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let december glow in flames

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During the Joker's first couple of weeks in Arkham, they force on her every cocktail of drugs they can come up with. Mostly she laughs at them, giggles and snorts and smiles in the way she knows scares them most (she's watched herself in the mirror, watched the smile split her lips, watched it stretch wide like an open wound across her face, and she laughed and laughed until her mouth bled and tears dripped from her jaw).

Sometimes, though, the drugs they give her actually work. These times she may curl up shivering in the corner, or lay senseless on the wafer-thin mattress, slobbering on the pillow that could just as easily have been a slab of wood. The effects never last long; she imagines she can feel the drugs bleeding from her system, seeping through her skin and into the air around her. She giggles and wonders, is that why the people here stay so crazy?

Her mouth cracks wide, scars pulling taut at her cheeks (she can feel them, always she feels them, with her tongue and fingers and her whole body, she feels the scars in every last pore of her skin), laughter bubbling forth like vomit, like acid. The cells around her fall silent, and she laughs all the harder.

 

The people here, patients and doctors alike, are terrified of her. She can't imagine why -- she never did anything to them, after all -- but they've even left her her makeup (her mask, her armor, face white white and mouth a red smear like blood, black black around her eyes so that when she closes them there is nothing but shadow, maybe even nothing at all, empty and hollow and dark like deep star-less space).

A doctor enters this morning, flanked by two great, hulking brutes, and behind them looms a mountain of a man, with hands that could probably crush her skull before she could even move to bite him.

The doctor remains in the doorway, shivering with fear, face white and eyes wide. She giggles (chortles, busts her gut, snickers, titters, and oh my, the drugs they've pumped her up with this time, they just make her all giddy, she bubbles with it) and waves at him. "What's up, Doc?" she asks, and giggles helplessly as the two great brutes pick her up by her arms and half drag her out of the room. She doesn't struggle, just wheezes with laughter. She can't really feel her legs anyway.

They drag her through the halls, hoisted up between them, toes barely reaching to trail on the cold, cold floor. "This is fun," she says, smiling beatifically up at them. Her right captor glances briefly at her. "We should do this more often, I miss people. You know what I mean?"

One of them grunts.

She giggles breathlessly. "Oh my," she breathes, fluttering her eyelashes, "just like Batman you are! Batsy, he's just-- Oh, mm, he's just so big and strong, all silent like you. Why, he just puts butterflies in my tummy! Or is it birds? I can't remember, but I think it's butterflies."

She watches the man's mouth tighten into a flat line, giggles again and says, low and thick, "Mm, oh, oh just thinking about him-- It gets me so hot and bothered," and she rubs against her left captor as best she can.

The men stiffen, but otherwise do nothing. The Joker pouts. "You're no fun," she sulks.

One of them grimaces, and she laughs, long and loud, only laughing harder as their passage through the white, white halls leaves a trembling silence in their wake.

Eventually they reach a door, as white and sterile and nondescript and utterly maddening as the rest of Arkham, and her cheer falls only when they enter the room and she is immediately manhandled over to a large iron basin filled with water.

"I didn't order a bath with this suite," she says.

Behind her, the doctor (that pathetic, cowering bag of skin and bones, useless garbage, pathetic pathetic filth, she wants to rip him open and tear the heart from his chest) says, bright and sharp and oh, so smug, "Your makeup is a privilege you don't deserve. We're going to remove it."

Rage blooms red and fierce, and she begins to struggle, kicking and biting and writhing. She snarls, "You only say that because you can't see my face!"

One of the guards wrenches her arms behind her back, twisting her wrists to send lances of pain through her elbows. She laughs and lets a punch throw her around, feels something tear in her shoulder, gray dancing at the edges of tunnel vision as she focuses on the doctor. He's shaking in his worthless skin, now, eyes round and terror-blank, and she lunges for him, dragging the guards with her for several feet before they finally manage to catch themselves. The Joker shrieks with fury, pure and wordless and elemental; she feels it in her belly, in her bones. She wants to rip his throat out with her teeth, can almost taste the blood burst across her tongue, feel the heat fill her mouth.

She'll kill him, pluck his eyes from their sockets, rip the flesh from his bones, crack his sternum and peel back his ribs. She'll paint the walls with his blood, taste it sweet sweet metallic on her tongue.

The man-beast crashes down upon her with a force that leaves her reeling, and her head is thrust beneath the water so quickly she inhales it without thinking. He lets her up just enough so she doesn't choke, long enough for her to gulp down a desperate breath, and then water closes around her head; it is a cold shock that ripples down her spine, and she grits her teeth.

She tries to wriggle away, but the wall of muscle does not give; his hand is as a ton of meat against the back of her skull, an anchor of which the guards take advantage. There are hands in the water, hands and soap. They scrub at her face, and she screams with impotent fury as she feels them wash the grease paint from her skin.

Again she swallows water, and again this man, this behemoth masquerading in human skin, he threads his fingers in her hair and jerks her head from the water. He holds her while one of the guards drives his fist into her gut, watches with cold, dead eyes as she coughs up water and a little blood. She laughs wetly, half-choking and half-gasping.

"Gotta hand it to you," she gasps, "this hotel has great service, even if the food tastes like dead cats--"

She is shoved beneath the surface again, but this time when the hands reach for her she watches through the fog of bubbles and snaps at their fingers. Her teeth sink through soft flesh almost to the bone, and she watches in delight as blood irrupts forth, a red cloud that spreads through the water like an oil spill. The guard -- she doesn't know which and doesn't care, they're all just sacks of meat to her anyway -- the guard, he yells and lurches backward, and she laughs and chokes on water and keeps laughing anyway.

The colossus, though, this titan holding her prisoner, he strikes like a thunderbolt. He smashes her head against the bottom of the basin so quickly she barely has time to register the pain before her entire body sags like a broken puppet.

The world turns black.

 

She dreams of Batman, of cutting him open and making him scream. She dreams he cracks off her limbs like crab legs. She dreams he dissolves into her skin, their bones melting together, blood pumping to the rhythm of the same heartbeat. He speaks, dark and hoarse, in her ear.

She wakes with a wild moan, hips rolling and fingers moving desperately, warm and slick in her cunt. Her orgasm hits her oh, oh like he does, like two-hundred fifty odd pounds of steel and Kevlar and hard, solid muscle bearing down on her, the full weight of Gotham's wrath. She whines, high and thin, shuddering through the aftershocks, and falls limp to the slab of her mattress. She giggles.

The air around her feels strange, too cool and almost greasy against her skin. She thinks nothing of it (every day is a new adventure and nothing is the same from one day to another, always changing, always shifting, chaos), simply plays with the pack of cards they give her; Solitaire, FreeCell, War, Hearts, whatever she can think of. The sound of flipping cards soothes her.

When the orderlies come to give her her food, she heaves an irritated sigh and sweeps the cards off the table with enough force to make the orderlies jump. "Somehow I always lose," she tells them, pouting. Then, thoughtfully, "I think the other players might be cheating."

They stare at her face in horrified fascination. "What?" she barks, scowling, and they whimper and flee from her cell. The door slams jarringly shut.

Joker rolls her eyes, laughing. Such cowards they are, these whimpering brats, such deplorable wastes of skeleton, of blood, of breath. She wants to rid the world of them.

Around noon (she thinks, it's hard to tell, the doctors deemed clocks too dangerous and of course they ignored her request for bay windows, so rude) the guards spill into her cell, a small army of them just to subdue her. She beams at them, sprawled carelessly on the floor against the far wall. She says, pleased, "All this for little old me? I'm so flattered--"

They are silent as two of them fall upon her, wrenching her around to twist her arms behind her back. They frog-hop her to the bed, where she is bent screaming with laughter over the edge, her hair pulled to the side by a third guard to bare her throat as she shrieks, "Oh, harder, just like that, there, YES!"

She laughs as the needle pierces her skin, laughs as the guards fall back in ranks that stink of fear, laughs as they leave her laid out, suddenly cold, on the table slash bed. For hours she laughs, not knowing why, only knowing that everything -- air, the sound of her voice, the paralyzed silence beyond her cell, BatmanBatmanBatman -- is funny and that she cannot stop laughing.

The air around her is wrong, wrongwrongwrong. She can feel the sickness, the disease oozing through her skin, a festering poison like sludge, like sewage in her veins, bleeding into the very core of her. She sobs with laughter, the room swirling before her eyes, throat raw and belly aching.

They're infecting her, she realizes wildly, polluting her with their putrid madness. This place is a cancer, a plague on her soul.

She chokes on her laughter, the air toxic in her lungs. She wants to scream. She claws at her scars, gouging the skin with nails whose dimensions are oddly skewed. She can feel the moment she starts bleeding, dripping redred down her cheeks.

Blood bursts effervescent and hot across her tongue, and she gags on the laughter bubbling ceaselessly, uncontrollably from her gorge. She rips at her scars, tasting them with her tongue, feeling the mottled flesh throughout her entire body, but still she feels Arkham's filth seeping into her veins.

The Joker screams, ragged and broken, tearing at her face so that strips of bloody skin dangle from beneath grease paint-smeared nails--

She stops, stares.

Her fingers are clean, stained only by blood, her nails filed and neatly trimmed. Blood pounding furiously in her ears, she swipes a shaking thumb across her forehead (clean), her eyes (glistening with tears, but clean), her mouth (red, but not with paint).

She remembers, now, what the Bat Man, so dark, so powerful, had whispered in her dream. He said, "They've taken your face from you."

Joker roars with fury.

 

The Joker explodes from Arkham in a cascade of sparks and fire, rage twisting her freshly painted face into a grotesque parody of a sideshow clown. Behind her towers Arkham, a twisting pillar spun of dust and flames like demons, screaming, ringing in her ear, spinning spinning spinning, and down they go, a shower of glimmering burning rubies crumbling blindly to the brown, dead grass.

Only she escapes.

 

It snows on Gotham city.

She shivers with the cold, snowflakes melting wet on her cheeks, in her hair, across the shoulders of her coat. She giggles, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

The streets are quiet and still, oddly muffled with the snowfall. Mere blocks away and she can't even hear the explosions, but the sky is lit with a hellish glow, flickering firelight searing the clouds with eldritch, phosphorous life. Beneath the smoldering sky the city is crusted with snow, glistening diamond dust in the twilight, delicate flowers of ice blossoming in crawling, labyrinthine whorls across freezing glass.

Joker, well, she bubbles with glee. He'll come for her, he will, she knows. He'll come, silent and strong, a shadow in the night, with his fury and his righteousness and his hard, heavy fists.

Gotham will quake before them, storms of war colliding with ground-splitting geologic force. She will see the city crack wide, its guts bared steaming and fresh, stinking of fear and terror and pathetic human filth, and Batman, Batman, Batman, oh, it makes her giddy (like a school girl, weak with her first crush, maggots in her tummy and explosions in her eyes), he will watch in horror as his beloved city falls before his eyes.

First, though, she has to send the in-vi-ta-tions.

 

She's right, of course, she knew she would be.

"Catch a tiger by the toe," she sing-songs, "if he hollers--" Batman crashes through the window in a glittering shower of glass, teeth bared and a wordless growl on his lips. "LET- HIM- GO." Joker cackles, swinging around with her machine gun. She croons, "Batsy, sweets," wriggles her fingers in a wave, "so good to see you! I almost thought you'd forgotten about me." She pouts, affecting hurt. "Not even a note."

The Bat Man glowers, always so serious, he needs to lighten up. Maybe, though, maybe she'll do it for him, set him on fire and watch the skin sizzle and pop until it peels away, black and crispy, from the muscle. The thought makes her giggle.

She asks, "Did you like your present? I cooked it up especially for you." Joker pauses, licking her chops, and as though imparting great wisdom says, "Like they always say, you catch more manbatthings with gasoline--"

The first punch is a hammer blow to her temple, and she crumples laughing to the cement floor, scrambling back to her feet, knife in hand. He watches her warily, poised to strike, fists clenched at his sides. "No, nonono," she scolds, waggling the knife at him, "we've talked about this, sugar, don't start with the head." She giggles, fuzzy fuzzy fuzzy, "I wanted sugar plums, you know, ‘tis the season, all that jazz," gets briefly distracted by the light glittering in starbursts across the edge of her blade, shards of white pain behind her eyes, oh she loves it. "All- that- jazz, people want so much, you know? Evvverybody's got to have everything. Sugar plums, sugar sugar sugar plums, but all I could get my grubby little hands on," she waves her hands, purple leather soft against her skin, "were a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets."

That, oh that's funny, even if the manbat doesn't get the joke. She does, sometimes that's all that matters. She licks at her scars (bone deep, scars vibrating through her whole body, why, she nearly thrums with it; such a fun word, thrum, has a nice ring to it), giggles helplessly, and kicks him in the chest when he lunges for her.

He stumbles backwards, eyes glittering, far enough for her to dance away, and she pulls the detonator from inside her coat. She says, "Let's play a game."

"No," Batman says, growl shivering rough across her skin, his fists like a battering ram to her skull as he tackles her, tumbling them into one of the wide iron window frames. The impact jolts her shoulder, and when she drops the detonator he kicks it away; it skitters harmlessly across the floor. She pouts.

"You wanna know how I got these scars?" she asks, licking her lips and wiggling her eyebrows. Batman is silent, so she laughs and laughs, face split wide. "I'll tell you the truth. My father, he doesn't love us very much, my mother and I. He leaves us alone for years at a time, travels the world with his camera and his travel logs-- You see, my father's a pho-to-jour-na-list, his work was more important to him than we ever were." A pause, sliding against his leg a bit, giggling. "One year he takes us with him, though. My mother goes mad with grief when he's away, I hate him because I love her, but he takes us with him, thinks it'll make us happy. I just want her to smile more.

"Well, my father, he takes us into a war, a revolution in some little country in Europe. Doesn't think about us, you know, he's used to it. But us, oh we're not, we cower in our grimy little room in the grimy little hostel he pays for." Says, slowly, ponderously, "We get bombed, kidnapped by a group of rebels. They take a knife to my face, my mother watching--" She stops, cocking her head. She grins. "You're a smart one, I'm sure you can figure out the rest. It was December, though. I like December, December's a good time for bombs."

His eyes flicker, to the detonator against the far wall, to the window.

Below them lies Gotham, a sugary confection of snow and frost, streets slick and gleaming with ice. Snow continues to fall, a fine dust against the windowpane, swirling in through the smashed window in ephemeral filamented clouds across the floor. It is silver in her ears.

She smiles, says, "Oops," and as confusion threads across Batman's face she shakes her left wrist, feels the real detonator slip into her palm, and thumbs the button.

Gotham rocks as bombs go off across the city, the sky efflorescing with spinning flowerets of flame and billowing smoke. Joker laughs, so low it scrapes at her throat, tastes metallic on her tongue, and the building buckles around them as across the street fire belches forth from shattered windows, dripping tongues of flame in curling trembling arcs that glimmer like jewels as they fall to the rimy, glazed streets below.

Batman stares in horror, and as Joker watches the reflection of the explosions dance in his glimmering eyes (so close to her, she can feel his breath on her face), a peculiar breathlessness settles over her. This man, with his rage and his morals and his rules, this Bat-Man, she wants him to own her as much as she owns him (even if he doesn't know it), she wants him to own her as much as he wants to (even if he won't admit it). She says, wildly, "Look at me," and then, as a baffling, terrifying distance spins itself between them, explosions, bright lights still blooming in his eyes, barks, "Look at me!"

He does.

Joker almost jumps, feeling something unknown reverberate through her. Her eyes widen.

"All right," Batman says, and his voice drops a register, winds through her skin like molten glass (oh, she wishes it would leave scars), "let's play a game."

She shivers, a bizarre amalgam of anticipation and sick anxiety turning in her gut. Compulsively, she licks her lips, tastes skin and makeup and scar tissue and a little blood. She clears her throat, hears her voice crack anyway as she says, "Oh, now we're talking--"

"Shut up," he snarls, and before she even knows he's moved he has both her hands pinned above her head, secure in just one of his large, broad hands (she'd forgotten how fast he was).

Joker bares her teeth, slamming herself against his hold. He remains unmoved, and she growls, snaps like a viper at his face; he jerks his head back, but distances himself no further, loses his balance not at all. She doesn't like this, the sudden control he seems to have over his formidable temper, the odd gleam in his eyes as he holds her down and watches her, as though she is little more than an insect on display.

Then he presses the full length of his body against her, long straight lines of bone and muscle, solid in a way that makes her cunt throb, her heart thunder in her throat. She shudders her surprise, wraps her legs around his waist, strong and sturdy between her thighs, and groans, long and low, "Ooooh, I like this game."

"Good," Batman says, and he rips her shirts open, palms one bare breast in his hand, squeezes and twists until she squeals with it, tightens her legs around him. Even through the armor she can feel him hard against her.

He hoists her up higher with an open hand spread like spiders across her ass, fingers pressing bruises into her skin. He bows his head, chews at the peak of her nipple until she is whining high in the back of her throat, until she wants to climb into his skin. As he slips her pants over her hips the Kevlar gloves are surprisingly soft and smooth against her without the force of his punches behind them, and he bites a trail of bruises and blood down her throat. She loses track of his hand for a brief moment, hears something fall to the floor, and--

Oh. Oh.

He slides into her, so long and hard and absolutely perfect, she feels as though the breath has been knocked from her chest, can't even laugh. For a long moment neither of them moves.

"If I let your hands go," Batman says, and oh, she's never heard his voice so low, so rough, she trembles with it, "will you keep them there?"

She nods desperately, rattling back and forth like a broken bobble head. She can't look away from his face, the roiling twisting emotions that are there one second and gone the next. He is looking only at her, and she can't stop the faint, helpless giggle from gurgling from her throat.

His hands curl around her hips, brands that sear her to the bone, and she winds her fingers (her curious curious fingers, they want so badly just to touch him, but she is, aha, she is a man of her word) as best she can around the iron bar.

With a snap of his hips he begins to move, surging in her cunt so that she gasps for breath to scream, so that she clutches so hard the metal leaves lines of fire across her palms.

Joker can hear herself, words and laughter like bile spilling broken and shattered from her lips, although she cannot understand them. He is everywhere, overwhelming her: Filling her eyes, her nose as her head drops to rest against his shoulder, her mouth as it falls open, breath harsh and cloudy against the Kevlar, and when her tongue flickers blindly against her lips she can taste him; he smells and tastes of sweat and snow, steel and the odd synthetic bitterness of the Kevlar. She hears the shifting of fabric, of armor, his harsh breathing in her ears.

Most of all, though, she feels him, palms spread across her hips, cock heavy and thick inside her, so good she wants to laugh and scream and cry all at once, so good it sends her into thrashing euphoric paroxysms. Across every inch between them she feels him, warm and hard through the Kevlar, and the armor scraping against the soft skin of her breasts, her belly, her inner thighs leaves her whimpering.

He uses the grip on her hips to pull her to him, thrusting hard enough bursts of pain wrack her gut, and she moans wildly, banging her head against his shoulder, feeling the armor bite into her skin, thin trails of hothot blood dribbling down her thighs.

The pain and ecstasy swirl around each other until she can no longer separate them, spinning higher and higher, a rising crescendo that hums through her bones and leaves her shivering, straining in the container of her skin. She's almost there, can taste it, she just needs--

He smashes their foreheads together.

Orgasm hits her so hard she splits at the seams, cannot breathe, cannot see. She retains enough of her senses to feel his fingers clamp like vises across pale skin and bone, feel him come inside her, a rush of heat that makes her whine.

He slips his softening cock from her, lowers her with startling care to the floor. Shaking with aftershocks she stares hungrily at his dick, watches with a vague sense of mourning as he tucks it away and refastens the armor plate over his groin.

There is a peculiar reserve in his eyes as he looks down at her, standing in the empty space where the shattered window had been, a remote sort of satisfaction that leaves ice in her stomach. "Gordon has evacuated all the buildings you blew up. There were no casualties," he says, tapping one of the ears of his cowl. "I think this means I win."

She freezes.

A faint smirk on his lips, he says, "Why so serious?" and steps backwards into open air.

Over the sound of her furious screams (how could she let herself be fooled by him?) she hears the snap of his cape catching his fall.