When Bruce sat down for breakfast -still groggy from too little sleep- aside Damien (the new Robin), Dick (Nightwing) and Barbara (Oracle), the last thing he expected was for one side of his dining room to crumble in a cloud of dust, accompanied by the loud clap of an explosion, which made his ears ring. The force knocked Bruce over and he landed painfully on his unprotected elbows, distractedly noting that Barbara had fallen out of her wheel chair and Damien’s plate and glass had fallen on the boy’s head and torso.
“You three alright?” Bruce called when he had regained the breath that had been knocked out of him, coughing up dust and debris.
“All good here.”
“Damien, help Barbara,” Bruce ordered, pulling himself up on his feet, ignoring the blood trickling down his temple, “Dick?”
“Yeah, I’m up! What the Hell was that? Terrorist attack? Wayne Industries piss anyone off recently?”
“Don’t be silly!” a chillingly familiar voice said as the villain emerged from the cloud, stepping over the rubble gracefully, “This visit is for pleasure, not business!” The Joker truly was a terrifying sight emerging from the dust and rubble like some kind of fucked up deity. Dread made Bruce’s stomach heavy. There was no Bat suit between the two of them. The Joker was in his home.
“J-Joker!” the millionaire exclaimed, trying to sound like a scared civilian, pushing down the bubbling anger. How dare the lunatic blow up his house?
“Batsy, sweetheart, do you really think so little of me? After all these years do you really think I’m as stupid as everyone else? I know who you are,” Joker said, running his tongue over the front of his teeth and over his scars, his lips pulled back in a grin that was shark like.
“Oh, honey, it was easy! The citizens of Gotham are just stupid, pathetic sheepeople, is all! Of course, I had to do some research. I didn’t want to waste my time, it’s very precious to me,” the Clown Prince of Crime said, his grin stretching even further as he reached behind him, yanking forth a blonde woman in a smart suit, covered in dust and dirt, make up messy from the tears and snot running down her face. Bruce’s secretary. “Janine here was too observant for her own good, y’see? She –uh –figured out her boss was none other than the Batman.” She sobbed and struggled, much to the Joker’s amusement. “What? You wanna say somethin’ to your former boss?” the clown asked with a smile and giggle, ripping the duct tape off her face, “Make sure to speak up, toots, so Mr. Wayne can hear you now!”
“M-Mr. Wayne, I’m sorry! So sorry! H-He has my ki-!”
“Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat’s enough outta you!” Joker said cheerfully, placing the duct tape back over the woman’s mouth as she cried out in terror, a sound that wrenched at Bruce’s heart, “Oh, don’t be such a drama queen! I’m nothing if not a man of my word where the Bat’s involved! I’ll let your family go –unharmed, mind you! …You, on the other hand, well… we’ll see!” The woman screamed as she was tossed away, presumably in the general direction of the Joker’s goons.
“Don’t hurt her, Joker,” Bruce growled, his voice lowering in his no nonsense “Batman voice”, anger and irritation at the scene reflected in his unreadable expression and clipped tone, ignoring how the Joker’s eyes widened in excitement and the mad man visibly shivered.
“What? You found of the woman, Bats? You two play together during work hours?”
“She has nothing to do with this-.”
“That’s right! She has nothing to do with this!” he snarled, baring his teeth like a wild animal, his irritation suddenly morphing into anger, “It’s bad enough I gotta share you with these amateurs” –he motioned to where Damien and Dick hovered protectively in front of Barbara, tense and ready to attack when the opportunity presented itself –“and all the half-wit criminals in this city, trying to replace me as your number one problem, I’m not going to let a random fucking interloper ruin our fun by risking your identity to the whole fucking world! People that don’t care! These fucking morons polluting our world!”
“What do you want?” Bruce asked again, saying each word slowly and carefully, desperately trying not to let his anger show –he didn’t want to give the Joker the satisfaction –but unable to hide it completely. The madman always knew what buttons to push to get a rise of Bruce.
“Right. I want you, obviously. Same old, same old. But I –uh –also want to… call a temporary truce.”
“Bullshit!” Damien growled, shoving Dick away when the older hero tried to keep him under control, “Like we’d believe you. What kind of half assed scheme is this?!”
“Damien, language,” Bruce scolded but with no real heat (the scolding was more instinctual), his eyes never leaving the Joker who turned to look at the Wayne heir –his expression bitter and malicious, but one Bruce had difficulty pin pointing the exact name of on the Joker’s face –with narrowed eyes.
“What is this ‘we’, half pint? I was talking to my Batsy –NOT YOU!” the Joker said, his voice rising in a scream, fists clenched and a bit of color rising to his permanently pale face, making Bruce tense anxiously. It had been awhile since he had seen Joker angry from the very pits of his toxic soul. “This isn’t a ‘half assed scheme’, you illegitimate little shit” –it was a testament to how angry he was that there was no clever, pun centered insult thrown Damien’s way, just something objectively hateful; Joker turned back to Bruce, fixing his hair, and the millionaire suddenly realized the Joker had been edging closer to him during the entire confrontation –“I want to call a temporary truce because there’s a certain individual in this shit hole that needs to be dealt with. They’d ruin what we have going on here, Bats. They’d tip the fragile equilibrium you’ve established –with my help, might I add –and ruin my fun and my business profits.”
It honestly took a minute for Bruce to completely comprehend what the villain was saying and, when he finally did understand, it was impossible to keep the shock from his face.
“Are you suggesting that you and Batman… team up?” Dick asked, voicing his mentor’s disbelief.
Joker smiled and he resembled a wolf trying to convince its prey that it was domesticated… and failing. “Bingo, Robin Numero Uno! Looks like you’re not completely stupid,” the clown said before turning back to the uncostumed Batman with a grin no less evil but much more… normal (Joker’s normal) and much less… unarming, “So, Bats, Batsy, Brucey” –he licked his lips hungrily as he sometimes did when they faced off no matter what the setting –“what do you say? We gotta deal?”