Actions

Work Header

No Regrets

Chapter Text

There are certain days when Bruce is thankful that he's mortal.

 

Those are the days when he sees Diana slump in her chair ever so slightly, when she thinks nobody is looking—but it doesn't escape Bruce's notice, just like the way he sees a weariness in Clark's eyes after every mission, looking like he wants nothing more than to close his eyes and never have to open them again.

 

Bruce knows. He often feels the same.

 

That's why he's thankful that he's mortal—perhaps one day, when Gotham no longer needs him, when the Justice League is renewed with fresh, eager minds—perhaps he won't have to open his eyes again.

 

But today isn't that day.

 

The Joker is laughing, smiling, his eyes unnaturally bright as they soar across rooftops on quiet, nimble feet, moving in an almost choreographed dance, one they've rehearsed so many times, one that is so close to flawless that it's eerie—but neither of them wants to ever perfect it, lest it become the last time they dance.

 

Because Bruce needs this, he needs the thrill of chasing the Joker into the night, both knowing that Batman will never catch him, never kill him, never—he hadn't even when the Joker had taken Titan and turned into that monstrosity—and Joker needs it too.

 

But there's something wrong tonight, there's a slowness in the Joker's step, a shake in the arm holding the knife, a haze in the green eyes that doesn't miss Bruce's notice. It's only when Bruce punches him in the stomach, not very hard, and Joker falls to the ground, genuinely wheezing, that he gets worried.

 

He drops to his knees beside the clown, rolling him over gently, perhaps more kindly than the Joker deserves, but Bruce can't bring himself to be harsh. The Joker is still smiling, but the corners of his mouth are twisted up in pain, not mirth. He helplessly clutches at Bruce's gauntlets.

 

Bruce is glad that the cowl covers his features, lest the Joker see the concern in his expression.

 

"What's wrong?" When there's no answer, he gently shakes the clown. "Joker?"

 

The Joker tries to grin at him. It's a pitiful sight, and something in Bruce's stomach sinks, though he doesn't quite know why.

 

"Poisoned," he rasps, through dry, painted lips. His eyes unfocus and focus again on Bruce.

 

"Poison—?" Bruce says, already preparing to lift the Joker, take him somewhere safe. He doesn't question his own actions—he knows it's better not to, at least not now. "I though you were resistant to most—"

 

"Titan," Joker says, so quietly that Bruce almost misses it.

 

The word doesn't quite register with Bruce at first, and when it does, he still doesn't understand. He carefully props Joker up against a thick pipe, crouching next to him. Against his own will, he reaches out to brush a strand of the Joker's hair out of his face, and doesn't miss the way he leans into Bruce's touch.

 

"The Titan reacted... strangely with my body," Joker explains, after a short pause. His breathing is shallow, but his words sharp and coherent. "It's killing me."

 

It's killing me.

 

"And," Joker says, with a sly grin, that seems much more characteristic of him. "It's poisoning you, and Gotham as well."

 

Bruce's heart drops. All gentleness forgotten, he pulls the clown up by the collar roughly and snarls, "What do you mean?"

 

The Joker looks smug. Bruce feels blind with anger—he wants nothing more than to punch the Joker in the face. "I've sent my blood to medical stores all across Gotham," he smirks. "If my calculations are right, then you have about eleven hours till it reaches some poor shmuck's bloodstream and poisons him."

 

"You sick bastard!" Bruce picks him up and throws him into the ground, his rage and satisfaction at hearing the Joker's arm break with a crunch so great that it almost numbs him. "How—how did you poison me?"

 

Joker gets to his feet unsteadily, the manic grin still on his face, blood trickling down from one corner of his mouth. He walks on unsure steps towards Bruce, into his space, till Bruce can feel his hot breath on his mouth. He feels a tiny prick at the base of his neck.

 

Too late, he lunges back, arms wildly flailing, hitting the Joker in the gut— too late, he sees the syringe in Joker's hand, empty, traces of blood inside the transparent walls.

 

Bruce can hardly contain himself. He doesn't want to. He kicks the Joker, punches him, till the clown's teeth break, till his gloves are more crimson than black, till the night is giving way to the dawn.

 

He flies off then, flies home, still shaking as he hears the Joker's cackle follow him through the city.

Chapter Text

"Oh, come on, Mr. B," Harley snorts. Bruce can hear her derision clearly, even over the static. "You expect me to believe that you called up to check on Mr. J? You?" She laughs contemptuously. "Give a gal some credit, Bat-Brain."

 

Bruce grits his teeth—he has neither the time, nor the patience to deal with a overprotective, homicidal bodyguard. He's fully aware that time is running short—it doesn't help at all that Victor Fries is being wholly uncooperative about the entire thing. When he had demanded Nora's safe return to him in exchange of any help, Bruce had nearly spat out a scathing remark about how Victor's world revolved around one and only one person alone, before he caught himself.

 

It would have been rather hypocritical to have said that, after all.

 

"Harley," he says, his voice low and controlled. "I need to visit him."

 

There's a moment of shocked silence on the other end. He can almost hear the gears turning in Harley's head as she tries to figure out his intentions. If only she would listen. She's always been a little headstrong, though, so it's to be expected. There's a grudging respect Bruce feels for her sometimes—for her blind dedication, the way she's crowned the Joker as her sun, the way she commands respect and strikes fear even in that ridiculous outfit of hers, armed with nothing but recklessness, unrehearsed languages straight from her skin, and a gun. It's easy to forget, sometimes, that she can be a force to be reckoned with.

 

"Why?" She asks, finally, suspiciously.

 

"I'll explain when I get there," he says, already swinging across rooftops. He ignores Harley's splutter of indignation— he doesn't want to use force, but he will if necessary.

 

The Joker had appeared on familiar rooftops to dance with Bruce for a couple of nights after that night, but neither of their hearts had been in it. The clown looked visibly worse, red and blue veins prominent across his thin face, looking even skinnier than usual—if that was even possible—but what really scared Bruce was the tiredness in his eyes, the slump to his shoulders— the one he saw in Diana, in Clark, in Jonathan when he stared off into space.

 

It looked so wrong on the Joker. It looked so...wrong.

 

"I need to know where you are, Harley," he says. "It's important. It's about curing the Joker."

 

There's silence on the other end. Bruce is about to call out her name when she abruptly answers.

 

"Have you found a cure?"

 

Her voice is small, quiet, like a child's. Sometimes he forgets how young she really is.

 

"I'm trying, Harley," he replies, just as quiet. He doesn't know why he's trying to be reassuring to her—perhaps he's just trying to reassure himself. "Believe me, I'm trying."

 

He hears a sob stuck in her throat as she gives him the address.

 

*

 

"Harley," he acknowledges. She's sitting beside the Joker's sleeping form, hunched over, turned away. He gently puts a hand on her shoulder, surprised when she doesn't flinch away from him.

 

"How long do you think he has?" She says, so quietly that he's in danger of thinking that he imagined it.

 

"Mr. Freeze thinks—about a week." He refrains from adding the at most.

 

Harley, still turned away from him, starts to shake. Bruce crouches next to her, and before he knows what he's doing, he takes Harley's hands in his.

 

She stiffens, then collapses into his arms.

 

She's incredibly small and frail against his armor, her body wracked with sobs. Bruce isn't quite sure how to react— it's not every day that he has his enemies crying in arms—but he let's instincts take over. It's so easy to pretend that it's Barbara.

 

It takes some time for Harley to calm down. Bruce doesn't let go of her.

 

"I didn't know you cared," she says.

 

There's a pause.

 

"I didn't know either," Bruce admits.

 

"I don't want him to die."

 

"I know," he says. He can feel tears stinging his eyes. "I know."

 

She stands suddenly, almost knocking Bruce off his feet. Her face is smeared with makeup and tears, and her eyes are burning with desperation and anger. "Then do something! Don't just sit there, and—and look all sad and— you have to do something!"

 

"Harley—"

 

"You're letting him die!—"

 

"Harley, bring me Poison Ivy," Bruce says, mentally kicking himself for not having thought of it before. He stands. "Call me when you find her. I need an old friend's help."