A/N: Here it is, in all its unbetaed glory, the first chapter of this fic. I'm writing this as a completely unsolicited thank you to Ferd, for the amazing vids she's done over the years. I would love to steal a quote from Joss Whedon and say, "That means if it sucks, it's her fault." But I can't pretend to be as awesome as Joss. Anyway, none of this belongs to me! This takes place AFTER The Dark Knight (taking the place of The Dark Knight Rises movie that was just released). Characters are Christopher Nolan's Batman and Smallville's Lois Lane.
I've gotten a few comments about some confusion involving the timeline. So for the Batman universe, pretend that the third movie never happened. Just ignore it outright. The events of the first and second movies occurred as depicted. This story picks up about a month after the end of The Dark Knight. (It's why I called it The Dark Knight Rises - act like this is the third movie instead of the Nolan movie that was just released.) For the Smallville universe, I've been intentionally vague about the timeline to this point. It is most likely that this occurs post-Bride, taking place of the Arc of Suck. Lois left and didn't go to Star City to sit with Not-Jimmy; she came to Gotham and told the Smallville writers to suck it. I haven't pinpointed exactly that this is the case, but I don't think it'll be terribly important to the story to get the exact episode break, either.
Now, to the story! I'm working a couple of chapters ahead, in the hope of being able to update this once a week until it's finished. We'll see if I succeed at that goal!
The Dark Knight Rises
The Game is Afoot
The edges of the shaped metal were bent and twisted, destroyed by the force of several heavy blows. She ran a finger slowly across the edges of the metal form, wincing when a sharp edge nearly cut her finger. When she pulled her hand away, she carefully pulled a tiny shard of glass off the edge of her hand, before it could puncture the skin.
Lois Lane considered the broken signal in front of her. Then, acting on impulse, she plugged in the power cord and hit the switch. The outer glass of the signal was shattered; the symbol inside had been smashed. However, after flickering several times, the high intensity bulb inside the device reluctantly came on. Lois turned and looked up at the signal, where it shone against the haze of the city sky.
What had once apparently been the clean, smooth lines of a bat symbol were torn and twisted. An image as tarnished and destroyed as the reputation of the icon it was meant to call.
She was reaching for the switch, intending to turn it off, when a voice behind her made her jump. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"
For a brief second, Lois wondered if the light had succeeded in summoning Gotham's vigilante. Then she turned. An older man in a rumpled suit, the lines of his body indicating the weight of the burden he carried, walked across the rooftop in her direction. When he reached her side, he leaned down and unplugged the signal. When he straightened again, she could see his anger.
Facing the ire of potential interviewees was hardly new to her, and she didn't let it get to her. "Commissioner Gordon?" she asked, recognizing his picture from the news reports she'd recently studied. She thrust her hand forward and stared him in the eye with an unflinching gaze. "Lois Lane, reporter, Daily Planet."
His eyes flickered to her hand and then back to her face once more. "Ms. Lane," he acknowledged her introduction, though he didn't take her hand. After a moment, she let it fall to her side. "Can I help you with something?"
Lois shifted. "I'm investigating the recent murder of Harvey Dent. I don't suppose you'd care to give me a quote?"
The Commissioner sighed. "You work for the Daily Planet, so I imagine you're from Metropolis. Maybe you don't get some of our local papers out there. However, I recommend you pick up a copy or two. I have nothing more to add." He nodded to the door that led downstairs. "And you're not supposed to be up here. I suggest you leave."
She didn't budge. "I've read the papers," she admitted. "That's the problem. You see, I came out here thinking that this story was going to be a waste of time. Vigilante crosses the line, kills some cops and the Gotham D.A. Pretty straightforward. Only, the more I looked into the story of this Batman character, the less the official story makes sense to me. According to the papers, you were the only witness to Dent's death. I figured, if I want the truth, I should come to you."
He frowned, the lines of his face deepening. Impatience and irritation were thick in his voice as he snapped, "As I said, I don't have anything to say." Wrapping one hand around her upper arm, he started to pull her forcibly towards the door. "Now, I suggest you leave before I have you arrested for trespassing."
It was a public building; Lois was reasonably certain he couldn't actually do that. Well, maybe he could, but he couldn't get it to stick. Okay, he was the Commissioner of Gotham, so perhaps he could even do that, but it was worth the risk, if it meant getting the real story. Lois yanked her arm out of his grasp. Acting as if he hadn't spoken, she strode back to the broken signal.
"Here's the thing. I've read everything I could find about the Batman. Every story that's been printed in the papers over the past year, since he first came to Gotham. You know what struck me? Until Dent's death, he was never accused of a single murder. Not one." She paused, letting this sink in, before she continued.
"You don't think that's a little interesting? You have this guy, this Batman, come into town. He takes down crime bosses and petty thieves, and he doesn't kill any of them. Nobody even ends up close to death. And these are some pretty bad guys, we're talking about here. Until the day he inexplicably kills some cops and the Gotham District Attorney. Then he goes back to his old m.o. Since Dent's death, at least a dozen criminals have been trussed up and left for the cops like gift-wrapped presents. Not one has been found dead, Commissioner Gordon. So I can't help but wonder; the Batman's a fugitive, wanted for several murders already. What would he have to lose with another murder or two? Can you explain that?"
Gordon pulled his gaze away from hers and started shuffling through the folder in his hands. "I don't need to, Ms. Lane. Can you?"
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Yeah. Maybe the Batman didn't kill Harvey Dent or those cops."
He looked at her over the line of his glasses. "And why would I lie about what happened? Those were my men, in case you've forgotten. My officers! Dent was a good man. He had been a good friend. You think I would lie about how they died? Maybe the Batman just snapped. Have you considered that?"
Lois paused, considering the man in front of her. She caught his use of the past tense, but she didn't know what it meant. She did know that he truly cared about the murders for which Batman was accused; that much was obvious. So why would he lie? After a moment, she shrugged. "Of course I have. But it still doesn't make sense. He saved Dent's life at least twice, and all of a sudden, he snaps and kills him? Not to mention all those cops? Why? Why would he do that? And if he did snap, why hasn't he killed anyone since?"
Since Gordon didn't seem to have a ready answer, Lois continued, "You see, that's the thing I just can't quite figure out. The Joker put hits out on several prominent people in Gotham. You might remember that; it's how you became Commissioner. Almost all of them died, but not Dent. According to the reports, Batman saved everyone at the fundraiser, after the Joker showed up.
"Then, when the city was demanding that the Batman unmask to stop the Joker's string of killings, Dent stepped forward and proclaimed that he was the man behind the mask, that he liked to moonlight as Gotham's vigilante. Batman saved him, and if the newspapers were correct, it was quite the spectacle.
"So Batman puts his life on the line twice to save Harvey Dent, and then he turns around a short while later and kills him? How does that make sense?"
Deep frown lines bracketed Gordon's mouth. "Maybe Batman wasn't happy that Dent tried to steal his thunder. Maybe he didn't like the fact that the D.A. pretended to be him. The man dresses up like a bat. Who knows how his mind works? Any man who dresses up as a flying rodent and spends his evenings taking on Gotham's criminals can't be mentally stable. I know you're a reporter, but one day, I hope you can understand that just because you don't like the story doesn't mean it's not true."
"And I know you're a public figure, but just because a story is what the public wants to hear doesn't mean it is true," she shot back. Lois Lane and Commissioner James Gordon glared at each other in stony silence for a long moment, each taking the other's measure.
Finally, Gordon sighed and broke eye contact, his shoulders slumping under the weight of some internal burden. Lois frowned and stared out at the lights of the city. She wasn't going to get much out of him, that much was obvious. "All right," she conceded. "You win." And maybe Gordon was telling the truth. Maybe the Batman really had just snapped and killed those men. She honestly didn't know. She'd never met the vigilante – she'd only read about him in the newspapers and seen clips of him on television. And Gordon was right. Just because a story didn't fit together perfectly, just because it didn't make sense, just because it wasn't the story she wanted to believe, none of that meant the story necessarily had to be a lie.
"So how do I find him?" she asked. If she wanted the Batman's story, it looked like she'd have to go get it from him, but after over a week of contemplating the issue, she still didn't know how she could track him down. If she were in peril, he might show up to save her. Unfortunately, it hardly seemed like the best idea to throw herself off the nearest rooftop, in the vague hope that the Batman would swoop in and save the day. Sure, he'd taken down several criminals since making it to the top of Gotham's Most Wanted list. But it still seemed like it would be a poor choice for her to put her life on the line for the very thin chance a man in a bat suit would be there to save her.
"You don't find him," Gordon answered in a level tone, glancing towards the destroyed Bat Signal. "He finds you."
A soft exhalation of noise was sufficient to convey Lois's opinion on the inadequacy of that response. She was never very good with sitting back and waiting for something to happen. She'd always been more of a proactive kind of person.
Still, it seemed like she'd hit a brick wall with the commissioner. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, Lois strode towards the door. She still couldn't shake the feeling that Gordon knew more than he was saying. After a few steps, she paused and turned towards him. In a soft voice, she said, "Hey, tell me something. From what I can gather, Batman's worked pretty closely with the GCPD over the last year." Actually, from what she could tell, he and Gordon had worked pretty closely together, in particular. It was part of what she found so difficult to understand. She continued, "Off the record, who really killed Harvey Dent?"
Gordon's head was bowed, and he wouldn't look her way. She hadn't really expected him to respond, but she was still disappointed that he didn't. Her mouth twisting, Lois sighed, turned, and walked away. Her hand was on the latch when she heard him reply, "We all did." She paused, considering his words, mouthing them silently as if she was testing the weight of them. They still made no sense to her, but she knew she wouldn't get any further explanation. So, without turning to look at the man behind her, she walked through the door and let it slam shut.
On the rooftop, James Gordon put aside the file he'd come up to read. There was no way he'd be able to concentrate on it now, regardless of the fact that there had been a series of burglaries in some of the city's more affluent neighborhoods lately. How the face of crime in Gotham had changed, since the Batman had first arrived on the scene.
A slight wind ruffled the papers poking out of the edges of the folder as Gordon (as he was called by everyone but his immediate family) gazed at the city skyline. He didn't hear so much as the soft scrape of a boot against the concrete, didn't feel the presence as it approached. In fact, familiarity and a good deal of practice were the only reasons he didn't jump in surprise when he heard the voice behind him.
"I didn't think you were going to use the signal anymore." The voice was deep, rough. A little unnerving, like the man who used it. Gordon was certain that was the point.
"I'm not," he said, turning to face the Batman. "There was a reporter up here, asking a lot of questions about you. She turned it on." Batman didn't reply, but, then again, the vigilante had always been a man of few words. Still, even for Gordon – who considered the Batman the closest thing to a friend two men in their particular circumstances could claim – Batman's silent stare was a little disquieting. "She's looking into Harvey's death."
"Many reporters in the city are," Batman pointed out.
"Yeah, but she doesn't believe the story." Gordon frowned. "And she's got a point. Maybe it's time we tell everyone the truth about what happened that night."
Batman turned, stepping further into the shadows in the process. The darkness fell around him like an old friend, and Gordon could no longer read his expression. Not that it was terribly easy to read Batman's expression in the best of lights. "It's not the right time," he said. "Gotham still needs to believe in Harvey Dent."
"Gotham needs to believe they have a hero watching out for them," Gordon retorted. "And they do. Maybe believing in a lie isn't what the city really needs right now."
"I'm not a hero."
The commissioner snorted. "You stand up against the criminals and thugs that would take over Gotham again if they could. In this city, you're the closest thing to a hero we've got." His companion didn't respond, so Gordon shrugged and dropped the subject. Maybe Batman was right and it wasn't the right time to reveal the truth, but that didn't make it easier on Gordon to perpetrate the lie.
"You know, you should watch out for that reporter," Gordon pointed out before the man in the shadows could pull another one of his disappearing tricks. He hadn't forgotten Ms. Lane's tenacity when she'd barraged him with her questions, and he suspected she wasn't a threat to be taken lightly.
"I can handle her."
"If you say so," Gordon murmured in non-committal agreement. When he turned to face Batman again, he wasn't surprised to see that the other man was already gone.