Ecco had taken you to an office and left you there, the door locking behind her. Cupboards lined the walls, and a table dominated the floor, accompanied by a few chairs. The only light came from a flickering bare bulb that hung from the ceiling. You immediately try to open the cupboards, looking for something to help you, but they’re all locked tight. You throw yourself into one of the seats, wincing as splinters dig into your thighs. How did you get yourself into this mess? And even more importantly, how are you going to get out of it?
You stand up, determined that you aren’t just going to sit down and let this happen to you. You wanted answers, and you would get them, no matter what. The door can’t be that strong, not if it’s as decrepit as it looks. You cross the room and begin to slam your hands against it. It shakes in its hinges, but other than that it doesn’t change. You kick it in frustration and thump your forehead against the cold wood, groaning. There must be a way out. You just had to think.
Before you get a chance to do so, you hear heavy footsteps approaching the door. At the last moment, you back up before it slams open. It’s him. Jeremiah. Whoever Jeremiah is. He strides past you, as though you aren’t even there. The door slams shut, and you begin to inch towards it. If you made a break for it now, you might be able to get away before he even notices you. But you shake that idea away as soon as it appears – just because he hasn’t acknowledged you doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention to your every movement, every breath. He unlocks one of the cupboards, pulling out rolls of paper and tossing them onto the table. He discards his hat and jacket, leaving him in a white button-down and black waistcoat, with a blood-red tie. His hair is like ink, almost green in the dull light. Now that you can take the time to look at him, his beauty is even more evident. He’s hunched over the table, muttering once more as he examines the papers. They look like blueprints, and maybe a map of Gotham, but it’s difficult to tell from a distance. You watch as his eyes dart across the pages, as his lips twitch. You wish you could know what was going through his mind. He stands there for so long, apparently oblivious to you, that you begin to wonder if he actually hasn’t seen you. But just as you start to suspect his head snaps up, pale eyes locked with yours.
“I assume you have questions?” He straightens up, eyes never leaving you. Something about his voice makes you tremble slightly – you’re not sure what. A torrent of questions floods your mind: Why am I here? What do you want from me? But one spills out ahead of the rest.
“Who are you?” His lip twitches, almost a smile.
“Who am I…” He steps around the table closer to you, and you instinctively step back. You may not know he is, but you know he’s dangerous – you had to kill someone to even meet him, for fuck's sake. Your fear makes him chuckle.
“That guy – the other survivor – he acted as though I should know who you are. He said… “You’re the reason we’re all here.”” His smile grows darker, excited in a way, as though he can’t wait until you find out who he is. “You did something. Something important. What?” There it is. The real question. What did Jeremiah do to have so much power, for so many people to worship him, for so many people to fear him?
“I think you already know the answer to your question, (Y/N).” You shake your head, confused. He tilts his head, the smugness building. “I’m the person you’re looking for.”
The person I’m… Oh. Your mouth drops open in shock. It was him. It was all him. “You did it. You destroyed Gotham.
“Not quite as much as I’d wanted to, but a little destruction is better than none.” You’re shaking. It was him. All him. Before now you had planned out everything you would do when you met the person responsible for ruining your life. Ask them why, force them to answer you, make them pay for what they did. But now that he was right in front of you, only a few steps away, you were frozen. Jeremiah was watching your reaction, still smiling. Something about that smile… you snapped.
“You bastard!” You step forward and grab his shirt, fully intending to make him suffer, but before you can do anything his hands are on you, the smile gone – he twists one arm behind your back with an unimaginable strength, his other hand gripping your hair as he forces you against the wall, face pressed against the cold brick. You yelp, struggling against the pain blooming, but his grip is like a vice – bruising, unrelenting.
“True, but that’s not the point.” His body is flush against your back, and when he speaks his cold lips brush your ear. You let out a shaky gasp, your eyes wide.
“What are you going to do with me?” You feel him chuckle.
“Well, that all depends on you. Will you behave, or do I have to kill you?” At some point he must have released your hair, because now you feel a sharp blade against the side of your neck, making you draw in a sharp breath.
“Please… please don’t kill me…” You can’t breathe. This is worse than the roulette. One false move and you’ll be sliced open, and you know Jeremiah would leave you to bleed out on the floor whether he had intended to kill you or not. The blade glides across your skin, up and over your cheek, brushing your hair back and nicking your ear. He smiles against you, and you prepare for the worst.
“I won’t.” He steps away and you collapse against the wall, gasping for breath. “For now.” He leaves you there while he opens another cupboard, pulling out a black suit jacket and slipping it on. “Follow me.” You follow his instruction immediately – you don’t know why – catching up to him in the corridor outside the room.
“You still haven’t explained.” He ignores you, striding through the maze of corridors, moving away from the sounds of digging. “What do you want with me?”
“You’re different from my other recruits, (Y/N). They would follow me blindly to the ends of the earth – they do.” He’s leading you up a flight of stairs now. You’re still confused, not seeing what that has to do with you. “I can’t trust them. They would do anything to get ahead in my favour. But you-” He stops abruptly and turns towards you. You stumble to a stop, surprised. He grips your chin once more, examining your face, your wide eyes, lips parted from hurrying to keep up with him. You watch him, scared to make any noise or movement. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you (Y/N)?” You shake your head as much as you can; propelled by both honesty and fear. You wouldn’t lie, you know that, but you don’t want to think about what would happen to you if you weren’t special, if you weren’t different from the others who had come to this insane cult. “Even if you were scared that I wouldn’t like the answer?” Your agreement with him comes less easily this time, but you nod. “Good.” His hand drops to your shoulder pushing you up the final set of stairs. He gestures for you to open the door in front of you, and you hesitate only for a moment before doing so. You are immediately met with a burning sunset casting Gotham in orange light. Your mouth falls open – you haven’t seen anything so beautiful since before the bridges were destroyed. Since Jeremiah destroyed the bridges. You can’t forget that it was him. That he is the one who destroyed your life. You can play along, for now, you have to, but you can’t let yourself be ensnared by his charms. You take a small step forward, glancing back to Jeremiah for permission. He nods and you keep going to the very edge of the roof. From here you can see Gotham spread out before you, a beautiful ruin. Fires burn, buildings are closer to rubble, people shout and yell and sob, but it’s all dimmed by the vivid oranges and pinks that wash over it all.
“Why would you want to destroy this?” You wonder aloud. Gotham was never perfect, but it had a heart, a soul, one that struggled on despite the adversity it faced on a daily basis.
“You don’t see the imperfections.” You jump at the closeness of his voice. Somehow he has silently moved to stand directly behind your shoulder, just to your left, looking across the city with you. “I did not intend to destroy it for destruction's sake – I am not my brother.” His brother… Jerome. You knew you recognised the name, but only now do you make the connection between the inhuman nightmare standing beside you and the chaotic terror that brought Gotham to its knees on his every outing. “I sought to create a new Gotham, a better one. I didn’t want people to die. Destroying the bridges was a last resort.”
“But people still died.”
“A shame. But a necessary sacrifice.”
“My family was a “necessary sacrifice”?” You spit, stepping away from him, his presence fuelling the anger that has returned. “My friends?”
“I didn’t kill your family, (Y/N),” He’s getting impatient now. You can hear it in his voice. “That was the people of Gotham. The people that you would seek to protect. The people that wouldn’t be welcome in my new world.” His new world…
“Would I be welcome?” The question is like acid on your tongue. But you can’t stop yourself from asking it.
“Again, that all depends on you.” He steps closer and you force yourself to stay still. “I need you to trust me, and only me, completely.”
“I don’t know if I can do that,” He said not to lie, and you’re sure that he’d know if you did. He lowers his head and sighs. You hold your breath.
“That’s very disappointing, (Y/N).” His hand flies up and wraps around your throat – you instinctively try to yelp, but your airflow has been cut off, and you merely let out a pitiful whine. He pulls you towards him so that his forehead is pressed against yours, forcing you to balance on the tips of your toes. When he speaks you feel his lips move against yours. “If you can’t do that, if I can’t be certain of you, then truly, I have no use for you.” His arm straightens and you find yourself being held over the edge of the building. You cling to his forearm, tears of fear and pain forming at the corners of your eyes. You hate yourself for how weak you are.
“Please, I can try, I will, please-” He groans, his hand flexing around your neck.
“I just don’t know if you’re the right one, (Y/N). How can I, when you fight me like this?” Your heart aches at the disappointment in his voice. Rationally you know it shouldn’t matter, but you’ve been so alone for so long… Maybe Jeremiah can make you whole again.
“I’m sorry. I’m scared, confused.” Your voice is broken up by desperate sobbing. He tilts his head at you, examining you clinically. “Please, Jeremiah. I know I can do what you want me to.”
“Can you?” You nod rapidly, whimpering as his hand loosens and you glance down to see the fall awaiting you. “Prove it.”
“I’ll do anything; anything you want me to do.”
“Let go of my arm.” Your mind screams at you, your body tenses in resistance, but you release him obediently. Now the only thing keeping you from falling is Jeremiah. Your hands twitch by your sides, grabbing at your jeans, seeking any sort of purchase. He smiles, a cold, menacing smile.
And he lets go.