Title: Everything Burns
Warnings: Mild language; Angst; Violence; Gore. Read at your own discretion. This isn't for children guys.
A/N: So, first, as always, many, many thanks to everyone for reviewing! It really does mean a lot to me that you guys stuck with this story 'til the very (bitter, sad, tragic) end. I know that was probably a bit hard to read, but unfortunately, not all endings are happy and we're talking about the Joker here. He racks up a body count.
Anyway, I know present you guys the epilogue and end of "Everything Burns"! Thank you all for your support, it means a lot to me!
Don't You Cry No More
"It's not about the money. It's about sending a message. Everything burns."
-The Joker, TDK
Three Weeks Later:
A veil had fallen over Gotham City in the last few weeks. The citizens went about their lives with somberness in their eyes. There was no small talk, especially not today, of all days. There were whispered conversations about the events that had occurred less than a month earlier. Black curtains and flags hung from buildings in the center of Gotham, flying gently in the wind as a slow, sad march played through the streets.
District Attorney Brian Forsyth stood at a podium in the center of the crowd of black-clad Gothamites, the stage behind him occupied with a large Jumbo-Tron television that played a slideshow of smiling, bright faces and contrasted violently with the heavy mood.
The sun was shining down on them, the sky a beautiful shade of blue and yet none of them took any joy in the good weather. Not now.
Behind Forsyth, seated on the stage, were the family members of those who had most recently died. It was a sad, eclectic group, to say the least. Jim Gordon's family sat at one end, his wife's tears spilling down her face while his two children clung to each other and their mother, his daughter Barbara wrapping her arms protectively around her brother and staring with tear-filled defiance at the crowd of mourners. Jessica Brooks sat, red-eyed and stiff, with small Jack Hotchner, clutching the child to her chest and silently wondering how she was supposed to help him through the loss of another parent. Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss had even flown in and sat next to Sean Hotchner, stiff and unmoving, her face gave away nothing, but her mascara was smeared beneath her eyes. William LaMontagne Jr. sat holding his son Henry, who was squirming a bit in his arms and didn't quite understand what was going on. Their faces blurred together to the crowd looking forward, families of the SWAT team who'd fallen victim to the Joker's final bomb in the Narrows and all the victims who'd died in the Complex bombing that same night.
Behind them, the surviving members of the BAU sat. Derek Morgan, arm still in the cast it had been in after the Joker's first bomb, sat next to Penelope Garcia and a battered, pale Spencer Reid was on his other side. Pale, bruised and still feeling the occasional twinge of soreness, Reid should probably have felt lucky to have survived at all, but instead he simply felt broken. His family had been the BAU and now, most of them had been wiped out in a single night.
"Today we honor the victims of the madman who called himself The Joker," Forsyth was saying, speaking slowly and clearly into the microphone. "His spree of terror and destruction came to an end with a heavy cost to us all."
He waved a hand toward the television that was flashing the pictures of those who had died and Reid's eyes instinctively followed the movement, grimacing as the face of the Prince of Gotham, Bruce Wayne, flashed before him.
Forsyth began rattling off a list of the dead and Reid fought not to flinch. The list was a long one. Everyone inside the house in the Narrows bad been killed in the bombing – twelve people in total. Eight more lives had been taken by the bomb in the apartment complex with five more in critical condition. Despite the building being evacuated, the collateral damage of the building coming down had been massive. And that wasn't even counting the lives taken in the bombing of City Hall – nearly thirty people had been killed that night.
"These people," Forsyth continued, "Died as heroes and we should not darken their memory with that of the monster who engineered their deaths. Jack Napier, the man known by most of you as the Joker, is dead, and while the end of this is tragic, we will never forget what we learned in these dark times…"
He kept talking, but Reid wasn't really listening anymore, his mind going back to the time he'd spent with the Joker, farther back to the day he'd first met the monster. Forsyth could talk all he wanted about remembering the fallen, about honoring the deaths and finding strength in tragedy, but Spencer Reid was certain he was wrong.
They could honor and remember them all they wanted – they were still gone, which was what the Joker had wanted in the first place. He had wanted to destroy Gotham and in the end, he had won. Gotham could pretend to move forward, to move past this tragedy, but the citizen would never really move on. Too many innocents had been taken, too much had been destroyed and rendered pointless by the laughing, scarred face of a madman.
The Joker's identity had been revealed shortly after his death, and with it came a story of horror and twisted nightmares that would make most sick. Of course the tragedy in Jack Napier's life didn't excuse what he had done, but it brought the infamous "monster" down to a human level. It proved him right. Everyone is capable of becoming a monster, if only you know where to push them.
And finally, Forsyth ended his speech and there was a long moment of silence that was so thick, so desperately awful that Reid got the urge to scream. He was ready for this to be over. He didn't want to be in Gotham anymore, not ever again. But of course, he did still have one more place he had to go before he could put the city behind him for good…
"Are you sure you wanna do this, Reid?" Morgan asked as he and the younger man walked down the halls, being led by the guard. Morgan had become, if it were possible, even more protective of the younger man since the bombings. Reid had very nearly died and would have, too, if it hadn't been for Harleen Quinzel, whose loud sobs aroused the suspicions of police and they found her, clinging to the dead body of the Joker, and Reid, lying of the floor, unconscious and bleeding out from a deep stab wound.
Some nights Reid wasn't sure if he was grateful to have been found alive, or if he resented it. He didn't feel like he had the energy to keep going anymore and he wasn't sure that he wanted to try, but he did anyway. Because that's what people expected from him: that he keep trying.
He nodded, "I have to, Morgan," he replied, "You can call it closure, I guess. I need to know why."
Morgan sighed and nodded, "Yeah, okay, Pretty Boy,"
Reid managed a small smile at the nickname, but the smile was quickly gone as the guard opened the door and allowed them to enter the room. It was a small, grey room with no windows and one table set with three chairs. In the chair opposite them, dressed in a white uniform, her blond hair pulled into pigtails, sat former Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
Her blue eyes were lit with a terrifying light, sad and haunted. Her hands, cuffed together, were fidgety and her fingers laced and unlaced themselves seemingly of their own accord.
For a moment, she smiled as she saw the familiar FBI agent, but then the smile was gone and she tilted her head, "I never thought you'd come to visit me."
Reid didn't say anything at first, instead quietly taking the seat across from her and looking her in the eye. Morgan remained standing, crossing his arms and watching the two of them with dark eyes, almost daring Harley to do or say anything that even resembled a threat.
Finally, Reid spoke, taking a deep breath, "You requested a visit," he said carefully, "Here I am."
Harley sighed heavily, giving Reid a sad look that made the young agent feel a twinge of remorse. There was still some part of him that wanted to reach out and help the girl; she was young and smart, but somehow had allowed herself to get tangled up in this mess and still didn't see where she had gone wrong.
"I did," she said, "Didn't think you'd actually come, though. I thought you hated me…" She spoke without really seeming to give much emotion. Reid could tell for sure if she regretted that he might hate her or not. She was more difficult to read than he would have expected.
"I don't hate you," Reid was almost surprised to hear himself say that and he could practically feel Morgan's surprise radiating off of him in waves. Harley quirked a brow at his statement and he continued, "Honestly, that would be pointless. I seriously doubt if you care one way or another how I feel about you, but if it matters, I don't hate you. I feel sorry for you, most of the time, but at least now you're where you should be and getting the help you need."
Harley smiled, "You think I'm crazy, don't you, Spencer?"
"No," Reid said, "I think you're misguided and you're probably suffering from Dependent Personality Disorder. I've spoken with your doctor. He seems to agree with me."
Harley made a face, "DPD? Really, Spencer?" she shook her head, "That's the excuse you've come up with for why I did what I did? I did it because I loved him. Because he wasn't the monster everyone said he was! He was –"
"I know," Reid cut her off, "You were the only person who didn't look at him and see the Joker. You looked at him and saw Jack Napier. You didn't see the mass murderer who'd nearly destroyed an entire city, you saw a man who was broken and tired and alone."
A soft smile touched her lips, "You do understand,"
Reid nodded, "But that doesn't make what he did okay,"
"I never said –"
"I know you didn't," Reid cut her off; "You only wanted to help him, right?"
She nodded vigorously and Reid sighed heavily, "He didn't need help, you know," he said slowly, "Not that kind of help, at least. You were never going to change him, no matter what you were telling yourself. He was changing you."
She seemed to think about that, "Maybe you're right," she conceded, "But I would do it again, the same way every time. I'm not sorry, because he was right, ya know? In the end? He won."
Morgan scowled at her words, but Reid's face remained passive and he heaved a heavy, sad sigh.
"He was," he agreed. "And I think that's probably the saddest thing about what happened. He was right and now we have to live with that knowledge every day."
"Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters"
– Stephen King
A/N: And that, my friends, concludes this story. I cannot even begin to thank you all for sticking with this 'til the end and I really, really appreciate all of your feedback and support. You guys are amazing and I loved you all for reading, reviewing and following this! It's been a long time coming, but the end is finally here and I had such a great time writing it. Thank you all!