Fandom: Batman Begins
Rating: R for mild violence, sex and dark themes.
Pairing: Mostly gen. Bruce/OF, Bruce/Jonathan Crane, Bruce/Rachel implied
Summary: “We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.”
Notes: Soundtrack, Lacrymosa, The End, Golden, Lover I don't have to love
I'd recommend listening to at least Lacrymosa while you read as the song itself inspired and carried a majority of what didn't end up on the cutting room floor.
Mix in with the lot
You might wake up and notice
You're someone you're not
1. Words bleed into dreams and dance upon a quiet mind the way waves lap upon an empty shore. People pray for salvation and on his throne, clothed in black, the Batman won't let himself forget that he is in no place to provide it. He is a creature of the night, not it's master and he owes no loyalty to victims.
The Batman with his mask and his toys and bitter ideals tears apart the old world and the new, pulls broken and twisted men up from the soil and protects the ones who need protecting. He is fear, he is hopelessness and he is mercy. He is the dark knight, cuts the world like a sharp corner that nobody had the foresight to cut off.
He does not cry at night for the ones he could not save, he simply goes out the next night and tries again. He is not a man nor a monster, he is an embodiment and voice for the ones whose voice has been ripped from still-born throats. When the moon is low in the sky and the stars shine with life that is beyond human comprehension, the Batman stands on the edge of a building and stares over the corrupt city he was born into, breathed into and feels his heart clench.
His parents made so many sacrifices for the world below him but it was never enough. They were mortal and their legacy is as dead as justice was, blood no longer running through their veins. The Batman must be immortal, a legend, unstoppable, untouchable and all that they could never be, all that they could not afford to become. In his life Bruce has done nothing but move in a circle, neither forward nor backwards. The Batman moves forward with steps that crush bones, never killing if he can help it, but that doesn't mean he spares lives.
The Batman and Bruce Wayne are not his only identities because he is neither and both and the one in the middle, the boy in the opera, the boy in the alley, the boy in the mountains with a mentor and blood in his mouth, frostbite in his toes -- that boy never truly died the way Bruce and the Batman had intended to kill him.
He's there when Bruce wakes to Alfred's curt greeting and bruised ribs, fading into the far reaches of an already beaten mind, he's there when the Batman sweeps through the rougher parts of Gotham City and sees a child with a lost stare. As much as he wishes it weren't so, the life he has decided to lead is slowly killing him. It's taking too much from who he is and it's twisting him in ways he cannot afford to be twisted.
The Batman was never supposed to be a hero but he is not a villain either and when the papers call him a vigilante he doesn't protest, or even disagree. He wondered, once, briefly what his father would say if he could see him now. What his proud and fair father would think if he stepped into the parlor and saw his only son and heir crumpled on his knees with a bottle he hasn't drunk from and a snarl that is full of an anger that is trying to devour him.
He knows what his father would think of Bruce Wayne with his wide clean smiles and pretty women, what he would think of the excessive champagne and the faster cars. He knows what he would think of the way Bruce Wayne never quite looks at anything.
He doesn't know what his father would think of the Batman, with the way the suit chokes him and swallows him, makes him a shadow and gives him the strength and outlet to live each day. He doesn't know what he would say about the darkness, what he would say about the way his voice is hoarse and rough in unspeakable ways, what he would say about the way the Batman has never been touched and cannot be touched.
But when Bruce is delirious with fever, a toxin that he had foolishly been unable to avoid pumping rapidly through his blood stream, when he sweats and screams and thrashes and Alfred is unable to do much but stand, stony faced with Lucius by his side while the effects work over his system, he thinks of his mother and her smell. He thinks of the way she would hold him and pet his hair and hum off key. Of the way her pearls and fur coat would brush against his skin.
He thinks of what he wants and screams "Why" up at the ceiling, unfurling his hate and anger the way a wolf shouts to the moon for things it can no longer have. His limbs grow taut and Alfred turns his face away with a politeness that has been ingrained. Lucius spares him no such thing and he is too far gone to care.
The fever is gone by morning, replaced by a deadlier madness, the kind that will prevail. Bruce apologizes to Alfred and the Batman apologizes to the city by staying until the first rays of light spread over the concrete and roads, heating up that which has been frozen by the sun's absence. He stays long enough to feel the warmth just over the lower half of his face and is gone before those that see him can blink a second time.
It never really ends. For Bruce or for Batman. The life he didn't want to lead and the life he must lead. He feels like the star of a Shakespearian play, an unwilling tragedy that he can never escape and as much as the thought makes him laugh he can't run from the truth of it. The pain he cannot dull with rage is the kind that will kill him. Anger he can live with, anger he can control and use. Pain only makes it harder to sleep.
Pain only makes it harder to endure.
2. Gotham City needs him. In the end, despite his flaws and his faults, it needs him. It needs the Batman as a symbol if nothing else and he is more than willing to create and fill those shoes. He has. He will continue to. Personal thoughts and feelings aside (the ones that drive him to madness, madness, madness) he does what he does for a reason, a purpose. No question could change that. No epiphany could reverse it.
He visits the opera some times. Dressed to the nines in dark suits and silk shirts -- his smiles come easier in the red velvet lobby. He sees a woman in pearls and doesn't even flinch, he might ask her for a drink and they spend the evening ignoring the actors on their stage, the sounds of their voices echoing and thrumming in their ears as surely as their heartbeats.
He kisses her the way a woman is supposed to be kissed. He worships her smooth creamy skin with competent fingers, slides them between her breasts, slow and watching her eyes, the red part of her mouth. She whispers his name and laughs quiet and gentle and he kisses her again even as his other hand pull her further into his lap, touches her beneath her fancy dress.
He doesn't let her touch him, not beyond her fingers in his hair, hands gripping his shoulders. She is too distracted to push the matter, too lost in her own pleasure and Bruce wouldn't have it any other way. He touches her for himself, brings her to the edge and drowns in her smell, her fluttering eyelids and powder soft pleas.
In the end her scream is drowned out by the thunderous applause.
Gotham City needs the Batman but it could quite possibly do without Bruce.
3. When Bruce was a child, young, young enough that his parents were a happy thought instead of horror and Rachel wasn't too old for games, he used to sit upon his father's lap and play the piano. Play might have been a stretch but he liked to press the keys in a random and rapid assortment of notes, a symphony of chaos. His mother had always clapped and laughed and he had felt like the most important person in the world.
The piano was destroyed in the fire but Bruce can play the replacement as though it were merely an extension of his own skin. He can play masterpieces, he can compose. He does neither, and the piano lays untouched for the better part of a year. He plays to impress at the dinner parties he forces himself to host, and when Rachel can spare time from saving the world with her sharp words and world-tilting smile he plays for her too. Above and beyond that the piano is a remnant, a memory and a tool he merely uses.
Just like everything and everyone else.
He has a roast for dinner, drowns it in rich red wine gravy and artfully cooked potatoes. He is on his third mouthful when he suddenly drops his silver fork. It clatters to the table, tilts over the edge and then clatters to the floor. A maid is immediately there to replace it. Bruce takes it between his fingers and thinks that he is only alive when he is staring down into the face of a killer, feeding off their fear.
He wonders when not being a good man had pushed him into becoming a bad one.
No middle ground.
The potatoes are delicious but the silver in his mouth burns like defeat.
4. That night he dreams of scarecrows in fields, all laughing and crying and surrounding him with arms held out wide. He races through them, tears their masks and finds Rachel's face instead, stony and silent. He feels desperation pump through him like a drug and doesn't stop, he can't, not until he has checked every last one. He has to find Crane, it's no longer a decision he can make. At last the face beneath the mask is the one he seeks.
Crane's eyes are dark, his hair is damp and he frowns and whispers "You can't find me here, Bruce" before closing the space between them and kissing him hard, like Judas on the last day. Bruce struggles against arms that are suddenly as strong as steel and when he finally breaks free he is looking up at his father's face instead. "You can't find me anywhere, Bruce"
The words burn and Bruce wakes with the sheets tangled around his legs in an impossible way and an ache in his gut that he can't shake. It takes hours for sleep to claim him again, the moon is too bright through the window and even jerking the curtains shut doesn't keep the light from touching him.
Crane is waiting for him on the other side and he shouldn't be surprised but he is. It's a tea party. The kind his mother used to throw when society begged it of her. Roses, fresh cut and beautiful in ancient vases and hung about the patio. Crane sits alone in a chair, white and gentle looking. His suit is old. His smile reassuring and cold. The mask sits in his lap, covered with soft petals that he is crushing with powder stained fingers.
"Sit down, Mister Wayne."
Bruce sits and a maid with no face offers him a cup. He takes it and finds it empty. Crane leans over the table, lean and graceful and his smile is less reassuring this time. There is something in his hand and he places it in the cup.
It's the flower. Blue and frost covered and of no harm to him in itself. He stares and feels as though he should be waiting for something else. When he blinks his cup is full of sweet smelling tea and he unthinkingly takes a sip.
They drink in silence, together. Nothing but the soft stirrings of violins that Bruce can't see. Bruce waits to feel something, anything, but doesn't. It's contentment in a way, but that in itself is emotion. Here he feels --
"Empty. Isn't it funny, Batman?" Crane sets his china cup down, lifts the mask and picks at a stray thread, shakes the rose petals free. "You and I are not so different. Everything we do is for fear. You embody it, you --" a jerky gesture with his hands for words he can't find "-- you are fear. Bruce. Mister Wayne. Batman." The excitement fades from his face and he leans back in his chair, tilts his head and exposes his throat in something that should be a surrender but isn't.
Bruce suddenly finds himself in front of his wash basin, hands on either side of the sink. He raises his head slowly, wearily and finds himself face to face with Crane in the mirror. The face -- eyes round in surprise, mouth open. Bruce closes his and so does Crane. He scrubs at his eyes but the man doesn't leave. He smashes the mirror with a fist but even blood stained and broken Crane stares back.
He doesn't wake until noon but Alfred knows better than to ask.
5. He's in Metropolis making sure that a deal goes over well, smiling with a woman on each arm. His mother might have something to say about the way he acts like they are pretty accessories and nothing more but his mother is dead and the Batman needs protection. Sacrifice is everything and nothing.
The city is brighter, less suffocating than Gotham and it makes him itch in all the wrong ways. The meeting is over quickly something he is glad of. Being forced out of his city by Alfred's needling might have been the best thing for him but it feels like he's forgetting who he is. That should tell him more than enough but it doesn't.
Afterwards he takes his girls to a club and twirls them out on the dance floor. He makes sure to push them in front, touch them in all the wrong ways -- he spied the two cameras within moments of arriving and makes sure to angle the most lewd kisses in their direct path. Metropolis will have memory of Bruce Wayne being here. Because Batman was in Gotham last night and he needs an alibi.
If his eyes are tired and his limbs are tense, well, Bruce Wayne has been kept up all night by two beautiful girls and not helicopter trips back and forth between Metropolis and Gotham. Arkham inmates were talented at eluding the police force. He is too good at what he does to not be both.
Somewhere past the midnight and three am mark he has to excuse himself for air. He half staggers outside the door, pressing a hand to a bruise that is aching more than it has any right to do. He wants to sleep and never open his eyes again but he has appointments in the morning, he has to have the girls dropped home and make sure that the paperwork for some prisoners has gone through. It never ends for this life.
A sound draws his attention, and to his left he sees something that immediately has him thinking on the offense. Two men, one dark and looming, the other dangerous and holding something glinting are descending on a woman. By her dress she's an exhibitionist or a hooker but it doesn't matter to him. Without thinking he approaches, quiet and in the shadows. He has no weapons and no mask but he can't seem to tell himself to walk away.
He comes at the first man from the right, shoves him hard into the brick again and again until he passes out cold. The second man has staggered back and the knife in his hands (long and sharp and far too terrifying like this) is raised high above his head. He runs Bruce and Bruce ducks backwards, hears the girl scream into the night and it spurs him into reaching up and twisting the man's arm around. The knife falls somewhere Bruce can't see, too occupied by beating the man into the ground. He lets him run into the night, sweat and fear pouring off his skin.
He's breathing heavily, far heavier than he should be. His head is swimming and he thinks he shouldn't have had so much to drink. Absently he turns to the girl to offer his help. He holds out his hand and sees that she has backed herself into the corner, there is something in her dirty shaking fingers. She is huffing, hair messed and in her face, lipstick smudged and shaky tear tracks down too young cheeks.
"Stay away from me!" She screeches and lunges. Bruce is surprised by her sudden attack and half steps out of the way, underestimating her will to harm, the 'I'm trying to help' dies on his tongue as a lucky shot gets the knife buried in his shoulder. She looks shocked, terrified and he sways on his feet just once, only once before she's gone, stumbling in the opposite direction to her attackers.
Bruce blinks, the dizziness returning and jerks the knife free of his shoulder. He presses his hand to the wound and it comes back red, so red. No one could hear him inside. It only takes him a moment to make up his mind. He wipes his hand against the brick wall, smudges the prints on the handle with his own bloody fingers. He leans against the wall and tears out his wallet, pulls all the cash he kept in it and staggers over to the trash heap. Lying between the two bins is a woman who has clearly heard and seen everything. She mumbles to herself nervously.
Bruce gives her the notes, tucks his wallet into her shawl. "Here," he murmurs and hands her his cell phone, taking the battery and card out, crushing them under his heel. "Sell it"
He walks away, stumbles and collapses outside the club.
The newspaper screams a mugging in the morning. He sees neither of the girls again, especially not at the hospital. His private room is no consolation. He smiles at the young male nurse who checks his shoulder but the man looks terrified to be touching him at all. Bruce closes his eyes and wonders if telling the man he won't sue might make things easier. He's used to pain.
But Bruce isn't supposed to be. He hisses. The man jumps and barks a quick apology before fleeing. Bruce waits until the room is clear before poking the injury, sitting up enough to test the movement in his shoulder. It should do. He'll be able to compensate and hide that he's impaired when the Batman stalks Gotham's streets after the sun sets. It's enough.
They bring him painkillers soon after and Bruce lets the medication lull him to sleep. As he drifts he tries not to think of how Bruce can save all the people he wants but it won't mean a thing. He can't help anyone with the name he was born into. He can't help the way he needs to.
The deed is everything, the glory naught.
6. When Bruce receives an invitation to a Christmas ball, Alfred encourages him to go and to take Rachel, to relax, to breathe. He has Intel that the Scarecrow is working for someone new and that that if he is in the right place he can put a stop to the opening of a very large problem.
Crane would look good in blue, in a suit that was made for him as opposed to one that just fits. Blue to match those glass eyes of is, and with the right amount of powder even the most stubborn shadows fade. He would look decent enough on the arm of Bruce Wayne.
He imagines briefly the expressions on their faces if he waltzed in with the esteemed ex doctor by his side, kissed his jaw, his throat and piled him with glass after glass. If the Batman took his work to Bruce Wayne's party. Took him home to Bruce Wayne's bed.
In the end he leaves Rachel standing alone on the dance floor, will have Crane in cuffs and a secure van by the end of the night.
He cannot be one man in two places and he cannot be two men in one.
Of all the choices he has ever made in his life, all the choices he will make, it will always remain the same, no matter what he thinks or feels, no matter the pain or desperation.
He will always be two men.
He knows which comes first.
No matter what.
No matter how.