You’re falling. Time freezes with your body slowly careening over the edge of the roof. A perfect picture of your sealed doom. You wish you could even try to think of ways to escape, some method by which you might survive this. But you know there’s no way out of this. So instead you let your mind free, let memories flicker behind your eyes like an old movie. Birthdays, holidays, sleepovers. Family. Friends. Maybe, if you’re lucky and the world is kind, you’ll get to see them again.
But you’re not lucky, and the world is anything but kind. Death would be an easy escape. A fall, a landing, then nothing. Freedom. And freedom is a blessing that you haven’t earned.
You are yanked from your fall by a hand wrapped in your shirt. With a strength you couldn’t have imagined Jeremiah is holding you over the precipice from that one point of tension. He could still kill you if he wanted. This could be one last mocking tease of life before your inevitable death. But no. He pulls you back, letting you fall to your hands and knees as you start to sob. Every emotion, fear, relief, terror, pours out of you in tears and gasps.
“See? I knew you could trust me,” There’s no emotion to his voice, no sympathy, no pride, nothing. Just cold observation. He bends down and lifts your chin with a single finger to make you look at him. “Do you understand now?” You shake your head, tears still streaming down your cheeks. He tuts and shakes his head. “You will soon enough.” Without moving his finger raises his hand, forcing you to rise to your feet. His other hand lifts and swipes away the tears. It would be a tender gesture if his face weren’t like a stone carving, empty, emotionless. Regardless you lean into his touch, desperate for any kind of human warmth. “No more tears. I don’t have time for them.” You nod, quickly brushing away the final stray droplets as he turns to survey the city.
“Loyalty, (Y/N). It is the most important thing in this world.” You join him, standing by his side and following his gaze into the distance. “Without loyalty, power is worthless. It can be stolen, or destroyed.”
“But you have loyalty.” You shift your eyes to examine him, the sharp line of his jaw, his dark hair that seems to drain the light from around it. “People kill to follow you.”
“They’re not loyal to me,” He tries to hide the annoyance in his voice, as though he’s talking to an incessantly inquisitive child, but you can hear it. Guilt makes your heart ache, and you listen closely, desperate to understand. “They’re loyal to the idea they have in their minds. The idea of a god-like figure who will raise them out of the ashes of Gotham.” All of a sudden his eyes are drilling into yours and you are frozen in place. “And despite appearances, I am not a god.”
“I think I get it.” You desperately hope that you do. “You need someone who is loyal to you for who you are, not the person they’ve created in their mind.” The twisted smile on his face warms your heart. You did it. You figured it out.
“But what about Ecco?” Her face appears in your mind, her unwavering allegiance to him, the way she spoke of him, the reverence she held. “She’s loyal to you.” He chuckles darkly, looking away, and you can move again. The power he holds over you is strange; it scares you.
“Ecco is loyal. She’s a good servant. But she is past the point of no return – she would be loyal even if I were to destroy her piece by piece.” He’s clearly thought about this in-depth. You feel a pang of sympathy for Ecco; her loyalty, her dedication, has distanced her from the one thing she truly cares about. And she likely will never realise it. “But you,” He turns to you again, and your attempt to avoid his eyes immediately fails as he draws you in, “You had no idea who I was before we met. A few preconceptions, of course, but nothing like the rest. Everything you think of me is your own. So when you’re loyal to me, when you respect me, you will not be disappointed.” His smile drops and he takes hold of your chin, although he doesn’t need to do anything to keep you looking at him. You couldn’t move even if you wanted to. ““Who am I?” That’s the question you asked. Now, you tell me who I am.” You go to speak and his grip tightens. “Remember, (Y/N). Honesty.”
“You’re… you’re a genius, obsessed with perfection, with success. You don’t trust anyone – you’ve been betrayed too many times. You isolate yourself out of necessity. But you don’t want to be alone; there’s just no one that can match you.” The words flow out of you without a thought.
“Very good. And are you that person?” He steps closer so that your chests and foreheads are pressed together, not an inch of space between you.
You shake your head. “No. I wish I was, but I can’t match you. I’m not a genius, I don’t have ideas, I just… react to what the world gives me.”
“Don’t put yourself down, (Y/N). You’re not a genius, of course you’re not, but you got here. Anyone else would have given up long ago. Not you.” His hand falls from your jaw to grip your shoulder, the other imitating it. He holds you tight. Your heart races. You’re sure he can feel it. You imagine he can feel everything inside you, your blood flowing, your breath catching, your thoughts whirling. “And I don’t need you to have ideas. I just need you -” He leans closer, nose brushing yours, breath mingling, “To feel.” And at that his lips press against yours, this time slow, gentle, letting you react. His hands slide effortlessly from your shoulders to your hips, pulling you impossibly closer, and your hands find his shirt, the fabric twisting in your grip. His lips are cold, but soft, and you smile against them as you tilt your head, letting the kiss deepen. Your eyes have drifted closed when he bites down on your lower lip, your scream being silenced by his mouth dominating yours. His hands have turned bruising, his mouth dominating yours. There’s no point in struggling so you follow his order, letting him manipulate you.
You let out a pitiful whine when he finally releases you; whether it’s from pain or longing you’re not sure. Jeremiah’s hand grips your throat, examining your shaking form.
“I knew it. Perfection.”