|Deal with the Devil
Author: woolgatherer PM
Rachel makes a deal with the Joker and realizes that she’s in over her head. Will she fall under the Joker’s spell and sacrifice Batman’s identity for the good of all? Or will she protect Bruce and suffer the consequences? Pre TDK. R&R please!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Chapters: 11 - Words: 39,771 - Reviews: 284 - Favs: 81 - Follows: 110 - Updated: 07-05-09 - Published: 07-29-08 - id: 4432800
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Grovel grovel grovel! I hope you can forgive me for taking so long on this chapter! More groveling at the end of the chapter. Thanks for your continued support!
Four Months Later
Rachel was forgetting him. It had only been a few months since she'd last seen Bruce, but already she had forgotten what color his eyes were, the way he glanced sidelong at her, the sound of his laughter. Any memories she still had of him were vague feelings, moments lost in time that she clung to with desperate need. These memories weren't without pain; there was very little happiness that came with them, because these were the ones that reminded her of what she'd caused herself to lose. She only had herself to blame.
But without hesitation, she slid back into her safe haven of the constructed past. She could feel his phantom hands caressing her cheeks, sliding down her sides in a maddeningly slow descent that sent painful, lustful shivers up her arms.
It was so real that she could almost pretend he was still there, speaking to her in low, indistinct words, holding her in his arms. If there was one thing she hadn't forgotten, it was how he said her name.
She laid her head against his shoulder, shutting her eyes tight and trying to remember. Her palm rested against his cheek, and she could feel the soft, pillowed ridges and valleys of—
Rachel opened her eyes wide. The Joker stared back at her, smiling. He reached his hand out, tracing one side of her own never-ending grin. Slowly, so that she wouldn't be able to pretend she hadn't heard, he pronounced, "Just like me."
"Rachel." A warm hand closed over her shoulder, and Rachel jerked up, gasping. The first thing she noticed after her mind had reoriented back into reality was her chill hand on her cheek. She was that monster.
It was another minute before she realized that the loud, hitching sobs were her own.
"Rachel?" Harvey's concerned face swam into view. He reached up to cup his hand around hers, his warm fingers brushing the spidery lines of her scars, but Rachel pushed him away violently. Both her hands cradled her cheeks gently now, as if she could somehow hide that part of herself she couldn't face.
Harvey gripped her shoulders, his warmth seeping through her wrinkled blouse. "Rachel?" he said, just as slowly as the Joker. "Are you all right?"
She finally really met his eyes—and the dark reality of her other self subsided. Another sob left her gasping, shaking, and the tears ran down her cheeks.
"Oh, Rachel," Harvey murmured and pulled her to him, wrapping her in a warm, safe embrace.
Rachel tried relaxing, imagining that she was in Bruce's arms, that everything was all right, that he had forgiven her. But Harvey's soft words slowly morphed and decayed into the harsh laughter of the Joker. She took a few deep breaths; she had to stay in reality.
"You haven't been sleeping," Harvey said suddenly. When she was silent, he added, "I always feel you get up in the middle of the night, and you never come back to bed."
Rachel closed her eyes, suddenly consumed with guilt. She hadn't known that he noticed her absence. She'd thought that she was timing it just right, leaving only when he was deep asleep. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice muffled by his shoulder. "I just—I keep having nightmares."
Harvey drew her closer, as if he believed that his simple nearness could chase away the demons. Rachel balled her fists in his suit and tried as hard as she could to believe along with him.
After a moment, Harvey pulled away and looked down at her, serious. "Take the rest of the day off."
"Harvey, no. I still have—"
He ran a thumb gently across her cheek; Rachel sucked in a jarred gasp. Harvey smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Don't worry about the case. I can take care of it."
Rachel met his gaze, helpless. Ever since That Night, the last night she had seen both Bruce and the Joker, she had thrown herself with unhealthy vigor into her work. As long as she kept herself busy, she was able to stay sane. Idle hands beget the Joker's work. But she was long past the point of no return.
Harvey watched her think with alert, almost wary, eyes. When the silence had grown uncomfortable and stale, he sighed and leaned his forehead against hers. "I'm really worried about you, Rachel," he said. Then, softer, "Why won't you tell me what's wrong? Maybe I can help."
Rachel bit her lip. She knew exactly what she had to say to appease him, at least for a time, and she hated herself for that. What had she become, that lying was so easy and so necessary? She never spoke the truth any longer. Rachel leaned up and kissed him. "You are helping," she murmured.
The relief was obvious on his face. He pressed a soft kiss on her forehead. "I love you, Rachel."
There was an undercurrent of meaning rushing beneath those words, and Rachel allowed herself to be dragged under without a fight. I love you; I would never leave you like that bastard Wayne. I love you; I would never even think of hurting you like the Joker. I love you; the scars will fade. I love you; don't you trust me?
I love you; why can't you love me?
Rachel had a hard time catching her breath. The guilt worked from the inside, forcefully pressing all the air from her lungs. Harvey had shown her nothing but kindness, taking her in after That Night, never asking her any questions, never pressuring her for answers or for commitment. She knew he saw the way her face contorted anxiously with every infrequent news report about Batman, the way she looked at herself in the mirror like she was looking at someone else, but he never asked why. He was so patient with her. He knew exactly when she needed space, when she needed to be close to someone, and he gave her everything.
How hard would it be to humor him, to tell him what he wanted to hear? She was so good at lying, after all.
But no. She couldn't hurt him like that. Harvey was too good a man for her, too kind, too forgiving. He deserved so much better.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
Harvey's face fell. It took him a moment to hide his disappointment, but he smiled thinly at her. "It's all right. You have nothing to—"
"I'm sorry," she said, more firmly. Then, so quiet he had to lean in to hear her, "I'm a monster."
By the time the taxi pulled up in front of their apartment complex, Rachel was completely drained. She trudged up the stairs, taking one step at a time, focusing on her straining muscles and the rhythm of her breaths so she couldn't feel the guilt. She fumbled the key into the lock, but the door swung open at her first touch.
Her heart stopped.
They'd locked the door when they left that morning, she was sure of it. In a city like Gotham, you couldn't afford to be careless, no matter what neighborhood you might live in.
She hesitated at the door. It was silent inside. She should call the cops. There could be someone waiting in there for her—
Rachel's breath hitched in her throat. What if it was Bruce? What if Bruce had come back to her?
She pushed the door open, not allowing herself to think past the immediate joy that flooded through her body. An exuberant sigh escaped her lips, "Bru—"
But she cut herself short, staring around the apartment in complete shock. All the curtains were drawn, the only light in the dim room coming from small, flickering, blood-red candles placed on every surface.
Rachel nearly collapsed, her knees going instinctively weak. She fell hard into the wall, bracing herself against it. The searing pain in her cheeks almost threatened to drag her under. She licked her lips hesitantly as her mind rushed with pure, white noise.
The Joker's smiled widened impossibly. "I made you some soup."
Author's Note: Grovel grovel grovel grovel grovel grovel grovel! Life has been completely crazy these past eight (whaaat?! oh god, it's been way too long!) months, which unfortunately means that fanfiction was on the backburner. That, and I wasn't sure how to continue this exactly; I had no idea what road I wanted to take this story down. Now, though, I have a much better idea, and I'm very pleased with the interesting direction this will be going. I will do my best to keep this a manageable length, because, well, my life will continue to be more than a little crazy for the foreseeable future (I'll write a bit more about that in my profile, if you're interested. I just like talking about myself, so feel free to ignore it).
Thanks SO MUCH to those of you who have continued giving this story much, much appreciated support. If it weren't for those of you out there in the peanut gallery, I probably wouldn't find the time and motivation to put the rest of this down on (electronic) paper. Stay with me! Hopefully from now on I will be able to devote the time to responding to all of your kind words. An equally grateful thanks to those of you who have somehow found this story in the months of hiatus. I don't know how you do it, but your unexpected reviews added just enough guilt to push me into high-gear. Thank you!
The next chapter (which was originally part of this one) has already been started. I will try to get it finished within the next week. Thanks so much!