This chapter is dedicated to my dear friend Beowulfwulf. Why? Well, because she's great and because I do something that she did in A Psychic among Gotham's Psychos. Luv ya, Beo!
Just to confuse you all, this chapter is NOT part of the gameverse fic. It is back to the regular story line.
"So who is going to win?" Death's words hung in the air like the chiming of a far-off bell in Dream's inside-out upside-down infinite library. This was the story of my life, and I was the hero--.
"I would say I am," I started, "but under these circumstances, I don't know what winning means. Who plays Jay?"
"Excuse me? Oh, you mean in the movies. An Australian actor named Heath Ledger," the Angel of Death replied.
"Never heard of him." I said.
"In your reality, he never leaves Australia. He works on Australian TV and in movies, mostly bit parts and character roles, and he lives to be eighty. In the realities where he plays the Joker, he often dies before he's thirty." I guess that if anyone would know, it would be Death.
"Then who plays me?" I wasn't in most of the comic books. Given how the Joker usually looked, it wasn't too big a surprise that he was most often portrayed as single. In others, he had a girlfriend/sidekick/henchwench/punching bag who called herself Harley Quinn. (I was hoping I wasn't played by Lucy Liu. Not that I had anything against her, but there are very few female Asian roles in American movies and it seemed like she played all of them.)
"In the realities where you're in the movie, Eugenia Yuan."
"Oh, cool! She's a very good choice." I knew who she was, and while I'd liked her in The Eye 2, I had really loved her in Charlotte, Sometimes. "Who plays Harley Quinn?"
"Not bad." Blonde, perky. I could see that. "What about my Shoes?" Which were not here with me, I noticed. I hoped they were behaving themselves, wherever they were. I was stalling while I thought.
"They too are part of Story...," Dream explained. "The wicked stepmother...who is made to dance...in red hot iron shoes until she dies...Cinderella's slippers, which were fur, vair, not glass, verre...which only she can ...wear safely...Andersen's Red Shoes, which draw their wearer down to Hell for...using good bread as a stepping stone. The movie which you love... and your Shoes, all one--and the same. The color...makes no difference."
"Oh. Well, to get back to what you asked, I don't know what 'winning' in this case would be. One thing I know is, there isn't any happily-ever-after for us. There's no white picket fence and babies and two rocking chairs set side-by-side in our old age for Jay and me. It isn't possible."
"The omniverse is a big place," Death replied, and handed me a photograph.
I took it, and my treacherous eyes started stinging and leaking when I looked at it. It was a picture of us, of Jay and I and more than just us. I didn't see a white picket fence, but I saw a house with flowers around the door, and we stood in front of it. Jay wasn't scarred, not at all, and it wasn't just that make-up was covering them up. In fact, he wasn't the Joker at all, in any way, and I was alive, properly alive. I was holding a toddler with his nose and my eyes and short dark hair with some goldish glints to it. I couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl from how it was dressed. What did that matter anyway? Jay's arm was around us, and we looked happy. I cannot express how looking at that little scene hurt, even though I did not want what was in that picture.
I did not want it, which surprised me. Going back to being a living woman again, with all the cares and woes, all the things I had to do and be, just stifling me. Going to work, dressing for success, being a quiet good polite little mouse... How could I cram myself back into that world?
Of course, being what I was had its cares and woes too. Riding herd on Jay (insofar as that was possible) was a full time job on its own.
After I swallowed and was certain my voice was under my control again, I said, "That's only one moment, and life is longer than one moment. Plus there are all the other realities. What about the ones where our car gets creamed by a drunk driver on the way back from the wedding, or I get pancreatic cancer or he runs off with a dental hygenist, or our baby sitter shakes our kid to death? If this is possible, then so are all the others."
"True," Death admitted, "but the only place there are happily-ever-afters is in stories. Otherwise it's just life. And then...there's me. So, the question is, who do you want to win?"
"Everybody...I want everyone to win. Gotham and Bruce-Batman-Wayne and poor Harvey Dent and everyone. I want, I want to be happy. With Jay." I would've said I loved him, but 'love' wasn't a complicated enough word for what I thought and felt about him. "Why--Why are you asking me this? Do you do this for everybody?"
"No," Dream said. "But you are...of us, at one remove. You are... Family."
"Say what?" My jaw gaped.
"Um, yeah. That's what I was trying to work up to." Death aimed a cuff at her sibling's head. "Thanks a lot, Bro. Y'see--um, I'm kinda...your mom."
I think that under the circumstances I handled the news rather well. No screaming, no reeling and writhing and fainting in coils. I blinked several times. "Okay. This--might explain a lot. But how is it possible?"
"Once every hundred years, I spend a day as a strictly mortal human, so I know what it's like. No two days are the same; I've spent some in palaces, others in poorhouses. I've hidden in trenches on battlefields, walked in beautiful gardens, and everything in between. I'm always a girl about sixteen to eighteen years old, and I always die when twenty-four hours are up. Those are the only constants. Since I spend one day as a human in every reality, at any given time I'm mortal somewhere. In your reality, the day I spent human in the twentieth century was your birthday. I was on a bus going home from Thimphu, and I was very, very pregnant. Then the pains started, and... you were the result."
"Okay...." I understood what she was saying, but assimilating it was another story. "You mean that you sort of possessed my birth mother on the last day of her life? Because it still takes nine months to hatch a baby, or seven with lots of medical support."
"No. It--it's complicated. Before that day, the girl I was didn't exist, but on that day and afterward, I had existed, all the way back, with memories and everything, for sixteen years. You were part of the deal. I don't know why, except that motherhood was one human experience I'd never had before. Even if I only had it for a few hours, I was still glad." She smiled, and it was the sort of smile every adopted kid--every kid, period--wants their mother to smile at them. The smile that says, You are exactly what I wanted, and I love you.
I wanted to cry again. "I guess--I guess being normal wasn't exactly in the cards for me."
"No--but not until after you were dead. Before that, you were normal. Of course, dying like you did and where you did, under Arkham Asylum of all places, only amped things up."
"I'll bet. So, who's my father?"
Death sighed. "That's a tricky one. Either you don't have one, or he's a Chinese boy I, ah, spent a day with, but that was over a hundred years before and in another reality besides."
"Well, this is really interesting..." I said. What does one say when one finds out that your birth mother is an anthropomorphic personification? The assimilation, as I mentioned before, hadn't quite clicked yet. "So, what now?"
A/N: This is a note to a recent reviewer.
Dear Freya: (I'd have made this a private message, but you weren't signed in.)
Don't worry, this is not a slam. If anybody slams you, it's not going to be me. I respect your opinion. You tried my fic and found you didn't like it. In fact, you kept on reading a lot longer than I usually do when a fic just doesn't grab me, which is more than fair.
And it's okay. It's like me and bananas. I don't like bananas. I've tried them, and I find I don't like their texture, I don't like the way they taste, and I really don't like the way they smell. I don't see why anybody likes them, but they seem pretty popular with a lot of people, and nobody is forcing me to eat them. Why don't I like them? I don't know exactly, beyond what I already wrote. I love the writer Terry Pratchett, and my husband doesn't. He just doesn't find Pratchett's type of humor amusing. While I found that deeply distressing when he first confessed that to me, I've recovered since then, and decided not to divorce him on those grounds. ;-)
You have every right not to like my writing, and that's cool with me. You didn't attack me personally, you even said my idea was original and that my writing was okay. That was very gracious of you, and I thank you. If you have a particular story in mind which you think could use more attention and reviews, just let me know, and I'll give it a try. Maybe I can suggest ways of making it more popular.
PS. To all my regular readers, I've posted a couple more chapters of that gameverse fic, now under the title Involuntary Man's Laughter. Just, y'know, in case you were looking for something to read.