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Grin And Bare It

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Poisonous, toxic, acidic, malicious green gazed into hazel contacts that hid sea blue underneath. Flaying the mind away. Searching every part of their owner. Wanting in to the secrets behind the contact eyes that hid who he really was. It was nerve wracking. Staring into the maniacs green. What secrets were locked away in the madmans mind? Did he want to know? Yes and No? Neither blinked for a few minutes. Studying each other. Observing every single detail. A chuckle escaped the red painted on lips. The lips pulling into a grin, stretching the scars on his cheeks. Red contrast to the chemical caused pale skin underneath. Scars though, those scars he had no idea how he got him. Green hair, chalk white skin he knew were caused by the chemicals at Ace Chemicals Plant when he fell in. Scars that made him look like he was always smiling that was something he didn't know what caused them. He'd never ask. No. It must of been a blade but did the madman do it? Or did someone else cause them? Questions he knew the sadistic clown would never answer true-fully.

"You know you remind me of someone?" The words were a raspy purr that made his heart quicken.

"Who Boss?" Boss that word was bitter on the tip of his tongue. Hating the taste of it. Sound of it. Everything about that word. Worse was saying it to the murderous clown. Bruce had no choice in the matter right now. He was undercover. It was risky, it was dangerous also probably stupid but he needed to find out what the Joker was up to. As Batman the maniac wouldn't tell him anything until it was to late if at all. That's how all this started. It had been a week now that he had been undercover. Joker had escaped Arkham three weeks ago after an eighth month stay. One of the longest stays the clown did. Last time Bruce saw the clown before going undercover they were in an all out brawl on a bridge. 'To mock you' his words to the homicidal clown came back to his mind. Those three words made Joker snap and it was one of the few time Bruce felt the madman was truly trying to kill him. Oh sure it wasn't like the Clown prince of crime wasn't dangerous to Bruce's health countless times before but that moment was something else. He was absolutely livid with Batman. Joker claimed time and time again he'd never kill Batman. That he was to much fun. Where would he be without the Dark Knight? Still the maniac went ballistic during their last fight. Bruce ended up with a lot of knife wounds. Joker always seemed to know just where to stab through the Kelvar to hurt him. To scar his body. 'How many scars have I given you Batsy?' Joker had asked during one of their fights a few years back. To many Bruce had thought then and still thought now.

Joker grinned but had a contemplative look in his eyes as he gazed in Bruce's direction.

"You remind me of Jonny Jonny." Joker said finally.

"Who?" Bruce asked.

Jonny Frost. That man died during their last fight as Joker shot him in the jaw. Bruce didn't like to admit it to himself but he really didn't do much to save him. The man was a common criminal. In and out of prison countless times. When Joker was released from Arkham last time Bruce kept a close eye on the clown when he had more free time as he was busy a lot during the time with other criminals. Bruce though did feel guilty though. So many people died by the Jokers hand and he did nothing to stop it until Harvey Dent came to him for help during an all out crime war. As much as the guilt had affected Bruce it came down to one thing. Who Joker was killing. Fellow scum of the earth criminals. Though an elderly couple was killed brutally in their home and a register worker at a store was also killed and Bruce didn't stop it. When he learned of their deaths he felt more guilty than ever for allowing the Joker free for so long. Making a million and one excuses why he didn't stop the madman sooner what it seemed to come down to that the Joker killing fellow criminals made his job easier. It was a mistake Bruce wasn't going to make again. A mistake he realized he made when he found out that Jonny Frost fell to his death from the bridge they were fighting on last time.

"Oh he was an old friend." The disgusted look in his face at the mention of him made Bruce a bit nervous. Joker may not kill Batman as Batman was the only person Joker truly seemed to want to keep alive, Bruce on the other hand was not on that list in his disguise.

"You though, Matchy! Aren't as obviousness, dull or boring as he is though!" Joker finally proclaimed smugly.

'Matchy' God even when Bruce wasn't Batman he couldn't escape those damn pet names Joker seemed to like giving him. Matches Malone was a small time criminal who died years ago that Bruce took on his name for an alias recently. During the 'hiring' process to join Jokers gang the name did help him out big time though. The moment he introduced himself the clown giggled so happily and grinned so big at it. 'Matches I like that! Reminds me of everything fun in the world besides being named Batman!' He had said. Of course the clown would like the nickname, he often smelled of gasoline after all. A smell Bruce was annoyingly getting used to the more time he spent around the maniac.

"That's good." Bruce says as he sips his water at the bar. Even undercover he refused to break his no drinking rule. "So, Boss what's the next plan?" Bruce asked wanting to know more of Jokers secrets.

Joker leaned in close, his shoulders brushing against his own. A purple gloved finger brushed against Bruce's arm. Personal space was never a word in the Jokers dictionary. "Matchy. Tsk, tsk. It's all work and no play with you. Ah lighten up why don't you?"

Hazel eyed contacts glanced into the acidic green eyes. "Just want to be prepared."

A scoff and Joker pulled away dramatically. Shaking his head at the words. "Where's the fun in that?!?"

"I really don't want to get shot at if I'm not prepared for it." Bruce retorted. Though it was true. Having enough bullet scars on his body as it was. Getting shot and not being prepared was not his idea of a good time.

Joker started to laugh loudly at that. A laugh that haunted Bruce for years now. A laugh that till his dying day would never leave him. It made his muscles go stiff at the sound.

"But but Matchy! Getting shot at is one of the most fun games life has to offer!"

Bruce just stayed silent at that. He already knew well enough what the clown found fun in life. Sadly he was the top of that list.

"You know, you shouldn't take life so seriously. I mean look at you! All stiff and tense not relaxing at all! You don't even drink! Gotta relaxxx!" Joker sing song voiced.

"This is me relaxed." That was a lie. Joker raised an eyebrow at that. Knowing full well he was lying. Bruce was always on guard around the madman. "Plus I don't like to drink when there's a job to do in the morning. The hangovers a real bitch." Bruce normally didn't cuss. But he was playing a role.

"See. That's exactly what I'm talkin' about! Way to serious. I can show ya how to loosen up ya know." The psychopath scooted closer to Bruce. "Take a load off." Purple gloved fingers traced a smiley face in front of Bruce on the table. "Learn to smile. Like me! It does wonders for your health trust me." He grinned as the scars made it more menacing.

"Smiling is more your thing than mine."

"Now you're just sounding like the Bat." Bat was purred in a longing fashion that made Bruce uneasy with how close the maniac was to him. Joker seemed to drop the conversation there as he stared off into the wall, whatever was going through his mind made him smile more. If Bruce had to guess it was probably about whatever new encounter he'd have with Batman.

Taking another sip of his water he listened to the other men the Joker hired. They all stayed in the back of the small bar not daring to go near the clown. Smart. Working for the Joker was a sentence to an early grave and yet so many thugs did just that. There were rules of course. As much as Joker claimed to hate them it was obvious that there were rules. Rule number one: Always laugh at the Jokers jokes. If you didn't you'll die or not but most likely die. Also to add never ignore the madman, he craves attention and if isn't getting it he became even more murderous and dangerous. Rule number two: Don't flirt with Harley. Joker didn't love Harley or much care for her but as the clown put it he didn't like sharing his toys. Rule number three: Always be careful how you act around the maniac. Best to keep quiet and away from him as much as possible. Bruce was breaking that rule but Joker seemed to find him interesting so it hadn't killed him yet. Which surprised all the other goons. Rule number four: Never complain about your personal space. Again it wasn't a concept Joker ever understood and if he did he didn't care. Last but most important rule which Bruce couldn't help but find intriguing. Rule number five: Careful about anything Batman. Don't claim to want to kill him or try to, don't insult him, don't mention him with Catwoman (jealousy much?) Don't say anything about him that the clown prince of crime wouldn't like. Batman for better words was 'property' of the clowns as Joker put it. 'His and his alone to do with how he pleased.' Joker also claimed. It made Bruce annoyed and nauseous but that's just how it was with Jokers obsession with him. All these rules were unspoken mostly, at least to the point never around the lunatic. Better to stay alive than break them. Though how bipolar Joker could be that may not even be true. He killed his own men with as much ease as he killed innocent people. It's what he did. It's what angered Bruce. Thinking about it just made me Bruce want to retire for the night, at the very least not have to deal with being so close to the madman.

"Come on Matchy! Don't go to bed yet! Don't you know clowns are nocturnal!" Joker whined as Bruce stood up.

"Well good thing I'm not a clown. So I'm not nocturnal." Bruce grumbled. It was a lie. Being Batman he never really slept at night.

"Funny." Joker seemed to seethe for a moment which made the room nervous. Then like clockwork the maniac grinned happily. "Oooooo Matchy! I know tomorrow you'll enjoy the game."

Bruce stopped in his tracks and glanced at the madman. "Oh?" He questioned.

Joker spun up and turned on his heels and walked to Bruce. Sliding a hand down his chest which made Bruce want to recoil from the touch.

"I know how much you like fire." Purring the words as he moved closer and Bruce had to force a small smile. All fake but he guessed he was a good actor because the clown believed it. His giddy laughter confirmed that.

"What we burning?" Bruce asked. He needed to at least find out and try to get the information to Alfred to tell Gordon. People could be in danger.

"Shhhh. You'll find out tomorrow. Just ah bring yourself, we'll need matches after all!" Joker chuckled darkly at his bad joke. Bruce simply nodded with a feigned smirk.

"Will do Boss." With that Joker turned and went over towards the other men in the room much to their fearful dismay.

Bruce slipped out of the room and breathed in the cool Gotham air. The place they were laying role was an abandoned motel. A bar was added to the motel in what Bruce guessed was an attempt to get more customers that never worked to stay afloat. Now it was 'owned' by the clown. It worked a bit in Bruce's favor. He had his own room. Besides Joker only he had a room to himself. It was something he had to fight for though. A fight he had to calculate perfectly to not fight like Batman. When the green eyes were on him during it Bruce knew that if he fought like himself Joker would know who he was in a instant. Joker always noticed every twitch or movement Batman would do in the years of fighting each other. The madman had it down to memory. Making each new fight between them even more dangerous. His scars were a testimony to that. There was one particular carved design scars in his flesh that he-

"Malone."

The voice made Bruce leave his thought behind as he glanced over at the hefty blond man leaning against one of the motel rooms doors. Chuck was his name though he had been given the nickname Chuckles by the clown maniac. Chuck was an average drug dealer, with accounts of murder, attempted murder, destruction of property and graffiti in his record. The man had worked for the clown for about three years now and Bruce had broken the mans bones countless times over the years. Hell he was the one he had to fight to get his own room.

"Yes Chuck?" Bruce spoke with a bit of annoyance in his voice.

"You better be careful kid." Chuck replied as he took a drag of his cigar.

"Of what?" He asked.

Chuck just side way glanced at him. "Of getting to close to the clown. Don't want to end up like Frost after all."

Jonny Frost was becoming a name that would haunt Bruce. The man Bruce didn't bother to save for his own selfish reasons. Bruce has saved countless criminals in the past yet allowed everything the Joker did to continue when he got out of Arkham last time. Chuck bringing him up on the same level of Bruce just irked him. Though what irked him more was he needed to be close to the clown. Not only to find out what the maniac was up to but to also figure the Joker out. He was an enigma. No known name, no past, nothing. Just the Joker. That didn't sit well with Bruce. He needed to know more. Find out more.

"I'm sure you'd like that but what happened to Frost won't happen to me." Bruce stated matter of fact. Even in disguise Bruce knew he'd be able to survive the clown. Joker took an interest in him. That was enough currently to keep him alive and get the answers he needed.

"Even if he doesn't kill you boy, you'll lose your mind the longer you hang with him. Yeah I can see it now, that blind arrogance, you'll end up like Frost in no time." Chuck chuckled which was making Bruce lose his temper more and more.

"Chuck. Jealousy doesn't look good on you." Bruce retorted annoyed. A comment he would normally never say. Chuck he had come to learn though enjoyed his long working with the clown. It payed him well and Joker hadn't killed him in three years yet so he must have gotten somewhat lucky position in the clowns gang.

"Real funny Malone. But I'd watch yer self if I were you." Chuck snorted as he dropped the cigar to the ground and used his shoe to stomp it out. "If you keep it up you may not ever wake up ya know." Chuck finished speaking and Bruce was ready for a fight.

"You know Chuck, you better be careful who you threaten if you can't back it up. Don't want to get your ass beat like last time." Bruce stated matter-of-fact. It was enough. Chuck stepped towards him. Trying to show dominance in his body language. It would intimidate weaker men but not Bruce.

"Is that so? Wanna try something you little shit? You're a no body kid! Just some run of the mill arsonist with a big mouth and no respect." Chuck was fuming. Bruce just smirked. Playing the cocky role of his disguise.

"Go ahead, Chuck. Make a move. I dare you." Bruce being away as Batman for the past week was getting to him. He needed the adrenaline and he only had one actual fight since all this started. With the annoyance of not being able to shut up the clown with typical violence it was getting on his nerves. This could be good for him.

"You two gonna kiss or what?" The raspy voice spoke through the tension of the two men like a knife. Both Bruce and Chuck heads snapped to the right in the direction of the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker had his arm around Harley's waist. Harley must of came in the back because Bruce didn't see her earlier in the bar. Great. She was one person he didn't want to also deal with. Though with how many times the Joker kicked her out and she went to stay with Poison Ivy, she may not stay to long.

"I think they are about to Mistah J. Oh young love!" She giggled. Leaning her head on the Jokers shoulder. Bruce could see that slight twitch of irritation in the Jokers body. No one else would have noticed. That moment Bruce realized that he could detect the Jokers body language almost as well as Joker could detect Batmans. It made him uneasy.

"Yes, Harl, young love indeed." The words held dark amusement behind them.

Bruce and Chuck turned and looked at each other for a moment, the mutual glare was exchanged as they stepped away from each other in rhythm.

"Awww. I'm hurt Chuckles. Here I thought you were pinning over me. Or was it Matchy that was? I can't keep it all together most of the time. So many admires after all." Joker giggled but there was a dangerous edge to his voice.

Both men felt the same disgust at the Jokers words.

"Was just talking boss." Chuck grumbled out annoyed.

Green eyes glanced at him and the danger in them was enough to make Chuck start to sweat. Bruce on the other hand wasn't nervous. He dealt with the homicidal maniac enough times not to be.

"Harley, head back to the room. Daddy will be there in just a minute." He didn't even glance at her.

"But puddin!" Harley whined which earned her a hard shove.

"Go." He snapped and she complied. Shooting a glare at Bruce and Chuck. When she entered room ten of the motel rooms Bruce almost growled in annoyance. That meant that Jokers now chosen room would be right next to Bruce's.

"Soooo. Chuckles, Matchy, what were you two discussing? Hmmm?" Joker moved closer to them.

Chuck was obviously nervous. Bruce had noticed that Chuck rarely stayed to close to the maniac, for his own protection no doubt. Plus given the conversation they were having that would sign his one way ticket to the morgue.

"Just giving the kid a few pointers boss." Chuck spoke nonchalant. Hiding his nervousness pretty well even when he was only giving half truths.

With a raised eyebrow Joker looked at Bruce.

"Tsk, if Matchy needed any pointers he should hear them from me. Dontcha think?" Joker grinned from ear to ear in a predatory fashion as he moved closer to Bruce and wrapped an arm around his waist the same way he was doing with Harley earlier. Bruce stiffened at the touch. Rule number four Bruce. Rule number four.

"Next time I'll leave the pointers to you boss." Chuck finally spoke.

"Yeah, yeah, you do that." Joker laid his head on Bruce's shoulder in mock affection. Waving his hand for Chuck to leave them be. With that Chuck left and went to his own room. Room number three he took a mental note of.

"You know. I'm a pretty selfish guy. You don't want me to get the wrong idea of you and Chuckles do you?" The warning was there in the tease. Bruce hated being this close to the madman. That teasing habit of the clown even when the billionaire wasn't dressed up as the dark knight made him want to bash the clowns face in.

"Nothin' to worry about boss. Blondes aren't my type." He joked, halfheartedly. It wasn't really true. As Bruce Wayne he had dated and bedded his fair share of blondes in his life. But a jealous Joker was never a good thing. It was like a ticking time bomb, if not defused than there was sure to be destruction. So he had to cool down the rising storm in the madman. Getting stabbed by the crazy clown was not on his to do list that night.

"Hehe good. Green hair is so much more attractive isn't it?" No, Joker it's not.

The psychopathic lunatic was just trying to get under his skin. Bruce knew that. It was working though and he had to scourge every urge to let the Bat out of its cage.

"Puddin! Come on! Come to bed!" Harley yelled from the now open door at the two of them. Joker grimaced in annoyance. "Does that minx have a death wish?" He whispered in the nook of Bruce's neck.

"Coming pumpkin pie!" Joker called out to her. Hesitating in moving away from Bruce.

"See ya tomorrow handsome." Joker cooed as he moved away to much of Bruce's happiness and walked angrily back to his room. A Yelp was heard as Joker shoved Harley back into the room hard and he slammed the door.

Sighing, Bruce walked to his room, room number eleven, using the key to unlock the door. He didn't want to deal with anything else tonight. Still he had a routine he adopted for the past week. Closing the door, locking it and flicking on the light switch, the room was no longer shrouded in darkness. The room was pretty bare. There was a bathroom, a king size bed that had purple and green bed sheets and comforter (Jokers idea much to Bruce's annoyance), small closet and a drawer. The window was wooden up tight as the clown had said 'I don't know why but Bats have this tendcy to always break through glass' the comment almost made Bruce laugh. Few moments in his life did the Joker ever make him smile just a little bit. Something he hated admiting to himself. Something he'd never admit out loud.

Bruce walked into the bathroom and flicked on the light. Looking himself in the mirror he had hardly recognized himself. He had gone to great lengths to hide his identity while undercover. Hazel contacts that were so good in quality that no one could tell they weren't his actual eye color. His Raven black hair had been dyed a lighter shade of brown. Fake facial hair that would even make Hollywood jealous by how real they looked. Even his voice he had made to sound not like Bruce Wayne or Batman. He was glad for all his years of training to be able to do that. Removing the contacts and facial hair made him look more like Bruce Wayne. More like himself. He needed these moments of peace after for a week pretending to be some criminal. A moment just to unwind and be himself again. Sighing he leaned his head against the mirror. His breath fogging up the glass. Slow breathing, in and out to relax his body. Being around the psychopath was taking its toll on him. Not that he wanted to admit it. Dreading tomorrow was making this night worse. The week had been somewhat calm as Joker hadn't actually planned anything to do except stay at the hideout of this dingy abandoned motel. Now though, Bruce would be expected to actually commit a crime. Do a job for the madman. Could he actually do it? What if people died? Should he just leave and come back as Batman? If he did that though he would destroy any chance he had of learning more about his arch nemesis. Maybe he could prevent death as Malone. Maybe? Sighing Bruce left the bathroom with his mind made up. He'd go and do the job. Protect people at the same time if they needed protecting. Without blowing his cover. If he screwed up now then he wouldn't ever have this chance again.

Bruce walked over to the dresser and yanked, pulling it towards the door. All part of his routine. Under the floorboards where the drawer used to be was hidden a duffel bag. He had his certain items there. Every night he'd go through the bag. Text Alfred that he was fine or any information he needed to deliver. Had new contacts for the next day. Fake facial hair for his disguise. Few of his Batman gadgets if the situation called for it. But the hardest and most important part of his routine was to listen and watch Arkham sessions on the Joker. He had copy of the doctors notes and the Jokers files with him. So he'd go over and read, listen and watch. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Trying to get into the madmans head. He had to. If he wanted to ever hope to one day stop all this madness for good without breaking his one role. So he had illegally obtained copies to a tablet. So every night he'd lay on the bed after his shower and listen or just watch the footage of the Joker with one of his multiple doctors. Trying to find something. Something the doctors had missed. So tonight was no different. Same routine. Same maddening game.

Chapter Text

First meeting with patient name unknown, alias The Joker. Patient have symptoms of anti-social personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, suffers hallucinations, bi-polar disorder as well as delusional disorder according to Doctor Strange’s notes. The range of disorders are unheard of with any previous patients. This patient is a special case. Patient is known to be very uncooperative and has a high risk of lashing out. For the first session I plan on going over more of his obsessions. Perhaps if those obsessive tendencies can be learned to be controlled then the patient can be rehabilitated.

 

Bruce listened to the recording on his tablet as he laid against the bed. Ready to play the video of the taped therapy visit. Joker didn't exactly get Doctor-patient confidentially due to how violent his out-bursts were. He had so many therapy visits a week from multiple different doctors. They claimed it was for the best to assign him multiple doctors for therapy but Bruce knew most of them just wanted a chance to make it big with breaking the case known as the Joker. If one of them managed to get the truth out of the maniac then they would become famous. If one managed to ever cure him they would go done in the medical history books. But it was dangerous to be a doctor to the Joker. He was the most dangerous patient. That and the fact most of the doctors never lived long. Doctor Randell Kershaw was a fairly new doctor at Arkham. Only worked there for a month before the Joker was brought back the last time. Doctor Kershaw took over for Doctor Strange scheduled days for about three weeks before the psycho killed him with a letter-opener that he managed to get ahold of somehow. Bruce sighed and rubbed his temples. Another life he felt responsible for. Joker had been in an even worse mood than usual when Batman had brought him in. More like a feral rapid dog just wanting to sink his teeth into anyone. Maybe it wasn't Bruce mocking the Joker like he had said but the Joker who was always mocking him. Clicking the video on Bruce prepared himself mentally. The video of four days in Jokers eighth month stay at Arkham.

 

"Good evening, my name is Doctor Randell Kershaw, what would you like me to call you?"

 

Joker sat there in the Orange Arkham uniform. A bored expression on his face. Clearly he wasn't in his usual mood for games. Still he said nothing.

 

Kershaw shifted in his seat slightly at the silence and he scribbled something down in his notebook.

 

"What's your age?" Kershaw asked and again the Joker didn't respond. Kershaw sighed heavily. Obviously trying to figure out how to approach certain questions.

 

"You know Joker, I'm here to help you. You are allowed to speak freely." Silence again. "Do you want to talk about what happened before you came back to Arkham?" Silence again but the Joker twitched just ever so slightly.

 

"Do you want to talk about Batman?" Kershaw stepped both feet into that terror and Joker glanced at him then. Finally given some acknowledgement to the other man’s presence in the room.

 

"No." Joker said simply. It was the first word he had spoken so far to Kershaw. Joker looked away from the doctor back to the wall with a distant look in his eyes.

 

That caught Bruce off guard. Joker had one obsession and here he was offered to talk about it and refused. It had to be because of their last meeting together. Joker was obviously still fuming from it. His mood seemed to shift though from that one question.

 

"How about we talk about." Pause as he shifted more in his seat. "Your violent outburst with the orderly this morning. What had brought that on?"

 

Joker glanced up at the doctor. He didn't even smile. "I didn't like his jaw."

 

Bruce felt his skin crawl at that comment. 'Not the jaw. The mouth of a monster.' Jokers taunting words came back to him during their last fight. The question he asked Bruce to answer that made the maniac go berserk with rage.

 

Kershaw looked strangely at him. "What about his jaw set you off?"

 

"It was too normal. Good looking I suppose. I didn't like it. Needed ah new look." Joker spoke in a bored but the undertones showed his anger underneath. A slight low tone than his normal voice.

 

"He's going to need his face reconstruction surgery he-"

 

"I could do it." Joker slightly grinned and pointed to his scars on his cheeks. "I have a certain gift for surgery. Hehe"

 

Kershaw started to scribble notes down almost excitedly. "Were you a surgeon before you became the Joker?" He sounded hopeful. Thinking he may have found a breakthrough in the Jokers past.

 

Bruce already knew where this would be going. Scar stories were infamous with the clown. He was a pathological liar especially when it came to his past. Joker had claim before he'd rather have a multiple choice past. Still there were times even the detective wondered if any of the stories were true. From abusive father, drug addict mother, failed comedian, self-inflicted break down. Long lists, many stories. Were any of them true? Would he ever know? What would happen if he ever found out the truth? It's not like it would change anything. All it would give is insight. Yet here Bruce was. Undercover to get insight. Learn more. So he listened and didn't ignore the video and what he knew was going to happen anyways.

 

Joker cocked his head to the side, giving a slightly amused smile. His hands fiddled with the handcuffs he wore.

 

"Sure. That was it. I was a surgeon. Pretty damn good one. Wanna know how that went?" Joker leaned in closer to the doctor. Like he had a huge secret he was about to tell. Kershaw leaned in closer, captivated by what the Joker would say next.

 

"See Doc. I was ah top of my class in med school. Teachers pet and all that jazz. But when I actually got my doctorate."

 

"What school did you go to?" The doctor interrupted.

 

Annoyed Joker clicked his tongue. "Tsk, don't interrupt! It's rude!" He snapped. "Anyways as I was saying. When I started uh working in the field I truly felt at home. All those lives I was saving." Snicker. "It brought a joy to my heart. Heh. But one day there was this little boy. Redhead kid with dimples. Had brown eyes. Here I thought most redheads have green ya see. I took an interest in his condition immediately. He was about, let's say seven years old he looked like if I remember."

 

Kershaw was jolting down everything the maniac was saying. His complete attention not wavering from the words the lunatic spoke.

 

"You see this kid. He had a big problem. Life threatening all that. Problem with his ticker you see. Needed the best surgeon money could buy. That was me. I was a natural in the line of work. Lucky for the boy his father had money. So I took the kid on as my patient. 'Save our son!' His parents begged me and with my kind heart I said sure! Don't worry he's in ah good hands!" A burst of small giggles came from the clowns lips. "The boy though never seemed to smile. It bothered me. Sure the kid was dying but he could at least smile. Smile I told him. Learn to laugh. Haha. It became my mission you see doc. I needed that kid to smile. So every time I saw him at a visit before surgery I would tell him a joke. Not once! Not once did he ever smile or chuckle. It was becoming oh so depressing. So the night of his surgery as I came to see him before putting him under. I spoke seriously to him. Kid ya need to smile more. 'But you're not smiling! You never smile!' Redhead kid responded to me. That's when I realized he was right! In my attempts to make this little child smile more I realized I became depressed myself. It was driving me crazy! Bonkers you could say. So I did what was right! How hypocritical was it of me to ask a small sick child to smile if I wasn't? So I grabbed my surgical scalpel. Leaned in real close to him." Joker mimicked his words and moved as close to the doctor as he could with the chains attached to his handcuffs. "You're right! I should smile more!  So I put the scalpel into my mouth."

 

Kershaw eyes went wide and he had stopped writing. Looking like he was holding his breath. Waiting but disturbed by what he knew was coming.

 

"Slice, slice and boom! I was smiling! A big wide grin! I'd never stop smiling again! And guess what! The kid laughed. He laughed so hard he couldn't even breathe! Suffocating from laughing so hard! Till his little weak ticker couldn't function anymore and then there was the punchline!" Maniacal laughter filled the room. Joker was bouncing up in his seat.

 

That's when Kershaw went pale. Realization dawned on him as he looked where the toxic green eyes were looking. On the desk was a picture. Kershaws red headed son and him. It was a lie. A bad joke at the doctor’s expense. Kershaw started scratching away what he had written angrily.

 

"I think that's enough for today."

 

"Tell ya what Doc, you should bring him for our next visit. I wanna know if he's still smiling and laughing like me! Hahahaha"

 

That's when the video ended. Bruce felt cold. One day after the Joker had escaped three weeks ago Kershaw’s son was found dead in his bedroom. His mother’s throat was slit but Eric Kershaw who was seven years old had his heart cut out. With a Glasgow smile carved in the child's face. That's when Bruce had found out the Joker escaped Arkham and that was the moment he decided to go undercover. That child's death made Bruce need to be able to know what else the Joker was planning to do. Shutting off the tablet and taking out the earbuds Bruce was startled to hear tapping on his wall. What the? Getting up he walked to the right wall and put his ear against it. Tap, tap, and tap. It took a moment but the detective realized that it wasn't just random taping and had a rhythm to it. Morse code. How long had Joker been tapping on the wall? Tap, pause, tap, and tap.

 

'What you wearing?' Was the message and Bruce felt his cheeks flush in anger. He was not going to play this game. The message kept repeating. Oh all the! Seriously! He was seriously doing this! Guessing Harley must have been asleep if Joker was tapping on his wall. Glancing at the clock. Three twenty five am. It read. Grumbling Bruce went back to the duffle bag. Grabbing his cellphone. He had forgotten to text Alfred. There was no way in hell he'd respond to the Jokers annoying taping. He could always lie and say he didn't know Morse code if the madman brought it up later. Though it seemed like all his damn villains knew Morse code. Like that's the second thing they teach in costumed villain school right after how to shoot a gun and right before how to piss off Batman. Joker was the master of the latter.

 

'I'm fine Alfred. Joker has a plan today that involves Arson. I don't know more than that, just warn Gordon to have the fire department on high alert latter today.' Bruce texted. The tapping against the wall was becoming louder. No. Bruce would not deal with the maniac anymore tonight. He was already too close to losing control of his anger and the temptation to break down the clowns door and beat him to near death was getting harder to avoid. With that he put everything away in the duffle bag and hid it back under the floor board, and shut off the light and went to bed. He decided against moving the dresser back as he didn't want to give the Joker more reason to believe he was awake and ignoring him. He needed to be prepared for whatever was going to happen for the day.

 

Bang! Bang! Bang!

 

Blue eyes flew open as Bruce jumped in his sleep and shot straight up. Shit! He over slept. Not even in his disguise yet. Not good. His gaze darter towards the front door that still had the dresser propped against it.

 

"Matchy!" Damn it's the clown.

 

"Y-yes boss!" His voice was laced with sleep.

 

"Open the door! Now!" The voice growled in annoyance. Shit! Think of something fast. "Not decent boss!" Really Bruce. Smooth. He heard the banging stop and the pits of laughter from outside the door.

 

"Need ah help with that Matchy?" Change of tone meant at least the clown was no longer angry.

 

"It's alright. Be out soon." Bruce pleaded that would be enough.

 

"Well, see, ya better hurry up!" Another loud bang was heard at his door. Back to being a pissed off clown again. Bruce grumbled. Today was going to be a very long day.

 

It took about twenty minutes to leave the room. Fully disguised and ready. The only at ease he felt was that Alfred had delivered the anonymous tip to Gordon so hopefully no one would be killed today in a fire but not knowing where they would be going made Bruce even more worried. So he sat there in the bar eating the badly prepared breakfast that one of the other henchmen made. Eggs and bacon. Small meal but something to give him a little bit of energy. His sleep hadn't been a restful one. Filled with imageries of corpses and laughing clowns. Speaking of Clowns. Joker sat with his back against the wall on the other side of the room. It would look like he was ignoring Bruce but he could feel those toxic green eyes on his back. Breaking one of his Batman rules which constructed of never turn your back on the unpredictable homicidal maniac for the sake of cover wasn't helping Bruce with his appetite. Bruce could hear the other men talking about strip clubs and women they wanted. Some were talking about football games, others talking about what they would want to own in the next year. Idle chit chat for the most part. So when he felt a hand on his shoulder he had to manage all self-control not to break it.

 

 "Matches, boss wants to talk to you." The young voice broke through his thoughts. Danny was the kid’s name. Only nineteen years old and already in the Jokers gang. 'I just want to help the youth of Gotham with steady work.' Joker had claimed when Bruce asked about him. Danny was given the nickname Denny's. He joined a week before Bruce got in. Apparently how the story was told was the kid was trying to rob the restaurant and Joker was sitting at a booth eating. When a security guard panicked the kid, Danny had shot him. Brain matter got all over the Jokers food and he was so amused he enlisted the kid into his gang promising him he'd make more money than he ever would robbing restaurants. Kid was way over his head. "Got it kid." Bruce said getting up and glanced at the Joker who was watching his every move.

 

Sitting down in front of the Joker didn't ease the madman’s stare. Almost unblinking until after at least two minutes of silence the psychopath smiled. "How'd you ah sleep?" He asked conversationally. Though the hidden meaning wasn't lost on Bruce. Joker was angry about last night. Wanting answers as why he was ignored. Like it was the worst thing he could of had done to him. Like it was some big betrayal he had committed. When in reality all Bruce tried to do was sleep. Rest and relax. But that wasn't what the clown wanted. The clown wanted conversation and he had refused him.

 

Joker spent at least three hours last night tapping Morse code messages on Bruce's wall. 'What you wearing? What you thinking about? Miss me? Want to play a game? Why you ignoring me?' Were just some of the messages that the billionaire had to deal with. Morse code was starting to become one of the most annoying forms of conversation forms for him last night. Constant tapping. Repeating the same questions till Joker got bored and switched his questions. How Harley didn't wake up from all that he didn't even want to know. So how'd he sleep? Pretty damn shitty. Which was why he got up late that morning. All because the damn clown wanted to talk with him in some way or another. Jokers need for attention was driving him crazy. It took all his will power not to bang on the wall to try and tell him to stop. Not like the psycho would. It would only encourage him more. If the clown prince ever got whiff that something he was doing was bothering someone it made him continue. Getting under people's skin, making them tick. Joker lived for it. All a game to him. A game that had the vigilante losing many nights of sleep in the past and apparently even now.

 

"I slept fine. I sleep like a rock." Bruce lied.

 

Looking disappointed Joker titled his head slightly. Good, be disappointed. Not like Bruce cared.

 

"That's a dangerous habit Matchy. You never know what kinda crazies might sneak up on you being so vulnerable after all. Just ah giving you advice." That advice was a hint that he better not be ignored at night again. It was as clear as day. Don't ignore the maniac, he'll retaliate. One way or another. It's what he did. It's what he'll always do.

 

"I'll keep that in mind." Was all the acknowledgment to the warning the clown had given him.

 

Clapping his hands, Joker grinned darkly as he moved closer to the billionaire. "I like ya Matchy, you're just fun. I like that. Sooo to the point, straight forward if ya will. It's so interesting. Heh So I'm curious. Why did you choose to work for lil 'ol me? Hmmm"

 

'Because you're a psychopath that needs to be stopped. Because if I don't than who will? Because this is the only way to get you to reveal any of your secrets. Because Gotham City needs to be protected. You're the biggest danger to this city. You're a danger to everything I stand for. You're a force that needs to be stopped for good without corrupting myself in the process. No matter how aggravating this is for me, I have to do this. Because, this is what I stand against. I fight against you. Till one of us gives. It won't be me. I promise you that.' Bruce thought all of this but never uttered a word of it with his reply. Opting out for a lie that was grained in a matter of fact half-truth.

 

"Because boss, you're on the top of the criminal underworld. What could be more interesting than being a part of the action?" Was what he replied. Being part of the action the most thrill Bruce got was when he was beating the criminals. Saving people's lives. It's what he lived for. Joker lived to make Batman suffer. To anger and push him over the edge. Make Batman break. Bring out the worse in Batman. Many times the dark knight had come close to killing the madman. Many to close calls. Many times his own anger almost made him break his only rule. Way to many times that it felt too real, too easy just to snap that pale neck. Throw away the beliefs he held on to. Just never giving into that darkness that would pull him in like a black hole and never let him go. Never let him escape. Never to be able to go back to the way things were if he was taken by it. So, Bruce let him live. Joker lived only because of the sole reason Batman let him live. For that, his repentance would be to always battle the Clown Prince of Crime. Batman's promise to Joker that he won't be the one to break first and Joker's promise to Batman that he would break the dark knight first. Neither would kill the other. That how their lives would go. Bruce wanted to stop it all. That's why he was here. Find a way to do just that.

 

"Then Matchy, you came to the right place! With me you'll have more fun than you have ever had in your entire life! Hehe" Joker looked at the clock on the wall. "So, you're ready for today?"

 

"Where are we going today boss?" Maybe he could get the information out to Alfred before they took off.

 

With a small shrug, Joker took a sip of his whisky. Early to be drinking, Bruce thought.

 

"You'll find out when we get there. You'll be riding with Harley and me." He seemed less interested when he said Harley's name. That killed Bruce's plan to get the information out to Alfred before anything happened. All Bruce could feel towards the maniac sitting before him was pure hatred in that moment. "Don't worry though all the arrangements have been made. I say it's about time we made our appearance to a certain flying rat." Joker giggled and rocked back and forth in his seat. Shit, shit, shit. Bruce thought. Batman wouldn't be there. How would Joker react to that? As he opened his mouth to speak, Danny seemed to speak up listening in on their conversation.

 

"Um Boss do you think that's a good idea? I mean I heard Batman did a number on the gang last time. Why would we want to get his attention?"

 

Joker took in a deep breath and Bruce knew them and there that the kid broke rule number five. Joker turned his body towards the nineteen year old kid. "Denny's" he spoke slowly like scolding a child. "Don't you think it would be rude of me not to start a game with my bat? Hmmm did you ever think that ah maybe almost nine months without dear little me would be driving him crazy?" Not in your life Joker. Bruce thought as he gripped tightly against the fabric of his pants. Not realizing he was was holding his breath as he was waiting for the inevitable.

 

"But boss! If Batman comes surely we would all get thrown in Blackgate." Everyone went dead silent as they watched the scene between Joker and Danny. All no doubt knowing what was about to happen but no one brave enough to intervene for the kid’s life.

 

"Danny." When the Joker removed the nickname Bruce knew he was pissed. "I'm disappointed in you. Here I thought you would understand how the game worked. How much fun life could be."

 

Bang!

 

With the sound of a shot from a revolver it was over. Danny laid on his back. Blood splattered the walls and was pooling where the left of his head remained. Everyone was silent for a moment before they quickly turned and went back to eating and talking like nothing happened. Tension was all over the room but no one was dumb enough to say a word.

 

"Gothams youth is in more dire need than I thought." Joker grumbled as he turned his attention back on Bruce.

 

Bruce was livid. Absolutely livid. All he wanted was to slam his fists right into that smug face. Deep breaths. In and out. 'Make a scene and your dead.' Don't do anything rash. Can't let him know. Can't make any certain noticeable movements. Joker is always watching. One wrong move is all it would take. The blood though. Can feel it. Bruce lifted his hand and whipped his cheek. Sure enough his hand came back red.

 

"Don't like guns?" Joker questioned with a skeptical look. Like it was the most ridiculous question that could be asked in a place like this. Like people like this. Joker grabbed a napkin and handed it to Bruce. Quickly he rubbed at the blood getting as much off his face as he could. Bruce realized then that his body was shaking from his rage. No. Bruce didn't like guns. He hasn't since he was eight years old. What he didn't like more though was death. Death was the one thing he worked his life to protect people from. Joker laughed at death. It was the punchline to him. Which Batman fought him every single time to stop that punchline. A never ending battle. Two opposite ideologies clashing against each other. Wanting the other to budge. To break. Change.

 

"No." Bruce answered then realized that may have been to strange from a man supposedly a criminal. "Fire is more my thing." He added which made the Joker snicker in amusement.

 

"Hmm, maybe you're right. Watching people burn is a lot of fun." That's just sick, Joker. It didn't make him let up though. "Why don't you like guns mister serious fire pants?"

 

"Personal reasons." Simple but quick to the point.

 

"Like?" Joker continued. Damn now he was curious.

 

"Bad history with them." Vague answers was all Bruce would give the clown. His answers though seemed to make the clown more interested in him.

 

"You know, Matchy. You can tell me. I've been to Arkham enough time to know a thing or two about therapy. Let doctor J fix all those big bad memories in your head."

 

Not going to happen in a million years.

 

"How about we schedule that for another time." Bruce gave a nonchalant shrug.

 

"I'll hold ya to it." Joker smiled, sealing the deal that he would not forget about this conversation no matter how much Bruce wanted him to. There was no way he'd ever let Joker in. Never discuss his feelings on the matter.

 

"Anyways back to as I was saying. You'll be having a lot of fun today Matchy. Hehe. We should get going." Joker stood up and motioned Bruce to follow him as he walked to the door, whistling to Harley to come with. Giving one last command for the other men to clean up the mess and then head to their destination.

 

The car ride in the van was quiet. Harley was driving and Joker decided to sit in the back with Bruce. Green eyes stayed glancing out the window. Joker seemed lost in thought. Bruce would glance at him every now and again but focused most of his time mapping out where they were going by what he knew of Gotham. There were fairly few places Bruce didn't know about in his city.

 

"He'll be happy you know." Joker broke the silence. Though it seemed more like he was talking to himself as he didn't even bother to look at Harley or Bruce. "I know he missed me. He always does." It took Bruce a moment to realize he was talking about Batman. Happy? Yeah right. He was far from happy with everything going on. Joker viewed their dynamic as a game. All Batman wanted to do was have that dynamic end. Have people safe again. But always the clown got out. Always caused more chaos, more death, more of the cat and mouse. No. He wasn't happy. Not in the least bit. Missing the Joker? Now that was a thought Bruce wouldn't even try and give any credit to by thinking about it. Why would he ever miss the maniac? He hated everything about him. The way he took lives with ease. That haunting laugh. His sick fascination with the dark knight. He hated him plain and simple. Thought of him though? Yes. Bruce constantly did. Wondering when he would escape, wondering what his next move will be, where he was. Yes, he thought of him. Almost obsessively. Always needing to stop him. Always.

 

"We're here Mistah J." Harley spoke up. As she parked the van.

 

Bruce blinked. He was so lost in his thoughts that he wasn't paying any attention outside the window anymore. Hazel contacts gazed outside to inspect where they were currently. Gotham Private Elementary school. They were in the back of the school, more hidden away to not be spotted yet. Joker seriously was planning to burn down a school. During school hours! No. That made his blood run cold. Turning to look at the grinning maniac next to him he raised a questioning brow. Asking why? This wasn't sitting well with him. Young children would get hurt. This wasn't right. Bruce had to figure something out quick.

 

"A school? You sure about this boss?" Don't question the clown was a big no. He had to stop this. Do something to make sure no children were hurt.

 

"Think about it Matchy!" The giddiness in his voice made Bruce go pale. Joker had no limits to the atrocities he would commit. "It's the best gift I could give dear old Batsy! You see Matchy, Bats has this little temper problem when kids are involved. So I figured for my welcoming home gift for him why not have some fun with the spoiled rich kids. Hehehe"

 

"Joker." Bruce had to control himself from growling.

 

"Also you could cross off a school to that little black book of arson all arsonist seem to have. Hell sticking by my side Matchy you'll be more well-known than Firebug guy! Hehehahahahe told ya you'd like it! You're welcome!"

 

It felt like bile was in the back of his throat. This was not what he signed up for when he went undercover. Having it worse was how Joker was beaming at him like he just made Christmas come early for Bruce. Before he could even protest Joker and Harley both jumped out of the van.

 

"Fuck." Was spoken under his breath. Bruce quickly got out of the van as Harley was opening up the back. Makeshift bombs, guns and Gasoline.

 

"Boss. I-" Bruce couldn't allow this to happen. He had to put a stop to it before it started.

 

"Shush now." Joker said as he picked a can of gasoline and handed it to Bruce who took it reluctantly. "Boss. I don't feel comfortable with hurting kids."

 

Joker glanced at him absentmindedly. "We'll be in and out before you even noticed. Trust me. I ah know what I'm doing. Besides if any of the brats get hurt then their rich mommies and daddies can just buy new ones hehe" He licked his lips.

 

"But I-" His words were cut off as another van pulled up next to there's and the other Jokers goons got out. Some of them seemed like they weren't liking this idea as much as Bruce didn't. They may be criminals but some of them it was obvious that they didn't like the idea of children getting hurt either. A taboo for some even in the criminal underworld. The vigilante mind was going a million miles a second. Planning the best way to go along with the homicidal psychopath’s whims but to insure no children got hurt in the process. What would get the children out of the building the quickest. It him then. The fire alarm. If he can get to it without anyone noticing before the clowns plans were achieved the school would do a mandatory evacuation and could get the fire department there fast enough for any damage they did do would get cut short. It was a plan. The billionaire couldn't risk getting exposed. Not now. It wouldn't bode well for his health or anyone else's.

 

Joker spun around, his purple trench coat twirling in the movement. He was excited. Happy. To bad for him Batman was already planning to ruin his fun and he wouldn't even know it was him.

 

Sneaking into the school was fairly easy for the group of men. It was mid-day so the children were in their classrooms and not in the halls. A couple of the men carrying the gasoline and pouring it on the floor as they went. Joker had wrapped up about seventeen men besides Bruce, Harley and himself for this mission. Harley was holding the clowns hand as they skipped surprisingly silently in the halls. Bruce stayed in the back which luckily the clown for once seemed to preoccupied with his thoughts of getting Batman’s attention to notice, Bruce sliding silently without being observed by the others into a nearby hall. This had to be quick. He turned the hall and his eyes went a little wide as he saw a little girl getting a drink of water. When she turned to him he had to think fast. "Shh." He whispered and she nodded. Way to trusting of adult figures it would seem. The vigilante made his way to her as silently as he could. This might work better than he thought if he got back to the group quick. "What's that?" She pointed to the gasoline can. "It doesn't matter." He gave her a reassuring smile as best he could under these circumstances. "Listen, I need you to run. Find the quickest fire alarm and pull it." His voice was low enough for only her to hear. She looked confused. "But I'll get in trouble." She looked worried. She was a good kid he could tell. "No you won't. You'll be helping people. Go now and wait at least two minutes before you pull it." The child nodded slowly and turned and ran in the other direction. Taking a deep breath with some relief that now his secret could be hidden better from the clown he took off back to where he the group was. Counting down the minutes in his head. Joker was leaning against the wall near one of the classroom doors and his heart dropped. Don't do it. He was begging internally. Please don't. The other men were sneaking away slowly and silently to continue hiding the bombs and pouring gasoline. Harley even left.

 

When green eyes looked at Bruce he grinned big. Scars making the demented smile even bigger. Obsessive insanity showed brightly through orbs of green and it made him feel dizzy. It hurt. Reality of what his eyes spoke hurt. Joker was doing this for 'two' people. Batman and Matches Malone. It was him though that he was doing this for even if the maniac clown thought it was for two people. He truly thought that what he was doing was for their best interest. In that sick mind that's the conclusion he came to. It was disgusting. It was wrong. Dangerous. It was Joker. Doing what he did best. All Bruce could think about was that whatever happened next would all be his fault. Yet he couldn't turn back now. Drawn to figuring this madman out. Drawn to finally being able to stop all this madness that the man lived off of. Staying undercover was the only way he could figure Joker out. Playing those damn tapes and observing him. Getting into his head. Finding out what made him tick. What could finally stop him without putting him down like the dog he was. It was Batman's responsibility. Only he could do it. He wouldn't stop all because this got hard. That was all he knew at that moment.

 

Joker put his hand on the class room door. His revolver in his other hand. Then alarms went off. Loud screeching alarms.

 

"What the hell?" Joker spoke aloud. Like a flash of lightening he motioned to Bruce and opened the door. Gun fire was heard barely over the fire alarms and the vigilante carrying the gasoline can went running in after him. He knew the other goons would be running back to the vans not wanting to get caught. So all there would be is this classroom filled with children, Joker and Bruce. Their dynamic was a game to the Joker. So this game would have to be played differently than ever before if Bruce wanted people to get out with their lives.

Chapter Text

Day, seventeen of Arkham stay.

 

Joker sat in solitary confinement annoyed. He couldn't stand the drugs that were pulsing through his body. It wasn't like when he popped pills for the fun of it. This was just too much for his sensory. Ever since his nice chemical bath his senses have always been extra sensitive. So they drugged him heavy. Plenty to kill any normal person. Because if they didn't then it wouldn't affect him in the least. It was bloody years ago when they gave him a normal dose of sedatives and Joker faked being asleep just to give them a big surprise party! Now though, they had caught on. Just enough to give him the almost desired result of what they wanted. Never would he complain about it but it was bothering him now. The quack doctors loved keeping him drugged, trying to keep him quiet. It was like they didn't enjoy his games? Nah! They did. They just wanted to play too. He'll play. Today though.Today he was pretty enraged. Thinking about his Bat normally relaxed him but now. Now. Ripping out a certain flying rodents wings was on his mind. It made his head hurt thinking about it. Thinking about how the rug was pulled from underneath him. Bats allowed so much to happen when he was last out in the putrid city. Bat stayed away from him. Well no. He didn't. Joker always knew the Batman was right outside the window where ever he went, watching him. Always watching. It would have been cute if the clown wasn't so damn angry at him right now. The Bat acting so self-righteous when he allowed Joker to do his dirty work. Yes, Joker was absolutely infuriated. Beyond pissed off. So for now he'd stay in Arkham. His playmate could just deal with not having any fun for now. He was in no mood to play. Not right now. Joker would have played with the Bat but he had work to do last time. After all he couldn't have just let the others forget that this was his city. His playground. A playground he'd only let his Bat be allowed to play with. At the time he did miss the Bat though. Jonny Jonny kept things fun while the Bat stayed away but even he got dull. Always apologizing. There was nothing Joker hated more than apologizes. Why regret anything in life? Why bother? Life is fun. Life is a joke. So go with the flow. Bring the punchline to so many people's lives and watch them laugh when they got the joke. All apologizes ever did was kill someone slowly. An awful death. Never a death Joker would take or would want for someone. So never apologize. Jonny Jonny just didn't get that.

 

Jonny Jonny was thought about though by the clown from time to time. He was for a time someone Joker enjoyed being around. Fun. He had been fun. Someone that was amusing for a while. The blonde even saved his life. Only one other person ever did that and that was Bats. In some ways he missed him. Not too much. It was fun while it lasted. So he kept him around. Once he became dull though there was no point keeping him around anymore and the damn Bat irritated him. 'To mock you' of all the things that damn rodent could of said. All the clown could see was red. Wanting to end his playmates life in that moment. Joker didn't think he acted on impulse. It's what he did. Batman though being the good playmate that he was didn't let the game end so soon. No matter how irritating the Bat was the clown prince could always count on him to keep the game going.

 

The gash on his head itched but he refused to scratch at it. He may have been mad at his friend but that didn't mean he'd ruin the love mark he made. Let it scar and heal. There were plenty of scars on his body already. The more the merrier. Never apologize to anyone for the way you look after all. Leaning against the wall of his cell he did wonder if Bats was watching him now. Probably. It's what Batsy did. Let him. If he wanted to watch fine. It wouldn't bring Joker back to him yet. No. Not yet. A cool down period was needed first. New fun games to be thought on first. Sure, he'll be back. Joker would always be back.

 

 

Month two and five days of Arkham Stay.

 

Hehehahahahe! Boy! Crane experiments were a blast! That gas! Wow! Packed a fun punch! Big bad scary! Scary! That's what he'll call the good old straw head! That mask! It was hilarious! Fear this, Fear that! More fun than Strangie all right! Haha! Scary had no idea what was really scary! Maybe he should give him some lessons in that department. After all, the clown could see it now! Scary one day would be in the Bats sights! Be under the same rug that everyone was! Bat letting people stand on it but only as long as he wanted them to. Once the decision was made the rug would be pulled and down, down, down they fall. Mister scary just didn't see his fall yet but boy it would be funny. A real riot! Joker would let it happen. After all the Bat must be bored by now. Missing his better half. So let him find Scary. Wait for him to figure out what the psychiatrist did in the hidden wards of Arkham. Till then the clown would enjoy those fun games with scary. Poor Doctor Crane just didn't get it. Joker had nothing to fear but what he saw was always the Bat-monster. It made him giddy. A monster that was always trying to eat him. Honestly it made him hard most of the time! Let the bat beast devour him! Let it eat its fill! It was like Ecstasy! A great drug! Making his sensory go hay wire in all the best ways! Best part it stopped him from experiencing all the other ill feelings from the drugs the doctors put him on. Though he couldn't help but grin wide thinking about the hallucinations. More specifically how it would be if that dear Batty boy finally let go. Finally become corrupted. Those deep icy blue eyes of his that had a beast in them. Hidden deep. Locked away from the outside world. Joker had the key but he didn't know where the lock was. Which final button he needed to push to make the ticking time bomb explode. It was a thrill! A rush. Push, pushing, and all the strength it took and when finally it would fall. Satisfaction. Crowd stopping punchline! End to the perfect joke! Batman losing those pesky rules of his would be the best day ever! A true monster would be unleashed! Better than anything the world would ever see! Once the Bat finally snapped no one would be safe. No longer would there be a rug to stand on to be pulled away because the funny part is there would be no rug! Batsy would finally become what he was meant to be. All he needed was Joker to give the final push and unlock the cage. It would happen. When it did, he wouldn't be around to see it. That just made him laugh. So keep the fear toxin going through his veins! Let the clown see what the Bat would become. This was the only way he'd be able to. Once it truly happened that'd be it for him. Stand on the rug Scary! Stand and try not to fall too soon! Hopefully Bat wouldn't pull the rug from under Scary to soon. Maybe Bat would allow it. Ha! Now that was just funny hopeful thinking!

 

 

Month two and day twenty of Arkham stay.

 

Therapy, so much therapy. It seemed to be a never ending cycle for the clown. So many of the same questions by so many different doctors. The only day he ever had off from it were Friday's. It was so repetitive that some days he didn't even feel the drive to play. How depressing is that! Killing one of them never set them off their path. Another would just replace the one he killed. They were like ants, you kill one just to find ten more waiting for you. Annoying! He felt like an exterminator who just couldn't catch a break. 'How are you feeling?' Irritable is how he felt. 'What do you dream?' Lots of things, scenarios that would just make you laugh. 'What is your sexuality?' Bat-sexual haha!  'What's your name?' Joker haven't you read my name tag? Oh wait. He didn't have a name tag. Need to get one. 'How'd you get those scars?' Oh. Let me tell you a funny story! Which one do you want to hear? 'What turned your skin white?' A nice chemical bath would do that to you. You should try it sometime. 'Do you ever feel remorse?' Haha why would he? 'Have you ever been married?' See, ah not exactly the marring type. 'How do you always escape Arkham?' Wouldn't you like to know? A magician never reveals his secrets. Next! 'How's the medication treating you?' Hate it, next! 'Did you have a career before you went to commit crime?' What better life choice is there then the life he lived now? Ask another. 'Do you have any friends?' Yes! A best friend named Batsy! Don't give that look! Of course we are friends! Always will be! 'Who was your first kill?' That was one like his scar stories he'd spin a fun little tale for them to scribble down. Not all the questions were bad. Nope, some he just loved! 'How did you get into my office?' It was easy, no, no the guards won't come. 'What do you want?' To play a fun little game of course! 'Why are you going to kill me?' Because it's fun! What other reason do I need? 'Please I have a family!' Okay that wasn't really a question but he loved it just the same. But they had one question that he loved more than any other. 'How do you feel about Batman?' That one was always his favorite to answer. He loved and hated the flying rodent. Loved his violence, his brutality, the monster. His punches, kicks and his talent for breaking bones. How he spoke the maniacs language with violence. The fact he was always willing to play with the clown. Never disappointing him with always keeping his promise to play a game. His whole collection of wonderful toys! Nothing beat the feeling of a Batarang slicing into flesh after all. What he hated. His no sense of humor. It was exhausting just to get a twitch of a smile from the dark knight. Bats boring code that held him back. Self-righteous attitude when he was just as crazy as the ones he fought. Angsty! God he was just a little bat ball of angst! Always so serious! Always brooding! Mr. Gloom and depressing! How he hated that! Made him want to carve a smile into his Bat face just to get him to lighten up a bit. Yes, he loved and hated the Bat all at the same time. Nothing would ever change that. Bat was the only person who could ever be his equal. His favorite playmate. No one compares to the Dark Knight.

 

 

Month three and one day of Arkham stay.

 

More and more security improvements. More guards armed properly now, cameras and even better locks! Improvements! Improvements! Improvements! What a colossal waste of money! Not that he cared about money, he just used it but never cared about it. Others did though. Billionaire insufferable playboys with too much time on their hands was one to count right now. Joker didn't see the spoiled rich brat here during his visit to the Asylum. No. But his money investments were the talk of the asylum. Pretty boy decided to invest five hundred grand in this place! Fix it up! Help the patients! Ha! Like the doctors actually cared about that! Silly rich boy! So naive to the world. He did wonder though why a spoiled rich snob would give two shits about this place. There really seemed to be no gain for him in it. Just wasted time and money. Sure Brucey gave his reasons but it really didn't make much sense.

 

What got to him though about this playboy was that he heard his main reason for investing money was to keep the clown off the streets! Like he was just a problem to the streets of Gotham! Ha! All the clown wanted was to play! Play with a Bat. Have fun! Give Gotham a reason to smile and see the joke! No harm in that! Heh no harm what so ever! Brucey boy couldn't get that so here he was wasting his money to try and keep the clown locked away. Maybe he'd pay the pretty rich boy a visit when he got out! Yes! Tell him a joke make him see the funny side of life! After all it was his gift. Making people laugh! Hehe yes he'd definitely visit him.

 

 

Month three, day sixteen of Arkham Stay.

 

Dreams, they were always a riot when he woke up. His slumber was always filled with visuals of death, destruction and decay. Joker would also dream of Batman. He'd either kill the Bat in some, or Bat would kill him. Those were the best. When Batsy would let go and snap his neck. Oh he couldn't wait for the day that actually happened! In one shape or another Bat was always there. Never could the clown ever get away from him. Nor did he really want to. Find the Bat or run away from the Bat seemed to be a constant in his dreams. He even had sexual dreams involving the Bat. Always of a violent nature, either him hurting the Bat sexually or Bat hurting him sexually. It was never love making. Oh no. It never would be. Joker loved those dreams. They were a few of his favorite ones. Last night he had a dream where he was at the Gotham Mall. No one even recognized him as the Joker. Odd, the scars, chalk white skin and green hair should have been a dead giveaway. Blind! They were! Blind as a bat! Heh. Anyways. In that dream he was standing in line. Joker waiting in line for anything was funny enough! He wanted some cotton candy you see! Had a real sweet tooth. The line though was taking forever to move and there was a whinny kid in-front of him. Clinging to his mother asking when would the line move? Joker was amused. Not because the kid was a whinny little shit. No. He was amused by the Batman mask the kid wore! Ha! They make those things? That's what he thought. If they did where could he get one? So they waited in the never ending line. Toxic green eyes always flickering back to the annoyed child ready to throw a temper tantrum. Must be the mask. Bats seemed to get angry a lot. Shouldn't the boy be smiling? He was in line for cotton candy after all! It's that damn mask.

 Kid wanted to be as stoic as the Bat. Take off the mask he decided. Let the kid let loose. Enjoy the fact he was going to get something sweet. No ah reason to be so serious! Joker reached for the kid and grabbed him. The small body going stiff as he looked up in wary at the clown. Was he recognized? Must have been. But no one else was reacting except him and this boy. His mother didn't even bother looking in their direction. Was the world frozen around them? "Gotta smile, kid." With glee Joker ripped off the kids mask and went still. Any burst of laughter died in his throat. Behind the Bat mask, the boy had green hair, pale skin and the most dazzling green eyes he'd ever seen. What made him stop and stare though? Made his body feel like he was carrying weights was the boys cheeks. Huge cuts from ear to ear bleeding profusely. So underneath the Bat mask was a smile after all. A huge grin just waiting for the world to see! When he woke up he was laughing! So much so the guards came in to sedate him and back to slumber land he went.

 

Month four day twelve of Arkham stay.

 

Another rug was pulled by Batsy today. Edward Nigma, his last business partner when he was out last time was taken in to the Asylum about an hour ago. Edward had slipped up. Just enough for the Bat to take an interest. Really as much of a genius Eddie boy thought he was did he really think that even he was safe from the dark knight! Nope! No one was! That's how the games the Bat would play with others went. Sure, sometimes Joker hated sharing his favorite playmate with people less than they were. But can't have a Bat going lazy when he was gone after all. But damn it, Batman didn't even bother to come and say hi! That irritated him. It was like Bats was avoiding his best friend! Rude! Absolutely rude! Doesn't call, doesn't write, and doesn’t stop in to even give a spanking! Hmpf! Bat needed a lesson in friendship etiquette. Joker was generous though when it came to the flying rodent. Willing to give him another chance and teach him a thing or two. After all what were friends for? He'd do anything for Bat if he asked. Burn the city down? Ya Got it! Kill someone? Who and how? Joker would always be there for his Bat.

 

Even if the Bat didn't visit him like he would have wanted the clown wasn't going to let that ruin his day. After all today he was getting out of solitary confinement. Not a smart move everyone even the clown knew that. Strangie though! Ha! Who would trust a guy with the last name Strange? That made no sense! Arkham board really were filled with idiots! Anyways Strangie, had given the go ahead to allow Joker back out and about with other inmates of Arkham. Did Strangie really think that was a good idea? That the other patients or guards would be safe? Of course not! Joker could see it as clear as day. See Joker could read people easily, he knew exactly which ones had a darker nature in them, he loved exploiting and exploring that in people. Strangie like big bad Scary were standing on the same rug. Of course how they went about it were different. Scary stood, too much of an ego to realize that he would fall sooner standing up. Strangie on the other hand sat on it. Making it more difficult for a certain Bat to catch on and yank it away from him. Same rug, different positions. Joker would always be the one jumping up and down on it. Sometimes missing and falling himself, other times letting the force knock a bat down. Life was funner that way. Strangie would fall like everyone else but for now let him exploit his curiosity on how the maniac clown would react. After all he needed to stretch his legs and see a little redhead with a love for green and find out what he had been missing on the outside. Orderlies, psychiatrist, and guards were fun to play with for a awhile but boredom was getting to him. So while Strangie sat on the rug, the clown would play while he could. Once that was pulled away from the sadistic Doctor then it would be harder for the clown to get much free time without putting the effort to sneak out of his cell.

 

Month four day thirteen of Arkham stay.

 

"You think I'm a deranged sadistic Doctor?" Strangie asked him. Despite his question his tone was amused.

 

"Of course I do. We both know you are. No reason to hide it." Joker gave a look of mock sympathy.

 

"Because you would know anything about psychology and how to diagnose someone." His voice held that condescending tone that Joker had become used to with their sessions. Speaking of sessions. There was no camera in the room this time. Strangie must have had something particular on his mind he wanted to discuss.

 

"I know ah thing or two. After all I know a lovely little minx who used to be one before I showed her the more fun side of life." Joker grinned.

 

"Yes, we all are aware of what you did to Miss Quinzel. Interesting case that one." He mumbled though he obviously had no real interest in her.

 

"See Doc, I know what I'm talking about. Just look at you! How many patients have you driven to suicide lately? Or self-harm?, murdering other patients? Letting out the ones who aren't obviously as the world calls it 'cured'. You like to take them apart. I ah get it. No complaints from me nope! You'll get zip! I even enjoy you sending some toys my way! After all sharing is caring, at least that's what they tell ya in kiddie school. So you're fine by my book. No worries! I've never stopped someone from enjoying a bit of fun in life. If anything I love to bring it. I just don't like that you seem to hide who you are is all. Too much like apologizing. If you ask me."

 

"I didn't." Strange interjected.

 

"Your loss. I'm really an insightful individual. Hehe" he shook his head in feigned pity.

 

"That's exactly what I'm counting on." Strangie spoke as if it was a done deal.

 

That peaked the clown’s interest a little bit more. Joker already knew Strangie had an interest in him. After all the doctor pretty much gave him as much free reign as he had control over.

 

"So tell me Dr. Sadist, why are the cameras off." Joker would have pointed to the camera if his hands weren't bound in the strait jacket so all he could do is move his head in its direction.

 

"I know I don't need to answer that for you." He replied.

 

Joker couldn't help but chuckle. "Planning a date with a clown? I should warn you, Strangie. Bat may get jealous. He's kinda protective of me after all."

 

"Protective?" He questioned. Now he was interested in what Joker had to say. The clown prince soaked it up. Loving being the center of attention.

 

"Yup. He can't let me go ya see. Never ending our game permanently. Whenever I am falling from a roof about to plummet to my death, here comes the dashing dark knight to catch me! If I'm bleeding too badly during a fight between us, he'll patch me up while I'm unconscious. Real big softy he is sometimes. It's kinda cute in a sickening sorta way."

 

"Why do you assume it's because of you and not his hero complex need to save others?" Strangie mocked.

 

"It's simple answer doc. In a world that has allowed my existence the normal reaction would be to try and remove me permanently. Bat can't bring himself to do that. All right refuses to. He isn't a hero as you all think he is but more like me. I'm the only one who can understand him and he needs that. Without me he'd be alone in the big bad world. So he saves me. Deep down inside he knows we are two sides of the same coin." Joker smiled fondly.

 

"You really are delusional on your relationship of the Batman. Tell me have you figured out who is underneath the mask yet?" Strangie gave a knowing look that made Joker shift in his chair a little.

 

Why did so many care about who was under the mask? It didn't change anything. Bat was Bat. Whoever he played during the off hours wasn't who he really was. That Kelvar was his true skin. That cowl was his true face. Joker knew that. Batman knew that. It was a fact of life.

 

"I don't care who he pretends to be underneath. Even if I ever found out it wouldn't change anything." Joker responded just as certain.

 

"Then you aren't much use on any real information. I have already deciphered who the man really is." Strange started closing his notebook. Obviously done with Joker.

 

"Ya know doc. If what you're saying is true. I ah might have to pay you a little visit. Cut out your tongue for you don't go blabbing. After all can't have you ruining my playmate after all. It's my job." Joker was seething dangerously. Already starting to work at getting out of the strait jacket. If Strangie here wanted to ruin his fun then there would be hell to pay. Bat was off limits. Joker could only share his playmate so much before he had to put a stop to certain players. Strangie was now off that list!

 

"Don't worry Joker. I have no intention of destroying your game. After all it's a very fascinating dynamic between you two that I intend to explore for a little longer." Strange reasoned. Though Joker could see that didn't stop plans he had in mind. Curiosity was winning out over anger though.

 

"I should tell you doc, you're no longer sitting on the rug. You were safer there. Now you are balancing off of it. Best go back to sitting." Joker knew Strange had no idea what he was referencing. Nor did he care. It was the only warning he'd give the confused looking Doctor. Bat was going to play with the doctor sooner or later. Strangie was setting up the game with the Bat. A game Joker knew the sadistic Doctor did not know how to play at all.

 

"Then we understand each other?" Joker asked. Warning in his tone.

 

"We understand each other perfectly." Strange agreed. Both fully aware that they were on the verge of making enemies of each other.

 

 

Month four day twenty four of Arkham stay.

 

"You seem depressed today?" Scary spoke after a long silence between them. Depressed? Okay maybe he was a bit. His anger had subsided over the Bat a few days ago. Joker was missing his playmate. Missing the chase, the violence, everything! So yeah he was depressed. There wasn't much he could say on the subject. Without playing with Bat his life was boring and dull with only a few entertaining things to keep him going. The Fear toxin! Hahaha! Fear toxin it still had some amusement there. Scary couldn't make anyone afraid if he didn't have his drug. Kinda pathetic in a funny way. Yet Scary called himself the master of fear! How, bland. False advertisement if you will.

 

These 'therapy' sessions were the only ones that were never filmed. No audience to watch the performer that he was. Such a shame. Though with the upkeep on security measures the clown prince was sure that Bat would find out soon about Scary. He'd lasted longer than he thought he would. Inevitable outcome was still the same either way. Down Scary would fall when a Bat came knocking-crashing through his door. 'Experimenting on patients and innocent people!' He could hear Batsy's voice now. Oh. It'd be funny. Someone who claims to be a Master of Fear really didn't grasp the concept of what fear was. He never tangled with Gotham's Dark Knight. A monster draped in black. Icy stare that turns even the bravest of men cowed. Brutality that matched the Jokers own in different display. Scary get off the rug while you can.

 

Joker simply gave a shrug as he lowered his head to rest on the table on his arm. His mind more focused on a certain flying rodent.

 

"You haven't eaten for a couple of days." Crane spoke again. Joker gave a shrug again. "Have you been sleeping?" A slight nod confirmed he had been. "How much?"

 

Joker sighed. "Scary. We both know you don't care about those line of questioning. What you really want to know is about my fears blah blah, how I got my pale complexion, blah blah, my scars, blah brief or boxers."

 

"There's no point in pointing out the scars. You'll never tell the truth about them anyway." He ignored the others. Even though they both knew fears were most important to Crane.

 

"It's boxers by the way. I like colored boxers. Polka dots, things like that on them. Wanna see?" He spoke in a melancholy tone.

 

"No I don't. You're avoiding the question. Now there has to be a reason you're depressed." Crane wouldn't drop that part of the conversation.

 

"Missing my Bat." He grumbled between his arms. Head propped down on the table laying against his right arm.

 

Dark Blue eyes looked at the clown from across the table through shaggy brown bangs. Wrong shade of color. Joker liked blue eyes, well the Bats icy blue eyes. All other blue failed in comparison to the light blue of the Bat. The fire beneath the Bats blue orbs were always enticing. Icy Blue that seemed to freeze his thoughts whenever he saw them. A trap of the Bats own making. Trap that Joker always found himself lured to but had to keep away to prevent getting stuck.

 

"I find it fascinating." Scary murmured more to himself.

 

Acidic green looked at him. Raising a brow questioningly. What was he going to ramble on about now?

 

"Continue." He encouraged.

 

"All these months I have been trying to decipher what it is you're afraid of and now you have pretty much told me without even noticing. Fascinating indeed."

 

Sitting up at the Joker gave a smirk. Afraid? Him? Really doc? That's the conclusion you come to? Without even needing to say anything Crane could see his skepticism in his eyes.

 

"You always reference Batman as your own."

 

"He is. Bat is my property after all." Spoken matter of fact.

 

"Is he now? What makes you think that?" Crane questioned, dropping his line of questioning temporarily.

 

"Because, he is. Bat is my playmate. No one else can play with him the way I can."

 

"I don't think he sees it that way." Crane countered.

 

"He does. Trust me I ah know him inside and out. Hehe" Joker replied with a slight nod of his head.

 

Scary leaned back in a relaxing posture in his chair. Pushing up his glasses with a condescending smug look on his face. Did he honestly think he had nothing to fear from the clown? Either he was very unintelligent or very brave. Joker went with the former.

 

"I've already gathered from our meetings that you're an eccedentesiast." Crane decided to drop the previous conversation and continue. So Scary really thought he faked a smile? Ha! Couldn't he see the scars? Joker was always smiling. Always laughing. Life's one big joke. Psychiatrists with their silly diagnoses just didn't get it. How simple it was. Life if funny, Joker brought the punchline. Easy. Case closed.

 

"What's more fascinating though than the emotions you hide under your smile." Joker could not hold in his laughter at that! Hahaha! Hide his emotions! Joker was the pinnacle of acting on his impulses! Scary was so off that it was to pathetic not to be funny.

 

"Ooooo Scary, you're a riot! Have you not learned anything from little ol' me yet! Boy! This is getting sad! Haha" Joker slapped his hands on the table. Crane never had him handcuff give how enthusiastic the clown had always been to see him. Making Crane feel he wasn't really in danger if Joker wanted to see him so badly.

 

"You're afraid Batman will forget about you."

 

"Not possible! Did ya know he has a smiley face carved right above his heart? Hmmm" Joker giggled. That was a fun day but he had a lot of useless henchmen after that. Batsy had his suit Booby-trapped. It was ah electrifying!

 

"That may be true, but it still scares you. What if one day you were out playing your usual games and Batman never came? What if he never came back to as you say dance with you. How would you feel about that?" His voice was laced with smug venom. Like a snake ready to bite and break its victim. Crane played on fears. It was his whole performance after all. When he didn't use fear toxin, he used words to the same capacity.

 

It would destroy the Joker. It was an impossible thought though. One he would never entertain. Bat would always come out. No, matter what. It's what he did. Put innocent lives in danger and then boom a Bat would come breaking through glass and punches would ensue. Being afraid of that would accomplish nothing because Batsy always delivered. After all, having a hostage was like calling the bat on speed dial. Bats would always pick up the call. Did Batsy have a phone number? That was now something Joker would have to find out! Hehe.

 

"It's never going to happen Scary, ya see Batsy and I have this arrangement. I cause havoc, he comes in and chase me. We fight, he drags me back to Arkham or I get away to start the process all over again. That's the game. It makes his life complete as it makes mine have meaning. Making him sour keeps me going after all." Joker took a breath and grinned. It was about time he let Scary in on the rug he stood on. "Say Scary, wanna know what I find funny?"

 

"Poison in the water supply?" He deadpanned.

 

Over dramatically Joker gasped in mock horror. "Silly Scary. Dontcha know that the water supply is already taking years off people's lives as it is. No, no. What I find funny! Is you!"

 

Cocking a brow and tilting his head, making the glasses slide down his nose slightly Crane looked at him. "Elaborate."

 

Hook, line and sinker! Way to easy! Live and learn from the best Scary!

 

"You see, Scary. You wanna be this big scary monster. No. Don't give me that look! You do. Your whole goal of finding out what makes people afraid is kinda pathetic. Hehe I mean don't get me wrong, seeing people afraid is fun! But come on! You don't have a gift for it. I could help you with your little problem. All you gotta do is ask. I'm a very generous clown after all. Hahaha"

 

"It's not-" Crane tried to interrupt.

 

"Yeah, yeah. It's for science, blah, blah, blah!" Joker waved his hand annoyed at the interruption. "We both know why you do it. You little sadist God complex you." He batted his eyes in feigned flirtation. "But, but you ah don't seem to see that you're balancing on the rug. Don't you see?"

 

"What rug? What are you getting at?"

 

"The rug Jonny Jonny!" He stopped. Blinked five times. Cocked his head to the side in thought. Gave a shrug and sheepish smile. "Heh oops. Reminded me of a previous conversation. Eh. As I was ah saying. Mister no sense of humor is going to yank soon. That's what happens. Your whole world will come crashing down. Here's the funny part. You wanna know why? Because all this time you haven't even realized that the ah only reason you get to have any type of fun is because he lets you. Or you weren't important enough to be noticed. Hehe." A little more of a push. "The self-proclaimed Master of Fear is not even worth his attention. You'll never even be able to find what scares the Dark Knight. hehe That's funny! Jokes on you Scary!" Laughter filled the small room.

 

Crane adjusted his glasses as he went over the clown’s words. Tick, tock. Joker waited for him to respond to what he said. Come on, Scary! It's not hard. There he goes! Look at that! He's thinking. About time. Let it sink in doc. Let it all sink in. Bat was going to have fun. All it took was one little push. Joker could see it in those dark blues. Crane wouldn't try to hide it as well. Boom! Crash! He'll fall. That's how this went. Scary, was close oh so close to breaking. Bat would break him. Mold him. Into something better. Batsy was an artist. Batman made the Joker after all. A real work of art.

 

"You should talk to Nigma. He has information you'll want to know." Crane finally spoke. His sadistic glee was there, hidden beneath his anger at the clowns words.

 

Joker blinked. Confused. Edward? What was Edward keeping from him?

 

Month six of Arkham stay.

 

White, white walls. Bland. Boring. Padded. Can't even smack a head against. Pacing. So small. The room is too small! White. White. White! Needs color. Some color. Way to bland. Boring! Boring! Boring. Pace the square, back and forth, circles and back. Not enough color. Not enough. So white! Can't stand it. Going crazy! Ha! Crazy! Their crazy! Who would like white rooms anyways! Not even a single dap of color. Too bright, hurts they eyes. Way to bright. Pacing, pacing. Who could stand this! It's his fault. His! His! His! Damn Bat! Damn him! So much white. Just the thing to ah fix that. Hehe. They never check anymore. Why would they? The guards hated getting close. Always so afraid to. 'He'll kill me, you check him.' 'I'm not touching the freak!' 'Forget it then!' The orderlies always say. Freak! Ha! They’re the freaks! Thinking life has any real meaning. Never getting the joke! Ha! Like Bat. Never getting the joke. Never. Still to white. Still too bright.

 

Joker stopped from pacing and glanced around the room. Staying still and just staring at the white walls of the solitary confinement. After his talk with Edward he had gone into a complete rage. Riddler had to go the infirmary. Seven guards were killed. Joker was beyond pissed off. More infuriated than he had been in a long time. Something inside him snapped. Broke. The next month went by in a blur for him. Hardly speaking to anyone, only eating when he needed to, rarely sleeping. Not even smiling. If he was depressed before he felt dead now. Waiting. Waiting. Gone. He felt lost. So much so his docile temperament kept him out of a straight jacket. It was all the Bats fault. Why. Because of the damn Harveys. Oh sure! It was all fine and good having Joker doing the dirty work in Bats eyes, but the second his dear old ex friends begged for his help. Boom! Everything Joker had worked for gone. His city taken away from him again! Locked away and forgotten about and Harveys got to continue to run free! If Bat really wanted to act that way! Fuck him! After all he did for his darling little rodent. Always escaping, always playing, giving a challenge only he could do and for what to be ah replaced in the friend category! Wasn't right! Wasn't funny! Bat went too far. Bat would pay! Now all Joker could do was stare at these bland boring white walls. Color! Can't take this anymore! Falling to his knees he growled in frustration. Way to bright! His nails clawed into his forehead and scraped down. Again. Scratch. Again. Slice. Again. Blood. Copper smell filled his senses as it dripped down his face. Green eyes stared at the ground. Blinking away drops that stuck to his eyelashes and clouded his vision. Dripping. Dripping. Splash. Red contrasting white on the floor beneath. Joker blinked. Staring at it for several minutes. His hands moving away from his clawed up face and down to the floor.

 

Realization struck him. A small smile slowly spread on his lips before becoming his infamous grin. Red. That's what these walls needed. Crimson red. Lucky for him he had just the paint needed right here. Laughing he used his fingertips to wipe the blood from his face. Slowly he turned to face the closest wall. Using his finger to draw a tiny happy face. Better, but not enough. More, paint was needed. Sliding his fingers, he pulled up his pant leg, tapped on was a knife he stole from the kitchens. It had made walking a challenge not to split open his leg. Years of practice had kept accidents away. With how docile he was no one bothered to search him anymore. Grabbing the knife he grinned at his reflection on the blade. Setting it beside his for a moment as he pulled up his sleeve. More paint. His mind was in a mantra. Picking up the knife he pressed the sharp edge to his arm and with a quick flick of his wrist, he felt the nice sting. Pain. Pain made him feel more alive. He reveled in the old familiar feeling. His sensory making it even better. Slice. More warm liquid pulled on his arm. Dripping down the sides of his arm onto the white floor underneath. "Can't waste the paint" Joker mumbled to himself.  His fingers dug into his cut as he faced the wall and started drawing with his own blood. 'Haha, smiley faces and Bats' written in blood on the white padded walls. Cutting his arm when he needed more. It all made him feel more like himself. Each new cut made his brain frizzle with the pleasure of it. Using the knife to cut deeper now into his forearm. "Can't cut to deep." The words were giggled out as he stood up to continue his work around the room. Slice, dig, paint. Repeat. Was all he could truly think about. White slowly becoming contrasted with the crimson of blood. It made the room easier to stand and his eyes hurt less. His pale skin of his arm was coated in red from all the gashes he kept inflicting. It wasn't enough. Joker stopped and pulled his shirt up. Tracing the scars and leaving bloody streaks on his skin. His other hand traced the flesh slowly with the blade, cutting slowly, savoring the sting. Warm life giving liquid trailed down his abdomen. "Much better." He purred. Using his fingers to continue his work. Each new tear and slice into his skin was starting to make him feel dizzy as he stumbled in his walk to the other side of the room. Panting. His body telling him it needed a rest. So when he finally fell to the floor he laid there, breathing in the comforting smell of copper. His groin ached and that's when he took account how constricting his pants felt.

 

His hand traveled down to his groin, slowly pressing his palm against the bulge. "It's been awhile." He mumbled as he slowly pulled down the sweat pants of his Arkham uniform. Fingers fiddled with his polka dot boxers unleashing his aching member. Tracing his fingers against the shaft. His other hand lifting up his shirt more. Left hand caressing the burn brand that was over his heart. Purring at the memory. Bat had a real dark side to him. A taste for violence. Several years back he had started branding the worse of the worse of criminals with his mark. A bat. How cute! Hehe. Bat didn't intend to brand Joker where his heart was. No. That was Jokers doing. Branding Joker was the goal of course. Anyone the Bat branded was like a death sentence when Batsy couldn't break his own rule himself. Funny. It was as close as the Bat was willing to go. Joker couldn't exactly remember who he killed to piss off Bat so much for him to react that way. When green eyes gazed at the burning brand all the clown could do was laugh and be excited. A mark just for him! Hehe. So when Bats was about to Brand him Joker grabbed his hand and pushed forward with his open chest for it went right above his heart. Even now as he stroked his hard erection, he could still smell his flesh burning. The agonizing bliss of pleasure as his skin burned away. Bat would have only left it burning for a second or so but Joker kept it there as long as he could. All that was left was a nasty burn of a Bat. Batsy never branded anyone again after that, to disgusted with himself. Such a shame. Joker repaid the favor though by carving a smiley face onto the bats skin. Same place he was marked. Bonded together. Forever.

 

Stroking his hard erection wasn't doing it for him. Picking up the knife he placed it against his thigh cutting into the flesh. His cock twitched as his thumb rubbed against the head. His breath hitched at the sensation of pain and pleasure. Violent images helped with his growing arousal. Joker imagined the Bat. Strapped down, vulnerable and at his mercy. His hand started to pick up speed as he cut a little deeper into his bleeding flesh. His Bat would have most of his armor removed in his fantasy. Never the cowl. No. Not the cowl. But some of the vulnerable man underneath whose skin was begging the maniac to be rend. Now that was an image he could get off to. He'd delicately at first cut into his Bats flesh. Yes. Just like that. His left hand left slight cuts into his inner thigh. Joker could hear the bat gasping in his ear. Oh wait that was just him. Hehe. Bat would deny anything hurt as he would dig the knife deeper into his flesh. Joker’s right hand left his erection temporarily as his hand rubbed into the blood leaking out of his thigh. Coating his hand more with the sticky substance. Blood made for good lube, he had learned. Bringing his hand back he grasped his cock and squeezed. Moaning at the feel. "Bats." He gasped as he worked his movements faster. His cock soaked in his own blood now. Bat wouldn't beg. But oh would he do his best to make him. He would remove his cod piece and see those defiant eyes glare at him. So perfect. Another moan escaped him. Left hand moved to stroke his own chest with the blade. Slight cuts here and there. Precum already dripping from the tip. Licking his lips, he arched his hips up with the movement of his hand. Closing his eyes. Once he had removed the cod piece, oh that's when the fun would began! Bat would be hard. He knew that. Bat was so much like him that violence would arouse him. Bat would deny it. Joker could see it though. Faster his hand moved as he sliced into his own hips. Gasping for air as pressure was forming in his balls. Just need a little more. Joker would take the Bat into his mouth, make him writher and gasp as he tried to hide his pleasure. 'No. Bat. Don't hide it.' He would coo. Joker wouldn't deny the Bat. He'd cut his flesh and give him pleasure as he did so. After all he was a very generous clown. Or he'd kill the Bat. That was an arousing idea just the same. To see the life leave the Bats eyes as the last thing he saw was the Joker. Vile things he would do to his corpse sexually. His hand moved up and down on his shaft even faster. Violently fast. A loud moan escaped the Jokers lips as he felt the tingling sensation of pressure over come him. No. No. No. He'd keep the Bat alive. Yes!

 That's it! His breathing was fast and he was starting to feel dizzy with so much pleasure coursing through his body. Joker felt like he could just pass out from all the sensations he was feeling as his orgasm was on the horizon. Just imagining seeing the bat in so broken, so much ashamed, but letting go. Being free. It was too much. The sensation too much. Joker gasped out, sweat stinging the cuts on his body as his orgasm came. Cum squirting into his hand. "Batsy!" He yelled out as he came. His body was exhausted. His head fuzzy. Blood painted his chalk white skin red just like the walls in his room. Opening Green eyes he gazed down at his cum and blood smothered hand, bringing it to his lips he licked. Tasting salty and copper he purred. Wondering if that's exactly how Bat would taste when the clown finally took what he wanted from him.

 

Month seven day thirty one of Arkham stay.

 

Joker sat in the cafeteria. Edward the riddle obsessed weapons dealer was having a discussion with the now associated with being a patient instead of a doctor Jonathan Crane. Scary had been brought down by Bat a couple weeks ago. Joker had laughed the whole time when he found out. Apparently Bat, did a number on him and exposed him to his own creation, breaking poor Scary's mind. Scary had a new fear and apparently only one, Batman. Scary, who was so obsessed with fear now would forever tied to the Bat if he wanted to experience it for himself. It was absolutely better than Joker could have predicted! Bat created his own friends after all. Must be ah lonely. Doing what he did to Scary was just beyond funny. He'd have to applaud Bat when he next saw him. Destroying someone so badly was a real treat. He just wished he had been there to see it. Joker played with what Arkham called food. Barely even paying attention to the conversation. Edward had been pretty standoffish around him anyways. After, his little redecoration of his solitary confinement cell, Strangie had ordered that the clown couldn't handle being locked away from the main populace anymore. Now that was funny.

 

"You really are a narcissist you know that." Crane shook his head and grumbled. It was obvious to any on lookers that Crane was ready to kill the man of riddles.

 

"It's not my fault that you're insignificant mind can't even comprehend a basic riddle. Doctorate degree really didn't help you in the slightest now did it?" Riddler retorted.

 

Joker blinked. Just now picking up on the other two men conversation.

 

"Sooo Eddie, how long ya planning on staying? Hmmm." Joker purred and grinned as Edward went still when the clown addressed him.

 

"Not long, as you know Arkham is practically a revolving door." Edward scoffed in disgust.

 

Revolving door. Heh. That went with a theory Joker had about the Bat. Always locking up his most famous friends in Arkham. Not all of them were insane as the doctors put it. Here they were though. Always back in a place they could easily escape. Bat must have planned that. Didn't want to get bored. So subtle Bat. Really, all he should do is ask if he wanted to play so badly. Like a light switch it hit him. He'll get out tomorrow he decided. Been putting it off for far too long anyways. Oh how he missed the city. He could practically taste the pollution on his tongue right now. Bad weather that rarely seemed to ever go away. Dank alleys where fun games were played. Drugs easily available. Weapons easily available. Fun. Fun. Fun. Best of all the Bat would be waiting for him. How Batsy didn't go crazy yet he didn't know. Ohh but what fun would it be if he did! Hehehahahahe. No. Can't get too worked up yet. Crane and Edward were both staring at him as the clown was bouncing up and down on his seat. "Planning on leaving soon?" Crane asked and Joker simply giggled. "Thought so." Crane mumbled as he drank his juice. It was obvious they were just as surprised as Joker was that the madman hadn't broken out yet.

 

 

Two weeks after Arkham stay.

 

Joker paced around the iceberg lounge waiting for penguin. He had been out for two weeks now. Committed a few necessary murders, robbed a bank for some needed cash, got into contact with a few old of his hired help, and even got ahold of a place to stay. Needless to say he had been a very busy clown. Now he just needed a few more people to work for him. Going to Penguin who he called Abner was the best way to do it. The fat bird always had connections to the worse of the worse thugs Gotham had to offer. When the door opened to the birds office Joker gave a mock smile.

 

"You're late." He mentioned, glancing at the non-existent watch on his wrist.

 

"You're early." Oswald sighed in annoyance. Joker just knew how to get under his skin. Oswald had a reputation for always being on time with his clients.

 

Tilting his head, the clown smiled. "So are they here yet?" Joker asked wanting to get down to business.

 

"Yes, there's about ten men downstairs in the back."

 

"Ten seems like a small number." He commented.

 

"Well, your reputation isn't exactly a good one." Oswald gave a shrug.

 

Joker slid across the floor and draped his arm around Oswalds shoulders. Green eyes gazed down at the shorter man. "Oh? Why do you say that? Hmmm here I ah thought I had a fun reputation. Always telling funny jokes and all. Who wouldn't want to work for silly ol' me? Unless you're saying that's how you feel Abner? Do you not like our business deals? Not ah fun enough for you?" His tone that stared off sweet and pleasant turned dark and dangerous. Penguin was now walking on thin ice with the psychopathic clown. Sweat was starting to form on the fat man’s brow. As he nervously shifted away from the arm draped across him.

 

"Of course not, Joker. I'm just stating you have a reputation of killing people who work for you." It was obvious he was hoping his words weren't make the clown mad.

 

Joker laughed and smacked his back hard, causing Oswald to stumble and almost fall to the floor. "I only kill the boring ones hehe. I'm sure you picked out some with a sense of humor at least."

 

Oswald adjusted his suit and nodded still very uneasy around the clown’s presence. Gesturing for the clown to follow. Joker simply giggled and gave a mock arm gesture to lead the way.

 

"So how long do you think it will take for Batman to come looking for you?" Oswald commented as they walked. Passing rooms where normal guests would never see. If the screams were any indication.

 

Joker simply gave a shrug. "Bat, is always watching Abner, ya should know that by now"

 

"Well, I honestly prefer to stay out of Batman's sights. Bad for business when he's poking his nose in my affairs." He replied.

 

"That's where we disagree. Bat is a lotta fun to mess with. I'm sure he's up there on the roofs seething at the thought of me being out." A big wide grin spread across his face. "Gives the best feeling in the tummy just ah thinkin' about it."

 

Oswald stayed quiet after that. Smart enough not to comment. Joker simply hummed a tone he heard on the radio over here. Way to amused to be annoyed by the smaller man’s silence. Abner really didn't mean anything to him after all. Just good for business. Bat though. That's what he was looking forward to. It had been way too long.

 

Oswald opened the door and let Joker walk in first. Knowing full well, that no introduction needed to be done. The ten different men, sat, stood or leaned against the wall of the medium size room. The walls were decorated in an old fashion etiquette kind of way. Not that Joker cared much. It was just a meeting room he had been in countless times over the years. The men were talking amongst themselves until they heard the door opened and spotted the clown. Some of them looked surprised by his appearance. Obviously hearing of him but seeing him was different. Each one, Joker could read like an open book. Which one were cowards, which one were brave, which one spent to many nights partying. They were all bland. Sighing. His green eyes glanced once more and spotted someone leaning against the wall in the back. Although he looked to be relaxed his posture had a hidden commanded control and dominance. He was well built, even Joker could see that under the man’s black dress shirt. The man was tall, just a bit taller than himself. Had a very light beard going on. Light brown hair was slicked to perfection except for a few stray bangs. Dyed? Joker noticed. His hair was dyed. As he took more of a glance at the man as he moved closer to him silently. Like a moth to the flame. Having dyed hair didn't surprise him. Many men in the business they were in dyed their hair. Avoid detection, recognition and all that. Hazel eyes met his toxic green gaze. Everything seemed to stop in that moment. Not being able to put his finger on why, he walked even closer. Ending his movements just before he got into the man’s personal bubble. Everyone in the room went dead silent. Expecting a clean-up most likely. At closer inspection, Joker could see the slight Raven black roots before the dyed brown took over. His mind instantly tried to picture the man with black hair and liked where it went. Moving now into the man’s personal bubble. What perked his interest more was no matter how close he was getting the other didn't even seem to react. No fear, no worry, it was just like he had seen the clown many times before. A reaction Joker was not used to at first meetings. His eyes wondered to the movement in the others mouth. He had a match stick sticking out of his lips, obviously chewing on it. Oh! He liked that! He had a like for fire he could see. Kindred spirits and all that.

 

"Name." Joker said simply.

 

"Matches Malone." Matches replied.

 

Matches, now that's fun! Sounds like gasoline. Joker oh so loved gasoline.

 

"Matches I like that! Reminds me of everything fun in the world besides being named Batman!" He exclaimed excitedly. Tapping his finger on his cheek in thought. "I ah think I'll call ya Matchy! Yeah. I like that. Don't you."

 

"Call me what you want. Makes no difference to me. Knock yourself out." Matchy responded with a smirk. Straight forward. Interesting. Most weren't so straightforward with him. Afraid to say or do the wrong thing. This was going to be fun.

 

"What type of ah jobs you used to?" Joker asked. Intrigued.

 

"Arson." Matches replied. Like it should have been obvious. Joker giggled at that. Arson was one of his own special hobbies.

 

"I think you'll like workin' for lil ol' me then heheh." Joker grinned happily.

 

Joker had already decided he liked the guy. He was looking forward to see what he was capable of. After all there had only been two other people in Jokers life he took an immediate liking to, Batman and Jonny Jonny. The clown guessed he could count Harley in that but that one was more of a interest in her name and slowly as he picked apart her mind and rebuilt it to his liking did he find much interest in her. She was useful. Batman and Jonny Jonny though had something in them that made the clown drawn to them. It didn't last with Jonny Jonny. Maybe Matchy over here would last longer keeping his interest. The strange attachment was stronger with this first meeting. Joker couldn't explain why but he saw something dark, something fascinating when he looked into those hazel eyes and he was determined to find out everything he could. The way Matchy portrayed himself to outside observers was different than who he was on the inside. Joker could see it. But couldn't figure out what it was that the man was trying to hide. It was interesting. Matchy had caught his full attention and Joker was determined to take a peek at the contents underneath. If the arsonist wanted to hide something from the clown then Joker would figure it out. After all the darkness he could already sense from the other man was intriguing enough. The clown spent a lot of times with the worse of the worse Gotham had to offer and of course he was at the top, Matchy though. There was something about him. Something. Joker liked it. A whole new game was going to happen. He needed something new to play with anyways.

 

"So, when do I start?" Matches asked.

 

"Right Now." Joker purred as he leaned in closer, very amused at the idea of a new play toy.

Chapter Text

Sadistic glee radiated in those acidic green eyes. Shining brightly with malice amusement. His grin wide and that laugh. All familiar, all sickening with how entrancing it was, like watching a car wreck. Each movement, each over dramatic gesture with gun in hand all familiar. Joker was performing. Bruce was seething. Same familiar feeling. Not same way to fix it. Joker spun around and smiled at Bruce's entrance. The blazing fire alarm was making his ears ring. Glancing around the room Bruce took into account the twelve terrified children sitting in their seats. Eyes wide with fear staring at the maniac who was laughing in full blown amusement. Bruce gathered the children were about in either second or third grade. Young enough not to know what to do but old enough to know the danger they were in. Sobs finally broke through to his ears as he registered where the gun shot went off. Laying in a pool of blood was a woman. Early thirties he would take a guess. She had been shot in her hip. If Bruce had been in his Batsuit he would already have already started to beat the Joker into the ground where he stood. Wipe that smug grin off his face. If he was in his Batsuit this would be going very definitely. Taking in a breath already formulating what words may get through to the madman he opened his mouth to speak only to get cut off by the loud raspy tone of the maniac’s voice, yelling to be heard over the alarms.

 

"So, kiddos, you may be wondering who I am. Hehe I guess your teacher didn't get the memo that there was to be a substitute teacher for class today. Hehe" Joker used the tip of his boot to kick the teacher on the ground. It looked and felt like he was kicking a wounded dog who didn't obey its master. The Clown Prince of Crime was known for mocking his victims before he killed them. On many of an occasion the maniac would leave Batman videos of him killing his victims slowly. Always mocking the dark knight. Telling him how he wasn't fast enough to save them, how he was leaving a gift for him, how this was what Batman had caused because he wouldn't take that final step and be free. Every time it had the desire effect, the vigilante would find him and break a good number of the psychopathic murderer’s bones. Never killing him but making sure he'd be out of commission for a while. This time there was no filming, this time no message was trying to be made, it was purely for the clown’s sick amusement. Bruce didn't know what made him angrier when the clown was doing it to piss off Batman or when the madman was doing it for sick fun. It wasn't the time to think on that though. Innocent lives were in danger and Bruce had to be sneaky to save them. Giving up his identity to the clown would just make matters worse. Bruce knew that. If he wanted to get the children out of this alive he'd have to be smart about it. He could hear outside the classroom children and staff in the halls to follow fire alarm Proto code. At least they'll be out of harm’s way. Less people in danger. Less to worry about.

 

"Boss." He spoke up loud enough to be heard. Joker put a hand to his ear leaning his body closer. "Ah, can't hear ya! Speak up!" He yelled. "Shouldn't we be getting out of here?" Bruce yelled and in that moment the fire alarms went off. That made him nervous. He didn't want students returning back into the building. He'd have to think of something fast. That's when gunshots fired in the building somewhere close. Fuck. He wanted to say out loud. Looks like Jokers men didn't get out of the building yet. Obviously he miscalculated how loyal the goons were to the Joker or more like too afraid to fail him. Damn. How many of the bombs have they set up around the school by now? He wasn't exactly paying much attention to them when he entered. All he could hope for now was that Alfred's warning to Gordon would make the GCPD more inclined to show up. That would give the clowns men reason enough to leave. Joker gave a mock wince and jumped back over dramatically. "Jeez, Matchy, no reason to shout." He whined and then turned his attention back to the terrified students. "Now, ya see kiddos. We are going to play a little game."

 

"What g-game?" A little boy in the back asked.

 

Tapping his fingers loudly on the desk, Joker gave a look of complete annoyance, aiming his gun absentmindedly towards the student. Bruce's muscles tensed, wanting to jump into action. Don't do it Joker. His mind was screaming towards the clown. His body subconsciously took a step forward. Every internal instinct putting him in like a predatory state ready to attack his prey. It took all of his will power not to tackle the gun wielding maniac to the ground.

 

"Haven't you learned any manners kid? Didn’t this teacher teach you the proper way to ask a question?" With the gun in hand he gestured it towards the bleeding woman on the floor. "Guess, with all the money your rich parents pay for this school it could of at least hired more competent teachers." He sneered. His gaze wandering back to the student who spoke out of turn. "Raise your hand next time got it!" He growled, before grinning again when the boy raised his hand. "Much better. You!" He pointed the gun back at the child. "Speak." The clown ordered.

 

"What game?" The child was shaking badly.

 

Joker gave a clap of his hands best he could with one of them holding the gun and snickered. "It's a fun little game. It's called who's going to be my hostage." Bruce felt grim dread seep into his body. For a good reason as the clowns next words confirmed his growing suspicions. "See, plans went a little differently, as you heard a moment ago." He was talking about the fire alarm and Bruce knew that. "No, matter. Not all fun is lost, you see. Hehe. Only one problem that needs fixin' first. There's just too many of you for me to bother with. I am not exactly fond of little brats. The special um." Joker tapped the gun on his chin. Gun safety was a concept completely lost on the purple clad man. "Speaker, loves kids. Has a soft spot for them if you will. I'll never understand why, but no matter I can be kind enough for him to add annoying brats to our game." Bruce hated how he was talking. Like he was doing a service for Batman. His knuckles gripped tightly on the gasoline can. How he hated how the maniacs mind worked. Joker continued speaking, completely not paying attention to the growing storm raging inside of Bruce at that moment. "Point is, we all need to decide who that lovely volunteer is going to be. Have to be a good one though, can't have our soon to be guest thinkin' I'm not even trying for him. Oh, no can’t have that. Besides this isn't only for him." Joker now moved his head and bopped it in Bruce's direction. "Kiddos can you believe it, this lovely arsonist over there has not even burned down a school?!? Seems absurd am I right! No reason to answer. Of course I'm right. Always am. Hehe. So shall we begin? Any questions? No, don't bother. Let's get the show on the road. Times a' tickin'."

 

Bruce gritted his teeth in annoyance. Biding his time as he glanced around the room thinking of anything he could use to get the children out of this situation. Joker loved to talk, if anything it was one of his weakness that and his need to keep games going as long as they could. Bruce was determined to use that to his advantage. First he needed a plan. The classroom was fairly small in size. Not much as far as use. There was a stapler but that would take a lot of force if he needed to knock the clown out. There was a letterhead but he wasn't going to stab the madman. Chairs were too small and wouldn't be much use. So far he didn't really spot anything other than a pole to hold the American flag, the base was metal though so maybe that could work. If he could hit the clown over the head fast enough. But that could get him caught before he made the action, the stapler was starting to seem like the best course of action. Of course he also had the gasoline can as an option but it was just plastic so not much weight there.

 

"P-please. They are just children..." The woman on the floor gasped out. Joker grinned down towards her and squatted down beside her, pressing the barrel of the gun on her head. "Tsk, tsk. Sorry sweetie, you're aren't part of this act. Dead weight after all heh. I know you're young and all but I think it's about time you retired. Don'tcha worry, the kiddos are in very capable hands hehe." Just as Bruce was about to launch himself at the clown the gun went off. Blood splattered on the clowns purple trench coat. The children screamed and just about as they were to run out of their seats Joker turned to look at them. "Did teacher say you could get up? Hmmm no? Then sit down!" They complied. Crying and shaking from terror. Smell of urine from one of the children became potent in the small room. As Joker stood up he gave a disgusted face at the children. "Brats not even potty trained." He groaned annoyed. Bruce was beyond livid. Barely having even an ounce of control over his body. Another life taken without even caring from the maniac.

 

"Now, let's get the game started. So kiddos, which one of your fellow classmates is-oops I mean was the teacher’s pet? The sweetest kid of you all? Hmmm." Joker purred.

 

Bruce got what the game the clown had in mind instantly. He wanted the children to decide who lives and who dies before killing them. Making them somewhat responsible for who he killed next. It was sick. Bruce needed to step in quickly. His eyes glanced the stapler again. Moving a less than an inch closer to the desk. Avoiding Jokers attention at that moment. Lucky and unlucky for him the clown was preoccupied with his view of a performance. All Bruce needed was one good hit to the back of the clowns head. He'd deal with the consequences after the children were safe.

 

"C'mon I don't have all day." Joker aimed the gun at them and Bruce froze. One child pointed at a little boy sitting at the front of the rows of desk. It was the same child who had piss himself. Joker grinned in amusement as he pushed himself off the desk and walked towards the kid. Looming over the frightened boy. "What's your name squirt?" He cooed. Mocking a friendly demeanor. Faking that he was harmless which everyone in the room knew was not the case. Bruce got even closer to the desk while the clown was distracted. All the clown cared about right now was playing his game. As the child opened her mouth to speak an obnoxious beeping sound was hear. Joker grump led as his free hand started going through his pockets. "Where the hell did I put it?" He spoke under his breath. By the fifth ring he fished out his cellphone and tapped the screen, putting the phone to his ear. "What! I'm busy at the moment!" He snapped causing the children to jump. "Wait what?" He took a step back. His face looked confused by whatever was being said over the line. Bruce watch him cautiously. "That's odd." He shot a look in Bruce's direction, then turned and walked to the small window in the classroom, taking a peak out the blinds. Bruce took that moment to grab the stapler, moving it behind his back and hiding it on his pants belt and under his shirt, putting a finger over his lips to tell the children watching him to be quiet. "They're early... They're never this early." Joker spoke on the phone. The clown then broke into maniacal laughter. "Time to speed things up. Set a few off Harl. No! Don't argue! If they are here then Bat is to or on his way! Gotta get the ball rollin'. Just do what you're told!" He yelled as he hung up the phone and turned to face Bruce. A big grin on his face despite sounding angry a few seconds ago. "Bat will be here soon, ah be on guard Matchy. Fun is about to begin."

 

Just then the room started to shake violently. Bruce had to hold onto the wall for balance. The maniac was laughing loudly as all the children screamed out and quickly got out of their seats and hide under their desk. The explosions could be heard and his heart began to pace quickly. The maniac was going to get them all killed! How many bombs were in the building? The billionaire was trying to remember. Ten bombs. Most of them were small with how much damage they could inflict but the madman had planned on burning down this entire school. Ten. That was the number. By the sheer fact that they were still alive right now meant that the bombs that went off were farther away in the school. How long though? How long will it take for the madman to set them all off? Batman wouldn't show. That's what the clown wanted. Batman to play his sadistic game. If Batman didn't show how would the maniac react? He was quick to temper tantrums when things didn't go his way.

 

"Hehehahahahe! What a rush!" Joker spoke through a fit of giggles once the room had finally stopped shaking. "That will get Batsy here quickly!"

 

"Are you trying to get us killed?!?" Bruce couldn't stop himself from snapping at the lunatic.

 

"Matchy. What's wrong? Don't enjoy a little boom! Hehe! Relax! Now." Joker turned his attention towards Bruce and gave a sweet innocent smile. "Be a dear little arsonist and start dousing the little brats." He giggled happily.  Bruce stiffened. That was not something he was comfortable with at all.

 

"Boss." He spoke carefully. "I told ya outside, I'm not comfortable hurting children."

 

"Trust me Matchy, it isn't much different than killing an adult. Well, they do scream differently but that's about it hehe." Joker didn't seem to understand why anyone wouldn't want to hurt a child. His malicious for the world prevented him from understanding basic empathy. How someone could live like that Bruce couldn't comprehend. It made the clown seem inhuman at times. His appearance did that enough but his whole view of the world was twisted. Bruce always had to remind himself he was dealing with a man. If he didn't than the urge to kill the maniac where he stood grew almost unbearable at times. Batman didn't kill. That's how the world worked.

 

"I don't exactly see the appeal in hurting kids Joker." Bruce spoke bluntly.

 

"That's because you haven't tried it. I keep tellin' you to lighten up." Joker was now getting a bit agitated in his tone.

 

"Boss, I just can't find the humor in this."

 

"Your nickname is Matches and you can't find the humor in dousing some brats?" Joker titled his head. "If I had the nickname Matches, I'd be burning down everything and everyone I saw." He laughed then. "Though I guess I already do that to an extent. heheh" his eyes spoke more to Bruce that his view should be easy to accept like it was the normal solution.

 

"Burning down buildings is different than setting children on fire." Bruce stated as a fact, even though he wasn't an arsonist it seemed like the best choice of words.

 

Joker licked his lips and drummed his fingers on the desk, looking Bruce right in the eyes. For a moment he seemed to be contemplating what Bruce had just said and then shook his head annoyed. "I'll tell ya what Matchy, I like you... But ya see we will be having a special guest coming any minute now and I don't want to have to shoot ya, but I will if you mess this up. No hard feelings really. Just Bat and I go way back. Can't have the game ruined by a new guy ya know. So." He gestured his gun in Bruce's direction, finishing his sentence with that action.

 

The vigilante had to think of something quick, he could already smell smoke in the building. Gasoline. It would of helped cause a fire! Shit! There wasn't much time. Get him to talk.

 

"Shouldn't we get out of here?" He asked carefully.

 

A shot was fired near were Bruce stood. The bullet near inches from his head. Adrenaline was pumping through his blood. The maniac had given him a warning shot. Something the madman was not known for. He gave threats, he gave warnings with his words but when he was pushed to actually open fire he rarely missed and never on purpose. Keeping people alive wasn't in the Jokers usual game plan. Only time he really didn't go for killing blows was when the psychopathic clown was fighting Batman or fully needed to make a point clear which he usually opted out for murder instead. Needless to say the billionaire was only alive at that moment because Joker didn't want him dead. A fact that he would use to his benefit.

 

"Tsk, do I have to say it again Matchy." Joker asked disappointed. It was obvious that despite the fascination the clown had for 'Matches Malone' that when push came to shove he would choose playing with Batman above all other things. His obsession was now fueling his actions. Impulsive, Joker was impulsive. Games, games went along with that impulsion.

 

"Boss, aren't you forgetting something?" Bruce gave an amused look. Play the game differently. Don't ruin the cover, yet save their lives in the process.

 

"Hmmm?" The clown was hardly paying attention as he glanced at the window fondly. It was pretty clear he was waiting for Batman to come bursting through.

 

"Your game with the kids." Words bitter on his tongue. Not liking that he was putting the kids back in danger. But if the children had gasoline poured on them, saving their lives in a burning fire wouldn't help. Bad as it was that would just make things more complicated. Besides having his attention not on Bruce was the best way he could get a blow in while they the lunatic was distracted. The vigilante would have never done this as Batman. It made him feel uneasy and sick. Even as Bruce Wayne he would do this but he was Matches Malone right now, he had a role to play and that role would play the game the maniac set up differently.

 

The psychopathic murder snapped his head to look at Bruce, and a thoughtful expression appeard on his face. "You're right. I did tell the brats we'd play a game first and I am a man of word hehe. Oh Matchy! What would I do without you?" He teased fondly. His previous aggravation seemed to dissipate as he moved back to the little girl hiding under her desk. His gun tapped the top of the wood. "Tsk, ah think it would be in your best interest to get back in your seat." He tapped once more and gave an exasperated sigh. A little girl trembling started to come out from under the desk terrified. "Please. Don't hurt me..." She whispered out.

 

Joker gave a mocking look and pointed the gun at his face. "Silly, do I look like some monster who'd hurt a child?" It was a rhetorical question. Still the child gave a slight nod and the clown smirked slightly. "So this is how the game works, pay attention. I won't repeat myself. First tell me who the trouble maker is in the class room."

 

She didn't seem to want to answer but once the gun was pointed back at her she mumbled something.

 

"What was that?" His sing song voice spoke to her.

 

"Billy." She spoke up a little louder this time.

 

Joker grinned and tapped the desk of the little girl loudly. "Billy, come up here now." He waited but when nothing happened he turned his attention towards Bruce who was looking nervously at the door behind him. Smoke was starting to become more potent of a smell as the fire outside the room was coming closer to their location. The explosion mixed with gasoline would soon start to engulf more of the school in a blazing fire. Jokers men had done their jobs of making this plan of burning down a school more effective over a time period that they were now running less and less out of time if they wanted to get out alive and unscathed. How much of the school was on fire yet, Bruce didn't know but he really didn't want to find out. If any of the fire hit any of the other bombs then they would end up dead soon enough. Time was not on his side.

 

"Boss, we really should get out of here." Bruce sounded nervous as he turned his attention back to the clown.

 

Shaking his head the clown grinned in pure maniacal pleasure. "Bat isn't here yet." His smile seemed to fade a bit. "Not here yet..." He mumbled again. Before turning his attention back to the crying children hiding under their desks. "We need to finish the game before he comes. So Billy get the fuck up here now!" He was becoming unhinged. Bruce could see it. Joker’s voice sounded harried. The vigilante was running out of options.

 

A little boy slowly got up, a child with auburn hair and light brown eyes. Coming closer to the clown with shaky hesitant steps. A sweet smile spread across red lips of the madman. "That's right, come a little closer. Sit right next to her Billy. So you're a troublemaker hmmm?" He spoke with a sugary sweet voice. "Kinda... I don't mean to be...." The kid responded nervously. "Hey. Kid. Don't. Ever. Apologize. Just some advice. Now here's how the game is going to go." Joker moved his gun and slowly took out all the remaining bullets except one. Placing the three bullets he had left in his jacket pocket. Spinning the chamber he grinned. Russian roulette! Really! He can't be serious! No way. Bruce thought.

 

Speaking of his thoughts. Why hadn't the GCPD not even attempt to enter the building? They were tipped off that Joker was planning something. They were outside the school as the call to the Joker mentioned earlier. Yet. Nothing! Bruce was starting to feel angry at that. Nothing was going as it should. Nothing at all. Were they really just outside waiting for Batman to do the work for them? Probably? But they should have noticed Batman hadn't come yet? Batman usually would have been there by now. Batman had dealt with so many hostage situations in the past, to many to even count. Always he showed up almost in a blink of an eye to the scene and handled it in the best most effective ways he could. More so when children were involved. Even Joker knew that. Was the police system depending on him too much to even bother with trying to do their jobs now? Most likely. GCPD was corrupt, always had been, very few of the officers were good men and women. Gordon was the best of them all. Was Gordon outside? Probably. Still nothing was happening? He knew by now Gordon would be getting angsty without Batman appearing and most likely was forming a plan to save the children. Bruce was on his own. He knew that and the clock was ticking away.

 

The psychopathic murderer pointed the gun in the little girls face and she started crying even harder, begging him not to kill her. "Shhh, here's the game. It’s a little tid bit taken from Harveys I'll admit but still fun. I'm going to pull the trigger and the gun will either go bang bang or it won't. Get the picture. Here's the best part. You two get to choose who I aim at. You can choose yourself or the other. The winner is the one who doesn't get shot. So let's start with the goody toe shoes. You or him. Hurry up now." His tone that was spoken to the children was very blithe. It all came down to the clown’s mad philosophy. Always the maniac preached Batman's ear off how monstrous people were. How they will throw each other under the bus when the opportunity presented itself. A philosophy that Batman fought with him on day in and day out. Joker always claimed how dark the world really was, how it was all meaningless and one big joke, Batman claiming how there is good in people, hope for a better world and that life has meaning. A battle of ideas that would never seem to end. If one lost then they would break. Ideals that made them who they were. Shaped them. That was the point of this game. A point Joker always would do his best to prove.

 

Before the girl could speak though the clown glanced at the window. Seeming to lose interest when he was so excited before. It was strange, in that split second his whole demeanor seemed to change. Like a melancholy draped itself around the maniac’s giddy homicidal mood and strangled any happiness from his body. Joker was mumbling something that Bruce couldn't really hear from his position. Questions were forming in his throat. Wanting to break free to the surface. The children under the desks who were mumbling to each other went silent as they took in the clowns mood switch. All in the room were confused. Bruce more so than the others. That's when Joker started to pace back and forth in front of the desks mumbling to himself. "Where is he?" Bruce managed to pick up the mantra of Jokers words. A tone in his tone that sent a chill down the billionaire’s spine. "Where is he?!?" Joker yelled out as his hand started to wave the gun around. "He's never this late!" His words held a cold venom. Desperation in his voice. "He never lets me play this way without coming to try and stop me." Joker spat out like he was begging for the window or door to be broken down in that moment. For Batman to make his appearance. Joker stopped pacing, looking at the window his back turned to Bruce. This was the moment to act. "Does he think I'm not serious? That I won't kill these brats? Does he think I'm not holding my end of the game up? Bat. Oh naive Bat. Do I have to show you? I'll do it. You always come. Oh yes. Protective you are. Protective of them but most of all protective of me. Hehe. Fine. I'll show you, I can play it your way Bat." Bitter laughter engulfed the lithe frame of the psychopath. As the maniac used his left hand to pull out a device. Bruce's eyes widened as he pulled the stapler from his belt, setting down the canister of gasoline and silently approached from behind the clown. "I'll blow everything up for you Bat. Hehe that’ll make you come out. You have to be here. You always are. Hehe. Boom Batsy, Boom-" Before the madman could push the button the billionaire used as much force as he needed to, hitting the Joker right in the temple. Joker did not even know what hit him, his gun and the device fell to the floor as his body dropped. The clown was always hard to knock out with one blow so the vigilante made sure to put enough strength in it to accomplish his goal. Bruce had learned the most effective ways to knock someone unconscious quickly through his years of training. Now at his feet laid an unconscious murderous clown and a room filled with shock children. There was a small gash wound on his temple, dripping blood. Bruce could see the shallow breathing so he knew he didn't kill the maniac with the blow. How Joker would react to this latter, well that was something he'd have to deal with at a later time. As Bruce turned to face the children to give them instructions the room began to shake violently again. Shit. Another bomb in the building went off even closer to them. Not much time to get everyone out. Bruce glanced at the Joker and knelt down next to him, his hand started searching his coat pockets. He felt an assortment of knives, bullets, and another gun. Bruce had come to learn over the years that Joker was always prepared with how many weapons he carried. Once he felt the cell phone he pulled it out. Touching the screen he was surprised that there was no passcode needed. Though how many people would ever get close to the maniac to check his phone was a very small list. Going through recent calls he hit the call button for Harley. It only took two rings for her to answer.

 

"Yes, Puddin?" Her voice spoke through.

 

"It's, Malone, get the van ready, we are coming out." Bruce went straight to the point.

 

"Where's Mistah J?" She sounded concerned and angry.

 

"Just get the van ready." He almost growled in his Batman voice but controlled himself. Not really wanting to deal with her shit at the moment.

 

"But-" he hung up on her and turned towards the children who were now standing up in surprise.

 

"Listen, we need to get out of here now. Everyone hold hands with the closest student next to you and follow me. You'll all be okay. Just follow my lead and I promise you all will be safe." Bruce spoke as he started to lift the Joker up over his shoulder.

 

"Why are you saving him?" A child asked.

 

"He was going to kill us." Another one spoke up.

 

"He's a monster." A child cried out.

 

"Because it's the right thing to do. All life is important, even his, even after everything he is still a human being." Bruce spoke up though his voice was bittersweet. Like he was debating the words that he just spoke himself.

 

The vigilante did debate with himself for a second of leaving the clown behind. It would have been easy not to save him. To let him die by the mess he started. Hell Gotham would be safer if he did. Batman would be safer. Everyone would be safer. Joker was like a plague in this city. Slowly eating it away like a cancer. Destroying everything he came into contact with. Laughing at everyone's misery. Bruce often thought about letting him die. Just ending all the mayhem and insanity the murderer brought to his life. Batman's life would be easier if he just let him die or killed him. He couldn't though. Despite everything this lunatic has done, he couldn't let him die. It made Bruce question his own sanity at times. How he might be self-destructive by keeping this madman alive. Joker was in a way a self-inflicted pain that the vigilante placed on himself. A darkness that haunted his own existence. Mocking him, laughing at him, wanting to see him fall, to break all because it would be funny. Because that's what Joker wanted, him on his level. One and the same. Maybe it was true that Bruce was self-destructive when it came to Joker. Maybe he was falling into madness by the need to keep him alive. Scars that lined his body as permanent reminders. Lives lost that were because he just couldn't do what everyone in Gotham wanted him to do. No one could understand what he had to carry. A burden that Batman had placed on his life. Did he want to do this forever? Of course not. Always battling an endless battle that strained him both psychically and mentally. Answering the maniac’s violence with his own. Different philosophy's that oppose each other's existence. His world consumed by death by the maniac’s hands. Fighting insanity with his own sanity. A knife edge that he couldn't get off. That's what the clown always kept him on. A knife edge. Wanting him to fall. Batman couldn't fall, couldn't take the easy way out of their dynamic. Joker was his responsibility. Joker was created by his failure. If Batman just was able to catch him, save him. Now he was stuck with always having to save the maniac from himself. Yes, Joker was a disease one that was eating Bruce from the inside out. One that he didn't have a cure for but was determined to find one. If he could just save him, truly save him from this life of destruction then Bruce would finally be able to have repentance for the cancer on Gotham he created. So here he was, saving him again. Risking his life to do so. That's what Batman did. Save people, despite what was best for him in the long run and Joker was the worst thing imaginable for him in the long run. All he could hope for was that the disease Joker was wouldn't consume him in the end.

 

Bruce went towards the door the children shuffling behind him. Following his lead like he told them. Trusting him to get them to safety. Even here he could feel the heat outside the door. Another bomb was close by and Bruce knew it was a matter of time before that one went off and they would all be dead. Joker had planned on killing them all moments ago just because Batman hadn't showed up. It was insane logic for the maniac. He had truly believed that if the last remaining bombs went off, Batman would be there in a second to stop it. In a way he was right. Because that's exactly when he had acted to stop the madman. Bruce started to regret not acting sooner. Instead of going by his instincts he let the clown continue his game and now he wasn't so sure any of them would make it out alive. It was a risk, a risk he was certain he should have made just yet. All that mattered now was getting everyone out alive. So he tested the handle which was warm but not beyond hot, he opened the door and the classroom engulfed in black smoke. Luckily for them it didn't let the fire in. "Use your shirts to breathe easier. Try to stay as low to the ground as you can to prevent breathing in much smoke." He warned the children. The vigilante knew full well in most house fires, smoke would cut off much needed oxygen and end people's lives before the fire ever touched them. Adventuring outside the room felt like he had entered a furnace. The fire had spread and was closing in on them. Black smoke filled the halls. They had to get out of there quickly before the fire either killed them or another bomb went off first. Carrying the clown over his shoulder didn't deter his progress at all. He'd often as Batman carried the unconscious maniac many times. It was becoming a very usual routine for him.

The fire and smoke was making his vision blurry and his eyes sting but still he continued to lead the children through the burning hallways through the school. They needed to get to the first floor soon. Smoke was suffocating his lungs and it made him worry even more for the children. Each several steps he took, Bruce would look back and call to the children to make sure they were still following. His eyes were also searching for a fire extinguisher which surprise there wasn't any. For a private school it seemed that any money this school got went more into the pockets of administrators than actually helping the school. The greed of Gotham never seemed to end no matter where he went. The billionaire pressed on, avoiding the flames. Crackling of the fire muffled the sounds of the terrified sobs of the children behind him. Looking ahead Bruce saw the stairs which meant an escape path to the downstairs level of the school. "Come on." He called to the kids as he hurried his pace. His ears barely heard the sounds of little feet running on behind him. Bruce reached the top of the stairs and stopped, glancing over the shoulder that didn't have the limp body of the madman he could barely see through the dark fog of smoke. With each student he finally could see he counted in his head by two. Sighing out a breath when he counted all twelve and he started to usher them down the stairs carefully. That when the heat intensified. One of the bombs had obviously gone off on the first level. Everyone was coughing the smoke was becoming too much for the children. All Bruce could do was continue to press them forward. His head was feeling dizzy from all the smoke and his vision was watering. The vigilante was getting nervous and to make matters worse he could feel the maniac over his shoulder starting to shift a little. Damn it. Don't wake up now! Can't deal with that now! Forward keep going forward. As he turned the corner he saw a firefighters. They were finally getting in the building to help fight the fires. Bruce turned pale though, he couldn't go with them. After all he had a convicted mass murderer over his shoulder and being in disguised wasn't going to go well for him either.

 

Bruce looked at the coughing children then back at the firefighter. "Over here! Get them out! There's more bombs!" He shouted and got the firefighters attention. The vigilant didn't feel right about leaving the children but he had to put his faith in the fire department and get out another way. Best to avoid police officers that were surely outside. "Trust the firefighter." He said to the children. With that he took off running as fast as he could while carrying the Joker. The children yelled for him to come back but he kept running. Breaking into a sweat, pushing his body to the limit in this heat. Everything was so hot. His lungs felt like they were on fire with each breath he took in more hot air with smoke. As he slid with his footing he spotted the next corridor and turned to the left. That's when he spotted a fire exist. A clear path for the most part. At last. With as much forth as he could muster he started to run. Unaware of a waking clown on his shoulder until he felt a slice of pain in the back of his thigh. That's when he fell forward and hit the ground hard. The clown falling and rolling with him. Damn the maniac’s collection of easily accessible knives. Now was not the fucking time. Bruce grumbled as he slowly pushed himself up, lifting his head his gaze went straight to the disoriented clown trying to move any part of his body. "Bats..." The clown mumbled with a broken raspy voice that turned into a coughing fit. "Damn it Joker." Bruce growled out as his bleeding thigh was killing him as he tried to stand. The bastard was going to get them killed! They were so close. Each movement shot more pain in his thigh. His eyes went to look at the back of his thigh. It was a sloppy stab wound. Joker was usually more precise, like a sadistic artist. His head wound combined with the smoke was making the lunatic sloppy. Crawling to his hands and knees he forced his body to stand causing spasms of pain in his leg. He'd live. No permanent damage that much he could decipher after years of experience getting stabbed. Limping he moved to the clown who was still trying to sit up and groaning. "Joker listen to me. I'm going to help you up. Don't you dare try and stab me again." He warned. His tone not hiding his venom at being stabbed while trying to save the others life. "Sure Bats." He responded not above a whisper, not even opening his eyes to see who he was talking to. It didn't matter. If it helped Bruce out at that moment then he'd use it. After all even if the maniac didn't know it latter when he fully came to, he was still right. It wasn't an easy task with a leg wound, if it wasn't for the fact he had spent years perfecting his skills and body he wouldn't have been able to lift the clown up to a more standing position. Bruce still had to exert more energy to keep him and the maniac moving forward. Pain through his leg was demanding him to stop, lack of oxygen from the fire was demanding him to stop, blurry vision was demanding him to stop but Bruce wasn't going to listen. If they didn't get out now they would die. As they finally made it to the door, Bruce touched the handle to be sure, it was cool. Good. He pushed open the door and saw the bright light of the sun. He kept moving. The next bombs would be going off any second. Luckily they were in the back of the school not the front. His sense of direction wasn't completely off then. As clean air as Gotham city had filled his much needed lungs. Cold fall air felt great against his heated skin. All he wanted to do was take it all in. Not yet. His leg was bleeding and they were still too close to the building. So he pushed forward, passing the playground and stopping by the fence that excited the school. Lucky for them both the GCPD was being slow today. Waiting for Batman to show up would give them a clear getaway. The sounds of Explosions caught his attention as he glanced back at the school, engulfed in flames and starting to crumble to the ground. There was nothing he could do but hope the firefighters got the children out and no one was left inside. He'd find out by the paper tomorrow most likely. For now all he could do is hope and that's exactly what he was going to do. As Bruce slipped the Jokers cellphone out of his pocket the clown mumbled something that gave him pause. "I knew you'd protect me Batsy... I love that about you.... You just can't let me die can you?..." His voice was soft like he was speaking to a lover. Joker wasn't even bothering to lift his head, like he truly knew it was Batman who was keeping him up and saving him.

 

Everything felt cold at that moment despite how hot he felt around the fire moments ago. Eyes darting to look at the limp body barely coherent next to him. A cold darkness overcame him. Realizing how the maniac could only believe that Batman would save his life made him feel cold inside. Sure he had save his life countless times but the sheer fact that Joker trusted in him to always be there to save him perplexed him. It unnerved him. Troubled everything in his core. That got beneath his skin more than the insane man’s sexual innuendos he always insisted on. He didn't want this realization, this look inside the maniacs head. It tore at him. He never saw it before, he thought he knew what the clown wanted but now he realized what Joker also wanted was to always be protected by Batman. Joker wanted both worlds, protected and killed by Batman. It troubled him. How he would process that information he wasn't sure right now. Bruce couldn't be everywhere at once even if he wished he could. Joker’s life was dangerous, enemies of the clown around every corner, people who would do anything to end the maniacs life. How he managed to live so many years being as reckless as he proved to be surprised the vigilante. It's like fate wouldn't let him die. Wouldn't give the antidote that he was to this city. Either Joker would always survive the impossible or Batman would save him. Bruce knew that he'd always save the clown when he was around to but how Joker believed in him to do so at any moment made him uneasy. If he hadn't been in disguise, there in the classroom and Batman never showed Joker would be dead right now. Killing himself and the children in just a belief that would bring the dark knight. It wasn't for a psychopathic murderer that had stepped in to stop him. It was for the lives of the children. Yet, only when Bruce realized that he was going to kill everyone did he step in. Just like Joker wanted. Batman to save him, yet even when Bruce did just that the madman stabbed him in the thigh. Risking both their lives to die in a fire. Death and Joker went hand in hand. A master of death, he killed as simply as breathing but also expected Batman to be there to try and stop him. Not just stop him but to protect him always. Criminals didn't live long in their line of work. A thought that often kept the vigilante thinking of when the kiss of death would come for the clown. If Joker had his way the Dark Knight would be that kiss. To end his life. It was a living contradiction in belief the mass murderer had. Wanting to be saved and wanting to be killed by only one man. It seemed Joker wanted both but which one would win out when all is said and done in the end. When the timer goes out for them both. Bruce couldn't win, saving Joker meant more death would come and killing him would mean Batman would fall. As the clown was always prepared for Batman to play, Bruce would be prepared for the day when a decision would really need to be made. That's what this was about. Finding the best way to end things. Yet, the realization of how much this madman counted on Batman to always save him filled him with dread of the unknown. Something he'd have to complicate latter as they really needed to get out of there. He hit the call button and waited. His wound needed to be stitched and bandaged or he would pass out soon. The present was what needed his attention right now. Just the present.

 

"It's Malone. Get the van to the back of the school." Bruce spoke the minute he heard that the call was picked up. Even in disguise he held his straight to the point attitude he used on everyone. The second he said Malone, Jokers head snapped up and green eyes looked directly at him. An indescribable look was present on his face. "Got it but we are having a talk Matches!" Harley sounded very angry. He hung up the phone and his attention turned to the clown looking at him.

 

"You hit me." Joker spoke after a moment. It wasn't a question it was a statement.

 

"You were going to kill us all." Bruce retorted.

 

"You hit me." Joker responded.

 

"You stabbed me. Consider us even." Bruce gave as much of a shrug as he could. Honestly he was feeling dizzy from his wound, all he wanted was patch up his wound and go to sleep.

 

"You. Hit. Me." His voice held a dark tone.

 

"I saved you." Bruce spoke which made Joker just stare at him and go silent.

 

The van pulled up, and Harley jumped out barely waiting for the van to stop. Chuck was the one driving. It didn't surprise Bruce that the other men would have already left. Hell he figured Chuck would have been gone but it seemed Harley wouldn't let him leave. The woman was obsessed with her delusions of love when it came to Joker. The clown only showed her any interest to keep her wrapped around his finger. Most of the other goons Bruce had learned made her out to be a joke. She was dangerous though and completely devoted to the madman no matter how many times he had abused her. Harley ran up to them and pushed at Bruce. He winced slightly even if no one would notice at the pain in his leg. Stab wounds were never a fun experience. "What the hell happened?" She yelled at him before turning her full attention to Joker. "Puddin are you okay? Want me to kill him? Puddin? Mistah J?" Harley cried out panicked. Joker wasn't paying any attention to her, his gaze was dead set on Bruce. It was disturbing as he couldn't place what he was thinking. Was he going to order for Bruce's death? Was he going to let what would be considered a betrayal go? Or was he so focused on the fact the 'Matches Malone' saved his life? All options weren't favorable. Bruce already had his full attention no matter what form he seemed to take. It suddenly made him very nervous with those green eyes staring at him. Flaying him apart, layer by layer. Was he figuring out that Batman was in disguise? Would the connection of 'Malone' saving his life make him connect the dots? He hoped not, it would bode to well for him whatever the maniac was thinking. Harley turned to face Bruce again and pulled out her gun. That was not favoring well for him either. Bruce really didn't feel like dying just afterescaping a burning building intact.

 

"Okay Mister! You better tell me what you did or I gonna put a hole through your head!" Harley aimed the gun at Bruce. But before he could act and disarm her, the madman spoke up. "Harley! Put the gun away now!"

 

Blue eyes of the blonde looked at him in concern but she wasn't stupid enough to argue with him on the matter. She glared at Bruce one more time before putting her gun away. Joker glanced down at Bruce's leg as Harley started to wrap her arms around the clown. Nuzzling her cheek into his shoulder. Desperate for any affection he would give her. Like a dog begging for love from an abusive owner. It was sad. It was pathetic. It was a sickness that Joker took full advantage of. One time Joker joked shortly after he manipulated her that if he could do the same to Batman that he'd be in heaven. 'To have a tamed bat on leash' would be the best thing in the world. Bruce broke three of his ribs for that comment. It just was too much of a disturbing thought for Bruce to react in any other way than sheer violence to get him to shut up. Of course nothing ever shut the madman up. If he got under Batman's skin he'd continue to do the same thing over and over again. Always getting what he considered to be a positive reaction. "Harl, be a dear and help Matchy to the van. Do you still have the medical supplies we keep just in case of Bat?" He spoke but didn't really seem to be interested in what he was saying to her as his toxic eyes stayed on Bruce.

 

"Yes, Puddin, but you need help!" She whinnied.

 

"Harley. You are going to help Matchy and stitch and bandage his wound." There was a promise of violence in his voice. No room for argument. Though his words surprised both Harley and Bruce. Joker never really showed care for the ones that worked for him ever. So him being so dead set on helping Bruce was the strangest thing either of them ever heard. Even more so for the vigilante in disguise. After all, he had just ruined the clown’s fun, knocked him out and that was less than enough for the maniac to kill someone. Hell breathing wrong was enough for him to kill someone. Just existing was enough. Him wanting to have anyone bandaged up and taken care off was beyond unheard of. It was downright unprecedented. That thought alone along with his earlier realization about Joker wanting Batman to protect him could keep Bruce up for weeks just trying to reason everything out. Normal reason and logic though never worked with dealing with the likes of the Joker. Best to expect the unexpected with him. If you wanted to live that is.

 

Sighing, she reluctantly pulled away from the maniac she was in love with. "Whatever you say Mistah J." Even Bruce was reluctant to have her help but the pain and sheer exhaustion was weighing him down. Without protesting he let her help him walk to the van as the murderer walked behind him. He was half expecting to be stabbed in the back but it never came. That honestly surprised him but then again Joker was always predictable. Once they got to the van, Harley opened up the back doors and allowed Joker in first. His footing was still sloppy, Bruce would be a bit surprised if he didn't have a small concussion. The billionaire had the rougher time getting in as Harley basically pushed him in hard. Obviously angry at him. Making him stumble as his leg wasn't much use right now.

 

"Harley." Joker growled out. Not liking her actions was as clear as day with his tone going deeper. Why he even cared still made no sense in Bruce's mind. It's not like he knew it was Batman that she was being rough with. If he did, well this situation would be going completely differently. It was aggravating regardless though. He was getting pushed to his tolerance level today and if Harley kept it up he wasn't sure if he could prevent himself from breaking her arm.

 

"Won't happen again boss." Harley grumbled out her dismay of the situation. She climbed into the van and closed the vans doors. Joker hit the side of the van. "Back to the hide out Chuckles." He grumbled out as he rested his back against the wall and stretched his legs out. Green eyes locked on to Bruce but he didn't say anything. The movement of the van moving was the only sound that could be heard over all three of their breathing.

 

Harley grumbled as she grabbed a bag and started to look through it. Pulling out medical supplies. Made sense, after all the times Joker had escaped he must have been hurt badly after battles with Batman. If he didn't have medical supplies ready then he may have bleed out a long time ago. Bruce turned his attention on her. His body was exhausted and he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. It dawned on him though that stitching up his wound would resort of him having to pull down his pants. A thought that nauseated him. Especially around two homicidal maniacs.

 

"I can take care of it back at the hideout." He spoke up. There was no way in hell he'd let her or any of them stitch him up.

 

"You can bleed out." Harley didn't really seem against that idea.

 

"I've had worse." He said simply.

 

"Tell me how do you expect to stitch a wound that you won't be able to reach smart guy." Her tone showed her sarcastic bitterness. Harley really didn't seem to care of helping anyone's wounds. Well anyone besides Joker.

 

"I'll manage. I've taken care of enough injuries over the years." More like Alfred did, but there were times he had to deal with wounds on his own.

 

"Fine, bleed out for all I care." She shrugged.

 

"Don't count on it. It's not even life threatening." Bruce said a bit smugly.

 

"Not yet." Harley threatened.

 

"Kiddos enough!" Joker snapped at both of them and both their heads turned to the clown. "Matchy just suck it up and let Harley work! Harley threaten him again and you can just go back to plant bitch." Despite his tone he was acting very withdrawn from the situation. More like he was scolding spoiled children.

 

"But-" both Harley and Bruce said in unison. Neither one of them wanted to go along with this.

 

"One more word." Joker warned and closed his eyes, leaning his head back. His words leaving no room for argument.

 

Harley growled in revulsion at what she was about to do. The feeling was mutual. Being vulnerable to a crazed love struck killer and a psychopathic mass murderer were not an ideal situation. Sighing a much needed breath, Bruce closed his eyes trying to calm down. Breath in, breath out. Could be worse. He could have blown up with that school. Or the wound could have been worse. Everything so far could have been worse and his only solace was the fact he managed to save the children's lives without having his cover blown. That's what truly mattered. Once he got back to the hideout he could rest and try and put this whole day behind him. Rest he needed rest. A hard poke on his head made him open his eyes and glare daggers at the woman he was starting to despise despite the usual pity he normally felt for her. There was only so much he could take of her annoying attics, he already had one annoying clown he didn't need another.

 

"You'll have to pull down your pants and lay on your stomach, there's no other way I can stitch the wound." Her face distorted in disgust.

 

No. He didn't care what the madman said earlier to stop their argument there was no way in hell he was going to go through with this. Bruce shook his head no. He had his dignity to maintain. If Joker got angry right now he didn't honestly care. Harley went silent for a moment as she looked back at the madman who had his eyes closed then back at Bruce. Biting her bottom lip obviously nervous. Repercussions of denying Jokers biding did not fare well for anyone. It gave her just cause to feel overwhelmed. Joker was not a forgiving person at all. Only Batman ever earned that considered honor in the psychopaths mind. Like Batman ever needed a reason to be forgiven. He wasn't the one killing innocent people. Though that image would make Joker a very happy clown. What wouldn't make him happy is Harley not listening to him. Didn't matter if Bruce was being difficult, the fact of the matter when Joker wanted something done, he expected it to be done no matter how impossible it might be. God help the person who failed the murderous clown. Yet, right now he just couldn't care anymore. Bruce had dealt with too much for his liking today and he had no intention with dealing with more. He'd take care of his own wound when they got back. After all it's not like he truly needed their help anyways. His temper and pride was getting the best of him and as he now stared in blue pleading eyes he couldn't find enough pity in him to comply. 'Please' she mouthed silently, not wanting to get the attention of the psychopath she loved back on them. Another shake of his head was making Harley fidget. Joker had warned them not to say one more word on the matter so a silent battle of looks was forming between the two. Bruce had no intent on backing down. Harley mouthed 'Just do it.' Bruce gave a defiant smirk and mouthed back 'No' this was only making her face go red from frustration. Blue eyes glared into his hazel contacts. 'Now' she mouthed but would have yelled at him if she wasn't in the proximity of the homicidal clown. Shaking his head again he met her glare with his own. Stubbornness was a trait he had become a master at. Try as she will she wasn't going to get him to listen to her. She looked like she was ready to hit him but restrained herself. It was in that moment they both agreed that each other was the most annoying person they could deal with right now. Bruce was winning the battle, there was absolutely nothing she could do to him that Joker wouldn't notice. Giving a Bruce Wayne victorious infamous smug smile at her. Both meant to be charming and arrogant. All his attention was on Harley and so he blamed his exhausted state on not seeing the quick movement of the maniac until a needle went into his neck. Fast, he was always so fast. Can't keep forgetting how fast he was. Underestimating him was always a bad idea. His heart sunk as regret consumed him. Giving in to Harley's demand would have been the more intelligent choice. Being unconscious was an even worse outcome than dealing with humiliation of the situation. All he heard was a yelp of pain from Harley as his vision went black and his body went limp.

 

Soft, it was so soft. Warm, everything was so warm. Comforting. Not wanting to move at all the billionaire pushed into the soft surface and curled up more into the warmth. His worries seemingly forgotten. Like nothing in the world mattered with how comfy and warm he felt. Instincts were buzzing in the back of his mind to get up. Warning him that something wasn't right. That he was forgetting something he shouldn't. What could that be? Groaning his head pushed into the softness. Wait? Is that a pillow? Did he fall asleep in bed? Like a bullet being discharged from a gun he shot up so quickly it made him disoriented. His body crashed back down into the bed. Head smacking the soft pillow. Groaning as he tried to get his barring's back from the dizzy spell. Hidden blue eyes opened through heavy eyelids. Memories washing over him. Bastard used a sedative on him. Fuck! Eyes went wide as he glanced around the room quickly. Doing the best he could to take everything in. Dark, the room was dark. His hand reached for the lamp that he could make out on the desk. Pulling the cord, bright light shocked his vision forcing him to shut his eyes. Bruce felt like shit. It would be so easy to go back to sleep but panic was destroying that thought. Quickly his hand went to touch his chin, a bit of relief washed over him as he felt the fake facial hair still in place. He opened his eyes again and looked down at his clothes. Same clothes as earlier. Good. If Joker ever saw the scars on his chest then the connection would be made immediately. He turned his head back to the night stand. Blinking when he saw folded up paper with 'Matchy' written on the front. Joker seriously left him a note after sedating him. Groaning he reached for it and unfolded the paper to read. He noticed a sandwich underneath the paper. Seriously? It was written in what Bruce hoped was red ink.

 

Dear, Matchy mic Matchikins.

 

We're even now for you hitting me on the head and knocking me out. I wouldn't recommend doing that again though. It's not always fun. Unless a flying rodent is doing it Hehe. Anyways your wound is stitched and bandaged up so you might want to take it easy for now. Have to admit it wasn't my best work but that's not my fault after all I didn't ask to be hit over the head! Who would have guessed that Matches were afraid of fire, though I guess it makes sense they are, don't want to burn out of existence after all. Hehe Anyways to the point try and relax though not to easy don't want you to get lazy on me after all. Don't worry, no one but me and Harl saw you with your pants off. Black boxers really? I need to take you shopping, add some more color to your dark wardrobe. Don't want people confusing you with Mr. Glum dark and brooding. I gotcha covered pal, no need to thank me latter. Did you realize how heavy you are? Chuckles could barely even move you to the bed. It was pretty funny. I have to say. That boy has a temper on him. Complaining about this and that. He sounded like Harley for a while there. Oh I left you some dinner since you'll most likely still be sleeping beauty by dinner time. So here's the thing fire pants we need to talk tonight. I'll be on the roof around two am. Don't be late or I'll have to come visit you. Feel better soon! We have some work to do in a couple of days. Won't spoil the fun. You may be all serious like but trust me the more time you spend with me the more of a sense of humor you'll get.

 

~J

Xoxox

 

Crumbling the paper in his hand and tossing it in the drawer of the night stand he looked at the sandwich. There was no way he'd eat anything Joker made. Besides he had food in the mini fridge in the room anyways. The billionaire wasn't exactly happy that the maniac was in his room but there was nothing he could do about it now. The note still made him sick. Made him feel violated in a way. Not wanting to dwell on it too much though. Bruce had come to the conclusion before going undercover that things Joker did would make him uncomfortable anyways. That seemed to be a gift of the madman. Sighing at a meeting he'd have to go to he glanced at the clock. It was already midnight. Two hours and then he was expected to show. Whatever sedative the clown used knocked him out for a good while. Grunting while sitting up he sat on the edge of the bed. Bruce honestly didn't even want to get up but he needed a change of clothes at least, he'd have to wait a bit on the shower until he could change the bandages. Still he reeled of smoke. Lazily he pulled off his black tee shirt and dropped it to the floor. He'd pick it up latter. If Alfred was there he'd be disappointed by that action. It made Bruce give a small smile he missed Alfred. With all the insanity he was becoming accustomed to Alfred had always been his rock. His anchor when his own darkness threatened to swallow him whole. He wanted to talk to him. Slowly he lifted his body off the bed, gritting his teeth at the pain and dizziness from the sedative still coursing in his blood stream, he limped to the small dresser. Moving it caused him to wince and breathe out heavily. The day's events had taken its toll on him. Squatting down he pulled out the loose floorboard and grabbed his duffle bag. Already still exhausted he decided to sit on the carpet instead of moving to the bed. Leaning his back against the wall he zipped open the bag and grabbed the cellphone. Turning it on he waited as he leaned his head back. Closing his eyes. Overwhelmed was how he felt. The events at the school were to close. If he hadn't acted everyone there would have died. He could say it was a job well done that he saved the children, but it really wasn't. No. Instead of feeling good, he felt drained. Making realizations of Joker made him drained. Drowning, he felt like he was drowning. Grasping just the small information he had gather today wouldn't leave his mind. Could he use the maniac’s obsession with Batman to fix him? Or was Batman the problem? Sure his alter ego saved lives nightly yet there was one person who wanted more than anything to be protected and destroyed by the dark knight. How would he handle this? What could he do to make Gotham safe? Calling it quits was not an option with his mission right now as Matches Malone. It was becoming an addiction. An obsession of his own. Figuring out Jokers mindset was the addiction. As dangerous as heroine. The phone vibrating made him open his eyes and look at the screen. He had seven texts. As well as five missed calls from Alfred. Opening his inbox he scrolled through the texts.

 

'Master Bruce, a fire at a school was on the news are you alright?' Was from Alfred.

 

'Mister Wayne, the new upgrades for your car are almost completed, I'm sure they will meet to your expectations.' Was from Fox.

 

'Hey Bruce, its Vicki. I hope Europe is treating you well. We should get dinner when you get back. I'd love to have the first scoop on what Gotham's infamous Play Boy was up to while on vacation. Call me sometime.' Was from Viki Vale. Bruce's on and off again fling.

 

'Hey Bruce. It's me Silver. I'll be back in Gotham next month. We should catch up and talk. I hope mister tall dark and mysterious has time for seeing an old friend.' Was from Silver St. Cloud. Another one of Bruce's off and on again flings. One of the small list of people who knew that Bruce was Batman. It complicated their relationship.

 

'Greetings Mister Wayne. You don't know much of me but I know a great deal of you. We will meet sometime soon.' The last text was odd it came from an unknown number. He'd have to have Fox do a search on his phone when he could to find out who it was from. It unnerved him what it could mean. It's not like many people knew he was Batman. Bruce went to a great deal of trouble of keeping his two lives exclusive from each other. The cryptic text was to say the least disturbing. With dealing with the Joker already he didn't want any more unpredictability in his life.

 

Going through his contacts he clicked on Alfred's name and put the phone to his ear and waited. Five rings in he started to think that the old man must be asleep. But a groggy British voice answered in a tired hello and Bruce couldn't help but smile.

 

"Did I wake you?" He asked

 

"Well it's not like that has happened before Master Bruce. Here I thought with the manor to myself that my night routine would actually include sleep. I must have been mistaken." His tone as usual was sarcastic. Bruce truly missed it.

 

"I missed you too, Alfred." Bruce replied.

 

"Given how you are calling me at this hour I take it everything went alright at the school?"

 

"As well as could be expected when dealing with the likes of the Joker." Bruce spoke cryptically. Not wanting to indulge in to much information he wasn't even sure he under stood yet.

 

"So broken bones? Good job then Master Bruce." Alfred joked and Bruce couldn't help but chuckle.

 

"Not quite. Close enough." Bruce joked back.

 

"I do hope though that this endeavor of yours doesn't lead to circumstances that you can't come back from sir." Alfred spoke seriously.

 

Bruce hesitated with speaking. Honestly he was worrying about that, even more so now. He couldn't stop so soon though. Not when he was getting closer to finding answers.

 

"I have it under control Alfred." He reassured.

 

"I'm sure you do Master Bruce. I just hope I don't have to pick up the pieces when all is said and done. I don't get paid enough for what I have to do for you as it is." He spoke in a halfheartedly tone.

 

"It will be fine Alfred. Have a good night. I still have to take care of some things."

 

"Good Night, Master Bruce. Please do be careful though. Joker is a manipulative psychopath as we both know. I don't want something to happen to you that can't be savaged if things go wrong." Alfred was worried. Bruce could hear that. He hated worrying the old man who was like a father to him but this is how things were.

 

Bruce hung up the phone. Talking with Alfred was risky as it was here. Never fully knowing who could be listening. If the wrong information got back to Joker then it wasn't just Bruce's life on the line but Alfred's as well. Glancing at his tablet he exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding in. He still had time and he might as well watch and listen to another tape to be more prepared for his meeting with the clown. Turning on the tablet, once it was one he scrolled through the several videos all categorized from month to days, different doctors, etc. He mostly focused on ones from his last stay at Arkham though he had many over the years. So he settled on one randomly. It was taken during Jokers last stay during his six month mark of his stay. Hitting play Bruce propped the tablet on his knees to watch and listen.

 

The patient’s cell is in current state of being cleaned after a mental breakdown. What caused this mental breakdown is the goal of this session. Patient who identifies as Joker was found with several deep self-inflicted wounds into his body from a knife that was hidden on his person. After first thought the orderlies assumed suicide attempt but on further examination it seems it was caused in a form of masochistic sexual pleasure. Seems patient is either a class three or class four on the chart for masochism. Not fully sure yet. An unhealthy attempt to get gratification may be linked to his unstable mental state? If a form of treatment to change the form to a healthier way to achieve sexual gratification may lower another outburst then despite Doctor Strange's orders progress may be made for rehabilitation.

 

Bruce had met with this doctor before as Bruce Wayne prior to before she took on the Jokers case. Doctor Helena Tolley had a very extrovert personality type. A happy family woman. Lots of friends. Normal middle class childhood. By all accounts she was a very lively person. She had only had five therapy sessions with Joker before she took her own life by a knife the madman had given her, In front of the maniac. That event showed Bruce how dangerously manipulative the clown could really be. It chilled him to the bone when he read about the incident. Apparently when the guards rushed into the room the only explanation the maniac had given them was that she finally understood the joke. Why she killed herself no one really seemed to know other than the clown. It was disturbing how the madman in such a short time could convince someone to take their own life. Another lesson that no one should ever underestimate the Joker.

 

"Hello, Joker, I would like it if we discussed today what happened in your cell a couple days ago." Doctor Tolley gave the maniac a trusting smile.

 

"The room needed color." He shrugged like what happened hadn't been a big deal.

 

"I think there's more to it than that." She spoke with a skeptical tone.

 

Joker just grinned at her and glanced around the small office. Turning his attention back to her after a minute of silence. "I think this room could use some decorating. Ah, wouldn't you say?" He pointed to her with his cuffed hands. "I think more red would look nice. What do you think?"

 

"You don't scare me, Joker. I'm simply trying to help you after your mental breakdown."

 

Maniacal laughter filled the room the sound like nails on a chalkboard on the tape. "Making assumptions Doctor you do know how the saying goes right? Anyways all I'm doing is just giving great decor advice. I have a real sense for fashion after all." He gave his best interpretation of a charming smile that only looked deranged with the scars.

 

"What were you thinking about when you hurt yourself? How'd that self-inflicted action make you feel?" She inquired.

 

"Simple doc, I was thinking of Gotham's dear old Batsy. How'd it make me feel? How do you think it did?" He responded calmly.

 

"Aroused by what the reports said." Doctor Tolley glanced at the report on her desk. "Are you attracted to the Bat of Gotham?" She asked.

 

"Who isn't? I mean have you seen the guy? Tall dark and handsome. Hehe gives the best love taps anyone could ever hope for. Needs a funny bone though. Way to stoic if you ask me. Hardly an appeasing trait. A sense of humor can go a long way." Joker smiled fondly.

 

Bruce felt himself go nauseous at the thought. Sure he had heard may sexual jokes from the maniac regarding him over the years but he had chopped that up to trying to get under his skin. It was insane to think Joker of all people could have any feelings in that regard to Batman. Hate he could believe. Rage even for Batman always foiling his plans but sexual attraction just seemed too surreal. Having heard the constant mantra of the clown saying they needed each other was ridiculously delusional as it was but sexual want from Batman was just too absurd. They were mortal enemies after all. Always violent with each other at any given opportunity. This had to be just another sick joke. That's all his denial could let him believe. Accepting any notion that Joker was attracted to him was out of the question.

 

"Do you think the Bat of Gotham feels the same way regarding you?" Doctor Tolley questioned.

 

"He'll deny it but there's no doubt in my mind he feels for me. After all the saying goes you hurt the ones you love and Bats is most brutal when it comes down to me. Hehe." Joker grinned from ear to ear.

 

"What about Miss Quinzel? You two have a sexual relationship by what I have read."

 

"Harley? She's fun and all but she's no brooding Bat." His tone was disinterested.

 

"Would you elaborate more on your relationship with her?" She asked.

 

"There's not much to say doc, she's like a puppy. Useful when I want her around, annoying when I don't." He responded.

 

"Do you love her? I mean she seems to be the most constant relationship you have been in that's known about." Her tone was prying.

 

"I only love one person Doctor." He gave a slight nod.

 

"Bat of Gotham?" She sounded disbelieving.

 

"Yup." He stated matter of fact and to the point.

 

"Do you find yourself as a homosexual?" She asked as she wrote things down.

 

"If we have to put a label on it. I'll put it this way, if I'm gay for anyone its Batman. Batsexual if you will." Joker spoke like that was all that needed to be known.

 

"Does it bother you that you seem to not be able to form healthy relationships?"

 

"Your definition of healthy and my definition of healthy are two completely different things. Also again I need to say this room needs more color." He pointed to the room again.

 

"Wouldn't you prefer to have a special bond with someone?" She asked.

 

"I already do. Bat and I have the most special bond ever. It's unbreakable, nothing can come between us. It's like everything else in this world doesn't exist. No one matters but him and I. What could be more special than that?" Joker started talking like he was speaking to a child. Before Doctor Tolley could speak again he continued. "Ya see doc. Your little happy marriage is bland and boring. No excitement. All vanilla I'd guess. I bet you go home and sit around for something more interesting in life. Why else would you chose to work at a very occupational hazard place such as Arkham? See I find that unhealthy. Batsy and I have excitement. The thrill of our games that never get bland or boring. Spontaneous! Fun! Excitement! Something to die for. We don't sit around and do the domestic stuff, we show our love through are actions. Punches, gun shots, stab wounds, broken bones, getting thrown back in Arkham. It's always one more exciting date with each encounter. That's healthy in my book. Keeps the feelings blossoming. You really should try and find some excitement in your life doc. I could help you with that. Just ask me nicely." His words had a dangerous excitement in them.

 

That's when the video was abruptly cut off. Whatever else was discussed would only be known by the clown. Bruce sat there feeling even dirtier than he did before. It had to be a joke. Joker couldn't have those feelings for him. They were twisted and wrong but so was the man that expressed them. No. It was just a sick joke. That's all it could be. Joker was a pathological liar. He said things to get into people's head. Nagging feeling in the back of his mind told him that wasn't the case. It wasn't Batman he was telling those things to. Maybe he actually meant what he said? No. Not opening that door ever! He needed to keep those notions under lock and key. Setting the tablet in the duffle bag. Deciding that was enough for one night. Yes, he needed a shower badly. Grimly that's how he felt. Joker’s words made him feel wrong. All wrong. How the madman felt about their battles was just sickening to think about. Bruce didn't even want to try and sort through that madman's delusions on the subject. So getting up and limping he made it into the bathroom to wash away the dirty sensation that stuck to his body. The sensation of Jokers words on that damn tape.

 

Bruce locked the door to his room at the motel. His shower had taken longer than he usually took. It was already five minutes away from two am. The water felt too good on his skin to want to leave the comfort it gave him. Small comforts is what kept his sanity in Jokers world. Anxieties of things to come washed away from him when he was in the shower. Leaving him more refreshed and mentally prepared for whatever the madam wanted to discuss. Plus he had to change the bandages. He was only mildly surprised how well Harley actually did with stitching up his wound and bandaging him up in a moving vehicle. Chopping it up to practice. Bruce made his way to the back of the motel where there was a ladder that led to the roof. Putting his hand on the rail he cringed inwardly. Going up the ladder to face the maniac was making his feet feel like cement. Looking up he sighed. Taking a moment to go into his fake Matches Malone persona. Climbing up was difficult with his leg wound but he managed. Once he pulled himself up to a standing position on the roof he spotted the clown instantly. The smell of cigarettes filled his nostrils. Joker was sitting against the ledge with his feet over the ledge. He had a bottle that looked to be scotch opened right next to him and he was smoking. The clown didn't turn to face him as he seemed distracted in his thoughts. Bruce took that moment to just observe him. Joker seemed harmless in that moment even though past experience proved otherwise. Lost. Joker seemed to look lost. Whatever he was thinking of was making him lost to the real world. Bruce didn't even realize he had started to walk towards him until he sat right next to the psychopath. They sat there in complete silence. Both just looking at the city lights. Something both would never do if Bruce was Batman at the moment. They seemed content to stay in silence. Letting the world go on around them. Like they were apart from the busy city. All those lives buzzing around even this late at night didn't even matter. With the silence the world seemed calmed. Both of their roles in life on hold. Bruce allowed himself to relax under the silence. Not even feeling uncomfortable about it. Silence was something he could handle. Silence was peaceful. Bruce wouldn't even try to understand how he could be so calm next to a mass murderer in that moment. It's just how it was. Silence couldn't last forever though. How long they sat there could have been seconds to almost a half an hour he wasn't sure but eventually green eyes turned their attention on him.

 

"Want a drink, Matchy?" Joker’s voice had an eerie calm about it.

 

Bruce just shook his head no. Joker gave a shrug and took a chug of his scotch. Flicking his cigarette off the roof. Neither talked for a few more moments after that. Both seemed to just want to let the quiet night take them. Let the dark just drape over them and keep the future away from them. To keep this moment frozen in time. No rules, no responsibilities, no capes and no explosions. No death, no fighting, no lies and deceit. Just the night. Just sitting on an abandoned roof of a dingy motel. Away from everything Gotham City had to offer. It was to pleasant a feeling to be allowed to grow in Gotham. The city demanded so much from the two of them. Hero and Villain. Even if Joker didn't know he was sitting next to his arch enemy, both were just taking in the quiet.

 

"Why did you save me?" Joker finally asked as he turned his attention from the city fully on Bruce.

 

"You pay my bills." Bruce joked. Taking on the role he needed to now. Leaving the calm for the chaotic life they both lived.

 

"Ha. Ha. We both know it wasn't about money. You could always get a job anywhere in this city. So I'll ask again why did you save me?" It seemed like whatever answer Bruce gave Joker it wouldn't be believed.

 

"Didn't want you to die." The fact that the words came out so easily surprised him.

 

"Heh." Joker took another sip of his scotch as he scooted closer to Bruce. "I find it interesting that you say you didn't want me to die. You could have just said that you didn't want to die so you panicked. That you didn't want Harley to kill you for letting me die. Or have the Bat come after you for letting me die. No, you didn't say any of that. That's interesting." Joker seemed to be studying him under his toxic gaze.

 

"How could I move up to the top without you?" Bruce lied but played it off smoothly.

 

Joker just stared at him, tilting his head slightly. It made Bruce wary that he said the wrong thing. But a small burst of bitter laughter escaped the clown. "You really do remind me of Jonny Jonny. He was just like you. A small time criminal who had big aspirations for himself. Bigger than he should of had. He wanted to be on the top like me. So I introduced him into my playground." He pointed to Gotham City and smiled. A malicious glint in green orbs. "Oh, he loved it at first! Had the most fun he had ever had in his life. We had a blast together. He really could have been someone as long as I let him grow and play. I had high hopes for him. I really did. When I met him I liked him instantly. Sure there were moments he got on my nerves but I liked keeping him around. So play and play we did. He even saved my life you see. That surprised me. Only one other before him bothered to keep me from dying and that was Bat. It's expected from Batsy. It wasn't expected from Jonny Jonny though. So he became even more of an interest for me. I welcomed him into what I could offer him. When a whole city is your playground that's a lot I can offer. There was one problem though, Matchy. See Jonny Jonny hated himself as time went on. Couldn't mentally handle all the fun I showed him. It was killing him inside. Guilt, shame, it's a slow killer let me tell you. It ate away at him like a cancer. Our fun soon became a nightmare for him. I'm sure he regretted saving my life even if he didn't voice it. I could see it in his eyes. The passion in his eyes became dead. No longer did he get a thrill from being on top. He became obvious and dull. There was no longer a point in keeping him alive when the rug was pulled away from underneath us from Bat. We couldn't get off fast enough. What Jonny Jonny wanted made him hate himself. You though, Matchy. You say you want to be on the top but unlike Jonny Jonny I can see you aren't being honest about your wants. There's something trapped inside you that wants out. So you played the hero complex earlier. Let me give you advice. Don't. Being a hero will only bring shame, Matchy. Saving me is the worst thing you could do especially. After all what kind of world has allowed me to exist and what kind of world would be kind to those who save me. It's better if you just don't. It's better if you just let what's inside you out. I'll help you. I can you know. I'm great at letting people's true selves out. Don't hide it away. That's a burden that you shouldn't deal with. Life won't be any fun that way. Jonny Jonny didn't get that but you. Oh You. I can see becoming someone very interesting. So I can help. Because with you I don't see you becoming boring. I don't see my time being wasted. You're like a new toy that I want to break apart to just put back together again properly this time. I don't know why I feel that way but I do." Joker wrapped his arm around Bruce's shoulder and moved his face close to him. Bruce could smell the scotch mixed with cigarette smoke on his breath. "Let me help you, Matchy." It almost sounded pleading.

 

Bruce just looked into those green eyes. "I think you had too much to drink boss."

 

Despite Bruce's words there was a part of them that worried that this endeavor he was in to understand the Joker would take him down a dark path one that he couldn't escape. Jonny Frost joined the Joker under different circumstances but it destroyed him. What if what Bruce was trying to do to help protect Gotham was going to destroy him in the end? Being in Jokers world was dangerous. The madman's view of the world was depressing enough. Bruce couldn't believe like Joker did but sometimes the weight of the world weighed heavy on him. The burden suffocating him. Bending him to Gotham's will of needing a protector. He was never free to be anything but that. It destroyed countless relationships in his life. Destroyed a chance to ever stop and be happy. It was the life that choose him in a dark alley at the age of eight but he never would be free from it. Sometimes when he allowed himself to be envied the clown. Joker was free to be the monster that he was. He had nothing holding him back from doing what he wanted. The only thing that ever stopped him was Batman and that was always temporarily. Somedays he wondered what it would be like to just let go. If he ever did he'd never escape. His own darkness was just too dangerous to ever allow that freedom. To lose that control. That order in his life. That's what made them different. That's why he would deny everything Joker was trying to offer him.

 

Joker chuckled and shook his head. "Denial isn't going to help you, listen up fire pants."

 

"Maybe you're the one in denial." Bruce retorted still not moving away from the madman.

 

"Maybe." Joker paused. "But I'm not. I'm really good at reading people."

 

"There's not much to read when it comes to me." Bruce knew he was approaching dangerous territory. If Joker looked in to deeply he'd figure out the truth. Chaos would ensue if that happened. There would be no where safe for Bruce if that happened. He needed Joker to believe there wasn't much to him then a low level criminal. His mind was aching for the silence of earlier. Calling the calm to come back. Let the darkness encase him in its embrace. A moment that should of stayed frozen in time. That was better than the bitter eyes gazing into his own. Better than the curious passion hidden away behind a sea of green. It was easier when they would just fight.

 

"I don't believe that. It's just locked away." His other hand slowly moved and pressed against Bruce's heart. "Deep down. I can see the fun that wants to come out."

 

"You'd be disappointed, Joker. What you see is what you get." He apparently said the wrong thing as Joker laughed almost uncontrollably. Licking his lips he smiled happily at Bruce.

 

"I'm counting on that. Because what I see is just so enticing." His voice was sugary sweet. Hiding the dark intent behind them. "Let's make a game of it Matchy."

 

"I'm not fond of games." This had to stop now.

 

Joker paused for a moment. Like something completely took his attention off the current situation between them. For a long moment Bruce thought the maniac was planning to kiss him with how close he had gotten. Their foreheads were touching and they were both staring into each other's eyes. Not moving. Not breaking away. Like they were glued to that spot on the roof top. Pulled close together and couldn't move away. It didn't seem to matter what either one of them were thinking about. Reality pausing for a moment. Bruce could feel the warmth radiating of Jokers body in the chilled Gotham night. He didn't want to admit it felt nice. Just having the warm. Joker was dangerous. Twisted and cruel more than any other person Bruce had ever met. Feeling warm even on a psychical sense coming from this murderer was not allowed. It broke every moral code in the book. He couldn't pull away. Oh, he wanted to but he couldn't. After everything today he just wanted to let go a little bit and relax. Not be so on edge like he was every day of his life. To just be.

 

"You saved those children. Why?" He asked. After Bruce gave him a surprised look he added. "It was on the news earlier. The brats lived and they said they were saved."

 

"I told you I don't like hurting kids." Bruce answered.

 

"You really need to stop putting limits on yourself." Joker added.

 

"There's just certain things that I'm not comfortable with." Bruce added.

 

"Boring! It really is a good thing that you met me matchstick. Once you're part of my playground those pathetic limits you put on yourself will just be a bad reminder of the past." Joker waved his hand.

 

"I disagree. Sometimes limits make someone a better person." Even if that was true it sounded ridiculous coming from a supposed criminal. "So I've been told." He mumbled out the last part.

 

"Whoever told you that has a real stick up there ass." Joker chuckled and nuzzled his forehead against Bruce.

 

"The whole world doesn't bend because you want it to." Bruce responded wanting to pull away but Jokers hand gripped tighter on his shirt.

 

"It does for people like me and Bat. Maybe you as well. I'd like to see that happen for you. All you have to do is follow my lead." His voice was soft. Like he was willing to offer Bruce anything he wanted if he just gave in to Jokers belief system. It was easy to see how the maniac could manipulate almost anyone he wanted. Like he had this power to make people think the way he wanted them to.

 

Sighing, Bruce shook his head, which accidentally seemed like he was nuzzling the Joker back, even if he was denying everything Joker was saying to him.

 

"There's some things I will not do." Bruce said.

 

"Matchy. Have you ever killed someone before?" Joker had a sadistic glee echoing in his voice. Like what Bruce had just said flipped on the light bulb. Putting more pieces to a puzzle in the Jokers hands. Just waiting for him to put it all together to do with as he pleased. It was a slip that he hadn't meant to give the madman.

 

Bruce stayed silent a little too long and Joker pulled back away from him. Staring deeply at him. His lips a thin line. Slowly a sincere smile spread across his chalk white face. "You haven't have you. I can see it! That's what's missing! Hehehe!" Silence again and Joker started to giggle.

 

"I'll have to fix that for you Matchy!" He clapped his hands and started bouncing in his seat. It was a promise, threat and a warning all in once.

 

Bruce inwardly cursed. This was a new predicament that he wasn't prepared for. Killing was against his one rule. A rule that shaped his entire being. It kept him from becoming the monsters that he fault. It's who he was. Made Batman a symbol. If he killed someone then there was no turning back. Dread overcame him. No. This wasn't how everything was supposed to go. Going undercover did not include having Bruce kill someone. He wouldn't do it. The vigilante would find a way out of it. Yet, Bruce could see in those sadistic green eyes that's exactly what Joker wanted for him. A want he could tell that the madman was beyond determined to make happen. A passionate desire that Joker was now dead set on. Silence started too crept in around them again. This time there was nothing comforting. This time it was something downright unsettling. Now he longed for the chaotic city that he fought for. Longed for the dull life of Bruce Wayne and the excitement as Batman. All he wanted at this moment was to be as far away from this roof top of this dingy motel.

Chapter Text

 

There had been a few instances in Bruce's life where he truly got a break. Before his parents died where he wasn't being groomed for being a good hearted and responsible man. Days where Alfred would do his best to let him relax. Days where Fox would handle important matters at his company. Those days felt rare though. Days where he just really didn't do much of anything. It now made him angsty. As much as when his life truly got almost unbearable he longed for a break. He just never expected that he would get five days to himself while in a dingy motel that belonged to a homicidal maniac. That's what he got though. A five day break. It was awful. All he could think about was the night on the roof. It plagued his thought, seeped into the marrow of his bones and burned images into his mind. He was used to Joker wanting Batman to kill someone. That was nothing different. It was a philosophy battle between them. Now though, he felt even more uneasy. As Batman denying whatever Joker wanted from him was easy. The clown would rant, tell him how alike they were and all Batman would have to do is fight him. It was simpler leaving the vigilante with more control but now he wasn't as in control of the situation as he'd like to be. This was all new ground and he had to keep telling himself that he could keep everything together. He would not let the madman manipulate him as he pleased. It was a mantra he repeated to himself for the five days he didn't even see the clown. Where had Joker gone? No one seemed to know or really care for that matter. The gang felt more at ease with their boss not there to snap at any moment and start killing whoever he damn well pleased. Greed was the only reason why anyone worked with Joker and that kept their better self-preservation instincts at bay. So all Bruce could do was wait and heal from the stab wound. An experience that wasn't the most comforting as every day the maniac was gone felt like a wasted day in his endeavor to find a way to end their never ending war against each other. Not being productive wasn't helping his mental state at all.

 

When he got a message from Alfred telling him his on and off again fling Silver St. Cloud was back in Gotham earlier than expected he was ready to brush that visit off. Seeing her right now would be hazardous to her safety but she wasn't going to take no for an answer. Silver was a stubborn woman and getting what she wanted was a skill she was born with. She knew who Batman really was and even if that killed their relationship she still mattered a great deal to him. After all there was a time where Bruce thought he'd settle down with her, maybe even give up being Batman but he couldn't. With the likes of Joker making the streets of his city run with blood he couldn't give up the cowl. Not even for love. Bruce had to let that dream die. His promise to his parents became a huge part of who he was and it was an endeavor that just couldn't end, not with how much crime and corruption Gotham was still filled with. Silver though, she found out what Bruce was up to and she had made up her mind how determined she was to see him. So here he was now. Standing outside of her hotel room, debating with himself if he should actually knock on the door or not. He wasn't here as Bruce Wayne though, he couldn't afford for people to think that he was back from his play boy lifestyle in Europe yet. It would just make everything more complicated. Leaving the Jokers motel was surprisingly easier than he thought it would have been. Most of Jokers gang actually didn't live there even if a good chunk of them did. Most returned to their cheap apartments in the narrows, with their families or girlfriends and only came by when work needed to be done. As long as Joker was off 'Bat Hunting' as other men in the group called his disappearance, no one gave two thoughts of Bruce leaving for a while. It worked in his favor honestly. Nervousness couldn't escape him though as he looked over his shoulder. If anyone followed him then he would be risking not only his life but Silvers life as well. Glancing once more down both sides of the hall, he knocked on the door, his hands in his pockets as he did his best to look as nonchalant as possible.

 

It didn't take long for the door to the hotel room opened and there stood Silver. Her long sterling hair was pulled back in a ponytail, she wore an expensive radiant blue dress that made her steel blue eyes sparkle, and she looked as gorgeous as he remembered her. It brought back all the hopes of a normal life he once had. A life where he could imagine waking up next to her every morning before work and kissing her goodbye until he would come home. It was a life Alfred wanted for him. A life he dreamed about but just couldn't grasp it and embrace it even if he so desperately wanted to. In that moment he wondered if what Joker had once said about him as Batman was his true face. Those thoughts he couldn't allow him to have when he was with her now though. The pain of it would be too much. Bruce stayed silent as he watched her eyes take in his disguise for a moment before she flashed him an amused smile.

 

"You look good as a brunette."

 

Shrugging his shoulders, he gave her a charming smile back. "Good to see you too, Silver."

 

With that she turned around and walked back into the room, words didn't need to be spoken, he followed her as he closed the door behind him, glancing one more time just for safe measure. The hotel room looked more like a small penthouse apartment. Sliver had always been one for extravagant living so it didn't surprise him too much that even the hotels she stayed at were high class. It was a lifestyle he had been used to himself. Silver was in the side off kitchen pouring herself a glass of White Zinfandel.

 

"You're back in Gotham earlier than expected." He commented making small talk for the moment. Knowing full well this conversation would lead to what she and a few others had called his bad decision making skills.

 

"It was more of a last minute decision." Silver responded simply.

 

Bruce took a seat at the small dining table as she came over to him, a glass of wine in one hand and coffee in the other. She set down the coffee for him and he gave her his thanks as she took her seat. It was silent for a moment as both didn't know fully where to begin. It would all come back to the Joker, that was what they both knew but breaching into that conversation wouldn't go how either of them wanted to. Sighing, Silver took a sip and turned her full attention towards Bruce.

 

"You going out tonight?" He beat her question that was forming on her lips to evade the inevitable for at least a few more moments.

 

"Yes, there is going to be a charity event tonight." She smiled a little at the raising of Bruce's eyebrow. "It's a shame that Gotham's most eligible bachelor won't be attending." Her voice held a gentle humor.

 

"Even if I did attend they would be looking only at you, anyways," he gave a smirk as he continued, "every women will be jealous of you after all."

 

Silver sipped her drink as she came over to the table and took a seat. The glass glistened in the light and the calm smile she had slowly left her face. Bruce knew that the conversation was going to take a more serious turn and it was one he wasn't looking forward to. Silver always worried about him ever since she found out the truth. Could he blame her? At the same they were contemplating a life together and if he never came home than how would she be expected to handle that pain. Alfred had the same fears as the billionaire knew but even his loyal father figure couldn't convince him of a different course for his life. A path that having a long term relationship is a fools dream.

 

"Bruce…" She hesitated with her words and it just made the atmosphere even tenser. "Isn't there another way?" She finally asked. Her finger circled the rim of the wine glass in her hand. A habit he had come to learn was a tell-tale sign of her being concern. Should he lie to her and tell her that he would stop this masquerade he was doing as Matches Malone? Would lying to her ease her worries? Most likely.

 

"It's the simplest way to get inside his head," No he wouldn't lie to her. Not Silver. Not anymore. Was the truth making him crueler? "If I allow things between Joker and I to continue on the path we are on then so many more lives will be lost, maybe my own, maybe his." The hitch in her breath confirmed his answer. Truth was always more cruel. Another burden he would have to carry.

 

Silver remained silent for a moment, her steel blue eyes searching his. Looking for something. Anything that what he said was a lie. Her gaze felt like a dagger in his heart but his turmoil would not show on his face. As much as he was being honest with her somethings would just cause more pain.

 

"I don't want you to die, but this is dangerous, Bruce, what would happen if he finds out who you really are? You'd be putting yourself in more danger and not helping anyone. Alfred would even be in danger I know you don't want that."

 

"He won't find out."

 

"What if he does? What if he kills you because all you're to him right now is disposable?"

 

"I'm not disposable to him." Once the words left his mouth he wished he could take it back. Steel blue eyes widened in shock as she opened her mouth to speak, he cut her off again. "He's far too interested in 'Matches Malone'." He stated far too vague for her liking. Her steel blue eyes glanced down at the rim of her drink, her slender finger circling the edges, that's when Bruce knew he had said the wrong thing. Always. No matter how hard he tried, he always couldn't convey to others why he must continue his promise. He knew what words would come next, holding his breath he prepared for them.

 

"Bruce," her voice took a steady calm. "You don't have to keep this promise to your parents. I know you feel like you need to but it's going to get you killed." Her hand clasped on his forearm, her steel blue eyes gazed into his, a look of sympathy that just made him want to leave at that moment. "They wouldn't want this life for you, Bruce, they would want you to be happy. Being around that psycho isn't healthy, especially for you. If something happened to you, just please," he glanced down at the table as his body tensed and heard her sigh. "Don't let him drag you down to."

 

That made the world seem to stop. As all he could think about was her last words echoing in his ears. 'In some ways he already has.' He felt like saying but wouldn't allow the words to come out. He remember how he let Joker kill so many people when he was released from Arkham the last time. How he justified it to himself. How by doing so, dragged him down deeper in the darkness than he has felt in a long time. Before he could even respond to her, he felt his phone vibrate in his pants pocket. Taking out the phone he checked the text.

 

'Malone, Boss wants you at the Iceberg lounge immediately'

 

Each member of the Jokers gang once accepted was given an intractable cellphone for they could keep in contact with each other. Bruce was a bit surprised that Joker came back sooner than expected from his time away from his gang. Sighing, he glanced up at Silver who was still expecting him to speak. Putting his phone away, he spoke to her. "I have to go." In a way he was a little grateful that he got the text. Avoiding this conversation at least for now. As he was about to stand, Silver spoke.

 

"Bruce, you don't have to do this." He knew she cared but no one could understand the burden he had to bear.

 

"I'm sorry, Silver, but if I don't who else will." With that he stood and she followed suit as he made his way to the door she gently grabbed his arm and when he turned to look at her, she gave him a sad smile.

 

"I know you can't promise me anything, I know you're too stubborn to do so, but please think of everyone who cares for you. We don't want you to die, Bruce. Or worse." She left it at that and as he said his goodbyes and left her apartment, he couldn't help but think on her words. He knew Alfred worried about him. He knew Silver did. But he couldn't stop now. If Joker wasn't stopped for good then there would be more blood on his hands. That was just something he couldn't allow.

 

---

 

As Bruce drove the car heading to the Iceberg Lounge all he could think about is how he left things with Silver. He hated making her worry. However this plan of his has been in the works for the eight month stay Joker was in Arkham. He knew Joker was bidding his time then and would escape. He always did. That was just how things always played out between them and after their last fight. After all the mistakes Bruce had made last time Joker was out, he knew he had to put a stop to the cycle. The idea came to him when Joker had awoken in his car on the drive back to Arkham Asylum.

 

The tension in the batmobile would be easy to cut with a knife. Joker was slowly starting to stir back to consciousness in the seat next to him. Although, Joker was secured enough in the bat-cuffs, Bruce still felt uneasy. Their last battle had been more brutal than previous ones and that was saying something. Joker rarely went blinded by rage and Bruce had to fight harder than normal against the madman. His suit had taken plenty of damage and he knew he had a good number of knife wounds that would need stitching. The way they were fighting he realized quickly that he had to put a stop to it soon or one of them would kill the other. It was a thought that crossed the Dark Knights mind countless times. One day, one day they would kill each other and that was something he didn't want to happen. Yet it seemed like Gotham City itself was demanding that course of action from them. How many more times could they fight like this? How many more lives would be lost before their war against each other ended? How many more nights do they have left if they continue down this path? Bruce wasn't sure. Sure he thought about his mortality often, he had to doing what he does, yet with each battle he fought against the Joker, he wondered just how close it really was. Or more importantly, how close he was getting to break his one code?

 

Joker shifted in his seat, facing the window, more than facing the front and that's when Bruce knew he was awake. There was a silence that normally didn't come from these moments alone between the two of them. Joker usually always started talking to him the moment he awoken, smiling that smile that haunted a good number of his night terrors. Now though there was only silence. Not that he would complain. Getting the Joker to shut up was a war on its own but now the silence was becoming suffocating. All he could think about was how close Joker seemed to be to want to kill him this time. Silence that he often craved was now feeling like they were both signing their death sentence the next time they met.

 

That's what really got Bruce to thinking. How could he prevent the outcome of their fates? What must he do? Is there anything he could do? He had spent the majority of his time away from Joker when the madman was out, yet he still kept as close of an eye on him as possible. That was his mistake, he allowed Joker to reclaim his title in the city's underworld. At the time it seemed like an easy choice, Joker was taking out criminals that would only cause his city more harm in the long run and all Bruce had to do was let him. That was selfish and when Harvey asked for his help, he realized that. Now though with the silence between him and the biggest threat Gotham has ever had stretched into minutes, all he could do was wonder how to fix all of this before it repeats itself.

 

Glancing at Joker for a quick moment he could see the damage he had inflicted on his body. He remembered the feel of his ribs cracking underneath his knuckles. The blood caking his pale skin from the gash on his forehead. The tattered remains of his coat. It made Bruce more aware of his own wounds. Old scars that covered his body from previous encounters with the clown. He realized then even now as he drove in the silence they were having a battle of wills of who would talk first. Though he knew neither wound bend to the other. They never did. That was the reason for all of this madness that took over their lives. Bruce had to be the one who ended it. He knew that. Hearing Jokers shallow breaths that fogged the window next to him, he knew he needed a course of action to do next. That's when he remembered the man Joker had with him on the bridge and his chest tightened and a lump formed in his throat. He didn't know much of him, just that he had worked for Joker. What secrets had he learned? He obviously must have been close enough to Joker to be trying to escape with him. At least until Joker shot him after their short conversation on the bridge. That's it. Bruce realized it and the plan was a clear as day. It was an insane plan. Absolutely insane and yet, if he handled it properly. Maybe just maybe, their fate could be changed. It would take time though, time he was sure he would have by Jokers current mood in the car now. If Joker stayed in Arkham long enough he'd be able to accomplish the first stage of his plan. It was a gamble, but one he'd be willing to make. Though keeping Joker in Arkham would be the preferred choice. That he would focus on first as Bruce Wayne, instead of Batman. He knew he wasn't being a realist with that thought though.

 

---

 

There had been few instances in Jokers life where he felt as he did now. It wasn't a pleasant feeling; not in the least. He felt alone in a city that was his playground. He felt abandoned by the one person who mattered most in his life. There weren't any fun that seemed to be had anywhere in the past five days he had to himself. Joker simply felt empty. A feeling he was not liking in the least. It felt like his time in Arkham when he was missing his Bat but worse this time around. At least in Arkham he knew once he got out he could play again with his rodent. Now he had tried to play and the Bat didn't come out.

 

What if one day you were out playing your usual games and Batman never came? What if he never came back to as you say dance with you. How would you feel about that?

 

The memory of the words stopped Joker in his tracks as he was walking the back alley streets of Gotham. Scary had brought that impossible thought to his mind months ago and now it was starting to ring true. Taking a deep breath he leaned against the wall. It bothered him to no end how the words that he just laughed off before were starting to become a reality. Bat didn't show up at the school. Bat had to be avoiding him and it left him feeling empty. Weren't they best friends? He always thought so. Now, though, Bat was missing and it bothered him to no end. Where was that flying rodent? What could he be doing at this very moment?

 

Acidic eyes looked up at the skyline, wishing-hoping that he could spot him. Knowing he wouldn't. Joker always had a sixth sense of when the Bat was up there. He felt his presence many times in his life even if Bat was trying to hide it. All he wanted was to have some fun and his playmate has disappointed him. He wondered for a moment if it was his fault as to why his friend didn't show up. Was the game to predictable? Was he not living up to the rules of the game? Had someone else been more entertaining than him? That was a train of thought he couldn't accept. Bat always knew that he'd be available to him. That he'd be there and play with the dark knight. Now though, now he was wondering if he was even good enough.

 

His eyes darkened at the thought of such an implication could come forth from his own mind. Him not being good enough for Bat was just too insane of an idea. If Bat wanted to change the rules of their game then he would adapt. He'd allow his Bat to take the lead and start the dance but that didn't mean he was going to sit ideally by and wait for the flying rodent to make the first move. Two could change the game. As a grin stretched his features he chuckled to himself. If Bat didn't want to come out, he'd find him and make him come out. It was only fair after all.

 

The clown prince of crime knew that Bat was hiding. He had to be. The reasons why we're lost on him though. It didn't make much sense why someone of his self-righteous status to hide though. He had been searching for any signs for the Bat for days now and the only thing he had gotten from it was very few low level criminals scared of the dark saying they saw him. Joker knew that if they truly did, they just wouldn't be thinking they did. No. His Batsy would have broken a few bones and showed his presence to the underworld of Gotham. It didn't matter though. He had a plan that he had been saving ever since his last stay in Arkham. Gotham city wouldn't know what hit them after he was done. First things first he had to deal with his previous investments and get his crew. Giggling he clutched his sides and laughed. Batsy wouldn't be able to not show up this time he'd make sure of it.

 

---

 

Bruce had learned to take the back door entrance of the infamous crime club. Normal guests took the front for show. Oswald needed to keep a good reputation to continue his dealings in the criminal underworld. Bruce had allowed Oswald to continue a lot of his dealings for information. All dirty money in Gotham had touched the man’s hand at some point. Gotham's criminal underworld were run by four major criminals. Roman Sionis, Harvey Dent, Oswald Cobblepot and the one who all the others were afraid of the Joker. Harvey had lost a lot of territory after the crime war between him and Joker last time Joker was out. When Harvey had contacted Bruce he couldn't turn him down and help him. Still he felt guilty for taking so long to take Joker in last time.

 

The club was in disarray which surprised Bruce. Chairs were over turn, glass shattered on the ground and even bullet holes in the wall. Someone must of haven't been too happy about a certain business deal with the crime boss and Bruce was guessing that person must of been the Joker, given the text he had received. Walking up the stairs he spotted Chuck going down them. The two glanced at each other and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife in that instant.

 

"Where have you been Malone?"

 

"Out." Was all Bruce responded and to his annoyance Chuck stepped in front of him, blocking his path. A fight between them was brewing and he wondered who would be the first one to start it. He did know who would finish it though.

 

"Boss, is pretty upset you weren't at the hide out. Looks like you won't be around much longer if I had to bet."

 

"If Joker has a problem, then he'll tell me himself."

 

"Oh, you can count on that, Matchy." He mocked the nickname the clown had coined for him.

 

"Careful, Chuck, don't want the boss to hear that you have been stealing his special names for people. He's pretty possessive after all."

 

Chuck narrowed his eyes, and quickly passed Bruce hitting his shoulder with his chest. Muttering curses under his breath. Giving one last glance behind his shoulder he continued his way up the stairs. The sound of yelling already audible. Chewing on the match stick in his mouth as he contemplated what was going to happen next. Four of the Jokers men were standing by twos next to the door, their hands on their guns, as if ready for shit to hit the fan. It wasn't a very comforting thought, given the place was in such disarray. They barely payed him any mind as he debated with himself if he should go inside the room or just wait for Joker to come out once he was done. That seemed like the better option. Though that didn't to seem be the case as one of the Jokers men, glanced up at him and nodded towards the door, a clear sign he was supposed to enter. The sneer on the man’s face reminded Bruce of how disliked he was by the other members of Joker’s gang. After all getting as much attention lately as he was getting from the clown along with only being a couple of weeks in the gang, seemed to guarantee disdain from the others who had been working under Joker for much longer. They all seemed to have dreams of grandeur that they believed Joker could give them. Only if they weren't killed by the maniac that is. Narrowing his eyes, still a tad bit uncertain if he should trust going inside at this very moment. Once he got to the door he stopped and listened for a moment. Joker’s voice was clear enough that he could make out what was being said.

 

"How could you lose the money, Abner? Did your slippery fingers not hold on to it tight enough?"

 

Bruce debated with himself if going in right now was the right course of action he should take. Though he couldn't exactly not go in now, with the other men now content on watching his every move. Here goes nothing. Opening the door he worried for just a moment if he would get shot. His rational paranoia given who he was dealing with after all. But nothing happened. Lucky for him. He entered as quietly as he could, knowing there would be no point in announcing his entrance. After all by what he could hear outside, Joker would not be in the mood to be interrupted from whatever business he had with Cobblepot. Closing the door, he turned his attention to the scene at hand. They were currently in Penguins office, the one he used for dealing with the criminal underworld and one that he himself as Batman has broken into many times previously. Cobblepot had files on a good number of criminals and even placed lower criminals in other gangs for profit. It's how Bruce even got the chance to be placed in the Jokers gang in the first place. Penguin was the go to guy for the criminal underworld for mostly anything, even if he was at the bottom of the pecking order between the four who ruled Gotham's crime. Harley, was standing off to the side with her gun pointed straight at one of Penguins men and vice versa. This encounter obviously proved it was an uninvited one, which made Bruce even more intrigued on finding out as much information as he could on what had happened before Joker showed up.

 

Turning his gaze to the man in question, he noticed first that Joker wasn't wearing his normal purple attire. Which was a bit of a surprise that made him arch his brow. Joker was wearing a black trench coat instead of his normal purple one, a green dress shirt underneath, with a grey vest and black slacks. It certainly wasn't an attire he was used to seeing. What surprised him more however was the fact Joker hadn't even payed him much attention at all since entering, the only form of acknowledgment he got was a sidewise glance and then completely ignored. It reminded him too much of the car ride back to Arkham months ago. He straightens his back more on edge as he leaned against the wall. After their last talk on the roof, he couldn't deny that he expected something entirely different from when he would see Joker again and the silent treatment was not what he was expecting. It wasn't helping with his earlier meeting with Silver still plaguing his mind. Now he was starting to wonder if she had been right. If Alfred had been right when he first informed him of his planned course of action against the clown prince of crime. Bruce was too far in too deep though to doubt his actions now and his musing over the subject now wasn't exactly the best time when he needed information.

 

Abner was clearly aggravated as Joker tapped his fingers on his wooden desk. Joker however wasn't even sparing a shed of thought for the fellow crime lords’ predicament. After all, Joker had too much on his mind about a certain Dark Knight of his not coming out to play and he needed money for his next scheme for his Bats attention. He could admit he was curious when he came by and found the place in utter shambles but he was to giddy with the thought of his next playtime with his Bat to really care. Now though he was just plain ire. He thought he would be happy when he got back to his motel and would see Matchy and tell him off his plan for the flying rodent but Matchy was nowhere to be found. That irritated him. He didn't like not being aware of where his pet project was, so he just tasked Chuckles of sending word out of where they were going. When he heard the door open he thought he could get his good mood back when he saw Matchy, but now he was dealing with an even bigger issue. His money was gone, all his investments from when he was out last time was gone. He didn't care about money, not at all, he however needed it. It was a necessity for what he had in store for Gotham and dealing with Abner’s incompetence was the last thing he wanted to deal with. After all it was with his allowance that he allowed Abner to even have fun with his Bat from time to time. Which was as much of a pleasantry that he could give anyone. Playing with his Bat was the most fun anyone could have, so he expected payment for that action after all. Now he was being shafted by someone not even worthy of a thought at all. Now he had to deal with this tedious inconvenience to his already sour mood of being ignored by the most important person in his life. All because Abner couldn't even play a game with others properly.

 

Tap tap tap, his fingers tapped against the desk even faster with annoyance. As he glanced around the room and his green eyes fell back to Abners annoyed expression.

 

"You know, I would normally tell you to smile more," he commented with dry humor. "After all you never know when your life is about to end." He noticed Abners demeanor go rigged as the man next to him, turned his gun slightly towards him, instead of Harley. He scoffed. "I don't think that would be wise." Harley didn't even need to be told as she aimed her gun at Abner instead. Only causing both to aim back at each other. Normally this type of tension would have him laughing like crazy. People took things way to seriously after all. Now though. He wasn't really in the mood for this, however it did cause him to chuckle.

 

"Now, now, no need to get your panties in a bunch. I can be a very forgiving clown after all." That comment only got received by a scoff from Abner.

 

"I really don't have time to deal with your shit, Joker. I have more important business to deal with than your dissipated ego over Batman not giving you enough attention." Abners condescending tone did not sit well with the incensed clown. Yep, Abner would no longer be allowed to play with his playmate that was for sure. If he tried to from this point on, Joker would have to pay him a visit the fat man in front of him would not much enjoy.

 

"Abner, you really should watch what you say, once you say something you can't take it back after all." He scolded. His patience was running thin.

 

Bruce could easily predict what was about to happen before the Joker even moved. He knew Joker’s rules of conduct for his gang, rules that he knew for sure he would implement on anyone he saw fit. Especially if Batman was part of the equation. He had known Joker would get furious if anyone even tried to kill Batman and would take it upon himself to kill whoever tried. As much as Bruce hated to admit it for as many times he had saved the madman’s life, Joker had done close to the same amount. This however was an easy red flag that shit was about to hit the fan. Jokers body has stiffened just noticeable to anyone who truly knew him and he could tell even Harley was anticipating the next course of action that about to take place. If Cobblepot had more foresight he wouldn't of allowed such a slip of tongue to be uttered in Jokers presence. Even if Joker was mocking Cobblepot but there was the underlining threat in his voice. A threat Bruce knew Joker was about to follow through on. It made Bruce even more aware of the fact that Penguin only had one man of his own in the room with him. Even more foolish idea in foresight. Whatever happened at the infamous criminal club, it had Penguin sending most of his men out to deal with it. A slight twitch of Jokers right hand which was hidden behind the desk from the other two men caught his attention. The glint of metal in his hand and Bruce knew blood would spill. Having no intention of intervening this time as he did at the school brought back the deja vu he felt months back when Harvey asked for his help. He had enough foresight to know though this wasn't the time or place to act on his instinctual impulsive nature so he watched on preparing a strategy of course of action if it didn't go in Jokers favor. That was an even harder pill to swallow of wanting anything to go in Jokers favor. A thought that should of never crossed his mind in the first place. Like a slap in the face of how dangerous that line of thinking could put him in. He however didn't have enough time to dwell on it though.

 

"You really should take your own advice, Joker." Cobblepot started speaking with a glare. "One of these days that mouth of yours-" he was cut off as the blade came down hard into the middle of his hand and the yelp of pain that came from his once threatening tone was quickly replaced by the sound of a gunshot.

 

Bruce blinked at the noise. A sound that he knew only too well. As Batman he heard it countless times but it never stopped the memories of Crime Alley coming to his mind. That night that had set in motions all the events in his life after. All the death that followed like a sacrificial offering to Gotham. Like the city itself craved it. For there to be destruction from all the countless battles he's faced. From the first gunshots that changed his life to the first show Joker ever performed in their dance. A never ending path of violence. As he heard Joker laugh as blood was splattered on his clothing as a mocking artwork of all the years past. Bruce knew there was one thing Joker would always take immense amusement and pleasure from and that was death. Even if it was Harley who pulled the trigger, even if it was just some low life criminal, it all boiled down to Batman. To the night that had created him and all Bruce could do is stand there and watch.

 

"You son of a bitch!" Cobblepot groaned in pain as he looked shocked at his hand that was now pinned into the wood of his desk. Joker grinned and moved his finger to the handle and wiggled the blade, causing Cobblepot to whimper in pain. Harley giggled as she watched.

 

"Ya know, Mistah J, he really should watch that mouth of his." Harley commented.

 

"Oh, I perfectly agree." Joker tsked and shook his head as if he was already bored with Penguin. He used his left hand to pat him on the cheek and grinned. "Abner, you know I'm always telling you to loosen up not over stress yourself. None of that can be really good for your complexion after all." Joker teased as he leaned in closer to Cobblepot.

 

"You're going to regret this, Joker." Penguin hissed threw gritted teeth. Only for Joker to wiggle the handle more with his finger, cutting more of the flesh in Penguins hand. Blood was pooling onto the desk and those acidic green eyes gleamed in pure joy. The splattered blood on Jokers face from the dead henchmen giving him and even more menacing appearance. He leaned more on the desk, resting his elbow on the desk, using his left hand to rest his chin, tilting his head as he gazed at Cobblepot and one ankle crossing the other. Perfectly relaxed.

 

 

Many people who didn't know Joker would assume he was doing this to Cobblepot out of anger and even if that's what may have started the position Penguin now found himself in, that just wasn't the case and Bruce knew that. Having spent the years in Jokers company even if most of the times were through fights, he knew enough to tell when the clown did things out of anger. He knew when Joker was bored, happy, annoyed and even sad on the very rare occasion that was. Although, his mood may change like a light switch there were always tell-tale signs and if one paid enough attention they would learn them easily enough. That may of not always helped Bruce in battle but it did give him an advantage and right now he knew Joker was simply playing a small little game. Having fun at Penguins expense. That's how Bruce knew as long as Oswald played his cards right he'd survive this encounter and get a chance to retaliate latter. Not saying that Joker wouldn't kill him without a second thought. No that would be simply naive to think. But by Jokers poster it was easy to tell he was simply too bored of Penguin to kill him. So as a way to entertain himself Joker was going to play a game. Humiliate him and also teach him a lesson for next time. Bruce and Joker both knew that no matter what Cobblepot may claim, no matter how much power of the underworld he obtained, how much fear he could strike in those lower than him, at his core he was a coward and the act of defiance he was showing Joker now would crumble instantly to save his own skin. That's just how he was and that's one of the reasons Batman allowed Cobblepot leeway with crimes was because he was easier to control. Easier to obtain information for himself on other bigger problems for Gotham. It was how their encounters always went when Batman needed something from Penguin. A little fear instilled into the other man and he'd be spilling out information left and right. No problem.

 

"Is that so?" Joker taunted. "Well if I'm, as you say, going to regret this, I might as well make this interesting. Hey! Keep your other hand on the desk where I can see it. Good boy, don't want to cheat now do you. Oh you look confused. Did I forget to mention, I'm going to ask you some questions and you are going to answer. Simple right, Abner?" His voice was sugary sweet as he tapped the handle softly, his sadism showing he was finally in a better mood than earlier but Penguin ignored him, glaring daggers in a feigned face of courage that would not last.

 

"Abner."

 

"Stop calling me that." Penguin spit out annoyed.

 

Bruce could give some sympathy there, he never was a fan of the murderer’s pet names himself.

 

"Abner," he repeated ignoring the others outburst, just mocking him further. "It's no fun if you don't cooperate, not saying that has stopped me from having fun in the past, sometimes it's even more fun when others don't cooperate but you get what I'm saying right oh of course you do how could you not anyways as I was saying, we're friends after all, business partners usually but still I'd like to think of us as friends." He also ignored the scoff and muttered disagreement from Penguin. "So you can play along, can't you?"

 

Grudgingly Penguin nodded his head, if only to get rid of the madman sooner. Though everyone else in the room knew it was more out of fear of Joker making things worse for him which he easily could of done if prompted and even if not prompted to do so. Hitting the desk loudly Joker gave a low chuckle and a huge smile.

 

"That's the spirit, now when I first got here I was a bit surprised if you will to see your humble abode in such a messy state, you know what people say cleanliness is next to godliness yada yada all that boring jazz but still can't be good for business or your image, not that you had a great one to begin with. Everyone knows all the dirty money in Gotham has touched your hands so I have to ask what did you have for lunch today?"

 

Penguin was silent and even Bruce raised a brow at the ridiculous question that had no connection to the previous statement beforehand. Though not surprising as Joker has done that type of shit countless times even on him. More annoyingly was the Brief or Boxers question Bruce got once when saving a room filled with hostages that Joker claimed he only did that to ask that question in the first place. Really at this point nothing should surprise him anymore, though it certainly caught Penguin off guard and aggravated the hell out of him by the glare he was giving the clown.

 

"What the fuck type of question is that!?!" Cobblepot yelled only to have Joker twist the knife in his hand. Which was the whole point of the question in the first place as a reason to hurt the other even if Joker didn't need a reason in the first place. He'd come up with any excuse or no excuse and just do what he wanted like always.

 

"Tsk, it's not that hard of a question or are you to daft to understand it?" He mocked.

 

Gritting his teeth in pure rage he yield to the ridiculous game the clown had set him up for. "Steak." He responded, his tone easily giving away his irritation at having to answer something so pointless.

 

"Sounds tasty, how was it cooked?" Another pointless question was asked which gave another chance for another outburst to be reciprocated with pain but Penguin was learning. "Medium well." He answered bored leaving Joker obviously disappointed at the missed opportunity.

 

"I like mine medium-rare." He commented and went silent for a moment as he tapped his finger against his chin. "Well, on to more important stuff then, so who wrecked your little club?"

 

Now that was a question Bruce really was intrigued to know. He knew that a new gang war would be starting soon. If anyone was brave enough to attack Cobblepot one of the rulers of the underworld then it had to be someone who could handle the outcome of that decision and since it wasn't Joker that made the information even more valuable to Bruce as he knew he would need to get involved if the situation didn't handle itself. He wasn't about to let innocents die. Gotham was his city to protect and he would not be making the same mistakes he has made in the past. He wouldn't allow it. His guilt of almost allowing Harvey to be killed by the madman in front of him was bad enough. Harvey had been his friend a long time ago and he swore when Harvey became Two Face that he would do whatever he could to one day bring the old Harvey back. A promise he couldn't keep if Harvey died. Even if Joker had told Two Face he only planned to kill one of his personalities, Bruce knew which one that would be and that brought Batman back out to fight Joker and stop him. That moment he was asked for help is what brought him to this point now. For his own selfishness to take a back seat and to choose a harder path than what he was allowing before with Joker. 

 

"That bastard, Roman Sionis." Penguin narrowed his eyes and spit out the name in pure ire. "He thinks he can mess with me. He has another thing coming to him. I'll gut him myself!"

 

Black Mask was as dangerous as they come, Bruce knew that. With the fact he rose to power so quickly and could only be currently controlled by either Batman himself stopping his reign or Joker putting him in his place. Still that didn't change how influential he was in Gotham’s criminal world. Even more powerful than the days of Falcone. If he was starting a gang war then things were about to become a deadly battlefield in Gotham. Bruce looked at Joker and a tug of war in his mind started to form. He couldn't do anything about this new events that would only bring death and destruction to Gotham as Matches Malone. Only as Batman could he have a say to change the stakes in this new war that was coming. He knew all too well that Penguin was going to retaliate hard and heavy against Black Mask. He knew that lives were going to be lost. He knew how dangerous that was for the average everyday people in this city. It was starting to become clear that Silver may be right for a whole new reason. When it was just his life on the line he knew his current cause he was doing now was worth it. However, with a gang war on the sunrise that was now not the case. Though how could he pull away now when he got so far in Jokers gang? A chance that he would never be able to get again if Matches Malone disappeared. Joker had gotten close to his disguise and who knew how he would react if he just up and vanished, especially since Batman hadn't shown up at the school. He saw how much that affected the madman and it wasn't pretty. Would Joker just shrug off Malone’s disappearance if Batman was back to fight him as well as dealing with this new situation? It was a possibility yes. After all Joker claimed countless times his life was all for the dance between them. Still what if that gambit was wrong and Joker acted out more in violence towards Gotham than normal. Even if that wasn't different from normal it was still a very big concern to consider. A decision had to be made soon and regardless of which course of action he made neither outcome was looking favorable.

 

"Blackie McMaskie sure likes to take fun risks doesn't he?" Joker commented as if he didn't care. Which why would he? Even Joker knew despite Black Masks being second in control of Gotham’s underworld he wouldn't be idiotic enough to attack Joker. Well at least not yet. That was always a future possibility with the life the madman lived. "So, am I to take it that our dear friend," Penguin scoffed at the comment of friend. Honestly the fact Joker even used that word was ridiculous to everyone but the clown. "That he took what is so rightfully mine?"

 

Now that left a third option for Bruce if that was the case. He could tell how Joker worded it. Possessive in his nature he'd never allow others to have what he considered his. If Sionis stole Jokers money then that left the door open for Joker to end the gang war himself. Which could be a good thing or a horrible one in itself. The clown prince of crime was affective at getting others to listen to him. No one could ever deny that. However if all three gangs went to war if Sionis didn't listen to Joker at first then all hell in Gotham would break lose and Batman would have his work more than cut out for him. Did he doubt his abilities to handle that situation? No. But he could acknowledge it was not a problem he wanted to have to deal with in the very least. Though if Joker could get the other two gangs under control then all of this could be avoided in the first place. That only mattered on what Penguin had to say next though. So Bruce was even more on edge as Penguin seemed to be contemplating his answer to the clown. It seemed Penguin was debating if getting Joker involved would be worth it or not. After all it was a double edge sword. Having Joker interfere in Penguin’s gang war could solve it simply or like Bruce and obviously Penguin were thinking could had dire consequences to all involved.

 

Finally sighing, it looked like he decided on his answer after a little more prompting from Annie impatient maniac by pushing the knife more into his hand. "No, the money was stolen the day before..." Penguin finally gave in to what Bruce figured was the truth by the grimace of defeat on his face. Which only brought Bruce back to square one of his inner conflict but also avoided a whole other level of one at the same time which he didn't know if he could feel relieved for it or not. Joker seemed even more disappointed in this answer as he shifted his position a bit. His black gloves tapped on the desk as he gave the silent but specific question as of who did it then. Or more of who is foolish enough to do so?

 

Penguin glanced at the tapping fingers and back up at Joker, seemingly now embarrassed about what he was about to say. After all not many people got the drop on Oswald as it was.

 

"I was going to handle the situation myself before you found out." He muttered quietly just barely audible. "As you can see I've been busy though today," he spoke up then. "I know they worked for Dent," which caused a shiver and a whole new need for Bruce to leave as Malone and be Batman again. He couldn't allow a repeat of last time he just couldn't. "Dent doesn't have the money, though. I was informed that by my men on the inside that the money is at the apartment of a women named Shelly Frost. As I'm aware you two have met last time you were out. She has as much of a grudge against you as Dent does." He finished which brought a silence to the room.

 

Harley seemed especially irritated for a reason Bruce could not grasp as she quickly stormed past him muttering profanities under her breath and out of the room slamming the door shut behind her. Joker didn't even bat an eye at her leaving. He was just quiet as he slowly pushed himself off the desk and stood straight in front of it, tilting his head to the side as if perplexed by the name he was just given. Bruce knew Joker had harmed countless number of people in his life, killed up close to thousands and the number even higher for just harming either directly or indirectly at that. He must have been trying to put a face to the name. A piece to the puzzle in his memory. The last name Frost was the only thing that seemed to affect him at all and it didn't take a detective to know this woman had a connection to Jonny Frost, Jokers last pet project. The man that Joker had mentioned to Bruce a good number of times the past few weeks he was in disguise. The man who fell to his death during a brutal fight that neither of them payed much attention to. It seemed to finally click in the Joker’s mind as his shoulders twitches slightly in an emotion that even Bruce couldn't exactly place. Penguin was too busy to pay attention as he painfully ripped the knife from his hand and let the knife clank flat on the desk. Not foolish enough to do anything with it as he clutched his hand to his chest. Grumbling his displeasure at this entire meeting between the two crime lords. Joker allowed it. Still lost in thought of whatever memory was affecting him so much and that was just probing Bruce’s mind to find out the story of this woman even more so. All he knew though was this meeting was about to come to a close.

 

"If you'd like I could get the money back to you as I was planning on-" Cobblepot was cut off when Joker raised a gloved finger to him.

 

"I assume you have the minx’s address." His voice was deadly calm. No humor and no emotion showing through. Whatever good mood he got from hurting Penguin was now gone.

 

"Well, of course as I was after all-" again he was cut off by Jokers speaking over him again.

 

"I'll deal with it, now be a good little Arctic bird and write it down for me would ya." He finally turned and for the first time since Bruce had got there and only got a glance for being there when he entered did Joker’s attention turn towards him. He grinned but even Bruce knew it was a fake one at that. "You can hand it to him and Matchstick you can drive me there won't you, pal.”

 

Bruce took the matchstick from his mouth and flicked it to the floor before replying. "As you say Boss." He gave a curt nod as well. Joker started walking towards the door and just stopped in front of it and looked at Bruce, there was still a distant tension between the two of them that he was positive wasn't going to last much longer.

 

"By the way, Matchy, I like red on you, glad to see you took my good advice and added some color to your getup." Which seemed very hypocritical in that moment given the only light color Joker was wearing at the moment was his green dress shirt. Of course he didn't comment on his though at all. Though Bruce was wearing red it was a dark red dress shirt and he was wearing a black leather jacket and black slacks so the red rarely showed anyways so it wasn't like he was actually listening to what Joker had to say about his wardrobe anyways. Though a bitter part of him wished he had worn black instead today. He didn't say anymore as Bruce knew he'd be waiting by one of the cars outside and Joker took his leave letting the door close barely behind him.

 

Penguin was still holding his hand when Bruce looked back at him, though the man was in pain he seemed calmer now that Joker was out of the room and he had survived like Bruce predicted earlier. It made him wonder if Joker just kept Penguin alive for his own amusement and his ability to follow orders. Probably.

 

Penguin glanced up at Bruce and seemed to forget for a moment that he had been ordered a task, grumbling he opened a drawer from his desk and pulled out a file that seemed to be on the top. With his uninjured hand he flipped it open and flipped some pages until he came to what he was looking for and pulled out, his hand outstretched for Bruce to take it. Walking over he didn't say a word as he took the file, only glancing at it to see a picture taken of a woman from the street in front of a run-down apartment complex, she had auburn hair that was messy but he could only make out the side of her face from the angle the picture was taken. There were notes that gave an address in the narrows of Gotham and more of a description of the woman. Not needing to say anything he turned to leave only to be stopped by Penguins voice.

 

"I'm surprised he hasn't killed you yet." He commented.

 

Bruce didn't turn around to regard him. Again this morning meeting with Silver came to his mind. She had told him how worried she was of that outcome and Bruce responded to Penguin the same way he did to her earlier. "I'm not disposable to him."

 

A pained laugh was heard behind him and Bruce could tell it blatant disbelief at the absurd nature of his statement to outside observers that wasn't him or Joker. He could hear Penguin moving things around in his desk cupboards and he knew it was for he could treat the wound in his hand.

 

"Keep tellin' yourself that and you surely will end up dead. Ya know when I first met you after you won the initiation fights that you could handle yourself. I was even tempted to hire you myself. That thought quickly went away when you said you were only interested in joining that maniac and no one else. I thought you were crazy then and I don't hire idiotic madmen, now though I see you are even crazier than I first thought." He laughed as he mocked Bruce. He didn't care for his words. It meant nothing to him. "Joker’s going to prove you wrong. You’re going to end up in a river someday soon, you know that don't you." It wasn't a question it was a statement. Bruce highly doubt his own death would end up that way as he saw it for years now as a battle between the Joker and Batman. If he didn't end up having to break his one rule first. That was the only part of that statement he could even agree with. Without another word or thought to whatever more Penguin might have to say he simply walked out the door prepared for dealing with this situation about Shelly Frost. He wondered though if Penguins henchman would be the only casualty that Joker had planned for the day. He however doubted that.

 

---

 

Being in the car alone with Joker was an unfortunate comfortability he had learned to deal with after years of fighting the madman and this moment was no different. Driving the Joker to a known destination was also another comfortability he was again used to after years of driving Joker back to Arkham Asylum. Years ago, Bruce learned he just couldn't simply leave Joker unconscious of tied up for authorities to pick him up, those early mistakes of underestimating Joker had led to many good police officers’ deaths. Even though Bruce had no say what happened to Joker after he dropped him off at his destination he had learned that Batman had to at least get him there in the first place. So he had been accustomed to long drives with just him and Joker. Though majority of those times Joker had tried to gloat and goad him on in one form another. The clown always trying to provoke Batman to react in an unfavorable fashion before they ever reached their destination. It's what he had come to expect from Joker and so now this car ride felt so unfamiliar to him than previous ones that it left him on edge and he could only think about the silent treatment he received last time. The logical part of his mind told him this time was only different because he wasn't Batman right now and Joker had no reason to act in his usual banter of life and death. Some routines were so ingrained though that when life wasn't following them it made him feel off kilter.

 

The other reason though was that he was not Batman right now driving Joker to a place where he could only hope he wouldn't hurt others despite that foolish optimistic standpoint but now driving him to a destination he knew that's exactly what Joker would be doing. If Shelly Frost was home then he knew she would die and Joker was an artist in his murders. His conscious was screaming at him to fight back against this. To stop Joker before he could harm someone. Yet he had stood by when Joker hurt Cobblepot and barely bat an eye. If it was criminals it felt easier to justify to himself and that made him realize that maybe his own morality was dubious at the very least. After all the only information he had on this woman was that she had helped Harvey steal from Penguin and that she was the ex-wife of Jonny Frost. It all made him curious as to what transpired between the Joker and her, yet he knew it was nothing good. He also found it peculiar when he had gotten to the outside of the club that Joker and Harley were in an argument that only ended with her being hit so hard she fell to the ground. Joker had only waved her off with a dismissal as he told Bruce that they would be going to the apartment alone.

 

Joker was in the back seat as Bruce drove smoking a cigar, which was making the car almost unbearable to breathe in but Bruce knew better then to point out his objection at the moment and his only form of protest was rolling down his own window to give his lungs a must needed break. After all, Bruce never drank, never smoked and kept a diet to keep his bodies abilities as healthy as possible. Joker was the opposite as he threw caution to the wind at such a prospect. Despite that though Joker was extremely agile, able to handle himself without tiring for long fights between him and Gotham’s protector. Only losing when Bruce overpowered him with more skill though Joker always disputed that and claimed he only lost because winning once meant there would never be any fun in life for him anymore. It was a disagreement they would both have to one of them died he was sure of that. It didn't change Joker’s very high levels of endurance though. A concept that Bruce chalked down to a possibility given the clowns unhealthy lifestyle to that chemical bath so many years ago.

 

"I've missed this." Joker’s voice had caught him off guard. Just the phrasing felt like he had been reading Bruce's mind despite that not being a possibility. Raising a brow in the rear view mirror, Joker saw it instantly. As he continued, "I've missed being alone with you Matchy, I've been thinking about our last time alone together this past several days," he finished with a smirk on his face.

 

Bruce on the other hand didn't miss that night on the roof in the least. Sure it had been a nice calm that he should feel guilty about experience with Joker at all in the beginning but the conversation after left a sour taste in his mouth. As even when he wasn't Batman he still couldn't avoid Jokers excessive need for wanting him to kill. To fall down a path that he mustn't ever take. Bruce decided the best way to avoid that conversation was to deflect from off of his disguise to well his other disguise he used.

 

"Did you find what you were looking for when you were gone boss?" He fringed ignorance. Bringing up Batman was a risky move as it went against the unspoken rules of the Jokers gang and he knew that the moment Jokers smile fell from his lips as he looked sullenly out the car window. Seeming for now to be distracted from the previous conversation before it could really start.

 

"No, but I will." there was a determination in his voice and also a warning that even if it wasn't directed at Malone it was definitely directed at Bruce himself. A threat of a warning that even Bruce knew would come true sooner or later. He planned on leaving this fake persona after all and going back to the symbol of Gotham City itself.

 

The car went back to silence after that brief conversation as both men were in their own thoughts. Bruce knew they would be arriving at their destination soon. An outcome that he wasn't thrilled about. It wasn't like in the school where he could do anything to save the children like he did. Well he could stop this but it would come at an even more dangerous cost than before. Joker wouldn't allow another heroic attempt from Malone and doing so could easily connect the dots for the murderous psychopath. That would leave consequences that he had no intention of currently having to deal with. It only brought him more displeasure when he turned on the street to the run down apartments where he knew Jokers next victim would be. Every part of him wanted to stop this and consequences be damned, but there was more at stake than allowing that to happen.

 

Parking the car in front of the apartment brought his instincts to fight this in full affect. Neither one of them said anything as they both stayed in the car. Joker didn't seem as eager to enter the run down building even with the prospect of death in the air. It made Bruce even more perplexed of the reasoning behind that and for a moment he wondered if Joker was going to abandon this whole idea in the first place. The sound of the window being rolled down startled him a bit as Joker took one more drag of his cigar before flicking it out the window. He heard shuffling in the back of the car as Joker leaned in close to him using his hand on Bruce's shoulder to help support his weight at the awkward angle he was in. Bruce turned his head slightly to look at him and even then they were still silent for a while. Hazel contact eyes looking into acidic green. Worried at the prospect that Joker would notice that they were contacts with the close proximity but he even had that same thought when he left the roof of the hotel. If Joker did notice or not he didn't comment on it, which was both relieving and not. It left to much of an option of if Joker was fucking with him or not. Though he relaxed himself by believing Jokers ego would prevent him from doing so. A gambit but one he'd bet on none the less. Grinning now in a way too familiar way, Joker reached into his coat pocket.

 

"I know you're not much of a fan of bang bangs, Matchy, but I think it's about time you learned to enjoy them." He chuckled as he reached over and dropped the 9mm gun onto his lap. His fingers stroked up his arm as if he was petting his favorite dog. "I think you can handle this one for dear old Mr. J."

 

Now this Bruce was not expecting. Knowing Joker wanted him to kill was one thing, but in doing this he was unknowingly giving control of the situation to Bruce when he truly thought he had none. If Joker waited in the car for him he could easily go in and get the money that was stolen and no one had to die. If Joker knew that then there would be no way he'd let Bruce go in there alone with the gun no less. He contemplated if Jokers true intention right now was to just to make Malone kill or if his lack of enthusiasm earlier was a sign that he was just finding any fun in the situation. That latter was even more out of place so he took the former train of thought instead. Bruce glanced down at the gun and even then if it gave him the power to control the situation at hand he still didn't want to take it. Sighing, he did though. There was no really other option, after all. Patting Bruce on the head and smiling in murderous glee, Joker leaned back in his seat and got comfortable.

 

"I doubt the minx will give you too much trouble. You're a big boy after all, I know you can handle it." His voice was borderline teasing and flat out mockery.

 

"Whatever ya say, boss." It wasn't a phrase he liked saying.

 

"That's what I like to hear especially from you, Matchy." Joker grinned and leaned his head back and closed his eyes as Bruce removed his seatbelt and got out of the car. He knew exactly which apartment number she was in. Though it did make him a bit concerned if she was inside if she was preparing for such a visit. The picture taken for the file showed that she didn't know she had been followed at the time or watched but stealing anything from Joker would make the majority of people properly paranoid. He didn't want to have to subdue her if he didn't have to but he would if need be. It was better than dying and certainty better than whatever Joker would have in mind for her if it was him going inside instead of Bruce. Hell any of the others of Jokers men wouldn't hesitate to kill her or worse and she was lucky even if she didn't know it that it was Bruce of all people being set up to handle her little theft. Because it was Bruce she was able to live another day and if she wasn't home he'd leave her a note telling her to get out of town as discreetly as possible. Life in Gotham almost never gave most people more than one lucky break.

 

The inside of the apartment building was as bleak as the outside and just as run down. There obviously hadn't been repairs done in years and no doubt should have been closed down due to hazard environment to live in for just as long. Bruce often spent a good amount of his income to help restore old buildings like this in Gotham to help the pure and even build new homes for them to live cheaply as well. Not having enough income to live often caused more people to turn to life of crime and Bruce would much prefer to handle as much as that problem as he could with his money bettering the city's lower income households. He didn't want to have to fight as Batman every struggling person who needed basic supplies to survive if he could prevent it. The elevator to go up to the second or third floors wasn't working which meant any disabled or elderly person who lived here had to risk taking the stairs which could result in an accidental fall. That bothered him and he made a mental note to use his own money on fixing the apartment buildings in this neighborhood as well on his list. It was the least he could for them. He knew Shelly lived on the second floor in apartment F12 and so that where he had to put his focus on.

 

There was a long hallway that had turns on the left and right side with doors to apartments on both sides of the front and back. He could see the next stair case on the right to head to the next level but he didn't need to go there. Again as he spotted the apartment he needed to go in he could feel the weight of the gun inside his jacket pocket on the inner pockets. It wasn't a comforting feeling having it there as a gun would comfort a police officer or empower a criminal on the street. It only had one purpose and that was to bring death. Sure it could wound an attacker without killing them but it was primarily used to kill who was ever in the bullets way as Bruce had learned a long time ago. Needless to say he did not enjoy having one on him and it made him wonder if Shelly was home would she have one as well? Probably. Gun rights were always at fore-mind of people of Gotham given how high crime statistics were in this city. Not that it ever stopped the criminals from obtaining and killing with them themselves.

 

As he stopped in front of apartment F12 he could feel his instincts making him more aware of his surroundings. He could hear television sets blasting in some of the rooms nearby, music blasting in others but still the hallway stayed empty. It took him less than a second for him to figure he could literally kick down the door and he would still have time to rob the place if he wanted for even more than Jokers money before anyone call the authorities and that wasn't counting the fact if the authorities would even arrive on the scene at all. Many of the GCPD were corrupt as the criminals they brought in if not more so which always made his and Gordon's job harder. This was one of the few instances besides the early days of his fight on crime where he was actually counting on the incompetence of the GCPD.

 

He leaned his ear against the door and listened for if she was inside or not. After about a minute of not hearing anything from behind this door he pulled back and knocked as quietly and as loud as he would dare. He felt a bit foolish for doing so as in the past if he wanted in somewhere well he would find a way in. This was different however. If she heard the knocking maybe he'd hear movement then. Though he chastised himself as if she did hear knocking she may arm herself or try to flee given the dangerous position she put herself in. Chastising himself as well if he did find the missing money then by returning it to Joker would also mean he was participating in whatever new scheme Joker had planned next. That was the only reason Joker relied on money in the first place after all. He couldn't be bought like other men. Not at all. It was just an ends to a means. All for the sick games that drives the madman on.

 

After a couple more knocks it became clear that she was not in fact home which relieved Bruce at the very least. It would make this job all the more easier and even if Joker did come up those stairs at least she wasn't in current danger from the likes of the clown. A comforting thought as he took out the small lock picking kit from the inside of his jacket. Bruce had made a habit of carrying one on his person as he never knew when the need would arise for himself. It took less than a minute for the gears in the lock to move and unlock the door with a click. Taking a deep breath and one more look around the hallway he opened the door and let himself in, closing the door quietly and locking it behind him.

 

The room was small in size nowhere even close to how big Silvers hotel room he was in earlier that day. The living room had only enough room for a small couch and there was only a small television stand with a television and a lamp in the small room. There was no dining area so if meals were to be eaten it would be on the cheap couch. He spotted the kitchen next and it was narrow which could probably only fit one person in at a time. There was a window at the end wall of the living room which would lead to the fire escape with dark brown curtains to block out the sun. On the wall near the kitchen was a small size door which was probably a small storage closet. He went there first opening it up but was only met with cleaning supplies and very few at that. There were women's clothes thrown about on the floor and Bruce took notice that Shelly must of not much cared for cleaning at all. He checked the cabinets in the kitchen next for good measure and only found a small amount of cooking utensils. After checking underneath the couch and television stand he turned his attention to the bedroom door.

 

There was only one bed room in the apartment which would make his search go even faster if the money was in fact here at all since there was not many places for it to be hiding. It made Bruce wonder why Harvey would have Shelly hold onto the money in the first place. If he even did but that's what the file said and Penguin was very thorough on keeping good information on people that he needed to. The bedroom was bigger than the living room and kitchen but not by much square feet. There was only a twin size bed in the corner, a few pieces of art that one would find at a thrift store hanging on the wall, a dresser against the wall that had a tiny jewelry box on it and small night stand by the bed. There were two doors one leading to a walk in closet and another leading to the bathroom and stand in shower. Bruce went to the closet first and was a bit more surprised by the number of outfits in the closet. It seemed where money went to lacking for the rest of the home it made up in dresses and clothes instead.

 

What he was searching for however was not there, he took looking under the bed next and came up empty as well. That left the night stand which he doubted based on the size, the dresser and the under the sink cabinet of the bathroom. He checked the dresser first and found only more clothes. So that left the obvious place the bathroom but a part of him wanted to check the nightstand first and when he opened it he found his curiosity had given him something else entirely. There were four envelopes mailed to her and ripped open at the top messily and if it wasn't for the name of the sender and the date that was scrawled messily on it he wouldn't have given it another glance. But those two factors did stop him and those two factors made him pick up the four and glance inside. They were letters to Shelly from Jonny Frost and the dates were when he was employed under the Joker.

 

It wasn't the most ethical decision that had Bruce folding the envelopes and putting them on the inside pocket of his jacket pocket. Not that most of Bruce's decision making skills would be considered ethical to normal society standards. No, it was the few quick glances and the fact that Jokers name came up in the letters that had him taking them for he would have the time to read them latter tonight. He didn't get much of reading in the few quick glances as he only wanted to see if it would be beneficial for him to take in at all. Given how long and how close Jonny Frost had gotten to the Joker under his wing it would be very beneficial for him to take. Without a second thought on the morality of his actions he went to the last hiding spot the money could be found and he wasn't disappointed with a wasted trip for in the back of the bathroom cabinet was a black duffle bag, he pulled it out unzipped the top and inside was the huge amount of hundred dollar pills he was looking for. Re-zipping the bag and slinging the bag strap against his shoulder, ready to leave with the two things he had found that's when he heard the front door start to unlock.

 

His heart beat quickened as the adrenaline started pumping in his veins he moved fast and silently to inside the living room, going for the kitchen where he wouldn't be seen. The weight of the gun in his pocket heavy on his mind again. He saw the door open and long curly auburn hair of Shelly Frost enter the small living space. She hadn't spotted him yet and he knew her luck was on her side that it was him hiding in her apartment instead of the Joker.

 

When she closed the door to lock it and had her back turned on him his small amount of guilt for scaring the shit out of her the moment she turned and he grabbed her using his strength to hold her trapped against the door and his hand to cover her mouth was easily pushed away given that it was him and no one else that was doing this to her right now. Her dark eyes widened in shock at the sight of him and her body trembled when her brain caught up to her body of the very dangerous situation she found herself in. He knew she would have screamed and that's why he kept his hand over her mouth. He had to be firm to keep her from struggling and he could feel her trying to kick him so he used his body to push her more against the door to cease her movements. The worse she would get of this encounter was a few bruises from his tight grip and that was far from what Joker had expected Malone to do to her.

 

"Shhh," he spoke calmly and reassuringly even if she wasn't having none of it. "I'm not going to hurt you." He told her honestly but that was a statement that anyone born and raised in Gotham always knew was a lie. Her eyes darted around the room in a panic looking for any escape that they both knew she could only get if he allowed her. Which he would but only when she calmed down first to listen to him. Her eyes spotted the duffle bag strap that hung around his shoulder and that only seemed to scare her more. "Shelly, listen I have no intention of harming you but in order for me to let you go you need to calm down and listen to me first." He didn't know how to describe what he was feeling in this moment but he didn't feel like Matches Malone, he didn't feel like Batman or even Bruce Wayne all he felt he decided to ignore the unease he was getting from the situation. "Nod if you understand." He gave her a small command even if his voice was soft.

 

Shelly’s eyes narrowed on his and reluctantly she nodded and even though Bruce figured what would happen next he loosened his grip on her and removed his hand from her mouth. She quickly opened her mouth to scream and try to dart past him but his reflexes were too quick and they both found themselves back to square one. Bruce figured it would go that way but a part of him hoped it didn't have to as her struggle for the false sense of survival was even more so than before.

 

"Shelly, Joker could come here at any moment if you don't calm down and if that happens you won't get out of this alive." He told her bluntly and true-fully and at first Joker’s name made her panic even more as she tried to turn her head away from his hand which made him have to use more pressure to keep her still. He didn't like this one bit.

 

In his eyes despite the fact she was working for Harvey she was still a frightened woman in a situation that was a nightmare for any woman to come home to. An unknown man waiting in their home and holding them against their will with no knowledge if they'll survive the encounter or worse. She didn't seem to hear the rest of his sentence so he repeated it and slowly started to loosen his grip to give her more reassurance that seemed to shock her as her eyes darted back to his and her heaving chest started to calm down. When Bruce felt he could let her go again he did so slowly and backed up just a bit to give her space but able to react if he needed to. They were both silent for what felt like longer than it was. Both watching each other with causation. Unsure of the others next decision but she was the one who broke the silence first.

 

"You have what you came for, now get the fuck out." She tried to be brave but her voice wavered. Though he agreed with her statement but he still needed her to leave. Needed her to get out of the Gotham as this might be her only chance to. Even she could tell she was luckier than most people in her position would be.

 

"I will, but, Shelly, you don't have much time. Joker obviously knows where you live or I wouldn't be here." He spoke and she shivered but he had to tell her a truth that they both knew. "You need to leave now. Take the back exit. I assume that's how you got in here given you're up here now and therefore Joker hasn't spotted you correct." She nodded slightly, twitching with the urge to either fight or flee for her life that was only in danger the longer she stayed here. "Good. That means there's time but not more than a couple of minutes, grab what you need quickly and go."

 

He stepped to the side and although he knew it wasn't the smartest idea he opened the duffle bag and took out one of the wad of hundreds and held it out to her. Joker might be pissed off missing money but it was probably already expected to happen once it was stolen in the first place. She looked skeptical at him, trying to gauge if it was a trick. He kept his expression calm for her as again he had no intention of harming her. As she took the money she moved back quickly but he didn't stop her. Wanting her to feel safe in his presence and when he didn't react, her previous fear seemed to dissipate in thin air and she stood taller and surer of herself.

 

"You work for Harvey?" She asked unsure if he was one of Harvey's men undercover in Joker’s gang. Though she was right about him being undercover it wasn't for the reason she thought. He debated lying to her or not but opted out for a half truth.

 

"No, I just simply don't want to see you get hurt. Now, please hurry."

 

"If you don't want to see someone get hurt, you're working for the wrong man… if you can even call that monster a man." She spat bitterly with a rage he wasn't sure he could place. All he knew about her history with Joker was just the fact that her ex-husband worked for him and was killed for him. Though he couldn't disagree with her disgust on the subject he did wonder what else might have happened and if the letters he stole had any information to do with it though he'd found out later as he had no intention of returning them.

 

"Trust me, I know all too well what type of man he is." Bruce responded as she was quickly gathering a couple of clothes into a small bag and she threw the money he handed her into her purse. She was quick at grabbing what she needed he took notice but then again she would have to be stealing from the Joker.

 

"You say that, but given you're here now you obviously don't." When her fear had subsided she definitely had a temper about her. Though the irony in her statement was not lost on him. It was for that very reason he was there now. He knew Joker and because he needed to know more about him to stop him all together. Years of fighting him hadn't accomplished much of anything. That just knowing him as well as he did caused the deaths of so many innocent people. That he knew him more than anyone in Gotham and yet didn't know enough yet. He chose not to comment on all of that though and went for a simple response.

 

"I know enough." and that was as true of a statement as he could have given anyone.

 

"That's what Jonny thought too." She said even more bitterly as she grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the kitchen she seemed ready and had her car keys out as well after she put the pack in her purse she looked up at him and gave him a dejected smile. "You seem different from the others who work for that monster, so a bit of advice get out while you can. He may seem like he can offer you the world on a silver platter. Fuck, Jonny, thought so too but-" she paused looking more downcast. "Just take you own advice and get out while you are still breathing with what's left of yourself."

 

In that moment, he didn't see Shelly Frost standing in front of him, but Silver from earlier. She had warned him as well of the danger he was not only putting himself in but his own moral code. It may have been in fewer words but the message earlier was as clear as day and even now he knew he had no choice. There were still things to consider like the gang war brewing between Penguin and Black Mask that needed to be dealt with. Yet here he was, he had terrified this woman in front of him, probably bruised her a bit and yet he still knew he couldn't stop being Malone right now. He couldn't stop this chance that he was given. Silver and Shelly were right though, he could end up losing himself if he wasn't careful. If he was more diligent in not letting Joker warm his way in to his mind and twisting him apart till the clown got what he wanted. It wouldn't be an effortless task to do so but he had to. For not only Gotham’s sake of the consequences of a not morally in check Batman but for his own sanity. Bruce knew he was walking on razor blades every day and he was willing to do so. Looking into her dark eyes he gave her as much of a comforting smile as he could manage. The words didn't need to be said. They both knew from looking at each other that he appreciated her words but that they would have no weight in the situation.

 

Leaving the apartment she locked the door behind them and looked up at him. "I didn't get your name." It was an awkward question for how they met but he could tell she was trying to lighten the mood. It was understandable. Here she would be running for her life to get as far away from a monster that harmed her in the past and here Bruce was going to have to go back to that same monster willing of his own accord for a mission to make things better for his city. If small talk made her feel better and knowing the name of the man that was ordered to kill her but didn't then he would oblige her.

 

"Matches Malone." He said even if it wasn't the truth it was the man he had to be right now. For it was the man he was disguised as that saved her. Because it wasn't Batman that was in her apartment. Not fully. It was as good enough of an answer that he could even give her anyways.

 

"That's an odd nickname anyways take care of-" before she could finish her sentence they hear footsteps and whistling at the bottom of the stairs. They both knew who it was and there was no time to finish talking, Bruce glanced at her quickly and the moment their eyes met she was off as quickly as possible by the time she turned the corner in the hallway and completely out of sight Joker was now up the stairs grinning at Bruce from ear to ear when he spotted the bag.

 

"Oh, Matchy, you found it. I was just about to see what was taking so long." He spun around in his spot his trench coat swinging with movement and he stopped back facing Bruce and leaned forward with his hands clasped and batted his eye lashes. "Was the little minx in? I hope she was a good host it would be a shame if she was rude to my little matchstick after all." He grinned and leaned back tilting his head. Bruce knew exactly what he wanted to hear. The maniac wanted to hear that Bruce finally killed someone. That their talk on the roof of the hotel had been successful. That Bruce was becoming what Joker wanted him to be. Even though he could lie or at least give half-truth and probably avoided a bigger headache latter it was just way too tempting to crush that sadistic glee that Joker was in.

 

"She wasn't here boss, probably skipped town, I would have to guess." like Bruce expected the gleam in those green eyes diminished and his shoulders shagged a little as what he was hoping for didn't happen. Bruce would never give him that satisfaction as long as he was alive and that's what he held on to. His one rule that kept him from falling off the edge into the darkness that Joker saw in him. It brought him satisfaction in that moment and hope for the future. After all Joker not getting what he desperately wanted was better for everyone. The smile came back instantly though and Joker started laughing his infamous laugh as he clutched his sides. If anyone in the apartment building heard him there would be no way in hell that they would ever come out to disturb them now.

 

"It is how heh it is. Don'tcha worry, there will be another time for more fun! Hehe" Joker started to calm down from his laughing fit and Bruce knew he was serious with what he was saying. Yes there would be other times as long as Joker had his way and yes Bruce was determined for him to never get what he wanted. It was a battle of wills and Bruce trusted himself to be winner in the end.

 

Joker moved in close to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder and tugging him closer as he leaned his head against Bruce's shoulder. It wasn't the most comfortable position but he allowed it. Better to have Joker in a good mood than a bad one and the clowns mood had been off all day anyways. He was starting to act more like the man he knew which was both good and bad. Joker was very clingy and need all the attention it was in his nature as a showman in the sadistic world he lived.

 

"I really do like the red on you. It's a dark red too it makes me think of how you'll look with someone else's blood on you." He purred the words like a lover as he nuzzled into Bruce's neck. That was aggravating how Joker viewed such things there was no reason of arguing over it right now.

 

"Glad ya like it." Bruce grumbled out and he could feel the Joker snickering next to him.

 

"Matchstick, I meant what I said in the car. I really did miss you. It was boring without you around. Though, to be honest, I do miss Bat more than you, but that's a given. Hey at least you were missed right? Have you ever been missed by someone before? Yes? No? I'd say yes, but then again you do have awful conversational skills but we'll work on that. I'm patient, I always try to get Batsy to talk after all but he's more of a hands on type of guy. Are you a hands on type of guy? I bet you are. All the silent brooding types seem to be. Anyways I won't be gone long again anytime soon you won't need to worry about that, I got a grand plan to get dear old bat boys attention." He ranted and moved in even closer to Bruce, really invading his personal space. "I have so many plans and you'll be right there by my side won't you buddy?" It wasn't a question.

 

"As long as you want me to be." Bruce answered as he scowled away from Jokers touching. The distant tension between them earlier was completely gone now. Joker seemed to be thrilled to be in his company compared to earlier when he wanted nothing to do with him. If he was Batman he had Jokers full attention and now as Malone he again had Jokers full attention. Maybe subconsciously Joker was drawn to Malone because it was Batman even if he didn't know it. He had commented about seeing something in Bruce that he liked and that was the same thing unknown the clown at his side he saw in Batman as well. Not that Bruce could disagree with him. Every day he knew he had to fight against the darker side of himself. Justice not Vengeance was a mantra he told himself when on the edge of the abyss of his own making. Gotham needed a hero worthy of her and if he fell then he wouldn't be. Or maybe that's what the city wanted from him. Calling to him to fall as much as Joker did. Batman was born in the night of an alley with blood that Gotham always seemed to crave for its own survival. This city created the worse of the worse and by creating him he had created Joker. He could feel Jokers other hand fiddling with the outside of his jacket. On the other side of that wandering hand he knew Jonny Frosts letters were. A secret that he was keeping close to him like all the others. For whatever information he could gather that would be useful from them he knew Joker would not be overly thrilled about. It felt like a safety net with a maniac clinging right next to him. Just like his Arkham tapes to take a glimpse into the deranged mind of Gotham’s worse criminal. It was the only thing that gave him an edge in this power play of a game.

Chapter Text

Out of all the things the Joker has done, this made it to the top ten list of most bizarre Joker moments. It was absurd. He had dealt with his personal space being invaded, dealt with the flirtation that he chalked up as Joker trying to get under his skin, and even pointless questions that had no reason to ever be asked. Though as he held this new gift Joker had put in his room with a note it just went against all logical reasoning in his mind. It wasn't the first time he had received a gift from the criminal. Hell as Batman he had received plenty. One year on Valentine's Day, there was a heart shaped box mailed to the Gotham City Police Department for him with a human heart inside and a very disturbing poem. On Christmas one year Joker had dismembered body parts of various victims stringed up with Christmas lights around them in a form of his Bat-symbol to mock him. There had been even more disturbing gifts left for him over the years that they have known each other that it made this gift the strangest. Sure it wasn't meant for Batman and that probably had a lot to do with it but it was just so... innocent. It didn't feel right. Not in the slightest. It just wasn't Joker and yet completely Joker that his mind just couldn't wrap around the idea of the strange gift.

 

 

In his hand he was holding a stuffed black teddy bear, with green eyes that reminded him too much of Joker's own. There was two symbols of poker playing cards on the left side. A black jack spade and a red jack heart and on the right was the sewn name in purple that just said Jack. He had squeezed the teddy bear, trying to feel for a trick inside and all he could feel was the soft cotton stuffing. It was just so abnormal of a gift from a mass murderer that it just couldn't be real and yet it was. He had worried that Joker may of killed a child for the stuffed animal when he was out but the price tag was still there, which meant he most likely stole it. That didn't mean he didn't kill someone to get the stuffed animal but it made him feel slightly more at ease that he hadn't taken the bear from some would be deceased child. A small comforting thought but not by much. When he had returned with Joker to the motel and both departed ways for the night, Bruce was just wanting to take a shower and get some sleep after the stressful day and deal with everything in the morning. However when he had entered his room and turned on the light that thought died immediately on his mind as he spotted the bear on his night stand and the note. It sent a paranoia in him that Joker had been in his room and he worried the clown had been snooping but nothing was out of order. Yet the note was what made his stomach drop the most.

 

To Matchy Mic Matchstick,

 

I'm pretty disappointed when you didn't answer the door when I knocked. At first I thought you were being rude and ignoring me like you did several nights ago. Not nice by the way. Gotta work on your manners some more. So, I just let myself in. After all, I hadn't seen you in five days and I even went to the trouble of getting you a gift. His name is Jack, it's says so on him after all! I hope you take good care of him, after all everyone needs a teddy bear to sleep well at night. I even have one! He's a little brown bear I got in my early days at Arkham. I named him Bruce. He looked like a Bruce after all. Anyways I always make sure to take him to any new humble abode I stay at, even when I'm in Arkham I make sure he comes back to me. Can't sleep without him and I'm sure your new friend Jack will bring you as much rested sleep as I get from Bruce. Hehe well, can't write much as I have business with Abner, but I hope you like the surprise when you get back.

 

With love,

J

 

The note left Bruce in such a perplexed dread that he sat on the edge of the bed clenching the bear in one hand and the note in the other. Joker had named a teddy bear Bruce. His name. That was a terrifying thought. Was it a coincidence or did Joker know who he really was. He couldn't be sure and that made him more nervous than anything. If Joker knew, that left way to many dangerous situations in the air. If Joker knew, how long did he know Bruce Wayne was Batman? He said in the note he got the teddy bear of his in the early days of his Arkham stays and if he knew for all these years why hasn't he done anything with that information? Could he be saving it for a later date to use against Batman? That was a possibility. One he was not too keen on being a fact. Shaking his head and taking a deep breath he tried to relax himself. No, there just was no way Joker would sit on information like that for years. There was just too many chances the clown had in the past to act on such information. He couldn't have known and therefore as much as Bruce really didn't believe in coincidences he was just going to settle on that belief over the alternative. It was the only way he could keep a grip on his sanity of such a horrendous situation that would mean for him. Even telling himself that though didn't shake the wary feeling he had about the whole thing.

 

Bruce debated with himself of getting rid of the small gift the clown had given him. Tossing it out so he wouldn't even have to think about it. In the end, he just decided to put the teddy bear with the note in a drawer for he wouldn't have to look at it. Taking the out of sight, out of mind approach with this. Having more important things to focus his attention on, he pulled out the letters from his pocket. As he glanced at the envelopes in his hand he could only hope that Shelly Frost would follow his advice and get out of Gotham. If she didn't, he had no doubt she would suffer the same fate as the man who wrote these letters. Whatever Joker had done to her that caused her to work for Harvey Dent against the clown, he could understand her reasoning. Despite that, taking revenge against someone as dangerous as the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime could only end in disaster. A fate that he didn't want for the young woman.

 

These letters may not give much information and Bruce knew that. Not having the adequate time to read them earlier he had taken them on more of an impulse. Any insight, no matter how small, was worth it. At the same time, a minuscule part of him wanted to just toss the letters for what he may find inside could change the whole game. That thought didn't hold much weight to change his mind as he had seen enough Arkham tapes as it was. Four letters couldn't be that huge of a game changer despite how close Jonny Frost had gotten to the Joker. With no more second guesses he pulled the letters out of their envelopes and went on reading for insight that may prove useful.

 

 

Dear, Shelly

 

I know you don't want to hear from me and you have made that painstakingly clear. I have tried calling you off and on but you never answer. A letter may seem outdated and you'll probably never read this once you find out it’s from me. Perhaps my even trying is pointless, but I have things I need to tell you. So I hope you're reading this and haven't tossed this letter out yet. Our divorce was something I never wanted to happen, but I can't blame you for feeling the way you do. I wasn't the best husband or father to our kids and that's something I'll have to live with. Money never came in as steadily as we would have liked and me going to prison a good number of times didn't help. I do thank you for driving me to Gotham even if the circumstances weren't best. I wish things could have been different. I guess you probably don't want to read about shit that doesn't matter anymore so I'll get to the point of this letter. I have come into new employment you could say. Its work you wouldn't approve of but it pays well. So fucking well. All I have to do so far is drive the Joker around. Yeah, probably best you divorced me, I wouldn't want you to meet this guy ever. I'm sure you've heard on the news already how the freak was declared sane. Makes ya wonder how fucking crazy those so called doctors at Arkham are for letting him go. It works out for me though, I've only been working for the guy for a week and he's already paid me twenty grand. That's more than I have ever gotten from a dirty job. So yeah, I'm sure you're thrilled to hear about this and it's for the best I'm writing to you instead because you'd bitch my ear off if you answered my calls. Thing is Shell, that money won't be going to you. If we were still married then yeah it would but not now. I imagine you're pissed off now but before you rip up this letter do know that I am setting up a bank account for our kids. I may have been a fuck up as a father but I have always wanted the best for them. You won't get access to this bank account as I'm sure you'd spend it all on yourself and blame me for that but our kids will see the money when their eighteen. Then they can leave this city and be better than either of us ever were. Not much to say anymore so I suppose this is goodbye.

 

From, Jonny

 

Bruce set the first letter to the side a tinge of disappointment making itself rooted inside him. The first letter hardly gave him anything that he didn't already know. All it gave him was more of an inkling to help the young woman who was now running as far away from Gotham as possible. He didn't know that she had children, but now he wanted to do what he could for her to start a new. Sure he had allowed her to take some of Joker's money for herself, but it didn't feel like enough. It didn't sound like Jonny Frost was much of a father to his children but the fact that he had set money aside for them showed some level of care for their well-being. Children who now because of Joker would never get a chance to reconcile with their absent father. When, Bruce's own father Thomas Wayne had been alive, he had never a doubt in his head that he was loved and cared for. Thomas had been a good man and did his best in his short life to instill a moral code into Bruce. Something that Jonny Frost’s children would forever now be deprived of. The letter had left a bitter taste in his mouth and guilt for not doing more to save the man he had just viewed as a criminal. It was a reminder that even as much as a symbol as Batman was he wasn't perfect. Knowing that he continued on to the second letter.

 

Shelly,

 

It's me again. Honestly I didn't expect to write you again, but things are changing in Gotham. I do hope you and the kids are doing well, which is why I'm writing to you again. Joker has taken back control of this city and along with that I have risen to the top as well. I've never been in a position of control over what happens to me as I am now. You probably wouldn't even recognize me anymore with how much things have changed. With that said, there's some things that concern me. Joker is unstable, which is really no surprise, but I fear if I cross a line with the boss then there is no coming back from that. Fuck today I was so sure he was going to blow my brains out over a comment I told him. I'm surprised I'm even alive. The boss doesn't really make it a habit to spare anyone who irritates him. I know you dislike me and I understand that, but still if something happens to me, take the kids as far from this fucking city as you can. Just do that for them. This isn't a place to raise children as it is.

 

-Jonny

 

 

Setting the letter down next to the one he read previously, Bruce took a steady breath. Before he could contemplate much more on the letter a knock on the door distracted his thought. Taking one last glance at the letters before having to deal with a certain clown, he picked them up, opening the drawer where he put his bizarre gift and discarded them inside for latter.

 

What Bruce didn't expect to be at his door was the man he hadn't have gotten along with at all since he went undercover. Chuck glanced at him and Bruce was instantly on guard. It was no secret that there was animosity between them and Chuck would rather have him dead than here.

 

 

"What do you want?" He didn't have time to deal with the other man when more pressing matters were on his mind.

 

 

"It’s pay day, but you already knew that given you got the money back from the bitch," Chuck stated matter of fact, but there was a glint of something else in his voice. "We're all supposed to meet with the boss. Come on." He turned from the door seeming not to care if Bruce would follow or not.

 

Bruce debated with himself for a moment if he should even follow. There wasn't much certitude in thinking that Chuck wasn't up to something. Besides, a part of his mind was telling him that Joker was planning something big right now and wouldn't waste the money he just got back with these criminals. The madman may have not cared about money and would pay highly to his underlings but when Batman was involved he doubted that income would be freely given. Especially after the botched plan with the school and the clowns insistences with Penguin to get the location of his lost savings. Hazel contacted eyes glanced at the setting sun and before he closed the door he heard Chuck call out to him again, asking if he was coming or not. With resignation, he walked out and closed the door to follow.

 

 

---

 

Joker laid on his bed in his motel room. Acidic green eyes stayed glued to the dirty ceiling above him. His mind preoccupied on other things. Well, one thing. One person. Scratch that, two people. Harley was at the desk counting his stolen investment as she rambled on about nothing he was paying attention to. There was nothing his clingy toy could say much anymore that caught his interest.

 

 

Harley just couldn't seem to grasp that his interest in her had dissipated years ago. Not that he could fully blame her if he was honest with himself. It was his game he decided to play on her that broke her. Turned her into a love sick puppy he just couldn't seem to dispose of no matter how abused she was. Her name had interested him and that only was able to keep his attention with her for so long. Now though her voice irritated him.

 

 

"Harl, be a dear and shut that mouth of yours." Green eyes didn't even glance at her blue as she looked at him with a sadden look on her face.

 

 

"Oh, sorry Mistah J, didn't mean to disturb you." She responded timidly like a whipped dog.

 

 

Joker just ignored her. He knew she was disappointed that he wasn't paying attention to her one-sided conversation with him. Only sometimes did he wonder if she'd ever truly turn on him for how he treated her. It was her own fault though, everything she did just irritated him and she should know better than to do that. Just to be sure though he added.

 

"Tomorrow we'll have a drink together. Wouldn't you like that?"

 

Hook line and sinker, her face lit up and beamed with such admiration for him that it made him sick. Silly minx, should know he only had one person he'd ever enjoy spending time with. Oops, wait that's right, two people now.

 

"I'd love that, Puddin!" She giggled and he rolled his eyes.

 

"Harley." His voice held the threat and she understood instantly.

 

"Sorry. I'll be quiet now." She turned her attention back to her work.

 

 

It was times like this that he debated with himself if he could ever get his darling little playmate to act like how Harley did for him. Wouldn't it be hilarious if his Bat held on to every word or kind gesture he bestowed upon him? This city's great protector hopelessly smitten with the clown that brought smiles to the faces to the citizens of Gotham. Joker could treat his Bat in any which way he decided and have him come back for more. Seeing the love and submission in those perfect steel blue eyes that annoyed him whenever he saw someone else share a similar color. Some days he debated killing everyone who dared resemble that perfect shade of blue. Only reason he didn't is because no one could compare in look with rage that burned behind his best friends gaze. The thought made him shift a little on the bed as his slacks were starting to become uncomfortable.

 

 

As beautiful of an image as a submissive Bat was, Joker knew he couldn't bring himself to break him in that way. The challenge of doing so would be entertaining, but doing so would destroy everything he loved about the flying rodent. Oh no, he'd leave that as just a fantasy during long nights at his home away from home. Now, telling Batsy that little fantasy would be fun and he made a mental note to do so next time they meet. A grin stretched the scars on his checks as he imagined the rage Batman would have knowing that knowledge. How fists would break his bones in revenge for daring to utter such words. Oh, how he wished their next meeting was already happening right now.

 

 

If I see him again… I haven't seen him in so long now.

 

 

That betrayal of a thought made his grin fade instantly. Green eyes darkened and he felt his chest tighten with dread. Maybe, Joker had been too harsh during their last game and the Gotham Bat was still irate with him? It felt like a possibility with how his playmate had been avoiding him. Sure he had a game in the works that would no doubt bring the rodent out of his cave but he couldn't shake the thought that the Bats disappearance was his fault.

 

Or.

 

Perhaps.

 

Just maybe.

 

It could be Matchy's fault. 

 

 

Was Batman jealous of the time he was focusing on his new pet project? The thought crossed his mind earlier and he had tried his best to avoid talking to him much. Yet, he'd gotten his new toy a gift. Something he never even did for Jonny Jonny. What was it about the man that made Joker act the way he did? Matchy did save his life and that sparked a deeper obsession for the clown to re-mold him to what he knew was already there inside. Did, Bat see Joker steal a gift for someone else? Probably. Batman was always watching him, there was no doubt about that. Still, that didn't answer the question of why his playmate didn't show up to the game to try and save some brats. It just didn't add up and that frustrated the clown to no end.

 

 

Joker's mood was starting to sour even more so but as his mind was turning away from his problems with Batman, it just fueled his growing obsession with his current toy. Even when he was searching for information on his missing other half the majority of the time he couldn't keep Matchy out of his thoughts. How he wanted to be there when the man made his first kill and witness that darkness he could sense out like a blood hound come to the surface. Shelly would have been a great opportunity but the little minx never showed her face.

 

All of this was different than his obsession with say Harley over a name or with his short lived fun with Jonny Jonny. Where, Jonny Jonny had already been a murderer, he had reached his peak of his capabilities before Joker even had his first meeting with him. Harley grew irritating and so did his last friend. Matchy though, everything was different with him. Joker had told him as much and the man’s reluctance to become what he could be if he left go set in motion the seeds of the clown’s possessive nature.

 

 

Breaking him would be a harder endeavor, but a promise he had made to the other to do so. Break and rebuild him to perfection was the clown’s goal. The same goal he had for his best friend and one he'd be thrilled to do so. If Bat was jealous of this, then Joker would give his playmate more reason to be so. Let his Bat brood like always as he played. In time even Batman won't be able to resist showing up to their next dance. Joker giggled at the thought as he noticed Harley glance at him from her chair.

 

With a new resolve, he sat up and got off the bed. Barely paying, Harley a second glance as she asked where he was going and stood to follow. With a shake of his head she knew to obey and get back to work. Besides he couldn't waste his time with broken toys when he had a new one waiting patiently to be the center of his attention. Oh yes, Matchy would get all he had to offer until the man became exactly what Joker wanted him to be. He could hardly contain his laughter as he made his way out the door.

 

---

 

The tire iron that hit Bruce's back caught him by surprise. Against his better judgment, he had allowed Chuck to lead him to the back of the motel. His focus had been solely on the man in front of him that once they had gotten behind the front of the motel he didn't notice the other two men until the blow was struck. A mistake he wouldn't have made if he was in his other personas mental state. Now, he was fully aware on the situation he was in. Being used to injury on his person he didn't go to the ground with the first hit and only stumbled forward before turning to face his attacker. Didn't change the fact that now his back hurt like hell and was making him wish he had his Kevlar Bat-suit on.

 

 

"Malone, did you really think you could keep that fucking attitude of yours since you got here and not get your ass handed to you." Chuck spoke up as the other two men watched Bruce with eager smirks.

 

 

A fight was coming there was no doubt. Unfortunately for them they didn't know who they were dealing with. Hazel contact eyes glanced at the three men as they started to close in on him. The one holding the tire iron whose name was Ben was closer as Chuck pulled out a knife and the other man named Justin had brass knuckles. Bruce took in the fact none of them were armed with a firearm. Most likely not wanting to catch the madman's attention with their actions. Even then, Bruce decided to reason them out of a fight they could not win.

 

 

"Everyone just calm down. You really don't want to do this." Even as he spoke he felt his adrenaline spike and he had to consciously prevent himself from allowing his voice to go deeper. Last thing he wanted was for them to recognize just by voice alone who he really was. That also meant he would have to do bare minimum of fighting them. Couldn't give too much away after all.

 

 

"We're past talking and besides," Chuck nodded to the other two men. "I've been waiting for this."

 

No other words were spoken as the three men charged him. Bruce dodged the tire iron, using his leg to sweep the man off balance. Ben fell forward and before he could brace himself Bruce grabbed his shirt and turned him in front of him as the fist with brass knuckles swung at his face. The blow connected with the Ben's jaw and a sickening crack could be heard as Ben cursed in pain. Justin seemed to be surprised by this and quickly went after Bruce again. The tire iron had fallen to the floor and Bruce quickly went for it, his arm getting slashed by the knife that Chuck was using. Ben was stumbling back away from the fight, holding his bleeding face. Using more strength than he meant to, he swung to tire iron at Chuck. The metal hit its mark and gave Bruce more breathing room which didn't last long as Justin tackled him and they both fell to the floor.

 

 

The breath was knocked out of him as his back hit the ground. Pain surged through him as it stunned him momentarily. He barely registered when a boot came down on his wrist that forced him loosen his grip on the tire iron. Despite all of that, he grabbed Ben’s foot when he tried to pull his boot away, causing the other man to fall as well. Ben didn't stay down for long, but he didn't have time to deal with that as Justin was still on top of him, raising his fist to strike Bruce.

 

 

His heart pounded in his chest as he fought to get himself back on his feet. A part of him enjoyed the fight, even as a good delivered punch met his face and he felt his lip split open. His mind registering that Chuck and Ben were rushing at him. Might as well fight as dirty as the criminal he was pretending to be. His knee connected hard in the man on top of him groin. Using his strength he managed to flip the position from being under the man to being on top, delivering a punch of his own and another one. Hit after hit he delivered as his rage started to build. Bruce knew he wouldn't kill the man but now he wanted to hurt him. To hurt all of them and that mindset was getting the better of him. An arm wrapped around his neck and pulled back, cutting off his air supply. No matter how hard the other men fought they still didn't have Bruce's years of training and skills. So as Chuck tried to pull him back off their friend, Bruce allowed it, only to jab his elbow into his foes stomach making the grip loosen as he flipped him to the ground. Now on his feet he was even more prepared for whatever they were going to do next. That's when a shot from a gun was fired and the two men on the ground and the other two standing turned their attention to the side. Standing there was the Clown Prince of Crime himself with a smirk on his face. The others froze in dread but Bruce didn't. His eyes met with the clown and he knew then that if anyone was in danger, it wasn't him.

 

 

"Now, boys what do we have here? Hmm?" Joker asked, but no one answered at first until he waved the gun nonchalantly at the four of them.

 

 

"Just a little disagreement, but it's settled now," Chuck spoke up as he and Justin stood up. "Right, Malone." His glare settled on Bruce, but he didn't pay attention as his focus was solely on Joker.

 

 

"Is that so?" Joker mocked. "Well, I don't think it is. After all, it wouldn't be right if this little disagreement was handled unfairly, wouldn't you say?" He gave a murderous smile as he took a step closer. The promise of blood soon being spilled in his walk.

 

 

Taking a deep breath, Bruce knew what he had to do. Joker was ready to kill and as much as he didn't like the other men, he still valued life. So giving one glance towards the other men first, making sure they would have to acknowledge what he was about to do for them, just in case they wanted to start another fight with him in the future. Turning his attention now on the clown who was right near him he put all the charisma of his playboy persona into effect.

 

 

"I think it wasn't fair for them."

 

 

That caught Joker's attention more than the fight itself as the murderous intent startled to fade from his eyes when he looked at Bruce. There was no going back now that he had the clown’s attention.

 

 

"Is that what you believe, Matchy?" He drawled the nickname as his lip twitched into a smirk. "From where I was standing, I'm not sure I can agree in that assessment." Green eyes darted to Bruce's bleeding lip and his expression darkened.

 

 

What was that about?

 

 

Bruce grinned as he rubbed the back of his head keeping up the playful persona before continuing, "Then you weren't standing there long enough." He challenged.

 

 

"Possibly." Was all Joker responded with, barely paying attention as the other men were trying to flee without notice. Standing in front of Bruce now, he lifted his gloved finger and wiped away some of the blood on Bruce's lip. His eyes glanced at the cut on his arm and then back at Bruce's lip. He was quiet for close to a minute. His stare never leaving the cut that was there. "I have to say, I don't like what's mine being touched." There were venom in his words and before Bruce could retort that statement, Joker turned and fired the gun.

 

 

Justin was the one who unfortunately for him the trigger was pulled for. Hitting him in the back of the head, he was dead before he hit the ground. Chuck and Ben stopped in their tracks, fear on both their faces as they looked at their employer.

 

 

"You can go," Joker hissed out and without looking at Bruce added, "Not you, Matchy."

 

 

Chuck and Ben didn't hesitate to leave before Joker could change his mind about sparing their lives. Bruce doubted this was far from over even with Joker killing one of them. If anything this was just the boiling point in a future conflict that he'd have to be prepared for. However, his mind was more focused on what Joker had just claimed ownership of him. That wasn't good at all and needed to be shot down as quickly as the statement was made. When Joker turned to face him, Bruce spoke up.

 

 

"What do you mean yours?" He wasn't able to hide the resentment in his voice which only seemed to amuse the maniac standing in front of him. A deep chuckle escaped the clown as he tapped the barrel of the gun on Bruce's chest over his heart. His body stiffened at the gesture.

 

 

"You are under my employ, aren't you not?" Joker taunted as he continued to tap the gun in the same spot.

 

 

It was a threat and a promise. Bruce could figure that much out for himself. Joker was not so subtly telling him that he could do whatever he wanted to him. That if he wanted Bruce dead then he wouldn't hesitate, but that he was choosing to keep him around. Choosing to play his mind games with him, and there was nothing that Bruce could do to stop him. Or so the maniac thought.

 

 

"Yes." Bruce allowed himself to answer the question even if he knew where this particular conversation was going to go.

 

 

"Yes, you are. With that being the case as with everyone who works for me. As the Bat belongs to me," he grinned up at him. "You. Are. Mine." Joker empathized each word to make his point, tapping the gun even harder as well.

 

 

There was so much possessiveness in his voice that Bruce felt his fingers clench into a fist, but the clown paid no attention to that whatsoever as he removed the gun and placed it back in his black trench coat. Joker had made his point and intentions clear and Bruce wouldn't be able to voice his complaints on such an absurd statement for the Clown kept talking.

 

 

"I'm glad you didn't kill them."

 

 

Bruce was taken back by that comment. Didn't the madman's new thrill in life was trying to make 'Matches Malone' commit murder? Then why would he say something like that? It didn't make sense. Bruce must have not responded fast enough for Joker as the clown decided to keep talking.

 

 

"I could tell you wanted to. Even if I didn't step in, you were right. It wasn't fair for them to fight you three on one. They'd have lost. That's obvious enough." Joker tilted his head and started walking as he expected Bruce to follow him, which he did. "It was one hell of a show, but when you first taste blood, I want to be there. I want to watch it from start to finish and not have your first time of it wasted on self-defense. It wouldn't really count if it went that way. That wouldn't help you in the way you need to be helped."

 

 

"They weren't worth it." Bruce responded coldly. Not liking this conversation at all.

 

 

"Of course they weren't," Joker completely missed the point Bruce was getting at. "They're just mooks with too much time and aggression on their hands. You though, you'll become so much better than their wasted lives. I'll see to that."

 

"How do you plan on doing that exactly?" It was time for answers. Bruce needed to know the exact plans the madman was setting in motion for he could prevent all of it. Frustratingly, Joker completely changed the topic without giving anything away.

 

 

"Did you like your present?" What was more grating on Bruce's nerves than not having his questions answered was that before Joker asked his question once they had turned the corner to head back to the front of the motel, without warning he was pushed back into the wall. Joker's hands pinned on both sides of his head. Acidic green eyes flashed dangerously up at him.

 

 

"Joker," his voice held a danger of his own and that seemed to make Joker pause for a moment. A shudder raked the clown’s body and Bruce instantly was concerned. He shouldn't use that voice. Not on him of all people. Not in the predicament he was in. His next sentence he spoke softer, more wary. Which wary he was, hoping that little slip didn't just set all his goals aflame. "What are you doing?" Joker took at least a minute before answering him. The madman was so close and he could see the confusion in those green orbs.

 

"For a second there," he spoke in a somber tone.

 

A pause.

 

Joker shook his head as if it was nothing.

 

"Forget it," his smile returned. "I asked you a question."

 

Giving in wasn't something he wanted to do, especially having a question as ridiculous as that extorted out of him as he was being pinned against a wall but he complied nonetheless. "It was..." he stopped to think of the correct word. "Different." Is what he ended up settling on. Honestly it was the fucking weirdest gift he had ever received from a psychopath in his life because of how damn innocent it was. Which was not something he could voice out loud. Settling on the alternative, but then he remembered the letter that was left and the name of the clowns own stuffed teddy bear.

 

 

Treading carefully, Bruce asked, "You said you named yours Bruce. Why that name?"

 

Raising a green brow he looked at him incredulously, "I already told you, he looked like a Bruce to me."

 

 

That wasn't a good enough answer for him. Which perturbed him greatly. It was still too much of a striking coincidence for him to grasp at an answer like that. Could the clown know more than what he was letting on? That most likely was the case but then again, Joker seemed to find his question ridiculous. Perhaps the name was just simply that a name. There wasn't time to contemplate it though as Joker was speaking to him again. He almost missed what the clown was saying during his musing.

 

 

"Next time don't you dare let them damage you," Joker growled out the words. "You're not theirs to break." Danger was in the undertone of that statement.

 

 

Ah, so they were back to this again.

 

 

"Do you really want to see me broken?" Of course that's what the clown wanted. Joker always destroyed what he touched. "If that's the case, maybe I'm in the wrong line of work." He added as an afterthought, that didn't seem to please the clown any.

 

 

"I am going to break you," Joker leaned in closer as he said that, his lips brushing against Bruce's ear as he purred. Dark amusement showing through in his raspy tone. "I've told you what I want, Matchstick," Joker's voice was like honey. Poisonous honey with the words he was speaking. "How you are now isn't what you're meant to be. That needs to be rectified. You may think you're in the wrong line of work, but I would dare say you're exactly where you're meant to be. With me." With that Joker pushed himself off the wall and started to walk away from Bruce.

 

 

"Have a good night, be sure to take care of the gift I gave you." Joker waved him good bye.

 

 

Bruce just stood there, not sure how he should react to all that's happened. The sun had fully set now and he knew it would be wise to linger outside for too long. A storm was brewing around here and he knew that he was right in the middle of it. His city was desperate for conflict and that's exactly what was going to happen. No matter what he did at this point he had caught the Joker's full attention and the madman wasn't going to let things go. It wouldn't be Joker if he did. He knew that going in but he didn't expect things to turn out this way. It was like whatever persona he took, Joker would always fall under a spell of complete obsession. Everyone had warned him that doing this would be the worst mistake he could make. But, as Joker's actions were proving, he was in the best predicament to figure out all the answers that he was searching for. Playing things safe was just something he had never accommodated in his life time. With that in mind, he headed back to his room.

 

 

----

 

 

Shelly,

 

I don't know how much longer I can stay working for the Joker. There's just so many things that have happened. Things I've never thought I'd be doing in my life. I know I have done terrible things in my life, but Joker, he's in another ball park and he expects the same out of me. I think I'm losing my mind the longer I'm around him. I want to get out, I'm going to try and get out. He'll probably kill me if I even attempt it at this point. Dent, told me that Joker would be the death of me and at the time I laughed that warning off, but now. Gods! I'm so fucked. He'll never let me go that's not in a body bag. Joker is the most possessive person I've ever met and honestly it's scary as fuck! This turf war has already almost gotten me killed. Did you know that many of the fucking pigs work under Dent? Well apparently they do. Everything's just getting way too intense in this city. Where's the goddamn Bat when you need him? I know I'm rambling in this letter and I don't mean to, but who else can I tell any of this too but you. Something happened recently that I'm too ashamed to admit, but it's got me reevaluating my life choices. I'm going to leave and I want you and the kids to come with me. I have that money saved up and there's money Joker stole from the bank that mob-boss Penguin has been keeping for him. If there's a chance I'm going to steal it. Then you, I, and the kids are getting out. You may hate me and I don't blame you, but we need out of this city. Things are just going to get much worse. I'll try and contact you in person as soon as I can. Please be willing to leave when I do and don't fight me on this. If anything do it for the kids. Our kids. I'll see you as soon as I can.

 

-JF

 

 Bruce had decided to head to bed after he got back in the motel room after bandaging the abrasion on his arm, leaving the notes for the morning. After he had showered and prepared for his day, he knew he had to get back to work. So there he sat on his bed going over the third letter of Jonny Frost and this one had been the most intriguing if not the most worrisome. It felt more like a warning to him than anything. Even if that wasn't the notes original purpose. He had wondered if their intended person had ever responded back. Though, he doubted that she did. Frost had wanted out, a feeling he could understand. No sane man ever wanted to be involved in the Joker's schemes if they could avoid it.

 

 

Bitter regret slowly crept in like a wave of darkness. Again, it was his fault so many lives had been lost by not acting when he normally would have. It caused him to not be able to read the fourth and final letter at this time. If this letter was written out of desperation he couldn't even imagine what the next letter would entail. With that in mind he put the letter in the drawer and went to achieve his personal cell phone and tablet he had hidden. Checking the phone first he noticed the un-read texts for him.

 

 

 

Bruce, I'm worried about you after our meeting. I don't want you hurt. Please come to me if you need any help whatsoever. If I can help, let me. I know you feel you have to do this, but remember what I told you.

 

 

That one was from Silver.

 

 

If he could follow her advice he would, but that wasn't in him to do so. She was able to live a life without the weight of Gotham's well-being on her shoulders. A fate that was destined only for him. Bruce may have regretted doing so but he ended up not responding to it. She'd have to trust him that he could handle the situation.

 

 

The next text however was again from the blocked number and that was more unsettling. His mind re-read the text over and over again, in an attempt of a possibility that he wasn't reading this right. In the end he knew he was. It was short but the implication behind it was mountainous. Two sentences just that but it changed the game entirely.

 

 

Mr. Wayne, how does it feel to be surrounded by the seas of madness? In those green mirrors to the soul, do you see your own reflection of insanity staring back at you?

 

 

Acidic green eyes that he had seen so many times flashed in his mind. His breathing hitched and his chest tightened in foreboding. Whoever was sending these texts. Playing games upon his mental state. Whoever they were. They knew. Someone knew. His most guarded secret was out and whoever it was, knew exactly what he was doing. Knew exactly where he was and the company that Bruce was keeping at this instant in his life. This was pernicious. This person was no alley of his that much he knew. They wouldn't be playing this game if they were. He already couldn't trust the men he was around, but now he had an unknown enemy hiding in the darkness. Only making tidbits of themselves known to him.

 

 

Bruce's mind felt like it was wavering. Like it was being flayed apart for an unknown force to seek answers underneath. While his mind was in a chess match against the worse threat Gotham had ever known, someone else had come onto the board. An opponent he wasn't sure how to counter against yet. Checkmate seemed to be approaching and his defenses were losing. The phone was clutched in his hand, knuckles turning white. For a split irrational thought he wondered if the number came from the Joker. His gaze darted to the wall where the clown would be on the other side. If these texts were from him then all hope would be dashed away. No. It couldn't be. The clown wouldn't sit on information like that and not have acted on it. Even thinking that it would explain away Joker's fascination with him. But, his gaze returned to the drawer he kept the letters in. Joker had once been obsessed with Frost as he had come to learn. It was easier to reason that fear away with that fact but not the worrisome thoughts of who this other person might be.

 

 

"Alfred," Bruce had decided on calling the one person he could trust more than anyone. He had spoken before his father figure could even greet him with no doubt a snarky remark the butler was known for. "Someone knows."

 

 

That's all he needed to say for Alfred to understand the implication of that statement. He heard the elderly man’s shaking breath and he could picture the worry lines on his elder’s countenance.

 

 

"Who, Master Bruce?"

 

"Has Fox found out who had sent the text I asked him to look into?" Straight to the point as always.

 

A pause.

 

He knew the answer before it came.

 

"I'm afraid not sure, sir," Alfred seemed to regain his composer in his tone but Bruce's mind was on over drive. "Have they sent another?" It was more of a matter of fact than a question.

 

 

"Yes." 

 

 

"What did they say?" Alfred inquired.

 

 

Breath. In. Out. In. Out. He had to remind himself for longer than necessary. One inquiry was bothering him the most. Answers that need a satisfactory response.

 

"Has the news gotten out?" He ignored the older man’s question for a more pressing one. When Alfred didn't hesitate in answering he felt a slight wave of relief wash over him. One crisis avoided.

 

 

"No, nothing like that of the sort," Alfred gave a longer pause. Seeming to debate telling Bruce something, but ended up yielding. "The only thing that's been on the news is the former Doctor Crane's escape from Arkham."

 

 

"Wonderful," he muttered bitterly. It seems the revolving door of Arkham never seemed to fail at making his life more difficult.

 

"I'm sure Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD will handle him, Master Bruce. What we need to concern our time with is this mystery person that knows too much." Alfred reasoned with him. "What have they told you?" He asked again with a more commanding tone.

 

Inside he knew telling his father figure what the text said would make him even more anxious than he already was. Keeping it from him might have been the better alternative, but he couldn't bring himself to lie about information this detrimental. Not only could this badly impact Bruce, but Alfred as well and he had a right to know exactly what was going on. So with a steady breath he answered.

 

 

"They know I'm with the Joker."

 

 

It was the statement of the century and Bruce knew, Alfred was feeling exactly how he was the second the words left his mouth.

 

 

"Do you think it could be-?"

 

 

Bruce cut him off, "It crossed my mind, but no. I don't think it's the Joker. If it was, he would have shown his hand already." Just like it had done for Bruce, it also seemed to relief Alfred even if just a little.

 

 

"I'll inform Mr. Fox of the situation," Alfred was being quite taciturn. "I would rather you come home." He voiced his opinion.

 

"Alfred," this time he was cut off.

 

"I know you won't listen to me. Just be careful."

 

"I always am. Goodbye and goodnight, Alfred." He knew Alfred would have argued that assertion, but he didn't allow it.

 

"Goodnight, sir."

 

Hanging up the phone, Bruce sighed and placed his hands to his head taking a deep breath. Just when he thought he was making some sort of progress a wrench was being thrown into his plans. The day had just started and it was already a tiresome and that's before he even saw the clown. All he knew was that he needed to be more observant than ever if he wanted to succeed.

 

 

---

 

The bar in the motel was busier than normal, he observed as he entered. It was mid-day by the time he got there as it didn't seem like much would be happening today. Hazel contact eyes took in Chuck and Ben sitting in the back discussing to themselves as they stayed as far away from the madman as possible. When Bruce had walked in they shot him a glare, but didn't do anything else. Bruce knew criminals well enough that they were plotting their move against him. When that time came, he'd be ready. They weren't worth the trouble now. Looking around he spotted Joker and Harley sitting in the chairs in the middle of the room. Harley was smiling and talking as she sat on his lap, but he wasn't really paying much attention to what she must be saying.

 

 

What perplexed him was Joker's distant mannerisms to his presence. Where Joker would normally had greeted him immediately and insisted Bruce sit next to him, he didn't even spare him a glance this time. The clown was acting very much the same as he did at the Iceberg Lounge. Hot and cold was the madman's personality, one second he'd be slamming Bruce into the wall with threats that the clown viewed as promises to help him and the next he acted like he didn't even exist. Getting information out of him was being more taxing by the day.

 

 

Bruce could be out there right now digging as much information as he could on this mysterious threat, but instead he was stuck playing mind games with a psychopath. Sighing, he made his way to the bar, got himself some water and took his seat. No one spoke to him and he had the distinct feeling that they were watching him carefully. After all, to them he was just some run of the mill arsonist who just happened to catch their boss of year’s favoritism in a couple of weeks. Not that anyone would ever be naive enough to want that madman's attention cast upon them. However, he was still a nuisance that needed to be dealt with in their eyes and they made that pretty clear with their actions.

 

 

"Ya never get the good stuff, Matches." The bartender commented and that distracted him from his thoughts.

 

Bruce gave a cheeky grin as he answered, "I try to avoid the stuff, stay on the wagon so to speak." He lied and the man laughed.

 

"Don't want to break sobriety? You're missing out." He poured another glass of whiskey for another man at the table.

 

"Rather miss out than fuck up a job and not come back home from it." Bruce was more honest there.

 

"I wouldn't worry about that, Matches," he gave Bruce a pointed stare before continuing. "People here want your hide. Might as well drink up while you can." He sneered.

 

 

Even when he had thought they were just having playful banter his life had ended up threatened. His muscle stiffened as he shot a glare at the man.

 

 

"Noted." He spat out bitterly. The other man never responded back.

 

 

No one else made any comments to Bruce and so he listened in on the other men's conversation. Two were discussing how the turf war between Penguin and Black Mask could result in a profit for all of them if they took over the weapons trade. It was an understandable thought process. Whoever ran what firearms got out to the gangs held the power. That's where Cobblepot would have an advantage as he dealt mostly in those affairs as well as dirty money. Taking that power away from him would be the most logical course of action if someone wanted to be on top. Both ways blood will be spilled and his other persona Batman would soon be putting an end to this once he was done here. Someone else was discussing Crane's escape and brought up something that caught his attention.

 

 

"Wonder how long it'll take for the boss to see that gas freak."

 

"I give it a week."

 

"I bet two. He'll want to pay him a visit after that shit the freak did when he was his doctor."

 

"Whatever he did, I don't see any change in the boss. Must have not been a good enough at his job."

 

"Everyone knows that Arkham is just a joke. They don't treat anyone there the way other places do. This city doesn't care about any of us. It's all for show."

 

 

Bruce stopped listening when they started to discuss the politics of his city. They were right as far as Arkham not doing enough for its patients which is why he had invested so much money to improve the place. Not that it was working if their security department was still lack luster. Another thing was added to his list of problems he'd have to deal with.

 

 

Though finding out that Crane had treated Joker was a plaguing thought. He hadn't known about that and those therapy sessions were never on record or taped. Was the madman immune to the fear toxin? Was it tested on the clown? If so what were the results if there was any?

 

 

Joker’s own teddy bears name came to the forefront of his mind again. What if it was Crane that had divulged that information from the madman and put the pieces together? That was a possibility. Crane may have been locked up when the first text was sent to him, but that didn't mean he didn't do it. He'd have to look into it and if people thought, Joker would see the deranged former psychiatrist than this could work in his favor. Crane was a man with a God complex and if he was the one taunting Bruce than seeing him, he knew Crane wouldn't be able to hold back. It was a risky idea, but one he'd have to take.

 

 

Glancing over his shoulder he looked at the Joker and observed him. The clown was tapping his fingers against the table and his green eyes were darker than usual. Harley was whispering something in Joker's ear and that was the start of the shit storm that followed. Bruce had taken in account of how, Joker stopped tapping and stood very still. He saw how Harley pulled away and gave a soft innocent laugh. His body tensed as he moved slowly to get up when he anticipated what came next.

 

Harley had hit the ground hard in less than a second as Joker had pushed her off of him as he stood up. The clowns purple gloved fingers splayed on the table in front of him as his chair fell backwards to the ground. Harley's yelp had attracted all the heads to turn in their direction and the intensity in the room was able to be cut with a butter knife.

 

No one spoke and no one breathed. The madman's body shook. Bruce was now fully standing and in mid step when the clown flipped the table over. The rage had boiled over and whatever Harley had told him moments beforehand everyone was now in great danger.

 

 

"Puddin?" Harley squeaked up as she tried to move from the floor only to have a gun now pointed at her head.

 

 

Even from this distance he could hear Joker's ragged breaths as he whispered in deadly voice.

 

"Bat is not gone." The sound of the click of the chamber was deafening in the small room. Harley however wasn't the one the gun was aimed for. The bartender behind Bruce was and when the man gurgled on his blood, all the other men in the room went down to the ground to protect themselves.

 

 

Everything went in slow motion as chaos engulfed the room. Shots from the now mental breakdown clown were firing randomly. Sometimes hitting someone who was to slow to get out of the way, other times destroying alcohol bottles or bullets being in dented into wooden walls.

 

"Boss! Calm the fuck down!" A man hidden behind a table yelled while Bruce got down himself.

 

"Calm down he says! Hehe," Joker laughed like the maniac that he was. "Now that's funny, I am calm! Can't you see I'm laughing?" another shot was fired as the clown dropped his now empty firearm in favor of his other one he kept on his person. "It's not like my playmate has been coming out to play our games. Oh no. Calm down? Why would I do that?" Joker tapped the gun against his head as he paced across the floor in the center of the room.

 

 

The most important of Joker's rules had been broken. Never mention the Bat in a negative light. It wasn't hard to figure out that Bruce's absence as Batman was greatly affecting Joker badly. He had seen it at the school and the madman was willing to kill everyone including himself just in the off chance Batman would show. Joker had been unreachable by reason at that time and only knocking him out had made him regress back to normal. Bruce knew he had to do something. Every other man here would rather kill the clown than risk their own lives if this situation got any worse. As easily it would be to allow them to do just that, he couldn't. When push came to shove, Batman always saved the Joker's life. Never left him to die even if death would be more beneficial to everyone in this city.  The clock was kicking and Matches Malone was going to have to act and he only hoped he didn't get a bullet to his head in the process.

 

 

 

"Mistah J, please! I didn't mean it." Harley tried to reason and Joker stopped and his head snapped towards her direction. She tried to back away when she saw the murderous rage radiating off of him. She didn't get very far as her back hit the wall. Bruce saw as others fled out of the bar, but Joker paid them no mind as he grabbed a fistful of blond hair and roughly yanked her head up as he put the barrel of the gun to her temple. Tears streamed down her cheeks as Joker spoke to her.

 

 

"Dear, Harley," he spoke calm, but menacing. No amusement in his voice. "Always so jealous aren't you? Never able to grasp that you mean nothing to me, not like he does," He hissed the words. "Don't kid the kidder. You meant it and you're wrong. Batsy will come back." His voice broke at the last sentence. Like he didn't even believe it himself. "He has to." He whispered so low that no one else could hear him.

 

 

"Puddin, please. I'm sorry." Harley winced as her head was pulled back harder.

 

Other men tried to flee and without looking, Joker fired the gun at them, only one went down but the other made it out. Some men stayed hidden and other's tried to get as far away as possible from the madman with the gun. Bruce was just thankful that Joker didn't allow them to carry their own firearms in the bar or things could be so much worse than they already were.

 

"I think our time together has come to an end, my dear Quinzel." Joker growled and Bruce winced when he let go of her and smacked her hard in the head with the gun in his hand as her body fell to the side. Joker quickly stood up and went back to pacing in the middle of the room. His mind seemed to get worse as he mumbled too low for anyone to hear. His body was shaking like a leaf and every couple of steps he fired at one of the people in the room. Not caring if it made its mark or not.

 

 

It was now or never. If this continued than it would only get worse. He stood up and slowly made his way towards Joker, his hands up as a sign of not being a threat. It felt ironic that after all these years of approaching the madman and inflicting more damage than he could count that Bruce would ever find himself approaching in the exact opposite manner. His footsteps seemed to catch Joker's attention and he turned and aimed the gun at Bruce's head. Bruce stilled his movements as this situation could go any way now.

 

 

"Joker," he spoke up but it was like the clown was looking past him. Like he wasn't even there. "Put the gun down and we can have a drink." Bruce tried to reason. A dark chuckle escaped the madman. His green eyes were hazy and unfocused. Bruce took another step forward.

 

 

"Where has he been?" Joker was barely audible it was like he wasn't even talking at all and Bruce had to strain to hear him. "Five days. I looked for five days and not once did he show. I was basically out in the open and he didn't even come down and say hi in that wonderful way he does," Joker growled and his green eyes darted around the room and back at Bruce as if now just realizing that he was even there. "I don't think he likes you." Joker added with a shake of his head.

 

 

Was this what was bothering him so much? Was this why he was being distant off and on?

 

"I doubt I'm even a blip on Batman's radar." That comment got Joker to smirk.

 

"We're all on the rug." Joker commented waving his hands in the air.

 

What rug? What the hell was he talking about.

 

"We can talk about this, just lower the gun." Another step forward and Joker aimed the gun again right at Bruce.

 

"Talk? You want to talk? What about?" Joker mocked him his tone rising in anger. "Oh, how about that the second I decided to pay attention to someone else, my darling pet Bat, gets all gloom and doom. Pathetic really, but sweet." The animosity in his voice was there to cut deep. Bruce realized then that Joker was blaming his undercover persona for Batman's absence.

 

 

He wasn't wrong, just not for the reasons he thought.

 

 

"You told me you have a plan for the Bat yesterday, remember?" He persisted as he took another step closer. Joker didn't move back but he glared daggers at Bruce. "I'm sure Batman will show up next time." It wasn't a complete lie as he expected that he'd have all he needed for when the time comes that he could return as Batman and foil the Joker's plan.

 

 

"He should have already shown!" Joker snapped.  His body shaking even more and Bruce turned his gaze to the twitching trigger finger. That wasn't a good sign. "I set up everything perfectly and what does he do? Nothing! Not a damn thing!" The clown held his ground as Bruce got even closer. "I think you're becoming part of the problem."

 

"Do you honestly believe that?" Bruce played on the bond that the madman claimed they always had. "Joker, you know the Bat, you've stated as much. You talk about him all the time." Joker tilted his head at that and Bruce cursed inwardly, knowing he'd have to word things carefully now. "Nothing could get between you two." He finished it quickly without going into more detail than he had originally plan.

 

 

He was right in front of Joker now. The gun right in his face and still it didn't seem like the unsettled maniac was calming down. His mind racing on which move to make. Bruce could continue to try and talk him down, but that might not work. Getting the gun away from Joker might cause an accidental firing of the weapon. Bruce was close enough to do something, but also still in the line of fire. His eyes watched as the clown’s body shook a little bit less.

 

"Put the gun down or give it to me." Bruce spoke in a comforting voice.

 

"He needs me," Joker breathed out steadily. Not answering Bruce at all. "He shouldn't be hiding from me." His voice cracked at the comment he made.

 

That was so far from what Batman was actually doing that it was making this whole situation a sickening joke for them both. Not that he could actually voice any of this to the deranged man, but the irony wasn't lost on him. Joker's attention went right back at Bruce.

 

"I wonder, if you're gone, will he'll finally show?" There was the threat that he had been trying to avoid. "Bat will always come first." He said it like he was more of trying to convince himself of that than trying to convince Bruce of it.

 

"I know that's not what you want. You have plans for me just like you do for the Bat," Bruce's own voice was colder than he meant to. Deeper than he meant to with a resentment of the sick man’s desires. "Wouldn't want to have your games come to an end, do you?" His voice spat it out.

 

Joker stepped forward and placed the barrel on Bruce's head. This was now the second time this maniac had a gun ready to kill him. The school was different as that was a warning with no attention to kill. Earlier it was a promise that he couldn't get out of and now this was desperation. Bruce didn't break his stare into those toxic eyes. They stayed silent as they observed the other. Joker seemed to be searching for something in his stare as Bruce was watching those green eyes get more and more into focus. The clown was calming down and he knew it. When Joker's arm moved and he took a breath what he didn't expect was the ringing in his ear as the gun was fried. Bruce winced as he stepped back and placed his hand to his aching ear. The sound in the room was barely audible to him now. He's had this happen to him before but without any protection with how loud the shot was and how close, he knew he wouldn't be hearing perfectly for a while.

 

Joker's arm dropped to his side. His eyes stayed glued on Bruce and no one else. On the other hand, Bruce looked behind him and saw Chuck’s body on the floor with a pool of blood seeping under him. When he looked back at the clown the question of why in his eyes was never answered. At least not verbally. Joker needed to kill someone in that moment, but he just couldn't bring himself to kill the man he was becoming obsessed with. Whatever the clown had been looking for in their silent moment together it had saved Bruce's life and ended another's. Joker had claimed Malone as his and in that action he solidified his claim over him. Joker didn't kill what he owned, but he would destroy them.

 

He wanted to punch that chalk face with that rage that was engulfing him in that instant. Bruce's glare only made Joker smirk in amusement like there wasn't a single thing to worry about with reinforcing his stance on their relationship. Joker just laughed and it irked him more but at this time there was nothing he can do it about it. That just made his resentment shine through even more so. Joker placed his hand on his shoulder as he was walking back and leaned in to whisper in Bruce's ear.

 

 

"That's what I like to see. Soon I'll bring it out of you and the real fun will begin."

 

 

"I'm not sure you'd like what you'll find." Bruce but out so quietly that only they could hear.

 

 

"Oh, Matchy, I know I will. Take the rest of the day off. Tomorrow, we’ll have places to go." With that Joker grinned and walked away from him. Only commenting to the other men in the room that they will all be busy tomorrow.

 

 

No one said a word to Bruce as the other men gathered themselves up and tried to fix the mess the madman had caused. It didn't matter. Bruce had nothing to say to any of them. Joker was pushing him closer to the edge and he could feel it. It didn't matter what persona he took on, there would always be the madman obsessed with bringing out what he kept buried. He wouldn't let Joker win at this game. Bruce would play this dance and in the end the clown would be stopped. Obsession was the psychopath’s biggest weakness and he'd use that to his advantage in a way that Bruce could never do as Batman. With that he walked out of the room to formulate a plan of his own. He still had one last letter to read.

 

 

---

 

Joker kept walking away from the motel. His mind even farther away into the city where his Bat must be than his body. He imagined himself with blood caked on his face and purple suit with a murderous Batman read to strike. Bodies littered the streets and fires consumed all around them. That's where he wanted to be. Not here on the outskirts of his playground with annoying pests that didn't even really exist. Batman and Joker created people for their own games. He knew that and yet he must have been the one to create Matchy. Perhaps his longer than usual stay away from his Bat caused him to do so. Perhaps he was just bored after his last toy had bored him. Either way he had done so and now he couldn't shake away what he had done.

 

 

Batsy had such wonderful toys of his own that it was only fair if Joker made his own. Where the flying rodent created gadgets, not that he minded, he had his own favorite toys as well. But, Joker preferred certain people to play with when he was away from his best friend. The clown had made games specifically for his quack doctors at his home away from form. Joker had very much enjoyed those games but would pry himself away for he could see his playmate again. He had broken down his minx just because of a name, Jonny Jonny had been fun while it lasted and now he had created Matchstick with so much untapped potential it was driving him crazy to no end.

 

 

"Isn't it great, Mistah J? Just the two of us and B-man isn't even ruining our fun. I think he'll never come back and everything can be wonderful for us without him being a distraction. We can finally enjoy ourselves and move on from all that."

 

 

Harley's comment earlier had infuriated him. All he could see then was red. How dare she think she could make a claim like that? The worst part is he was already, what did Crane call it last time he was like this? Depressed, that's what it was. His mind couldn't grasp a world without his playmate. If Batman never showed up again he knew he'd end up cationic at that point. Unable to function and his toy thought that would be a good thing. She had no idea what her place was and that was bothersome. Dull and boring she was becoming and he didn't like anything that didn't bring a smile to his face. His time with her was over. Well at least until he wanted to use her again. She'd always come back to him and he'd only keep her around for as long as it suited him. That's just how he set things up when he broke apart her mind and put her back together again. It wasn't a wasted endeavor though as she had been useful to him many times in the past. Now she was just in the way.

 

The minx was lucky to be alive as her statement almost made him ruin everything. Joker had almost killed his new pet project and that just would have been a tragedy. It almost made him nauseous just thinking about the waste that could have been. After all he wasn't entirely sure he could create someone like that again. Every time he found a new toy the outcome was always different. For the most part anyways. They still ended up becoming what he wanted, just never in the same way. Only one good thing came from his slip of judgement at the time. That glare, oh yes. He saw everything he had wanted to see and it just made him giddy with excitement for the future. There was so much fun that could be had with a man like that. So many possibilities with only his help he could accomplish. His assessments on Matchy were right all along. It was as clear as day what the other man was trying to hide from the world. Insanity much like his own was buried so deep the most would miss it if not paying attention.

 

 

But, Joker however could see it all. Figures he'd be able to as he must have created this toy as well for his and Bats games. His friend must have been giving him time to play with someone else. That must be it. After all the flying rodent did it once before last time he was out in the city. How could he ever think for one second that the Dark Knight could ever just forget about their dance? Forget about him. No. That just wasn't a possibility. Joker just didn't fully realize it until his little fire starter tried to calm him down. Leaving himself to be peeled away bit by bit for the Joker's own eyes. It was hilarious and wonderful at the same time.

 

 

Joker had struck the match so to speak and he was ready to watch the fire burn. Engulf all the sanity his new friend claimed to have. The madman would help him burn away all those silly notions that prevented him from losing up. It wouldn't be that hard to do so when he could sense it under the surface ready to break out already. Yes, he was rather looking forward to this type of fun.

 

Green eyes gazed at the lights of his playground. All those people who thought they truly existed when all their purpose was to be played with for his and the Bat’s amusement. They would be seeing much more of the Clown Prince of Crime in the coming days. A storm of sadistic merriment would soon fall upon them. And, Batsy will watch it all from the skylines he owned.  Taking in the show that Joker was going to perform. His new plaything by his side with a new outlook on life to be part of the bigger game. This would be everything he wanted and he was growing impatient.

 

 

It was getting too calm around here for his liking. Like the silence before a disaster and the anticipation was gnawing on his chalk white skin.  It wouldn't be long now until he saw his playmate again. That he was very certain about. He wouldn't let others keep the Bats attention away from him. They didn't deserve to spend time with his friend anyways. His grin widen at the thought of those steel blue eyes looking at him in all their beauty. The violence that would come from his new game. All the players had their purpose and he'd move them exactly where they needed to be.

 

"I'll see you soon, Batsy." He whispered into the air and he was sure that wherever his playmate was that he'd here him. With that he turned and headed back to his current residence.

 

 

---

 

 

Bruce could hear the yelling from the other room while he was scrolling through his tablet. Crashes that he could easily connect what was happening. The clown was abusing her, just like he always did. It angered him how Joker could treat Harley that way. Even if times she grated on his nerves he knew she was just as much of a victim of the madman as anyone else. Bruce sat there listening. He could hear crying and more shouts and then the door slamming. Nothing was heard after that. He waited for a couple of minutes before setting the tablet to the side and stood up. Bruce grabbed a bottle of scotch that he never touched in the mini fridge since he got here. When he didn't hear the door opening again, he knew it was safe to investigate.

 

 

A criminal would never concern themselves with a battered woman. Especially a criminal working for the worse psychopath of Gotham. He knew this. It was easier for people to turn a blind eye to the escalating violence that she suffered. Many had even blamed her for constantly enduring the Joker's wrath. Love sick as she was, she deserved so much better. At the end of the day, Bruce was not a criminal. He was not a man who lacked empathy at her plight. Helping her was the right thing to do. With that in mind he went outside his room as quietly as he could for Joker wouldn't hear in the room next to his.

 

 

Her sniffles and crying was the first thing he heard. She was sitting on the curb several feet away from the room she was kicked out of. Her harlequin costume was torn in many places and bruises littered her creamy skin. Again it sickened him how cruel the clown was capable of being. How he turned a respected psychiatrist into his own personal punching bag. He stayed silent as he observed the shuddering of her body as she tried to stop herself from crying.

 

 

Harley didn't complain when he sat next to her on the curb. He'd wait for her to talk when she was ready to open up. Silently he presented the now open bottle to her. His eyes glancing at the bottle and back into her red puffy blue gaze. Joker had left a nasty bruise on her face. Bruce felt pity for the woman she had become and rage for Joker for doing this to her. He didn't voice it. Not yet. For a moment he wondered if he was wasting his time and she wouldn't acknowledge him. Well, even if she didn't he'd still be here for her and show her support. Even if it wasn't verbal support. He doubted she rarely ever received a genuine kind gesture since she fell in love with a madman. She only ever received manipulation acts of affection to keep her stuck in the cycle of abuse.

 

 

Her thin fingers took the bottle from him and he gave her a small encouraging smile. She took a drink from the bottle, but didn't speak with him. That was fine. He didn't mind at all. She had always been forced to do things against her will and this was something he wouldn't push her into. Both of them stared straight ahead in silence. Thoughts of their own plaguing their minds. Similar thoughts on one person who had caused so much destruction in both of their lives.  Joker never showed an ounce of concern over the lives he ruined. The clown’s single mindset had only ever been on playing sick games with Batman and they both knew it. Who cared about the people that got stuck in the cross fire was something the clown never bothered to lose a night of sleep over, but Bruce did. Like always he was there to pick up the pieces and try to repair the damage.

 

 

"Why are you here?" Her voice held so much disbelief that anyone could show her any compassion. Bruce looked at her, truly looked at her, and knew she was stronger than Joker would ever give her credit for.

 

 

"Thought you needed a drink." He replied simply and with that she took another swig of the scotch. Harley finally looked at him with suspicion in her blue eyes.

 

 

"I'm not some easy meal ticket," she snapped with ferocity. "I'm a committed woman." She added more solemnly.

 

 

"Never said you were," Bruce responded gently. "I've never thought it, either."

 

 

"Then why are you even bothering?" She sounded so lost in the moment. Like this wasn't even happening.

 

 

"If you want me to go and leave you alone, I will. I just figured you'd like some company." He didn't comment on her situation with the clown. When she didn't seem like she was going to answer him, he made a move to stand. Only to be stopped by her speaking again.

 

 

"You can stay." There was a tinge of desperation in her voice and he let himself relax on the curb.

 

 

"Then I'll stay." Was all he responded and the silence over took them once again.

 

The only sound that could be heard was their breathing. The sun was setting in the sky as neither of them spoke for a long time. His muscles were getting stiff from lack a movement but he didn't complain. Bruce just waited. Harley eventually did stop crying and seemed number to the world than anything else. At one point she offered him a drink silently. At first he wasn't going to take a sip, as his general rule to keep his body in perfect shape for his nightly activities. But, for her, he allowed himself a small sip. As alcohol burned his throat and he handed the bottle back to her, she finally spoke up again.

 

 

"It's my fault, if I didn't make him so angry all the time, then we both could finally be happy." Her voice was filled with self-loathing. Bruce debated with himself voicing his opinion.

 

 

"I wouldn't blame yourself," he voiced and she looked at him. He could see a small flicker in her eyes that deep down she believed what he was saying. "Joker doesn't care about anyone else but himself." Harley gave a bitter laugh at that.

 

 

"You don't really know my Puddin very much then." She retorted.

 

 

Harley was so incorrect with that statement, but like a repeating trend in his current life here, he couldn't voice it.

 

 

"Mistah J cares about B-man more than anything," her voice sounded dead then and she had to stop a sob from breaking through as she chugged more of the drink he had given her. "He loves me even if he doesn't always seem like he does. He even tolerated Jonny for a long time." She paused as she looked at Bruce for a long time before continuing. "And now he seems to like you."

 

 

"He only cares about what's amusing to him. Not the person themselves," Bruce shook his head at what she just said. "I wouldn't say he likes me as much as he wants to turn me into something I'm not," was all he would say on the subject about himself and focused more on the Clown and her own relationship. "If Joker loved you, and I mean really loved you, then he wouldn't hurt you." He was matter of fact about the subject. Hoping he could get through to her at least a little bit.

 

Silence followed and he wondered if he over step his bounds with her. After a beat she responded with something he wasn't expecting.

 

"Humor me, Matches. Have you ever been in love before? Not just a passionate fling, but being truly in love? Where the other person consumes your whole being completely? Where you can't imagine your life without them?"

 

 

That gave Bruce a pause as he thought about her question. Silver and even more so Selina came into his mind. Yes, he'd been in love before. He had wanted to give so much of himself to them at different times in his life. Wanted to spend a life with them and grow old with them. But, in the end he couldn't do that. His promise the day his parents were killed in front of a traumatized eight year old prevented him from doing just that. Bruce had loved both women, but couldn't stop being Batman for them. Silver couldn't stay with him as he risked his life night after night for his city. It wasn't fair to her that he'd ask her to take on that burden. With Selina he thought he could have it both ways. However, all he did was end up hurting her more and they had to call everything off. It was better for them both as they lived different lives. Had different priorities. He understood, but it had hurt him all the same.

 

 

"Yes, I have." He responded in a whisper.

 

 

"Did you end up hurting them at some point?" She asked an even deeper question. "Even if you didn't mean too?"

 

 

When Bruce didn't respond and just looked away from her, she got all the answer she needed.

 

 

"They always say you hurt the ones you love. That's how I know my Puddin loves me." Even as she made her point clear she didn't seem to fully accept her assertion as fact either.

 

 

"There's a difference between being committed to someone and allowing someone to treat you like who you are as a person doesn't matter," he commented on her earlier statement when she first decided to speak with him. Bruce looked at her as he gave her the only advice he could. "You shouldn't let him destroy any more of who you are."

 

 

"He saw what I really was. I wasn't happy with my work and life. He was the first person to see that. Joker gave me a reason to finally be free from all that was tearing me apart inside." She reminisced on the past.

 

 

"Joker saw what he could manipulate in you and used that to his advantage." Bruce reasoned and she just shook his head. He knew then that she was done with this particular conversation.

 

 

"He wants me to go for now," She stood up and Bruce followed suit. As she handed him the scotch she gave him a small smile. A tear dripped down her check as she quickly brushed it away before she would start crying all over again. "I understand. I'll just get in the way for what he's planning. Do me a favor and watch over him for me, would you?"

 

 

"Where will you go?" He didn't comment on what she asked of him other than a small nod. She wouldn't approve what he was planning anyways. Best not to make her a promise he couldn't keep.

 

 

"I'll probably go spend some time with Red. It's been awhile since I've had a girl’s night out." She giggled softly as she turned to walk away.

 

 

That wasn't exactly an answer he was hoping for. Last thing he needed was have to deal with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn creating havoc in his city. Despite that he knew if anyone would ever get her to see how much she didn't need the madman in her life, Ivy was the best candidate to do so. The two women had a close bond and Ivy hated Joker for how he treated the other more than anyone. Harley would be safe with her. If they caused trouble for his city, he'd stop them like he always did.

 

 

"Take care of yourself." He added and she gave a wide smirk over her shoulder, but didn't stop walking away.

 

 

"No reason to worry about me! Red and I will have the time of our lives! It will be a fun vacation," She stopped after a few more feet. Her smile seemed more genuine then. "Thank you." He gave her a nod. Nothing else needed to be said as he watched her go.

 

 

---

 

 

Bruce held the last of Frost's letters that he had been putting off to read in his hands. He knew once he read this then all the information he could ever get from Frost’s time with the Joker would be done. It felt like he was closing the book on the man’s life as the date was signed the day before Batman took the Joker down last time. The day before the man had met his untimely death to the madman. All these letters had given him an insight into Frosts mind but not much on the Joker than that the clown had been obsessed with him. Bruce probably should have left the letters in Shelly's apartment but there was no going back now. With a steady breath he took the letter out of the envelope and unfolded it. The handwriting was messier than the previous writing. It was like Frost had to hurry to get this one out before being discovered. With that thought in mind he read the last thing the man must have ever written.

 

 

Shelly. I'm so fucking sorry. Fuck. God. What can I even say to you, now? Sorry isn't good enough. It can never be good enough for what he did to you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never wanted this. You have to believe me! I didn't think he'd do that to you. Fuck. Everything is such a mess. You shouldn't have been there! Why were you with Dent anyways? If you weren't there then. Shit. He wouldn't have. No. I can't put that on you. I'm just so disgusted. With him. With myself. Mostly myself. I put you in danger. I know it's my fault for what happened. Shelly, just know I never wanted any of this. The money wasn't worth any of this. The power wasn't worth what he did to you. I see my mistakes now and there's no way out for me. Get out of town. Take the money and go. I won't be able to join you and I don't deserve to join you. I thought working for that monster would have made things so much better, but I was so wrong. There's no excuse I can give. I don't even know if I can get this letter out to you. He's asleep right now and fuck there's so much blood everywhere. I've seen men die before, but this couple was innocent. And he. God. I'm shaking so bad right now and I hope all I'm writing can still be illegible. The damn Bats signal is in the sky and times running out for us. He'll find us. I know that. Just know I'm sorry. Just know that I did love you and I never wanted any of this.

 

-J

 

 

Bruce let the letter fall to the floor when he was done reading. He remembered the crime scene at the apartment of an elderly couple that was found a week after he took Joker in. He remembered how Dent had begged him for his help and how he took down the Joker's gang. He didn't expect that there was so much more to the whole situation than there was. Bruce could clearly see the gun held to Frost’s head as he mocked everything the Joker was saying with a simple statement. Three words that signed Frost’s own death certificate. How bloody the battle had been between them. Through all of that Frost had been a broken man. Another victim of the clowns sick games. Frost may have been a criminal, but he had been manipulated and destroyed of his former self in a similar way as Harley was. The man just paid the ultimate fate for it all. Bruce didn't know what Joker had done to Shelly, but he knew it was vile and it made him feel sick. Joker's atrocities he would so gleefully commit always made him feel nauseous.

 

 

Any thoughts of leaving soon was swept away in that moment as new determination set in. Even stronger than before. He went undercover for a reason and he wouldn't leave until he accomplished his goals. There was more problems he had to face. The growing gang war was one and whoever knew his secret was the other but his main focus had to be on the monster hidden away on the other side of that door. Bruce would get close to him and play a much similar manipulation game that Joker had many people fall prey under. The clown would not get the last laugh this time.

 

 

He stood up as an idea of how to go about the first steps of his plan. How Joker had tried to taunt him that one night that he ignored. Making his way over to the wall he stood there. Breathing heavily with his anxiety of such a decision. Hesitating as he knew there was no going back once he did this. Alfred would have advised him against this. Silver had tried to tell him to leave. Even the damn Penguin was placing bets that he wouldn't be alive for much longer. He could just leave now. Just like how Harley did. Bruce could go back to being Batman and deal with the clown in his usual way. That was always an option and one he was very familiar with. One that was more comforting than anything else. If he just packed up his things and left in the middle of the night then all future events could be avoided. What would that accomplish though? All it ever did was repeat a never ending cycle between them. That couldn't be an option anymore. How many more lives would be destroyed if he allowed things to continue as they had been?

 

 

Placing his hands against the cool wall, he took in a deep breath. Telling himself that he could do this. That reciprocating what Joker perceived about them could work in his benefit even if all it was is a farce in a much bigger gamble. If everything panned out how he wanted it then countless lives would be saved. All he had to do was do this and play his cards right. A new chess match between them where he'd be the one saying checkmate in the end. His forehead rested against the wall as he prepared himself for the new persona he would have to take on. A new mindset that would make him the victor in the end. Making up his mind and ensuring with this decision that the new rules and game between them would continue he tapped his message on the wall. There was only silence for what felt like forever as he held his breath, but then Joker tapped back, the sound deafening to his ears.

 

 

Now there was no going back to the way things were between them.