I don't own anything, except the original aspects of this story. All else goes to Christopher Nolan and team.
First foray in Nolan's Batverse. . .enjoy & let me know how you like it :)
X X X
"Life is full of happy accidents."
X X X
The sounds of laughter and clinking glasses echo dully in her ears. She can't remember how long she's been standing there, like one of her parents' commissioned marble statues, faking pleasantries and asking polite questions about this family's upstate cabin or that man's financial portfolio. Her parents want her there to mingle, to socialize and perhaps to catch the eye of some dashing stockbroker so that she'll no longer be a burden to them. Their daughter who doesn't want to attend graduate school, their daughter who can't quite seem to rise up to all the expectations they hold so high above her head.
They are throwing another party in her honor, to celebrate the fact that she's been a graduate for two years and has yet to land a job or a husband. In their eyes, this means she has nothing to show for her hard work. She, however, often entertains the idea of writing a very uncouth and unladylike account of her father's business dealings and all the ugly things her parents scream at each other behind closed doors when they think nobody's listening.
She excuses herself from the older woman who's been droning on about her son's entrepreneurial spirit, and winds her way through the many guests that populate the foyer of her parents' home. She's relieved when the front double glass doors come into view.
The crisp night air hits her like a slap as she walks outside, but she welcomes the wake up call. She's wearing a strapless dress that goes to just above her knees, gathered at the waist with fluttering fabric that looks like some ridiculous blue flamingo. Goosebumps break out across her skin and she smiles, proof she's still herself in this over-the-top get up.
She cinches her purse strap higher up on her shoulder and spots the doorman standing off to the side of the entrance, cigarette in hand. The smoke curls into the night air, escaping up towards the sky.
"Spare a light?" She asks, rubbing her hands over her arms to ward away the goose bumps. Even in spring time, evenings in Gotham are frigidly cold.
The doorman - Mikey - cracks a smile and shakes his head. He reaches into his pocket and holds out the open carton to her. She likes him, a kind older man in his forties with two kids in college. His wife passed a few years back from cancer, but she's never caught him with his head down.
"Bad habit, you know," he comments as she takes a cigarette and brings it to her lips. Her late night confidant holds out a lighter for her.
"Thanks," she says, and inhales deep - too deep, she's only a novice at smoking, after all - and coughs a few times.
"What's the story tonight?" Mikey asks her.
She takes another drag, shorter one this time, and holds the cigarette between two fingers at her side. She can feel the smoke rolling around in her lungs, burning her insides, but she ignores it and shrugs, eyes watching a couple sliding into a cab across the street.
"Didn't you hear? I should've been married two years ago after I finished school." She looks back at him, winking. "Guess that makes me an old hag."
Mikey lets out a bark of laughter, which in turn makes her laugh, too. His laugh is contagious, unhindered, so unlike her father's.
"If you're an old hag, what does that make me?" he jests.
"Freezing!" She exclaims, rubbing one arm with her free hand; the cold is getting to her. She quickly gives up the endeavor of trying to warm up, and stamps out the cigarette with her silver flat.
"Do you want to borrow a jacket? Dad'll never miss one," she offers him.
Her father does have an endless wardrobe - one that almost rivals her mother's - and she knows Mikey would put one of his fur-lined coats to very good use. Most of the coats are ceremonial gifts from her mother, anyway, who is clueless as to what to buy her husband after over two decades of empty marriage.
Mikey waves her off. "Don't worry 'bout me, kid. I'll be fine. You go back inside," he tells her, not unkindly. "Wouldn't do you any good, getting sick this time of year."
Falling ill might actually give her a welcome break from all the social engagements her parents have planned for her, but she doesn't say that. Instead, she smiles and nods.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Mikey," she tells him, and heads back into the fray.
Her exposed skin prickles all over the moment she re-enters the foyer, filled to the brim with warm bodies in evening wear, drinking to excess on her family's dime. And to think, this party was supposed to be for her, and she doesn't even drink. Another detail her parents seem to have decided to ignore in lieu of their greater social endeavors.
She shakes herself, aware of the self-pity that's been creeping in to her thoughts all night. There's no use for that, however - she should be used to her family by now. It comes as no surprise that she has grown up into more of a social tool than a biological extension of her parents.
Making her way silently along the wall, she slips behind a rather rotund man in a three piece suit and bow tie when she spots her mother searching for someone - probably her. Soon, she's sliding up the staircase that curves around the foyer to the upper lobby where the elevators are, mother nowhere in sight. Mission accomplished, though it's a small victory in the grand scheme of things.
When she steps into the elevator, she notices the lift girl is oddly absent and reminds herself to ask Mikey about it next time she sees him. She presses the button for the top floor, letting her purse dangle from her finger tips, eyes unfocused as she gazes at the numbers above the door illuminate 1, 2, 3, 4. . .
X X X
Blake takes one last swig of his donut shop coffee and places it in the cup holder between him and his partner. It's his third cup of their patrol and it's shaping up to be one of those nights where even an energy drink won't make a difference.
Long night, he thinks. And he's on the wheel. Normally, Ross is the one who drives when they're out canvassing their assigned neighborhoods. He's more calm and collected than Blake, doesn't react at the drop of a pin during a chase or when a call comes through over the radio. But honestly. . .it's been so long since they've received a violent call, Blake volunteered tonight just to have something to do with his hands.
Truthfully, he's antsy in the silence of it all.
When he first decided to become a cop - way back when the only thing he had to look forward to was a warm dinner with his orphaned brothers - and made it through the academy with notable achievement, he realized that even in the most notorious of precincts in the city. . .there wasn't a whole lot of action for him to tackle. Not since the Dent Act almost eight years ago, since the Batman disappeared into the bowels of the world to never come out again like the creature he emulated in dress.
Just the thought of the man makes Blake's blood begin to boil. His grip around the steering wheel tightens.
If the bastard wasn't already dead, Blake would very much like to have a talk with him, the kind of talk that involves fists instead of words. He knows Dent is the reason the Batman never came back, the reason the entire city - hell, the entire world for that matter - loathes and rejects the one man that stood between them and utter annihilation from chaos.
The worst part is that he's probably the only person who knows it, too, and he hates that.
No, worse - it makes him angry. He feels like he should be doing something more about it, helping more in some way instead of just patrolling the streets on the look out for purse snatchers and teens buying pot on the corner from marginally dangerous drug dealers.
"Hey, Blake, you listening?" Ross' voice pulls him from his thoughts.
Blake shakes himself mentally, and glances over at his partner with a practiced smile.
"All good, man. What's up with Grace?" He asks, gleaning tidbits from what Ross has been telling him even while his mind has been elsewhere.
Ross doesn't catch the fake smile - this time - and just sighs. "She's gone off the deep end with all this baby proofing bullshit," his partner tells him, exasperated. "No sharp corners, no open drawers, toilets, doors, cabinets. . .she says it's bad enough that I decided to bring a child in to this world - catch that? Like I was the only one that had a hand in it - that I had better damn well make sure our boy is safe in his own house."
"It's a boy?" Blake asks, surprised. He didn't know that.
Ross gives him a look that Blake can feel without looking at his partner. "Really? Out of all that, that's what you pick out?"
Blake laughs, and it's a genuine reaction. Where his partner is practical and domesticated, Blake is temperamental and impatient. That's not to say he's a stupid cop. Blake understands the value of thinking with a clear head, reacting to situations in a calm, logical manner - but at times, he just wants to take some of his perps out.
That's the part he doesn't tell his anger management counselor, assigned to him after he broke the jaw of a man he arrested in a domestic violence dispute.
Possessing a strong urge to bash in the face of every guy who abuses his kid? Definitely something he's going to keep to himself.
"Don't worry, Ross," Blake assures his partner. "You can tell Grace I'll make sure your kid gets to grow up with his dad."
And Blake means it.
X X X
The elevator lets out a soft ting! and she's glad to finally be away from all the hollow chatter and music. She walks down the hallway towards the main door to her parents' condo, rummaging around in her purse for the keys - and that's when she freezes.
The door is ajar, lock dangling a few inches down from where it should be, connected only by two thin metal cords.
"Well, that's not good," she mutters to herself.
She looks over her shoulder down the deserted hallway, and then back to her purse. Her cellphone is there, nestled next to her wallet. She knows what she should do: dash back downstairs, call the cops, wait with her mother while she anxiously bites at her French manicured nails. . .the thought makes her recoil, however. The idea of running just doesn't sit well with her.
Instead, she moves to grab the black can of mace in the side pocket of her purse. It crosses her mind that this is isn't the smartest idea, but there's also a part of her that wants to catch whoever is breaking in to her parents' condo, wants to know what kind of idiot has the guts to cross her father. It may be a foolish thought, but at least's it's her thought, and she's going to act on it alone.
She grabs her phone quickly, brings up the keypad and enters '911' - just in case - and places the phone carefully back into her purse, screen side up at the ready.
With the mace in her left hand, she reaches to push back the door with her right, slips off her shoes silently and cautiously steps in.
The first thing she notices is darkness. The burglar must have killed all the lights (of course), because her parents always leave every light on. She knows this, because she's always the one turning them off.
In the dark, she walks cautiously around the table up against the wall where her parents drop their keys, and past the doorway that leads to the living room. She can feel fear creep up her spine, but she bats it down and forces herself to focus only on the situation at hand, and not the consequences. Her thumb flicks off the safety switch on the mace, and she raises it to shoulder level as she continues to step barefoot along the marble floors towards the back of the condo.
Ambient light spills in through the floor to ceiling windows her parents insisted on when they moved in. The longer she explores uninterrupted, the faster her heart begins to beat inside her chest. A cold sweat's broken out across her forehead, and she can feel every nerve ending in her body tingling with anticipation and fear, something she's struggling to keep in check.
"I wonder. . ." a smooth, feminine voice drawls from behind her.
She swerves around, mace at the ready, and sees the figure leaning up against the wall next to her father's Jackson Pollack painting. The upper half of the burglar's body is cast in shadows, long, lithe legs visible as one heeled foot taps on the marble floor.
"Are you as stupid as you are pretty?" The voice asks her, sounding amused.
She feels her heart thud in her chest, and tightens her grip around the mace. Her eyes dart quickly to the purse at her shoulder, but when she looks back up, the woman is suddenly in front of her - faster than anything - and pins her to the window. One gloved hand swats away the mace and it clatters to the floor while her other hand goes to wrap around her throat.
Satisfied she isn't going anywhere, the woman asks, "What's your name, sweetheart?"
The hand around her throat isn't cutting off her airway, but the feeling isn't pleasant, either.
"Gwen," she finally gets out, taking shallow breaths to avoid adding more pressure to her airway.
From the light of the window, she can make out the woman's features fully now: black mask covering the top half of her face, half of her dark brown hair pinned back smoothly, the other half hanging loosely in front of her shoulders on either side. She's wearing all black - leather, she realizes, after a moment - and black boots with glinting steel heels.
"Gwen. . ." the woman tries out her name, saying it slowly. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "Pretty name for a pretty girl in a pretty house," she declares with a bite.
Gwen knows at once who the woman is, and the recognition must show in her eyes, because the cat suddenly smiles at her. It's a long, languorous smile that shows all her straight white teeth behind red lips.
"You want jewels," Gwen says. With the woman's fingers wrapped securely around her throat, she can feel her voice vibrate through her skin as she speaks. Her hands hang helplessly at her sides; she doesn't dare try to use them in her position. "Wall safe, second bedroom on the right. . .behind the Monet."
The cat tilts her head to one side, smile turning into a quirking gesture. "What're you doing, Gwen? Are you helping me?"
"You're her, aren't you?" Gwen says, eyes briefly glancing down at the woman's leather attire and odd black headband. "The cat they're all talking about in the papers."
The woman straightens at that, smile disappearing, replaced with a glare. Her fingers tighten ever so slightly around Gwen's throat.
"What do you know about me?" She questions, nearly a sneer.
"Absolutely nothing," Gwen answers. She knows how truthful the media can be, how dangerous, how slanderous. But she also knows she'll say anything to please the woman who currently holds her life in her hands.
What a stupid idea it was to enter unarmed.
"Take whatever you want," Gwen tells her. "I don't need it. God knows my family won't miss it."
This elicits a laugh from the cat, and it catches Gwen off guard. It would almost be a pleasant noise, if not for the fact that she is so dangerous. The woman is taller than her, by six inches or so, and though she is lithe like her moniker implies, Gwen can also see that she's strong. The masked thief could snap her in half if she pushes the wrong buttons.
"Why so willing, Gwen?" She drawls, her free hand going behind her back and drawing something forward to Gwen's throat that re-ignites the fear up her spine: a five-inch knife that glitters in the soft orange light of the city as she gently presses it to just below Gwen's ear.
"Do I seem like a worthy recipient of your generosity?" The cat asks her slowly, dangerously.
The woman's eyes are cold and calculating, no doubt, but for whatever reason, Gwen doesn't see the malice her threats imply. Anger, yes, and disgust. But no evil.
All the same, Gwen asks quietly, "Are you gonna kill me?"
Her voice cracks as she says it and she hates that it does. If she's going to die, a death that will hopefully not include too much suffering if the woman slices near such a major artery - she doesn't want to sound like a coward before she bleeds out. She refuses to be cowardly. She supposes that's why she didn't run at first, when she saw the broken lock.
The cat studies her for a moment, eyes narrowing as the cool edge of the knife continues to press up against Gwen's throat. . .yet, it hasn't drawn blood yet. After a moment, the woman steps back, and tucks the knife away again.
"No," the cat shrugs, suddenly nonchalant. She wipes her hands off as if to rid herself of some invisible dust.
Gwen takes a breath she's been holding for a while and just stands there, too shocked to realize the sudden shift in her demeanor. She meets the woman's gaze, and tries not to tremble.
The lithe burglar in leather crosses her arms, and looks Gwen up and down, ridiculous frills and all.
"You have empathy," the cat tells her. Her voice sounds almost plaintive, but Gwen must be imagining it. "I won't kill you. Your bleeding heart will be the death of you soon enough in a city like this."
The words surprise Gwen. As the woman takes a few quick steps back, she thinks, why let her go, let her be a witness?
The cat tilts her head to the side again as she continues to inch backwards towards the front door, and that dangerous smile spreads across her features again.
"Toughen up, girl. Storm's coming. You won't survive it caring about everybody else before yourself," she warns, and it almost sounds like wisdom.
Gwen opens her mouth to respond, but the sudden sound of gunshots resounding up through the building stop her. She feels her heart drop - the party, all the guests, the children. . .she shoots an accusing look at her intruder, but the cat only sighs dramatically.
"Not my work, but I'm afraid that's my cue," she tells Gwen, and then disappears down the dark hallway of the condo.