A/N: Another mid-TDK one-shot, like In The Offing, that deals with something I was curious about.
All Ye Who Enter
Gotham's night is not dark. The sky over the city is dim, to be sure, but while there are too many bright lights, neon and otherwise, to allow for glimpses of the moon and stars, there are also too many bright lights to allow for true darkness, the sort you get out in the countryside, when you're asleep in a farmhouse and there's no people for miles and miles around.
The notion is attractive, she has to admit. Perhaps she should get out of the city for a while. Let this all blow over. She thinks of the note she's left with Alfred. Let that all blow over; let Bruce get it— whatever it was, be it anger and resentment or simple denial— out of his system.
She hates to face up to it, but she's a coward. She doesn't want to face Bruce because she's rejected him, and she doesn't want to face Harvey for exactly the opposite reason. But she can't abandon them both either, she comes to realize as she walks on. The nighttime terrors have invaded the day, and she feels that she has to see things through to the end.
She wonders if she should feel heartbroken, or torn, ripped apart by the decision she's had to make. But, whether she should or not, she doesn't— she feels numb, and the edge of sadness is nothing but sympathy pangs for how she imagines Bruce will feel when he reads her letter. She can muster up no sorrow on her own part at all, nor gladness. She seems to feel nothing at all.
She would, she tells herself, welcome a distraction.
One comes, ready-made to order.
She didn't notice she was being followed till it was too late to do anything about it; she was nearly at the door of her apartment building when the hairs on the back of her neck lifted as though by static electricity; she glanced behind her and then she saw him, some guy in jeans and a black t-shirt, who would have passed unnoticed among the afternoon crowds were it not for his set eyes, fixed on her with the wideness of a drug addict. She didn't recognize him but she could recognize the intent; she began to run.
She'd seen that look in people's eyes before, when they're in court and too scared or too stupid or too careless to lie about the things they've done. It was a desperation, a subtle panic. This man will do anything.
Only ten feet from her apartment building, and she knows she'll make it bar any unforeseen occurrence; but he's running now, too, and she makes it to the door and fumbles for her key. Then she's got the door open at last, and scoots inside only a few feet in front of him. She slams the door on a close-up of that expression, and reels away from it. He rattles the lock, and starts to thump on the door with his fist— with relative politeness, as though it was a mistake she'd made, slamming the door on him, and he thinks he can now convince her to relent and open it for him after all. She shakes her head though she knows he can't see her, and backs away down the hall.
Her apartment is on the fifth floor but she's too afraid to get into the elevator— confined spaces are not going to do her mental state any good at this point. So she heads for the stairs, and trots up them as fast as she can manage in her heels and pencil skirt: not as fast as she would have liked. She has the distinct feeling that she's leaving the man far behind, down on the ground like a lowly animal, and reaching for the skies where the only menaces are airborne; and she can deal with those. Batman is, for her at least, a known quantity.
She unlocks the door of 542 and slips in without even bothering to open it properly; slides in as soon as it's wide enough to admit her slim body. She closes it firmly, turning around to rest her forehead on it, breathe a sigh of relief.
A voice behind her says, "Well, hi there."
She sucks in a breath, and fumbles immediately for the door. Nowhere is safe. She ought to have known. She's got to get out.
"Well, I wouldn't if I were you," the voice advises her confidentially. "Guns make a really loud noise when they go off, and we don't want to annoy the neighbors now, do we?"
Yes, that's it, that's exactly what she wants to do. She can't believe she's been complaining all this time about how thin the walls were in this building. She puts both fists on the door and takes a deep breath to scream; the hands rip her away from the wall, spin her around and steal the breath before she can put it to any good use.
He pinches his fingers over her jaw, pinning it shut, and she whimpers in pain. His painted face is horribly, awfully close, the stuff of nightmares in a waking dream.
"Let me ask you something," he hisses at her, "is this giving you a strong sense of deja vu? 'Cause I can't help but think we've done this before." He presses her up against the wall, flush against her, entrapping her as much with his voice as with his presence. He's a little too close for her to do the knee-to-the-groin trick again; if nothing else, he learned fast. His tone is casual, almost friendly, and it's astonishing how it makes her feel like weeping from fright, like collapsing in a heap. "'Course, that time we were at a party. And this time we're aloooone." He rolls the word out like a red carpet, chin jutting forward and that elongated scarlet mouth twisting. "But I like to think any occasion can be a party, if ya got the right people. So come on. Don't you feel like dancing?"
She decides she's willing to give collapsing a try. He feels her give up the ghost, and steps back to watch her slide bonelessly to the floor.
"Elegant, yet simple," is his only comment, and he slides on his gloves one at a time.
He has no men with him. He doesn't need them.
She buries her head in her arms and stifles the surging need to cry, to wail. He frightens her the way things did when she was a child, when she needed someone there to tell her that everything was going to be alright; but he's the only person here, and he's exactly what she needs protection from. There's no one else for her to be brave in front of, she thinks; then the falseness of this reasoning comes clear to her, and she tells herself: No. I'll be brave for myself, and because of him.
"Ms. Rachel Dawes," he says, bending over and taking her arm in a powerful grip. He hauls her upwards and she stands shakily because if she doesn't take her own weight, he'll just let her flop back on the floor. He's not going to carry her. He does, however, direct her where he wants her to go, stepping her through the maze; while he's been in her apartment, he's been dinking around with stuff, poking his nose here it didn't belong, and he's made quite a mess. It was a deliberate mess, her clothes apparently nailed to the walls or trailed suggestively across the floor, all the food from her refrigerator and pantry set out in Gotham's largest and most haphazard meal on the living room floor, her books ripped to pieces and smouldering in the fireplace, the work she'd brought home annotated and footnoted with obscene insights and commentary.
He pushes her roughly into a chair and stands over her.
She rubs her arm where his fingers have left bruises, and glares up at him.
"What are you doing here? Why'd you come to me?"
"I look like I need a reason to do things? Besides." He took a step back, began pacing deliberately in front of her, heel-toe, heel-toe. His pants rode up with each step, revealing multi-colored patchwork socks. "We were getting along at the party. We made small talk."
"You told me about your scars. That's not exactly small talk."
"I'd rather talk big." He turns his head towards her and grins, doesn't stop pacing. Back and forth, five steps each way. Quite slowly. "I am a guy who likes to say what he means. Just 'cause other people don't get it—" He waves a dismissive hand at these theoretical other people. He keeps moving. She's trying to figure out why a man who is so enamored with pain isn't inflicting any on her.
"So," she says, to recap or to buy herself time or to stimulate her thinking processes, or his, "you came to find me because you thought we had some— connection? At Bruce's party?"
He was silent for a minute; heel-toe, heel-toe.
"On first name terms? With the bajillionaire?"
"We've known each other for a very long time."
He snorts. "Pretty friendly, huh? Swap pillow talk, that kinda thing?"
"No," she says, firmly if not a little irritably. He stops and turns to her again, a great show of surprise on his face.
"No?" he repeats in a mocking squeak. "Who's idea's that, yours or his?"
"Does it matter?" she demands. Definitely irritated now.
"Or maybe just Harvey's," he enunciates carefully. "Our golden boy Harvey. Our frickin' white knight. Wants to save us all, well, who asked him?"
"Leave Harvey alone." For the first time, she tests her bonds. They hold firm; she can't get loose; but he observes this as he observes everything.
"Defensive," he comments. "Harvey doesn't have a problem with your little 'friendship' with Moneybags, does he?"
"It's not up to him." She's exasperated now. "Look, why am I tied up in my own apartment while you grill me on my private life? You can't be interested in this. Don't you have bigger things going on?"
"Oh, but you're part of the bigger things," he says, stopping next to her and crouching down to peer up into her face. "You're a big part of the bigger things. Probably the biggest. You're going to make an impression, honeycakes, a real big bang. I'm gonna make you—" He leans his head back, savoring the words, sighing with repleteness. "A star."
She stares at him but can't bring herself to speak the words that are on her tongue: You're crazy. Because, really, she knew it, and he was apparently in denial about it, so who would it do any good? Nobody.
He stands up quickly, knees popping, and jerks another kitchen chair over towards her. "So what did you think about your daring rescue the other night? Feel like an angel, fallen from the sky?"
"If you're just reminding me that you tried to kill me, you don't need to." She takes a deep breath and keeps her eyes away from him. "I'm not likely to forget."
"Huh." He turns the chair around backwards and sits down facing her, legs astride it, folded arms atop it, settling in and licking his lips. " You know, I don't know if you've realized this or not, but, uh, the Bat-thing? He's got a little crush on you. I'd do something about that if I were you."
"I'm still supposed to believe that you kidnapped me to give me advice on my love life?"
"An affair with a psycho is not to be dismissed." He sucked on the inside of his lower lip and gave her a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of look. "He's so pickled in his own dementia he'd probably be all kinds of fun."
"You're one to talk."
He points at her and shakes his head slightly, as though she's hit on something. "See, that's the thing. I know what I'm talking about. I've been there. Did I ever tell you about my wife? Total nutbar. Couldn't tell yesterday from tomorrow, kept thinking the birdies were telling her to kill people. And we had the best times together. Course, I had to kill her in the end. Self-defense, you know. The birdies are the ones who told her to do this—" and he gestures to his face, aristocratically as though he's earned it. "Stupid birds."
"That's not what you told me before," she says evenly, steadily, as though she's not tied to a chair at a psychopath's mercy. "You told me you did it to yourself."
He considers this.
"Either way, it was the birds' fault," he amends.
She shakes her head, looking at him finally full on. "I don't know what happened to you. I don't know what's wrong with you. And I don't really care. But I think there's no real reason for you to hold onto me, and I think you should let me go."
"Me?" he repeats incredulously, gesturing to himself. "There's nothing wrong with me that the love of a good woman won't cure." He sighs piously. "Just haven't found one yet."
"What about your wife?" she says, despite herself.
"What wife?" he demands.
She stops, takes a mental step back from this conversation, and shakes her head again. "I think you should let me go," she tells him again, and he looks at her sideways as though he doubts her sanity.
"You're getting awfully repetitive."
"I know, I know." He stands up, straightening out the rumpled edges of his vest. "You think I'm a lunatic who doesn't know what he's doing. But believe me, sweetheart, I know what I'm doing. It's not so much a plan as an urge to action, a call to arms. I'm taking big wide steps over the world, you see, Rachel Dawes. Everyone's looking up to me tonight."
"And I fit into this plan somewhere?" she says. She's hopeless.
"Not a plan," he repeats. "Not. A plan. But a delicate set of options that will eventually lead to a desirable outcome— turn Gotham on its head. Turn it on its back like a beetle and watch it squirm. And then I'll have 'em. Right where I want 'em. Under my thumb." He wiggles the digit in question at her.
She shakes her head slowly, incredulous but making a show of patience. "And what makes you think you'll ever get Gotham under your thumb?"
"Believe it or not, I've got talent. I'm not just another pretty face." He laughs so hard his eyes squint nearly shut. She wants so badly to get away. She doesn't know what to do. He's still laughing as he glances at the clock on her wall. "Ooh, lookit that! Time to go!"
"Go where?" she asks, though she doesn't really expect him to answer. He just stands and looks at her for a long moment.
"You know what I said before, about talking big?"
She nods. She suddenly feels incredibly tired.
"Well," he says, "you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
He hits her so hard she rocks backwards and the chair tumbles over; she strikes her head on the wall.
She wakes up alone, tied to a chair, a different chair, in a strange place. Her eyes have to adjust to the darkness before she can make out the objects that surround her: oil drums. All wired together.
In front of her is what looks like a phone, hooked to something with a faceplate, with numbers, counting down. She stares at it for some seconds before it dawns on her what it is, and then she closes her eyes to keep the tears away, and hums to herself as she shakes.
Then she opens her eyes, and her mouth, and begins to call out for help.