A Batman Begins/Dark Knight/Dark Knight Rises Fanfic by SouthernImagineer/ecto1B
Chapter Nineteen - dedicated to the creators of Back to the Future, because you make my life so much more splendid.
"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." – William Shakespeare
"So." A pair of soft eyes and an impish smirk lanced a perfect hole through his chest. "Are we going to discuss what happened?" She fingered the waistband of his boxers that sat around her hips—a lucky prize from his dresser—and studied him further. When he didn't answer, she prompted him with a soft "Well?" and pursed her lips. "Don't tell me you lost your voice."
John could only release a breath of hot air from his lungs in response. He had not lost his voice; he just had trouble deciding on which words to use in such a cumbersome encounter. The wrong ones would most likely send Monty out the door, coat in hand, either fuming or in tears. The right ones… perhaps the right words would win him another night? Another unbridled evening experience to look forward to? Maybe he was on his way to finding Monty's core—maybe there was a chance at securing a long-term relationship… all relied on his first words of the day.
He had to choose them carefully.
At last, John coughed through the morning build-up in his throat. "We can discuss it," he murmured. His hands curled around his coffee mug, praying for warmth, and he gazed at her. "What's there to discuss, though? I thought everything was pretty straightforward. You ambushed me in the shower, and then we found our way to the bedroom." He paused. "Which reminds me. The comforter is soaked. I should toss that in the wash before I leave—"
"I just wanted to be certain you didn't mind it," Monty said quickly, interrupting him from changing topics. Was that a faint smile he saw, peeking from the rim of her cup? "I hope you don't think anything was forced upon you; I didn't mean to 'ambush' you—"
He sputtered into his drink. "N-No! It w-wasn't! I… I wanted that, too, h-honestly." A sheepish echo drew crinkles beside his eyes, betraying his attempt at smothering a smile. "It was a good birthday present. The dinner, too." He cleared his throat again. "I mean…" she giggled, and he flushed once more, "everything, Monty. I loved it all." John lifted a casual hand up to scratch his neck. "Did… you… even plan it like that? The meal, the body wash that was waiting in the shower… it all worked out pretty well for you, didn't it?"
Her second snicker was enough evidence. "It did, and yes, I did plan it like that. We're in a good stage of our relationship, John. We met in October… two months have gone by, and I learn something new about you every day. It's all progressive. Last night was a healthy step forward—at least in my mind."
Dipping his head, John set the mug down on the counter and went to pull the woman close. Instinctively, his eyes found the particular rivets and shapes on her body that he'd memorized the night before, watching as they billowed and dove against the makeshift outfit she wore and the bed hair that fell past her shoulders. There was a pause to his train of thought when he mentally undressed her; he regretting doing so, for his sweatpants were thick and oppressing at his groin.
No, John, stop that. You have work! Don't rile yourself up.
"I'm glad you think so, too," he gritted.
It pained John when he had to leave—his shift was early, and he still had to pick up his partner, Ross. His cell phone sung with a concerto of "Where are you?" and "We're going to be late for work!" text messages while he got himself properly dressed (with Monty's help). Monty, too, pulled her yesterday clothes back on, determined to shower when she got home.
"I can stop by after we're both done with work. Maybe we can actually watch that movie you suggested last night. I promised, after all." She giggled, tugging her jacket over her sweater, and John, smirking, helped her button up.
"I think that's a spectacular idea. Do you want to meet for lunch? The usual spot?"
"Yes sir!" Grinning, Monty craned and kissed his nose. "Want to escort me to my car, officer? I'm gonna have a hell of a time wading through that snow."
"Yeah." She pointed across the room at the living room window. "You didn't see it? It snowed last night!"
When John finally went to look, he finally noticed.
Gotham had put on a coat.
"I was too busy," he explained innocently, noting the whitened view outside. "I was focused on more important things!"
"Riiight. You know, for an officer of the law, you're pretty inattentive."
"Hey!" He smacked her arm and laughed. "Don't try me. I can have you arrested for disrespecting an officer."
She playfully rolled her eyes. "And then the cuffs would come out, and then we'd really see the real John Blake, now wouldn't we?"
"Oh, hush." John's hand went for the front door, pulling it open and dipping his head. "I'll be happy to escort you through the snow, madam. And if it's too much for those legs of yours to handle, I'll gladly carry you. I won't tell a soul."
She flicked him on the head as she scurried past him. "Ladies and gentlemen, the comic stylings of John Blake. He'll be here all week."
John followed her down the stairs and to the apartment entrance, where she stopped and turned around. The snow was to her knees.
"No one needs to know what's about to happen," she muttered secretively.
"Mum's the word." John traced two fingers across his lips and tossed an imaginary key into the snow.
She laughed as he scooped her into his arms and grunted. "I love our everyday banter, John. I'm glad you have a sense of humor. I mean, we're lucky—"
John's inquisitive tone snapped the casual conversation in half. He stopped plodding through the snow and paused beside her car, his gloveless grip growing firmer around her.
"Yes?" She was obviously stunned. "What's wrong?"
"Did you really mean it?"
He couldn't believe he was asking that question, but it had been on his mind all night. It protruded from his brain like a misplaced spear or javelin, annoyingly stuck, unmoving. Even afterward their bedroom raillery, as her fingernails curled against his chest, rhythmically massaging the muscles there, her body shivering and begging to be held, her eyes blinking and then shutting one last time… even after all that, John was unable to remove the question from his mind.
He had to know.
"Did I mean what?" Monty asked, frowning. She was clutching the collar of his jacket tightly now—is she distressed by my sudden change in mood? John wondered. Probably.
The man took a breath. "What you said."
"About Bruce. Did you mean it?"
It took a moment, but soon her face registered with recognition. "Did I mean what I said about moving on? The stuff I said at dinner? Is that what you're asking about?"
"Yes." His voice quivered. "Did you?"
The woman, sighing, stepped down from his arms and into the snow. Like a magnet, she molded with his slender frame on impact, tucking her nose beneath his chin and her hands around his neck.
Her scent was there.
"John. I meant what I said. I'm going to invest everything I can into this relationship. It means that much to me." She pulled away slightly, rubbing her lips along his cheekbone. "Bruce was a prominent part of my life. But so was my family. So was my friend, Curtis. I managed to sever my ties with them; who says I can't do the same to Bruce? Last night was the turning point for me. There's no going back for me now. You're it."
The hesitation that had prolonged his first question instantly disintegrated, and he asked another one (or tried to). "Did you and he ever—"
"Sleep together? I'd be lying if I said no. I don't want to regret it, either. I don't think I do," Monty murmured gently, and John could see the grief blatant on her face, ridden in her fallen brows and drooping mouth. "I've moved on, though, and I hope you accept that, for my sake. I'd also be lying if I denied loving him, but that's my past, and he and the Batman are no longer important in my mind. I don't love them. Not any more."
There was a faint shrug to her shoulders, an almost graphic display of hesitancy quickly paired with optimistic words.
"Gotham can survive without them. So can I."
"Gotham can survive without them. So can I."
John wasn't sure he believed her. Even as he stepped through the police station doors, his mind swam with doubt. He and Monty had cleanly parted ways, promising to meet up for lunch, but the expression she used still hung in the air.
Was Gotham really surviving without the Batman? Without Bruce Wayne? After Harvey Dent's death, the police force had "gained a backbone," as Ross often said, and criminal activity plummeted along with the change. Or had it? Were there things happening beneath the city's outer layer? What would happen if John tore through the hermetically sealed surface… would he find things he didn't expect? And would these things disappear if Batman made a comeback?
In that regard, John questioned the validity of Monty's statement. If Gotham was hiding things, was Montydoing the same? Was she really surviving without the Batman?
It was still on his mind as he made his rounds through the Narrows. He and Ross were the neighborhood's beat cops, which forced them to familiarize themselves with the layout, the people, and the latest news. The two of them had built a militia of 'sources' for when things went out of control, and as they linked up with each on patrol, concern continued to bug John like a telemarketer. The prominence was always there, ever maddening, but John managed to shove it away for now.
Suddenly there were more important matters to attend to.
Their second-to-last contact, Boone, lived at the edge of their policing jurisdiction. He was an older fellow with plentiful gumption, unruly facial hair, and ears that picked up every incident in the Narrows. He was always willing to give the cops the information they required, so long as they remained courteous and didn't impinge upon the district's feigned concord.
It was Boone that broke the news first.
"Blake, Ross, thank God." It was almost a humorous sight, seeing the grizzled figure stomp down the snow-drenched steps and to the police car. When he reached the driver's side window, he heaved a breath and peeked in at the two policemen. "There was an incident last night in the building behind me. Laura, she lives there…" He gulped. "I-I think she's dead, Blake."
"Laura?" Ross echoed from the passenger's side. "The Laura we know? The Hispanic woman we helped?"
"I think she's Julien's prostitute, you know," Boone divulged. "Side job."
"I… didn't know that." John sent his partner a knowing glance, and then returned to the contact. "What happened, Boone? How do you know this?"
"The yelling. From what I heard, I think her old employer, Nathan—"
Ross was quick to interject. "Nathan? You're kidding. Her old employer? That's the guy that helped us last week, the guy that gave us all that info on the drug run."
"The same Nathan," Boone frowned. "I had no idea he was involved with Laura until he came storming down the sidewalk last night to find her. Anyway, he came back and killed 'em both, I think. Laura and Julien. It was a huge commotion. Gunshots, too. Loads of 'em. Yelling went on until four this morning."
John heaved the shock from his body and pressed on. The names were more familiar that he wished. These were people he saw on a daily basis, men and women he kept firm connections with, and it was painful, hearing that a domestic dispute had occurred outside his presence.
"So you haven't heard from Julien since then?" John asked.
"Last time I saw him, he was heading up to Laura's apartment. No sign of him since. He could be dead, too, like I said. He didn't carry a gun with him." Boone hesitated. "He should have."
Julien… Laura… I saw them both yesterday. And Nathan… he was improving. Seeking help. Although we haven't seen him in what, seven, eight days, I was sure he was doing fine. Inwardly, John cursed. God. Laura. A prostitute. She showed no signs. If we'd known… we would've helped her. How did we miss it?
"We'll go investigate." John fixed his coat and exited the car, Ross following close behind. "We have to. We'll handle it." The three men started towards the building, carefully maneuvering through the snowdrifts in their way. "You hear everything, Boone. What were they screaming about?"
The old man kept his eyes on his feet as they walked. "Laura tended to Nathan for quite some time, until he stopped paying. She left him. When she really started needing money, she found Julien. Nathan found out, and you know how men are with their sex toys…" Boone put two fingers to his temple and made a grotesque sound. "Someone's definitely dead."
"How come no one reported the dispute?" Ross wanted to know.
"No one blabs on Nathan and lives," Boone responded prophetically. "You know how he was before his 'change.' No one messes with him. Hell, I chose to wait until you two got here. I don't want Nathan after my blood. Not after this."
They reached the building, and John put a hand on Boone's shoulder. "Thanks. We'll take it from here. You should get inside; the snow can't be good on your feet."
As always, Boone flashed both men a weary smile and dipped his head. "I do what I can to help officers of the law. Be careful up there. You don't know who's got the gun. Nathan could still be up there."
The climb up the steps was a shaky one, and the guns-at-the-ready slam through the apartment door was an adrenaline rush. John, with Ross at his side, crept through the apartment, eyes narrowed and Glock-17 bared tight in his grip.
It was awful.
John remembered visiting Laura's apartment once before, and he recalled its usual neatness. She didn't have much, but what she did own, Laura kept quite orderly. Everything had a place. From the small, mismatched coffee table to the potted plant she kept on the windowsill, the place Laura called home normally sat like a doll's house in one's eye. Even the carpet—the dark, blood red blanket of warmth beneath it all—was carefully manicured with an old vacuum Laura kept like a watchful sentinel against the wall.
Control kept Laura sane.
So when John and his partner shoved themselves through the door, neither man expected to see what they did.
A war of sorts had evidently engulfed the apartment. Accompanied by the rusty smell of blood, living room objects splayed along the couch and the tables, some smashed into the floor, others frail and uneven against nothingness. Paintings dangled—two had completely lost their grip and now found refuge with the other household objects. There was madness everywhere; nothing had a place any longer.
One thing was certain: a fight had broken out.
"GCPD!" John called through the apartment, his voice deep with authority. "Show yourself!" He stepped lightly over the rug, wincing as his snow-ridden boots stained the red below. Laura wouldn't like—
Ross lowered his gun and pointed to a form beside the couch, a form that blended well against the crimson carpet, a form tucked beneath a fallen stack of newspapers.
The man was spread on his side, his limbs a mangled mess and his face turned inward to face the front door. Blood caked his agape mouth. His eyes were shut; they, too, had tasted the splatter of blood somehow, perhaps from his fall… or perhaps the blood belonged to someone else…
Hesitantly, John studied him.
"Call… for backup…"
The words were like glue in his teeth.
Instantly, he ran for the bedroom. He didn't know what prompted this swift course of action; the thought of death was a substantial precursor, but it hadn't been enough to spur his flight.
He ran either way.
"Laura! Laura!" The pistol was hot in his hands as he shoved the door open, directing it around the room with fluid movements, hoping he wouldn't have to shoot anything—
No matter what happened, John knew everything would be all right.
It had to be.
"She was on the bed," he stuttered through the speaker. "Dead. Beaten, bruised, dead. I couldn't—I didn't know what to do, Monty. That's… the one downside to being a beat cop. You never know what awaits you. It h-horrifies me. I have tough skin, and it still horrifies me." With a choke, he went on. "There's no getting used to that."
Monty felt like crying into the receiver. "And the killer?"
"Patrols are searching for him now."
"Good. Thank God. You all right?"
"I'll survive. Can we… still meet for lunch? I need… to see you."
There was a long pause. "… I don't want to talk about it."
"I'll see you in a few minutes?"
The other line disconnected with a forceful click.
Monty pressed her palms into the countertop and hung her head.
Maybe she was wrong.
A/N: Whoopsie-daisy! My bad! I've been kind of preoccupied lately... went up north to visit my best friends, ate myself to death on Thanksgiving Day, and now I am currently in my basement in slippers and a huge winter jacket, freezing my butt off.
Also, Assassin's Creed 3 was a thing. So. Yeah. Connor Kenway... I'd marry that shit.
Next chapter: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.