A/N: Hello, my darlings! It was voted elsewhere that people didn't mind intermittent updates, so as soon as I finished chapter 1, posted it. Everything In Between isn't going to be updated as quickly as Speak or Sing, but I'll update as quickly as possible. Thank you all for sticking with me! ^_^
It was two-thirty in the morning when the phone went off. The shrill tone jerked Rachel out of the half-doze she'd fallen into and she scrambled for the phone as her heart pounded. She didn't recognise the number, but it was a Gotham City prefix and she rested the phone between her cheek and shoulder as she adjusted Ava.
"Did I wake you up?"
Jack's tired voice made her heart clench and Rachel had to swallow back tears. "No, not at all," she murmured. "We're just eating." She pressed the speakerphone button and rested the phone against Ava, so the baby could hear her father's voice.
"Ava. Ava's eating."
"How is she?" he asked softly.
"Hungry," Rachel said as she ran a gentle finger down their daughter's cheek. Ava scrunched her face up at the interruption. "Are you done in-processing?"
"Just finished." He sighed. "They were going to make me wait until the morning to call you, but I told them that you'd kill me if I didn't call as soon as I was done, and someone who makes the Jokester afraid is someone they don't want to upset. Bruce's lawyer probably helped convince them. How are you?"
"Tired. The girls got to sleep around midnight, and Charles has some very nice young Marines keeping a twenty-four/seven watch on us. I'll tell them you called."
The tired humour was evident in his voice and Rachel smiled, forcing a sort of smothered laugh. "No, the girls. Susie was asking about you."
"Christ, I haven't even been gone a day." His sniff might have been derogatory, or it might have been something else entirely. "Look, I've gotta go. Tell the girls that . . . that, y'know . . ."
"You miss them and love them; I'll let them know. I'm glad you got there safe." Rachel cleared her throat as Ava's grip on her nipple slackened. "Let me know as soon as you have an address, all right? Should I save this number?"
"Uh . . . I don't know. I'll let you know." His voice dropped even lower. "I, uh, I'll . . ."
Rachel leaned down and kissed Ava's forehead gently. "I love you, too, Jack. Call me as soon as you can. Be good."
"Uh, yeah, I will. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." They whispered their goodbyes and Rachel ended the call with extreme reluctance. He was going to be miserable in Arkham, if the place didn't make him snap again. Ava's hand brushing against her breast made Rachel look down, and she caught the tiny arm, placing soft, quick kisses on her baby's fingers. That made Ava let go of her nipple and Rachel smiled as she patiently offered it to the baby again. Ava latched on readily, but let it go after a few half-hearted sucks; she'd obviously had enough for the moment. There were footsteps on the stairs while Rachel moved Ava to her shoulder to burp the baby, then a soft knock on the bedroom door.
"Come in," she called. Charles was smiling as she opened the door. "That was Jack. He ---" She swallowed past the lump in her throat, her hands shaking as she lightened her pats on Ava's back. "He just finished in processing."
Charles settled next to her hips on the bed and adjusted the blanket across her lap. "He'll be fine, Rachel. Bruce has some lawyers on it, and spoke with Doctor Arkham himself. You weren't watching the news in the hospital. Gotham's pretty taken with Jack right now. There's been picketing outside of Arkham, from people wanting him released to ACLU lawyers vying for a private suite for him there."
"Oh, God," Rachel groaned. "Jack hates the ACLU." There was a small hiccup from Ava, then a squeak as the girl yawned. Rachel kissed the side of her head. "Shh, shh. It's okay, sweety. I know you miss Daddy. I miss him, too." She slid Ava into the cradle of her arms again and watched the baby's eyes flutter shut. "Did Bruce say when we can visit him?"
"Official policy at Arkham is to give low-risk patients a breaking-in period of a month. I'm not sure how they're classifying Jack. It may be a couple of months before you can see him. Longer, for the girls."
Tears were falling down Rachel's cheeks as she turned to the bassinet that attached to the bed, letting her sleep close to Ava without risking rolling onto the baby or accidentally suffocating her with a blanket or pillow. She settled Ava in, laying on her side and reaching one hand out to rest her fingers on her daughter's tiny arm, trail them down to Ava's palm. Reflex kicked in and Ava grasped Rachel's fingers tightly in her sleep.
"Jack has to wait three months to see his baby?"
Charles' voice was soft. "Maybe longer. I'm sorry, Rachel. There's good news, though."
"Ms. Holloway filed the adoption papers for Janet and Susie right before she died. While we were working on getting you and the girls out of Gotham, Bruce had his lawyers on it. We had Doctor Morgenson sign off on it all yesterday. Give it a week to go through the system, and you and Jack are officially Janet and Susie's parents."
Rachel looked away from Ava with a frown. "That fast? That's not possible."
Charles ticked off the reasons on her fingers with a grin. "Bruce is one of the richest, most influential men in the world. I'm one of the richest, most influential women in the country. Doctor Morgenson is one of the most respected talents in his field. We've all got connections out the wazoo. Everyone who's known Jack for the past four years vouches for him. Yeah, we pulled some strings, but it happens all the time. Don't worry about the girls. They'll be fine. You, however, need to get some rest." Charles pulled the covers up over Rachel's shoulder and tucked them in. "I'll be up in an hour and a half to feed Ava again. Your alarm's set for the feeding after that."
"I'm not tired," Rachel protested as she closed her eyes.
There was amusement in the other woman's voice. "I bet you aren't." She was almost asleep when Charles closed the door. Janet was sitting at the kitchen table downstairs with her cheek resting in one hand and Charles kept her sigh to herself as she checked on the formula in the fridge. Between Alfred and Bethany, they'd never run out. She measured some into a bottle and set it back in the fridge; she would heat it up right before going back upstairs. The doctors had okayed breastfeeding Ava every other feeding, much to Rachel's, and Charles', relief. She needed to bond with the child as much as possible. Charles was worried that Rachel would pull away from Ava emotionally because Jack wasn't able to be there to also bond with her. It was have been a horrible thing to think might happen, but as Jack often said, if emotions were logical, they'd be called logic.
She filled the teapot with water and put it on the stove, taking out two mugs, saucers, and spoons, before turning to Janet. "Nightmare?"
"Haven't been to sleep, yet." The girl was staring off into space, occasionally blinking slowly. She was making an obvious effort to get her sentences out, pausing for almost a minute between them. "Susie had one. She's fine, now." Charles didn't think that Janet realised her tears were spotting the table. "Jack's not coming back, is he?"
"If I have to break him out of Arkham myself, he's coming back. Do you want him to?"
Fingers with chewed-down nails drew patterns through the tears on the table. "I lied."
The teapot went off and Charles whipped around, lifting it up and opening the spout to stop the shriek. She poured the water into the mugs and put a teabag into each one, then settled down at the table and handed a mug to Janet. "About what?"
Janet took her time answering, dipping the teabag up and down in the water, reaching for the sugar and dumping two heaping spoonfuls into the mug. She stirred slowly, then tapped the spoon against the lip of the mug before setting it on the saucer and leaning forward to blow gently on the hot liquid. "About the concert."
Charles waited, but Janet was going to make her force the story out. "What happened at the concert?"
"I got drunk." Janet still wasn't looking up, but she moved her hair behind her ears and touched the tip of her tongue to the tea, pulling it back quickly, dissatisfied with the temperature and taste. "I came on to Jack."
"I know, Janet. You told me and Rachel already."
The sour feeling in the pit of Charles' stomach grew as Janet added more sugar to her tea and stirred it. "He didn't tell me no."
"What ---" Charles cleared her throat. "What did he do?"
"He kissed me." More tears fell as Janet finally wrapped her hands around her mug and took a gulp of tea, speaking faster. "He touched me. I didn't want him to stop. He kissed me here," and she ran her fingers around her breast, spiralling in to her nipple and pinching it gently, "and here." Then she moved her fingers up, across the expanse of her upper chest to her shoulders, around her neck, over her ears and face and lips. "He touch my legs. My thighs. I could feel him against me. He wanted me." Her voice broke and Janet covered her mouth for a moment as she shook, tears still quietly falling. "I wanted him to be inside of me."
Charles' voice was soft. "Did he?"
Janet shook her head quickly. "He wouldn't. He . . . he told me to touch myself. He said he liked to watch. I liked him watching." She dropped her mug the inch and a half to the table and burst into sobs, wrapping her arms around her waist and curling in on herself as Charles got up and knelt next to her to hold her gently. "I wish he had! Then I could remember how good it was, instead of how bad it was! I --- Oh, God, he promised not to leave us alone!" Janet was sobbing into the older woman's shoulder. "I told him he could, if he wanted to. If he'd let me and Susie stay, he could do anything he wanted to me. He, he told me I didn't have to whore myself out to stay, and he wasn't going to touch me. He said it was his fault, not mine, but he'd told me he had problems with sex, he'd just told me and I kissed him anyway. Rachel's going to hate me when she finds out. She won't let me stay. She'll hate Jack. They only let me stay because of Susie. They don't ---"
"Janet, shh, quiet," Charles murmured. She leaned back and gripped Janet's shoulders, shaking just a little to get the girl's attention. "Quiet, Janet, quiet. Listen to me. Jack and Rachel both love you, Janet. They're not going to send you away." She gently wiped the tears from Janet's face, despite the fact that Janet hadn't stopped crying. She'd stopped the hysterical babbling, though.
"They don't pay attention to me," the girl hiccupped. "And, and now that Ava's here, Rachel won't have any time for me, and I can't, I can't ---"
"Ava's a baby, Janet," Charles said firmly. "A baby. She's barely a week old, and she's premature. She needs a lot of attention right now; of course Rachel's going to need to spend time with her. But you know," she added as inspiration struck, "this is Rachel's first child. I think you probably have more experience with babies than she does. You were old enough to help with Susie when she was born, right?" she asked when Janet looked up in surprise. Janet nodded. "And I know you babysit Mitzi. You can be a huge help to Rachel right now, and spend time with her and Ava both. Susie, too." Charles pulled Janet in for another tight hug.
"But, Jack ---"
Charles sighed heavily and pulled back. "Do you feel safe around him? Even after everything?"
"I, I think. He saved us." Janet sniffed and wiped her puffy eyes. "He would have stopped them. He killed them."
Charles nodded. "For what they did, yes. If he didn't care about you, he wouldn't have killed them, Janet. You're his girls, all of you. He didn't mean to hurt you, Janet."
The girl snorted. "He never hurt me. He didn't even do what I wanted him to do."
"Which brings me back to my question: Do you feel safe around him? Do you think he'll come on to you again?"
She shook her head. "He said he wouldn't. He was so mad that he'd . . . that he'd . . . He said that he'd never touch me again."
"Okay." Charles got up to start cleaning the spilled tea. "Do you understand that for the past few months, Jack's been slipping? He hasn't been taking his medication unless someone gives it to him. He's been letting his grip on reality slip." Janet nodded and murmured. "That doesn't excuse him not keeping his hands to himself, but ---"
"He'd never have touched me if he hadn't been going crazy."
". . . Yes. It wasn't your fault, Janet."
Janet got up and brought their mugs to the sink. "Are you going to tell Rachel?"
"I ought to," Charles conceded. "If she hadn't just had a baby, if you all hadn't been kidnapped . . . If this were a normal situation, I would."
"But it's not normal. Jack wouldn't have done anything if it had been normal." Janet took a shuddering breath and bit back a sob, squeezing her eyes shut. "Did he really sleep with Veronica?"
"Yes," Charles replied tersely.
"If I understand correctly, because Veronica could get information from Bentley and Moskowitz, and Jack could . . . take his frustrations out on her. He didn't want to hurt Rachel or Ava, or let Rachel know that something was wrong."
"You're not going to tell?"
"Rachel can't handle that right now, Janet. She'll have enough issues dealing with Jack and Veronica, with all of this. Do you want me to tell her?"
"She'll send me away if you do."
"And you don't want that, just like none of us want Rachel to have a complete mental and emotional meltdown. So we won't tell her. You and Jack should talk when he's back, though."
Janet plucked that the sleeve of the sweater she was wearing. "Yeah." She pushed away from the sink and went back to her and Susie's room, shutting and locking the door.
Charles took a deep breath as she took her phone out and dialled Bruce's number.
"About half an hour ago. Janet needed a shoulder."
"How are they holding up?"
"Exhausted and worried. Susie's convinced that if she can explain what happened, Arkham will let Jack come home. Where are you?"
"Doctor Arkham's office, with Doctor Morgenson. I think we've all agreed that Jack will do a lot better if he can see Rachel and Ava as soon as possible, but Doctor Arkham still wants to wait at least a month."
"I understand. Can't set a precedent for breaking the rules."
"Speaking of," Bruce went on, "Doctor Arkham and Doctor Morgenson are going to make it clear to Jack that he'll only have to wait a month if he's perfectly behaved. No fights, no getting out of his cell --- and yes, even with all the improvements the asylum's made, Jack pointed out several ways of escaping as soon as he was brought it."
That made Charles smile. "For such an imbecile, Jack's incredibly intelligent. Providing he doesn't actually escape, telling the staff how he could just emphasises how good he's being."
"Yes, he's very smart," was Morgenson's dry comment from the background.
"If he behaves," Bruce went on, "he'll only have to wait a month. Every incident will add another two weeks to that."
"Does he know?"
"Not yet. Doctor Arkham's going to talk to him right now. Are you all right, there? Do you need me to send Alfred?"
"I'm fine, for now. I'll get in touch with Bethany tomorrow, see if she can come up for a few days, but Rachel and the girls don't need a lot of people over. My platoon's taking turns keeping watch, and Tom and Helna will stop by to help, but I don't want Rachel feeling like she has to play hostess."
Bruce yawned. "All right. I'll call you tomorrow." After Charles had hung up he followed Arkham out of his office and down to the elevators. Jack had been given his own, private room. It was fully monitored, the hallway wall was bullet-proof plexi-glass, and extra guards had been assigned to that wing --- all of which had been announced prior to telling the press about the private room. "I appreciate how closely you've been working with us, Doctor."
"Doctor Morgenson has been keeping me appraised of Mr. Dawes' mental health since he left us last," the older man replied. "I fully agree that being close to his family would be the best for him, though we can hardly just cut him loose." He clasped his hands behind his back as the elevator doors opened onto Jack's wing. "Doctor Morgenson has agreed to head Mr. Dawes' therapy here. He's the only psychiatrist that Mr. Dawes trusts. If you could have Mrs. Dawes gather her husband's art materials, as well as any photos she'd like Mr. Dawes to have, and ship them to us as soon as possible, it would help to put Mr. Dawes more at ease." They stopped outside of Jack's room and Arkham pressed the intercom. "Good morning, Mr. Dawes."
He was laying face-down on the small bed. "Toss me a banana and I'll do a trick; otherwise, leave me the hell alone."
"May we come in?"
Jack pulled the pillow over his head with a groan. "You're the guys with the keys."
"Indeed." Arkham slid his key card and pulled the door open. "We've reached a consensus on when your family will be able to visit you."
The pillow was pulled tighter. "No."
"'S what I said. I don't want them anywhere near this shithole. It's dangerous."
Doctor Arkham sat and crossed his legs, folding his hands atop his knees. "This would go much better if you would sit up and look at us, Mr. Dawes."
"Sit up, Jack," Doctor Morgenson said as Jack just grumbled to himself. "You can't go three months without seeing Rachel and Ava. Sit up and listen."
"Fuck," Jack snarled, flipping over and pushing himself upright. He leaned back against the wall and held the pillow tightly against his chest. "All right, what do you want?"
"Official policy is to have high-risk patients wait three months until their families can visit. For low-risk patients, it's one month," Doctor Arkham explained. "If you go through intensive therapy for one month, and have no incidents, then I'll allow you into the low-risk bracket. Every incident will add two weeks to your waiting period."
Jack's eyebrows furrowed as he stared at the three men. "What part of 'I don't want my family to be put in danger by coming to one of the most dangerous, criminal-filled places in Gotham' did you not understand? I can't have them here. The last breakout you had was two months ago. Explain why I want my wife and baby near here."
Arkham and Morgenson looked at each other as Bruce rolled his eyes. "What makes you think that Rachel will stay away for more than a month?" When Jack looked at him in surprise he shook his head. "Rachel's not going to wait three or more months if she doesn't have to, Jack. I'm sure that, with adequate supervision, visitation arrangements can be made outside of Arkham. In other words, don't be a fucking moron."
Jack stared at him, then looked around the grey room before sighing. "All right. Fine. As long as they're not near this place." His jaw clenched and his grip on his pillow was turning his knuckles white as Jack turned his face away from his visitors.
Doctor Morgenson smiled and stood up. "I'll be back in the morning, Jack. You can call Rachel then, and give her the asylum's number and your mailing address." Jack's throat muscles worked as he swallowed sharply. "Goodnight, Jack."