I always wondered what Bruce's reaction would have been if Alfred had decided to give him Rachel's letter right after she died. This was born. Reviews are always loved.

Summary: "All of a sudden, you can't breathe. Every word is a punch to the gut, as real as if a fist had smashed through muscle and sinew and bone." In the wake of Rachel's death, Bruce learns the true meaning of failure when he reads her letter. TDK oneshot. Rated T.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Christopher Nolan, Warner Brothers, DC comics, etc. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended and I don't own Batman/Bruce Wayne.

** Love to venis-envy for her reassurance, and for reading this angsty little mess several times over. **

The shiny black tiles and whitewashed walls of the penthouse seem to swallow you up. Empty, clinical, devoid of warmth. That doesn't normally bother you - it's how you like it. But for once, you want it to be home; an escape, a sanctuary. It's neither.

Minutes ago, you crouched on the scorched earth, clutching at the rubble that once contained a living, breathing, laughing woman. The only indication that she'd ever existed was Harvey's blackened coin, glinting in the dirt.

Alfred's words, however well-meaning, gave you little comfort. All you can focus on is the letter he put into your hand before backing out of the room, his face grave. Your shaking fingers pull the piece of paper from the envelope.

Dear Bruce...

The script is Rachel's; you'd know it anywhere. You scan the page slowly.

All of a sudden, you can't breathe. Every word is a punch to the gut, as real as if a fist had smashed through muscle and sinew and bone.

She didn't choose you.

Your visit to the hospital to return Harvey's coin - the token that meant so much to him - has thrown into sharp relief just how much you left to chance. You wasted so much time pretending you didn't even care about her in that way. That it didn't hurt you to watch her with him.

Why did you never show her how much you wanted her? You know that you could have given her everything Harvey did, and more.

Every breath is harder to take, the blood pounding in your ears the only reminder that your heart still beats.

Memories of the selfish, pointless dreams you hardly dared to have suddenly assault you - images that flickered at the corners of your mind late at night, when you didn't have the energy to stop them. Marrying her; the children that you'd have together. You'd always imagined three. The dreams of a life where you didn't have to be this. Where you lived for her.

You would have loved her until the last breath left your body. Except, when it really mattered, you didn't even have the guts to fight for her.

Inside your head there's mocking laughter, and it morphs into the Joker's voice.

"Why would she want you? Bruce Wayne, laughing stock of Gotham - vacuous playboy, damaged little boy; pathetic, jealous, loner. Lost inside your own symbol. Hung up on a dead woman that never even wanted you to start with! "

The knowledge that you've failed at everything - saving Rachel, Harvey, the city - hits you square in the chest, white hot agony like a knife between the armour plates of your suit. You could cry, but you're afraid that if you even let one tear slip out, everything that you're barely holding together will shatter.

You take the mask that's resting on your lap, every part of you wishing that you'd removed it when you still had the chance. Before the one person who used to believe you could be something more gave up on you.

You were always enough, Rachel.

The mask bends under the pressure of your hands as it snaps in two. Sharp edges and corners break skin, and blood flows out. You don't even feel it.

I have a terrible soft spot for dark, angsty Bruce Wayne. Make of the ending what you will...Please leave a review if you liked it.