The Darkest Night

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

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3. Reunion

She still felt the high of surprise from seeing Bruce again after her meeting. There was a small smile on her face that just wouldn't go away, and it got people to look at her funny. She didn't care. Aurora Rider stepped out from the elevator, now in the almost empty ground floor lobby, and pulled her coat back over her shoulders. Three men standing near the exit didn't make her any more worried than walking around Gotham would—she assumed they were bodyguards of some important political figure or something. By the time she was at the door, they were planted firmly in front of it.

"Excuse me. I need to-"

"Miss Rider," one of the men started in a thick Italian accent, "our boss would like a word with you." And with that, they jammed a dark bag over her head and carried her through the hail to a car. They didn’t care if anyone saw. No one would risk getting themselves involved unless they were suicidal. It was a long while before she was granted the privilege of sight again, and when she did, she wished for the darkness to return. It wasn't the kind of light that illuminated an entire room: all she could see was herself, the chair she was tied to, and about a foot in front of her. The light was stark white and burned her eyes. Instead of making a fool of herself and searching desperately through the thick blackness for a face or any sort of key that would give away where she was, she kept her eyes down on her knees covered by her skirt.

"Miss Aurora Rider. Next in line for CEO of Wayne Enterprises. You certainly have a bright future," someone spoke from the dark in an accent similar to the men who took her, the idea that he knew exactly who she was clearly meant to intimidate her. It worked. "It would be a shame if it all vanished before your eyes." Cold metal pressed against her temple and she gasped, eyes finding those of the man who must have spoken to her. He was severely Italian, and looked as harsh and cold as the middle of winter. Aurora knew that face. Salvatore "The Boss" Maroni. He was in charge of all bad business in Gotham, so the fact the he was standing before her with a gun to her head made her wonder what she could have possibly done to get involved with him. Her eyes went from his face back to her knees. "Here’s my proposition. You tell pretty boy Bruce Wayne that if he doesn't start to talk serious business with me, you're the one who's going to end up at the bottom of the Gotham River. And with winter coming around, they probably won't find your body until the water thaws in spring." As the man finished, he was met with a herd of deep voiced chuckling from the darkness. "Capiche?" Before she could have thought of anything clever to say back to him, a sharp pain in her arm made her jump and make a small noise, and the room started to spin around her in a pool of black and white. No matter how much she fought, her eyes fell heavy and her hands relaxed without her permission as a dark weight as crushing as the Italian man’s gaze dropped on her. "He'll know who I am," the man said, chuckling once again. She felt material slip over her head. Everything went black.

When she woke up, she was at her own home in her own bed, covers pulled over her and tea sitting on the nightstand on a silver platter with sugar and honey in their rightful containers next to it. It was all a dream? Aurora moved to sit up and realized that it was not, in fact, a dream. Her entire left arm was sore, and a certain unnatural exhaustion lingered deep inside of her. What time was it? Pushing through the discomfort, she rolled over to look at the clock. 7:30. She wasn’t out for too long, then. She sat up and stretched, and then realization struck.

Aurora shot out of bed, which she immediately regretted because of the head rush that came with it, and scurried to her closet. She was going to be late to meet Bruce. She glanced quickly at the large mirror outside of her closet, and then froze. The girl was already in the dress she planned to wear, her hair brushed and jewelry on. It was unnerving and creepy to think of who could have done it, but she tried to push the thought out of her mind and accept that it happened and there was no changing that.

She spent five minutes searching for her phone before she found it. The number for Wayne Manor would have been dusty if it could sit on a shelf, so hoping it hadn't changed since Bruce left, she pressed call and waited for an answer. There wasn't one, but it did go to voicemail recorded with Alfred’s voice. She left one explaining she would be late and apologizing for it, then hurried out the door, coat on once more, and slipped into her car. She sped to the restaurant they planned to meet at and searched desperately for Bruce. What was she supposed to tell him? There wasn't much he could do about Maroni. It seemed like there wasn't much anyone could do about Maroni. Of course she didn’t want him to hurt her, but who was supposed to protect Bruce?

A host took her coat and folded it over his arm, and then led her to Bruce's table, giving her the opportunity to check if there was a noticeable mark from whatever Maroni knocked her out with. There was, but it was tiny.

She sat at the small table and the host rested her coat on the back of the comfortable chair.

"I tried to call..." she began nervously.

"I’m always an advocate for arriving fashionably late." Bruce smirked.  

The nerves she felt didn't fade in the slightest, so she had to make a desperate attempt to hide them. Aurora brushed her hair back over her shoulders and kept up her smile.

"It's understandable that you would be," she began, "since you took a six year absence and didn't think to inform anyone." The hurt in her voice was clear, almost overpowering the fear. She couldn’t understand why she felt so offended. They didn’t know each other anymore, and being close as children didn’t mean anything. She regretted forcing him into dinner with her, but he did agree to go, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Her sarcastic tone was a little too intense for their second conversation in so long, so she tried to lighten up a bit. There was already a glass of dark, red wine sitting in a crystal glass on the table. She took it casually and sipped from it.

The conflict of whether or not she should tell him what happened distracted her. He was an observant man, and would find out sooner or later. And while later was preferable, it would probably be sooner.

"You left and this city burned, Bruce," she stated with a slight smile. It was odd how easy he was to talk to after all these years. "Who would have thought you're such a big influence even though you spend most of your time locked in your cave of a manor?" Still harsh. Aurora exhaled, embarrassed, and drank more of the sweet wine. "I'm sorry. It's just...Gotham is a lot worse than the one you left all those years ago." She quickly finished the rest of the drink and circled the rim tiredly with her finger, quiet and afraid to talk again in case she made an even bigger fool of herself.

I really should tell him, she thought. He deserves to know. He deserves to find some way to protect himself. But pulling him into the mess with Maroni wouldn't do anyone any good. However, just what they did to her in that short amount of time was traumatizing, and she didn't even do anything wrong. As soon as she did something against Maroni’s wishes... She shuddered at the thought and looked up to find Bruce had been speaking to her.

"Yeah," she nodded in agreement with whatever he said, laughing once under her breath.

"Yeah?" Bruce repeated back to her, keeping up the grin. "So you have had a rough day?" It was clear to her that he could tell she wasn't paying attention as they spoke. Bruce gave her a stern look and asked, "Did something happen?"

She blinked at him, trying to figure out how her answer could have been non-applicable. Aurora didn't have enough experience with this kind of thing to slide by without listening to a single word.

"You don't know the half of it," the girl mumbled and sat back in the now uncomfortable chair.

A passing waiter stopped and curtly refilled her glass before leaving to tend to the other customers. It was hard to make eye contact with Bruce across the table because she knew she was going to lie to him, and he knew when she was lying when she was eight: how could that intuition change? Her eyes stayed trained on the collar of his suit, just below his face so it would seem more like she was looking at him.

"Just a lot of guy problems," she passively continued from behind her already half empty glass. "You wouldn't understand." Guy problems—it wasn't a total lie. "Speaking of guy problems," Aurora began in desperate search of a subject change, "tell me about all those Swiss women on your ski trip, Mister Wayne. I hear they're just wonderful there." Both her brows raised expectantly and she leaned forward on the table. The pressure on her arm gave it an uncomfortable, sore pain, so she sat back again. She realized she switched her angle to one that would allow him to see the small bruise around the spot of the injection for just a moment, so she had to readjust her angle nonchalantly, which was sadly the hardest thing she ever did.

Half of herself said to tell him, half of herself said to drink until she couldn’t walk straight, pass out in bed, and let the evening end.


 

She seemed tired, the way she eluded him. But who was he to let elusion bother him? He would dodge personal questions all day if she was the one asking. He decided that if she was going to tell him, she would, wondering what happened to the sunny little girl he remembered her as.

Bruce shrugged off the ‘guy problems’ statement. The way she said it made it seem as though she would rather avoid the topic.

"The women in Switzerland?" He almost forgot his alibi. "Oh," he barely smiled, "I’ve got to keep the press interested. I spent most of my time in the Alps." He smirked as she raised her eyebrows, playing this game with him. He noticed the slightest grimace on her face as she rested some weight on her arm. He narrowed his eyes and caught a glimpse of the bruise on her arm, which she quickly tried to hide from his view. "I'm more interested in what you've been up to as of late, Miss Rider," Bruce explained, taking another faux sip of wine.

Her hand was just barely shaking, and she was downing the glasses of wine like they were water. What happened to you? he thought. Bruce would never drink to a level of intoxication. It only dulled the mind. But he could certainly play the part of the drunk billionaire.


 

Six years? Aurora went skiing with a friend of hers for three days when she was fifteen, and even that was too much.

"I'm sure you had to entertain yourself somehow." She smiled a little and refilled her glass herself. Many years ago, she gave up caring what Bruce thought of her. They never saw each other or spoke, and they only spoke in brief greeting when they were at the same events. But now that he was back, her feelings for him were already changing, even though she begged them not to. She sipped from the glass again.

Did he not get that she wasn't planning to tell him about the day's events? Or did he know something was up? Aurora drank the rest of the wine, set the glass down gently and just looked at him for a long moment.

"You know who Salvatore Maroni is, right?" Her eyes narrowed just enough to make it seem like she was genuinely curious, or maybe even had a story to tell about some scandal that went down in his absence. She trembled slightly with nerves. Her hands were the only things that shook, so unless she was downing the wine, they were placed elegantly in her lap. How would he respond when she told him? What would he say? Would he believe her? There was something the man said to her while he held that gun to her head: He'll know who I am. Who wouldn't? He was infamous for being one of Gotham's worst people. Aurora chewed the inside of her lip, waiting for him to respond. She took another long sip of the wine. Three glasses and dinner hadn't even arrived yet.


 

He didn't know how long he could keep going with the charade. He found himself drifting in and out of focus as he remembered the night that he left Gotham. It was a setup—a trap for him.

He was brand new to the life of Batman, and the city had yet to take him in. Hell, he had yet to take the city in. He was doing some simple surveillance on the GCPD, and around that time, Harvey Dent was still working in internal affairs and was in collaboration with Batman. He was on the trail of the SWAT commander Branden, who had been under the suspicion of Dent for being an enforcer for the Falcones. As Batman, he broke into Branden's home while he was on duty, but was met by the entire SWAT team, who also had plans to raid Branden’s home that night. Even with all of his training he couldn't disarm and incapacitate all of them, and was stuck in a crossfire.

He was brought back suddenly by Aurora’s mention of Salvatore Maroni.

Bruce's head snapped up. So that was it. It was easy enough to see that she had been threatened by him now that she said his name. He would play oblivious, giving her the idea that he was still ignorant to the events of the night.

"Of course. He's the head of the Falcone crime family. Everyone knows that," he stated. He brought his glass to his lips but only pretended to drink from it. His voice was nonchalant, perfectly portraying the increasingly intoxicated rich man. All he needed was for her to tell him what happened. It would be enough to testify and put The Boss behind bars. "Why do you ask?"

Aurora’s hands moved anxiously in her lap when she replied. "I have a friend who called me today—Anna. I guess Salvatore had a message for you, and Anna didn't think she'd be able to meet with you to tell you since you just got back. She said he told her to tell you that if you don't start talking serious business with him, he'd start to kill...people. He said you'd know who he is. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell you or not until early today when she called me. That's why I was late."

Great, it was a "my friend" story. Nevertheless, it gave Bruce the information he needed. Aurora must have been confronted earlier in the day and threatened by Maroni. If he knew that he could get to Bruce by attacking her, then perhaps it was time for him to stop playing games. He had all of the evidence stockpiled, someone willing to prosecute, and someone willing to make the arrest. All that was left now was determining when to strike.

The waiter came at the end of Aurora's sentence, setting down two plates of fine cuisine. He watched her move it around absently on her plate, taking a few bites here and there.

"So, she was wondering what she should do now that you know."

His eyes locked with hers and he saw a light that was familiar to some distant part of his memory and was now a breath of fresh air.

He took another false drink from his glass of wine. He thought about the situation as the waiter set down his dish in front of him. He began eating at the same pace as Aurora; slowly and absently. Bruce looked at her with a fixed, hard expression.

"Well, normally I would tell her to get in contact with the GCPD and enter protective custody, but who knows who you can trust there nowadays?" He rested his chin on his fist, counting the glasses as she downed them. How many now? Four? She had a right to a little self-indulgence.

His attack had to be that night. If he didn't attack Maroni right away, who knew what could happen by tomorrow? He checked his watch: 8:00. It was still too early.

"Maybe Anna should take the day off tomorrow," Bruce suggested nonchalantly as he took another "sip" from his glass. He looked at her with an expression that said, "I see right through your story".


 

Just as embarrassed as she was afraid of the situation, she let him talk to her and tell her what he thought she should do. One of the options he gave her, going to the police, was not really an option. Half of those guys would have no problem handing her over to Maroni. The other half wouldn't be able to protect her. And taking the day off wouldn't matter. Home or working, they could get to her.

"Maybe my friend," she continued slowly, "isn't sure she's safe anywhere."

That was when he gave her that look. The look that said he knew there was no Anna, and that she was talking about herself. She almost blushed, giving a pained smile to the waiter as he refilled her glass. The food on her plate was arranged into piles of small pieces. This was not how she wanted her evening to go.

"Do you have somewhere you need to be?" Aurora asked, watching him glance at his watch. That would figure. He was a busy man. She took a deep breath, the thought of being left alone after everything sending a rush of anxiety through her.

"No," he explained, bringing his focus back to her.

"Just..." Aurora paused, sighed. "Just tell me what to do, Bruce."

The act was up. If he knew, there was no point in pretending he didn't.

"How about I drive you to Wayne Manor? You can stay there tonight." Her worried expression didn’t fade. The last time she stayed at the manor was the night before Bruce's parents were killed. "Wayne Enterprises has powerful allies, Aurora," he winked, sending heat through her. Damn Bruce Wayne and his way around peoples' heads. She nodded in agreement to his offer. "Good. There's nowhere safer in all of Gotham," he explained, giving her a reassuring smile. It was true. When it came to security, Wayne Manor was supposed to be like a fortress. Impenetrable. "I wouldn’t worry too much about our friend Sal."

She nodded absently.


 

Her cheeks darkened in response to his wink. If he could pull her mind off Maroni and onto more distracting matters, he could probably get her to calm down.

"What about you?" she asked, drinking even more of the wine. It would have been in her own best interest if she stopped, but it was also best if she could get herself to relax so he didn’t have to mess with her head. "You're not going to give him whatever it is he wants, are you? I mean... What is it that he wants?"

"Don't worry about me, Aurora. Of course I won't give in. I don't negotiate with gangsters. He just wants a cut of the company's profit." The waiter passed by their table. "Check please," he turned his attention back to Aurora. "We can talk more in the car."

If he could get Aurora back to his home, he could have Alfred monitor her from the cave while Batman went about his business. It would be the first night in six years he donned the cape and cowl. He was confident enough in his training to be successful on this mission. If he could keep Aurora safe, then Maroni's leverage would disappear.


 

The waiter quickly brought the bill. Bruce paid in cash so they could leave as soon as possible, and left a large tip. Aurora pushed back her plate, finished the wine, and stood. "I'm following you," she said. Bruce put her coat around her, expertly avoiding the bruise from the injection, but it did little to warm her.

By the time they got to his car, the weatherman for the paper became right. The hail turned to heavy snow, causing a shudder of cold to wash across her. It was only eight fifteen, but winter made it dark at five, and the blizzard only made that worse.

Bruce got her door, making sure she didn't faceplant into a pile of snow, then walked around to his own side.

"Can I tell you something?" she asked, looking over at him. It was odd to confide in him so much after twelve years of scarcely even talking, but it was also natural. Aurora wished she could have grown up with him, been around him more and knew the answers to all the questions the GCPD and press were always throwing in peoples' faces. But she didn't, so the rumors and lies told about him were all she had to go off.

"Anything."

An overwhelming amount of thought plagued her mind. There was so much she could have said in that moment. She could have told him how she wished they could have grown up together, or how sorry she was for what happened to him, or told him everything he didn't know about her, but instead, she just settled with a simple, "I missed you," and looked out the dark window to the even darker city.

"I missed you, too, Aurora."

Those few words had plenty of impact.

Still cold, she pulled her coat tight around her waist and tucked her hands under her arms. She was beyond drowsy from exhaustion and the wine. There was a gentle whirring she could hear over their breathing—a sound that worried her, like something about to go wrong with his car—but she couldn’t stay focused on it. The white noise it created made her eyes heavy. It was quiet for a few minutes before she spoke again.

"Why would he use me? Why wouldn't he just threaten you directly? How am I a part in this at all?" Aurora remembered Maroni saying that she was soon to be the CEO, but she wasn't yet, so what could she possibly mean to this? It had been years since she even saw Bruce. Even more than that, they really didn't speak since they were kids. She meant nothing to everyone in the equation, so it made no sense to her why she was even involved.


 

She was really the only thing he missed about Gotham. It was a plague to the world, a festering wound. There were those who sought to destroy it and those who sought to rule it. On the night his parents were slain, Bruce made a promise to rid Gotham of those who sought to harm it and it’s people.

He kept a consistent speed to account for the falling snow. Bruce was a masterful driver, but it was better to keep Aurora relaxed.

He noticed that she seemed cold, so he reached for the center console and turned on the heat, which covered the sound of the computer running in the background. Bruce took a deep breath, knowing the answer to her question before she even finished asking it.

"He knows that I won't simply buckle because he's a crime lord. He must have some way of knowing that we have history, and he's trying to use you as leverage. It's a coward's tactic, but it's what you can expect from a gangster." He could tell that she was becoming increasingly more worried as the minutes ticked by. Hopefully, once they arrived back at Wayne Manor, she would be able to relax.

"Not long now."


 

Her eyes fell back on him when she heard him move. He turned on the heat thinking that would help her, but it wasn't a physical coldness. It was a deep, fearful cold that she couldn't shake off.

"But, Bruce," she started, "we haven't had history since I was, like, eight years old. I mean, I work for you, but we haven't talked since we were kids. You didn't even tell me you were leaving when you did." Her lips pressed together in confusion and something of worry. She wasn't all Maroni could have found to use as leverage—for the love of God, he was Bruce Wayne. What precious things didn't he have? She was just a girl working for him whose family was once close with his. There was nothing between them anymore.

"Regardless, Maroni has targeted you. But like I said, Wayne Enterprises has powerful allies." She watched him move again, about to ask what he meant by that when there was a dial tone, click, then an answering voice. One she was more familiar with than Bruce’s.

"Yes, Master Bruce?" Alfred. The thought of the man made her smile.

"Put some tea on, Alfred. We have a guest," Bruce replied.

"Right away, sir." The line cut off.

"You don't have to do that," Aurora pointed out.

"It's no problem. Alfred loves making tea. I don't drink it much."

Wayne Manor wasn't far. You could see it in the distance. Driving up the paved pathway between two rows of trees, the large cast iron gates began to swing open. Bruce drove the car around the large fountain in the center of the entryway, parking in front of the door.

She took a deep breath, trying to relax and stop freaking out at him. He made a good point. There really was no worth in trying to figure out why he was using her. Aurora just needed to accept that he was and move on—worry about more pressing issues.

"Just don't do anything you're going to regret tomorrow, Bruce. Okay?"

Her lips pressed into a line and her brows pulled together in worry. The lights from his driveway were hardly visible through the thickly falling snow, but she was so tired and full of wine, that even their dim glow hurt her eyes.

There was a man standing at the door waiting for them, and Aurora smiled to herself when she realized it was Alfred. Bruce parked the car at the bottom of the stairs, then walked around to help her out and escort her into the warmth of his home. She looked over to Bruce, who was already walking away from her and Alfred when he spoke.

"Alfred, could you see that Miss Rider finds her way to the kitchen? I'll be there shortly."

"Of course, sir. Right this way, Miss Rider," Alfred said, leading her toward the kitchen. Bruce turned the corner out of sight.

Where was he off to already? Alfred started walking away, saying something like, "This way," but Aurora was more focused on watching Bruce leave and check his watch. By the time they were in the kitchen, she thawed slightly and adjusted to the heat of the manor. Alfred handed her a small cup of tea and sat next to her.

"He hasn’t even been back for a week, and he’s already starting with the vanishing acts?"

"Well, you know him. He's quite the busy man," Alfred explained. "It's good to have him back home, though." Alfred smiled. "You must be excited. The next CEO of Wayne Enterprises. It's quite the responsibility," Alfred said, clearly trying to keep Aurora occupied while Bruce went about his business. "But I trust that the company is in good hands. Master Bruce certainly gets...well...less than entertained when it comes to business."

"I think I'm excited, but the publicity won't be any fun. Seeing what they say about Bruce makes me wonder what they'll say about me." The thought of all the terrible things that would be made up about her made her want to cringe. What would her parents think? Aurora sighed and held the cup of tea with both of her hands. It was soothing, both the scent and the heat. It burned her hands, but it made her feel better.

"Master Bruce just disregards the press. Today was the first time he's been seen in years and he answered only three of their questions." Alfred chuckled, turning away from Aurora once again.

"Where does he go?" she asked. "Where does he go when he disappears?" Bruce had been alone his entire life. How did he spend all that time?

Her heart ached for Bruce, but at the same time, he seemed too satisfied with his life. Smug, even. She exhaled heavily and looked back to Alfred, taking her first sip of tea. It warmed her entire body, but it didn't make her feel any better like it did only a few hours earlier.

He said he would be right back, she thought.

Alfred looked in the direction Bruce went.

"His study is that way. I couldn't tell you what he does in there. I really only go in to occasionally straighten up." Alfred shrugged and took a drink of the tea he poured for himself.

She smiled fondly at him—he really was a great man for all he'd been through and what he put up with. The heat of the tea began to set in, making her pull her hands away and look down at her bright red skin. It must've been a lot hotter than she felt. All the wine in her not only had her mind dull, but her senses, too.

Aurora looked over her shoulder at the sound of approaching footsteps. Bruce. Her smile widened just a little and she looked back at her tea again. It suddenly didn't seem so appetizing. Her hands hurt, her stomach ached, her head was spinning, she was exhausted, and she was afraid. Aurora watched Alfred walk away and Bruce take his place.

"I apologize for my absence. I hope Alfred didn’t tell you any jokes." Bruce smirked slightly as Alfred patted him on the back and went out the doors. "You’ll be safe here," he explained. "You should relax."

"I am relaxed," she exhaled, pressing the palms of her hands against the cool stone counter. "Really."

"Your definition of relaxed is clearly different from mine." He took a sip of the tea Alfred left for him. "Do you want me to show you where you’ll be sleeping tonight?" Bruce asked and took another sip. Aurora looked up at him from under her lashes.

"If you answer one question first."

Her hands still pressed against the counter, she sat up straight and looked right into his eyes. Part of her regretted locking gazes with him because of the confidence he exuded, but she thought it would make her seem a little more in control of herself. He acted almost expectant of all her questions tonight—annoyingly so.

"Anything," Bruce replied.

"Tell me where you go. You kept yourself holed up in this place for so long. How are you still sane?" She pushed off the counter, hands now resting in her lap against the material of her dress so the redness wouldn't be visible to him.

"I never said I was sane," he answered with a small smirk.

"I’m serious," she paused. "You can lie to everyone else, Bruce, but you can't lie to me." Her brows raised slightly and she waited for his answer. Hopefully he wouldn't lie. Hopefully he would just tell her what was going on so she could go to bed and forget about the day. All the years he was gone, she thought his return would be some amazing event.

She was wrong.

"Alright. I'll tell you." Aurora's eyes flicked to his cup as he set it down, then her eyes went back to him. "Do you remember when I said Wayne Enterprises has powerful allies? Well, it's more like ally." A look of confusion washed over her and she nodded at his question. Of course she remembered him saying that. It was no more than an hour ago. But an ally? An ally in what? "Only a select few people know this, but our company has been funding the Batman. I know how to contact him. That's why I've been so mysterious. I'm very particular about who knows this information," Bruce explained. "Obviously, I have to trust you to keep this to yourself now that you know." His expression was stern and he kept eye contact with Aurora.

The intoxicating, inviting look in his eyes made her breath catch. Did he do that deliberately, or was he naturally that charming? Struggling to keep her sense of control, she didn't give into his gaze. She just tightened her hands back around the teacup and tried not to think about the burn. It was becoming harder and harder to keep focused.

"What? I... Why would he trust you?" Aurora scoffed. "Why would you trust him? He’s not even real. He was a rumor. And even if he was real, he hasn't shown his face around here in years. He's letting the city go to Hell. I guess you were a little preoccupied in the Alps though, weren't you?" There was the power she was searching for. After a pause where his anwer should have been, she relaxed just slightly, embarrassed that she was acting so poorly as his guest, and said, "Of course you can trust me, Bruce. Who else am I going to tell?"

He was quiet.

Aurora slid off the chair and turned away from him, looking at the clock to distract herself. There wasn't one reason for her to be so mad at him. Well, there were plenty of reasons. She was drunk, drugged, exhausted, overwhelmed, terrified and confused. She was on overdrive, and if she wasn’t so afraid of it, she would have wanted to be alone.

"Where should I sleep?" Aurora asked, too caught up in herself and her embarrassment to apologize.

"Alfred?" Bruce called, the man appearing in an instant. "Show Miss Rider where she’ll be staying tonight, please."

I meant for you to show me, she grumbled internally, following Alfred anyway.

Her dress was becoming restricting and her heels made her feet ache. Bruce never really answered her question, which only annoyed her more. He was like a bad politician, avoiding every question and making up something that almost seemed like an actual answer. Almost. He walked casually away to wherever it was he liked to go and left her with Alfred.

She followed him up the stairs, down a hall and past the threshold of a grand room. Had she been any other person in Gotham, the room would have been strikingly grandiose to her, but it was about the same as her own bedroom, just a little nicer. It made her wonder what his bedroom looked like.

"Thank you, Alfred," she dismissed, and then sat at the end of the bed.

Nerves riddled her entire body, primarily her chest, stomach and head. Aurora felt sick, but she was not about to throw up in Bruce's house. Instead, she held her head in her hands until the nausea went away, then began to slip off her shoes.

"God..." she muttered, letting them fall to the floor.

Alfred gone and Bruce missing, she decided to go raid Bruce’s room for clothes even though she knew it was severely inappropriate. She didn't take time to turn on the light and look around, rather found the massive walk-in closet where he kept all his clothes and pulled a gray t-shirt off its hanger. She ended up finding a nearby pair of sweatpants, surprisingly enough, and took them. Even Bruce Wayne had to hit the gym every once in a while.

Aurora changed in his room, carrying her dress over her arm to the guest room. Her black bra and underwear were completely covered by the shirt and pants, which were big and comfortable. The massive wooden door closed behind her with a loud click. She pulled back the giant comforter and sheet, curled up like a ball under them, and stared into the thick curtain of darkness surrounding her. Her eyes began to burn and her throat restricted, and then she just started crying, the weight of the evening harsh and crushing. Nothing good came of the day she had long hoped for, but what was she expecting from Gotham?

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