A/N: First off I just have to say how happy and touched I was that so many of you replied to my plea for help with this story. I was so delighted to hear from you and hear your ideas, and though only some have been used, all of them were greatly appreciated. Thank you so much, you guys. :)
This chapter is dedicated to the very wonderful linnie kinda spinnie, who provided most of the awesome ideas for this chapter. Thank you linnie! :D
I wasn't able to respond to your reviews this time around, but I will try never to let it happen again! Thank you so very much for your reviews xmudblood, Cleonie 'Jayne Mansfield' Quin, SnailsAndPuppyDogTails, linalove, RandomCitizen, aliceW, Ravenclaw992, rosalind-celeste, evermore276, crazyinabottle, cypris88, Nancy Chavez, linnie kinda spinnie, SaxonBandwagon, Guest, KorroksApostle, Mirror23Rose, Stankk, Guest, InTheShadowOfSignificance, Poozie, Ester, ZenyZootSuit, hii, prosto666, SurryIda, Guest, xXxSaiyanPrincessxXx, JoJo1812, Anastasia Beck, Remy Alvera, GottaGetBackUp, Guest, Bubbles227, ShipsThatFly, tinkerbell9211, Guest, Emma and My Fav Story.
Something woke Michaela, jolted her out of a deep, unrestful sleep, and before she even opened her eyes, she had a feeling she knew what it was.
She was lying on a flat hard surface and she was cold - freezing, in fact. When she opened her eyes, she was in a dark room, the only light was artificial, pouring in through the picture window on the wall to the right. She didn't have to turn her head to know that it was light from a neighbouring office building. She let her fingertips gently graze the surface she was lying on; it was cool and smooth. Wood, she guessed. A desk, she figured, in an office, and for a moment she wondered how exactly she'd gotten there...until it came back to her, very slowly, like recalling bits and pieces of a strange dream.
Michaela remembered the way his fingers had been twisted in the fabric of her blouse and pressed against her shoulder, hard, so hard it hurt, and there was such strength in that fist, in his very knuckles, and they held her against the wall of the elevator, she remembered that. And she remembered his knee between her thighs and the way she squeezed against it with both her thighs, like some sort of ridiculous effort to get him to draw it back away from her, though he knew she'd need it when she tried to alleviate the pain. She remembered the way her own fingers had curled and twisted and pulled and pushed against him, how under his clothes his body was like rock: unmovable, impenetrable.
And she remembered how close he had been to her in those last few moments before she gave away to the white hot pain in her shoulder and the terror that brushed against her hip as he slowly released her. His face had been so close to hers that she could smell the sickly smell of thickly-applied greasepaint, of hair that hadn't been washed in god knew how long, of a rancid breath fanning between them, and of sweat on his skin, the smell she recognized in Roger from time to time. The smell of a man.
But surely this was no man she was dealing with.
As Michaela's eyes adjusted to the darkness, she listened and heard the sirens of the police and the firetrucks making their way to the explosion, the source of her abrupt awakening. What was it this time, she wondered. A school? A blood clinic? A nursing home?
She pressed her eyes together tightly as the pain in her shoulder came back to her, beginning at the wound itself and seeping up and over her shoulder, down over her collarbone, up along the curve of her neck. Though she wanted to look at it and assess the damage, it simply couldn't be done. She couldn't lift her head, couldn't turn her neck, couldn't roll onto her side or anything. Though she was freezing and wanted to curl into a fetal position and huddle herself into a ball for warmth, she was exhausted; her body was exhausted. Everything hurt, not just her shoulder; her head was pounding, her hand was aching, and her toes were almost numb...
Michaela wiggled her toes, freely, without the restriction of stockings or the ballet flats she'd found. She opened her eyes as a horrible feeling seeped over her.
She was cold because her clothes had been removed.
Gasping, Michaela jolted upright into a sitting position, letting out a scream as the wound in her shoulder burned. But she found to her horror that she was right; her eyes widened as she looked down over her body and found she was adorned only in her pink panties and matching bra.
"Oh my god..." she breathed in disbelief, tears stinging the back of her eyes, as she swept her hands down over her legs, her taut belly, along her sides, over the swell of her breasts...as if she couldn't quite tell if she was imagining things or if, indeed, she was lying there in her underwear. Her chest heaved as she took in great gasping frightened breaths; if she'd been lying there in her underwear, it meant that someone had taken off her clothes, someone who wasn't her, someone who...who...
Who'd had an erection before she passed out.
Michaela clutched at her stomach as though afraid she was going to be sick. With a bit of effort, she swiveled her legs over the side of the desk and doubled over; if she was going to be sick, she was going to be sick on the floor, not all over her bare legs. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to focus on the fact that she felt nauseas, not on the possibility that she'd been raped. She set her hands on the desk to steady herself and tipped her head, letting the nausea wave over her until it seemed to dissipate, and then she tried to clear her head.
She had blacked out, she didn't remember anything. Surely he could have done...whatever while she had blacked out and she wouldn't have come out of it.
But there was a telltale sign missing. She felt pain all over, she did, in her shoulder, her hand, her head...but not there.
Swallowing tightly, Michaela rose her head and looked out the window for a moment, into the neighbouring office building which held no comfort or promise. She let the thoughts come and settle in her mind and she gave each and every one of them the consideration they needed. Trying to block out the sirens way off in the background, bouncing off the towers of downtown Gotham, she concentrated on her voice inside her head.
He had an erection. Surely he would have...
But why wasn't there any pain?
You woke up in your underwear, Michaela.
But...the sprinklers...clothes were soaked...no point leaving them on...
Michaela pressed her fingertips to her temples to silence her thoughts and soothe her headache. She took in strong, steady breathes and let them out in relaxed exhales. If she had been raped, there'd be signs, signs she could definitely check for. Leaning over, she looked down at the carpet and then at her toes. She flexed them and wiggled them and kicked her feet a little, before very, very gently letting herself slide off over the side of the desk and set her feet down on the carpet, unsteadily. She leaned back against the desk, clutching it with both hands, and concentrated on what her body was telling her.
Her legs were weak, to be sure, but there was no pain between them. She moved them a little, wondering if the movement might aggravate any damage done, but she felt nothing. The wound on her shoulder burned and she had to keep herself from pressing the heel of her hand right into it, to try to alleviate some of the pain, but that was by far the worst thing that hurt.
There would have been pain if he raped her...there's no way there wouldn't have been. But she didn't know that for sure. Unless he had used something for lubricant, but she didn't feel anything.
Swallowing tightly, Michaela pressed her lips together and let her fingers sweep under the hem of her panties to gently touch herself. She took in a calm breath as she decided, after a moment, that nothing felt out of the ordinary. She wasn't wet, naturally or artificially, and there wasn't pain and she wasn't sore and she didn't seem to be bleeding.
She was so overcome with relief that she didn't hear the snort from the far corner of the room, or the voice that came out of the darkness until it was too late.
"Want some privacy?"
Michaela gasped, too startled to scream, and pulling her hand out of her panties, she collapsed onto her knees and threw herself against the wall, as if it would protect her or, at the very least, shield her semi-nakedness. She pulled her legs up under her chin to hide herself and urgently searched the darkness for the source of the voice, the nausea starting to rise once more.
She heard him giggle over the sounds of her own shaken breaths from the corner and when she looked, she wondered how in the hell she hadn't noticed him sitting there before. He was enclosed almost entirely in darkness; though it wasn't impossible to see him, it would have been easy not to spot him if you weren't looking for him. He was sitting right in the corner, his long legs stretched out in front of him, one crossed over the other, while his arms were crossed over his chest. She could see the great big Chelsea smile grinning at her, along with the great big black pits for eyes. The sight of the makeup on his face in the dark was, all in all, nightmarish.
"By all means," he said, still giggling. "Don't let me stop you."
Michaela's jaw shook, from humiliation or anger or pain or cold, she didn't know which. "Where are my clothes?"
She watched him shift his legs; she could hear him smacking his lips in the darkness. "On the chair." he told her, nonchalantly.
"What chair?" she said, her voice shaking.
Michaela could almost feel the look her was surely giving her. "You can't wear them, they're soaked right through, y'know."
She took a moment to look around, but she couldn't see over the desk in front of her, and next to him stood a bookshelf, but no chair. She'd have to move if she wanted to look for them, and she couldn't move right at that moment, she just couldn't. Instead she looked over at him once more, noticing that he was still wearing his clothes, even though they'd been soaked through too. "That's why you took them off me?"
He tsked there in the darkness, as if to say duh.
A very awkward tension settled nicely into the air between them right at that moment. Michaela hugged herself to keep from shivering because she knew he could see her, everything she did; the last thing she wanted to do was appear vulnerable, even though she was in her underwear, and freezing, and wounded, and aching all over.
Why was he there? Had he been sitting there in the corner watching the the whole time? How long had she been out? Every question would rush through her head and then churn her stomach.
"Why are you here?" She asked, her voice shaky from fear and the cold. She was at her most vulnerable, she figured; now would be the best time of any to strike against her.
He mused a little. "To make sure you don't go into shock, for one."
She blinked at him. It unnerved her that she couldn't see his eyes at the distance they were at in the darkness; all she could see were two big gasping black pits in his eye sockets, and it scared her even more. She didn't know if he was playing with her or telling her the truth; why would he be so concerned whether or not she went into shock? Unless of course...
"You're not going to...to..."
"What, kill you?" And he laughed as though the idea had never ever crossed his mind, although she was quite confident that it had at some point that night.
Michaela didn't understand. She shifted against the wall into a more comfortable position (or as comfortable as the situation would allow) because she figured there was an explanation coming. As she moved, the wound burned and she hissed, trying to keep herself still so she wouldn't aggravate it. She dared a glance down at it and the sight of it frightened her; it was deep and jagged and looked so horrible; she could see it'd been half-assed cleaned up, but it would scar if she didn't have it properly looked at, she knew it, and she also knew there was no way she was going to get it properly looked at anytime soon.
She sighed heavily as she let her head rest against the wall, looking at him across from her. She then looked down at the wound. "What's this for?"
In her head she knew he wouldn't give her a straight answer, but then again maybe he would; he was sitting there, after all. Something was begging to be said.
"What, that?" the Joker pointed at it in the darkness, as if he didn't know full well what she was talking about, and then he shrugged. "Oh, y'know..." he smacked his lips. "Blood for blood."
She didn't understand what he meant exactly until she remembered what she had done to him in the office a mere hour or however long before, when she cut his face with her name tag. That must have been what he meant; she'd drawn his blood, he'd drawn hers.
Michaela pressed her eyes closed, wondering why she had asked him at all. He did it because he could; did he ever have a better reason?
"Please leave," she begged him, her voice barely louder than a whimper, and she heard him shift where he was seated. All she wanted was to be left alone, suffer by herself, try to make sense of everything that had happened in her own time, in the quiet, without his eyes taking in every move she made. When she opened her eyes again, she was startled to see him standing up, staring at her from the corner. "Please."
She heard him chuckle inside his throat, a nasty chuckle that made her want to pull his teeth out, and he took a torturously slow step towards her. "Why, need some time to yourself?"
Michaela glared at him, hating the mocking tone in his voice. She wanted to scream at him, but what good would possibly come of that?
"Need to..." his voice became low and breathy as he took another step towards her. "Take care of something?"
She knew what he was referring to by the tone of his voice and it made her stomach jump. Pulling her legs closer to her chest to hide herself from him, Michaela considered making a dash for the door as he came closer to her, but thought against it, remembering her half-nakedness. She stared up at him, relieved and disheartened that she could finally see his eyes in the low light, that she could take in the look on his face and the smile on his lips that somehow, somehow made him resemble something human.
The Joker came to a stop as he towered practically overtop of her, grinning down at her with a great big yellow-toothed smile. She knew he was loving this; he was practically writhing in the discomfort he was causing her. "Sure I can't...give you a hand?"
With that, Michaela snapped. "Get out," she growled at him, infuriated and disgusted all at once by his lewd suggestion. Though she knew he only said it to get a rise out of her (and clearly succeeded), she simply couldn't keep down her anger a moment longer. "Get out!"
The Joker held up his hands and took a step back. "Alright, alright, I'm going."
He was laughing to himself, too, the bastard. Michaela watched him, hatefully, as he rounded the desk and went towards the door. As soon as he settled his hand on the doorknob and twisted it, he looked back at her. "But I wouldn't come out dressed like that."
And then, finally, he was gone.
Michaela was alone maybe twenty minutes to a half an hour before she braved the cold and put on her clothes, still damp from the spray. Her skirt was thick and heavy and her blouse and camisole were not only completely ruined (having been ripped on the left shoulder) but a large, grisly blood stain smeared down the one side, reaching almost to her hip. She could only imagine what she looked like in the torn ensemble and the thought of it made her eyes pinch but she took in several gulps of air and tried to toughen up. She slipped on the little ballerina flats she had found and hugged herself for warmth, looking around the office for a serendipitous sweater or spare jacket or coat or anything, but alas, there was none to be seen.
She knew the room was probably being guarded; there were probably clowns stationed outside the door of the office, waiting for her to try to leave so they could call the Joker over to put a stop to it. But she couldn't stay in the office; she felt trapped. At any time he could come waltzing in and do god knows what, god knew what else.
Somewhere in the downtown area the police sirens were going crazy; although she knew another venue had been disposed of, she found it difficult to give it too much of her mind at that moment. She was exhausted, and the wound on her shoulder throbbed, no matter how much pressure she applied to it. She needed to survey the damage, clean it up the best she could with what was available; but it meant leaving the office.
Suddenly the Joker's voice rang in her head: I wouldn't come out dressed like that.
Almost as if he expected her to come out at some point.
Slowly, Michaela padded to the door and pressed her ear against it. She could hear voices of the clowns making conversation, and noise of what sounded like Gotham City News on a TV, as per usual. But no one seemed to be standing directly outside the door.
Looking down at the doorknob, she gripped it with her hand and carefully turned it. It gave way easily enough, and slowly she pushed the door open. No one stopped her, nothing stood between the office and the hallway. Down to her left the hall gave way to a larger conference area set with the television and chairs and a coffee table.
The clowns were standing by the wall while the Joker sat with his back to her, watching the TV as he lounged in one of the leather chairs. The hostages were nowhere to be seen.
Swallowing, she stepped out into the hallway, and without taking notice of what she was doing, let the door open too fast and it creaked.
The clowns both stopped talking and snapped to attention, looking at her through the clown masks, and she froze, staring at them. The one took a step towards her, grabbing his gun at the ready. "Where d'you think you're going?" He spat at her through the mask.
With one hand pressing against the wound and keeping her tattered blouse more or less together so the clowns wouldn't get a glimpse of her bra, Michaela opened her mouth to answer that she was going to find the ladies to at least get a look at the sorry state of the wound that had been inflicted on her.
But, much to her surprise and the surprise of the clowns, the Joker answered for her. "Leave her be."
Michaela gaped, and the clowns both looked at the Joker questionably. "But boss-"
She watched then as the Joker shifted in his seat, looking up at the clowns thoughtfully before turning his gaze towards Michaela. His eyes were bright and playful, and there was a cheerfulness in his tone that she didn't recognize, but it made her want to strangle him and watch the life burn out of his eyes. "She won't go far. Will you, Mi-kay-lah?"
Michaela sneered at him but considered the look he gave her: completely serious, a teasing smile on his mangled lips, not moving a muscle. She frowned; he looked as though he knew something she didn't, completely delighting in an inside joke, and considered her as though she should have known, too.
The wound throbbed, and she winced as pain pulsed up along her shoulder and into her neck. The smile that had threatened the Joker's mangled lips exploded suddenly, telltale, and she stared at him as a very sudden realization poured over her.
The cut wasn't just a cut. It was a mark.
She'd been marked.
That's why he hadn't worried about her escaping him; she couldn't. Even if she survived this shit-show, even if she'd found her way home and the Joker found his way back to Arkham, she would never be free of him. She would carry him with her wherever she went, for as long as she lived.
Her knees buckled and she put her hands out against the wall to break what would have been a nasty fall. Her heart began to pummel against her chest and her breath began to quicken, but she willed herself to stay calm. She could feel his black eyes watching her, she could feel that smile crawling over her skin, slicked with greasepaint, as if she were completely exposed to him, as though she had nothing she could hide from him.
She swallowed the scream that was rising in her throat. She closed her eyes to deter the tears pricking behind her eyes. She took slow, steady breaths to fight off the panic attack she knew was coming.
If it was seen...if she survived and the mark was seen, everyone would know. Everyone would know who did it, and they wouldn't listen to her explanations; they'd draw their own conclusions.
And Roger...if Roger ever saw it...
Michaela twisted her body away so she wouldn't face the Joker, so that he couldn't see the tears pouring down over her cheeks. No wonder he hadn't been concerned about her escaping. There was no escaping.
She'd never escape him again.