Summary: There are perks to playing secretary to the CEO of Wayne Enterprises; the dental plan's pretty amazing and the pay's great too. But Sarah's pretty sure that helping to keep her employer's alter ego a secret was not in her job description. Bruce Wayne/OC
Chapter One: First Meetings
My first thought right after walking into Wayne Enterprises was, Man, they have got to be compensating for something.
I could tell that the lobby of Wayne Enterprises was designed to have impact, and I could understand why that would be the case. First impressions and all that jazz. I wondered how many bigwig clients, corporate lawyers and potential employees were swayed by just the reception area alone.
They didn't go quite so all out as to have a shiny gold fountain that shot out streams of water through an intricate and multicoloured lights show but I had a feeling they'd stopped just short. With gleaming marble floors, ceiling-high glass windows and intricate modern fixtures, it was clear that Wayne Enterprises had spared no expenses when it came to establishing a memorable first impression.
It was impressive, I admitted grudgingly.
And also a little bit nerve wracking.
I shook myself a little and frowned. I was usually made of sterner stuff. Never let it be said that Sarah Summers could be scared away by expensive, shiny things that probably cost more than my life and hoards of people in penguin suits. But a lot hinged on my interview for a secretarial position at Wayne Enterprises today.
If I got the job, well. It would be a marked improvement from the last place I worked.
And considering that the last place I'd worked had been Arkham Asylum, I'd say that was a bit of an understatement.
I mean, for one thing the health and safety regulations there had been a joke. The same could be said about security for the employees, since all the guards seemed more preoccupied with patting us down after our shifts than making sure we weren't being accosted by the patients there. I was also hoping that this time around, my employer wouldn't be a scary, off-kilter creep but really, at this point, I considered that a bonus rather than a requirement.
Please, oh please, I prayed to whatever deity was bored and amused enough to listen to me. Let me not screw this up. I need this job for things. Like eating. And living in places that aren't cardboard boxes. Oh, and wifi. Let us not forget that.
Well, fingers crossed that I wouldn't immediately botch the interview by walking into one of those obsessively shiny windows. Seriously, they must get someone to clean that whenever a speck of dust so much as touches the glass.
It wasn't like it was my aspiration in life to play secretarial eye candy to some rich tosser, which I thought basically amounted to being a nanny but with more paperwork. I'd always had several jobs over the course of my life to tide me over. I had always made just enough for me to survive so I could do what I really wanted to do — writing. It felt like I had always been writing, losing myself for long stretches of time in whatever world I was creating at the moment. My dad had only encouraged the habit, buying me journals and books when we could afford to; when we couldn't he'd take me to the used bookstore and we'd spend the entire day there so I could read whatever had caught my interest.
But while there were the Jane Austens and J.K. Rowlings of the world, and there was also me. As I got older, I had quickly become disillusioned with the idea that my first novel could become a New York Time's best seller or win the Pulitzer Prize and that I would be able to kick my feet up and never work another day in my life. The world wasn't a dramatic murder mystery. There were things I had to do to support my writing, like pay the rent. And eat. To do that, I needed a job.
But first, I thought. Directions.
I was somewhere near the front of the line. It was further back than I wanted to be but a lot better than the back of the line, which had suddenly formed right when I got here. Talk about good timing. There was a woman on the phone behind me that I was half listening to.
"There's this damn song in my head that I can't for the life of me remember the name of," she complained to whoever was on the other end. I nodded, absently and sympathetically.
"Something with ground control to Major Tom?" She asked, sounding immensely frustrated. The answer sprung easily to my head.
The queue in front of me was clearing up. Before I left, I leaned back and whispered over my shoulder, "I believe that's Space Oddity by David Bowie," I told her.
She blinked at me. "Oh. Thanks."
"No problem," I replied.
Then, I cleared my throat and straightened my back and walked up to the receptionist, trying my best to look like I knew what the hell I was doing.
"Er, hi," I said.
Good plan, my inner voice said dryly. Start off real strong and take 'em out while they least suspect. The sarcastic observation was punctuated by slow applause.
No one asked you. Pipe down.
Annoying though it was, it had a point. "My name is Sarah Summers and I'm interviewing for a secretarial position today at one."
The receptionist looked nice, but a little harried. She also seemed to be doing about ten things at once. She had a phone wedged between her shoulder and her ear and while she typed on the keyboard of one computer, she was looking at the screen on another. I stared at her.
"May I see some ID?" she asked, and I obligingly took out my driver's license though I didn't have a car. But then again, most people who lived in Gotham didn't.
She took a look at it and passed over some papers. "Fill those out please, and sign the visitor's log."
I sighed a little. Tedious, nitpick little details. If this was a scene I had to write in my book I probably would have skipped right over it.
I glanced up when she hissed in annoyance. "Damn, can I see that driver's license again? I smudged your ID number."
"Oh, it's 012 230 438," I recited dutifully.
She gave me a strange look but seemed to accept this as an answer.
I returned the papers to her when I finished and she gave me a little visitor's badge. She opened her mouth, ostensibly to direct me to where I was supposed to be, or to at least get someone else to take me, when suddenly all four phones on her desk started to blare all at once. I tried to wrap my mind around why anyone would even need four separate phones. I snuck a peek at her head to confirm that yes, she only had the two ears.
"Uh," I said intelligently.
She gave me a look that was borderline hysterical and rattled off a string of words that I assumed were directions. I heard the words 'elevator' and 'floor', but then again she might have also said 'smell you later' and 'you're poor.'
Well. Nothing untrue, I supposed.
The momentum of the growing line behind me and the dismissive hand wave I got from the receptionist naturally propelled me away from the desk and towards a set of elevators. I stared at them and considered my options.
On the one hand, I had no idea where I was going.
Which meant I could either get on them and take my chances.
Or turn around and try to get clearer directions.
I looked behind me.
The line around the receptionist's desk had grown so big that I was pretty sure people were going to start crowd surfing to the front of the line at any moment.
Alright, winging it, it is. I decided.
I cursed when I realized that the doors had been open for quite some time while I'd been debating internally. I quickened my pace when I realized they were about to close. Now or never. "Hold the doors please!" I called out.
A hand obligingly kept the elevator from sliding closed and I slid in through the narrow gap. I flashed a grateful smile at the man who'd saved me. "Thanks," I said.
I pushed my hair out of my eyes and noticed absently that he was tall; he had to have had at least a foot on me, but I figured that wasn't saying much since I was a little more on the… diminutive side. Something about him caught my interest, snagging it instead of the perfunctory way people usually registered strangers. I found myself noticing more and more about him.
His skin was tan in a way which suggested that the colour was attained by actually being outdoors rather than in a salon. His mouth was smiling in a pleasant, perfunctory way, but his eyes were dark and seemed almost solemn. Handsome, I thought, neutrally. With that harmless half smile of his, he would have made a great secondary character in one of my books, or perhaps a source of comic relief.
"No problem," he replied, his voice a smooth baritone. For a moment we both stood there in silence before he ventured, "What floor are you?"
"Oh, right!" I had almost forgotten. "Uh, top floor maybe?" I gambled. Well, at least it would give me some time to figure out where I was supposed to be.
The stranger arched a questioning brow, and I realized suddenly that I sounded rather suspicious.
I cleared my throat mightily. "I mean, top floor please," I reiterated, trying to sound confident.
The dubious remained on the stranger's face, though he gamely obliged without another word.
The elevator began its ascent and on each floor it stopped to accept passengers. I tried to subtly crane my head above the crowd to gauge my surroundings, but dismissed each floor as being even less likely than the next. As the elevator climbed higher, I became more and more aware that I was losing track of my surroundings and bit my lip. Really wish I'd thought this through, I thought with a sigh. That's what I get for jumping first and looking later. Just because this approach in life hadn't killed me yet, didn't mean it wasn't ever going to.
By the fifteenth floor, I had the creeping suspicion that I was being watched. I snuck a quick look out of the corner of my eye and realized that the man who'd originally been on the elevator hadn't gotten yet. I could see an amused little quirk playing at the corner of his lips as he cast me sidelong glances. With each floor we passed, I felt my dismay grow in tandem with the stranger's amusement until finally we were the only occupants left in the elevator.
Ding! The doors opened to reveal the top floor which beheld long rows of cubicles, and in the distance a busy looking board room and no where I thought I was supposed to be.
There was a pregnant pause in which neither of us moved and the elevator doors slid closed again. Another awkward silence, at least on my part. By now, I knew that the man's amusement at my expense had grown to a full blown smirk as I could see it in the reflective surface of the elevator doors, though I refused to acknowledge him. Perfect, I thought, grinding my teeth together. A witness lives to tell the tale of my complete and utter lack of directional sense. But perhaps if I just didn't look at him he'd magically go away.
"Do you know where you're going?" Ah, no such luck.
I slowly turned to face him and with exaggerated nonchalance replied, "Yes, of course I do." There was a dull beat of silence and the man arched an expectant brow.
I gritted my teeth. Why do the gods test me so? "I know in a theoretical sense where I'm supposed to go," I amended.
The man leaned leisurely against the wall, like he had all the time in the world to poke fun at me. "So I take it that's a no?"
I heaved a miserable sigh. "… No," I admitted grudgingly.
He laughed. It was a strange sound, silky and warm, but there was an almost hesitant quality about it. Like he thought he wasn't supposed to be laughing, or like he wasn't used to it.
"Don't sweat it," he said kindly. "It's a big place. People get lost all the time."
I pressed my lips together grimly. "I would't say everyone."
He hesitated. "Well no," he admitted but continued quickly when I gave a dejected sigh. "But if it makes you feel better, I heard the guy who owns this place got lost in his own building," he said with a strange, ironic twist of his lips.
I gave him a flat look. "You're joking."
"No, really," he assured me so earnestly that I was sure he was yanking my chain.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "I don't know if you're telling the truth or lying to make me feel better, but…"
He quirked a brow. "Is it working?"
A cracked a reluctant smile. "A little," I admitted.
His lips gave a quirk of their own. "Good," he said with a nod. "Now, do you know where you're supposed to be going?"
I graciously ignored his emphasis on certain words and said, "I'm interviewing for a secretarial position in Applied Sciences," I told him. "Honestly, I would have asked the receptionist for clearer directions but she looked like she was getting mobbed."
The man stared at me. "You," he declared heavily, "have managed to go in the complete opposite direction. Applied Sciences is a level beneath ground floor."
I started at that. "It's literally in a basement?" I said incredulously, before remembering myself. I looked at him. "Thanks," I added grudgingly. Did he really have to make everything look so effortless. I was beginning to think that my initial assessment of him being a secondary character was a bit hasty.
Suddenly, a thought struck me. "Hey, wait a minute. Don't you have somewhere to be?" I assumed he got on the elevator for a reason. Most people did. Even if they were bad reasons, I admitted to myself.
I watched as he crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall nonchalantly. "Not really. They're not expecting me and I'm not supposed to be there until noon."
I glanced at my watch. "You do realize it's noon now, right?"
The man regarded me with dry amusement. "Like I said, they're not exactly expecting me."
I took a deep breath and opened my mouth to argue before deflating, giving it up as a lost cause. Instead I asked,"Why are you going out of your way to help me?"
He looked amused again. "And be the one responsible for setting you loose in Wayne Tower? God knows where you'd end up."
I bristled and drew myself up to my full height and scowled when I found that the effect was somewhat diminished by the fact that he still towered over me. "I'll have you know that while my sense of direction may be a little lacking―"
"―Woefully lacking, you mean," he interjected, leaning forwards.
"Don't interrupt," I snapped and was mollified by the half apologetic look on his face. "Anyway, as I was saying―just because I easily lose my bearings doesn't mean I don't possess other skills," I declared primly.
"Oh?" he replied and I heard the challenge in his tone. "Like what?"
I stared at him in silence for a long moment before tilting my head and saying, "Do you remember the total number of people who got on this elevator?" I asked in cool tones.
His brows drew together and before he could answer, I said, "Nineteen, including you and me. Must be a slow day."
"Five them of them were already in here when I get on. The man with the grey tie got off on the third floor and the other two got off on the third floor, where seven more people came in. One person got off on the very next floor, but two more people came on. The rest of the six people that came on from the third floor got off on the thirteenth floor. Then, one person got on the elevator each for the next three floors. Four people left two floors beneath us and the rest of them piled out into that boardroom out there," I told him matter of factly.
He seemed to consider my words, but I didn't give him the chance to speak. "Maybe I'm lying though. I could just be making up numbers," I said with a shrug. "But do you remember what the colour of the wall was on the eighteenth floor? Or what painting was up on the twentieth?"
I smirked at his look of consternation. "Eidetic memory," I told him, tapping at the side of my head. "The answer, by the way, is beige and Gustav Klimt's, 'The Lovers', respectively."
"Eidetic memory," he repeated slowly. "You have photographic memory?"
I nodded. "Yep. It has it's limits but I can't deny it's come in handy."
He looked almost suspicious for a moment before abruptly demanding, "What are the digits of pi from the nineteenth to the twenty-eighth decimal?"
I didn't hesitate. "Eight four six two six four three three eight three."
"How many people were in that boardroom?"
"What's the dictionary definition of concilliabule?"
"Webster or Oxford?" I retorted without missing a beat. "Incidentally, what kind of secret plot are we supposed to be hatching?"
The stranger looked briefly impressed before schooling his expression into something more neutral. "You know a good memory has no bearing on one's intelligence," he pointed out frankly.
I wasn't offended. "Oh, I know. Fortunately I've got the wherewithal to be able to connect the dots and add two and two together. I'm good with research and numbers."
He shook his head in disbelief. "If you're half as smart as you say you are, and with a memory like that, what are you doing applying to be a secretary? You could be a lawyer or a doctor or..."
"... Or a writer?" I said bashfully, and ducked my head at his surprised expression, suddenly embarrassed by how unusually candid I was being. "You'd be surprised at how much research a writer has to do. My little talent comes quite in handy."
"You're a writer?"
"Yep." I nodded. "Murder mystery," I added proudly.
"Are you published?" he asked. I considered him carefully and I felt the beginnings of a smile at his genuine interest.
I nodded. "I have a few things published under a pseudonym. Nothing major."
There was a pause before he carefully asked, "Why a pseudonym? Why not publish under your own name?"
Here I had to give my answer some thought. "I guess... because I wanted to protect the sanctity of my stories." At his quizzical look, I added, "I didn't want my age, my gender or my background to have any bearing on the stories I wrote. I wanted to give them a blank slate without there being any bias to them. You know, they say an artist's work is only ever half finished? It's completed when someone connects with that piece of work." I shrugged helplessly. "I wanted the people who read my stories to feel and believe in what I wrote for their own sake."
I looked up and noticed a curious little smile playing at the corner of his lips, the first genuine one that I'd seen from him yet. He regarded me with an inscrutable gaze. "Looks like I'll have to drop by the bookstore sometime."
I laughed and shook my head. "You'll never find me."
He smirked enigmatically. "We'll see."
Just then the elevator dinged and slid open. I jumped a little in surprise. Speaking to the stranger before me I had lost track of time and had almost forgotten what I'd been here for to begin with. "Oh, we're here." I stepped out of the elevator and peered around. "*This* is Applied Sciences? It looks more like a nuclear bomb shelter." I shrugged and turned to face him. "Wish me luck."
He smiled and slid his hands into his pockets. "You're not going to need it," he said, sounding utterly confident. "Well, at least not for the interview," he amended. "I can't speak for afterwards when you're wandering around Wayne Tower and accosting some poor soul for directions to the staff room."
I decided to graciously ignore that last part for his sake. "I wish I had your confidence," I sighed.
He leaned against the elevator doors. "Like I said, you'll be fine," he assured.
I laughed and shyly tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. I had to admit I was curious; in the span of an elevator ride, this stranger had caught and held my attention. Who was he? "My name is Sarah Summers, by the way," I prompted, fully expecting him to follow societal cues and satisfy my curiosity.
Only to be thwarted as he stepped back to push the close button on the elevator doors. I watched indignantly as he smirked. "Nice to meet you Ms. Summers," was all he said before the doors slid closed and magicked him out of sight.
I must have stood there staring open mouthed for at least a minute before I realized how ridiculous I looked. My mouth snapped closed as I turned adroitly on my heel and stomped away, fuming. Stupid mystery man, and his stupidly mysterious smile.
"Ms. Summers, it's a pleasure to meet you," came the voice of my interviewer who stood up as I entered the room. He held his hand out for me to shake. "My name is Lucius Fox."
I put on my best smile and looked him in the eye as I grasped his hand firmly and gave two strong pumps. "The pleasure's mine, Mr. Fox."
"Please, have a seat." He indicated the chair across the desk and I sat as he took his place, pulling out some papers.
"Your credentials are impressive," he said while scanning my resume. He asked a few routine questions which I answered confidently, though he didn't give any indication of either approval or disapproval. Finally, he stated, "It says here that you were formerly employed at Arkham Asylum."
I felt the stirrings of nervousness but didn't let it show on my face; instead I nodded in confirmation. "Yes sir, I worked for three years as the secretary to the director there."
"Why did you leave?"
I thought carefully. How delicately could one phrase, Because the place was driving me so insane I might as well have hung up my badge and checked myself into one of the nice, padded cells or even worse, I didn't quite feel safe around my employer and thought it was time to book it the hell out of there. I settled upon diplomacy and carefully worded my answer. "I simply thought it was the best time for a change in atmosphere, sir."
I wasn't sure that I fooled him. Mr. Fox's eyes twinkled and his smile told volumes about the fact that he seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. "Fair enough, Ms. Summers."
After another round of questions which I answered to the best of my abilities, he finally ended with, "Do you have any questions for me?"
Something had been bothering me throughout our interview. "Forgive me if the questions are a little impertinent," I said slowly.
Fox encouraged with a nod.
"Well. Doesn't HR usually handle these sorts of matters?" I asked.
Something three parts amusement and one part chagrin pulled at his mouth. "It would if Mr. Earle thought Applied Sciences merited the effort," Fox admitted. "It's a quiet department and apparently he thinks me capable enough to field the screening process for new employees."
Well. That wasn't at all worrying.
"Not," I said carefully, "that Applied Sciences is a dead end department or anything, right?"
"Of course not," Fox denies with a twinkle.
Feeling far from reassured, I ventured to ask another thing. "And just to reiterate, you are interviewing me for this position but I'm not going to be your secretary."
"Ah, no," Fox confirmed. "That position is currently up in the air. Mr. Earle is looking into the matter."
Okay… so definitely a dead end job working for someone who may or may not exist.
"You'll be hearing from us in a week or so about a potential second interview," Fox said.
I forced a smiled and stood. "Thank you for your time, sir."
The next week, I was carrying groceries home when my phone suddenly began blaring its annoying and generic ringtone that I'd never gotten around to changing. I scrambled to pick it up. "Hello?" I blurted, out of my breath. Hell, if two grocery bags were all it took to wind me, I really needed to head back to the gym.
"Hello Ms. Summers, it's Lucius Fox speaking. Is this an inconvenient time for you?"
"Oh, Mr. Fox! Not at all!" My heart began to race in anticipation but I kept it from being audible in my voice. "How may I help you?"
"I simply called to offer my congratulations."
I paused, hardly daring to believe him. "... Did I make the second interview?"
"I'm afraid not, Ms. Summers," he replied gravely and I went cold. "You got the job."
"Oh!" It felt like all the air had been pushed out of my lungs and I barked out a helpless, giddy laugh. "That's amazing! Thank you, sir." My mind whirled and I forced myself to take a deep breaths so I could think for a moment. "Not to look the gift horse in the mouth, but I thought there'd be a second interview."
"There was," he replied dryly. "Admittedly, you and a couple other candidates were picked to come in for another screening, but due to an... unexpected recommendation, the second interview was rendered unnecessary."
An unexpected recommendation? I was sure he didn't mean my references from Arkham, could he? But I certainly wasn't about to push my luck. "Thank you sir, I look forward to this opportunity to work with you."
"Oh no, not me Ms. Summers. I'm just a grunt worker. You'll see Mr. Wayne some time next week," he replied and for some strange reason, he sounded like he was enjoying a private joke. I blinked. Last I checked he told me I didn't even officially have a boss yet. And did he just say Mr. Wayne.
Before I could question him on the matter, he asked, "When can you start?"
"I can start this coming Monday," I replied, grinning ear to ear.
"Excellent. We'll see you then, Ms. Summers."
There were certainly a lot of unanswered questions, but for the moment I put aside my misgivings. I hung up the phone and hefted up the grocery bags. For some reason, they weighed as light as a feather.
Author's note: Hello everyone! If you are (for some some indiscernible reason) re-reading this story, you may or may not have clued into the fact that the first chapter is different. Well, huzzah, I've re-written it. I got some critique a while back that I think was wholly valid so I reworked some stuff. Plot wise, nothing is vastly different so don't worry about missing anything new!
New readers, welcome! This is the new version of Chapter One. You weren't missing anything from before, trust me. If, however, you still think it sucks, then I guess we're both SOL :(
As always, read and review!