Rachel Dawes arrived at her office promptly at 8:00 a.m. and smiled to see the chaotic stacks of papers and files that now covered her formerly pristine desk; lots of paper meant lots of work, and she found great comfort in that. Just then, she heard her office door swing open.
"Uh, Rachel? Do you have a minute?" Harvey Dent filled the doorway, a concerned look on his handsome face. He was using his business voice.
"Sure, Harvey, what's up?" Rachel asked, easily faking good cheer.
"Rachel, I hate to have to say this, but your desk is out of control. You've got more work there than three people could get done, and I can't let you go on like this." Harvey forced himself to look her in the eye. He hated having to confront Rachel about anything, especially something so…mundane; but, this was yet another sign of Rachel's refusal to deal with a difficult situation.
"You're going to have to delegate at least half of those case files, and get Cindy to help you with the rest. If you don't, something's going to get overlooked or mishandled, and we can't afford to have sloppy work coming out of this office." It was the harshest thing he had ever said to Rachel regarding her work performance, and it didn't come easily to him. The fact that she was his girlfriend made it even more difficult—he was fairly sure she would take it out on him after hours.
"Of course, Harvey, you're absolutely right. I am out of control, whee! I'm going to let Gotham's criminals run free in the street because a few papers got filed under 'Mc' instead of 'Mac'." Rachel made a frenetic gesture with her hands in the air, before scowling reproachfully at Gotham's DA.
Harvey sighed. He came in to her office, carefully closed the door behind him and went up to Rachel, taking her in his arms.
"I didn't say you were out of control, I was talking about the absurd amount of work you've taken upon yourself to handle. It's too much, surely you can see that."
"Harvey, please. I know I have a lot going on, but it's…it's the way I want it right now. I'll spend this afternoon getting organized, and then I'll have Cindy and Dave give me a hand. Everything will be perfectly under control by the end of the week, I promise."
Rachel looked into Harvey's worried eyes and smiled. "I will." she assured him.
"Ok. I just…I know it's hard for you, Rach. I know…" he trailed off, awkwardly.
Rachel continued to smile and nodded. "I'm ok, Harvey, I really am. Just knowing you're here for me…I'm fine."
Harvey nodded doubtfully. She didn't seem fine, hadn't for…a long time. But he forced a supportive smile and said "I'll leave you to it, then" and left.
Bruce Wayne sat at his breakfast table with orange juice and the morning paper. Another weird heist in the jewelry district, another "Joker" card left at the scene. No injuries, but…it was getting strange.
"What do you think about this Joker character, Alfred?" he asked his long-time butler, tapping the headline curiously.
"You mean the one that kidnapped Miss Rachel, sir?"
"God, you don't think there's more than one, do you?" Bruce asked. Alfred laughed in response.
"No, sir, I certainly hope not. I don't have enough information to form an opinion, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, well, that's the problem, isn't it? We…well, the police…can't seem to get a single piece of concrete evidence linking him to any crime. He's….what's the word, Alfred?"
"Yeah, elusive. I think Batman needs to get involved."
"Probably, sir. I do hope that you'll be careful—you know how it is with rabid dogs."
"Huh?" Bruce asked, bewildered.
"Well, a rabid dog may seem all right, normal I mean, from a distance—might even act all friendly-like. But when he runs up to greet you, you notice he's frothing at the mouth, and next thing you know, he's bitten you and infected you with his disease. A deadly disease, sir."
Bruce considered the analogy. "I don't think there's anything normal about the Joker's behavior so far." he said.
"But not frothing at the mouth yet, eh, sir?"
"Not yet, Alfred. And Batman needs to step in before he does."
"Very good, sir."
Rachel sat behind her desk, trying to let go of her irritation with Harvey. He was absolutely right, of course, but that didn't make her any less annoyed. Her work was her one outlet, her safety net, for dealing with her grief and sorrow, and if she wanted to pile her desk high with cases, she should be allowed to do so, undisturbed. She wasn't going to drop the ball. She was dealing with…controlled chaos. She smiled; Jack would laugh at that term. Jack...Where are you?
Suddenly, Rachel's stomach churned, and she felt a hot spasm of nausea well up in her throat. She hastily grabbed her metal trash can and prepared to heave into it; but the feeling passed, leaving her sweating and hot. She put her face in her hands and fought off a bit of panic; what the hell was the matter with her? These little spells had been going on for three days, and she had no explanation. She wasn't sick; it wasn't food poisoning. Panic attacks. It must be panic attacks. Dr. Rose had said that was often part of post-traumatic stress disorder; the fact that she didn't believe she was actually suffering from that condition didn't matter. It was the only logical explanation. Well, the only one she was willing to consider.
Rachel awoke the next day, not to her shrill alarm clock's call, but to the thick feeling of bile rising in her throat, quickly turning to nausea. It was that which compelled her to leave her cozy bed and run to the bathroom, retching as she went. She bent over the toilet, heaving, but nothing came out except for a small amount of clear liquid.
Rachel felt better, and, once assured there was no more to come, she brushed her teeth and splashed water on her face. She peered at herself in the mirror, disgusted by her appearance. She was pale and drawn, and her hair was wild. She ran her fingers through it, but gave up and headed for the kitchen. She started to put on a pot of coffee, but the smell of the raw grounds almost brought back the nausea.
"This is not good." she thought. Not good at all.
Rachel wanted nothing more than to hop in the shower, get dressed and head off to the office, ready to tackle her many briefs and cases with a clear head. Instead, she sat dully on the couch in her slip, trying to remember when her last period was. She was absolutely trying NOT to think about the three days she had gone without taking her birth control pills during her time with the Joker.
Talk about a mistake. In the early days, she had been so distraught by her situation that she got completely off track with her pills, and had foolishly assumed that their residual effect would carry her through a few missed days. It was beginning to look like that wasn't the case. She should have asked the Joker to use condoms…but how likely would it have been that he would have complied? In those days, he was not only very scary to her, but in such a state of mania, that there would have been no way she could have even broached the subject.
So, here she was. Very possibly eight weeks pregnant with the Joker's child. And Harvey blissfully under the impression that Rachel's terrible "ordeal" was well behind them.
"I can't deal with this right now. I have too much to do," she told herself. "I'll stop at the drugstore at lunch and get a pregnancy test." Feeling slightly better for making a plan, she headed off to the bathroom to get ready for her day.
Rachel found it hard to concentrate at the morning meeting. Harvey was ticking off the latest cases that needed her attention, and she was dutifully making notes on her pink legal pad, but every so often she would realize that she had lost the thread of the conversation and her notes were nearly useless gibberish. Oh, well, she'd get him to go over it again later.
At lunchtime, Rachel prepared to run out the door before Harvey could catch her; it wasn't that she didn't want to eat with him, but she had more pressing matters to deal with. She almost made it down the hall, only to look up to see the tall, dark figure of Bruce Wayne, smiling and walking towards her.
"Rachel! Just the lady I wanted to see. Are you free for lunch?"
"Oh, gosh, Bruce, I'd love to, but I'm so behind in everything, and I have errands to run, could we make it another day?"
"Well…sure. I just thought…it's been so long since we've had a chance to catch up. I…I miss you, Rachel."
Rachel nodded understandingly; she really needed to get out of the building before Harvey came around looking for her.
"I know, Bruce, I completely agree. This just isn't a good day for it—let's try later in the week, ok?" She smiled brightly and squeezed Bruce's arm, and fled as if a demon were nipping at her heels. Bruce stared after her, puzzled, then headed off to find Harvey.
Dent was still in his office, on the phone. When Bruce opened his door and mimed a knock in a "May I come in?" gesture, Harvey, motioned for him to sit down.
He finished the conversation and greeted Bruce.
"Good to see you, Bruce. Why don't I grab Rachel and we'll go to lunch?"
"Yeah, I already tried that—well, not the grabbing part—but she said she had too much to do, and ran off to run errands. You're really loading her up with the work, aren't you?"
"No, Bruce, actually I'm trying to take the load off of her. But…I think it's her way of coping…or just avoiding dealing with her situation…."
Bruce nodded. Rachel had been uncommunicative with him ever since she returned from her captivity with the Joker. Suddenly, Harvey asked "Do you have any idea what's going on with her?"
"Me? No, Harvey, we've barely spoken to each other since she…got back. I've called her a few times, and she always has an excuse not to talk; says she'll call me back, and never does. That's one of the reasons I came down here today—I thought I could corner her and try to get her to open up a little. She's my oldest and dearest friend, and I really want to be there for her, but she's just not having it."
Harvey nodded absently.
"You know she still claims she has no memory of the ordeal, don't you?" he asked quietly.
"I…didn't know where that stood."
"Yes, according to Rachel, the Joker just appeared at her apartment one day, and the next day she was in a cab heading back to my place. Doesn't remember a thing in between, even though she was gone almost four weeks. Does that sound…plausible…to you?"
"Well, Harvey, I'm no psychiatrist. I know trauma can cause memory loss, and sometimes we…block out painful memories as a defense mechanism. But this does sound really extreme. What does her doctor say?"
"Oh, you know how it is, confidentiality concerns. She won't tell me a thing. We've even been going to sessions together, and all Rachel does is end up talking about needing time to get herself back together…she refuses to take medication, and she rejects all the ideas for therapy that Dr. Rose comes up with. It's like…" Harvey hesitated. "It's like she wants to pretend nothing ever happened, even though the only way she'll ever get over it is to face up to it and deal with it. And she knows that, if the cops ever catch the bastard, that we'll need her testimony to put him away."
Bruce nodded sympathetically. "Listen, Harvey, if there's anything I can do, or if you just want to go out and get loaded some night…I'm up for that."
Harvey genuinely smiled for the first time that day. "That actually sounds like a really good idea, Bruce. I'll take you up on it some time."
The two men shook hands, and Bruce departed, feeling more worried about Rachel than ever.
Rachel hopped in her car and headed to a drugstore on the other side of town, hoping she wouldn't run into anyone she knew, and that no one would recognize her from her recent notoriety as a hostage victim.
The pregnancy tests were grouped together in an ominous little section of the drugstore, between condoms and feminine care products; as if making a point of reminding errant females of how careless they had been. Rachel picked through the different brands, trying to make a sensible consumer choice, but ended up grabbing the most expensive one that promised "quick, accurate results", and scurried back to her apartment as quickly as she could without risking a speeding ticket.
She headed to her bathroom, tore open the package and read the instructions. "Looks fairly simple." she thought. She peed on the stick, and set her kitchen timer. When it went off in minutes that felt like hours, there was a stark, simple "plus" sign revealed in blue against creamy white.
She stared at the piece of plastic that had just ruined her life and sighed.
Jack. You fucker. What the hell am I supposed to do now.
Rachel went back to the office, feeling numb. She couldn't deal with this. Not now. Maybe not ever. Maybe if she was lucky, a taxi would run her over on the way back to work and save her the trouble of killing herself. Great, she thought in bitter amusement., that's something Jack would say. The demon child is already taking control from within.…
She finished the day on autopilot, and fended off Harvey's request that they have dinner together, claiming a headache. Which wasn't even a lie, her head really did hurt. She just knew the source of the pain didn't come from sinus pressure.
Rachel sat in her living room, music on, lights off, trying to compose her thoughts. She basically had two choices, with a sub-choice for option two. Option one, she could take a trip to visit her old friend from college in New Jersey, and have the whole problem go away, without Harvey or anyone else ever knowing about it.
Or, she could go through with the pregnancy and face the horrors that that would bring—Harvey's distress and possible departure, media interest, and her own disastrous emotional baggage of raising the child of a man she couldn't have, and who would never be involved with his child. Or, sub-option "A", she could give the child away.
That would only intensify the heartbreak, though. It really looked like option number one had a lot going for it. But…she really wished she could talk to the Joker.
"Dammit, it's your kid, Jack. What do you want me to do about it?" she thought in despair. She had absolutely no way to contact him, no phone, no email, no address. She was quite sure he kept up with the news—maybe she could stand behind one of the field reporters on the scene at one of his crimes and hold up a sign saying "Joker—please call Rachel" and hope that he would see it. Ha. No, she had only one hope, and it was a slim one—maybe if she went back to the site of his old building on the east side—maybe word would travel back to him. Maybe he would hear that she needed him.
Rachel called in the next day, in spite of her promise to Harvey that she would get everything under control, and fished her mace spray out of a drawer, and headed out of town. She arrived at the heap of wreckage that used to house the Joker's operation; there was caution tape and a falling-over chain link fence surrounding it, but no watchmen or workmen in sight. She shivered; the weather was starting to get chilly. She felt extremely vulnerable, exposed, wandering aimlessly around in such a bad neighborhood, but she hoped it would be the very fact of her out-of-place appearance that might get the word through to Jack. But, she only saw a couple of broken-down homeless guys, and finally got back in her car and headed home.