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Death of a Dream

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Rachel Dawes was a lucky woman. She had been saved by Bruce from a horrible death. Seconds before the bomb went off, she had been whisked out of the warehouse by Alfred. They had made it out in the nick of time, the heat scorching them as they rushed out. Alfred hid her and Bruce got her out of town. It dismayed her to deceive Harvey like that She had no idea he would go insane and kill like that. And, for Bruce to take the fall for him was so typically Bruce.
Rachel was sent to Europe, where she lived on a generous stipend from Bruce. She heard from Alfred often and Bruce never. Alfred explained that the Joker hadn't taken to Batman not being around and had escaped from Arkham Asylum and wrecked havoc on the city. Then, Alfred explained that Bruce(Batman) had cut a deal with the Joker. He didn't explain the specifics, but only that it worked. Rachel didn't ask for more details. She hated that maniac with every fiber of her being. If Bruce's 'deal' corralled him, so be it.
Rachel didn't return to Gotham for five years. Then, Bruce told her that she could come home if she wished. She didn't. She had developed a new life. She dealt in antiques and traveled a great deal. She decided to go home and visit her mother for a couple of weeks, however.
Alfred met her at the airport. He looked older, more tired. She supposed that Bruce going out as Batman every night was taking it's toll, but when she voiced this, Alfred explained that Bruce seldom needed to go out as Batman. He did a couple of times a month, so that the criminals would still know he was around.
“Bruce's deal with the Joker means that he's been able to pretty much give up being Batman,” Alfred said.
“You mentioned this deal before. What exactly did Bruce do to corral that madman. Is he in Arkham?”
“No, he is free. That is, Bruce arranged for his release and private care. ”
“Is it working?”
“Oh, yes, as I said. Bruce only patrols a few times a month. “
Rachel had not told Bruce she was coming back to Gotham and she asked Alfred to keep it quiet, too. No sense in opening old wounds. Rachel knew that Bruce had been in love with her an supposed he still was. She had a new life and a lover abroad.
One day, Rachel drove out to see Bruce's rebuilt Manor. She hid her car and quietly tramped over the grounds. She was behind Bruce's car garage when she saw a black motorcycle with two riders heading her way. She quickly ducked into a corner of the garage and hid behind a car.
The two pulled up and she could see that they both wore leather motorcycle jackets, one purple and one black. She quickly deduced that the black was Bruce, but who could the purple be? Rachel decided it must be one of Bruce's models, and she was sure of it when purple removed her helmet and she saw a head full of curly honey-blond hair held in a messy ponytail. Rather casual for one of Bruce's models.
Bruce grabbed the back of her head and pulled her in for a passionate kiss before they both got off the bike and walked towards the house, purple with a possessive arm around Bruce. Rachel noted that Purple was model thin and slightly taller than Bruce. Definitely must be one of Bruce's floozies although Rachel was surprised that Bruce was so passionate with her. That was a change.

Rachel spent a lovely two weeks with her mother and after some trepidation, she told Alfred that he could tell Bruce she had come back. Alfred didn't tell her that Bruce already knew.
“Do you want to see him?”
“I better not,” said Rachel. She didn't want to open old wounds.

On the night before Rachel was to go back, she had a change of heart and decided to go and talk to Bruce. She went to the Manor, but he was not there. She could not find Alfred either. So, she decided to try his penthouse. She still knew how to get in- Bruce had told her long ago. She took the elevator up and found the penthouse empty. She decided to sit and wait, for she had a feeling that Bruce would show up at some time.

Rachel jolted awake suddenly, unaware that she had fallen asleep on Bruce's leather couch. Something had awoken her.
“Don't be mad, Brucey. I was just having a little fun.” Rachel heard that nasal voice in her nightmares. The Joker was in the penthouse with her.
“Laughing gas bombs during my board meeting Could you get any more obvious?” That was Bruce's voice and his voice was tight with anger. Why would Bruce be here with the Joker?
The Joker started to answer but Bruce growled, “ No, shut up.” Rachel was shocked at what she heard next. The unmistakeable sound of two mouths meeting. They were kissing. Rachel felt sick. Bruce was kissing the Joker and apparently carrying on some sort of relationship with the madman as well.
“Come on, “ Bruce's voice was taunt with passion. “Let's go into the bedroom.”
For an answer she heard the Joker's trademark laugh. Their footsteps faded and somewhere in the penthouse, she heard a door shut. Rachel waited for a few minutes and then she left the apartment. She hurried to call Alfred.
“Alfred, “ she sobbed in the phone when she finally reached him. “ Why didn't you tell me?”
“Why don't you meet me and we can talk. Meet me in Bruce's restaurant. “

Alfred arrived, took one look at Rachel and knew that he couldn't have this conversation with her here. She was too upset. He hustled her into the car.
“Tell me what happened?”
“I decided I did want to see Bruce. I went to the Manor, then his Penthouse. I still know how to get in. I was waiting for him. I guess I fell asleep. I woke up and heard them talking, then kissing. They walked away. What is going on, Alfred? Why is Bruce doing this?”

“This was the deal that Bruce made with the Joker. Joker must cease killing if he wanted Bruce. The Joker agreed. They spent some time adjusting the Gotham PD to less Batman, but because the underworld belongs to the Joker, he has had a pretty tight rein on things. Crime still takes place-it always does-but they're too afraid of the Joker to get violent.”
Rachel was silent for a long time. Her mom had told her about how much safer it was to live in Gotham, as well.
“Bruce loves him, doesn't he?” Rachel asked this very quietly, remembering what she had seen at Bruce's Manor, having deduced who Purple really was.
“Yes, “ said Alfred.
“And you accept that? It doesn't disgust you?”
“That the Joker is off the streets? That Bruce has found someone who understands him? It's not something that can be viewed in black and white. “ Alfred is silent for a few minutes before he says, “ You know that Bruce is mad, don't you? He's been insane since he returned from China and probably before that.”
Rachel remembers a conversation with Bruce long ago, before he disappeared. Yes, he has been insane for a long time. She nods.
“They take their madness out on each other, not on Gotham.” Alfred pats her hand. “It's unfortunate that you had to see what you saw, but you shouldn't have gone uninvited to Bruce's penthouse. He has made a deal which saves Gotham and suits him. He has someone who he loves and who loves him. Be happy for him. And, then go back to Europe and live on his money and go back to your life.”

Rachel cried the entire flight home. She cried for who Bruce used to be and she cried in acknowledgment that that child was long dead and buried. When she got back, she proposed to her mother that she come and stay with her and her mother agreed. Once she joined Rachel in Europe, there would be no need to ever return to Gotham.