[identity profile] jay-zelenka.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] remix_redux
Title: Pillar of Salt (The Protocol 259 Remix)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] marag
Summary: "Ain't nothing you can ever do to pull Babylon together, Bruce. You can't knit all the pieces back in place."
Fandom: DC comics
Character(s): Bruce Wayne, OFC
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Bruce Wayne and Gotham belong to DC Comics, Grace Brown belongs to the original story's author.
Original story: Pillar of Salt by [livejournal.com profile] nos4a2no9
Notes: Much of the dialogue is from the original story.

* * * * *

When she awoke, Grace Brown was confused. Her heart pounded and sweat poured down her face like she'd had one of her nightmares, but this bed, this wasn't Joe's bed. It wasn't...

It was a penthouse suite. Everything came back to her suddenly as she tried to rub her eyes and bumped herself with the cast on her right arm. She sagged back against the pillows, softer than any she'd ever had, rubbing Joe's parting gift with her good hand.

The moonlight made the cast glow like some kind of insect trying to eat her arm and Grace shuddered. She glanced around until she found the patch of darkness that was somehow darker than the rest, but when he didn't move, she swung her legs off the edge of the bed and stood up with a stifled groan.

"You should try to get some rest." The words seemed to appear in mid-air.

"Ain't sleepy," Grace said, putting on the silk dressing gown lying across a chair, enjoying the slippery softness on her work-toughened skin. She walked slowly across the soft rug, feet sinking with every step, until she could pull the curtains aside even further and look at Gotham.

It was the same city as ever, but from this height, she could see so many landmarks: the Sprang River, the Kane Building, the Knights stadium. There was Wayne Tower, right in front of her, soaring above the city like...well, like a king surveying his lands.

"It's a good view," she said. "Thank you for that."

The voice didn't answer and she continued to look out the window, watching the lights of cars and trucks moving like blood through the living city.

"You think it'll hurt?"

"I'll keep you safe," he promised. His voice was deep, not the one he used ordinarily, her rescuer with the double life. She liked the other voice better, but this one made her feel safe for a moment, even if she knew that was an illusion.

Grace leaned her forehead against the window, the cool glass making the rest of her feel overheated. "I keep thinking about Lot's wife," she said. "Back when they were leaving Sodom and Gomorrah. She turned around to look, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. I always thought that was a hard thing to do. Poor woman just had trouble saying goodbye. It ain't right to punish a person for that."

"No. It's not."

She glanced over her shoulder and the darkness seemed a bit more hunched over than before. She'd been talking about herself, about leaving Gotham, but he'd taken what she said personally. She should have realized he would. After all, the man she'd dreamt of these many years--the quiet man with the awful mission--he'd left Gotham, but always had to come back.

Between her dreams and the waking visions, she'd seen the cave, the cars, the injuries, the friends and family sacrificed to the mission. She'd seen it, just as she saw her friends and neighbors, the ones she quietly tried to help when she could see a solution to their problems. But she'd never realized who he was until Bruce Wayne's latest picture in the Post. God help her, she wished that had never happened.

She closed her eyes now, steeling herself for what she must do. "Joe wanted me to go to the papers," she said, examining the glass doors to find the latch.

"But you didn't."

His voice had real emotion in it now, and she smiled over her shoulder at him. Even though Joe had thrown her down a flight of stairs, she hadn't told this man's secret. Even now, waiting for the end, she wouldn't tell. It just wasn't in her.

"They'll be here soon," she said, mostly to herself, hand on the latch. If only the moon was a little brighter so she could see all of Gotham one last time...

"I'll keep you safe," he said again, steel in his voice.

She ignored him, unlatching the door and stepping out onto the balcony. Although she didn't hear him move, he was beside her in an instant, a black-gloved hand on her silk-clad shoulder. She shivered. "I read something about Bruce Wayne once, something that made a hell of a lot of sense. If you're interested."

The hand dropped from her shoulder, but he didn't step away. Staring over the city, she remembered. "It was in the Post. He was sort of leaning over his desk, silhouetted in the window. And the picture had a good caption: 'Bruce Wayne: Richest Man in Babylon'. You know your Old Testament?"

He nodded slightly, also looking out at Gotham.

"I thought it was fitting. Richest man in the worst city on earth. Lord and king in a place where people tear themselves apart. Saddest man in the world, too, for all his money and his talents.

"Ain't nothing you can ever do to pull Babylon together, Bruce. You can't knit all the pieces back in place. This city don't work like that. Never has, never will. Take it from an old woman who's spent a lifetime seeing things no living soul was ever meant to see. All you can do is watch it fall apart, and let it tear you up inside."

She stepped to the edge of the balcony. "Don't let yourself feel bad for what's about to happen. All this was set down long ago. It's enough that you tried to change it. You gave me a view."

The shivering was worse now and he turned to look at her. She'd seen all of this, seen the way she talked to him all night and then as the sun rose over a sleepy Gotham his enemies would arrive, enemies come to learn Batman's identity. There'd be more of them than he expected, better than he expected. And by the time the city was awake, he'd bleed to death, his life staining that expensive rug a deep crimson.

Grace shook her head, clearing her thoughts for what she had to do. She held the railing to steady her shaking legs and lifted a leg over the decorative ironwork. "Don't you look back, Bruce," she said. "Don't you become no pillar of salt!"

"Don't do it," he said.

"I have to." Her voice sounded desperate even to her own ears.

"No," he whispered. "No, there are always choices."

"I can't choose to watch you die."

"Neither can I." He stared at her and she could almost see his expression behind the mask, the pleading, the fear of letting someone else down.

"It'll be over soon." She wasn't sure who she was reassuring.

Suddenly, his expression changed and he tapped his ear. "Oracle, Protocol 259," he said.

"What?" She was confused, then realized he wasn't talking to her.

"I repeat, Protocol 259." He spoke each number distinctly, sounding impatient with this Oracle person. "Don't ask questions, just do it."

Grace paused, astonished at his lack of attention until that black-gloved hand shot out and grabbed her arm. "You don't have to do this," he said.

She wanted to believe him. "I'm sorry, Bruce." She let her arms fall out of the slippery silk nightgown, out of his grasp, and slid backward off the balcony.

Her last view was of his stunned face.

Until an instant later, when strong arms caught her, knocking the breath from her lungs. "Pardon me, ma'am," Superman said as he swooped back up to the balcony and deposited her next to Batman.

Her legs buckled and both men caught her arms as a dark-clad figure swung over the railing. "Nice catch," Nightwing said, nodding at Superman.

Superman smiled down at her and stepped away to speak to Nightwing.

Batman--Bruce--steadied her as she stared at the other superheroes in wonder. "But they...how can..."

"I realized that if *you* could change the future you foresaw by killing yourself, perhaps *I* could change it by..." He trailed off, lips pursed as he watched Green Lantern and Wonder Woman land beside Superman and Nightwing, the four of them perching like colorful pigeons on the balcony.

"By looking forward instead of back."

He nodded. "Do you know what happens now that I've changed the parameters?"

Closing her eyes, she reached for that part of her mind that gave her flashes of precognition. "No," she said in mild shock, opening her eyes to stare at him. "I got no idea."

Batman nodded once, sharply. "Then my future is in my own hands. That's all I've ever asked."

--end--

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-23 01:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nos4a2no9.livejournal.com
This was a fascinating take on my original idea! I'd hoped someone would take a look at this story, and the modifications were great - the ending in particular looks at a whole new set of possibilities for Bruce. I especially loved that last line: it's a very Bat-esque thing to say. Bravo!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 05:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marag.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm always nervous when I'm changing the tone of a story and that I most certainly did here :)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-30 12:38 am (UTC)
medie: Kara Zor-El and J'onn J'onzz (in unshifted form) flying (bb - bruce - broken)
From: [personal profile] medie
Oooh this is so much of the awesome.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-30 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marag.livejournal.com
Thank you! I really thought that "my" Bruce would react differently :)

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