of that from her mind, she dug into the drawer and came across a hairbrush. Her hair was notably smooth and silky from their long, hot shower, so brushing it out and putting it up under the wig was easy, but hard to keep contained. Aurora managed to get all her loose hair tucked up under it so she really did look like a brunette. To her, it seemed like she was a completely new person; darker and harder than she was with her naturally blonde hair. Her lips pressed into a soft line. She proceeded to brush her teeth, and since there was a vast amount of makeup in the drawer below the one she had open, she put some on so she wouldn’t look like such a mess at the trial.

Finally, she dabbed on a thin layer of lipstick, followed by an even thinner layer of gloss, and went back out to him. “I trust you have something for me to wear, too, Mr. Wayne, since it seems your only other option is that I go naked, and that’s a terrible disguise.”

“I do have something for you to wear. It's casual, since we're trying to avoid attention," he explained, pulling open a drawer and revealing a small collection of woman's clothing, "Take your pick," he told her, exiting the bedroom. 

Aurora didn't think about why he had so much women's clothing, just as she didn't think about the makeup.

She pulled down one of the many outfits and dressed herself. As she stepped out of the large closet, she finished buttoning the top of the blue jacket that went over a blouse. It was a casual outfit, but dressy enough for court, even though anyone who dared to show their face would be scumbags affected by Maroni in some way, and would wear jeans and an old shirt.

She couldn’t help but laugh a little at Bruce with a beard. It was attractive in some ways, but Aurora never saw him any way other than clean-shaven.

"You know, I really hate wearing this thing,” he said quietly, leaning down to kiss her.

She leaned back to avoid his kiss, smiling teasingly up at him. "Not while you've got that on." Aurora reached up and kissed his cheek. 

He smiled. “Are you ready to go?" 

”I’m ready."

“Let's get moving. I'll have Alfred drive us. It's a bit more inconspicuous than driving down to the courthouse in the Lambo," he explained, leading her out of the room. Alfred was waiting for the both of them at the bottom of the grand staircase.

"Good to see you, stranger," Bruce said to Alfred as they descended the stairs.

"I have been busy tending to Sarah, sir. Pardon my absence. I trust you have been enjoying your stay, Miss Rider?" Alfred asked.

She couldn't help but smile at Alfred's comment about 'tending' to Sarah.

“I have, Alfred. Thank you.”

The trio began walking toward the large oak door, out onto the snowy and windy grounds. Alfred took the driver’s seat of the black Lincoln they would be riding in, and Bruce opened Aurora's door. She slipped inside and he followed, sitting close to her as he shut the car door.

A screen in the center console lit up blue, and a computerized voice spoke from the speakers inside all four doors.

”Setting destination. 42nd District Court, Park Row, Gotham City,” the voice stated.

Alfred sat back as the car began to steer itself off the grounds of the manor and toward the highway that would lead them to the court. 

"You've seen Lucius, haven't you, Alfred?" Bruce asked, grinning slightly. 

“Yes, sir. He stopped by to up the security in the manor. I'm beta testing some new auto pilot software that Fox developed for a friend," Alfred said.

It took nearly half an hour to get to the courthouse. Aurora kept quiet the entire car ride there, listening to Bruce and Alfred talk. It was nice to listen to them—they spoke to each other in a different way than they spoke to anyone else.

Alfred got out and opened the door to let Bruce an Aurora out. There was press everywhere, but Aurora was confident in the disguises Bruce provided.

Once they arrived at the courthouse, they stepped into a mass of reporters and paparazzi that ignored the two as they slipped inside without notice. They took their seats a few rows from the back. Everyone else was battling for the front rows, saving seats and squeezing multiple people into each row like they were getting ready for the unveiling of same spectacular phenomenon. 

"They're like animals," Aurora pointed out in a low voice, taking in the scene as best she could. It was a mess with a remarkable lack of order for a court. Aurora adjusted herself next to Bruce on the bench.

"I told you we'd be able to blend. Everyone is too distracted by Maroni to care about who's in attendance."

He shifted his weight slightly so his arm rested on the back of the bench behind Aurora’s shoulder, allowing the two of them to sit a bit closer together. Any nerves she had faded.

The judge marched through the doors of his chambers. He was an intimidating man: large, with an angry expression on his face. Maroni was probably paying him off. 

"All rise!" the chocolate-skinned bailiff called out from beside the judge's bench. Bruce and Aurora stood, and were then seated at the judge's command.

Harvey Dent stood from his seat, as well as Maroni's lawyer. The two both gave their opening statements. Harvey was surprisingly persuasive in his speaking. The two went back and forth for a bit, pointing out pieces of evidence for and against Maroni, calling various witnesses and questioning them. 

"I call Salvatore Maroni to the stand,” Harvey ordered after about forty minutes of his show, pointing at the man.

Maroni took his seat beside the judge with a smug smirk on his face as he took the oath. Something didn't seem right. For being on the losing side of the battle, he was exuding quite a bit of confidence.

 Maroni began digging around inside of his jacket, claiming that he had to take medicine for a stomach ulcer. He pulled a bottle of antacid from his jacket and unscrewed the top, brining it up to his lips. There was a pause for a moment before Maroni jumped to his feet.

"Screw you, Dent! You're dead!" Maroni splashed the antacid across half of Harvey's face, revealing it to be a highly corrosive chemical in disguise.

Aurora gasped at the disgusting sizzle the acid made as it ate his skin, and whispered, "Harvey," her hand moving to cover her mouth.

Crowd ballistic, Harvey crumbled to the ground, clutching his face and writhing about on the floor, screaming in pain. Bruce stood as everyone else did, trying to get a better view. Aurora stayed seated, staring at Harvey in shock. 

Bruce looked down to Aurora.

"We need to get out of here," he explained, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her from the bench. 

Harvey was surrounded by people, all trying to get a picture or video of his disfigured face. All of their cameras went dead in an instant and Aurora made a confused face. Confused, that is, until she realized Bruce killed their phones. 

He led Aurora out of the courthouse and down the steps. Alfred pulled in front of them in the car, the tires screeching to a stop. The back doors opened automatically as Bruce and Aurora started to climb in. The tires skidded against the icy pavement as they turned around hastily.

"They're already talking about it on the radio, Master Bruce," Alfred explained. Bruce hung his head and exhaled loudly, sounding quite defeated.

"Damn..." he muttered, looking up at Aurora. "This changes everything.”

"I don't understand," she stated, shaking her head. "How would this change anything? Doesn't it just mean he's definitely being put away now?" Alfred took off down the street, jerking her back against the seat.

"Harvey Dent was the only person willing enough to stand up against the scum of Gotham in a court of law. He'll never show his face again.”

If he has any face left, she thought, the image of the sizzling acid burned into the front of her mind.

He started mumbling to himself, which made her nervous.

“It all fits..." he whispered, exhaling sharply. "It all fits," he said a little louder, looking up to Aurora.

"You can't just do that, Bruce," Aurora's hand found his face. "You need to talk to me." What fit? How could Maroni have anything to do with Dent? Or whatever else was going on in his head?

None of this made a bit of sense to her. Dent, Maroni, the chemicals...

Her eyes widened slightly and her hand slowly returned to her lap.

"The chemicals," she stated vaguely.

"Bingo," Bruce replied as Aurora pieced it together herself. "I need to go back to ACE tonight and do some snooping," he explained. He looked to Aurora and his lips pressed together. He thought for a moment and opened his mouth to speak. "You can help me again," he suggested, "I need someone to keep an eye on things at the cave in case something comes up." His hand rested on hers.

"I will." Aurora nodded.

She kept quiet after that, and they were back at the manor in only a few more minutes.

Despite the poor condition of the roads, Alfred managed to drive very fast without getting close to skidding or spinning out. Bruce led her into the house and down to the cave, both of them ducking in the heavy falling snow on the way inside. It was still early too early for him to go out, so they passed time watching news coverage.

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