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Madness, Domesticated

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The industrial linoleum of the asylum clicked under Bruce Wayne’s fine leather shoes. The billionaire was known to make the rare trip to Arkham.  As its prime benefactor, he did surprise inspections on the quality of care its inmates received, to observe their standard of living as they were rehabilitated.  Most men in Bruce’s position would hire someone else to make the visits, but Bruce took the inmates’ placement in Arkham personally.  

 

Plastic holly was strung along the hallways alongside a smattering of multicolored lights.  A paper cut-out of a rosy-cheeked Santa spun on its thread as Bruce passed beneath.  Undoubtedly, the decorations had been hung to add a festive feel to the place, but they somehow only achieved in making the space look more bleak.  

 

“The patients have made great strides under our care,” a doctor prattled on, referencing a clipboard in hand.  They passed one after another glassed-in cells, their tenants in a range of positions from limp melancholia, to anxious pacing, to mindless raging.   

 

Out of the fluorescent gloom of one of the cells a shape flung itself forward.  Killer Croc slammed the glass as they passed, and to its credit, the strengthened pane didn’t even crack.  It was an expensive donation from the Wayne Foundation.  Bruce held his ground, watching his handsome reflection unperturbed, but the doctor jumped at Croc’s outburst, apologizing “Obviously some have made more progress than others.”  

 

Shaken and eager to recover some of his reputation, the doctor stopped a few cells later with a story he hoped would impress, “This patient in particular has made excellent strides in his recovery.”  

 

A slight man sat patiently in a hardback chair, idly reading a paperback book.  His angled face wore a wide mouth with unsmiling lips and a narrow nose.  His hair was a dusty brown with a slight kink, combed into submission.  The doctor added, “He’s been here seven years.  He seems to feel it’s his lucky number.”  

 

Seven years, Bruce echoed in his mind.  The transformation from the man he delivered to the asylum to this man now, was shocking.  Bruce feigned ignorance, “Now, which one is he?”  

 

The doctor swallowed before speaking in a hushed tone, “Prior to his time at Arkham he was known as… as the Joker,” he cleared his throat and after a moment he resumed a normal volume, “We’ve taken to calling him Jack—he seems to respond well to it.”  

 

The man in the cell—whom they called Jack— turned the page of his book, but there was an emptiness to his expression that suggested he wasn’t truly reading.  His body held none of the coiled-spring potential it had held in the thousand times the two men had crossed.  Without his face paint, hair dye, and purple suit, he was a phantom unmasked; revealed to be exhaustingly ordinary and unremarkable.  The madman domesticated.  

 

If he is so ordinary now, what does that make me? Instead the billionaire asked, “When will he be fit for reentry into society?” He ran a hand over his hair to smooth it, despite the fact not a lock was out of place.

 

“In many ways he’s met all of our criteria,” the doctor began.  

 

Bruce clenched his fist hard enough to crack his knuckles.  He tucked his hands in his pockets to hide his tension, skeptical, “Really.”  

 

The doctor adjusted his glasses and begrudgingly admitted, “The one thing we have been at odds to provide is suitable social interaction.  He’s not on the best of terms with any of our other patients, and you can see how antisocial he is on his own.”  

 

Bruce stepped closer, the daytime light casting his silhouette onto the glass.  His vision into the cell seemed clearer through the space where his shadow landed.  At the change in light, Joker slowly looked up from his book, as nonchalant as any normal man might appear in a street side café.  

 

“Oh,” the doctor made a sound of surprise.  He spoke just a little too loudly to compensate for the glass between them, “Jack, this is Mr. Wayne,” he gave an awkward wave, “Say hello, Jack.”  

 

A cloud seemed to lift from the man’s green eyes, and when he spoke there was a low flame in his gaze that was not there before, “Hello, Jack.” The joke was delivered in a deadpan voice, a quiet, breathy version of his former self.  A smile ghosted the corners of Joker’s mouth.  It made the hair on the back of Bruce’s neck stand on end.  

 

But the expression was gone as quickly as it came, Joker’s mouth crumpling back into slack sadness, his gaze trailing reluctantly back to his book.  He gave an extravagant sigh, like a daydreaming schoolgirl and licked a finger before turning a page.  

 

“Humph,” Bruce grunted in neither approval nor disapproval and retreated back down the hall.  The doctor followed close on his heels, “That was remarkable,” the doctor straightened his glasses as he caught up with the billionaire at the front desk, “You really seemed to bring out the best in Jack.  Would- would you ever consider visiting him again sometime, Mr. Wayne?”  The doctor turned the clipboard over and over in his hands, “Despite their former criminal nature, the holidays tend to be a hard time emotionally for many of our patients.”  

 

Bruce thought of the plain man waiting calmly in his cell and his answer was easy.  He thought of the smile that crossed that same man’s lips and the answer was impossible.  He gave the doctor a firm handshake and answered, “I’ll see what I can do.”  

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

Alfred and Bruce stood on the front steps of Wayne Manor as the car from the asylum pulled up the long drive.  The butler remarked, “When I suggested you could benefit from some company, Master Wayne, this was not at all what I had in mind.”  His voice was tempered, half dignified disdain and half heartfelt worry.  

 

Bruce only mumbled, “I appreciate your concern, Alfred.”  His eyes did not stray from the approaching vehicle.  A cold breeze blew, pressing against his dark sweater.  Despite the lateness of the season, they had yet to see snow, and the day was sunny and sharp.  

 

Alfred sighed, “You’ve always had a penchant for wild ideas, sir.”  The butler did not break his composure as the car came to a stop, and he walked down the steps to open the door with a white-gloved hand.  

 

The asylum doctor stepped out from the driver’s seat first, skipping over to Bruce, “Thank you again for this exceptional offer Mr. Wayne.”  Bruce was barely listening, watching the backseat where Alfred held open the door.  A beefy orderly exited first, gripping firmly to the other passenger’s thin wrist.  The doctor continued, “This type of personal attention should do wonders for his health.  If only all patrons gave the kind of service that you give to the patients of Arkham.”  

 

Joker stood up calmly enough, wincing into the daylight.  His hair had fallen forward, partly covering his brow.  The doctor spoke to him like a child, “Behave yourself Jack-- this is a lucky step for your future,” he smiled at his patient, “If this goes well, you may be living on your own soon enough.”  

 

The thin man cocked an eyebrow at the doctor, very plainly keeping his eyes off of the billionaire, “Of course.”  

 

Bruce thought he thought he saw a twitch in the man’s cheek that might have been a smirk, but it passed so quickly he couldn’t tell if he imagined it. Dressed in the standard mint green pajamas of the asylum’s inmates, the garments didn’t flatter Joker’s thin frame, and made him look like a cancer patient come home to die.  He exuded such weakness they hadn’t even thought to cuff him.  

 

Alfred walked stiffly before the man and the orderly, “Let me show you the way to the quarters we have arranged…”  

 

Joker passed so close on the steps that Bruce felt the air stir as he walked by.  Bruce’s hand quivered as though he might take a swing at Joker’s head and he clenched his jaw.  He half-hoped Joker would try something in this moment: an escape, kidnapping, an attempt on his life.  I dare you, he thought, glaring into Joker’s back.  He would have his hands on the man in seconds.  

 

But the moment passed without incident, without a touch, without eye contact.   Did Joker even know where he was?  Who he was with?  

 

There was a flash of green eyes as Joker looked back over his shoulder before he and the orderly entered the shade of the house.  How could he not?  They had never articulated their identities explicitly to each other, but could probably recognize each other better from the way one threw a punch or how the other held a knife.     

 

When the orderly and Joker had walked out of earshot, the doctor cleared his throat and addressed Bruce, “Here is his medication,” he held out a vial of pills, “Twice a day with water.”  

 

The pills clattered together gently as he took the full vial.  “What are they for?”  

 

“They help keep him even,” the doctor drew a line with the flat of his hand to demonstrate, “Fewer reckless highs and fewer dangerous lows.”  

 

“Does he have a problem with taking them?” he asked as he slipped the vial into his pocket and glancing into the hall to check if he could still see them.  

 

“If he does, we grind them up and put them in his food at Arkham,” the doctor adjusted his color, “You could do the same.  It’s probably better he doesn’t think about it too much.”  

 

I would know if were being drugged, seeing the pills or not.  He frowned.  Curtly, “Anything else?”  

 

The doctor shrugged, seemingly in hopeful spirits, “Talk to him.  New company can only do him good.  You might even get a laugh out of him.”  

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

Bruce tipped the orderly a crisp hundred-dollar bill after he had deposited Joker into his new rooms and Alfred showed the man out.  Alone, Bruce stood squarely in the entrance to the hallway, watching his new houseguest like one would watch a wild animal that wandered into their home.  

 

The room was finely furnished to a degree, a leather couch, stoic desk, tall gothic windows, soft carpet, a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette, but certain touches were intentionally missing.  Joker paced the quarters: testing the windows to find them barred and bolted shut, turning on the television to find no outside cable connection, opening drawers at the kitchenette to find no silverware, lifting the back of the toilet in the bathroom looking for who knows what.  

 

By the time he was looking under the mattress, Bruce had shut and armed the computer panel at the main door and followed him to the doorway of the bedroom.  Joker exhaled heavily and threw himself backward onto the bed and rubbed his eyes, “From one cell to another.” He squirmed and stretched his arms across the bedclothes like some strange snow angel.  The position pulled up his shirt and showed a pale, hollow abdomen between the points of his hipbones.  

 

“Though this cell seems big enough for two if you ask me,” Joker opened his eyes and looked back at Bruce as if waiting to see if the billionaire would join him on the bed.  His gestures were still a little too slow, his expressions slightly glazed over.  Pills? Sedative?  A broken spirit?  Was this Jack better or worse than… No, don’t even think it.  

 

Bruce stayed in the doorway, struggling for a balance between putting a mental patient at ease and showing a criminal who was in charge.  He answered quietly, “There are clothes in the closet if you’d feel more comfortable.”  

 

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Joker ran his fingers across his exposed stomach, running along the elastic waistband of his pants.  His lips stretched, not quite a smile but the early embers of amusement.  

 

The banter was familiar and no less infuriating.  Seven years.  There had been a time that he and Joker had fought every few nights, setting traps and puzzles for the other, dealing bodily damage that would require stitches or leave a mark for days after they had parted.  

 

For seven years they hadn’t so much as breathed the air of the same room, never mind lay a hand on the other.  And now here he was, as if he were an old friend come to visit a while.  An old enemy, he corrected himself.  

 

Bruce glowered at his thought but the expression wasn’t as effective without his cowl.  Exasperated already, he turned away, back towards the living room, “Suit yourself.”  

 

As soon as he turned, he heard the bed creak as Joker sat up and crossed to the closet and the almost sing-song tone of his response, “Don’t mind if I do.”  

 

They had stocked the closet with a variety of options, athletic clothes, jeans and t-shirts… Bruce heard a rush of cloth, the soft snap of Joker shaking out fabric.  He kept his back to the bedroom and crossed his arms as he waited.  “This is the most privacy I’ve had in ages,” Joker called out to him.  

 

“The door’s not even closed, “ Bruce grumbled over his shoulder.  When he turned his head he saw a full flash of pale-skinned buttocks as Joker stepped into new pants.  He quickly averted his gaze and tried to keep the heat of his embarrassment from showing in his cheeks.  

 

Joker buttoned up and chose a shirt, “I much prefer you watching from an open door than from behind a window at the asylum.”  

 

“I wasn’t watching,” the billionaire insisted.  He steeled himself for a snarky retort, but the room was quiet for several seconds.  It was long enough that Bruce glanced into the room again out of fear that Joker might have crept up on him, but the man was right where he left him, standing in front of the open closet getting dressed.  

 

His normally nimble fingers were slow doing up the buttons on his shirt, and the action seemed to take more focus than Joker wanted to admit.  Bruce guiltily thought of the vial of pills in his pocket and his duty to dole them out.  

 

A few moment later and Joker spoke again, “Presentable now?’  

 

His outfit was far from the orange and green silks or signature purple tuxedo jacket of his alter ego, and yet it was the closest thing available to him in the closet.  A white collared shirt tucked into fitted dark dress pants, with a brown tweed vest.  He looked like a bit like a professor, but the close fit of the clothes on his slim frame cut a familiar and striking profile.   

 

“Better,” Bruce admitted.  More like how I remember you.  Joker’s eyes were the only brightness in his gaunt face, and even they seemed tired.  Had he used to line them with something black to make them stand out even more from his white skin?  Never mind.  

 

More time had passed in silence than Bruce had intended, “They tell me this might be the most you’ve spoken to anyone lately.”  

 

“Anyone that matters,” Joker pursed his lips and glanced coyly at the billionaire.  

 

Bruce uncrossed his arms and leaned on the doorframe, “You don’t talk to the others at the asylum?”  

 

“Ugh, they’re such a bore-- you were there, you’ve seen what they’ve become,” he snapped, fiddling with the cuff of his shirt, “They can’t keep up with me, so I don’t waste my breath on them,” Joker looked up suddenly, eyes ratcheted onto the other man, “They can’t compare.”  

 

I know.  Bruce had to catch himself before the words spilled out.  Joker’s comment tested his poker stance and he forced his expression to be still, but something inside him fluttered like a desperate bird trapped between his ribs.

 

Joker spared him from making more small talk as he gave a joint-popping stretch and a long yawn, “All this excitement has worn me out,” he tumbled back onto the bed and tucked a pillow under his chin, “You wouldn’t mind if I rested a while, would you?” he winked a brilliant green eye, “I’m more of a night person myself.”  

 

Bruce knit his brow and didn’t acknowledge Joker’s taunt, unprepared to cross the obvious but troubling bridge that the comment’s innuendo presented.  “Take a dose of medicine before you sleep,” he instructed.  He went to the kitchenette and took down a plastic cup from the cabinet.  As he ran water at the sink he tipped a pill from the vial in his pocket and held it in his palm.  Topping it off with water, he set the cup and pill wordlessly on the nightstand.  

 

Joker made a good show of placing the pill on his tongue and drinking the water, but short of forcing the pill down his throat himself, Bruce had no assurance that Joker actually swallowed the dose.  We'll see how this plays out, he thought as the thin man settled back down into the pillows and closed his eyes.   He looked about as asleep as a high school play actor, but Bruce humored him and quietly returned to the rest of the manor, locking and arming the door behind him.  

 

Chapter Text

Bruce had so much pent up energy from the strangeness of the day he eagerly donned his Batman suit and took a patrol of Gotham as soon as it was late enough.  He jumped and glided from rooftop to rooftop, pausing at the corners to listen and taste the air; crisp and damp, like impending snow.  

 

Things had been noticeably quieter over the last seven years that the Joker had been off the street.  With him in Arkham, it had been easier to round up the other criminals and kingpins that lingered; the asylum was full and the city was empty.  Lately, there had been more nights when the Batman stayed home; Alfred was relieved and Bruce was bored.  

 

He heard a shout a few streets over and jumped at the chance for some action.  A mugging: three thugs and a woman alone.  They tugged at her purse and her clothes but she was too panicked to hand things over and make a run for it.  With each flail, they took a step closer, boxing her in.  

 

Batman dropped silently into the shadows of the alley, a pace away from the men, wearing darkness and menace like his favorite second skin.  He growled, “Leave her alone.”

 

But he had been away from this neighborhood too long and the thugs weren’t afraid of him, didn’t run for cover, instead they turned to face him, baffled and unimpressed, wearing dumb grins, “Hey it's the bat!”

 

The one who shouted took the first punch, his head and dumbfounded expression snapping back from the blow.  The thug tried to stay upright, latching on to his gauntlet, but Batman slammed his arm into a dumpster and a crack of bone sent the grip limp.  

 

The second thug rushed him with a baseball bat, a bold and stupid gambit.  Batman caught the implement mid-arch and flung it and the attached thug into the bricks of the alley wall.  The man groaned and fell still.  

 

The third took a gun from under his coat and got off one shot.  Batman felt the impact at his ribs, but the Kevlar of the suit deflected the bullet, sending it rattling onto the pavement.  

 

You’re sloppy, he cursed himself, can’t clear your mind.  The thug was not able to get off a second shot before Batman lunged in close, breaking the wrist that held the gun and shattering the thug’s nose with a push of his palm.  

 

He stood panting in the alley, waiting for movement, but the three men were still or groaning in half-consciousness.  It was more of a beating than he had intended for such a simple crime.  His heart was pounding, his body running hotter than it should have been.  If they had laughed at him he would have hurt them worse.

 

They couldn’t compare.  

 

The woman was gone and so was his taste for the streets.  

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

Bruce hardly allowed himself a thought as he unbolted the pieces of his suit and petulantly threw them into a pile on the floor of the Batcave.  The night had not gone as he wanted.  There had been no crazy crimes to intercept, no one strong enough to put up a fight, and he has been far less than perfect against three lowly thugs.  Bruce unbolted a gauntlet and dropped it from his arm.  

 

He should have never given them a chance to have fired a gun… And they weren’t even afraid when he appeared before them.  That last fact irked him worse than anything had annoyed him in ages.  He didn’t stop undressing in this furious pace until he was shirtless and barefoot, clad in only the thin, black leggings that cushioned his skin beneath the suit.  He tested his ribs where the bullet had bounced off of him, bruised but not broken.

 

Instead of taking a seat at the computer to work on cold cases, he climbed out of the cave, up several flights of stairs, into the house, and up to the higher floors.  He neglected a shower, fresh clothes, water, food…  He could only think of one thing that interested him and he was not satisfied until he reached the door to Joker’s quarters.  Maybe he shouldn’t, not now.  Maybe in the morning.  But still he unlocked the door and stepped inside.  

 

He tried to predict what might await him on the other side, but the first shock was the darkness.  There was no light save for the ambient blue starlight through the barred windows and no sound except his own rushed breathing.  Bruce locked the door behind him and waited, his ill-temper setting his body on a hair trigger.  He would have been lying if he said his heart didn’t beat a little faster with anticipation.  

 

A giggle gave the man away a moment before Joker darted out of the darkness and wrapped his arms around Bruce’s neck.  The man’s voice was breathless, the words spoken so close Bruce could feel their moisture on his lips, “Oh, Bats!”  

 

The shock of it bloomed and burst in a fraction of a second, and then of course Bruce had his hands on Joker-- just like old times-- spinning them quickly and pinning the thin man to the wall, grappling with his wiry arms like it was second nature; seven years of eagerness breaking like some beautiful, terrible wave.  

 

This close Bruce could smell the detergent on Joker’s clean suit, the lingering hospital odor of rubbing alcohol on his skin, and a particular musk of sweat that he knew more intimately than he cared to admit.  It made him all too aware that he probably smelled like the leather of the Batsuit, gun smoke, his own blood.  

 

The man’s scent filled his nose and dozens of memories flickered through his mind; Joker’s head must have been filled with his own mirrored moment of every recollection.  

 

An arm wriggled free and knotted fingers into Bruce’s hair.  The gesture made his skin prickle-- no cowl-- Joker had never touched him like this.  It was a thrill, it was terrifying-- and suddenly, as if he were preparing to dive into deep water, he took a breath he pressed Joker’s lips against his own; taste and texture melding into one fierce sensation.  

 

He pushed deep into Joker’s mouth, the thin man’s tongue coiling against his own.  Bruce leaned his body closer and closer, adjusting his grip from holding Joker still to tugging the man’s narrow hips tight against him.  When Joker tipped his pelvis to grind their mutual bulges between their legs together, Bruce nearly choked on saliva and broke their mouths apart.  Without thinking he barred Joker away from him with a hard forearm across his neck.  

 

Bruce’s arm bore down hard enough that Bruce could feel the man’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed and the rattle of his windpipe as he took a breath.  He could just see Joker’s eyes and teeth, sparkling like cut diamonds in the dark.  Joker’s voice quavered a little when he spoke, trying to sound like his usual flippant and confident self, but the words were a little too hoarse, “Oh Batsy, are we going to fight or fuck?”  

 

Despite his trepidation, it felt so damn good to have his hands on Joker after all these years.  Fight or fuck.  Maybe they’d had that choice a hundred times before and always opted for fight.  The darkness was a help, almost as good as his cowl and cape. Bruce could just see Joker’s smile, the divine curl of his lips, and he imagined this scenario on a rooftop, in a bank vault, an alley, a basement… but never as close and exhilarating as this.  

 

In this position Bruce would usually choose to try and smack the smile off that smart mouth, but now he kissed Joker again so forcefully it brought the thin man off his feet and against the wall.  Joker took the opportunity to wrap his long legs around Bruce’s waist and cinch him close and tight.  He was surrounded by Joker: arms around his neck, fingers flexing up into his hair, taut thighs pressed against his sides, and a hot devouring mouth all but pulling his breath out of him.  

 

Their desire for each other was obvious, straining against their clothes. Each hot burst of friction made them kiss deeper, hungrier for the other.  Joker wove an arm between their torsos and undid the button on his pants, his cock springing free like some obscene prank, a canister full of paper snakes.  

 

Bruce dropped Joker’s legs from off his waist and flipped the thin man face first into the wall.  “What—“ Joker began to protest until Bruce slipped his hand down the back of the thin man’s pants and between the curve of his ass.  He slipped his finger into his asshole and Joker wriggled against him, a small squeal between his hurried breaths.    

 

Unable to wait a moment longer, Bruce pulled his own erection free of his pants.  He put his lips against Joker’s neck to distract him as he shoved his dripping cock roughly inside.  Joker jumped at the brusque insertion and sudden pressure, an abrupt intake of breath, with tones both of pleasure and pain.  

 

Bruce moaned into the crook of Joker’s neck; a baritone more like Batman than the billionaire.  He staggered at the sensation between his legs, so tight and warm and smooth.  He was all but paralyzed until Joker arched his back and slid him that much deeper, and the thin man began fervently stroking himself.  

 

Bruce was dazed, a warm coil of pleasure low in his gut growing tighter and tighter.  He couldn’t help but grab Joker’s hips and thrust against him.  Oh fuck, he would be gone in another few strokes.  He half considered slowing down to buy some time, but Joker gasped, “Oh Bats, don’t stop!”  To hear that voice begging for him nearly did Bruce in right there.  

 

All of a sudden it was all too much, and he was groaning, throbbing, using a name without even realizing, “Joker…!”  In response, the thin man reached back and clapped a hand against Bruce’s ass, holding him in place for the last few tugs until he too called out in climax, his cock spurting into his hand.  

 

They stayed entangled against the wall for the space of several long breaths, riding on a dazed high of pleasure.  Then a rumble began in Joker’s chest, tumbling and rising into a giggle in his throat.  Bruce carefully stepped away, tucking his cock back into his pants.  

 

His body half limp, Joker rolled himself over, his back to the wall.  His giggling was full on laughter now, rolling out of him in erratic waves and he slid slowly down the wall until his ass rested on the floor.  Joker sat where he collapsed, long legs splayed out in front of him, his pants mostly off his hips, his spent dick unabashedly uncovered.  

 

The thin man struggled for breath between rich, rolling bouts of hysteria, unfiltered joy, uncut madness.  It was hard not to catch the feeling, and Bruce’s post-orgasm euphoria made him feel drugged, a chuckle threatening to bubble up from his own throat.  It was simultaneously so much better and so much worse than Joker’s laughing serum.  For one, Bruce felt fantastic instead of frenzied and ill. But there was no denying the rush had been generated from his own body and actions, and he couldn’t blame it on a dose of chemicals in a test tube.  

 

He realized uncomfortably that he was smiling in response to Joker’s laughter, and he sat heavily on the arm of the couch, shaking slightly.  Oh god, this was indulgent and inescapable.  He had needed the release so badly; Bruce couldn’t have stopped himself from fucking Joker if the thin man protested, but Joker had wanted him just as much, only heightening the pleasure.  Should he have expected anything less?  The two of them had had chemistry for ages.  His head was soaring with endorphins.  What the hell are we doing?

 

After several more moments in the dark, Joker’s laughter eventually subsided, “Whooo,” he drew out the syllable in a long, satisfied sigh, seemingly completely at ease with the turn the night had taken.  

 

Bristling at his own personal lapse of control, Bruce scoffed, “You finished?” He scratched an itch at his shoulder, his bare chest cooling under a sheen of sweat.  

 

“Ohh… quite,” calmer now, there was still the trill of humor in his voice, “In no small part thanks to you.”  Joker shuffled to his feet, and paused to do up his pants.

 

Bruce crossed to the kitchenette and tossed cold water onto his face.  He was dabbing himself dry with a dishtowel when Joker flipped on a light on the end table.  Compared to the near darkness before, the low amber glow felt startlingly revealing.  

 

They had tangled many times as Batman and Joker.   They had even shared a few words as Jack and Bruce.  But now it was overtly clear that one personality was indeed the other, and Bruce half wondered how these versions of themselves would measure up.  

 

Joker’s hair was wild from their romp, his green eyes bright and invigorated, and his perpetual smirk tied his lips into an alluring bow.  He playfully stalked over to Bruce across the carpet, vest open and dress shirt untucked.  

 

Bruce leaned on the counter, waiting for what would happen next, working to bring his heart rate down in case this was the calm before the storm.  He had arranged to limit the objects in these rooms that could be used as weapons; to compensate, in his head, he drew up six plans for hand-to-hand combat in the tight space.

 

Joker’s eyes roved eagerly over Bruce’s face and body, betraying no shock or disappointment, only distilled attentiveness, pouring over his skin like hot wax.  Bruce suppressed a reflex as Joker crept up well beyond the barrier of personal space, so close the thin man barely had to move to run his fingers over the rippling muscles of Bruce’s chest.

  

“Ohh Batsy,” he grinned, “I’ll admit I’ve always had a thing for the suit and mask but I could get used to you like this.”  

 

Joker’s touch was feather-light, and left Bruce’s skin buzzing: down over his pectoral muscle, a playful circle at his nipple.  Joker lingered on the sparse thin lines of scars, old marks previously left by his hand.  He smiled almost dreamily, nostalgic, like forgetting he carved his initials into this tree.  Joker’s fingers came to already purpling bruise over Bruce’s ribs where the thug’s shot had bounced off his armor earlier in the night.  

 

“Up to no good without me?” he glanced at Bruce with half-lidded eyes before prodding the bruise hard enough to send a deep ache into Bruce’s chest, “What a shame.”

 

Bruce seized the man’s wrist in a flash and looked at him with smug appraisal.  Joker let him hold his arm still, but his mouth bent into a dangerous curl.  Bruce had always been more muscular than Joker but now the man’s wrist felt like skin and bone in his grip, “Have you lost weight?”  He had meant to keep the thought in his head, but the question spilled out too easily this late at night.    

 

“So good of you to notice,” Joker tittered, and tried to tug his hand out of Bruce’s grip, “You know I have to watch my girlish figure.”  He turned and wrenched, but he couldn’t weasel away.  

 

“Girlish?” Bruce repeated, and adjusted his hand to show that he could easily wrap his index finger all the way around Joker’s wrist.  He gave the man a disapproving look, “This is more than that.”  

 

“Oh I know you always have such a concern for my well-being,” Joker rolled his eyes, every ounce of his body bending to reflect his sarcasm, “Get a clue, Bats, have you been away so long that you’ve forgotten how our encounters tend to end up?”  Joker mimed punching himself in the face with his free hand, complete with cartoon smashing sound effects.  

 

It was amusing at first, especially with Bruce’s grip on his wrist as an anchor to his wild motions, but each punch grew more and more dramatic until Joker began truly making contact, hitting his own face hard enough that the sound effects weren’t necessary.  Bruce grumbled, “You’ve made your point.”  

 

The flailing continued.  It was much less appealing to see Joker take a punch when he wasn’t grinning and asking for it.  He could hear laughter building in the thin man again as the self-inflicted flogging continued.  More insistence this time, “Jack—“ and suddenly, Joker swung wide, knuckles just catching Bruce’s jaw before the billionaire could roll with the punch.   

 

In one quick and brutal motion, Bruce locked the arm he held behind Joker’s back and slammed the man against the counter, his voice, just at the edge of shouting, “Joker!”

 

His captive trembled with his own amusement.  Giggling, Bruce fumed.  Always giggling.

 

“That’s the spirit, Bats,” the thin man panted, grimacing over his shoulder at Bruce, “Old habits die hard, don't they?”  

 

Abruptly, Bruce dropped his grip on the man’s thin frame and stepped away, realizing the irony.  He let out a breath and shook out his hand, trying to return to the conversation, “Were they feeding you at Arkham?”  

 

Joker had sunk to the floor again, propped up by the kitchen counter, “Oh how tragic, you think they were mistreating us?” He lolled his head along the cabinets, “Don’t be jealous; your abuse has always been my favorite.”  

 

Bruce backed away and sat on the breakfast table across from Joker, crossing his arms, waiting out the thin man’s ramblings.  “Never fear… they fed us.  I just didn’t always eat,” Joker rubbed some fatigue out of his eyes and continued,  “The lower my weight, the smaller my medication dosage.  Just enough for me to feel it, but not enough to overdose,” he winked at Bruce, “Unlike some people I know, they weren’t trying to kill me.”    

 

“Trying?  If I wanted you dead, you would be,” Bruce scolded.  

 

“You?”  Joker broke out in a fresh smile, “Now we both know that’s a laugh!”  

 

Frowning, Bruce asked, “What does the medication do to you?”  

 

“The pills take the edge off of things,” Joker drew scribbles in the air with his fingers, “But you know,” he teased, running a hand along the countertop and batting his eyes at Bruce, “More kitchen accidents happen with a dull knife than a sharp one.”  

 

Bruce slid off the table and crossed towards the door.  Joker quickly stretched a long leg forward, hoping to catch the billionaire on the shin and send him tumbling, but Bruce gracefully stepped over it,  “Not your best,” he murmured on the way past.  

 

“I’m out of practice,” Joker conceded, letting his leg fall back down.  

 

“You’re malnourished,” Bruce turned, his hand on the door handle, “I’ll bring you something to eat.”  

 

“What happens if I don't eat?”  Joker pulled himself to his feet, “I’ll be sent to bed without dinner?”  The thin man didn’t close the space between them, staying at the kitchenette and leaning heavily on the counter.  He cocked a head when Bruce didn’t answer him.  

 

Before he spoke, Bruce glanced at the spot beside the door where he had pinned Joker in the dark…  He swallowed, throat dry, “You’re due for a dose of medicine.  If you don’t taking it willingly, I’ll hide it in your food.”  

 

Joker leaned over the counter, angling his ass suggestively “Surprise me, Bats.”    

 

Chapter Text

The manor had never felt more hollow than when he left Joker alone in that room.  Bruce bounded down the stairs on careful feet, quiet and precise, feeling like Batman even without the suit.  He stopped at his closet to ditch his under-suit leggings and change into a fresh pair of athletic pants and a clean tee shirt.  He glanced at the nightstand, and half-considered leaving the vial of pills there, but he knew better and tucked it into his pocket.  

 

Down in the kitchen, the tiles were icy under his bare feet as he peered into the glow of the fridge, like an indecisive teenager picking out a midnight snack.  He had once been that teenager in this house, lost and reckless and lonely.  Then, like now, Alfred gently approached him, regardless of the hour, “Is everything alright, Master Wayne?”  

 

Bruce put a hand on the old man’s shoulder, “It’s alright, Alfred.  The night has been… surprising,” he admitted, “but I’ve got it under control.”  

 

“I do hope so, sir,” Alfred answered, and turned to go, “You know where I will be.”  As Bruce turned back to the fridge, Alfred commented, “There’s a tray of sandwiches on the second shelf should you need them.”  

 

“Of course,” Bruce made his selection and closed the fridge, returning the kitchen to darkness.  

 

- - - - - - - -

 

Joker was silhouetted in the tall window when Bruce returned, the thin man looking like a paper puppet in the blue light.  He spun around grinning when Bruce closed the door behind him, “It’s snowing,” he exclaimed, letting his fingertips linger against the glass.  

 

“Be glad you’re inside,” the billionaire insisted, grateful for the soft carpet on the soles of his feet after the cold wood floors of the stairwell.  

 

“Funny thing to say to someone who’s been on the inside for years now,” Joker’s reply was shaped like a joke but had a sharp center.  It took more willpower than he wanted to admit for Bruce not to rise to the bait of the thin man’s cold smile.  

 

“I was just saying, be glad for the warmth—the kitchen was an icebox,” Bruce set the silver tray on the coffee table and removed the cover.  A dozen perfect diagonal-cut sandwiches waited within: ham and cheddar, cucumber and dill.

 

“What?  No caviar?” Joker mocked, this time with mirth in his voice.  Bruce settled into the couch, while Joker opted to fold up his long legs and sit on the floor beside the table.  He waited for the billionaire to make a move.  Motioning to the food, “Don’t be a stranger, Batsy, join me.”   

 

Bruce retrieved a sandwich from the tray, “If it will put your mind at ease.”   As he chewed, he watched the thin man deconstruct a sandwich, setting aside the top slice of bread, looking under the slice of cheese, and rolling up the slice of ham between his fingers for a bite.  

 

“You don’t have to eat like that,” he said, amused.  

 

Joker waggled the piece of ham at him, “Something wrong with the way I’m eating?”  He laid the cold cut between his teeth and held eye contact while he took an exaggerated mouthful.

 

“I didn’t put anything in the food,” Bruce took the vial of pills from his pocket and held it up for Joker to see.  

 

The thin man rolled his eyes, “Ever the honor student.”  

 

Stern, Bruce took out a pill, “What do I have to do to get you to swallow this?”  

 

“Oh my, what a gentleman,” Joker licked his fingers clean and winked, “And here I thought you were the kind of guy to shoot first and ask questions later.”  When Bruce gave him a withering look, Joker pouted and patted the floor next to him, “Come on over, I’ll think of something.”  

 

Bruce closed his hand around the pill, “You can think of something while I’m over here.”  

 

“Oooh,” Joker exclaimed, furrowing his brow, “Who knew you go so shy after a first encounter?” he took apart another sandwich, this time eating only the cucumber slice and crunching on it louder than Bruce would have thought possible.  

 

The billionaire found himself watching that clever man’s mouth, and felt a flush rise on his face when he thought about the feel of Joker’s lips, thought about pressing his body against the thin man again.  Get him to take the pill and leave, he coached himself.  If he won’t take it, knock him out.

 

“Tell you what, Bats,” Joker angled his head towards Bruce, “We’ve had lots of nights together over the years.  Spent the day with me,” he motioned to the coming dawn glowing at the window, “And I’ll take my medicine like a good little boy.”  

 

“And the catch?” Bruce prompted.  

 

“A catch?”  Joker laid an innocent hand on his own collar, “Me?”  When Bruce didn’t answer, Joker uncrossed his legs and drew a circle on the carpet beside him again, “Come on over here, darling,” he enticed, “I don’t bite… much.”  

 

Get it over with. A voice insisted inside Bruce, and he crossed from the couch to the coffee table where the thin man was stretched.  He held out his hand with the pill but Joker only continued to lounge, making no motion to meet him halfway.  The thin man beckoned him closer with a crook of his finger.  For every inch Bruce leaned in, Joker leaned away, until Bruce was forced bend at the waist, and then at his knees, and finally, reluctantly, he took a seat on the carpet beside Joker.  

 

Rather than retrieve the pill with his hand, the thin man took hold of Bruce’s wrist, and tugged it towards him, slipping Bruce’s fingers into his mouth.  A warm tongue slid the pill from his fingertips, but Joker held him in place even after the pill was gone.  The thin man’s mouth was tight as he sucked against him and Bruce could feel the ripples of Joker’s palette, the smooth sheath of his lips, the dangerous graze of teeth.  

 

Bruce was half erect at the thought of plumbing further depths of the thin man’s mouth, when Joker swung the silver tray cover into the side of Bruce’s head with a resounding gong.  Points of light sparkled in front of his eyes, and he was off-balance when Joker flung himself forward.  The thin man threw a leg over him, grinning and towering above Bruce for a moment before pushing at his shoulders, tumbling Bruce onto his back.  

 

In the next second, Joker’s mouth was on his again, lips parted, tongue pushing past his teeth.  It was no less electrifying this second time; succumbing to their fervor only made Bruce want him more, made him want to taste the thin man’s mouth for hours, to devour every inch of him.  

 

Joker was out of line to hit me, Bruce thought with relish, he’s daring me to dominate him.  He wrapped his arms tight around the thin man, and with a strong flex of his body, he flipped them both over, bearing Joker into the floor beneath him, pulling Joker’s face away with a hand on his throat.   

 

“Careful,” breathless Joker taunted him, “You don’t want to break me.  After all, I’m so thin and fragile,” he snarled that last word, and as soon as Bruce loosened his grip, Joker crashed his face against his once more.  

 

Their legs were scissored together, shamelessly rubbing their straining cocks into the each other’s thighs.  It obviously wasn’t enough pressure for Joker, and his fingers dug in to Bruce’s hip, pulling them together, harder and harder.  

 

Joker slid a hand beneath Bruce’s shirt, fingertips startling and cool against his back.  The thin man gathered up the fabric and tugged, and Bruce obliged the nonverbal request, pulling off his tee shirt, before going back to work at Joker’s mouth.  

 

Bruce shifted, and got close enough for the thin man to wrap his arms around his neck.  The billionaire gathered Joker up against him, rising first to his knees and then to his feet, a steadying hand on Joker’s ass.  The thin man smiled into their kiss, twittering as Bruce carried him with ease.  He whispered into Bruce’s cheek, “We should have done this ages ago…”   

 

He was always talking, Bruce grunted, “Shut up.”  He was focused on moving them somewhere close and comfortable so he could better get what he wanted.  

 

Joker tugged at the billionaire’s hair, “You know I can’t.”  

 

Bruce tossed them both onto the couch, planting a rough, hard kiss onto Joker’s willing mouth, silencing any smart remarks for a moment or two.  Then the billionaire moved away, placing his lips to Joker’s throat, letting his teeth brush against the cords that strained the skin there as he sucked and licked and worked his way down the thin man’s neck.  He was determined have every piece of him.   

 

Too soon after nibbling at a collarbone, Bruce encountered the fabric of Joker’s shirt, and he tore it open, impatient to expose the thin man’s chest.  No time for buttons.  Joker let out a pleased squeal at the violence of the action, angling his crotch up against Bruce’s balls.  God, he’s so fucking hard, and his own cock twitched at the feeling.  

 

Bruce couldn’t put his mouth on enough of the thin man.  His mind registered modest surprise at seeing this much of Joker.  Who knew a man known for his perfect and done-up face would have a chest dusted with fine hairs, a heavier trail of hair leading below his navel and into his waistband…

 

It was an oral fixation: he had to taste all of Joker, every inch of abdomen, every drop of sweat.  The thin man’s ribs were dotted with goose bumps beneath Bruce’s breath, and the billionaire’s new stubble left roughed up pink swatches on Joker’s pale skin.  

 

Joker was making sounds he had never heard before, not the cackling laugher or yelps of pain that used to fuel his fury.  These new, desperate noises drove Bruce crazy, and he undid the button on Joker’s pants, tugging the clothes down over the thin man’s hips, freeing his full cock.  The thin man whimpered, “Oh Bats, oh yes, blow me!  Ohhh—“  

 

That voice, infuriating, intoxicating… please shut up… never shut up… And Bruce put his lips over his cock, sliding Joker deep into his mouth.  The thin man shuddered, speechless for once, a shaking hand holding onto the edge of the couch for dear life.  

 

Bruce drew his mouth back to the head of Joker’s cock, swirled his tongue against the smooth skin, and glided down the slick length of him again.  Joker was his every sensation: the smell of his sweat, the taste of dripping cock, the sound of his groans.  Bruce wrapped his hand around the width of Joker and slid his grip in time with his mouth.  

 

After only a few cycles of this motion, Joker wound his fingers into Bruce’s hair, trying to force the billionaire to take his cock deeper, harder, faster.  Delicious, dizzying, skin on skin, Bruce sucked and suckled, the thin man dissolving beneath him.  Joker was out of his mind, bucking his hips into Bruce’s face, short of breath, “Oh fuck, I can’t—I can’t stand it—“  

 

It was all happening, the thin man arcing into him, Bruce moaning, himself harder than he’d ever been in his life, and Joker’s cock throbbing against his tongue as he came.  Bruce tasted him at the back of his throat: impossible, bitter, peculiar, mind shattering.  

 

It was almost enough to get Bruce there alone, but he pulled away, sitting up to wrap his hand around his own cock, pumping those last few urgent strokes.  He stole a glance at Joker’s face, who was watching him, dumbfounded with pleasure and surprise, and Bruce felt himself tip over the edge, vigorously thrusting himself into his hand, spilling all over Joker’s bare chest, groaning helplessly.  

 

After, Bruce relaxed his hand, and rolled back on his haunches, wiping at his brow.  Joker wheezed, catching his breath, still looking half star-struck at the man on top of him.  Bruce’s head pounded, mild pain radiating out from his temple.  His thoughts seemed to circle away from him.  

 

Concussion?  Had Joker hit him that hard?  Internally, he examined his symptoms and he wavered at the conclusion.  This was much worse.  A concussion was a physical condition he could diagnose and heal, this ailment was untraceable, inevitable… This was emotion: the enemy of logic.  

 

His head was spinning as he sat, still straddled over Joker, unwelcome feelings stirring in his chest.  Bruce wasn’t sure if he should feel humiliation or satisfaction at how much he had conquered this old adversary, by what he had spilled there.  Joker wiped a finger along his sticky chest and brought it to his mouth for a taste.  “Mmm, darling,” he purred, his green eyes penetrating Bruce to his core.  The billionaire felt strange and sick.  There was a pleasant, sensual warmth in his gut but his thoughts wouldn’t coalesce.  

 

Bruce’s voice was weak when he eventually spoke, “You’re a mess.”   

 

“Me?” the thin man countered, “What about you?”  Joker reared up from the couch and pressed their bare torsos together, the slick evidence now spread between them.  The thin man dove in for a furious kiss on Bruce’s mouth, breaking it only to say, “You’re the mess,” he took a hurried, hungry glance over Bruce’s face, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you this far down at the end of your rope, Bats.”  

 

Bruce could only breathe and try to keep himself centered.  His hands were against Joker’s bare back and he didn't remember putting them there.  The thin man grinned, “Well, I took my medicine, and you took—“ Joker took a breath, voice catching, “-- so much more.  But you agreed to spend the day with me,” his eyes sharpened their focus, “I hope you plan to honor our deal.”  

 

“I…” Bruce struggled for an answer, his grip slackening their embrace.  Just get out of here.   But he couldn’t.  Not with Joker half naked and breathing this close, one of Joker’s hands winding ever tighter in his hair.  Bruce could still taste Joker on his tongue, and it was hard to see anything beyond the saturated green of Joker’s eyes.  

 

Instead of answering, Bruce closed the gap and kissed Joker again before he even realized it, half stunned when the thin man nipped at his lip and stopped them to speak, “Let’s hit the showers, darling,” he ran a finger along Bruce’s bottom lip, “Come on.”

 

And just like that his arms were empty as Joker squirmed out from under him and jumped to his feet.  Halfway between the coffee table and the bathroom, the thin man wiggled out of his pants and left them crumpled on the floor, showing a quick glimpse of his ass before he turned the corner to the bathroom.  Stunned, Bruce licked his lip where Joker had drawn his finger.  

 

You should leave, he thought.  Do it now, when he’s not looking.  

 

Out of the bathroom, Joker’s voice rang out in exuberant singing, “I was strolling through the park one day, in the very, merry month of May…” There was a sloshing sound and Bruce realized the thin man was taking a piss.  His singing continued alongside his urination, loud and glorious, “I was taken by surprise by a pair of roguish eyes, and I wasn’t scared and didn’t run away!”  

 

The toilet flushed and he leaned out of the doorway, “I’m waiting, Batsy!”  

 

Making no move to take off his pants, Bruce got to his feet and took slow steps over to the bathroom.  Joker continued to sing under his breath as he turned the tap for the shower and tested the temperature.  His skinny body seemed buoyed with enjoyment.  Conversely, Bruce had a knot in his chest, and was half frozen with tension.  

 

It wasn’t just Joker that made the situation uncomfortable.  Bruce might have acted the playboy but he was truly uneasy at this kind of intimacy.  He had spent many more nights alone at the computer or leaving soon after sex than cuddling with some partner post-coitus.  Most of the movie stars and models he’d kept around for show weren’t looking for anything romantic.  

 

And those women didn’t have even a fragment of the history he had with Joker.   Who knew me better?  Who knew me longer?  This man: who stood in front of him now, stark naked, coquettishly admiring his own reflection.  Joker seemed almost at ease: not murderous, not devious, not scheming or trying to escape.  Was this all it took to placate the man?  A good fuck?  

 

Bruce took the opportunity to size up this rare view of Joker.  Undoubtedly, the man was too thin, his bones a bit too sharp and his joints too angular, but there was still lean muscle laced over his frame, just enough to give him substance.  What he lacked in muscle mass he made up for in length, elegant legs bent just so beneath his narrow hips, arms akimbo, leaning on the counter in front of him.  

 

The thin man had his own sets of scars, unfamiliar to Bruce: a set of crisscrosses on his bicep looked like someone carved in a game of tic-tac-toe; the spot where the inside of his forearm met his elbow, there was a series of circles, scar tissue where someone put out cigarettes.  At the side of his torso there was a gnarled mark where a broken rib had punctured the skin; the old injury could have easily been dealt by his hand.

 

The thought broke his reverie and turned his gaze back to Joker’s eyes.  The thin man made faces in the mirror, stretching his mouth this way and that like some housewife worrying over her wrinkles.  “I’m still not used to seeing myself without my face on,” Joker lamented, patting at his under eye circles with a fingertip.  

 

The thin man was good-looking, if in a non-traditional sense.  His angled brows were expressive, his prominent high cheekbones, and though his jaw was narrow, it still cut a strong line.  His complexion was pale, but not clown-white, attractive in a classic Victorian way.  Even without makeup Joker’s lips were shapely, seductive, sinister…

 

They looked better in red, Bruce mused.  “You don’t need to wear it,” he criticized, “Committing crimes done up like some tart.”  

 

At that remark, Joker spun around, slapping Bruce’s cheek with the back of his hand, like some fop challenging him to a duel.  Startled, Bruce didn’t retaliate, more diverted than insulted at the thin man’s touch.  

 

“That’s rich!  Coming from a man who dresses up like flying rat,” Joker scoffed; equal parts enraged and entertained, “Besides, I don’t wear it for you,” he turned back to the mirror, “I wear it for me.  To feel more confident, more like myself,” their eyes met in the reflection, “When you have on your pointed ears I bet you feel powerful, invisible, invincible… am I right?”  

 

It feels better than anything, his heart sang out.  Instead, Bruce shrugged, “Sure.”  

 

“Well I like to be the bright bold center of attention,” Joker turned and flashed a winning smiled at him, “In case you haven’t noticed.”

 

By now the shower was hot, laying a thin cloud of steam on the mirror.  Joker gave Bruce’s nipple a hard tweak before bounding over and pulling back the shower curtain, “Ladies first,” he chirped, climbing in.  Joker picked up singing again; “I was strolling through the park one day…”  

 

Bruce sighed and took a washcloth off the rack, dampening it to wipe his chest clean.  He leaned both arms on the counter, staring at the ghost of himself in the foggy mirror.  His blue eyes reflected there pleaded with him.  Get out of here.  

 

“You know, Bats,” Joker was chattier than ever, disconcertingly so, perhaps brought on by their sexual relations earlier, “You’ve had me down and out a couple times, hiding in unsavory places,” he scrubbed shampoo into the waves of his hair, “It was all in good fun, don’t get me wrong, but there were times I would have killed for a hot shower like this,” he laughed, voice echoing against the tiles, “Maybe I did.  I can’t remember.”  

 

By the time Joker rinsed and peeked out from around the curtain, Bruce was gone.  “Bats?”

 

Chapter Text

Guilty, exasperated, Bruce vigorously swiped closed the daylight blocking curtains against the early morning and collapsed into bed.  He was exhausted but he couldn’t quiet his mind.  As he dozed, he would dream about Joker, his taste, his laugh, the feel of the thin man in his arms, whispered words in his mind as if they were his own: We should have done this years ago…

 

Bruce woke with a start and found his cock hard, the last tendrils of a fantasy involving Joker’s tempting mouth drifting at the back of his mind.  He reached down to adjust his briefs but let his hand linger between his legs.   If you want him so bad, just go get him.  Joker was only a few rooms away: not in Arkham, not in some mysterious hideout across the city, but here in the manor.

 

But he didn’t get out of bed.  It was all too much, too fast.  He didn’t like the way the thin man made him lose control, made him into some buffoon, driven by aggression and lust.  In his mind, he saw Joker: facing him with a hungry look, knotting a hand into his hair and pulling him close... the sweet curl of his lips, those desperate noises he made when Bruce touched him, sounds he hadn’t heard before tonight, the tight pleasure of slipping his cock inside…

 

The billionaire threw back the sheets and tried to cool his body, calm his mind.  Even with his training and strength of wills, it was another hour before sleep eventually found him, and even then it was fitful and full of smothering dreams.  

 

- - - - - - - - - - -



New snow crunched under Bruce’s feet as he pushed his pace faster, jogging across the grounds of Wayne Manor.  His breath plumed in front of him, great, grey lungfuls hovering in the cold air.  The late afternoon light was continued to reflecting bright off the snow, making his shadow look like some harsh, blue apparition at the edge of his vision.  

 

Despite these sensations, Bruce’s mind was still clouded, an opaque mix of half-recalled dreams and sensual memories from the night before.  He dipped his head to block the glare and dug hard against the snow, sweat pricking on his forehead in the crisp air.  

 

The billionaire prided himself on not having the everyman’s vices: not alcohol, not drugs.  He didn’t yearn for fame, didn’t need more money or power.  He was Batman.  There was not room for error or manipulation in the trials of his life and he made sure that he did not have the typical pressure points for loss of control.  

 

But he had Joker.  

 

Since Joker’s incarceration seven years ago, he had been pining for the thin man more than he realized.  Last night he had surrendered to pure pleasure, regardless of benefit or consequence, and today he was psychologically hung over, relapsed like some junkie.  

 

The billionaire groaned when he woke this morning, massaging at the stiffness in his neck and shoulders, yawing and popping his jaw. His mouth was dry, tasted bitter, and his head spun with flashes of Joker.    

 

The thin man’s medication waited on the nightstand next to the clock.  His houseguest was due for another dose.  Bruce wasn’t reckless enough to send Alfred in the room alone but the billionaire himself was certainly not eager to return to that den of madness.  

 

Let the man go without, he fumed.  The medication had done such a successful job of keeping Joker under control so far.

 

Bruce needed to cleanse his body, disinfect his mind, return to a clean slate.  So he went for a run in the snow.  The exercise was meditative and punishing, the cold weather, invigorating.  It was decent, strengthening, but inside he could still feel how Joker had undone him, and he knew the wrongness at his core was not fully repaired.  

 

In a window of the manor high above, he saw a pale ghost of a face watching him.  Too far away for any true detail, the image felt partly imagined.  When he slowed his pace and looked up again, the glass was dark.

 

It was several dozen workout cycles later when Alfred descended to the Batcave with a tray of dinner.  The billionaire was pumping through pull-ups when the butler asked, “Strength training, Master Wayne?” He set the tray on the desk with a sharp tap, his tone gently critical, “Are you concerned you aren’t strong enough to handle our guest?”  

 

Bruce grunted in response.  He took his time finishing the set, dropping off the pull-up bar into a smooth roll that took him to the edge of the desk.  He sprang to his feet, practiced and balanced, and took a towel from the back of his chair, patting the sweat off his face and throat.  He coughed, “Just… clearing my head, Alfred.”  

 

“Believe it or not, I am capable of noticing when something has gotten under your skin,” the butler stiffly insisted.  

 

Bruce finished toweling off and said nothing.  He ran his fingers along the edge of the desk, praying for patience, searching for the self-assuredness that had eluded him all day.  

 

“Allow me to remind you that it is not too late to return our guest from whence he came,” the butler primly suggested.  

 

The idea of surrendering Joker to the doctors at Arkham immediately felt very wrong and Bruce’s stomach flipped when he imagined the thin man back behind glass, out of his reach, all of their potential and danger together evaporated.  More disconcerting was that he knew that the act of sending Joker back to the asylum would be a rejection, a betrayal the thin man would not easily forgive.  

 

“No…” the billionaire sighed, almost bashful, but no less sure of his choice in front of the butler, “Thank you Alfred, but no.”  

 

“Of course, sir,” Alfred bowed, gracefully conceding the conversation.  The echoes of his neat and even footsteps traced his route up the stairs of the Batcave, back to the manor.  

 

When Bruce was sure he was alone, he collapsed into the chair in front of his computer, his fingers tracing circles at his temples.  He wouldn’t go to see Joker in person again, not until he was more in control of himself, but his curiosity was getting the better of him.  The thin man had seemed to haunt his day, lingering inside his mind, in his house, at the window.  

 

With a few taps of his keyboard, Bruce pulled up the surveillance feed on Joker’s quarters.  Not as good as being there, but it would do.  He frowned and chastised himself when the thought crossed his mind.  

 

For now, Joker was laying on the couch upside down, long legs up and over the back of the couch, his head dangling off the front, and his arms across the cushions at his sides, fingers tapping something indiscernible on the leather.  When the thin man didn’t change his posture after several minutes, Bruce split his attention elsewhere.  

 

On another monitor, Bruce cued up the recorded video log, rewinding it to the point in the day when he suspected Joker had watched him jogging.  Had he imagined the face at the window or was the attention real?  It doesn’t matter, he seethed, but everything in him spoke to the contrary.  

 

Throughout the footage a sped-up Joker figure went about his day, pacing and stretching; a strange reflection of Bruce’s activities.  Eventually the thin man approached the window and stayed there, and the billionaire turned the footage back to normal speed.  From this angle it was visually was impossible to tell when exactly the billionaire passed on the grounds below, but Joker punctuated a moment by huffing a breath on the glass and planting a kiss mark in the steam.  

 

Bruce skipped back in the tape, rewinding further.  The footage now showed earlier in the day, the wee hours of the morning after the billionaire had silently left the thin man alone in the shower.  

 

“Bats?”  Joker called to him from the screen, voice tinny and metallic from the speakers.  The thin man peered around the shower curtain to find the bathroom empty.  The water poured on his thin body for a long moment before Joker moved again, his exuberance deadened, his actions now matter-of-fact.

 

Eventually Joker retired to the bed, and attempted to sleep, his hair and arms splayed limp on the pillows, lightly dozing.  His narrow chest rose and fell too quickly for true restfulness.  In some strange fantasy, Bruce pictured himself beside the thin man, just in case Joker needed something: comfort, protection, a buffer, a jailer.  

 

In a moment, the fragile stillness was shattered, Joker tossing out of a nightmare so violently he half crashed out of bed, yelping into blinding wakefulness.  The thin man was awake the rest of the morning, pacing.    

 

Bruce checked back on the live feed.  As if on cue, Joker heaved a sigh, but didn’t move from his inverted position on the couch, drumming his fingers against his chest, seemingly in thought.  

 

The billionaire tapped at the keyboard and rewound the recorded footage all the way; back to the moment Joker entered the room for the first time.  Bruce rewatched the spiraling path the thin man took through the room, still dressed in the green medical pajamas, looking madder and more pathetic than ever.  

 

He watched their exchange in the bedroom, his own image a dark silhouette at the fringe of the screen.  On frame, Bruce was as still as a stone, while Joker flittered and emoted with every bone his body, a new angle with each new syllable.  

 

In the Batcave, Bruce’s hand lingered over the keys, ready to fast-forward when Joker started to get changed, but his fingers froze at the first flash of pale flesh.  In the recorded moment, he had turned away, but now he could watch undetected as Joker easily slipped out his clothes, already unembarrassed in front of the billionaire.  Even now, Bruce felt a self-conscious flush at his neck, and for a second he was almost envious of the comfort Joker had with his nudity, with their relationship.  

 

It was when the footage showed Joker cracking his first smile— after Bruce turned and caught a glimpse of the thin man’s bare ass— that the billionaire fast-forwarded the image to break the moment.  

 

Bruce browsed his way forward through the recorded footage of Joker’s first day at he manor.  When left alone, Joker went through the wardrobe, holding up clothes against his body, evaluating size and style.  The thin man threw a particularly offensive sweater to the back of the room with a flick of his wrist.  

 

The thin man pulled out a pair of white-striped athletic pants and even tried them on.  On the Joker, the mundane garment looked more like a costume than anything else he had worn.  The thin man seemed to agree; because when he caught his reflection in the window, Joker laughed so hard he fell onto the bed, bent into knots.  

 

Before Bruce skipped ahead again, he checked in on the live scene of the house.  

 

The thin man finally broke his musing from the couch and stretched forward under the coffee table.  His long reach retrieved some black cloth; it was the tee shirt that the billionaire had forgotten in his haste to leave the night before.  Joker held the shirt up over his head, just letting the hem touch his face.  He crumpled the black cotton in his fingers and let it fall, crumpled it again, let it fall again; giggling at the feeling.  

 

Watching the strange ritual happening—live and in his house— Bruce had to reluctantly admit that he had not shaken his craving for the thin man’s company.  He was loosing the tensile focus he had attempted to construct all day, and the tantalizing ease of walking through the manor to open Joker’s door was so tempting it was like a physical force he had to resist.  

 

For so long, it had been seven years without contact.  The statistic felt like a dismal sign at a factory, the number of days without an accident.  Now Joker and Bruce had been apart a mere 24 hours and counting.  Are you feeling it? Bruce thought, silently asking the thin man on screen, are you counting too?

 

Live, on screen, Joker dropped Bruce’s shirt wholly on his head; for a moment it looked disturbingly close to a gallows hood.  Joker huffed against the fabric, pressing it closer against this face, smelling Bruce’s scent as if it got him high, laughter building all the while.  The thin man stopped to breathe, lifting the cloth up to dangle the shirt over his face again, his smile wide.   

 

Bruce swallowed hard and realized he had reached a cue in the recorded footage and gratefully turned away.  

 

On the recording, he watched Joker wait in the dark for the billionaire to arrive after his night on the streets.  On the tape, Joker’s body language betrayed the same hitch in Bruce’s heartbeat when he saw himself enter the room.  In an instant, the two of them were together.  Their grapple was a ballet, as if they rehearsed it: one expecting the other’s movement and thrilling when their grip caught.   

 

The scene was recorded, and played without deviation from reality.  The two of them ended up against the wall, trembling between violence and sex.  Bruce watched with horrified fascination when he saw a grin creep along his own face as he pulled Joker close.  As much as he might deny it, the thin man made him feel a certain way, and that smile on the footage was the evidence.  

 

The billionaire’s heart was hammering as he watched himself place his lips on Joker’s… when the thin man opened the button on his pants… when Bruce spun his rival face first into the wall and pushed into the thin man’s flesh…

 

Joker was slightly closer to the microphone than Bruce, and on the recording his laughter, his moans, his voice—fuck me, Batsy!— were all slightly louder than the billionaire’s reactions, like some augmented reality.  The voice alone got to him, got under his skin, and into some buried sector of his brain, sending blood pounding into every limb and artery.  

 

Feeling heightened, Bruce was suddenly achingly aware that this video preserved their obscene doings; the idea was distracting and humiliating.  It was all Bruce could do to not delete it in a rage, especially when he realized his arousal blooming between his legs.  

 

Joker’s voice was ringing against his skull, rising and falling in time with his motion on the recording— he closed the footage with a slam of the keyboard, fingers trembling.  But he could still hear Joker…

 

The live feed was running.

 

The thin man had moved from his upside down position on the couch, instead comfortably reclining longwise along the leather, his head on the armrest.  He was breathing heavy, garbling phrases to himself, eyes half closed.  One hand gripped Bruce’s discarded tee shirt to his chest and the other was down his pants.  

 

Bruce clenched his fist hard against his thigh and watched Joker fumble with himself beneath the fabric.  The thin man ran his tongue over his parted lips, moaning quietly as he drew his stiff, pale cock from his open waistband.  His deft hand tugged up and down the length in practiced strokes, easily bringing himself fully erect.  

 

The billionaire shifted in his chair, noticing his body temperature rise and feeling his own tightness between his legs.  Joker was verbal in his pleasure, reliving some fantasy, “Yes, yes, just like that…”  His back arched up off the couch, pushing his cock deep into his hand, the tip shining and wet, bobbing beyond the length of his palm.  

 

Joker was loud and utterly immodest with his moaning as his touch ran the length of himself.  Bruce watched the thin man’s excitement build, realizing vaguely that it all might be over in short order, but Joker slid his hand down his cock gripped its base tightly, keeping himself from a premature end.  

 

As the thin man caught his breath, his giddy laughter twinkled.  He looked like an outdated drug addict, holding Bruce’s crumpled shirt against his nose and mouth like a rag soaked in ether.  

 

Watching Joker on video stirred something primal and immediate in Bruce.  Over the years, the thin man had occasionally taunted him via video: sending demands for a hostage, laying out a puzzling game, or delivering the threat of explosives in some public place.  The billionaire had sat at this computer and watched and rewatched many of these videos, heat building in gut, vengeance stirring his spirits.  

 

There were vague similarities between then and now: the sound of his digital laughter, a pixelated grin, the strange joyous craze that Joker exuded.  Those more criminal videos and the scene on screen now obviously had drastically different contexts, but at the core Bruce felt the same burning, hungry, certainty for the man in the frame… My target, my enemy, my responsibility, my focus; whatever you are, you are mine.  

 

Meanwhile, Joker lifted his waist to slip out of his pants, his bare ass landing with a heavy slap back on the leather.  He tugged his shirttails higher on his chest to keep them out of the way as he returned to pleasuring himself with renewed attention.  His voice rasped from his throat, exposing the obvious focus of his imagination, “Oh Batsy, you drive me craaazy…” Joker drew out the last word to match a particularly long and lingering stroke.  

 

Bruce had tucked his hand between his legs almost without realizing, and at the sound of his name he felt his cock twitch against the pressure.  Here in the low glow of the computer, safe and private, he pushed his hand back against his bulge, nerves buzzing with the need to be touched.  On screen, Joker chuckled again, slipping his other hand down past his erection to squeeze his balls.  

 

I like to be the bright, bold center of attention, the thin man had told him with a smile.   And how, the billionaire agreed now, slipping his hand down his own pants to grasp his full cock, watching the thin man writhing on the leather.  

 

Biting his lip, Joker gasped again, “Oh, Batsy, you want to fuck me?”  The thin man put his fingers into his mouth, curling his lovely lips over the knuckles with a bend of a smile.  

 

The billionaire’s voice was a low husk in answer, “Yes, I want to—“ Bruce watched the thin man wet his fingers and slowly extracted them out of his mouth, a thread of saliva dangling a moment before the hand vanished deep between the thin man’s legs.  

 

Rooms apart, the two men let out twin sighs when Joker curled his slick fingers into his asshole.  Bruce could see Joker’s erection throb from the stimulation, blood rushing fast enough to make it bounce once against the thin man’s pelvis.   The billionaire remembered the sensation of sliding inside Joker, the press of the thin man’s body against his cock and he groaned, slowly falling apart at the thought.  

 

The thin man whimpered and panted as he worked himself, “Mmm, baby, you’re so big and hard—“  

 

The billionaire allowed himself to groan loud enough to give a dull echo in the Batcave, watching as Joker tipped his hips up to meet his hand for a few particularly rough pulls on his cock.  The thin man’s swollen erection was framed by the tense lines of every nearby muscle: his thighs, his abdomen, his tendons straining in his thin wrist.  

 

Murmuring approval, Bruce’s head was a cyclone of wants: God yes, get so fucking hard… let me see you come…  The billionaire chewed at his cheek to keep from going too far, too fast, but it was a heady challenge; watching Joker splayed out on the couch, ready to explode as he thought about Bruce.  

 

The billionaire almost thought Joker was finished at the way the thin man sped up his rhythm— and Bruce tugged harder to match the pace.  Just like this, faster, spill it all for me…

 

When suddenly, the thin man abruptly stopped and called out, “Wait!  Wait!”  The thin man even went so far as to take his hands off his body completely, shuddering at the efforts to hold himself still.  

 

Joker’s hard, pink cock lay back against the thin man’s flat stomach, so ready to release it was leaking onto his pale skin.  The sight, nearly sent Bruce rocketing to his own conclusion, but he winced and held back, forcibly clearing his head enough to swallow, trembling slightly.  

 

“Oh you bastard—“ Bruce threatened, head spinning, his hand still in place, just holding himself steady.  We are both right at the edge—

 

“Darling,” the thin man cooed to himself, “It’s my turn to fuck you now…”

 

Bruce let out a constricted breath as he heard this new angle of the thin man’s fantasy, but he didn’t still his hand against his cock.  Joker fuck me?  An angry question, but not a complete impossibility.  Imagining the scenario made him break out in a cold sweat, but didn’t stop his pulse from pounding, nor cool the heat of his erection.  Joker wants to fuck me, the thought evolved subconsciously to something more befitting to the taste of his ego, Joker wants me.  

 

Being invisible from the thin man certainly suited him; from the distance of his computer screen Bruce could do and say whatever he wanted without consequence, without commitment or compromise.  Only here could he ever even vaguely entertain the thought of surrendering any sexual or physical power to Joker.  

 

“Oh baby, you’re so tight—“ he whined.  Both of the thin man’s hands were busy at work, one set of fingers thrusting into his asshole, the others wrapped tight around his shaft.  Joker’s arousal seemed to finally be getting to him, his voice reduced from full words and sentences to quavering moans.  The billionaire thought his performance was no less enticing when he forgot his lines.  

 

Joker’s bangs were tumbled across his face, damp with the sweat from his brow, his mouth was slack, his lips open slightly.  Bruce thought of simultaneously burying his tongue in one warm orifice and slamming his cock into another, making the thin man take him inside from every angle.  

 

As if the thin man knew his thoughts, he squealed, “Oh Bats—“ the words cresting his lips just before his hands clenched and his orgasm hit, his cock spilling against his stomach.  Bruce only saw a flash of it happen, he was so overcome by his own climax, beating himself to a hard finish.  Mixed in the wave of pleasure, the billionaire had a touch of satisfaction knowing that he outlasted Joker— if just barely.  

 

Bruce realized had slid down in his chair, and he carefully reoriented himself, breathing deep, his body humming, rapidly unwinding from the sexual tension, warm and relaxed.  On screen, Joker got to his feet, stumbling slightly and holding his head against the rush.  He stretched backwards in an arc, offering a messy full frontal view of his body, leaning his head back and shaking his hair out of his eyes.  The tails of his dress shirt dangled past the curve of his ass.  

 

The thin man stepped around the coffee table, closer to the camera, apparently heading to the bathroom, but on the way he stopped and turned his gaze right into the lens.  He unfolded a devilish smile, and tousled his wavy hair with a long-fingered hand.  Joker’s voice hushed out at Bruce from the computer, like some breathy, sexy movie star, “That one’s for you, Batsy.”  The thin man cocked his head and winked, before slipping out of frame.  

 

Chapter Text

Selfish and half-stunned, Bruce watched Joker go about his business on the video feed.  The thin man cleaned himself up after his sexy peepshow, humming happily in the shower, his Cupid’s bow grin in place even when he flopped back on the pillows and wormed his way into the blankets to doze.  

 

It was about then that the billionaire found himself thinking about how sweet the Joker would taste after a warm shower; imaging how soft his washed skin and barely-damp hair would feel against his lips— and he cued back the tape to Joker’s latest performance on the leather couch for another viewing.  

 

Hours later, late morning, Bruce was half asleep at the desk, feeling run-down and thoroughly debauched.  He woke to the sound of dishes gently clattering.  Alfred had come looking for him, clearing Bruce’s forgotten dinner, long cold, from the tray next to him.  The butler had brought breakfast and—more importantly— coffee.  

 

Coming fully awake, Bruce was hit with the sudden reality of situation, getting caught in the Batcave with his metaphorical pants down, and he abruptly closed the computer display, which thankfully was paused on a shot without Joker in frame.  “Thank you, Alfred,” he attempted to recover some dignity, combing his hair out of his eyes.  

 

“Certainly, sir,” the butler edged the mug of coffee closer at hand before opening up his own login to the computer to show several live telephone lines on hold and a pre-typed script, “Gotham City News, the Gotham Gazette, and Gotham radio are waiting on the line for a sound bite from Bruce Wayne in regards to the Wayne Foundation’s charity plans with the orphanage this holiday season.”  

 

The billionaire held back a groan and took a long drink of coffee.  The charity was worthwhile, but the public relations circus was Bruce’s least favorite part of the process.  Sliding his chair up to the desk, Bruce cleared his throat and steeled himself for the jabbering that would meet him on the other end of the line.  He always had to work a little to summon the cool yet fiery playboy persona the public knew, but this morning it felt especially challenging.  

 

Oh hello, Mr. Wayne! Their greetings oozed perfume and eye shadow; each reporter felt the same as the other to Bruce.  Their insensitive comments were constructed for maximum headline pop: It’s wonderful to have you at the lead for this charity, after all you are Gotham’s most famous orphan…   He tried to chuckle, Well they can’t all be as lucky as me…  

 

Every savvy reporter and glib media anchor loved to get a piece of Wayne, and the playboy was the perfect foil, charming chump he was, making his own flirtatious jokes while still delivering meaningful updates on the charity, keeping up that Mona Lisa smirk the ladies of Gotham city loved.  Bruce hated it.  

 

Throughout the interviews, Joker itched at the back of his mind.  The thin man didn’t have to wear a mask: he was Joker through and through.  And while existing as the Joker every hour of every day appeared to be a condition that produced nothing but madness, Bruce was still secretly envious.  

 

Between callers, Bruce sighed.  Joker did have a mask, the billionaire privately conceded.  The thin man’s mask was the forced banality of his medicated life in Arkham, constantly monitored by doctors and judged and measured by lawyers.  Thinking about living that lifestyle, medicated so heavily so you forgot who you were, made Bruce squirm, and sent a chill down his spine.  Joker deserved it, he insisted, but he was grateful their worlds were not inverted; glad Batman was not drugged up in a padded room.    

 

It was over an hour before Bruce could finally extract himself from the reporters on the phone.  The impression of his Wayne character lingered as a bad taste in his mouth, an oily sheen on his skin; he couldn’t wait to be rid of it, and he hurriedly climbed out of the Batcave.  

 

Soon Bruce was stepping out of a nearly scalding shower that made the billionaire feel satisfyingly scoured clean. The warm steam felt as though it had cleared his head and by the time he was dressed the billionaire felt centered and capable.  He told himself this feeling was due the testosterone and energy he had spent the day before, exercising and— forget it.  It didn’t matter how he had shed his distraction for the thin man, what was important was that today he felt like himself, lucid enough to pay a visit to Joker.  

 

He wanted to prove to himself that he could maintain a mundane meeting with the thin man.  If he and Joker could just sit and talk, like some cold institutional visit: no jokes, no sex, no violence; just two people existing, he was convinced it would solve something essential.    

 

The billionaire dressed in dark clothes, more Batman than Bruce: no tie, not overly stylish, no formality or showy of financial stature: dark denim pants and a close-fitting, long-sleeved, crewneck shirt, black: well-made but not overly fashion-forward, sleek and nondescript.  It was the type of outfit he chose because he could not go around the manor in black armor and a cape, even if his brain preferred to imagine otherwise.  

 

Bruce scratched at his stubble and glared at his reflection, heading to the kitchen before he could think about his appeared any further.  

 

In the kitchen, waiting for him on the counter was a thermos of warm, spiced cider and a plate of sugar cookies prepared by Alfred, obviously meant as a hospitality offering for their guest.  Who knows why.  Looking at the plate, the billionaire half expected frosted effigies of clowns and bats, but they were simple, green trees and red stars.  

 

That was Alfred in a nutshell: dutiful and proper but not beyond expressing his criticism and concern for the billionaire.  Disapproval or approval, the butler had his good-humored ways of enabling Bruce while still passing judgment.  The billionaire took the cookies and cider with him on his way up.  

 

Feeling confident or not, Bruce had slipped Joker’s vial of medicine in his pocket.  Joker had missed a dose or two thanks to Bruce’s imposed isolation, and the billionaire half wondered if he had done it to thin man on purpose.  To help him?  Purify him?  Amplify him?  For who’s sake, Joker’s or his?  Bruce didn’t want to dose Joker’s food on the sly but he would see how things went, if they were to his preference.

 

On his way up the stairs, the billionaire was struck by an idea and he ducked into a room off the landing.  It was the unused billiard room, immaculately polished and green-felted for show.  From the drawer in one of the room’s three poker tables, he took a new deck of cards and tucked it in his back pocket.  At least now, Joker and he would have something to do other than talk to each other.  And keep us from doing anything else for that matter.  Brining a deck of cards to entertain the Joker felt a reckless dare, but Bruce liked the giving himself the challenge.  

 

Bruce stopped at the door to the thin man’s quarters and paused for thought.  During his last visit, billionaire had snuck away without saying goodbye, without staying over as Joker had requested, and he wasn’t sure if the thin man would harbor a grudge over it.  Closing his eyes, all Bruce could see was the arc of Joker’s body as he stretched, half naked on the couch.  If that performance wasn’t an invitation to return, the billionaire wasn’t sure what would be.  

 

Don’t give in to desire, he coached himself.  Don’t even touch Joker.  He was fine, he had this under control.  He didn’t need Joker for anything.  This would just be a plain visit, socialization to help with the thin man’s rehabilitation.  All according to the plan Wayne had offered the doctors at Arkham.  Simple.  Clinical.  Bruce unlocked the door.  

 

When the billionaire entered, Joker was only a few paces away, leaning on the end of the couch, facing the entrance.  Had he wanted to, the thin man could have rushed Bruce and made a run for it.  The thought made the billionaire uneasy, but Joker only showed his set of gleaming teeth as Bruce relocked the door.  The thin man was dressed in usual uniform, dark dress pants, matching vest, and white dress shirt, though he was in his stocking feet, and the cuffs of his shirt were unbuttoned and sloppily rolled up to his elbows.  

 

Having rested and eaten and purged himself of all things Arkham, Joker was more vibrant and alert than ever.  His thinness seemed natural now, instead of making him look sickly, and his pale pallor had just a hint of a flush of health.  His lips even seemed redder.  A grassy highlight in Joker’s dusty hair distracted the billionaire from deeper analysis.  

 

“Honey, you’re home!”  Joker exclaimed with outstretched arms.  For a beat, both men held their place, as if Joker had opened the door himself and the billionaire were waiting to be invited inside.  As if I needed permission, Bruce bristled and broke the stillness, heading to the counter at the kitchenette.  

 

“What’s this?” Joker took one look at the treats in Bruce’s arms and barked out a laugh, “Part of the neighborhood committee?  Welcoming me to the cul-de-sac?”  The thin man’s comment hit the nail on the head, bringing attention to the immediate, strange normalacy of the visit.

 

“Very funny,” the billionaire grumbled, setting down the tray and thermos on the tile counter.  

 

“I do try,” the thin man answered, stepping in close and snatching a cookie from the tray.  He didn’t eat it, instead holding it up against Bruce’s face, as if he were hand-feeding the billionaire.  Bruce held still and said nothing, glaring.  Joker smirked, “Humor me.  No poison?  No medication?”    

 

The billionaire took a bite and swallowed, and Joker downed the rest of the cookie in two big chomps, trusting that Bruce wouldn’t eat any contaminated food.  Joker was misguided to think that test was valid.  Surely the thin man must know that Bruce had carefully built up numerous tolerances to toxins and drugs?  Perhaps it wasn’t the test that Joker intended, but the intimacy: allowing him to take a bite where the billionaire’s lips had last been.  Maybe Bruce was misguided in not doping the food.  

 

“It’s good to see you,” Joker began, one hand on his angled hips and the other at his mouth.  He ran his tongue over the fingertips, cleaning off some green frosting, “You ran away with your tail between your legs last time, I wasn’t sure you’d have the courage to face me again.”  

 

Distracted, Bruce watched the thin man lick a stray cookie crumb off his lip and Joker caught him staring, cocking those lips into a smile.  To stop the snide remark that was soon to follow, the billionaire blurted out, “Wasn’t your hair brown?”  

 

The thin man catered to his question, letting the previous topic fall aside for the moment.  “It might have been once, but I can’t remember,” Joker dismissed the actual inquiry, twirling a chunk of hair around his finger, “The green is au naturale.”  

 

Bruce only set his jaw in silence, and when the billionaire didn’t continue, the thin man’s expression immediately turned from flirtatious to uneasy.  “But you know that!” he called out, “Don’t tell me you don’t remember what I used to look like?”  

 

“I remember,” Bruce asserted, squaring his shoulders, “But I also know you did not arrive here with green hair.”  In a quick, harsh motion, the billionaire reached out and took the side of Joker’s head in his hand, pulling the hair just enough to add tension and tugging the thin man near enough to inspect his scalp.   

 

For a moment Bruce was shaken.  He had come here to prove to himself that he and Joker could just talk; that the two of them could coexist without fighting or fucking or causing collateral damage… without laying a hand on each other.  And here he had already broken that intention.  

 

Joker’s eyes gave a wild blaze at the physical contact, his expressions cycling through anxiety, anticipation, adoration.  Joker’s hand was quick to meet Bruce’s wrist, though he didn’t remove the billionaire’s hand from its place in his hair.  Joker’s long fingers and clean-cut nails pressed hard between the ligaments in Bruce’s arm, as though looking for a pressure point or a pulse beneath the skin.

 

In that moment, Bruce could have slammed Joker’s head against the counter, he could have cracked their skulls together… he could have pulled the thin man close for a kiss.  He wanted to pull him close for a kiss—

 

Fighting the vibrant distraction of Joker’s gaze, Bruce examined the thin man’s head.  At the part, the roots of Joker’s hair were coming in a deep viridian and the billionaire could see the line where the hair had been colored a more normal shade, now a glossy olive green where the brown dye was washing out.  

 

“Well-spotted, Batsy,” the thin man mocked, turning his head slightly under his grip, hanging harder on his arm, “They’ve been dying it brown at Arkham.  Something about helping me form a new personality.”  

 

Bruce wasn’t sure if he should be appalled at their idea of treatment, or silently pleased that the green was growing back in.  Don’t be, he scolded himself, and he slipped his hand out from between the thin man’s green locks and out from beneath Joker’s warm palm.  

 

The green hair made Bruce want the rest of the face that matched… how would kissing lipstick feel on the Joker’s mouth?  How would it compare to kissing women?  How would it feel to once again meet that gaze, eyelids outlined in dark black, deep and sharp and dark enough to swallow him?  

 

The thin man tossed his bangs off his forehead and cleared the path to his striking eyes.  The billionaire mumbled, not specifying which color, “It suits you.”   

 

“Thanks, darling,” Joker ran a hand along Bruce’s jaw; his expression alight, the thin man’s sharp touch said more than his mouth.  This is a two-way street: you can touch me, and I can touch you.  Had Bruce given away the protection of his personal space so frivolously with that last gesture?  Unintentionally granted Joker permission to put his hands on him anytime?  Bruce hoped it was a door he wouldn’t regret opening.

 

“Speaking of style,” Joker continued, “Why don’t you let this five ‘o’clock shadow grow out more often?” His nails rasped against the stubble, pressure just this side of painful.  “The Bats I remember never wore it like this.  Makes you look so tall, dark, and handsome.”  

 

In comparison, Joker’s smooth face was startling, not even showing any peach fuzz.  Bruce hadn’t stocked these quarters with razors for obvious reasons, so the look was perplexing.  He backed away from Joker’s reach and asked, “Do you shave?”  

 

The thin man turned his touch on himself, running a finger against his hairless chin, “Ever try falling into a vat of acid?  That’ll put hair on your chest,” he gave a shrill amused sound, “Or rather, quite the opposite.”  Joker crossed his arms and tilted his hips, “I hope you aren’t into beards.  You’re out of luck with me.”  

 

Bruce’s mind provided a flash of sensation, smooth skin beneath his lips— I don’t mind.  Changing the subject, Bruce cleared his throat, muscles tight from the thin man’s comment, “How are you feeling?” He busied himself taking mugs down from the cabinet, and took the opportunity to stash Joker’s medication at the back of the shelf.  

 

“You won’t hear any complaining from me going cold turkey on my medicine.  Strangely nice of you, really,” The thin man took another cookie and narrowed his eyes.  

 

“You can go right back on it if you don’t behave yourself,” Bruce calmly unscrewed the thermos and poured the cider into a mug, “Nice has nothing to do with it.”  

 

“Oh, I’ll be good,” Joker drawled leadingly between bites of cookie, “I might have a headache but it’s nothing a sugar high and some good company won’t fix.”  To underline the point, Joker stepped close again, “This is all the medication I need,” and he planted a sharp slap on Bruce’s ass.  

 

It was all Bruce could to do to keep from spilling cider across the counter.  He felt a flush rush over his skin and linger at the back of his neck.  He had to grit his teeth to keep from reacting further.  

 

However, Joker’s hand had connected with the deck of cards in the back pocket of the billionaire’s pants, and the thin man’s fingers fished it out of Bruce’s jeans before the sound of the slap had even dissipated, “Hello, what have we here?”  

 

The thin man spun away from Bruce, opening the pack.  “Ooh, red never looked so good!” he crowed, taking the cellophane off the pack and tossing it on the desk in the corner.  “Who decorated this room, anyway?” he complained, “Would it have killed you to add some color? It’s a black and beige nightmare.”  

 

Domestic.  Normal.  Bruce chanted to himself.  But Joker’s chatter was easy, continuous, as if the two of them had had this arrangement for years and this conversation were nothing more than some marriage spat.  

 

The thin man tipped the deck into his hands and tossed the box aside.  Joker continued regardless if Bruce commented or not, “Look at that, they’re red after all,” he flipped the cards in his hand, edging through them with his thumbs, “Mister all-black-everything, I expected a deck of Bat-cards.”  

 

Bruce leaned on the counter and blew at the mug of cider in his hand, making what he hoped sounded like a nonchalant comment, “No, I’m not in there.”  

 

“Sure you are,” the thin man’s response was delivered with pleasant grace, “There’s always two jokers in every set,” he fished the cards off the bottom of the deck and held them for Bruce to see, “The two cards that play outside of the game.”

 

Joker turned to the desk beside him and took up a pen, scribbling something in ballpoint black before turning hard on his heel and returning to the counter, “See?”  He flicked the card at the billionaire.  

 

Bruce stopped the card before it spun off the counter.  The thin man had drawn a passable set of bat ears and cowl on the jester on the card; he had even added a frowning mouth over the printed smile.  Slightly ruffled, Bruce was frozen at the offering.  It some awful way it was one of the more personal things anyone had done for him.  

 

“Doesn’t look anything like me,” he dismissed the gesture, flicking the card back to the thin man.  

 

Instead of being upset, Joker outright laughed at his coldness, “Oh, it’s spot on, trust me.”  The thin man shuffled the deck, chopping the cards together in his hands.  “So, what have you been up to Batsy?”  It was Joker’s turn for nonchalance, “Did you go you last night?”  His arched eyebrow finished the sentence —as Batman— and his tone was prying, waiting for an expected answer.  

 

Did he spend the night watching Joker?  Or cheat on him with Gotham’s streets?  Bruce dodged the question, “Does it matter?”  

 

The deck was new and stuck together in unexpected ways as Joker shuffled.  A particularly fancy maneuver collapsed on itself and scattered cards across the counter.  Bruce chortled at the failure, “Losing your touch.”  

 

Frowning, Joker stuck out his tongue at the billionaire.  “Stiff in all the wrong places,” he cursed with a hiss, gathering up the cards to try again.  He tapped the cards together, split the deck and snapped them against the counter, interleaving the two piles.  To straighten the deck he arched the cards and they flurried together in a rush.  

 

He pursed his lips, moderately insulted, “It must be awfully slow out there on the dance floor without your partner.”  

 

“It’s good,” Bruce bluffed, channeling a little bit of that Wayne confidence, “The streets are safer.”  

 

“How utterly boring,” the thin man groaned, slumping his shoulders limp, like a put upon child for a moment or two before he went back to shuffling.  His clever hands turned the cards against each other in increasingly complicated patterns.  Bruce watched the narrow bend of his wrists and fingers, quick and skilled, snapping the cardstock of the playing cards.  

 

“That’s all right,” Joker’s lips curled into a knowing smile, “I’m sure you’re not at liberty to say that your life is utterly empty without me as your adversary,” he stilled his card-shuffling and held a hand up to the side of his face in an exaggerated stage whisper, “Your secret is safe with me.”  

 

Bruce prickled at the implications of ‘your secret.’  Joker won’t get out of this room, he assured himself.  The billionaire went out on a limb, not wanting to dance around a particular topic any longer.  Sounding far milder than he felt, he opened the door, “You don’t seem very surprised by ‘Bruce.’”

 

The thin man barely reacted, brushing off the revelation, “Because ‘Bruce’ isn’t surprising.”  He split the deck and snapped the cards again.  

 

“How long have you known?”    

 

Joker loved the tension, pouting at his partner, “Oh it just eats you up, doesn’t it?”  

 

“Tell me,” Bruce growled.  

 

“Alright, alright, Bats,” the thin man rolled his eyes, the signs of oncoming laughter ghosting his lips, “I’ve always had my suspicions about Brucie and you, but what tipped the scale was seeing you at Arkham.”  He fanned the cards in his hand and collapsed them together, repeating the motion again and again, “Who else would stop in to see us wrecks but the man who put us there?”   

 

Bruce bristled, trying not to let his unease show in his eyes.  He swallowed, “Does all of Arkham know?”  

 

“No, stupid!”  Joker clapped the cards together and flicked his fingers against Bruce’s forehead, “I kept your precious secret,” he trained his lush green gaze on Bruce with an animal intensity, “I wanted you all to myself.”  

 

There it was again, the strange contented feeling Bruce had felt when Joker drew bat ears on the jester card; the horrible satisfaction that surged through the billionaire when he basked in the spotlight of the thin man’s undivided attention.  He’s a madman, Bruce had to remind himself, and he shook off the warm gratification, his heart sinking like a stone.   

 

“Well, I assume you brought these to play, right?”  Joker smacked his lips together and gave him a sideways grin, “What’s your game of choice?”  Bruce didn’t have an answer prepared and Joker jumped at the chance to mock him, “When’s the last time you even played cards, Bats?  Seems a bit low class for Wayne Manor.”  

 

Thinking hard, Bruce came up empty.  Years?  “It’s been a while.”  

 

“That long?”  Joker winced, an exaggerated expression of pity, “Something simple then?”  

 

“I assure you I can play whatever you can deal out,” the billionaire insisted.  

 

“How about fifty-two card pick up,” the thin man cackled, bending the deck between two fingers, cards bent with tension, ready to spill, “I could watch your ass while you picked up cards.”  

 

Bruce wasn’t amused, “You’d watch me leave.”  

 

This time the thin man was outright exuberant in his amusement.  He flipped the deck between his hands, “Oh baby we’re two of a kind,” he held up a two of spades and a two of hearts and flashed the cards beside his smile, “How about crazy eights?  That’s easy.”

 

Tucking the deck of cards in one palm, Joker pointed at the mug of cider in Bruce’s hand, “Is that for me?”  

 

Blandly, Bruce motioned at the second full mug on the counter, but the thin man fished his fingers into the handle on the billionaire’s mug and Bruce relinquished his grip on the cup.  The thin man took a sip and turned to the coffee table, “This one is better.”  

 

To stifle his annoyance, Bruce took a deep breath.  This was Joker, why would he expect their exchange to play out any other way?  Bruce had already gone against his own intentions and put his hands on the thin man, he couldn’t let his temper get the better of him a second time, no matter how Joker egged him on.  The billionaire took the other mug and walked out of the kitchenette, swallowing any further complaint.  

 

As Joker settled into the couch, Bruce was struck with a flashback of the previous evening, watching the thin man sprawled on his back, performing for the camera.  Skin crawling, the billionaire didn’t dare sit where the action had taken place.  Instead, Bruce took the hard backed chair from the desk and dropped it across from Joker as the thin man dealt cards on the coffee table.  

 

“Match the card’s value or its suit,” the thin man explained, “Can’t make a match, draw cards until you can.  Eights can change suits.  First to get rid of their cards, wins.”  The last two cards fell into place on the glossy, red piles in front of them.  Joker set the set the rest of the deck at the center, and flipped the top card.  Seven of diamonds.  

 

Bruce took up his cards and immediately played a ten of diamonds.  The thin man gave a twittering laugh and their game was on.  The two of them rifled through cards, spending them in turn.

 

Surprisingly, only the occasional chuckle from Joker broke the silence as they played.  The billionaire realized he was gritting his teeth and had to work to relax his jaw.  He was weirdly chaffing under the plainness of the moment. This was exactly right, this was what he wanted to prove to himself; no violence, no lust, just two people…

 

The tip of Joker’s tongue peeked out of the corner of his mouth when he pretended to think through his play.  Of course he was pretending, this game was idiotic, what was there to think about?  But Bruce found his mind lingering on that pink tongue, imagining it running along his own lips… Damnit.  The two of them couldn’t just sit in a room together, could they?  They could use the cards to keep their hands busy but what about their minds?  Their mouths?  

 

“Shy already?  What a shame.” Joker said wistfully, playing a card with a sassy flourish, “You were such fun the other day.”  

 

“What’s to talk about?” Bruce countered, voice low.  He had to draw from the deck to make his play and his ego prickled uncomfortably with every additional card.

 

“Touchy, touchy.  And here I thought we were something more,” the thin man answered lightly, “No matter what you say, I really am enjoying this new game of ours,” he tipped his eyes up to meet Bruce’s face and gave a carnivorous grin, “And I’m not talking about cards.”

 

Bruce stewed silently to himself at the comment.  He was worried, even slightly offended.  A game?  Of course.  This had to be some scheme for Joker.  If only he hadn’t been so bored—so lonely— the billionaire berated himself, then he wouldn't have been taken in this far by Joker’s company.  Who was this socialization supposed to rehabilitate anyway?  He snapped, “Is this a game to you?”  

 

“It’s a compliment!”  the thin man insisted, raising his eyebrows, “What else is there in life but the games we play?”

 

“Not everything is a game,” Bruce growled.  He was furious, half at the thin man and half at his own feelings.  Did you think that he changed?  Did you think his attention was real?  The billionaire stared at the cards in his hand, their stark patterns burning in his eyes.  You’re losing your mind.  

 

“I’d hate for this one to end so soon, but alas,” Joker defiantly dropped his last card on the pile and exclaimed, “I win!”  Splaying his empty hands open wide.  

 

“Of course,” the billionaire flung his un-played cards into the pile with a contemptuous toss.  

 

Laughing all the while, the thin man swept his long arms across the table, gathering the cards back together into a deck.  “Don’t be a sore loser, Bats,” he said, showing sharp teeth, “I’ll let you have a rematch.”  The thin man’s hands were quick and he shuffled and dealt them a new game.

 

Obediently, Bruce took up the cards he was dealt; Joker humming pleasantly as he went about the motions.  The billionaire almost couldn’t hear him over the blood pounding in his ears.  You told him who you are.  You’re here without the cowl.  What are you doing?  Bruce threw his cards across the table his voice cold and cutting, “I can’t— this isn’t normal.”

 

“What?” Joker gave a start, looking up from the game.  

 

“This,” the billionaire leaned abruptly back in his chair, giving a blunt huff, “The sitting, the chatting, the— the flirting! It’s all so unnatural.”  

 

“Unnatural?”  Disbelieving, the thin man gave a mean chuckle, “For you and me, Bats, it’s the most natural thing in the world.”  

 

Exasperated, Bruce glanced at the door, toying with the idea of leaving, “This is absurd.”  

 

“You’re kidding!” Joker slapped his palm on the table, and the billionaire snapped to attention; the noise felt like a gunshot in the near silence.  

 

The billionaire was bitter with his comeback, “You’re the one with the jokes.”  

 

“I thought you got off on this crap!”  Joker cried out in an aggravated burst, clawing the air with his free hand, “This— this—“ he struggled for words and Bruce could see the thin man’s sobriety spiraling undone, “Rehabilitating— law-abiding— bullshit!“  

 

Bolting to his feet, Joker’s focus cut back sharply, asking as smoothly as if he were simply taking Bruce’s drink order, “Would you prefer a murderous rampage?”  The hot fervor of the thin man’s personality smoldered just beneath the surface and Bruce felt his muscles coil for combat, and his awareness sparked to life, waiting for the moment that it would all let loose.  

 

The thin man continued, “I could hit you if you’d like?”  There was a tremor in Joker’s wrist now, his eyes wide, exposing the whites.  

 

“Enough,” Bruce’s commanded, quiet and dangerous.  

 

A delirious smile fractured Joker’s face and softened his expression, lowered eyelids, curling lips.  His tone was nauseatingly sultry, “You could hit me.  You used to love that.”  

 

“That’s not what I meant,” the billionaire answered.    

 

“That's exactly what you meant!” Joker screamed, before he laughed and laughed, body shaking, until he seemed to reach some kind of equilibrium.  Breezily, he worked to catch his breath, “I mean… you and I haven’t just sat and talked like this since… ever.”  

 

The two of them held still while their eyes roved over the other: Joker standing on unsteady legs and Bruce, calmly seated, both emotionally swimming in the strange, uncharted territory of the conversation.  The thin man was the first to move, sauntering over to plop himself across Bruce’s lap like a tipsy girl at a bar.  

 

The weight of the thin man was familiar, but the placement of him was not, and the billionaire’s posture constricted at the contact.  In this position, Joker couldn’t keep himself upright unaided, but Bruce did not offer an arm for support, leaving the thin man to wrap his unsolicited grip across the billionaire’s shoulders.  Bruce craned his neck to lean away from the touch.  

 

“Don’t do this to me, Batsy,” Joker whined sadly, nuzzling his nose against Bruce’s jaw, “You don’t even want to know how many urges I’ve been suppressing to get this far. “  He kicked his legs playfully where they dangled over Bruce’s thighs, like a school kid on the swings, “I can’t help how my needs manifest,” he still held his cards in one hand and he drew them across the billionaire’s throat as though he wished they were a knife instead, “If I can’t get my kicks spilling blood, is it so terrible that I’m little hot-blooded?  I had hoped you’d prefer it this way.”

 

“You just showed your hand,” Bruce deflected, glancing at Joker’s cards.  Incidentally, the thin man’s hand was stacked: he had been cheating, and dealt himself all four of the eights.  Internally, the billionaire was still processing the implications of Joker’s words.  

 

The thin man leaned close, his mouth less than an inch away from Bruce’s cheekbone, ever joking, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”  The billionaire didn’t laugh at the double entendre.   

 

“Are you saying,” His mind racing, Bruce formed his next sentence carefully, “You require either murder or sex in order to maintain your composure?”  

 

“Doesn’t every man?” the thin man sassed, squirming in place on Bruce’s lap.  

 

The billionaire tried to put the friction of Joker’s ass over his crotch out of his mind, but he nearly shivered as his nerves rang with the sensation.  “And all these years, you opted for violence.”  Bruce heard the thin man’s words from the first night circling in his mind again, fight or fuck?  

 

“You can’t say I didn’t try to get into your Bat-pants, darling,” Joker said sullenly, “I love to put my hands on you but your suit is rock hard everywhere, it was difficult to tell if I were making any progress.”  This time the thin man put his lips on Bruce’s ear, a hint of teeth against the skin, “But you must have noticed how I felt?  I didn’t hide it when you were on top of me.”  

 

Bruce had known.  He remembered times when they fought and Joker was hard beneath him, smiling with bloody teeth under his punches and asking for more.  In the moment it made the billionaire sick, but later the idea lingered in his mind.  He had suppressed the possibility for so long that his recent lapse with Joker still felt like some wonderful, disgusting dream.  

 

A giggle at his ear brought him back in the moment, “Is that a Batarang in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”  

 

Frozen with embarrassment, Bruce croaked, “Stop it.”  

 

“What’s eating you Batsy?” the thin man’s breath was hot this close to his skin, “Is it the cards?  Fine, we don’t need them,” Joker leaned away just enough to toss his hand, the cards scattering across the room.  Hanging onto his shoulders, the thin man looked him in the eye and gave a smile full of possibility, “We can play a different, game: truth or dare?”  

 

“Not interested,” Bruce frowned, but he had lifted his arm and tucked it against Joker’s back.  To steady him for when I stand up, Bruce’s empty logic played in his mind.  

 

But Joker barreled on as if Bruce had agreed, “Truth: what’s your favorite part of my body?”  He wiggled his ass down against the billionaire’s erection, “Well, besides the obvious.”  

 

All of you, none of you, both possibilities surged with equal force in Bruce’s mind.  He grumbled, “I’m not playing.”  

 

“Dare then,” Joker answered for him, his hand moving up from the back of the billionaire’s neck to clasp onto his hair, “I dare you to… kiss your favorite part of my body.”  

 

“That’s almost the same,” Bruce babbled, glad he didn’t speak aloud the fleeting fancy that crossed his mind: how would I kiss your eyes?

 

“But not exactly the same,” the thin man put just enough space between their bodies so that he could watch the billionaire’s reaction.  

 

They had not provided neckties in Joker’s wardrobe and the thin man’s shirt was unbuttoned at the neck, his throat exposed and taught, and Bruce was seized with a vampiric urge to put his mouth on that seductive skin.  He pressed forward before he could stop himself.  When the billionaire’s lips connected with his neck, Joker seemed almost surprised that Bruce had gone for it, and the thin man let out a whimper, leaning into the embrace.  

 

Joker tugged harder at the billionaire’s hair and Bruce brought his other arm up to grasp the thin man’s hip, his forearm brushing against the growing bulge between Joker’s legs.  It was when the thin man nudged Bruce’s chin up to bring their lips together that discord called out in his mind.  Don’t play his game.  This isn’t real.  He doesn’t want you.  Joker’s tongue probed forward into his mouth and Bruce sucked against the thin man’s mouth.  He knows who you are.  A tainted feeling turned in his gut; a rush of cold sent Bruce shuddering away from the kiss, feeling sick and weak and lost.  

 

“Something I said?” Joker asked, glibness masking his nerves.  Bruce couldn’t look at him, couldn’t speak.  The thin man cocked his head, confusion edging into insult, “Is it me?”  The billionaire swallowed, desperate to say, No, it’s not you...  But the words wouldn’t leave his throat.  

 

“Ohh, I see,” loosening his grip slowly, Joker came to his smug conclusion, “It’s not me.  It’s everyone.”  

 

“What?” Bruce demanded.  The comment wasn’t what he expected.  

 

“It’s everyone,” Joker repeated, looking down to run his fingers over the fabric of the billionaire’s shirt, “You never let anyone close, you never socialize like this: no playboy cover, no Batsuit,” the thin man gave a dry chuckle, “You really are so serious all the time.  Well,” the thin man gave an impatient sigh and, swung his feet down to the ground, steadying himself but not yet getting up, “I had thought that we didn’t need the masks, the make up and the cowl and all that, but maybe the props are more critical to your performance than we thought.”  

 

“What? No,” the billionaire insisted.  He was still half-hard in his jeans and Bruce prickled at the slight on his sexual prowess, “No, they’re not.”  

 

“Just admit it, you need the mask, even when you’re around me,” Joker sighed and patted Bruce’s chest, over his heart, “There, there, it’s alright, just close your eyes and pretend you have it on.”  

 

“I’m not closing my eyes around you,” the billionaire snapped.  

 

“You’re uh…” Joker shifted his weight, pressing his ass against Bruce’s cock, harder than ever against the thin man’s touch, “You’re giving me mixed signals here, Bats.  Are we going to move this thing forward or not?”  

 

Swallowing, Bruce realized he wasn’t speaking, caught between his fury and lust.   To punch Joker’s mouth or kiss it?  As he tried to calm himself, he realized he was imagining himself in his suit and cowl.  Invisible.  Invincible.  Joker knew him too well.  

 

“Oh come on,” the thin man crossed his legs, settling back in on Bruce’s lap, “I thought we were more than just enemies, baby.”  Joker gathered a fistful of shirt and pulled himself close to the billionaire, “Well, now?”  The thin man’s eyes waited to meet Bruce’s gaze, pupils dilating when the billionaire looked into them.  It was as if the eye contact was the signal Joker was waiting for and he moved ever closer, “It’s time you lighten up, Dark Knight.”  

Chapter Text

Joker’s kiss hit hard enough to tip the chair back on two legs, and only Bruce’s weight and balance kept them from toppling over backwards.  The billionaire reflexively grabbed the thin man close to keep the two of them from tumbling apart and he didn’t release Joker even when the chair had been steadied.  

 

Forceful and deep, their kiss was so much more than the sloppy, rushed exchanges they had shared over the last few days. Joker’s mouth possessed Bruce so completely, tongue and teeth and pressure, there was no room to make any moves of his own; barely enough room to even breathe. The two of them they tasted like spiced cider and sugar cookies, obscenely sweet, addictive.

 

As easily as the thin man had slipped out of handcuffs over the years, Joker had Bruce’s pants open in a moment, his hand under the waistband of the billionaire’s underwear, pulling his cock up and into the open.  It all happened so fast, and Joker’s touch was so sure that it belonged on his body, that Bruce involuntarily groaned into the thin man’s mouth, “Ohh…”  

 

The thin man ran one fine finger up the length of Bruce’s erection, flicking off the end of it and watching it bounce.  If the touch weren’t so confounding Bruce would have voiced his frustration with Joker; at his being comical even in this moment.  But the thought was gone as quickly as it came when the thin man wrapped all of his fingers around the billionaire’s cock and gave a rough tug.  

 

Bruce gasped, half pleasure, half panic.  This was the first time he had let Joker initiate so much; the thin man had been an enthusiastic partner in all their relations, but Bruce had been the first one to take action, the dominating force.  By contrast, Joker’s forwardness was jarring… it felt very different: being taken instead of doing the taking.  In the deepest recesses of the billionaire’s mind, he had an inkling that being in this position wasn’t wholly bad, that it could make him feel…

 

But his conscious self revolted at the sensation, and Bruce abruptly stood, throwing Joker out of his lap, roaring, “Stop it.”  

 

The thin man crashed to the floor, sliding against their discarded playing cards. Joker attempted to scramble to his feet, crawling back towards Bruce, his posture all angles and lanky limbs.  “Stop,” Bruce panted, “Don’t touch me.”  A dangerous cocktail of hurt and rage crossed Joker’s face, his lips receding back off his teeth.

 

“You like me like this?”  the billionaire shouted, motioning to his open fly, angry, pulse pounding, “You like me in this state?”  Bruce went to tuck himself back into his jeans, but when his hand brushed his cock it sent his thoughts spinning and his heart racing and he let his touch linger.  He swallowed and drew his grip down his length and let out a tight breath.  

 

The thin man’s bright eyes boggled at the action, surprised by Bruce’s choice.   His attention ran between the billionaire’s face and crotch, not sure which view was his favorite.   He licked his lips, “Oh yes, I can see why you like to watch, Batsy.”  

 

“Show me you like it,” Bruce demanded immediately.  The billionaire could see the thin man’s erection all but outlined where it strained against his slim-cut pants.  “I know you like to talk, Joker, “ cock in hand, the billionaire met the thin man’s gaze and gave an order, “So go ahead.  Talk to me like you did last night.”  

 

For a moment it looked like Joker might not agree, like he might dart forward and continue his physical ravishing of the billionaire regardless, but then his smile bloomed into its full deviousness, “Ooh, I knew you were watching…”  

 

Joker scampered backwards until he was leaned back on the couch, and opened his pants.  Absently, Bruce noticed the thin man wasn’t wearing underwear, and then Joker’s cock was free and in the thin man’s hands.  Bruce gripped himself a little harder at the sight.  

 

“What do you want to hear, hmmm?”  the thin man mused, sighing lightly as his hand began to move, “I’ve wanted you for ages, baby.  Wanted you hard for me like this…”  

 

Ohh shit.  Bruce’s knees were a little too loose and for a moment he wasn’t sure he could keep this going on his feet.  Whatever determined armor strengthened the billionaire’s ego gave him just enough focus to keep himself upright and intimidating.  

 

“You can’t deny my ass looks good in a suit,” the thin man said, almost giggling, “Instead of handing me over to the authorities all those times you could have handled me instead,” he chewed at his lip and arched his body against his hand, “And I was just begging for it…”

 

This was exponentially more stimulating than watching Joker on video camera.  Every detail was lush and accessible: the sound of the fabric of his pants against the leather, the hush of his heavy breathing, the soft knocking sound of his hand in motion against his flesh, the electric feeling when their eyes would meet unexpectedly.  

 

The thin man glanced at the billionaire from under his half-lidded eyes, and Bruce’s body ached with want.  Joker’s words faltered for a moment as his fingers slid all the way down his shaft, “Oh Batsy when you fill me up,” he gasped, “You touch me in all the right places…”  

 

Bruce took a step closer to the couch, his jeans open and low on his hips.  He ran his thumb around the head of his cock, spreading a slick drop of precome, feeling his erection pulse in his grip.   

 

Joker’s narrative derailed while watching the billionaire, the thin man struggled to catch his breath, “… you’re dripping,” he whimpered, “I’m sure you love my dulcet tones but,” there was a desperate crease in Joker’s brow, “Wouldn’t you rather fuck, Batsy?”  

 

The billionaire edged closer still, standing tall over the thin man on the couch.  Bruce kicked the thin man’s ankle, spreading Joker’s legs open wider.  “Keep talking,” the billionaire instructed, voice husky, “We’ll see.”  

 

“Ohh you’re my favorite big bad Bat,” Joker half-squealed with pleasure. He shook his hair out of his eyes and sprawled back further, holding himself tight with slim fingers, “I almost can’t believe you came on me,” the thin man tugged at his shirt as if trying to expose the skin where Bruce had spilled the other day.  He put his finger in his mouth and bit at the knuckle, “Oh darling, I love how you taste.”  

 

Joker was letting his hand getting ahead of himself and he had to lessen his touch to back off from the edge.  When he slowed his hand, Bruce could see where a vein stood out in the underside of the thin man’s cock.  This close the billionaire could see the curl of hair below the thin man’s abdomen and over his balls and somehow it only made Bruce harder when he realized these hairs were also green.  

 

Joker pouted up at him, lashes low over his eyes, an intimate expression so rarely seen on the thin man’s face, Bruce felt himself waver, a quiver of pleasure curling in his gut.  

 

Seeing the billionaire start to sweat, Joker’s lips bent into a victorious smile and he angled his hips up, erection bobbing suggestively.  “The amount of times I’ve thought about having you in my hands… my mouth…” Joker moaned, almost losing himself for a moment, “Inside me in every way.”  

 

The thin man stretched a leg out and tipped his foot around the back of Bruce’s calf, slowly dragging his toes up and down the billionaire’s muscle.  “I can always return the favor… get you all hot and bothered… ” Joker insisted, lips temptingly parted, “And then I could bend you over and— umph!“

 

Joker gave a muffled squawk as Bruce’s weight landed on him, the billionaire diving onto the couch.  Bruce’s mouth closed over the thin man’s lips, the billionaire surrendering to the bliss of the embrace.  It felt like a drug, a truth serum, impossible to ignore or resist; it made him forget any promises he had made before he entered this room, it made him want to say things he would never consider under normal circumstances.  

 

Bruce wound his fingers in the soft texture of the thin man’s hair, and pulled away just enough to taunt, “You like this?”  

 

“Ohh, darling— yes,” Joker was too impassioned to answer with any detail; his eyes darting wildly, drinking in every inch of the billionaire’s face, utterly beside himself with all of Bruce’s attention.  

 

The billionaire thrilled at teasing the thin man, giving a gruff mumble against Joker’s ear, “What if I had had my way with you in some alley?”  

 

“If only you did,” Joker snarled, his lilting tone rough with his hunger for closeness, “It would have saved me all this trouble.”  The thin man wound himself against Bruce everywhere he could, long legs tangled over the billionaire’s hips and thighs, hands slipping beneath his shirt.  

 

Their erections were pressed between them, rubbing against each other’s hip and stomach, catching the cold sharpness of a zipper fly, dragging along cloth and hair and skin.  Bruce raised himself up enough slip his hands between them and bundled his grip around both their cocks, pumping a few vigorous strokes.  Feeling his erection pressed this close to the warm, full flesh of the thin man’s cock made him call out, “Ohh god—“  

 

He buried his face beneath Joker’s jaw to silence himself, setting intense, wet kisses against the skin.  “Ohh, harder, Batsy!  Come on,” the thin man threw his head back and made a lusty request, “Leave a mark, you know you want to—” his breath hitched as Bruce nibbled, scraping his stubble against Joker’s throat, sucking hard enough to break blood vessels beneath the thin man’s pale skin.  

 

When Bruce pulled away from Joker’s throat, the thin man leapt up and met the billionaire’s mouth, growling as he plunged deeper, closer, pulling hair, teeth gnashing; he caught Bruce’s lip and bit hard enough to break the skin, trilling like some maniacal bird when he got a taste of blood.

 

Adrenaline soaring, the billionaire jerked away at the prick of pain and the ferocity of the embrace, suddenly clapping his hand tight against Joker’s narrow neck, digging in with thumb and fingers cutting off proper blood flow.  

 

Joker wheezed beneath Bruce’s grip, smile wide, eyes rolling in ecstasy as his brain called for oxygen.  In his most rage-filled moments the billionaire had fantasied about throttling the thin man just this way, the satisfaction of silencing his endless chatter, listening to the strangled gurgle of sound fall quiet in the thin man’s throat.

 

But Bruce hadn’t anticipated the delicious hot furl of energy that pierced his gut when he performed the action, the smooth feeling of Joker’s skin against his palm, the futile flex of ligaments where they strained against his grip, the exposed expression of utter rapture that melted the madness out of Joker’s features…   

 

The billionaire was caught off guard when the thin man made a small sound from under his hand and Bruce could feel a certain wetness between their bodies as Joker came.  The billionaire let go of his hand from Joker’s throat before the thin man fell unconscious, and the thin man gasped like a man revived from drowning.  

 

Swiftly, Bruce kissed the thin man before he could fully recover from his lack of air, the billionaire enjoying Joker’s half-limp attempts to return his embrace.  As the billionaire’s cock ran along the slick skin where Joker had spilled, Bruce’s own release was not far behind.  He leaned into the thin man, lending just enough pressure to tip the scales of his pleasure, rolling hard into the wave of his orgasm, his face buried in Joker’s green hair and pale skin, surrounded by the dull thrum of the thin man’s breathing, his giggling.  

 

For a while after, Bruce stayed sprawled on top of Joker, almost winded.  He surveyed the thin man: his dress clothes rumpled and unbuttoned, his neck a garden of red hickeys and scratches. “Damn you,” Bruce cursed, not entirely unhappy, but Joker only cackled, his ribcage shaking underneath the billionaire.   Damned, Bruce thought, his lip stinging where Joker’s teeth had broke the skin.  The both of us.   

 

Chapter Text

It had been nearly thirty hours since their encounter on the couch on Joker’s quarters. Not that Bruce was counting-- he was keeping track for purely scientific purposes. Since the thin man’s arrival, the longest they had gone between bouts of sexual contact was roughly a day and a half and the billionaire was curious how long Joker could go without before causing damage or returning to his old ways. Bruce was certain the thin man would be the one to act out first, but by the way the day had been chafing at him so far, part of him wondered how long he himself could stand it before he was back at Joker’s door asking for more.

 

On screen in the Batcave, Bruce watched as Joker made roses out of paper, artfully curling the sheet like some idle barfly with a cocktail napkin. The billionaire stared as the thin man built flower after flower before slowly shredding them apart, ripping off petals and counting aloud, “He loves me… he loves me not… “ By the time Bruce was dressed for patrol, Joker sat on the floor in a snowy pile of paper scraps and showed no signs of stopping.

 

He loves me… The thought nauseated Bruce. It was a loaded word for any relationship, even without Joker involved. The billionaire knew a thousand different facets of emotions to describe his the sparse population of his closest relations: loyalty, gratitude, respect, admiration, appreciation, affection, devotion. For a certain maddening few he could even add passion or fascination.

 

There had been a handful of people that had pierced Bruce’s shell, had been granted within a high level of physical intimacy, some one the side of Wayne and others on the side of Batman. A woman or two who started out as convenient arm candy but turned out to be smart and engaging. A sometimes-ally who left her mask on even if she didn’t retain her suit.

 

But none of those relationships endured, no matter their initial promise; eventually one piece of Bruce’s life would threaten the secrecy of the other, and any connection would come to an end.   And certainly, none of it love.

 

That idea was still too bruised and tangled, even all these years later; tied too deeply with something inaccessible at his core, mixed in with anguish and fear and insatiable grief; a flash of his mother’s pearls, his father’s outstretched hand… darkness, darkness.

 

He certainly felt something for Alfred and Dick, but it was different from the word the thin man kept repeating on the screen. Alfred was his elder and Dick his junior, and their affection was familial: the adoration of a child to a parent, or the warm protectiveness of a parent to a child. But feelings for a peer, an equal, a partner, adversary or not… Bruce did not know how to process it.

 

He was pulling on his cowl when Alfred joined him at the desk. The two watched on the computer as Joker tore paper petals and counted off his nursery rhyme again. “Odd to see you going our, sir,” the butler took note of Bruce’s uniform, “When the focus of so many of your trials is here in the manor.”

 

“I need information,” the billionaire fitted the mask on his head, his voice taking on a darker timbre without his thinking, “I need to find out what he’s up to.”

 

“Him? I would have thought it was obvious,” Alfred turned sharply back to the screen, “Despite his… unconventional and undoubtedly heinous methods, I thought he had made his… intentions with you clear for some time,” the butler’s voice dropped off slightly and he crossed his wrists behind his back, as though he were unsure if he had brought up a sore subject, “Unless something has gone wrong between you?”

 

“It’s always been wrong between us,” the words rushed out of Bruce, harsher than he meant. For a moment, Joker glanced up at the camera, a narrow furrow of doubt between his brows, the frustration of a performer who could not gauge his audience.

 

“It’s been clear for some time that you two have been obsessed with each other,” Alfred probed the topic again, insinuating more than before, “Though perhaps, infatuated would be a better word?”

 

Immediately defensive, Bruce snapped around to face the butler, “Alfred—“

 

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Master Bruce,” the butler held up a hand to quench the billionaire’s outburst, warmth in his eyes and a wry angle to his mustache, “But perhaps being able to… be physical with one another… or to… release… something together other than violence helps curb some of the pressure you two put on each other.”

 

“I… don’t know what you’re talking about,” Bruce swallowed hard, more ashamed than he expected to feel about the topic. How many times had Alfred sewn up lacerations and set broken bones that were caused by that madman in the manor? Didn’t he harbor a grudge for the damage the thin man had dealt to Bruce? And now the butler simply felt… relieved that their physicality had changed?

 

Bruce hoped Alfred hadn’t caught a glimpse of he and Joker on the recording, hadn’t heard them down the hall. The billionaire was less successful at keeping secrets from Alfred, the story was probably written all over his face. In that moment, Bruce was glad for suit and cowl, curling his cape a little closer.  

 

The billionaire glanced at Alfred across the desk, searching for some sign of disgust, some heat of vengeance or the cold tension of hatred, but the butler watched Joker on screen almost sadly, as though some part of him had known this outcome all along.

 

Softer now, more benevolent, Alfred continued, “Your lifestyles have not been good to either of you, and as much as it strains me to say it,” he sighed, “If he keeps you calm and safe at home at night… perhaps this is the best outcome I could hope for.”

 

Throat tight, Bruce darted down the steps before the implications of the butler’s suggestion could sink in, “I have to go.” He swung his leg over his motorcycle and after a moment more he sped out of the cave.

 

As the night air poured over him, Batman stewed on his new angle with Joker. Over the years, the thin man’s attention had always come at a price: explosion, poison, kidnapping, murder, or some other suffering or destruction. But now, without the strings of mayhem attached, in theory, Batman was free to enjoy the attention without fear or guilt.

 

But he knew better: the thin man couldn’t possibly be in this simply for the attention, the affection. Joker was always scheming, whether he was feeling impatient, favoring the satisfying, immediate process of sating his desires, or drawing things out, building plans and playing the long game. Seven years in Arkham was a long game indeed.   He had to be planning something secret and dangerous and Batman had to beat him to the punch.

 

The lights of city fell away as Batman approached Arkham Asylum. If it Joker wasn’t here within its walls, the thin man cast a long shadow; there might be information from the inside that could key Batman in on Joker’s intentions.

 

The interior of the asylum was grim: narrow, poorly lit hallways, sparsely patrolled by the institution’s doctors.   Batman had no problem navigating the space undetected. Silent as a shadow, he stopped short of the desired cell, just out from under the hallway lamp. Despite the hour, the man inside the cell was still awake, sitting at a small metal table, playing checkers against an empty seat.

 

From this side, the occupant looked relatively normal: rugged good looks, warm brown hair, and velvety brown eyes. Besides looking a little older, a little more ragged, he still looked like himself: Gotham’s former white knight, once a man that Bruce had admired and Batman had trusted.

 

“Harvey,” Batman rasped out of the darkness, taking two sweeping steps closer. The vigilante's silhouette was indistinguishable in the dark glass save for the pale shape his clean shaven jawline cut against his cowl.

 

Twoface, formerly known as District Attorney, Harvey Dent leaned a forearm on the table and asked, gruff, “What are you doing here?” His voice was deep and gravely, shockingly masculine to Batman’s ear; he had been spending too much time alone with Joker and his effeminate drawl.

 

If Batman listened closely he could still hear Harvey’s good-natured but commanding voice within Twoface’s growl. The thought caught in his chest, an unwelcome blade that cut deeper than expected. When Harvey was DA, Batman had almost told him the truth about his identify dozens of times. Maybe tell him would have kept him from feeling alone and overwhelmed in a world lacking in justice. Maybe it would have kept things from spiraling out of control the way they did, kept Harvey from his fate as Twoface, kept him out of the asylum.

 

Twoface moved a checker piece with a dull thock and stood up, crossing to the other seat. The new perspective showed where the acid had burned away skin and etched bone: the worst on his face and neck, but splotches of damage showed down his shoulder and arm.   When Batman didn’t continue, the man growled, answering a second time, “What the hell do you want?”

 

“I need information on Joker.”

 

Twoface sneered, exaggerating the scar that forcibly curled lip, “What makes you think I’d tell you anything?”

 

“You were my ally once, Harvey,” Batman’s voice hushed against the glass, “Part of you still might be.”

 

“Those days are long gone, and you know it,” he murmured, words rough in his throat. Unlike sickly slim Joker, Twoface filled out the mint-colored institutional pajamas with some muscle, but even still he looked uncomfortable in the garment. As Twoface or as Harvey, he had always looked his best in a suit and tie, naturally intimidating. There was a different power to him now, a specific mix of handsome and hideous, split evenly down the middle.

 

Irritated, Twoface added to his answer, “Joker’s not here, Batman. He’s with Wayne.”

 

“I know where he is,” Batman’s curt cadence matched the former attorney’s impatient tone, “But what’s he planning?”

 

“How should I know what goes on in his messed up head?” Twoface considered the checkerboard, rolling a spent piece in his fingers like a coin.

 

“He’s always planning,” Batman insisted, “He had plenty of time to think.”

 

Twoface moved a checker, and got up to take the other seat, turning his bad side away again, “He was quiet, Batman. I didn’t get whiff of anything.” He moved a piece and jumped several others, clearing them from the board. Thank you Harvey, Batman thought to himself. Part of you is still in there…

 

“So why are you here?” a scoffing laugh tumbled out of the neighboring cell where eccentric genius, Edward Nigma threw down the newsprint book of crossword puzzles he was filling in with pen. With a light and lean body, and less of a stomach for gore, his brain was his best asset. Under the moniker, Riddler, he had sent Batman on many chases through the city over the years, playing games and unraveling puzzles.

 

“He’s still quiet, isn’t he Bats?” Riddler made a smug reply and replaced his glasses on the bridge of his nose, “That’s why you’re here.   Joker’s behaving.

 

Batman barely turned to the smaller man, suspicious of any answer Riddler might feed him. He kept his eyes on Twoface, searching for any tick, any sign of what was truth and what was fabrication. The former attorney betrayed nothing, his face in an expression of perpetual discomfort, eyes low on the game board.

 

“What do you know, Riddler?”

 

“Only that if Joker hasn’t escaped from Wayne Manor by now it’s because he’s right where he wants to be,” Riddler only pursed his lips and leaned his head in his hand.

 

In the first cell, Twoface angled his gaze, showing a slice of light and dark and the grin that was slowing spreading across the two, “You jealous?”

 

Glaring from under his cowl, Batman countered, “Of who?” His stomach churned, already sensing the turn the conversation was taking, confirming what he knew to be true.

 

“We all know Joker’s always had a thing for you,” added Riddler as he relaxed back in his chair, waving away the fact with his hand like it was nothing, “But maybe he’s moved onto Wayne.”

 

A thing for you… he loves me… he loves me not…

 

“Yeah, that’s right,” Twoface pushed himself to his feet and met Batman at the window, one eye dark and smooth, another wide and bloodshot. He tipped his face and pressed his scarred half against the glass, low voice harsh in his throat, “You should have seen how the clown oogled Wayne when he visited.”

 

It was hardly oogling, Batman bit his tongue. Joker had barely looked at him that day at the asylum. Why did that thought make him feel so indignant? Batman had to force his breath to even out. It doesn’t matter. But a feverish feeling rising on his skin said otherwise. “I don’t care who Joker’s got eyes for,” Batman spoke through gritted teeth, “What I need to know is if lives are at risk.”

 

“Only Wayne’s, if he doesn’t let Joker in his pants,” Riddler interrupted with a sarcastic chuckle, snapping his crossword puzzles upright again and rolling his eyes, “Good luck to him— Joker is a wild ride.”

 

He didn’t mean…? Now there was an unexpected bloom of jealously. He couldn't linger to take any more goading, to listen to any more rambling, there were not answers to be found here, “Have a nice night in, boys.”

 

“Hey, Bats.” Twoface spoke up as Batman turned to leave. The former attorney kept his tone carefully cloaked in disinterest, “Wayne isn’t really my style anymore, if you know what I mean,” the man turned his forehead against the glass, angling his scars out of sight, “But keep an eye out for him, will you?”

 

Batman met Harvey’s good side, and felt the unspoken pleading in his gaze. Wayne and Harvey had been close once, in their way. Batman and Wayne had brought their own strengths to Gotham; imagine the success they might have had if they had shared everything... The thought stung worse now, more than ever: I should have told you.

 

“I’ll keep Wayne safe,” Batman promised.

 

The moment was spoiled when Nigma kicked his feet up onto the table and added his sharp retort, “That shouldn’t be hard.”

 

- - - - - - - - - - -

 

If Joker hasn’t escaped, it’s because he’s right where he wants to be. Riddler’s answer circled Bruce’s head throughout his patrol, echoed in his ears as he passed every empty alley, curled in the cloud of his breath in the night air. He’s right where he wants to be. It stuck in his brain all the way back on the trip to the manor. But why would Joker want to be under Wayne’s thumb? Did it mean, Joker wouldn’t try and escape if presented with the option? Bruce thought about his carelessness when entering the thin man’s quarters; how Joker might have easily run for it or staged a trap to delay Bruce and give himself a head start. Joker hadn’t taken those opportunities. Why?

 

The motorcycle rumbled to a stop, the cushioning quiet of the Batcave enveloping him. Before shedding his suit, Bruce stopped at the computer, opening the live feed to Joker’s quarters. The billionaire was relieved to see Joker had stopped reciting his nursery rhyme while tearing paper petals, though the thin man did have one, unmarred paper rose in the breast pocket of his vest.

 

On screen, the thin man was humming to himself as he built a perilous house of cards on the counter in the kitchenette, seemingly at ease with his containment, showing no sign of the madness or violence for which he was famous. Watching Joker’s hands move on the cards made Bruce recall their last exchange: the thin man leaned back against the couch among the scattered playing cards, pants open, hands busy, telling him wonderful, filthy things…

 

They were nearing the thirty-six hour mark, a day and a half of separation, and it grew more tempting to consider visiting the thin man again. Bruce swatted the idea away with a flush. We survived without contact for seven years, what is so different now? But his intellect did nothing to quench a certain hunger growing tight and insistent inside him.

 

I wonder… Still in uniform, Bruce swept out of the Batcave, climbing up into the hush of the manor. The mansion was kept dark, as per his request, and it was easy to ride between the shapes of light on the grand staircase, to find a dark place to stand sentinel between sleeping suits of armor along the hall.

 

From the program on his gauntlet, Bruce brought up the controls to Joker’s room and with a few precise keystrokes, he remotely disengaged the lock on the thin man’s door. The mechanism unbolted with an audible thunk.

 

He waited for the thin man to emerge. Time seemed to freeze in the next moments, the silence between beats stretching longer and longer until the billionaire realized he wasn’t breathing. When Bruce finally exhaled, he felt his pulse spike, felt his focus tune itself steel-sharp, daring the thin man to open the door.

 

Impatient, Bruce crept along the carpet, his heart in his throat. He had gone on much more dangerous missions, played much riskier strategies, so why did he feel so rattled here in his own hallway? It was Joker. The thin man brought this on him. He had always been Bruce’s most challenging, complicated adversary, testing the billionaire’s strengths and limits, keeping Bruce on his toes, on the edge of his abilities. And now with this new physicality between them… their game was more complicated than ever.

 

Bruce stopped, standing beside the door, listening with breathless precision, nearly pressing his ear to the wall, if he were disarming a safe. He imagined Joker doing the same: whipcord body taut in some theatrical curl, an anticipatory smile blooming on his lips.

 

Instead of opening, there was a series of knocks from the inside of the door. Thunk thunka thunk-thunk…  A beat of silence. Bruce shouldn’t have been surprised as he was at the slapstick rhythm: shave and a haircut? The billionaire held his ground, ignoring the invitation to knock out the last two beats and betray his position. In some strange way it was hard to resist completing the pattern.

 

After a while, Joker got tired of waiting and the final knocks came from within —two bits!— followed by a soft click as the handle unlatched, the door swinging open on its hinges. Bruce brushed backwards into the dark without a sound.

 

As quick and sure as a thrown dart, Joker popped into the doorway, not yet threatening, not yet past the threshold, but as full of as much troublesome potential as a stretched rubber band. He peered down the hall, sizing up the angled shapes of low lamplight that cut buttery streaks against the darkness.

 

When Joker turned into the light Bruce could see the pink places on the thin man’s throat where his tongue and teeth and hands had left marks during their last encounter. The sight added a distracting strain of elated emotion filtering through the billionaire’s determination, the sensation so strong he almost chuckled and half considered abandoning his sneaky pretense altogether. Steady...

 

“Hmph,” Joker frowned, disappointed at the emptiness, “Are you that embarrassed of me, Bats?” He spoke loud enough to be heard down the hall. The thin man crossed his arms and dejectedly inspected the ceiling molding, “You had to ring my doorbell and run?” he slowly sauntered out from the door and into the hall, “I know you're not one for pranks but you could have at least left a flaming bag of--”

 

“Joker.” Bruce glided in close and sudden: the way the he moved when he wanted to intimidate someone. It had worked on dozens of criminals and cops alike, but Joker wasn’t spooked.

 

The thin man only gave a mild exclamation, “Ohhh,” and licked his lips, “You didn’t tell me there would be a dress code tonight.” Joker’s eyes dilated at seeing Bruce in his full suit this close for the first time in years, something hidden and feral rising to the surface for a fraction of a moment, but he checked his attitude and clicked his tongue, motioning at himself: unpainted face and plain-colored clothes, “I’m underdressed.”

 

The thin man leaned seductively forward to embrace the billionaire, “I hope you don’t mind, Bats,” he splayed a pale hand over the bat logo on Bruce’s chest, his curvaceous mouth angled on a path to meet the billionaire’s lips. If Bruce were to lean forward it would complete the pattern, close the gap that Joker had left him, like the missing knocks in the pattern on the door…

 

But at the last moment the thin man feinted away, green eyes turned toxic, “You’ve been to Arkham.” Joker accused Bruce as if he were confronting a cheating partner, “I can smell it on you.” He rapped a scolding knuckle against the Batsuit before drawing his fingers down the billionaire’s torso, following the seams.

 

“I’ve been to Arkham,” Bruce growled, clenching a fist, “So what?”

 

“You wouldn’t dare send me back there,” the threat was instantaneous, Joker showed his teeth, the vicious expression anything but a smile, “Not now. Not after everything .” For all his anger there was a crestfallen note ringing in the thin man’s words.

 

“That’s for me to decide,” Bruce glared through the cowl, “Tell me what you’re planning.”

 

“Why would little old me be up to something?” Joker slid closer, twirling a hand through the slack of the billionaire’s cape.

Bruce has always preferred the distance the suit put between them, the practical black Kevlar to cushion a blow or deflect a bullet. Despite the armor, Joker had always found a vulnerable entry-point, a space between the plates to slip a knife. Now as those deft hands traced over his chest, Bruce wished he could feel their touch in detail, not distant and deadened behind black leather.

 

Like a dance partner getting into position, the thin man caressed one hand over the billionaire’s hip before he taunted, “You’re getting paranoid, you know that?”

 

Bruce knew what was happening a moment too late, throwing Joker off of him as the thin man plucked the grappling gun from his belt and pressed the barrel to the billionaire’s forehead. The metal was cold even through the mask. If Joker fired the grappling gun in this range it probably wouldn’t kill him.

 

“Joker—” Bruce began, a familiar rise of adrenaline surging into his system.

 

But the thin man only cackled, “Oh come on, you missed this, didn’t you?”

 

The half-light did not flatter Joker, sharpening the angles of his face, making the thin man look like a devilish phantom, the ultimate skeleton in the closet. His face isn’t quite right without his makeup-- the thought ended abruptly when the thin man cracked the butt of the gun into the side of Bruce’s head and took off running, darting down the hall into the shadows.

Chapter Text

The cacophony of a toppled suit of armor brought Bruce out of his daze, and he was off, charging after the thin man.  At the landing there was nothing but darkness; no sound in his ears except the rushing of his blood and breathing.  

 

Then a crash as more armor clattered to the ground in the far corner, followed by the whisper of an antique bladed pike soaring like a javelin through the dark and a voice as lewd as a catcall, “Yoo hoo, Batsy!”  Bruce ducked and rolled, the weapon just missing him, slicing cleanly through the edge his cape before burying itself in the carpet and hardwood.  

 

The billionaire caught just a glimpse of Joker straddled on the bannister before the thin man kicked off, sliding down the flight of stairs, cartoonish and wild, howling with laughter.  At the next landing the thin man leapt and tumbled, positioning himself with two strides of his long legs, before shooting off the grappling gun at the chandelier.  

 

The hook caught among the brass and crystal, chiming softly as the thin man choked up on the wire and got a running start, launching over the railing into the air.   He kicked his feet out at the thrill of the swing, a mad and childish caricature.  It would have been faster for Joker just to sprint down the steps, but he was never one to give up an opportunity for needless theatricality.

 

Bruce dove down the first flight, barely touching the steps, vaulting over the second railing and colliding with Joker right as the thin man’s hands let go of the gun.  They tumbled down against the marble with a handful of chandelier crystals, sliding hard across the foyer and into an end table, shattering a vase and knocking a picture frame from its place on the wall.  

 

They stayed sprawled where they fell, cloaked under Bruce’s cape like they were tucked in under some darkly comical bedclothes. The billionaire’s weight pinned them both to the ground, though Joker’s arm was outstretched, fingers clawing against the floor like a trapped spider, the longest of the digits just a pace or so from the front door.  

 

Above them, the chandelier bobbed over empty air, an irregular pendulum, threatening to let loose, but the chain held as its orbit slowed, woefully lopsided with the weight of the gun still tangled in its arms. It was then that Bruce realized he was panting against Joker’s neck, close enough to taste the saltiness of the thin man’s sweat on every inhale.  His mouth almost watered at the thought of pressing his tongue against that skin.  

 

The billionaire sat up, keeping Joker still between his thighs, grabbing the wiry arms that tried to lace their way around his neck and shoulders.  “Oh baby, I’m flattered,” the thin man was coy, batting his eyes, “If you wanted a chase, all you had to do was ask.”  

 

There was something disgusting and delicious in the way the thin man squirmed beneath him.  Some part of Bruce relished it, the particular way his heart raced when Joker grinned up at him, wiggling against the billionaire’s body, enjoying any and every inch of contact.  Oh god… there was something about having the upper hand on this menace that made Bruce feel so utterly hot-blooded and powerful.  

 

“This isn’t—” the billionaire cleared his throat.  He had a hard time articulating the proper sternness, “This isn’t funny.”  

 

“Then why am I laughing?”  the thin man trilled, playful.  

 

Bruce hauled them both upright, roughly pulling Joker’s arms behind the thin man’s back.  “You’re alway laughing,” the billionaire grumbled.  

 

“You got me on that one!” Joker leered at him from over his shoulder, as Bruce forced them both forward toward the stairs like a cop walking a perpetrator through the station.  As they climbed, thin man could not be silenced, “Oh come on, don’t I get a prize?  I almost made it out,” he taunted, candy-sweet, “And I only tried it after you begged me to do it.”  

 

“Stop it.”

 

“Are you my consolation prize?”  Joker stopped short and threw himself back into Bruce, fingers clawing at his the codpiece of his armor.  

 

Bruce jerked Joker’s back even closer against his chest, snarling over the thin man’s shoulder, into his ear, “Shut the hell up.”  Held this tightly, this close, the billionaire could feel the giggle bubbling out of the thin man before he heard it.  

 

“Wait, wait, wait: first you want me to tell you what I'm planning,” Joker squirmed in Bruce’s grip without success, “And now you want me to shut up,” he sashayed his hips, drawing the billionaire’s attention to where the thin man’s ass met the Batsuit, “Make up your mind, already. Sheesh!”

 

In a burst of movement, Joker roughly twisted his wrists loose and checked Bruce into the stairwell, “Why don't you tell me--” the thin man scooted backwards, angling his hips out of reach as he dodged away from Bruce’s grab, “--what the hell it is we’re doing?”

 

The billionaire was ready to spring into action and lunge after Joker but the thin man didn't make a break for it, instead, he heavily took a seat on the step above, collapsing with the same dramatic flair of a child readying to throw a tantrum.  Seated just so, his was about eye-level from where the billionaire stood on the steps below.

 

Joker continued, dry amusement dusted over his growing exasperation,, “Don't tell me that lie you told the docs,” the thin man rubbed a hand along tension in his neck, “That this is rehab.”  Joker took aim at the billionaire with narrowed eyes.  For a moment the two of them just breathed, and Bruce stood stock still, a cold feeling seeping into his chest.

 

“If you send me back to Arkham, I'll escape in a day,” Joker said matter-of-fact, lounging back on the steps, “And if I truly needed out of here, I would be gone.”

 

The billionaire's breath caught, suddenly concerned for what life would look like if Joker weren't close at hand. He’s right where he wants to be.  Given the right opportunity and motivation, the thin man could and would escape; dissolving into the night like a half-remembered nightmare.  Bruce was careful to keep any emotional leanings out of his question, “So you're… choosing to stay here?”

 

The thin man buffed his nails against the front of his shirt and gave them a critical inspection, indignant, “Um, you invited me, if I recall.”

 

From this angle, without his trademark grin, the thin man seemed hollow, like some dried butterfly in its case: an empty facsimile of the wild man that had swung from the chandelier minutes earlier.  If not for the green color in his hair and the knife-like glint in his eyes, the thin man might have even passed for an ordinary man.  

 

But Joker wasn't ordinary.  He wasn’t the billionaire’s pet in a cage, not a specimen in a jar.  The thin man was very much a capable being who-- through some plot or delusion, surely-- had elected to stay here at the manor.  With Bruce.  He stared down at Joker, at a loss for words.

 

In a flash it all seemed so utterly unfair: the billionaire in full Batsuit and Joker without so much as a tube of lipstick or his usual coattails.  Almost as if bowing to be knighted, Bruce knelt in front of the thin man on the stairs and slowly pushed back the cowl.  His skin crawled where the air touched his brow and brushed over the back of his neck. This is so much worse-- so much more difficult to undress in front of Joker than to simply arrive without; the process of revealing so much more terrifying than the fact of nudity.  The action left the billionaire feeling depleted, as though the suit lent him some power that dissipated when the mask left his face.  

 

There was more than exhaustion washing over him, something larger and indescribable, an unfilled need for physical contact, something to brush against in the darkness, to remind him he had company here on the edge.  The space between he and Joker had narrowed considerably; the thin man could easily reach out and run his touch along Bruce’s shoulders, bring his knees together to press against Bruce’s hips, and though the billionaire hungered for it, the thin man did not move.  

 

“I don’t know what we’re doing,” Bruce tried to comb some order into his dark locks, “I was so tired of our old patterns…” a fragile admission, “I thought maybe something had changed…”  

 

When Bruce looked up he found the thin man watching him intently, and a twitch flickered across Joker’s mouth: a soft, amused half-smile.  Any further words dribbled out of Bruce’s mind when he saw the expression cross the thin man’s enticing lips.  There was a tremble  in a tendon in Joker’s throat as the thin man leaned towards him.  The billionaire felt his stomach lurch, like he was losing his footing on some wet metal roof, rushing down an incline and unable to stop himself, nowhere for his hook to catch, no glass to break in an emergency escape route, no way to stop inevitable from surging onward.  

 

Joker caught the back of the billionaire’s neck with a firm press of his hand, crashing their mouths together in a sudden kiss.  Bruce seized the moment, pushing deep and frantic as though he might not get another chance to do so, as though Joker might evaporate directly out of his grasp.  The billionaire poured all his confusion and attraction into the hard, immediate embrace, as though force alone might keep the thin man here beside him.  

 

The billionaire wove a gauntleted hand into the thin man’s hair, desperate in his need for closeness, tongue probing forward beyond the thin man’s teeth, flexing against the warm, slick spaces of his mouth.  Absently he thought about how the shape of Joker’s lips were becoming familiar now, how they were starting to fit beside his own…

 

A moment or two more, and Bruce realized he had lost himself to the thin man somewhere along the way, having forgotten his earlier worries. He pulled back, retrieving his hand and extracting himself from the kiss, still close enough for his breath to shift the thin man’s bangs as he gasped out a piece of a question, not sure what the other half of the sentiment should have been, “Joker--?”

 

“Mmm?” Joker mumbled dreamily, grip at Bruce’s neck going slack with contentment.  The thin man’s entire expression had altered, the uninspired emptiness of a moment ago now filled with the glimmering, amused spark of his usual slyness.  “Listen, Bats, I think this whole thing would be easier if you loosened up a little,” the thin man said wearing a smug, victorious smirk, “Maybe that name has a… complicated connotation for you.  What if you called me something else?”

 

The billionaire was taken aback, as if the thin man could read the swirl of thoughts in his head, the tally of all the things gone wrong.  Bruce just stuttered, “What?”  

 

“Something sweet, hmm?”  Joker reached a pale hand up to tousle his own green locks where the billionaire’s gauntlet had gripped him, “How about… Honeycakes? Surgarpie?” he cocked his head and winked, “Snookums?  Stud?”  

 

“God no, not those,” the suggestions felt so insane, there was flash of stunned silence before Bruce even had the sense to intervene, “Don’t you have an actual name?”  

 

“Joker’s the name, don’t wear it out,” came the thin man’s automatic quip.  

 

“Before Joker,” Bruce set a hand on the thin man’s knee, and when he found the contact to be warm and steadying, he left it there.  The thin man’s green eyes hotly regarded the billionaire but neither of them shifted away.  

 

Joker answered stiffly, “If there was a name, it hasn’t been me for a long time.”  

 

Bruce asked, gently confused, “Not Jack?”

 

“No Bruuuce,” the thin man rolled his eyes, “That’s just what the docs call me.”  The billionaire’s name sounded unforgivably stupid in that tone, out of that mouth.  Batsy, not Bruce.  But if not Jack, not Joker, then what?  

 

“How about Jo?” the thin man suggested, face bright at the idea.   

 

The billionaire wrinkled his brow, doubtful,  “As in Jo Ker?”  

 

“Why not?”  Joker ran his fingers up Bruce’s arm and shoulder, not stopping when his trail met the bare skin of the billionaire’s throat and jaw line, “A favorite alias for a favorite nemsis.”  

 

“Alright, then...  Jo--” Bruce reluctantly tried it on for size, willfully ignoring the way Joker’s eyes lit up at the new pet name.  But as soon as the sound left the billionaire’s tongue he was flooded with such an amused sense of ease, it was sickening.  The name started out familiar, so close to Joker and yet so different. It had all the privacy of a nickname but it didn't fully deny their history: it made Bruce think about their cat-and-mouse scheming, about running his database for “Jo Ker,” the excitement of encountering a facial match on some street security camera feed, and knowing he had a meeting scheduled in some dark alley with this criminal.

 

Jo. Using a nickname came with the comforting permission to be casual, an intimacy that was somehow both appropriate and audacious and attractive.  Jo.  The name was a secret just sweet enough for the two of them.  It held the lush, hot memories of their bodies pressed close, the taste of cinnamon and cider, the perfect gesture of the jester card drawn with bat ears, the feeling of pushing back his mask in the presence of very particular company.  

 

“Okay,  Jo,” the billionaire had to pause to wet his tongue before he could continue, “You said that you required either violence or sex to keep control of yourself.”  Bruce felt the thin man’s thigh tense beneath his hand as the billionaire began his proposition, “Promise me you won’t try to escape or hurt anyone or destroy anything if I…” it all seemed so clear-cut in his head a moment ago, but speaking it aloud made the negotiation feel absurd, dangerous.  Bruce finished the thought in a rush, “-- if I take you to bed regularly.”  

 

Joker fought to keep the thrill that ran through him from showing on his face but wasn’t wholly successful, a starved-animal look heightening his attentiveness for a second before his gaze reformed its usual green flirtatiousness, “Keep me happy and who knows what’s possible,” he raised an eyebrow, lips tightly curled in an eager grin.  

 

“How can I be sure you’ll comply,” Bruce insisted, cold eyes bearing hard into Joker, “Promise me.”

 

The thin man filled out his chest and spoke with a grandiose theater voice, as mocking as it was serious, “You have my word!”  

 

“That’s worthless,” the billionaire said, but his scolding was half-hearted.  He could feel himself coming unfocused, his hand sliding further up the thin man’s leg, a fantasy of having the thin man right here on the dark stairwell being sketched in further detail in his mind.  

 

Joker leaned invitingly forward, his tongue darting out to trace his lips before he answered, “You’ll have to take that risk.”  

 

Bruce held perfectly still for a moment, as if he were contemplating on his options.  And then he let out his breath and gave his brash answer, “Done.”  

 

In one swift motion, the billionaire yanked the thin man to his feet before hoisting him up and over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, playfully marching both of them upstairs.  “Whaa-- hey!”  Joker’s yelp of alarm quickly unraveled into hysteria.  He squirmed and tried to bend himself upright, pressing hard with his palms in the small of Bruce’s back.  Tickled at being manhandled like this, he called out between gulps of air, “Unhand me, you brute!” Before falling limp against the billionaire with wordless peals of laughter once more.


Chapter Text

The thin man was tossed over Bruce’s shoulder, shouting and laughing, Joker’s voice stoking the coals that had been sleeping in the billionaire’s abdomen, lighting a new chemistry in his brain, his blood; suddenly his suit seemed too close, the throat of his cape, too tight.  Bounding down the hall, Bruce was quick to lock them inside Joker’s quarters once more, arming the latch one handed, while the other arm gripped the thin man’s thigh.   

 

In a rush in the bedroom, the billionaire dropped Joker back on his feet and seized the thin man by the collar, yanking them together for another kiss.  Their embrace on the stairs had felt so tempting and satisfying, but kissing Joker now, the billionaire wondered how he had survived those last few minutes without the thin man’s mouth open and pressed against his own.  

 

Bruce broke them apart, his fist still bunched in the front of Joker’s shirt, his grip so hard he nearly had the thin man off his feet.  Joker hung onto the billionaire’s forearm to take some of the weight off himself and lessen the strain, the tips of his toes just barely spinning on the carpet, his entire body quivering with laughter like a banner in the wind.

 

The billionaire was panting despite his attempt at self-control as he undid the buckle at the suit’s waist, “Touch the belt again,” he tried to sound fierce as he dropped the heavy utility belt to the floor behind him, “And all this stops, understand?”  

 

In reaction to the gruff growl of Bruce’s voice, the thin man managed to calm his chuckling to a manageable level and held up his hands in fabricated fear.  Joker’s eyes were wide, manic, but still he gave a cavalier two-fingered salute, facetious respect of authority, “Yessir.”  

 

Bruce almost dropped the thin man to the floor in his haste to put his hands to use, undoing the fastenings on the Batsuit.  

 

Joker’s hands on his own clothes were practised and swift, fluttering down the front of his vest and dress shirt in a blur, the clothes flapping off his shoulders and into the carpet with a shuffle of air.  The billionaire had only gotten as far as undoing the clasp on his cape before the thin man wrapped his arms around Bruce’s neck, pressing his bare torso against the plates of black Kevlar and humming with pleasure as he licked a warm tongue into the curve of the billionaire’s ear.  

 

Bruce shuddered at the touch, feeling himself throb hard against the suit between his legs.  “Give me a second,” he gritted his teeth and pushed Joker back-first onto the bed, where the thin man landed in a rumble of blankets.  

 

The billionaire undid the clasps at his side and under his arm, pulling the front panel off of his shoulders and chest.  The armor bulked and sculpted his shape, but the strength of his muscles still showed, stretching his form-fitting underarmor in all the right places.

 

Gauntlets and gloves were next, tossed to clatter against the baseboard.  He rolled his wrists and stretched his fingers, knuckles cracking, forearms rippling. Bruce angled his neck and yanked the stiff fabric of his underarmor shirt off over his head.  The cool air was a relief against his skin, the top half of his body now mercifully bare and gleaming with sweat.

 

As the billionaire emerged from pulling his head out from under his shirt, Joker let out a strangled sound from his place on the bed.  Bruce turned to see the thin man laid back, half-propped up on his elbows.  Though he had shed his shirt, Joker hadn't opened his pants, and the fabric was now tight against the bulge between his legs.

 

The thin man’s fists were clenched at his sides. At his mouth, a glimpse of white teeth pinched at his bottom lip.  Joker sat, trapped by his own desires, caught between anticipation and satisfaction, in torturous ecstasy.

 

Watching the alluring show of the thin man’s predicament, the billionaire had to blink a few times before he seemed able to re-engage his brain.  His hands, suddenly lost and useless, bumbled against the waist of his suit.  “... you all right?”  

 

“Never better,” the thin man answered. His voice was softened from its usual overzealousness by a strong fog of arousal.  The muscles across his chest were tight, as he betrayed his own bluff, laying his head back against the mattress chuckling  weakly, a hand at his brow,  “Ohh…”

 

It was such a display, Bruce almost crossed the room to check the thin man’s vital signs, but asked instead, “What?”

 

“You're just… uh…” Joker tipped his head back up to look at the billionaire, losing his words again when his eyes met the wide swath of Bruce’s muscles and where they met the hard, dark shapes of the remainder of the suit, “... fulfilling a favorite fantasy here.”

 

Taking off the suit. The thought now colored every memory of the two of them and their attire. Bruce wore black and leather to move through the city unseen, used the sharp shapes of his mask and armor and cape to strike fear into his enemies. Now it was revealed that the suit only turned Joker on, that the thin man got hard when he imagined removing it, piece by piece.

 

The billionaire recalled their encounters and thought about that awful, flirty, hungry grin on Joker’s face; tactile memories of lipstick and lush silk and purple fabrics, supple leather gloves… easy, easy… we're just here to blow off some steam… He caught himself:  we?  This was for Joker, Bruce thought, to keep the thin man complacent. Right?  

 

It was this or let Joker run wild, let his own temper get the best of him. They would try this out, pursue this other physical feeling. It was that or Bruce and the thin man could bait and fight and destroy and escape and murder-- really, it wasn't a choice.  On the bed before the billionaire, the thin man moaned, palming himself through his pants…  It's always been this.

 

Satisfied the thin man wasn't going into cardiac arrest, the billionaire bent to undo the guards on his quads and shins-- “Mmm,” Came Joker’s response to the sight of Bruce’s well-toned butt in the cling of his underarmor leggings. “It's downright criminal to hide that ass behind your cape…”

 

Grumbling slightly, the billionaire pointedly didn't flinch upright or turn away, instead taking his time finishing removing the plates from his legs and loosening his boots, feeling Joker’s eyes rove over him. Bruce put a hand on the wall to steady himself, and kicked off his boots, the texture of the carpet jarringly soft on the bare soles of his feet.

 

When he undid the buckles on the straps for the codpiece, Bruce paused, cupping the last piece of armor in place; the gentle force of the action creating enough friction to send a rush of blood to his loins and bring some heat to his face.

 

“You're making dreams come true here, Batsy,” Joker was quick to open his dress pants and tug his cock out, flushed pink and already so hard, running his eager touch against the skin.  The thin man gave a violent tremble and had to stop himself from going any further.

 

Sheer, maddening want emanated off of Joker-- the sounds in his throat, the fire in his eyes, the faint smell of his sweat and shampoo-- as if the thin man’s lust was so strong, he induced the billionaire's arousal by proximity alone. The thin man had shoved his dress pants off his hips and halfway down his thighs before he froze to watch Bruce let the codpiece drop. Removing the armor showed off the press of the billionaire's erection against his under armor leggings.

 

“Mmpff,” Joker made a noise like Bruce had knocked the wind out of him, before the thin man pushed off the last of his clothes and plunged his hand down below his balls and between his cheeks.

 

For a moment, the billionaire was heavily distracted by the miles of posed, pale leg stretched over the bed.

 

The thin man asked, his voice halting in time with his fingers, “Have you got something slippery in that belt of yours?”

 

The request staggered Bruce for a moment, surprise quickly replaced with uneasy embarrassment for his over-preparedness.  Not speaking, he retrieved the lubricant from the medical pouch on his utility belt and tossed it to the thin man.

 

Joker just barely caught the tube before it hit him in the face, rushing to uncap it, “You really do have everything in there, don't you?”  The thin man slicked his fingers and went back to work stretching himself between his legs. “Take off your clothes and stay awhile, darling,” Joker eyed the shape of the billionaire's erection outlined in his leggings.

 

Bruce’s cock ached for contact, skin throbbing with the heat of his pulse, but his hands hesitated at his hips, fingering his last piece of clothing, the last scrap of the Batsuit on his body.  The two of them had bodily crashed together, had been intimate before, but the billionaire had avoided full nudity, something about the complete exposure too much to bear.

 

Joker’s insults from their last encounter buzzed in his head… I had thought that we didn’t need the masks… but maybe the props are critical to your performance… Bristling at the thought, Bruce glanced down at his chest to see the reassuring, indelible stripes of scars that would always mark him as Batman, even without the cape and cowl.

 

He shoved the leggings over his buttocks, down his legs and off his ankles, straightening up, fully naked.  If Bruce were this bare with anyone else, he would offer his usual preposterous excuses for his built muscles and scarred body: spelunking… an overly rigorous athletic routine… clumsiness… But Joker already knew, already understood; the thin man had put so many of those marks there himself, and somehow that knowledge only made Bruce’s cock jut out from his pelvis even harder, so full and wanting.

 

Over the last few days they  had mercilessly teased each other and physically fumbled together, but the billionaire had not been inside the thin man since that first encounter, all that haphazard touching, pressing Joker flush up against the wall in his reckless haste.  It was a challenge to resist the urge to rush relentlessly forward now, but if he did, Bruce would miss the chance to take in the sights.  

 

For a long moment, Bruce only stared, slowly tugging on his erection while he drank in the sight of the thin man stretched out on his back along the bed.  Lean and lovely and pale, Joker’s bony body was as beautiful and oddly macabre like the moonlit marble of a cemetery statue. There was a sparse dusting of evergreen hairs beneath the thin man’s arms, in a line below his navel, fuller and darker beneath his cock and groping hand…

 

“Indulge me, baby,” Joker pleaded, “I did all the talking last time. Tell me what you like,” his words grew tattered as his touch ran against something internal and glorious, “Tell me what you like about me.”

 

The billionaire's tongue felt like cotton in his mouth, the false charm and stock compliments of playboy Wayne distinctly out of reach and utterly irrelevant when it came to Joker.  He took a step closer to the bed where Joker’s calves spilled off the end of the mattress, toes curling in expectant pleasure, milky thighs spread open.

 

On Joker’s torso, pink and silver scars laced along his creamy complexion and among crooked places where bones had broken and been set askew.  Bruce noticed a bullet wound on the thin man's shoulder that most certainly was not from his actions and a sharp hook of a scar at the side of the thin man's abdomen that most certainly was from his batarang.

 

The billionaire almost trembled at the sight of Joker laid out like a personal banquet. Every mark and bend on the thin man's body drew the billionaire's touch like a magnet, fingers itching for contact, “Your skin,” Bruce choked out, reluctant, “... is amazing.”  

 

Leaning forward, the billionaire ran his palms against the thin man’s smoothness, surprisingly warm to the touch.  The billionaire marveled at how rough and tan his own body looked in comparison, the glaring masculinity of his dark body hair compared to the thin man’s perfect, porcelain complexion. Bruce’s fingers trailed along the path of the thin man’s shoulders, traced the seam of his sternum, tumbled down the ladder of Joker’s ribs. The thin man’s skin broke out in goose flesh as Bruce watched and Joker let loose a luxurious sigh.

 

When he reached the batarang scar, Bruce was overtaken by a possessive delirium, digging his nails along the mark, flexing the same muscles in his hands that had thrown the blade that did the damage… you're mine, mine, mine… down to your skin and bone…

The thin man mewled at the rake of the billionaire's nails, straining his body up against the muscled body above him.

 

Bruce bent closer, pressing his lips to Joker’s collarbone, sucking hard and then pressing teeth against skin and bone.  At the sharpness couched in the wet touch, the thin man called out, “Batsy!”  There were no clothes between them; every place they made contact was skin on skin, and Bruce folded his body closer, pressing them both into the bed, feeling the hot, taut flesh of their erections between them.

 

The billionaire wrapped his hand around Joker’s cock, rubbing gently, while he buried his face out of view in folds of cotton sheets, still close enough to kiss the thin man’s shoulder.  “You want me,” Bruce murmured into the thin man’s hair, his words almost a question, laced with breathless disbelief.

 

“Oh--” Joker gasped, working his jaw in silence a moment before he managed, “Of course I do, where have you been--” Bruce closed his grip tighter on the thin man's cock, and Joker’s words dropped off.  The thin man tipped his face against the billionaire's ear and hushed, “I've always wanted you.”  

 

With that mouth whispering so close, Bruce felt himself falter, a twirl of desire tensing his abdomen. He couldn't-- didn't want to-- stifle a moan, rutting his body closer against Joker.

 

The thin man responded with a throaty sound, halfway between a laugh and a groan. The billionaire kept his face close, lost in blankets and skin and hair, eyes half-closed, easier to confess, “Your voice,” he kissed the side of Joker’s neck, “I like your voice…” he ran his tongue against the thin man’s jawline, making Joker coo and flex close against him, before the thin man turned to press his own open-mouthed kisses against Bruce’s temple.  

 

At the touch of the thin man’s tongue, the pleasurable humming in the billionaire's muscles was quickly building to a full-on rush of excited expectancy, not dissimilar from the surge of adrenaline the billionaire felt jumping off of a balcony after the thin man earlier. Bruce’s body was thrumming with tense energy, his mind a claustrophobic passage of subliminal heat and want.

 

Breathing hard, he pulled away, sitting back on his knees to fish the tube of lubricant out of the blankets, wasting only perfunctory seconds to slick himself before he hauled Joker close, gripping the thin man by his hips.  Bruce shoved the thin man’s upper body down into the mattress with the hard press between Joker’s shoulder blades, turning thin man over and slanting his back at a steep angle.  

 

Joker was quivering with anticipation, his breath hitching when he felt the billionaire line himself up along his ass, “Yesss…” The thin man was slick and open and ready and the billionaire's entry was sinfully smooth.

 

They both called out when Bruce’s cock slid into place, feeling the obscene, divine push of the other’s body against their own skin.  The air rushed out of the thin man as the billionaire edged his hips closer, pushing deeper.  

 

For a moment, Bruce held still, the satisfaction of being inside Joker disrupting any sense of logic, shattering his clinical composure.  The billionaire gripped his hands against Joker’s sides and asked, slightly unbalanced, “Did you jerk off when you were… away?”  His voice was gruffer, more explicit than he had intended to sound.  

 

“Oh, most definitely,” the thin man leaned his head on his forearms, almost serene for a second in the chaos of their demanding appetites.  

 

“Did you think about this?” Bruce gave an experimental shift of his pelvis, a shallow thrust that pushed him closer still, “Did you think about having me inside you like this?”  

 

“Every night,” Joker was quick with his answer, but his confident tone wavered as Bruce slowly began thrusting, in and out, rocking them together and apart in rhythm. The thin man’s breath quickened, new tension filling out his shoulders as he moaned, “Oh dar-ling…”

 

Joker’s back went stiff against Bruce’s hand as the thin man tried to lever himself up on his elbows, but the billionaire shoved him back down with a grunt, intent on holding Joker still, controlling the scene.  To reassert his dominance, Bruce pumped his cock deeper with a brutal thrash of his hips that brought a delicate yelp from the thin man’s throat. A shower of giggles followed, Joker thoroughly enjoying the roughness.

 

Face mashed against the sheets, Joker turned his head, just barely able to angle his gaze back towards the billionaire. The thin man’s eyes were smoldering green flames, his teeth locked in a wide grin, “Harder.”

 

It was an easy request for Bruce to oblige, in line with his own wants, and he leaned into Joker, burying himself deeper into smooth, hot flesh, moving with more vigor.  The thin man whined his approval into the pillows, keeping his body steady to give Bruce better purchase to slam against.  

 

The billionaire vaguely realized that he was appreciative of Joker’s style: the thin man was anything but shy and pliant under his grip, but not so aggressive as to turn their exchange into a full-on fight. The thin man knew just how to take the push and the pain that Bruce dealt and push back with just enough resistance to elevate them both to headier heights.

 

The thin man’s next request should have come as no surprise. “Hit me.”

 

Joker had said that phrase to Bruce before, when they had tangled in a different way out on the streets. The words were shaped so entirely by context; in the old days, the thin man said it to ignite the billionaire’s anger, to bait him into a fury.  Hit me. But now the request was salacious and tempting for different reasons.

 

“Come on, I want you to do it,” Joker said again, voice guttural between his half-laughter, “Hit me!”

 

A snap rang out in the bedroom as the flat of Bruce’s palm squarely connected with the thin man’s ass.  Joker wailed and clenched down on the billionaire, making Bruce gasp at the body that wrapped so tightly around his cock. This was perfection: a blend of every violent thrill they used to share and everything sensual impulse they wanted now in this very second, blurring together into gut-knotting satisfaction.

 

The billionaire’s hand buzzed at the brisk contact, and as he watched, a ruddy patch bloomed on the thin man’s pale skin.  Between choppy, hysterical laughs, Joker burst out, “Again! Again!”

 

Slap! The thin man’s body jerked at the shock of the impact, closing as tight as a fist around Bruce’s cock. Joker moaned, long and low, in utter rapture, limbs shuddering, joints soft.

“Again,” the thin man was breathless, insatiable, “Harder!”

 

Snap! The billionaire grunted with the effort of the next slap, hand burning from the sharp contact, nerves ringing up the chain of his arm muscles, the heart-pumping gratification of delivering the hit flowing to feed the heat between his legs.  

 

The thin man was blubbering into the pillows in time with every plunge of Bruce’s erection, “Bats! Bats! Bats!” Still pinned in place by the billionaire, Joker had nothing to grab, no visceral outlet to express his pleasure, instead yanking hard on his own hair, white knuckles knotted in green.

 

Lifting his hand from where it was pressed into Joker’s spine, Bruce grabbed a handful of the thin man’s hair and pulled.  Joker’s lips drew back off his teeth with a grim smile, “Oh yes--aahhhh--!” The billionaire led the thin man up off the bed by his grip, bending Joker in a tight arc, the thin man pushing both hands hard into the mattress to angle himself.

 

Still, Bruce rode hard against the thin man, gliding his cock inside all the way to the base and back out again.  Tugging harder at Joker’s hair, the billionaire bent forward to tuck his face where the thin man’s neck curved into his shoulder.  This angle gave him a glimpse of Joker’s pale-skinned torso and his stiff, pink cock, the later of which was bobbing, untouched, between the thin man’s legs in time with Bruce’s movements.

 

The sight made the billionaire ache down the column of his core, hungry and desperate for release. To keep himself quiet, Bruce dug his teeth into the trapezius muscle of Joker’s neck, but the reaction of the thin man, “Fuck-- Batsy!pleading and panting out his pleasure, only drove the billionaire closer to bursting.

 

The approaching wave of Bruce’s climax caught him off guard in its immediacy. The billionaire shifted his hand away from Joker’s hair to wrap a muscled arm across the thin man’s chest, bending him upright enough to lift Joker’s hands off the mattress, holding the thin man close enough for Joker to loll his head back on the billionaire’s shoulder.  The thin man had his eyes pinched shut, his words hissing through his teeth, “Don't stop… Do it. Do it!”

 

Bruce started to growl a warning into the thin man’s ear, “Jo, I--”

 

But that name on his tongue, the heat of the named man himself so close and encompassing, every bend of their bodies forcibly fitted together-- Bruce spent himself in a dizzying burst, not able to finish his sentence, words melting into throaty, selfish noises, punctuated with close and urgent thrusts into his partner.

 

Somewhere in the frenzy, the billionaire slipped a hand off Joker’s hip, moving forward to stroke the thin man’s cock, only to find the thin man already trembling and damp and with come. The touch  ruptured Bruce’s thoughts, the sensitive throes of his aftershock still ringing between his own legs, and it felt as though he had lost track of where his body ended and Joker’s began, leaving him only with the sensation of skin and scars and sweat.

 

After a final beat, Joker flopped forward into the blankets with a twittering sigh, and Bruce followed, collapsing on top of the thin man, reluctant to withdraw his cock from the enveloping warmth of his partner’s body.  Laying with his chest pressed against Joker’s back, some calculating part of Bruce’s mind cautioned him that Joker could headbutt him from this angle, break the billionaire’s nose and make his escape…

 

He took a steadying breath to try and clear the worry from his thoughts.  To compensate,  Bruce ran a hand against the back of Joker’s head, fingers gently spooling through the thin man’s hair. Muffled by pillows and blankets, Joker moaned his approval. The thin man sounded wholly exhausted, his mania and hyper-enthusiasm tempered into sleepy chuckling.

 

Internally, the billionaire took stock. How did he feel?  Good.  So good, he should be condemned.  Like mumbling, dreamy, Joker, Bruce felt spent, floating and content; the perfect sort of sore and tired, like a well-paced workout, like a night where all the criminals were slower than him, and Bruce could leave them in a neat pile, trussed up at the police department’s doorstep.

 

Following his own logic, he had had sex with Joker for clarity, for release.  He knew his current elation was half-false: science indicated that there was little difference between the brain during orgasm and the brain on heroin. Of course he felt good in this moment, his body was overloaded with bewitching biochemistry, his mind clouded by post-coitus neurochemicals.  Did his choice of partner really make a difference for those effects?  

 

“Ohhh,” Joker finally stirred below him, lifting a shoulder enough to for Bruce to take the hint and move off the thin man, settling beside him. As his softening cock slipped out of the thin man, the feeling of cold distance was immediate; after being pressed so bodily close, coming apart now made the small space between them on the bed seem like miles.  The billionaire swallowed back an incriminating, longing sigh.

 

Clearing his throat, Bruce asked, “How do you feel?” his voice quiet in their closeness.

 

Eyes a little glassy, Joker turned to the billionaire, “Oh... my darling… sexy Bat…” he shimmied and shook out his bed-ravaged hair, extending one long arm to drape along the headboard, “Where have you been all my life?”   The question didn’t require an answer, the thin man’s tone ever in jest but the taunt in his style had lost some of its meanness, its madness: the lunatic tamed by the proper reward.  

 

As the billionaire's heart rate lowered and his body slowly cooled, he edged himself upright, hung one leg off the side of the mattress, but went no further.  What now?  What happened after their old exchanges, after they had begrudgingly parted ways or Joker had escaped?  In those eerie, early hours, Bruce’s usually came back to the cave to put in more research while Alfred stitched him up.  If he were lucky, he could soak his injuries in a hot shower and get a scant few hours of sleep.  

 

What did Joker’s personal time look like?  

 

Bruce stretched his shoulders, inducing soft popping noises as he straightened the tension his neck.  You should go, he thought, you’ve done it, now get out of here.  But the billionaire couldn’t quite find his usual motivation; their exchange had dulled some internal edge, he no longer felt that gnawing need for action, the rage that primed him for violence.  Instead he felt strangely tempted to stay, to lay in bed with Joker and see how their time would play out.  

 

An unexpected word tumbled from the thin man’s mouth, “Jouissance, darling.”  

 

The voice took Bruce out of his thoughts, “What?”  The billionaire asked, glancing over to be distracted by the long, lithe shapes of the thin man, settled easily into the sheets beside him.  

 

“A word for how we're feeling. It's French,” Joker was cordial, green eyes deep with a rare, calm intensity, “It means ‘extreme enjoyment’ or ‘ecstasy.’”

 

“I know it,” Bruce interjected.

 

Oui, I'm sure you do,” face leaned in an elegant hand, the thin man rolled his eyes and managed a wry smile, “Anything else you'd like to tell the class?”

 

The billionaire knew why Joker chose this specific vocabulary, “The word has philosophical implications that our desires are more than we can bear,” Bruce shoved himself to his feet, extended to his full height and muscle, “That desire obtained only produces madness.”

 

“Mmm,” Joker sighed and sprawled further against the sheets, belly up and head upside down like a stretching cat. It was unclear if he agreed with the billionaire’s interpretation or simply appreciated the view of Bruce’s bare body, “Wanna test that philosophy?  Another round of our desires?” The thin man stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth, “I think I still feel a little sanity rattling around the ol’ noggin.”

 

“Now there’s a joke,” Bruce answered dryly, wearing his best poker face, but Joker's enthusiasm was somehow charming and the billionaire had to turn away to the wardrobe to hide the smile creeping over his lips.

 

Chapter Text

“Uhh, can I help you?” Joker slid to his edge of the bed, suspicious as he watched a naked Bruce rifle through the thin man’s clothes.  

 

The billionaire opened the top drawer of the wardrobe and shuffled through, when he didn’t find he was looking for, he opened the second drawer. “Got it,” Bruce held up a pair of black athletic pants before slipping them on, elastic waistband snapping against his hips. They were a size too small, meant for the thin man; inseam too short to be fashionable, but just enough slack to be passable on Bruce’s built body.

 

“Pffft, rude,” Joker chided, bounding up from bed, naked and sashaying to the doorway. He took a dark terrycloth robe off the hook on the back of the door. “You could ask, you know.”

 

“I bought you these clothes,” Bruce retorted, haunty, “I could at least borrow them for a night.”

 

Slipping his arms into the robe's sleeves, the thin man closed the fabric over the his pale frame, hiding his enticing skin. “Only a night?” He flashed the billionaire a faux-innocent smile before he flounced into the other room.

 

Bruce gathered up his armor and suit into the cape and brought the bundle into the living room, setting it beside the hall door. That was when he became aware of a multitude of disturbing details he had missed in the heat of their arrival.

 

Paper scraps from earlier in the night were still strewn across the carpet and sofa, the remnants of Joker’s flowers and sing-song musings: he loves me… he loves me not… For a moment, Bruce wondered which scenario had landed on the last plucked petal, but imagining the affirmative put a knot in his throat that even the sugar-sweet, cloud-soft feelings of afterglow endorphins couldn't smooth over.

 

The knot of apprehension only pulled tighter when he turned to Joker at the table in the kitchenette. Bruce took a sharp breath, “Where did you get that?”

 

At the table, Joker absently swirled cold dregs in the bottom of a teacup before downing the last mouthful and setting the cup in its saucer. The matching teapot and creamer sat nearby on the table. “Alfie brought it up to me,” the thin man picked at a slice of dry toast on a nearby tray, provocatively nonchalant.

 

“Alfred?” the thought did not register for the billionaire, “Brought these for you?”

 

Alfred and Joker? The premise was immediately suspect. Joker must have snuck down to the kitchens… Mentioning Alfred was a distraction. He's trying to get under my skin. But Bruce recognized the culinary and decorative handiwork: the neat place settings, evidence of meals that were identical to the ones his butler had delivered to him in the cave. Joker couldn't have got past the locks. Picturing Alfred taking care of someone else-- of Joker-- left a hot sting in his chest that would not pass.

 

“Well with your visits being so sporadic,” Joker treated the billionaire to a sharp glare at the statement, “He was concerned I would get hungry.”

 

The billionaire managed to take a calm breath around the tension in his throat, but it only released a cold trickle of guilt. Bruce had been so concerned with the idea of Joker, the potential schemes and suspicions of danger, that the day-to-day needs of Joker had fallen to the side. It couldn’t have been that bad, right? After all, his own schedule of needs hadn’t deviated that far from his visitations with the thin man.

 

Beside the empty dishes and cups, there was a bowl of fruit brimming with tangerines, clean and fresh. The thin man leaned both elbows on the counter and carved a smiley face into the deep orange skin of the fruit with the nail of one finger, “You might subsist on protein shakes and black coffee but your butler thought I would want something else.”

 

The final slight spurred Bruce to be quick to insist, “I eat plenty.”

 

“Really,” the thin man scoffed, crossing the kitchenette to meet him, “What's the last meal you remember?”

 

Keeping his eyes on Joker’s approach, Bruce scrolled through his mind for the answer, before landing on, “I've been busy.”

 

“Admit it,” Joker barked out a laugh, “You eat like a bat, Bats!” The thin man leaned against the wall, just within arm’s reach. Bruce didn't move to touch him. Joker wrinkled his brow, but his mouth was still in a relaxed smirk, “And you gave me a hard time about my weight, you hypocrite.”

 

The thin man stalked in front of the billionaire, close enough that he was clearly daring Bruce to seize him this time-- and the billionaire took the bait, gathering the thin man close with a sudden sweep of his arm, catching Joker off guard enough that the thin man let out a squawk at the action. It wasn't exactly an embrace since Joker’s arms were pinned at his sides, Bruce’s position more like a wrestling hold meant to immobilize, but it still put them close and face-to-face.

 

“I still think you're too thin,” Bruce coolly replied. As the billionaire breathed, he could feel the bony frame of Joker’s ribs beneath the terrycloth robe. He could feel the heat of the thin man’s body reflecting and building off his own temperature.

 

Over the years, they had exchanged so many punches and knife swipes, not touching the other outside of their brawling or the icy, intimate brush of fingertips when putting on a pair of handcuffs. It was strange to have his hands on Joker now, outside of a sexual or violent context. It felt like some rule had been broken, personal space violated, but the thin man only grinned, unspoken permission granted.

 

These last few days were no longer strange flukes, one night stands, impulsive mistakes. There was a bargain here, a new negotiation, new rules, a new premise where touching was allowed, violence controlled, and murder prohibited. It was absurd now, the richness the wealth of being allowed to touch. He could comb his fingers through Jo’s hair if he wanted, he could lean in and kiss the thin man--

 

Abruptly, Bruce released his grip and quickly put a pace between them.

 

“Humph,” Joker huffed, brushing his bangs out of his eyes, “Did you ever consider that I'm just built this way?” He cocked a narrow hip for emphasis and when the billionaire didn't comment, Joker blew past him to the bathroom, showing a long line of bare leg between the flaps of the robe.

 

The billionaire heard the faucet squeak and water rumble into the tub. Bruce half-heartedly called to the thin man over the noise, “How often will you need…” Me? Sex? The billionaire gestured vaguely, “... this?”

 

“You're all business, huh?” Through the doorway, Joker looked up from where he was perched in the side of the tub, testing the water temperature. He listed off an exasperated litany in third person, meant to mock the billionaire, “What are you planning, Joker? Where are the bombs, Joker? Why did you poison him, Joker? How often do you need this, Joker…”.

 

He dropped the stopper in the bath, “Don't worry about the details, just stay awhile.” The thin man returned to the kitchenette, letting the tub fill.

 

Bruce toiled with his thoughts in silence, unmoving from his spot at the door.

 

“What?” The thin man probed, “Do you have somewhere to be at--” Joker mimed looking at a watch on his empty wrist, “-- half past three AM?” Vibrant green eyes regarded Bruce for a moment, waiting for response. When the billionaire only glowered, the thin man took up three pieces of fruit from the bowl and started juggling, as though it were the easiest and most natural thing to do in the world.

 

“Besides,” the thin man disrupted the trajectory of one tangerine to throw it at the billionaire’s chest. It bounced off Bruce’s pectoral muscle and rolled down the carpet. Joker continued juggling with two, “Isn’t this usually my time slot in your datebook anyway?”

 

This time, the next tangerine rocketed towards Bruce’s head, and the billionaire snatched it before it nailed him in the eye. He replied to the thin man, “I could pencil you in.”

 

Already giggling at Bruce’s close call with the thrown fruit, Joker’s face went from deviously amused to bright enjoyment at the billionaire’s answer. He clutched the last tangerine in his hand so tightly, his fingertips began to distort the peel. “Excellent,” the thin man confirmed, turning his back to Bruce and dropping the robe off his nakedness in one, fluid swoop.

 

At the bath, Joker bent to turn off the tap, giving the billionaire a clear view of his ass, cheeks still striped pink and red in the shape of Bruce’s handspan. The sight sent a brisk feeling rippling down the billionaire's back.

 

“Come on,” the thin man craned a green eye over his shoulder, “You don't have to get in, just keep me company.”

 

Slowly, inevitably, billionaire crossed to the bathroom, glancing at himself in the mirror over the sink as he passed: his face looked warm and relaxed for once instead of wan and exhausted. His attention was quickly drawn to the two playing cards tucked in the mirror frame: a pristine joker card facing off the jester that had been vandalized with a cowl and bat ears during their last visit.

 

The thin man situated himself in the water, sending a splashing wave that just crested the edge of the tub in places, pouring puddles on the floor. While Joker was so occupied, Bruce made a show of tucking the bat-eared card into place just so he could run his fingertips against the card stock again.

 

Bruce took a seat on the closed toilet.

 

The thin man had dipped his head in the tub, and his hair was dark and wet, slicked cleanly off his brow. In contrast to the white of the ceramic, the thin man’s skin had a gentle flush of color to it, pleasantly human in tone. There was still some definition missing: no reds of blood or lipstick, no blacks of gunpowder or khol. The thin man looked like a draft of himself, a work-in-progress pencil sketch of the Joker that Bruce knew.

 

The thin man had his head leaned back, and his eyes closed; it seemed like a shame to disrupt him with conversation. He disrupted himself, “Well, Batsy?” the thin man peeked out from under an eyelid, “Not so bad, hmm?”

 

For a moment, Bruce’s mind filled with vague memories of burning gasoline and running after a purple figure in the dark, “We’ve had worse nights together,” he conceded.

 

The tiled room echoed with the gentle dripping of the faucet and the soft sloshing as Joker moved in the water. In some other instance, the stifling quiet, the infuriating company might have served as some weird water torture. But for now, it felt meditative instead of maddening. The billionaire sat quietly beside his rival in the bathroom and strangely enough, he lost track of the time.

 

“Earth to Bats,” Joker spoke up again after the quiet grew too long, “Hey, Batbrain,” he flicked water at the billionaire, “Let's play a game.”

 

“That strongly depends on the game,” Bruce rolled his shoulders, set his forearms across his thighs, palms up, allowing his body to relax, “Unless you’ve forgotten how our games usually turn out.”    

 

“Oh no, nothing drastic,” Joker coaxed, waving his hand, “Not when you’ve already got me feeling so good.  I was thinking something like twenty questions,” he ran his fingers along the edge of the bath, “We can take turns asking yes or no questions.  If it’s a yes, you get another question.  A no, and the other person gets a turn.  What do you say?”  

 

The room was warm and damp with steam; it felt good to be still, to take deep, steady breaths, to be gently, unexpectedly disarmed. Bruce cautiously acquiesced, “All right.”  

 

“I’ll go first,” the thin man seized the chance, “Was I your first time?”  

 

Bruce knit his brows, “First what?”  

 

“Sex?”  

 

“Of course not,” the billionaire answered, slightly surprised that this was the line of questioning the thin man chose to open.

 

Joker shrugged and settled his shoulders deeper into the water, “Your turn, then.”  

 

Bruce blinked and countered, “Same question.”  

 

“Certainly not,” the thin man chuckled, “There are other fish in the sea,” his eyes lingered along Bruce’s abdominal muscles, “Even if you are my white whale.”  

 

The billionaire squirmed and tensed his muscles under the other’s gaze, “Your turn.”  

 

“Catwoman?”  Joker asked knowingly, eyes half-closed, as if he didn’t care.

 

Bruce attempted to be likewise aloof, “If you mean had sex, then yes.”  

 

“Hmmph,” Joker took the affirmation, jaw tense, pausing for thought, “Any men?  Other than tonight, I mean.”   

 

Leaning his head back against the wall, Bruce looked the ceiling, and considered lying. Fixing it later if he were to be found out would probably more catastrophic. The debate was short but conclusive.

 

The billionaire’s answered, “Yes.”

 

“Ooh really,” the thin man’s posture perked up at the word, lips in a swinging curve of interest, “Who could it be?” As always it was hard to tell if Joker was kidding or baiting. His guess was no different, “The Commissioner?”  

 

Bruce snapped his eyes back on Joker, baffled, “Gordon?”   

 

“The very one.”  

 

The billionaire repeated the words with unbelieving diction, “You want to know if I had sex with Commissioner Gordon?”  

 

“Still waiting on that yes or no, Bats,” Joker twittered, impatient.

 

Bruce couldn’t let the premise go, “He’s married!”  

 

“And straight as an arrow,” Joker added and agreed, “But don’t underestimate the power of the Batsuit.  So how about it?”  

 

Exasperated Bruce answered definitively, “No.”  

 

“Pity,” Joker stretched and hooked a leg up out of the water, toes on the far edge of the tub. For a moment Bruce was distracted by the drips of water trailing down the long, smooth curve of the thin man’s calf.  Joker prodded, “Your turn.”  

 

After that Gordon comment, Bruce half-considered going for the most preposterous option, he could think up, but opted for the most evident instead, “Harley.”  

 

“Obviously yes,” much to his surprise, Joker was blunt about the relationship, “But don’t take it too personally.  Her and I are more like friends with benefits. Good fun at parties— or a crime scene— the rest of the time is a hot mess.”  

 

It took Bruce a moment to realize the answer was in the affirmative and earned him another question, “Any men?” It would be a lie to say there wasn’t a hot tendril of curiosity flickering in his stomach.

 

“Oh yes,” the thin man answered, waggling his brow.  

 

“Who?”  Bruce asked without thinking.  

 

“That’s not a yes or no, darling.”  

 

Bruce took a stab of a guess, “Cobblepot?”  

 

Joker snorted, “Not a chance, Oswald and I don’t exactly match each other’s tastes,” he hummed to himself in thought, taking the time with his turn, “Hmm, what about you, Batsy?  What man have you had in the sheets before me?”  He arched an eyebrow and asked, “Bird boy?”  

 

“Robin’s a child!”  Bruce started, appalled.  

 

“From what I hear, he’s old enough to be living on his own downtown,” the thin man narrowed his eyes, “And maybe he’s got some daddy issues for that big bad Bat.”  

 

Despite the unpleasant circumstances of their parting ways, Bruce was relieved that Dick wasn’t around to see his canoodling with Joker.  There would be no way of explaining it.  He grumbled his answer, a cold knot in his chest, “No, not him.”  

 

“Worth a try,” the thin man answered with a shameless grin, “Your turn.”  

 

This time, Bruce thought more carefully before answering.  He wanted to hit on a yes with Joker.  Eventually he asked, “Nigma?”  

 

“Bingo!” Joker was pleased, “Eddie threw one hell of a Halloween party that year.  Shame you weren’t invited.”  

 

“Any other men?” Bruce suggested.  

 

“Oh a few,” the thin man teased.  

 

The billionaire couldn’t help but notice how familiar Joker’s smile was on the thin man’s face, but the expression was now a variant on an old theme.  There was something softer about his face in this moment compared to when the thin man was gleefully taking hostages or blowing up some public office.  That smile was harsh and loud and meant only trouble.  But now, those lips were shaped just so, and just for him.  

 

The billionaire was so charmed at Joker’s face; he made his next guess in jest just to egg on the expression, “Croc?”

 

“Christ on a cracker!  Was that a joke, Batsy?”  Joker exclaimed, “And here I thought you didn’t have a funny bone in your body,” the thin man ran his tongue along his lips, and took a short breath, distracted at some luscious thought, “I like the size of your muscles, darling, but Croc’s a bit too much to handle.  That’s a no.”  

 

The thin man squirmed and stretched to reach a towel from the rack on the wall, suddenly standing, bare and dripping. Mildly, Bruce ran his eyes over Joker’s wet skin, and smirked when the thin man grew a little wide-eyed at the attention. “Your turn,” the billionaire offered.  

 

Joker stepped out of the tub, splattering lukewarm water on Bruce’s toes as he dried himself. “Hmmm, gosh.  Who is your other man?” the thin man scrubbed the towel against his damp hair, and down his neck and shoulders, “Do I know him?”

 

“Yes,” Bruce stubbornly left his legs were they were, just to make the thin man’s life more difficult, and maybe to goad him into tripping and falling into the billionaire’s arms. But Joker nimbly stepped between the billionaire's limbs as he finished drying off and tossed the towel to the floor.

 

“So,” Joker returned to his previous robe, snuggling into the terrycloth as he counted off the negative possibilities on his fingers, “Not Gordon, not Robin, I doubt its your butler.”  

 

“Of course not,” Bruce spurred, leaning his elbow on the sink, “Do you give up yet?”  

 

“No, no I’ll get it.” Joker pushed a stray strand of hair out of his face, but he froze mid-gesture and let out a long, “Nooo…”  

 

“What?”  

 

“Tell me I’m wrong,” the thin man complained.    

 

Not expecting this reaction, Bruce was overly attentive, “Who do you think?”  

 

His spine, stalk-straight and eyes, acid-green Joker ventured, still unbelieving, “Not ol’ Harv?  Harvey Dent?”  

 

The billionaire nodded, his face carefully expressionless.  

 

“What?  When?!”  the thin man shouted, alarmed.  

 

Bruce wasn’t sure if he should rub it in or console Joker, “It was a long time ago, Harvey was just out of law school…” the billionaire’s words trailed off.

 

“Two-Face never mentioned this when he and I fooled around, I’ll tell you that,” Joker snapped, teeth gnashing.  

 

Stunned into silence, Bruce was jarred by the strange overlap between their lives.  Harvey and Joker?

 

“I’ll bet you only got his good side,” The thin man continued, pacing in tight circles, throwing up his hands, “Argh! I can’t believe it!  That devilish cad!”

 

“What is the issue?”  Bruce interjected, “Dent didn’t cheat on you.  This was years ago—” Then the billionaire almost laughed at the realization, a burst of childish glee coursing through his chest, “You’re jealous!”  

 

“Am not!” Joker was quick to dispute, his arms crossed over his chest, “It’s the principal of the thing.”  

 

“Yes, you’re jealous,” Bruce mocked, “You’re jealous that he got to me before you did.”  

 

“Stop it, Bats,” Joker bared his teeth, lips tight, downturned, “You’re really getting under my skin.”  

 

“Come on,” the billionaire dogged the thin man, “Surely your ego can take it.”  

 

“Oh, can it?” The thin man spun away, gesturing wildly in the air, “Harv’s a handsome man-- under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have stood a chance if he were with you.”

 

The phrase was worded in such a way that it implied something the billionaire wasn't ready to face: He has a chance with me now? A chance at what?

 

Before the thin man could get too far out of reach, Bruce got to his feet and took a reassuring step towards the thin man, unsure how to placate him. “Come on, Jo--”

 

“Catwoman I could understand, as much as I hate the idea,” the thin man rebuffed the billionaire’s approach, stomping into the living room; Joker was bruised and was set on whining about it, “But Harvey Two-Face?” he spat, “He knows how I feel about you and didn’t even let on that you two had--”

 

“He didn’t know!” the billionaire cut in, raising his voice. He stalked after the thin man into the living room, his shoulders squared, defiant. Whatever bubble of peace had been set in the steamy bathroom had popped, and Bruce’s blood pressure was up, the thin man’s tantrum eating away at his patience. Joker glared over his shoulder at the billionaire, his bright eyes attentive but skeptical as he listened to Bruce’s explanation, sneering.

 

“Dent never knew--” Bruce stopped himself and swallowed, jaw tense, “Dent was only with Wayne,” the billionaire's body language was cooling, muscles knotted, “All this happened before Batman.”

 

The words were an immediate antidote to the poison in their conversation, some unseen threat vanishing at the conclusion. Joker didn't answer the billionaire’s statement, only pursing his lips to hide his victory smile. The thin man frostily turned away to take a tangerine from the bowl, but the extra flourish in his wrist gave away Joker’s pleasure at Bruce’s answer.

 

Locked in silence, Bruce watched the thin man break the tangerine peel open and tear it away with agonizing precision. After the fruit was skinned, the thin man split the segments down the middle, breaking the flesh, juice beading on his thumbs. The strange, seductive violence of the action hung between the two men alongside the sharp scent of citrus zest. It felt like a hypnotic hour had passed before either of them spoke again.

 

“You know, I almost gave up on waiting for you,” Joker spoke finally, “In that boring little cell.” He placed a segment of tangerine in his mouth, “You certainly took your time.” The thin man’s tone was his usual coy teasing, but the low volume, the lack of eye contact, signaled that it was a mask for something else, “I almost couldn’t stand it.”

 

“Why didn’t you escape?” Bruce demanded, short-tempered, “Like you always do.”

 

“Well, there it is… like I always do,” the thin man picked a seed out of his teeth and flicked it away, “I’ve escaped so many times before I go and find you and we do our famous dance, and I end up right back where I started. But this time, I waited for you to come collect me.”   Joker looked at Bruce suddenly, a familiar arrogance and danger returning to his features. The thin man continued, “And I knew you would play it like this, that if I buckled down and behaved, eventually you would come and fetch me,” he failed to stifle a chaotic little giggle, teeth breaking free from his lips to form a grin, “You’d say I was ‘making progress’ but we would both know the truth.”

 

A dozen potential truths with varying magnitudes of frightening implications presented themselves in Bruce’s mind. He loves me… he loves me not… When the billionaire untied his tongue to speak he was cold, his voice more cape-and-cowl than sincerity, “The truth?”

 

“The truth is,” Joker wiped his fingers clean on his robe and leaned back into his full height, “I’m incurable!” A laugh burst from his throat and he held out his hands like he was causally admitting to some minor foible. The thin man released a breath, a tinkling touch of madness creeping back into his voice, “And thank goodness for us both, because if I were plain and sane and ordinary, then you would be too.” Joker arched a green eyebrow, waiting, as if he expected Bruce to thank him, as if the billionaire would be relieved to know neither of them were sane.

 

But the billionaire didn’t reward the thin man with an answer. Whatever openness had bloomed between them in the bedroom had passed, a familiar, stern wall of mixed feelings being built between them once more. “I should go,” Bruce said abruptly, turning to the door.

 

“Why didn’t you visit me?” Joker’s question was packed with all the sadness and ferocity of an full-blown accusation.

 

Bruce gathered up his gear and sighed, “I did.”

 

“Why didn’t The Bat visit me?” the thin man hissed, crossing the carpet to join the billionaire at the door.

 

I couldn’t handle it. Bruce thought, forcing his emotions off his face. I didn’t know what would happen, if I would be tempted. “I was worried it would distract you,” he cleared his throat, “If you were making any real progress, that is.”

 

Their eyes met and they dangled on the other’s gaze for a dozen heartbeats, as though they had been on a date and were at the doorstep, debating over a goodnight kiss. The thought made Bruce’s stomach flip with nausea and he placed his hand on the door handle, thumb lingering on the controls. He returned to his original question, “How long can you go before you need… this again?”

 

“You tell me how long you can last,” the thin man cocked his head, “Because I think you already know my answer,” Joker’s fingers lightly traced the lines of Bruce’s muscles beneath his tee-shirt, close enough to smell the tangerine oils on his skin, “I need it all the time, everyday,” when his touch crossed over the billionaire’s heart he included the sharp scratch of fingernails, “And not just a roll in the hay, darling,” the thin man’s eyes were so saturated and hot they seemed to singe the places they touched, “But I want you to visit me, properly,” Joker’s hand was getting tangled in the fabric of Bruce’s shirt now, pulling them closer, “I want you to talk with me, make me breakfast, take me on walks around the grounds…”

 

The scenarios Joker suggested appeared all-too-easily in Bruce’s mind, warm and tantalizing, he tried to shirk the thoughts away; these imagined scenes were akin to the insane fantasies of an addict, the impossible last dreams of a man near death. The feelings that had began as annoyance and fury was now spinning into will-testing temptation and panic. Physicality was one thing but this was… attachment, romance... if Bruce cared for Joker it would be irredeemable.

 

“I have to go,” Bruce growled, activating the locking mechanism on the door.

 

“You’re going to lock me in again?” disappointed and insulted, Joker dropped his hand from the billionaire’s chest, “After all that? After I promised I wouldn’t cause any trouble?”

 

“I can’t let you out,” the billionaire could barely get the words past the guilt in his throat, “Not… not yet.”

 

“You’ve got some serious trust issues, Bats,” Joker crossed his arms with a grimace.

 

“Let me sleep on it,” the choice left a bad taste in his mouth, he we was going back on his word, but he couldn’t be at ease in the manor if Joker were loose. He had to think things through with a clear head first, “I’ll be back in a few hours and we can talk about it.”

 

“If you’re sleepy, all you had to do was say so,” the thin man scoffed, a twinge of hope bringing levity back into his gestures, “Stay over-- the bed’s big enough for two, as you well know.”

 

“No,” Bruce was firm, “Haven’t you had enough?”

 

“Never,” Joker chuckled, but the laugh was loud and clipped, more mean than amused.

Bruce retreated from the thin man, unbolting the door and crossing the threshold, “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

 

The thin man smiled, but the expression was an old one, cold and threatening and dangerous, “Don’t make me wait.”

Chapter Text

Bruce woke in the late afternoon to Alfred pulling back the curtains.  He groaned at the intrusion and rolled over when the butler began assembling an outfit for him.  Over their years together, the butler had seen him in a worse state and said less, and to his credit, his decorum was as strict and mild as ever, “Company Christmas banquet.  Can’t be helped, sir.”  

He couldn’t think of anywhere less he wanted to be that at a corporate function, but the company maintained his lifestyle, sustained his family’s reputation, paid for his expensive cloak of privacy, funding his exploits as the Batman.   The Wayne Corporation banquet without Bruce Wayne would be a disaster.  So he crawled out of bed for a shower and a shave.  

 

He had spent most of the early hours of the morning in the cave, working through his thoughts, exploring alternative ideas, and scoping out necessary precautions. Despite all this, his head felt no clearer when he retired to bed and after the sickly sweet embrace of his dreams, his mind felt cloudier still when he woke.

 

As the shower ran over him he thought of Joker and the terrifying temptation of having him so close, at his disposal.  The billionaire was due to talk to the thin man again and there was a spiraling feeling in his gut at the thought of it. He did not have to go to Arkham in secret, in costume, he could just walk down the hall and open the door.  And then?  Bruce caught his breath and let the shower beat at his skin a while longer. And then? He didn’t linger longer in the shower, memories of a conversation in another bathroom only hours before, stoking something in him he wasn’t ready to cope with this early in the day.   

 

Frivolities of the banquet aside, it would be good to get away from the house for a while.  He was in deeper than he expected, and putting distance between himself and Joker would be good, help him think clearly when the two of them did speak again.  Bruce couldn’t deny his obsession with the thin man, but the lust, the pure attraction, was stronger than he thought and the strength of Joker’s reciprocation was almost more than he could bear.  

 

He took a towel from the rack and wiped the fog off the mirror to reveal his steely glare.  He half-considered leaving the stubble to look more roguish-- Jo liked me unshaven-- and that unbidden thought sealed the choice. He lathered up his face.

 

As he shaved he doted on impossible fantasies.  What if Jo were well enough to live here?  The razor cut a clean swath of skin out of the foam.  I could see him everyday and every night. The blade rounded the corner of his jaw.  Maybe I wouldn't need to go out as Batman—

 

The thought came as a shock and he nicked his jaw with the blade.  He stopped, cursing silently to himself, and set his hand on the sink.  He stared at his half-shaven expression in the mirror, a growing bead of blood in the foam.  He looked for a long minute as if didn’t recognize himself.  He was Batman.  To think anything else was a lie.  Still, part of him insisted:  Why else did he do it but for Joker?  Gotham would always have criminals but there would only be one Joker.    

 

He rinsed the razor and tried to shake the thought away.  He focused on his upper lip, holding his face tense to get a better shave.  He cleared the lather without incident, finishing cleaning up his stubble with an empty mind.  He laved cold water on his face and opened the bottle of aftershave.

 

Maybe Jo and I could stay in, wreak our own mayhem in the manor and tumble into bed afterno, no, no, no, no!  He slapped the aftershave on harder than he meant, leaving his skin stinging and his eyes watering.  

 

Hunched at counter, he tipped his face up just enough to look at himself, his ice blue eyes flashing electric.  Breathing deep he gave himself an order, “For the next few hours, you are Bruce Wayne and nothing more.”  

 

The billionaire was doing up his final cufflink when Alfred returned to his door. “Your company for this evening is waiting for you downstairs, Master Bruce.”

 

Hurrying out into the hallway, for a moment the billionaire braced himself for the hopeful surprise that he would find Jo done up and presentable, wearing a clean suit with tails, a close-fitting brocade vest that suited the thin man’s body type, maybe even fresh lipstick... But in the foyer below, Bruce saw a gleaming head of blonde hair and the soft click of high heels on tile. His imagination had gotten the better of him. Of course, his date: someone beautiful and empty, and prearranged.

 

He could almost hear an imagined taunt from Joker in his head, tell me darling, do blondes have more fun?

 

She had not seen Bruce yet on the landing above.

 

Alfred had done a remarkable job cleaning up the damage he and Joker had caused the night before. The space wasn't perfect, but it was clean of any broken scrap and scattered crystals, blank spaces instead of toppled picture frames and pieces of armor. It was tidy enough that only Bruce and Jo would know on which step they stopped to kiss…

 

Bruce hesitated in the hall outside of Joker’s door. The billionaire had stood here in his other formal wear not so long ago, black and sleek and so utterly different. His heart has been pounding then too. Was Joker waiting for him on the other side of the door? Giggling? Pacing? Bursting with anticipation?

 

The room called to him, like the Batsuit called to him, a sharp and serious thing at the edge of his mind, a holding place for his true self. Silence. Stillness. Maybe Joker was still asleep. From here there was no way to tell. Unlikely.

 

Bruce glanced down the stairs, his memory of chasing Joker so vivid and fresh, he felt his muscles twitch in an attempt to bound after the imagined thin man running down the carpet.

 

His eyes caught on a gouge in the wood where the blade of Joker’s pike had missed him. Bruce crammed his attraction for the thin man aside: Joker was a wild, unpredictable, dangerous man. This compromise they were testing was not to be taken lightly; no matter the unexpected levity the billionaire felt in his chest after his intimacy with Joker. Leave him at home.  Leave it behind.  

 

Bruce turned back to the door. Later. He promised. And he fixed his smirk into place as he swept down the stairs, “Hel-lo beautiful!”

 

Outside the air was cold in his lungs, cleansing and harsh. His date tucked her fur shrug closer on her shoulders as Bruce helped her into the car. The billionaire settled in beside her and the driver pulled away from the curb.

 

The billionaire turned to glance through the back windshield. From here, Bruce was not able to see if there was a silhouette watching from the high window, even still, it was as if he had left some piece of himself behind, and he could feel the tiny fury writhing within the manor’s rooms.  

 

- - - - - - - - - -

 

Being playboy Wayne had never felt so false. It had always been necessary to have this socialite character, but it was never his favorite pastime. He could usually bluff his way through it, his mind calculating other things, working through other projects. But tonight, even the strength of Bruce’s focus could not drown out the feeling of complete and total, inherent wrongness. Everything was wrong: the tedious normalcy of walking arm and arm with a lady, the overtly feminine smell of his date’s perfume, the foreign curve of her hip under his hand, her smile, her laugh, her lips--

 

Bruce had spent so much time at functions like this, all the while, some awful part of him wishing for a disturbance that would require Batman’s attention and save him from conducting another second of his life as a vapid socialite. Tonight, it was so much worse to endure that hunger and to know that Joker was not free to fetch him; that the thin man would never arrive to break this showy, meaningless monotony into something more exciting and powerful.

 

Maybe he could have brought Jo as his plus-one instead of some unknowing beauty; he could have made Jo up with some kind of disguise. No one would have needed to know the Joker was in their midst. He swallowed down the thought; it did not go easy.

 

By the time Bruce made his suave excuses and sent his date home in a cab, he felt as though time had passed so slowly, he must have aged a year. He watched the moon between buildings as his driver took him home, thinking dreamily of milky white skin.

 

Beside him on the seat was a department store bag of tissue-wrapped goods. To avoid a particularly chatty group of young secretaries, Bruce had outright left the banquet hall at one point and ducked into a nearby department store, open late and busy with the impending holiday.  

 

At first he had picked up products without thinking, just trying to blend in, but he had stumbled into the cosmetics section and found himself assembling a group of old favorites like it was second nature.  

 

He lingered on the lipsticks long enough for the girl at the counter to think he was hitting on her.  He was lucky he was handsome or else he would have looked like some lecherous creep, but he flirted his way through it, thinking only of another set of lips.

 

It was far later than he wanted when he returned to the manor. Having given a hundred firm handshakes, toasted a dozen dry speeches, politely refused plate after plate of unappetizing hor d’oeuvres, and faked his way through hours of small talk, the waiting quiet dark of the manor would be heaven, as sweet and silent as the liquid black of his cape.  

 

But the manor was far from quiet when he entered. Crashing sounds of destruction, muffled slightly from behind a closed door, rose and fell like rogue waves, echoing in the foyer. A screeching sound that had to be a human voice filled in any gaps in the noise.

 

“Master Bruce,” Alfred was at his elbow immediately, “I was about to call you. He’s contained, he hasn't been able to get past the lock, but he went mad less than an hour ago, shouting and smashing, I thought his outburst might pass but--”

 

“I'll handle it,” Bruce cut in, already taking the stairs two at a time.

 

“Sir, you're hardly dressed for it,” the butler called after, worried, “Do you need precautions, protection--”

 

“I said, I'll handle it!” he commanded, rounding the corner on the landing, Joker’s quarters in his sights. He disengaged the lock as soon as the handle hit his palm, opening the door and plunging inside.

 

Porcelain promptly smashed into the side of his head, pieces of broken teapot ringing to the floor around him. A white blaze of pain arced along his temple, staggering him. Bruce fell to one knee, already feeling the rush of blood sliding over his ear and dripping down off of his jaw. The bag of cosmetics fell from his grasp, its contents rattling away unseen to mix with the flotsam of the room.

 

“Well, look what the cat dragged in!” Joker’s voice rang out from somewhere at his shoulder, more cackle than conversational, “Good of you to show up, Bats!”

 

By the time the words left the thin man’s mouth he had moved again, throwing something at Bruce with the same fast precision and force he had used to throw knives at the billionaire in his prime, years before.  

 

Bruce dodged and the object caught him on the arm instead of the throat.  A sharpened pencil.  He plucked it from his flesh as another pencil skirted his ear and stuck in the drywall behind his head. He now regretted stocking the desk with pencils, pens, and even a red felt tip marker.  What was he thinking?  That Joker would have composed his memoirs?  Written Bruce letters?  

 

“I’ll put up with a lot, Batsy dear,” Joker jeered, lunging towards him, “but I hate being stood up!” Bruce only saw a glimpse, but the man’s face was a ruin: his eyes outlined crudely in black ballpoint pen, his lips roughed up by a viciously applied red felt tip, a garish smile drawn up the side of his cheeks.  

 

Bruce spun and caught Joker’s lunge with a stiff forearm, deflecting the thin man away hard enough to send him face first into the kitchenette counter. The billionaire felt something tear in his tuxedo, and cursed the inflexibility of the garment. There was no time to remove it.

 

As Joker recovered, Bruce sized up the rest of the room in fast, analytic bursts.  The coffee table had been overturned, a leg broken off, sharp wood standing vertical, like a stake for a vampire.  The bathroom mirror was broken, scattered across the tile in reflective slivers.  Beyond his face, the thin man had put the pens to good use, scrawling a phrase into the wall over and over: Joker and Batsy sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g

 

Joker was up faster than expected, catching the collar of Bruce’s shirt as he threw his body in a reckless leap, taking them both off their feet.  The floor hit Bruce hard in the back, and his head rolled along the threshold of the bathroom, one ear pressed against into the cold tile.  The thin man was on top of him hands digging into his windpipe, a strange twin moment to their salacious grappling in recent days.

 

Bruce aimed a punch at Joker's solar plexus, hoping to knock the wind out of him, while he slammed his knee up into the thin man’s hip to try and dislodge him from his top position. This violence was not a game, not called for, there was no sexy request from the thin man--hit me-- there was only fury and hurt. The blows knocked Joker back off of Bruce, but it wasn’t fast enough, and the thin man seized a shard of mirror from the floor before he fell off balance.  

 

Bruce dove to pin the thin man down before anything could happen with the improvised blade and they rolled over each other, once, twice, and into the end table.  The lamp fell with a clatter, but didn’t break, flashing into their eyes and painting the room with dark, disorienting shapes.  

 

Bruce threw a head butt, his forehead stinging after it connected with Joker’s cheekbone.  The thin man’s head snapped back, but didn't slow his pace.  Weaseling out of reach, Joker wrapped an elbow about Bruce’s throat, pulling it in a tight chokehold.

 

The billionaire staggered to his feet, dragging the thin man behind him, prying at the hold at his neck.  He spun and slammed Joker in the wall behind him, but the thin man didn’t slip.  Bruce tried again, putting his weight into it.  Joker took the hit with an audible “oof,” and only started giggling.  

 

Bruce managed to pull Joker’s arm loose enough to take in a breath of air.  He was reeling, ready to try and slam the thin man again, when he felt the prick of broken glass at his neck and stopped, his breath heaving.   

 

“Let’s talk about this,” Bruce begrudgingly conceded, giving only a moment before he suddenly went to grab Joker’s hand.  But the thin man caught his arm and hooked it behind Bruce’s back with just enough strength to make it hard to maneuver.  The billionaire was still as he weighed his options.

 

“You want to talk?”  Joker was panting and laughing, low and throaty, his voice right up against Bruce’s ear, “Let’s talk about how you locked me alone in a room for seven years and had the audacity to think you could do it again!” Joker’s anger was molten in his words, “How dare you leave me alone in here while you go out to some party!”  

 

Joker gave a shaking laugh, high and abrasive, nails on the chalkboard, “Did you think, you could just have your way with me and leave like the playboy you pretend to be?”  Spittle flicked against the side of the billionaire’s face and he winced slightly as the barrage continued, “Back for another round, fuck buddy?”  

 

In the madness of the moment, Bruce desperately wished he could see Joker’s face.  Maybe he would see something there that could help him read the situation or at least ease his conscience.  

 

His captor went on,  “I am not some princess you can lock away in a tower.  I am not some dream you can wake up from,” As he built his speech it was harder for the thin man to catch his breath, as if saying it used more effort than their fighting had, “I am not some toy you put back on the shelf when you are done playing!”

 

Joker liked to talk; this wasn’t news to Bruce.  It was usually his opportunity to try and devise a way out of a tight spot, but this time his mind was racing on how to make amends for a situation he had obviously mishandled.

 

Bruce felt a drip of blood run down his throat and onto his chest and realized Joker was gripping the glass so hard his hand was bleeding.  “I am your other half,” Joker’s voice was a precarious balance of rage and hysteria, equal parts likely to slit his throat or to burst out crying, “If you want me, baby, it is a full time, lifetime commitment.”  

 

I am your other half.  A truth Bruce always knew and never acknowledged.  His mouth was dry.  

 

“What do you have to say for yourself, Bats?” Joker asked, prodding closer with the broken glass.  

 

I made a mistake. I'm sorry. Bruce felt about twice as dumb as he sounded, “I… I had no idea.”   

 

No idea!” The thin man echoed the phrase as if cluing in an invisible audience. “The world's greatest detective had no idea!” Joker let go of one of the billionaire’s arms to take a vigorous handful of hair and pull Bruce’s head back, pressing the broken glass harder against his throat.  “Then what were all those years of petty crimes and grand schemes? Don't tell me you had no idea!”  The thin man nearly shrieked, “They were all for you!”  

 

All for you. Bruce could see it laid out in his mind: Joker cards left behind at crime scenes with lipstick hearts and smooches… Some part of him knew, some part of him always knew. Kill him or love him. There is no halfway.

 

“All those times we fought?  I thought we had something special!”  The thin man pulled harder at his hair, “Should I have sent you roses instead?” his voice was breaking,  “Would that have swayed you?”  

 

In a sudden burst, Bruce managed to slip his arm behind the hand with the blade and force it away.  He wrenched the man up and out from behind him, twisting Joker’s wrist enough to make him drop the glass and hauling the rest of him with it.   To his credit, Joker turned the toss into a somersault, like the clown he was, landing and rolling off some of the impact.  But Bruce had flung him with such momentum he was still slightly out of control and he crashed into the far wall.  

 

Sprawled on the floor, Joker’s head swayed on his neck, eyes rolling.  The thin man was dazed, and Bruce saw beneath the rage for a beat.  There was genuine panic in the thin man’s features: the kid lost at the department store, the heartbroken high school sweetheart; he was utterly afraid of being left alone, especially by Bruce.  

 

Weren’t they both, at their core, frightened, unforgiving children?  Just the shape of adults built up around them.   

 

Bruce realized he had gone about this entire thing the wrong way.  It was more than sexual gratification here.  Context and romance were everything to Joker.  Those invitations for a shower, for Bruce to spend the night, were not to be treated lightly.  Their first time together, no delicate first kiss, no preamble, urgent, slammed against the wall, rushed and desperate…  It was not exactly the night anyone wanted on a first date.  

 

The glass now out of reach, and the fall sending his head spinning, Joker couldn’t scramble away and had no weapon at hand.  Bruce crossed to him, looming over the man on the floor, fists curled.  The overturned lamp set his shadow huge and high on the wall, dark and all-consuming.  

 

They had been here before, many times.  This was always the moment Joker would say the wrong thing and Bruce would punch him a little too hard.  Minutes away from having the thin man arrested and thrown in jail.  Or maybe some civilian in distress would distract Bruce just long enough to let Joker run away.  Once or twice, Bruce had just left him alone with his injuries on some rainy rooftop.  Perhaps he should leave him now.  

 

But he had an unquenchable urge to put his hands on Joker: unsure if he wanted to break the thin man or hold him.  

 

He squatted in front of Joker, leaning his hands on his knees, not knowing how to proceed.  Bruce swallowed and touched the side of his head, blood tacky on his fingertips.  He looked at the thin man and noticed that somewhere in their struggles, he had split his lip; the darker red of blood was mixed in with the smeared red marker on his skin.  

 

Joker turned weakly to Bruce, sweat and tears making the ink from the sloppy ballpoint pen marks around his eyes run down his face.  His body shuddered with irregular chuckles, hollow and unsmiling, and the closest to sobbing Joker had ever been.  

 

Clearing his throat, Bruce made an attempt, “Are you alright?”  

 

The thin man stiffly stretched his wrist, flexed his hand and watched it bleed, “Just dandy.”  

 

Long seconds of silence passed before Bruce added quietly, almost apologetic, “Tenderness is not my strong suit.”  

 

“It’s not a good look for you,” Joker quipped, turning to him and squinting.  The thin man’s tone was still peeved, but no longer violent; sorely nursing hurt feelings.  

 

Bruce went out on a limb, the words awkward in his mouth, “I missed you.”  

 

Holding up a hand, Joker scoffed, voice hoarse, “Spare me.”    

 

“It’s true,” Bruce leaned in on his knees and set his hand at the side of Joker’s face, “I missed you tonight at the party. I missed you this morning. I've missed you… everyday… for the last seven years.”  Blue eyes met green for a long quavering moment, but neither moved a hair’s breadth closer to the other.  

 

After an eternity, Joker cracked a softer brand of smile and leaned his face slightly into Bruce’s palm, “Funny way of showing it.”  The reciprocated touch lit up Bruce’s hand with warmth.

 

“I should say the same,” Bruce murmured, letting out a breath he had not realized he had been holding. He dropped his touch from Joker’s face to his injured hand, “You're bleeding.”

 

“Right back at you Bats,” Joker eyed the billionaire's blood-matted hair and winked, wincing slightly as felt his own bruises rising. The thin man moved close and kissed the bloody side of Bruce’s head, lips and tongue and all, “Mmm, ready to play doctor, darling?”

 

“Step one would be to avoid infection so lay off for a minute,” Bruce got to his feet and turned towards the entrance. He sighed, resigned to irony, when he saw the door unlatched and ajar, the path to freedom beckoning; available, as it had been during their entire fight. Running away had not crossed Joker’s mind.

 

“I’ll admit I was a bit overzealous,” the thin man continued suddenly, “You didn’t leave me much in here, but you left enough to make it interesting.”  Joker hauled himself to his feet and was rolled his shoulder in a stretch, “I could have strangled you with the television cord, I suppose.”  

 

Turning back over his shoulder, Bruce chuckled lightly, “You could have tried.”  

 

Coming to stand beside the billionaire, Joker ran his fingers along Bruce’s arm and teased, “Next time, then.”

 

Chapter Text

Joker visibly paused on the threshold to Bruce’s bedroom as though crossing it were momentous, to be savored. The thin man unthreaded his arm from Bruce’s as the billionaire entered.

 

The room was unremarkable to Bruce, he knew it well: the wide expanse of cool, grey sheets tucked within the heavy, dark wood bed frame, the deep red curtains that shaded the tall windows against any sunlight, serious black leather chairs, and deep walnut side tables, armoire, dresser, an enormous closet of suits and shoes, the low glow of grey light from the bathroom in the corner. The room was soft and dark, both intimidating and enveloping.

 

“You coming?” the billionaire asked the thin man, a hand lingering on the door, waiting to close it and seal them into the quiet privacy of the space.

 

Looking shakier than he sounded, Joker forced himself to break the ice, “No stalactites? No guano?” He stepped into the room, holding his injured hand across his chest like a bird with a bad wing, “Hardly the place I expected for my Bat.”

 

“I don't live in a cave,” Bruce insisted, gently closing the door on silent hinges, and heading to the bathroom.

 

In the mirror, Bruce considered the blood smeared against the side of his face, a sloppy lip print preserved there for posterity.  The image fittingly seemed to sum up his relationship with Joker: split your head open and kiss it better.

 

He wiped away the kiss mark and the excess blood from his face and neck. Head wounds always bled heavily, but the true damage was minimal. Bruce took a clean washcloth and ran it under warm water, returning to the thin man, who was still prowling the bedroom with fearful attention. There was a reverence to the way Jo explored the space: a sacred room he must have often imagined and never hoped to enter.

 

“Here,” Bruce brushed away the moment and nudged Joker, handing him the washcloth, still warm from the sink, “For your face.” The thin man took it, looking confused.  The billionaire added, “If you want it.”  

 

Joker considered a moment, before wiping at the ballpoint pen and marker on his skin. He buried his former wonderment with bitterness, “How many lovely ladies have been shagged senseless in that bed?” The thin man swabbed the washcloth over his face.

 

“None,” Bruce answered, toeing off his shoes and shrugging out of his ruined jacket, “I don't bring anyone here,” he set accessories aside, belt, cuff links, “If I'm with someone, we stay downtown at the penthouse, or their place,” he pulled off the dress shirt, the white fabric was stiff with blood at the collar. He had spent his time at the banquet picturing he and Jo like this: the couple’s ritual, putting away their party clothes, reminiscing on the evening. They might have gone without the blood and destruction, but they were close to recreating the moment of his imagining.

 

“Mostly I do neither,” the billionaire kicked out of his pants, down to his undershirt and boxer briefs, “Spend my nights alone.”

 

“Not alone,” the thin man had done a passable job cleaning off his makeshift makeup, his features slightly haggard but his eyes bright with delight as he looked over his half-dressed partner, “You spend your nights with me.”

 

Jo’s confident possessiveness made something sweet to bloom inside Bruce, and he almost kissed the thin man at the comment, but the billionaire kept his distance, half sarcastic, “Maybe I should have brought you to the party.”

 

The words slipped so easily from the billionaire's lips, an amusing admission he would have never said to the thin man in the old days. But they had just crashed together in violence and were still feeling a bit battered; in not so many words, they had spilled secret internal things other than blood. I missed you.

 

“Oh Batsy,” Joker’s expression flared with intense want, “You should have brought me with you,” he rushed towards Bruce, tugging off his own garments to let them drop on top of the billionaire's clothes on the floor, “Even though I have absolutely nothing to wear.”

 

Overwhelmed by the sudden shirtless Joker, glancing carefully at the place where the thin man hooked his thumbs into the belt loops, so near to his bare hip bones, Bruce tried to play it off, turning back to the bathroom, “Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here.”

 

He retrieved a first aid kit from under the sink, set out gauze and antiseptic. In a moment Jo was at his shoulder, a pale smile set in a paler face. Bruce looked up to catch his gaze in the glass. There was a pink mark of impact above the billionaire’s brow from the headbutt he threw earlier and a corresponding mark high on Jo’s cheekbone. A matched set.

 

Bruce wore a stately, serious expression, his face at a classic, three-quarters angle. Beside him, almost glowing in all his alabaster glory, Jo faced the mirror head-on, features ablaze. He had one hand elegantly set on the billionaire’s shoulder and Bruce tipped his jaw slightly toward the point of contact. Framed neatly in the cool light, the two of them looked like some lost-master oil painting or an archetypal mariage portrait; all shapes and limbs and shadows connecting them in composition, spelling out their intimacy for all to see.

 

Jo put his unmarred hand on the side of Bruce’s head, nimbly inspecting the cut on the billionaire’s scalp. Bruce let out a breath, partly due to the small singe of pain, but mainly brought on by how hypnotic those fingers felt ruffling through his hair.

 

“Love bites, Bats,” the thin man assured after assessing the wound he inflicted, “I was gentle-- you won't even needs stitches.”

 

“Lovely,” he grumbled, a tinge of laughter warming his dark tone. Bruce doused the cut with iodine, dabbing up the blood and disinfectant with cotton swabs. A few amber drips escaped the gauze and ran down his neck and throat. Before he could catch them, Jo wiped up the drips with cool, attentive fingertips.

 

His body sufficiently tended to, Bruce took the thin man’s injured hand into his grip without asking and flooded it with iodine, dabbing away the dried blood.  

 

“Yow!”  Joker jumped at the sudden burn but quickly changed to a more sultry tune, “Ooh, baby.”  

 

“Hurts?” Bruce noted, blowing the skin dry and applying disinfectant ointment.  

 

“That’s half the fun,” Joker answered, batting his eyes

 

“I’m not surprised,” Bruce wound the gauze across Joker’s palm. He wrapped Jo’s hand with a cloth bandage, threading it between the thin man’s fingers and folding it up the length of his wrist, like preparing a boxer before a fight.

 

Through the process, Jo stood calmly beside Bruce, smiling dumbly, as though he had been dosed with some euphoria-inducing drug. He let the billionaire tend to him, let Bruce touch him, not in violence or sex, but something infinitely more earnest and complicated.

 

Just looking at the thin man, Bruce felt his heart rate rise; a dim pulse of pain at his temple where he had been cut.  His earlier words had been true: he had missed the man, and he couldn’t deny the happiness he felt at being beside him now.  But there was the ever-present wiliness flickering in those attentive green irises, as seductive and perilous as flame.  Not long ago the two of them had had their hands on each other with the intention of doing damage.  This man was still dangerous, as much as Bruce was a danger to him.  

 

The billionaire was swept up by a surge of emotion: honeyed and huge deeper than lust or affection alone. He was still holding Jo’s hand even though there was no fixing left to do, and before he could help himself, he darted forward and took Joker’s head in his hands, kissing him with parted lips.

 

Bruce had not realized how hard he had been pushing into their embrace until he heard the soft slap of Jo’s bare back against the tile wall. The thin man made a throaty chuckle when he hit and separated their mouths enough to say, “Let's break in that bed of yours, shall we?”

 

Wriggling out beneath the billionaire's arms, Jo darted away and dove into the sheets, leaving Bruce to dash after him like a hound after a rabbit in the underbrush.

 

Bouncing onto the bed, Bruce rolled on top of Joker, the thin man pinned beneath his weight; bending up against the billionaire where he could, tongue prodding, hands roving over Bruce’s back and ass. From the billionaire's top position, Joker felt as fragile and loose as a marionette.  There would be no squirming away for the thin man, no escape.  Energy flickered down the billionaire’s spine; he felt powerful, in control.  He leaned harder into Joker, flexing his tongue deeper into the thin man’s mouth, grinding his erection against the man’s hip.  Their kiss was tinted with the iron taste of blood and their sweat had a tang of adrenaline.  

 

This was everything his idle mind had imagined at the party, on the car ride home, the daydream that made him half-hard at the drop of a hat. Bruce’s impatience was immense: Take him now.  Tear off his pants and fuck him into the bed!  Joker’s hand brushed against the side of Bruce’s neck and he felt the itch of the gauze he had wrapped there.  The echoes of their argument rang against his skull:  I am not a toy… I am your other half.  

 

Bruce stopped in a panic and eased up, suddenly afraid he would crush the thin man beneath his greedy desire.  He held himself up on his forearms, Joker laid out beneath him, vulnerable but unrestrained.  The thin man looked at him, wide-eyed at the unexpected retreat.  Bruce struggled for words, every sentence in his mind not quite right for this man.  Eventually he settled on, “Is this alright?”  

 

“Oh, obviously,” Joker goaded bucking against him.  It now felt like a stupid question.  Joker was already hard; Bruce could feel him pushed hot and close against his thigh.   Still he wasn’t sure the right way to go about this; how to find a style that would go beyond his immediate need for release and instead stoke Joker’s ego and penchant for romance.  

 

Thankfully, the thin man bailed him out, even if his tone was patronizing, “Look at you, being considerate,” he trailed his fingers along Bruce’s neck, “And you told me you couldn’t be tender.”  

 

“What do you want?” Bruce was blunter than he wanted, but his blood was running hot and it was hard to work through his thoughts.  

 

“I want you, darling,” Joker answered smoothly, “I want you like this.  Facing me,” he put his lips on Bruce’s jaw, “Kissing me when you slide inside.”  

 

Bruce didn’t need to be told twice, quickly returning back to sucking at the thin man’s lips, rushing onward with his newfound permission, devouring smooth, pale skin, running his tongue over Joker’s nipple, caressing the curve of the thin man’s clavicle, nuzzling his lips against his throat.  

 

When Bruce came up for air, Joker’s attentive mouth moved to the billionaire’s neck, trickling little patterns with a hot, wet tongue down his jugular vein.   Bruce undid the thin man’s button and his tugged pants down with one swift motion, his hand quickly between Joker’s bare legs, brushing over the thin man’s balls and full cock.  

 

There was a nip at his throat and Bruce jumped at the sting.  Joker hissed against his ear, “If we are going to do this again, I’ll require a little more warming up than last time.”  

 

“Alright,” Bruce whispered, forcing himself to slow his pace, despite the urgency ringing in every inch of his body.  He shifted away to open the drawer of the bedside table, returning to his place over the thin man, lubricant in hand.

 

He kissed Joker again, more delicately this time, the billionaire’s breathing hard and slow, like some test of endurance, an exercise of willpower. After a moment, he squeezed a dollop of lube onto his fingers and slipped his hand between the thin man’s legs; gently, deliberately, easing his finger against Joker’s asshole.  

 

At the touch, Joker sighed against the billionaire’s lips, and Bruce continued to push inside, teasing the entrance of muscle, curling his finger up against silky flesh, looking for the spot that would drive the thin man up the wall.  A sudden moan at a certain angle and Bruce stroked the spot again, Joker tightening his hand in Bruce’s hair.  The billionaire groaned in response, pleasure flooding his body as the thin man’s excitement increased.  

 

Bruce eased his finger out, leaning away to pull off his undershirt and boxer briefs, his erection springing free with a wave of relief and expectation, aching to be touched.  Joker made a small squeaking noise at the action, “Hurry back, baby.”  

 

As he bent back over the thin man, Bruce’s head was swimming with desire. Swallowing to wet his dry throat, he rasped, “Can I …?”

 

“Mmm, no, not yet,” Joker chided, digging his fingers against the back of Bruce’s neck.  In violence, the touch would have made his skin crawl, but now it made the billionaire break out in sensitive goose bumps, and send a spark of heat straight between his legs.  The thin man drawled; his phrasing was coy but his tone was commanding, “Maybe your tongue would help.”  

 

If it got him that much closer to fucking Joker, Bruce would go about it without complaint.  The thin man released the billionaire’s neck out of his grasp and Bruce backed his way down the man’s pale torso.  Taking a detour on his way south, he slid his mouth over Joker’s cock for a single stroke: as painstakingly slow and deep as he could.  He was rewarded with a tremulous sound out of Joker’s throat, “Ahhh—” before he slipped his tongue off the man’s cock and continued to move his mouth down, over his balls and to the hot, slick place he had been tending to earlier.  

 

He circled Joker’s asshole with the tip of his tongue and delved inside, pressing, warm, smooth muscle to muscle, coaxing the thin man open.  Bruce could only think about easing his cock into this position, filling the thin man full and deep, feeling Joker’s body press against every inch of his own.  At the thought he hummed with pleasure, and the thin man moaned, thighs tense with impending pleasure.  

 

After several dutiful moments between the thin man’s legs, Bruce took a breath and leapt up, back in position on top, running kisses along taut tendons in Joker’s throat.  

 

Down below, Bruce eased two fingers back inside Joker, carefully stretching and stroking.  The thin man was panting against his neck, groaning as Bruce’s touch explored inside.  The billionaire leaned against Joker, not trapping him like before, but pushing the weight of their bodies close enough to put some friction on their cocks between them.  

 

They belonged like this, skin on skin, nothing to separate them in body or mind. Jo was so smooth and warm around his fingers, just thinking about it made Bruce feel as though he might burst.  The billionaire dragged his dripping cock against Joker’s hip, insistent.  He prompted, not really asking, “Ready.”  

 

“Uh-uh, not so fast,” Joker ran his tongue against Bruce’s ear and the billionaire shivered, “Do that thing you just did… with your mouth on my cock.”  

 

Bruce gritted his teeth at the delay of gratification: his heart hammering and his body pleading.  The thin man slipped his fine fingers around the billionaire’s cock and gave it a tug, making promises, “And then maybe I’ll be ready to have you inside.”  

 

He returned between Joker’s legs, trying to take his time sliding his mouth over the man’s cock, desperately wanting to rush forward.  He managed several long strokes before his patience waned.  

 

His lust had a hot thread of anger braided in it now.  He would never have listened to Joker’s requests if they were fighting: if he wanted to smack that smug face of his he would have, and not waited around for the thin man to tell him how and when to throw the punch.  He could just take him now.  

 

The billionaire pulled away from Joker’s cock and lunged back on top, holding one of the thin man’s hands against the bed above his head.  Bruce had just stopped his cock from spreading Joker open, the throbbing appendage nestled tightly below the thin man’s balls, waiting.  

 

Joker gasped at the forceful motion but only grinned, “You’re still trying to be so good to me; I like that,” he laughed when Bruce inched closer to his asshole, “Even though it is driving you absolutely mad.”   

 

“Now,” Bruce grunted, not sure if it were a warning or question.  He ghosted his lips over the thin man’s, “Jo, please…”  

 

With his free hand, Joker fished the tube of lube from the sheets and dangled it before Bruce’s eyes, “A little of this on your big cock and I’m all yours,” he ran his tongue over his teeth and batted his eyes.  Bruce was already rubbing himself slick as Joker flirted, and only a few heartbeats passed before he was leaning over the thin man again, easing his girth against the man’s asshole.  

 

“Oh god,” Bruce let out a long groan, open-mouthed, as the head of his cock pressed inside, the rest of his length not far behind, slipping into that perfect, tight heat.  Joker was taking fast, shallow breaths, blissfully whining as his body flexed to accommodate around the billionaire’s cock.  When Bruce felt his hips hit Joker’s buttocks, he held still a minute, putting his mouth back against the thin man’s, reveling in the completeness of the feeling.  

 

“Mmm come on, I won't break,” Joker tugged hard on his hair, demanding, “You know you want to.” And Bruce began to move in time with the thin man’s rearing hips, out and in, slowly thrusting harder and deeper, a rhythm of fleshy thwacks as their bodies hit together.  

 

The rolling of his pulse was building hot and heavy at his crotch and he slowed a moment, breaking their kiss to gaze upon the thin man below him.  Joker’s pale face was flushed a pretty pink and his chest was heaving.  His beautiful lips were rogued from their aggressive kissing, full and bright against his pale skin.  

 

The thin man grabbed one of Bruce’s hands and brought it to his cock, hard and dripping between them.  The billionaire circled his thumb around the head before slipping his grip over him and beginning to stroke the thin man.  As he did, Joker moaned, his head rolling back on a neck lax with pure and utter gratification.  

 

Bruce tugged the thin man’s cock, slicking him with precum and lubricant, all the while continuing to pound his own full erection up inside.  He was panting with the effort it took to hold his concentration and keep from fracturing into a thousand branching nerves of pleasure.  

 

Joker’s eyelids fluttered and the thin man gasped out a confession, “I’ve… wanted this… for so long…”  

 

Bruce answered with a passionate kiss, renewing his thrusts against the thin man, shifting his angle until Joker crooned, “Ohhh, just like that…” The thin man’s long legs were sharply bent, knees tucked against Bruce’s sides, ankles hitched together at the billionaire's lower back, locking the two of them together.

 

Bruce knew this rushing feeling thrumming through him was the sign of the inevitable closing in… harder, tighter, more, more… “Nghh… doing this…you're… you're going to make me come,” Bruce warned.  

 

“Ohh really?” Joker teased, half breathless with laughter and desire. The thin man’s hands were scratching out messages of pleasure over Bruce’s skin, his grip moving down to press into the billionaire’s ass. “Mmm Batsy--” his breath hitched for a moment as Bruce moved within him, “Oh baby, you can't stand how good I feel.”

 

Joker slipped a long finger around the bend of Bruce’s buttocks and into his asshole.  The touch was a shock but the billionaire was too far gone to protest.  The push of careful pressure and the knowledge that he was inside Joker and the thin man was inside him, short circuited something in the pleasure centers in his brain. Bruce tried to keep his head together but his rhythm was slackening.  

 

“I love making you lose control,” Joker breathed, luxuriating under the billionaire’s bucking hips, probing at him with fingers and tongue.

 

In this state, even the tone of the thin man’s voice felt like the sexiest sound he could imagine and Bruce rode against him, pushing up and over the crest of pleasure, aching, throbbing, spilling everything deep inside.  

 

Bruce kept his eyes closed and kissed the thin man long and deep.  For a mouth that was known for its knife-like smile and cutting words, the billionaire marveled at how soft and slick and seductive Joker’s lips felt pressed against his own.  

 

The thin man was still breathing heavy, hissing out desperate sounds of pleasure, and Bruce could feel the warm bulge of his cock between them. The billionaire adjusted, and slipped out of place at the thin man’s ass. Joker groaned with disappointment at the loss of pressure, but the sound quickly ticked back up again as Bruce took Jo completely in his mouth. It was an easy tumble over the edge, Joker arching sharply up into the billionaire's mouth after three good strokes, Bruce swallowing him down as he came, one fumbling hand limply tangled in the billionaire's dark hair.

 

The world felt distorted from the echoes of their payoff, cottony oxytocin sentiments clouding their half-closed eyes. Fatigue fell over Bruce like a heavy curtain as his body caught up with the chemistry in his brain, falling into bed beside Joker, exhaling heavily.  The thin man turned to him, breathing hard, green eyes sparkling like precious gems.

 

With deft fingers Jo brushed his fallen bangs off his brow, sighing contentedly, “Makes me wish I had a cigarette.”  

 

Bruce relaxed against the bed, shifting a pillow beneath his head, replying with certainty, “You don’t smoke.”  

 

“No, it’s just the theatrics of it all,” the thin man unfurled on his back, stretching from head to toe, “We’ve been unconsummated lovers for a while now,” Joker curled his devilish lips into a heart-stopping smile, “it’s nice to finally seal the deal.”  

 

Lovers.  The word hung heavy over them. Maybe it were true; no one made him feel the way Joker did, for better or worse.  But there was no response he could give to the thin man’s statement so he bit his tongue, feeling the tide of his orgasm slowly receding.  

 

Rather than exhausted, Joker seem invigorated by their sexual frolic, unable to sit still in the sheets, as if he couldn't get comfortable.  Bruce was relieved that the thin man didn’t want to cuddle.

 

“Awfully quiet, there, darling,” Joker leaned against the headboard, “Let me ask you something, hmm?” Without asking, he took up the billionaire’s hand and ran his fingers over the palm, as if he were reading some future there. Bruce let the touch happen. The thin man asked, “How does our chemistry rank against all those names we mentioned the other night?”  

 

The tone of the thin man’s voice was so tenuous and melancholy, Bruce half forgot to check his thoughts behind his teeth, “Are you still torn up about my history with Dent?”

 

“Humor me, Batsy,” the thin man said primly, tracing shapes across the lines of the billionaire's hand.

 

For an instant Bruce debated if the emotion in Joker’s face was a put-on, some bait for further ridicule.  But it was late and they were naked and he wanted it to be something true.

 

“This is better,” the billionaire breathed.  He snapped his hand closed over Joker’s fingers and crawled close enough to catch the thin man by surprise, green eyes sharp at his answer.  Bruce continued, “No one feels like you.”  He leaned in for a kiss, and Jo bent up to meet him halfway; maybe even a hint of relief in the thin man’s motions.  

 

Whether it was the kiss or the honesty, or just his style, Joker starting giggling hard enough that he had to break away.  He kept a hand in Bruce’s hair, “Oh darling, you know how to make a lady feel special.”  He shifted, turning them both over so he leaned atop the billionaire, returning gratefully to the kiss.  

 

When Joker moved to take a breath, he leaned to place his lips against Bruce’s throat, blowing a sudden and flatulent-sounding raspberry.  Bruce jumped and shoved the thin man away in a joyful tumble, “Goddamn it, get off of me!”  

 

Joker fell back into the blankets, absolutely howling with laughter.  He squinted as he wiped away a tear of hysteria, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”  

 

While Joker rolled in the sheets in his amused mania, Bruce coolly fished his boxer briefs from the side of the bed, slipping them on for an ounce of modesty.  When he crossed the bedroom to the door, Joker’s laughter screeched to a stop like the needle skipping on a record, “Where are you going?”  Panic came through in the thin man’s voice before he could think to shape it into a threat.  

 

“Relax,” Bruce insisted, “I’m going to the bathroom.”  

 

Joker sat up on his knees on the mattress, watching the billionaire carefully, “You’re not going to vanish like you always do, are you?”  

 

“I’ll be right back,” the billionaire grumbled, halfway to the door.  

 

“As if I haven’t heard that one before,” Joker rolled his eyes and called after him, “You better be back!  I know where you live!”  

 

After flushing and washing his hands, Bruce paused a moment in the mirror, appraising the man that looked back at him but all he could see was the negative space at his side, the perfect spot for a slim and angular partner to slip into place. Lovers. The word sent a hot-and-cold feeling thrumming through him.

 

When Bruce returned to the bedroom, Joker had turned on a light and was gazing out the window, still naked, leaning a hand on an angled hip.  

 

Even standing still, the thin man looked as though he had just been in motion, posing as naturally as breathing.  The arc of his long neck where it rounded to a steep shoulder, the bend of his spine where it met his cocked hips, the taper of his calf into an elegant ankle or a pointed toe.  

 

His shapes were unique and androgynous, unmistakable.  Had Joker ever actually been a clown?  Gone through some kind of performance training that taught him these dramatic postures?  Or was this sass all his own?  

 

In the gentle light from the window, the thin man’s face was lit up in attractive planes, edges softened like a pastel drawing. Joker gave him a steely grin and creeped in close, easing up on his toes to lean against Bruce, his nefarious fingers running ticklish trails along the billionaire’s hips, just tugging along the waistband of his underwear.  

 

When they were in costume, Bruce always felt like he had a physical advantage over Joker, and on any given day he would have sworn there was a bigger height difference between them.  But this close, it was clear that Joker was easily as tall as him, perhaps shockingly so, despite the difference in their body types.  

 

It put Jo’s face that much closer to his own, well within reach, and Bruce leaned forward for a kiss.  It was truly disturbing how easy it was to embrace the thin man; the feel of his lips and the taste of his mouth were becoming recognizable now, habitual, though Bruce was no less appreciative of them.  

 

Joker slipped his hands against either side of Bruce’s face, tucking his fingers against the back of the billionaire’s jaw, pulling him closer, controlling yet gentle.  The hush of their breathing spoke volumes.  Joker wasn’t talking, wasn’t giggling, wasn’t moaning: he was quiet for once.  Their kiss was not barreling forward towards sex, it was simple; the warm press of their tongues into each other’s mouths.  It was intimate.  It was sweet.  It was hard for Bruce to breathe.  

 

As carefully as he could, Bruce eased his lips off of Joker’s, hiding how unnerved he was at how thin man’s touch was making him feel.  Joker didn’t remove his hands from the sides of Bruce’s face, staying close enough to lean his forehead against the billionaire’s.  The thin man’s lips were parted and there was a hint of a pink tongue waiting behind his teeth, “Yes?” Joker asked, amused, green eyes blazing.  

 

“Do you sleep?” the billionaire inquired softly.  The thin man was rumored to be an insomniac, and he had wreaked his havoc over the years at various times of day and night.  Bruce could only guess that Joker’s sleep schedule was as irregular as his own.  

 

“Rarely,” Joker admitted, chuckling, “And not well.”  When the thin man made an expression, Bruce could feel the man’s eyebrows flex against his own forehead.  Joker continued, almost inaudible, “Maybe it would be different with you here.”  

 

“Maybe,” Bruce said, nerves adding some huskiness to his voice.  

 

Their whispered spell was broken a moment later when Joker bit his own lip, his usual sarcastic verve returning to his tone, “Are you asking me to bed, Batsy?”  

 

Mind and body surging with precarious feelings, Bruce huffed out a dull laugh and broke away, “I don’t think I can sleep,” he walked to the wardrobe and retrieved a glossy, black robe for himself, taking a navy robe with a subtle paisley pattern off a hanger and tossing it to Joker, “Come downstairs, I’ll make you something.”

 

“What, is my birthday suit too distracting for you?” the thin man toss the silk dramatically over his shoulder, displaying his naked wares.

 

Everything is distracting, Bruce thought with a trill of excited anxiety, “You can stand to leave a little something to the imagination,” he countered.

 

Giving in with a grin, Joker slipped into the paisley silk and belted the cloth over his nudity, just barely before the billionaire opened the bedroom door. A smile broke through Bruce’s deadpan, “How do you take your coffee?”

Chapter Text

As it turned out, Bruce learned that Jo took his coffee with milk and two sugars; the thin man already knew that the billionaire preferred his coffee, like all things, black.  

 

Both hands wrapped tight around the warm mug, Joker sat at the kitchen table, feet up off the cold floor, knees bent to his chest.  The thin man's robe was gracefully tucked between his legs to preserve some kind of modesty, though with the way it fell far enough back on his thighs, that wasn’t saying much.

 

Leaning against the counter, Bruce took a long, comforting draft of coffee and glanced at Joker. Jo was watching him, like always. There wasn't menace in that gaze, though, simply a voracious need to keep the billionaire in his field of vision. Bruce chuckled dryly, “What is it?”

 

“Nothing,” the thin man shrugged, looking away only long enough to sip from his mug, eyes turning back on the billionaire as soon as he swallowed.

 

“You're looking at me like you're expecting something,” Bruce cautiously proposed, “What is it?”

 

Jo made a noncommittal gesture, shrugging, and stirring his sweet drink with one finger before licking it clean.

 

Handling his coffee with nonchalance, the billionaire baited, playful, “Pretty quiet.”

 

In retort, the thin man slurped at his mug with extra sound and showmanship and asked, “Is that so odd?”

 

“For you?”

 

“Point taken.”  Joker shifted his gaze to the window, the lavender clouds of dawn briefly highlighted in gold before another cloudy day would overtake Gotham. Bruce missed the eye contact as soon as it broke.

 

The billionaire could take a guess at what Joker was thinking; he could feel it too, the funny question of their situation, the unexpected peace, the waiting for something to go awry.  Bruce crossed the linoleum and took a seat at the table, “What did you do on nights when you weren't bothering me?”

 

“Oh you know, the usual: setting fires and robbing jewelry stores,” the thin man leaned his chin in the cup of his hand, “ Someone had to rewire the abandoned amusement park,” then Joker sighed and with a thin, wistful smile, “Mainly I thought up new ways to to bother you.”

 

“That's healthy,” Bruce’s tone was sarcastic, but the knowledge that he was in the thin man’s thoughts even when they were apart, fed his ego and took the edge off the remark.

 

“Well, what about you?” the thin man asked, green eyes piqued, long fingers picking at a loose thread in the tablecloth.

 

“I…” Bruce started and stumbled to a stop. He should have been prepared for the counter-question, but the honest answer loomed on his tongue. “I’ve spent so many mornings like this,” he paused to cleared his throat, “Wondering where you were, what you were up to… and now,” the billionaire spread his hands in an encompassing motion, “Here you are.”

 

Unexpectedly flattered, Jo lowered his lashes, demure, “Is it better or worse to know? To have the surprise ruined?”

 

“I'm… not a big fan of surprises,” the billionaire answered.

 

“Mmm, what a shame,” the thin man grinned, mock-rolling his eyes, “Surprise, surprise: the world's greatest detective likes to think he has it all figured out.”

 

The billionaire waited a beat in case there was more punchline to follow, but the thin man only prompted him with wide, expectant eyes.  “So,” Bruce asked, “Did you have anything in mind after this point?”

 

“Do I look like a guy with a plan?” Jo stifled a giggle, like they were two kids caught taking in class. He took a deep breath and added sweetness to his tone, “All I know is that I've wanted you,” he shifted, dropping his feet back below the table and pressing his toes to Bruce’s, “Wanted you to be close, wanted you to be mine,” Jo had to stop and regroup, as if the words leaving his own mouth had taken him by surprise, “I wanted you more than anything else that I can remember…” He looked to the billionaire for help when his sentence trailed off.

 

“It's a lot to take in,” Bruce conceded softly, “Having you here, talking with you like this....”  

 

“This is how you got me out, isn't it?” the thin man confirmed, “I wouldn't make smalltalk with the docs but I’d talk to you.”

 

Bringing up Arkham was the farthest thing from the billionaire's mind. The sheer grim, reality of the institution made his conversation feel stiff and confined, “They said you needed socialization,” Bruce said, adding woodenly, “You and me both, maybe.”

 

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” The thin man waggled his brow.

 

The billionaire let the crack pass with minimal disapproval. Instead, he asked suddenly, “What would you do if they let you out?”  The words seemed so innocuous, but the hypothetical premise was loaded for both parties.

 

Let me out?” Joker was all scoff and pity, “Oh Batsy, you wish.”

 

The lack of a punctuating giggle after the words indicated that the billionaire hit a tender spot.    You wish.

 

“They’ll never sign off on a clean bill of health for me,” the thin man continued, “They’ll be banging on your door for a progress report any day now,” Joker closed his eyes and tipped back his head, determinedly aloof, “ Let me out .  Pffft,” he turned his face back to Bruce.  In his green eyes, the pain of reality blended with an earnest suggestion, Jo’s words coming out as a glib half-truth, “If letting me out were a possibility I’d suggest we keep this up forever.”

 

We could try. Tiny ideas, tentative and delicate as frost.

 

“If you two keep this up, there won't be a dish in all of Wayne manor left in one piece,” abruptly, Alfred entered the kitchen with an apron over his suit, hauling a trash bag with broken glass and porcelain chiming softly within.

 

Bruce should have been self-conscious of Alfred finding them this way: drinking coffee at dawn in nothing more than silk robes, their relationship spelled out for all to see.  But the cold, constricting feeling in Bruce’s chest was too distracting.

 

Bruce’s throat was tight; Arkham would never set Joker free. This was going to end.  This lovely balance of excitement, pleasure, attention-- it all had an expiration date.  Even if Bruce… cared for the thin man, Jo would never really belong to him in the way his heart imagined.     

 

“You can afford a little broken china,” Joker chuckled at the butler.  He emptied his mug and held it up, “Any chance of a refill?”  

 

As if the thin man’s history did not matter, Alfred took the mug in his obliging hands, “Right away, sir.”  

 

The billionaire cringed, something like embarrassment slowly sinking in. The three of them in a room didn’t quite register correctly in his mind, their roles were still unclear, specific circles of privacy overlapping in disturbing ways.  

 

“Milk and two sugars,” Jo amended as he watched the butler pour the coffee, “If I’m going to be staying here a while, Alffie, you should get to know my tastes.”  

 

“Of course, sir,” the butler replied, setting the mug down, lips in a crook of indiscernible emotion.  

 

As he took up the coffee, Jo smiled, wide and hungry, before standing and sashaying over to the window.

 

“Don’t encourage him, Alfred,” Bruce growled, arms crossed.  

 

“And what would you call what you have been doing to him thus far?”  the butler replied.

 

Bruce gritted his teeth but said nothing.

 

“There are Christmas lights up all over the neighborhood!” the thin man seemed genuinely surprised at the view from the window. He cast Bruce an urgent look, “What day is it?”

 

Busying himself at the sink, Alfred quickly answered on the billionaire’s behalf, “It is the early hours of December 24th, Christmas Eve.”

 

“Already?  Time flies when you’re having fun,” the thin man angled his chin with a steely smile, “Or when you’re doing time.”  He swaggered back over to the table, “You weren't going to leave me in the dark, right Brucie?  You must have something sweet planned for us.”

 

When this all started, Bruce wasn't sure there would be an ‘us,’ never mind a need for something sweet. That was playboy Wayne’s territory, or more specifically, Alfred’s; the butler was usually the one to shove a bouquet in his hands and send him off to restaurant with a waiting reservation. The billionaire glanced Alfred for assistance, but the butler only wore a mild expression as he wiped down the counter.

 

Joker walked his fingers up the silk of Bruce’s sleeve, all the way past his shoulder, ending with a sharp flick on the chin when the billionaire wasn't meeting his eyes.  Bruce frowned at the touch, “Stop it.”

 

The thin man wasted no time getting to a biting comment, “About time you spend Christmas with some live company, hmm?” Joker’s fingers were on the back of Bruce’s neck now, relishing their place on a vulnerable part of the billionaire's body, “Mommy and daddy won’t mind, if you spend it with me, baby.”  

 

The flurry of action and rage was over before Alfred could even think to diffuse it.  Bruce was on his feet, fist clenched, Joker was sprawled on the floor in a puddle of spilled coffee and broken ceramic, blood dripping from his nose.  The hit could have been much harder.  Internally, Bruce was surprised he had had the sense to pull the punch at all.  

 

“Oooh ho ho ho, you naughty Bat,” Jo ran a finger along his mouth, feeling for loose teeth. His tongue curled out over his lip and tasted the blood running from his nose. “You better watch out, or Santy Claus won't bring you anything nice .”  Joker turned back to the billionaire, eyes aflame at the violence, the challenge, the victory of getting under Bruce’s skin. “I was just saying,” the thin man gingerly got to his feet, “That it would be a waste of a perfectly good holiday for us to spend it apart,” Jo cocked his head, undaunted, “I am real, I am flesh,” he wiped at his nose, “And blood.” He flicked his hand to clear it of blood, red splattering along the linoleum.

 

“Might I recommend you both take a rest, sir,” the butler stepped in, offering a dish towel with ice to the thin man and casting a wide, worried eye at the billionaire.

 

“Not a bad idea, Alffie,” sniffling, indignant, Jo leaned the dish towel against his nose to catch the bleeding and curb any swelling, “Think I’ll have a lie-down,” straight-backed, the thin man walked out of the room, owning the moment as if Bruce and Alfred were merely his guests. “Wake me when it's Christmas.”  

 

 -      -       -       -

 

Joker had chosen to sleep it off in Bruce’s bed; he wasn't surprised. The thin man was already breathing slow and deep, naked among the sheets when he found him. Bruce would have preferred the thin man sleep in the quarters they provided, so the billionaire could lock him in with a little peace of mind.

 

Instead, Bruce turned a leather armchair to face his bed, and set about keeping an eye on Joker. His chest was still a stew of mixed emotions: hurt and insult from the thin man’s behavior, anxiety and sadness from the lack of longevity the two of them would have together, and a warm, desirous feeling when the billionaire thought about them tumbling in those sheets just hours ago. He tried to think the situation through, to follow each thread to its end, combing out the knots. But no contented enlightenment came. Each deliberation only ended with more tangles.

 

“He can be a terrible, insufferable man,” Alfred had said to him in the kitchen after Joker was gone, “And I’m sure having me as an audience did not help the situation.”  The butler mopped up spilled coffee, scooped up shards of broken ceramic, while the billionaire sat with his head in his hands.

 

“He’s simply trying to get under your skin, sir, I'm sure he thinks it's all in good fun,” The butler turned and dumped the detritus into the bin, wiping his fingers clean.

 

He turned back to Bruce, “There is something more in the both of you,” he insisted quietly, “I saw it for a moment when you two were alone at the table,” he put a gentle hand on the back of Bruce’s shoulder, “As though, maybe you needn't always bring out the worst in each other. Maybe it’s possible to flip the switch, and bring out something good in each other instead.”  

 

The butler retrieved something from his supplies and set it on the table beside the billionaire, “I found the pieces of this while I was cleaning.”  A small, decorative bag of make up, re-wrapped in tissue from the department store. “You should take it, in case the moment seems right.”

 

Bruce had since stashed the make up in his closet and tried to put it from his mind. He didn’t much feel like rewarding Joker at the moment, but he also craved to see Jo’s face the way it used to be, at its wildest and brightest. He thought of how the thin man had moaned and bit his lip when he saw Bruce in the Batsuit, and the billionaire felt a little shudder in his gut and groin.

 

From his post in the armchair, the billionaire started to attention when Joker murmured something against the pillows. But the thin man did not wake, only rolled over and sighed, limbs buried in the blankets. One foot peeked out from a corner of the sheets, pale toes curled in comfort, silently beckoning the billionaire to climb in beside him.

 

One glance at that pale foot and the billionaire’s mind was filled with knowledge that suddenly seemed so out of context. Bruce knew Jo’s shoe size, could recognize the thin man’s footprints from the brand of shoe or the disbursement of body weight. He knew the length of the leg to which it was attached and how far it would reach in a kick. But Joker’s bare foot poking out from the bedclothes could not have seemed more foreign.  The way the skin stretched over the ankle, the fact that the second toe was longer that the big toe, the bone-white half moons of his toenails.

 

This was not science or deduction, these were not details measured and memorized for a tactical gain. This something hard to quantify, like the difference between a birth date and a birthday. Bruce’s chest ached with the unquantifiable something as his mind tried to work through the deluge of thoughts.

 

 -      -       -       -

 

Bruce woke from a doze when his chin slipped out of his hand in a seasick moment of sudden awareness. Joker was kicking at his calf, “Wakey, wakey, sunshine.”

 

They had slept into the early evening, an orange sunset blazing between the silhouettes of buildings and trees, lighting up the room with amber light. It breathed an intimate sort of life into Jo’s ghostly complexion, sepia instead of powder white.

 

The thin man was clothed in nothing but a towel, so fresh out of the shower, the billionaire could smell the soap and shampoo, and see water dripping from the thin man’s forelock. “Bet you wish you would have slept next to me in bed instead of propped up on that chair,” Joker teased as he roughly scrubbed at Bruce’s hair, “How's that neck feel, Batsy?”

 

“Better than your nose,” the billionaire curtly replied, massaging at the stiff ache in his shoulders as he pushed himself to his feet. Bruce looked at Jo, askance, feigning disinterest as he assessed his partner. All things considered, Joker looked all right, albeit slightly battered: his split lip was half-healed, there was some swelling along the bridge of his nose, and pale, plum bruises shaded his otherwise clear skin. The artful battle-damage suited him; it played up the maniacal gleam of his smile, the roguish tilt of his eyebrow, as though he had already survived a dozen dares and were up for any game.

 

The thin man stepped in close, eyeing the billionaire’s open robe. He caressed Bruce’s bare chest with both hands, “Why don't you get yourself cleaned up,” Joker breathed, sliding in enough to let his lips just barely graze against Bruce's face, “I want you to look nice for our date .”  

 

Then Jo’s mouth was against his, forceful and moist, and just as Bruce surrendered to the embrace, the lips were gone in an instant.  Hiding his desire for more, Bruce swallowed and asked, “Our date?”


“Don’t you worry,” Joker waved the question away, “Alffie is helping me decorate.”  

Chapter Text

Their “date” was celebrating Christmas in Joker’s room, the likes of which was now suitably decorated for the holiday.  The thin man and Alfred had hung up strings of lights and holly boughs, set out bowls of oranges studded with cloves, trays of gingerbread cookies, and garlands of candy canes. There was even a ridiculous countertop set-up of Santa’s workshop, complete with figurines of elves, reindeer, and Saint Nick.

 

When Bruce arrived, shaved, showered, suited, and with chilled champagne, Joker was stepping back to admire his handiwork, the hook of a candy cane protruding from his mouth like some garish, curled cigarette, “Oh Alffie, I love it!” He joined the billionaire at the door, pulling the candy cane out of his lips with a wet pop.  The thin man had sucked on the candy cane until it ended in a knife-like spike of sugar and mint. “You’re lucky really,” Joker confided as they watched as the butler gather up the stepladder and supplies, “It is so hard to get good help these days.”  His teeth demolished the sharp part of the candy cane with an unnervingly loud crunch.  

 

Joker was dressed in dark suit pants with a matching vest over a crisp, white shirt.  There was sprig of holly at his lapel, where a joke flower with acid had so often been in the past.  The outfit’s style made the man seem even longer and leaner, the serious colors making him look like a groomsman or a banker.  All except his trademark locks: grass-green and slightly disheveled from the exertion of decorating.  Bruce had come to like the way the one lick of hair bounced out over Jo’s brow, and he had to bite back his disappointment when the thin man brushed it back away from his face with the rest.  

 

“Do have a happy Christmas, sirs,” the butler wished on his way out.

 

When they were alone, Joker exclaimed, “Ooh champagne, what are we waiting for?” Bruce popped the cork and the sweet explosion filled Jo with such glee he made a bounding pirouette into the room and spun his way back to the billionaire’s side.

 

“You're a bit like champagne, you know,” the billionaire coyly suggested as he poured them both a glass, “Unpredictable.”

 

“Bubbly,” the thin man replied with a grin.

 

“Stylish,” Bruce added.

 

“Effervescent,” Joker said with jazz-hands.

 

“Explosive,” the billionaire smirked.

 

“Celebratory!”

 

“Pale,” Bruce snorted, knowing the lameness of his answer.

 

“Is that the best you can do?”

 

“Known to give me a headaches,” Bruce continued.

 

“Hitting a bit below the belt aren't we?” Jo’s lips curled back in a half-sneer, “That's like saying you're like coffee: black and bitter.”  

 

“Well you would know,” the billionaire gave the thin man a cool look, “You've had me, you've had coffee: how does it compare?”  

 

“When you put it like that, it makes me want to rethink my list of favorite beverages,” the thin man took up his glass.  

 

Gentler now, letting the teasing fall away, Bruce raised his drink for a toast, “Merry Christmas, Jo,” he said quietly. Their drinks rang together with a bell-like chime.

 

“And a happy new year, darling,” Jo grinned from ear-to-ear as they sipped.

 

As soon as the glass was away from the thin man’s lips, Bruce stepped close and matched their mouths together in a kiss; it was delicate, seemingly innocent compared to their usual rush and clash, the light taste of dry fruit and mint on their tongues. When Bruce pulled away, he gently nudged his profile along the bridge of the thin man’s nose where his fist had hit earlier, an unspoken apology.

 

“Mmm, Bats,” the exchange left Joker sparkling, effervescent, and other champagne adjectives, “And here I was worried we’d need more mistletoe.”

 

“Listen, your company has been… good for me… but... ” the billionaire continued, staying close to his partner, calm, but deadly serious, “Never insult my parents again. Neither of us would be here if not for their sacrifice.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” Joker took a long quaff of the champagne, all but draining his glass. Bruce watched his throat bob as he swallowed. The thin man gave a lilting sigh, “But I’ll humor you, since it is Christmas and all.” Pouring another glass for himself, Jo asked, “What are you doing for New Year’s, Batsy?” His words came out in a rush after all the sweetness and bubbles, “We could make this champagne and celebration a regular thing.”  

 

“It used to be, in a way,” Bruce stepped away, crossing the room to lean casually on the arm of the couch, “You’ve held up the Wayne New Year’s party more than once. Though not for a while admittedly.”

 

“Hells bells, you're right!” Joker burst out laughing, genuinely caught off guard, “You know for a few of those, I didn’t know you and Brucie were one and the same-- no wonder Bats didn’t show when I held the pretty boy hostage,” he swirled his glass as he walked over, stopping to stand before the billionaire, interleaving their legs, so the Bruce’s knee was between his thighs.  He gave a sultry whisper, “I did it all just to get your attention.”  

 

Rolling his shoulders back to better meet the thin man’s eyeline, Bruce scoffed, “Just?”  

 

“Well, and for the jewelry and cash,” Joker mused, sipping from his glass.  He knit his brows, “Can you blame me really?”  

 

“Yes,” Bruce replied, half-smiling.  

 

“I won’t make the mistake this year,” the thin man assured, pressing his finger to the billionaire’s chest, “Give me enough attention at the party, and you’ll be fine.”  

 

“You’re not invited,” Bruce’s answer was immediate and certain, cutting the idea down at the knees.  

 

“I’m never invited,” the thin man chuckled, “But that hasn’t stopped me so far.”  

 

“We both know you can’t very well make an appearance at the Wayne New Year’s party,” the billionaire insisted.  

 

“Now baby, don’t tease,” Jo leaned away, “I’ll be there, by hook or by crook.”  

 

Sighing, the billionaire put a steadying hand on Jo’s hip as he stood, “Just… forget the party, let me make it up to you, now.”  Bruce retrieved the gift bag from the counter, and held it out to his partner, “I meant to give this to you earlier…”

 

“Darling, you shouldn’t have,” though Jo’s sharp smile very much said that he should .  The thin man took the bag with both hands, tissue paper flying, revealing the round pack of white concealer, a dark eye pencil, firetruck red lipstick.  A twitch of something primal crossed Joker’s face, pupils huge and dark, his fast-moving hands frozen in place.  His voice was a lusty tremor, “Ohh, you really shouldn’t have…”  

 

Bruce held his breath, waiting for the moment of madness to even out, wondering how Joker would land.  Would it return him to his old, abusive ways?  Or would he continue to bloom, finally allowed to feel like himself? Somewhere in between?

 

The thin man snapped his wide eyes to the billionaire, mouth in an apprehensive line, a thousand questions roiling below the surface.  

 

Working to seem calm and offhand, though his pulse was pounding, the billionaire nodded in the direction of the bathroom.  

 

“Don’t go anywhere,” Jo burst into a smile as he dashed away.  

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it,”the billionaire took their glasses to the coffee table, and sat carefully onto the couch, trying to ignore the knot of anticipation that was swirling tighter in his gut.  He shouldn’t want Joker to look like the way he used to, back when their game was far less enticing and far more dangerous.  But Bruce knew the thin man wasn’t himself without it.  Bats had the cape and cowl and Joker had his makeup.  Their trademarks, their calling cards, in many ways those looks were closer to their true selves than their unadorned faces.

 

When bathroom door crashed opened, the billionaire nearly jumped at the shock.  

 

“Ta-da! Eat your heart out, Batsy,” Jo cat-walked out of the bathroom and struck a pose, “Just like old times.” The thin man wore it well; he knew that the colors suited his features.   Around the broad wedge of his smile, the thin man’s lips were crimson perfection, jumping out from the pale canvass of his white face.  Jo winked a dazzling green eye, emboldened by darkly lined lash lines.  

 

The thin man strutted over to the couch, all of his saucy movements further exaggerated, the makeup unlocking a new reservoir of sass.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, settling in beside Bruce, long legs elegantly crossed, “Cat got your tongue?”  

 

“Stunning,” Bruce replied, tongue thick in his mouth, blood pressure far higher than it should have been. He worked to will it back into an acceptable range.  He reminded himself to blink.  

 

The billionaire hardly ever saw the thin man staying this still when he was wearing full makeup.  Usually, the thin man was dancing around pontificating, or his painted face nothing more than wild blur in a fight, a glimpse of a chalk-line silhouette as he flew madly out of the shadows. But now Jo was posing patiently, and Bruce could stop and admire those red lips crooked at a jaunty angle, those darkly framed green eyes.  

 

Bruce leaned in for a kiss but Jo put a hand on his chest to stop him, saying, “Easy, easy-- the lips, darling.”  

 

“They’re lovely.  What’s the matter?”  

 

“The lips, they’ll get all smudged,” the thin man whined, “And I got it just right.”  He took up his champagne, grinning all the while.  Bruce was captivated, fascinated, tempted; he couldn’t look away.  Joker daintily sipped at his glass and asked, “As good as you remember?”  

 

“Better,” he gushed, running a hand up the thin man’s thigh, leaning close, but stopping before any makeup could be put out of place.  

 

“Better?” the thin man echoed.  Joker smoldered under the attention, thigh flexing beneath the billionaire’s hand, lashes, dark over his green eyes.  Bruce was absorbed by the sight.  Here was Joker’s brilliant, violent face, done-up but composed, lively but lucid.  For a flash of a moment, Bruce even imagined having Joker at the New Year’s party, all purple and silk, and firetruck red lips.  

 

There was more Bruce wanted to say but something tight in his chest made it hard to speak them aloud.   I never thought it could be like this… insanity contained… madness domesticated … Instead he fell into his old charms, turning to sip at his own champagne, baiting, “Do I have to wait until midnight before I can smudge you?” The drink was too sweet, the bubbles on his tongue egging him on for a kiss.  He stared at the red lipstick print along the thin man’s glass.  

 

“Oh you’re just the devil in disguise, aren’t you?” Joker laughed, pursing his lips seductively, “Midnight, eh? I would be cruel to make you wait that long.”  

 

It might be nice to not spend the holidays tracking some murderer, Bruce thought, it might be nice to spend it sitting here instead, smiling and laughing with an old adversary.  It was just as he realized that there wasn’t anywhere he’d rather be than with Jo smiling at him, that he felt his vision start to cloud and his muscles slacken.  

 

The thin man had been so paranoid, so sure that Bruce would be the one to drug him, that the billionaire had let down his guard, forgotten that this was a two-way street, and now here he was, slipping under after Joker had slipped something into his drink.  

 

Bruce knew it had to be Joker who dosed him when the champagne flute fell from his fingers, and his limp body began to tumble, and the thin man didn’t call out in concern, but instead leaned forward to catch him, as if expecting it.  The last thing Bruce saw clearly was Jo’s green eyes watching him, hot with intent.

 

  • - - -

 

When he woke, the world was gauzy, glowing with a soft pastel light. His mind was slow and relaxed, unworrying for any moment beyond the present one. There was a second when Bruce idly wondered if the rest of his life had been nothing more than an anxious dream.  

 

Some mathematical part of himself started to take stock of his state: he was lying on his back in bed, pillows propped strategically beneath him, there was the warm weight and movement of his partner swimming around him in his fog of semi-consciousness.

 

In the blur of colors and shapes, there was a blaze of emerald that caught the billionaire’s attention, coming into focus: Jo’s hair. The thin man was upright, straddled over the billionaire’s abdomen, fiddling with something above Bruce’s head. He worked with unusual focus, green bangs tousled, mouth open but not grinning, too busy to realize Bruce was awake.

 

The pleasant push of Joker’s body against his muscles shifted as the thin man leaned back to review his work. His lips were glossy and bright with fresh lipstick. The billionaire felt a thrill of positive attraction, a desire to put his hands on the thin man, touch his hair, to hold him close… god, those lips.. . Bruce went to scoop Jo’s face close to his own but his muscles strained to no avail.

 

Immediate adrenaline roared into his system, senses viciously flaring to life. He was tied to the bed, wrists crossed over his head, ankles stretched towards each end post, keeping his legs open. The billionaire was naked and the thin man, still straddling his stomach, was clothed. Joker was working to remedy that detail, squirming as he wriggled his way out of his vest and shirt.

 

“Welcome back, darling,” the thin man crooned as he caught the billionaire's wild blue eyes.

 

“What did you give me?”  Bruce grunted, suppressing his panic. He was tied with the strings of holiday lights; Joker had even done it in a way to have the garland plugged in so the multicolored glow of the tiny bulbs cast rainbows and shadows across his skin.

 

The thin man giggled, “A dose of my meds mixed with alcohol made you stupid enough for me to get you into place,” he tossed his shirt aside, “With your metabolism I really only had just enough time.”  

 

Bruce sought to calm himself, evening his breathing, trying to put things in perspective. You’re all right, come on… Bruce explored the knots that kept him in still, analyzing without looking, keeping eyes on Joker instead.  He was Batman: he could get out of any knot.

 

All things considered, if he couldn't slip the knots, Bruce could probably rip his way out of the set-up with brute force, but either way would take a little focus and doing. Not to mention, he was vaguely curious to see how this would go--

 

Joker arched backwards, sliding along Bruce's torso, the curve of his ass in the close-cut fabric of his pants shimmying up against the tentative flesh of the billionaire's cock.

 

Despite the rude awakening, the billionaire easily imagined Jo riding him, pale legs astride his hips, the elegant shapes of the thin man’s thighs and ass rising and falling to envelope him. Bruce let out an appreciative murmur before he could think better of it.  

 

“Mmm hmm, that’s right,” the thin man agreed with the billionaire’s moan, rutting his hips into Bruce’s stomach to show off the full bulge of his arousal, before leaning forward until he was face-to-face with Bruce again, “Ooh I knew you’d play along.”  The thin man twined his fingers with the billionaire's bound hands above his head, pinning him twice over, green eyes nearly luminescent, like a pair of the gaudy Christmas bulbs.

 

“You didn't have to drug me to get me to bed,” Bruce insisted, carefully letting his brusqueness fall away into something less aggressive.

 

“Batsy, Batsy, Batsy,” Joker gloated, not commenting, “This going to be so much fun.”  The thin man extracted his grip to undo his fly, but realized he had to climb off of Bruce to fully pull off his pants, “Don't move,” he ordered, admonishing with one lean finger, before swinging his leg over the billionaire and off the mattress.

 

The command was reminiscent of so many other times, far more dangerous and contested: chained in a tank of water, or racing to escape the ropes and get out of a bomb’s range, or dangling over a vat of carnivorous fish.  No one saw Bruce like this, helpless, physically, maybe even mentally.  Only Jo.  Thinking of it now sent electricity through his nerves, a tingle down his spine.  

 

“What are you planning?” the billionaire asked, discretely shuffling his wrists to loosen the Christmas lights.

 

“How original-- I’ve heard that one so many times,” the thin man quipped, kicking off his pants, now naked save for his makeup, “We've been here before, you and I.”

 

“Something like this,” the billionaire breathed, the statement more for himself than Jo.

 

From the side of the bed, the thin man looked at Bruce for a moment, eyes wide and saturated, wolfishly admiring his captured prize. It was clearly a favorite sight, because his cock was already full and hard without hardly a stroke, standing to attention between his pale legs.

 

“This is a mix of the kinds of games we used to play,” Joker said as he climbed back onto Bruce, bare thighs against naked hips, sandy smooth balls, brushing below the billionaire's navel, “And the lovely new games we’ve been playing.”  He sighed a little as he settled into place over the billionaire, his arousal already so intense, just having their skin come together was overstimulating.

 

The thin man lightly ran his fingers across the seams of Bruce’s muscles, his barely-there touch circling at sensitive places: the billionaire's throat, his nipples, the edge of his armpit. It was maddening, and enticing. Bruce would never reveal that he was ticklish, even now he could suppress his bodily reaction to the sensation thanks to years of dutiful training, but Joker’s touch still left his skin buzzing and his composure jangling.

 

If his hands weren't tied he would have swatted Joker’s teasing touch away. Instead the billionaire tossed his torso, trying to unseat the thin man and disrupt his tickling.

 

“Not so fast,” Joker chuckled, and the billionaire could feel the thin man’s breath against his face, as he laughed, though Joker didn't meet his eyes, too captivated by the goosebumps that rose across the billionaire's skin in reaction to his nimble fingers.

 

The thin man leaned forward, and Bruce felt the hot, heavy weight of Jo’s erection settle against his abdomen.  The sensation turned the tight knot of hyper-awareness and tension in the billionaire's gut into something wilder and more hot-blooded, and he felt his own cock stiffen.

 

“Oh yes that's right, darling,” Joker cooed, “I’m going to touch you however I like…” The thin man's hands danced across his skin, subtle demonstrations of dominance, lingering at exposed, vulnerable places, the tendons in the billionaire's throat, the soft skin over a main artery below his arm.

 

At the same time, Joker was slowly rolling his hips as if he were already riding Bruce. The motion dragged the billionaire's cock against the curve of the thin man’s ass cheeks and rubbed Joker’s balls against the billionaire's pelvis.

 

Even with this sexy charade, Bruce did not like being out of power.  He worked his hands against each other, trying to find enough slack in his restraints to escape. But with each rise and fall of Jo’s hips, his world fluttered out of focus with pleasure and he had to start thinking things through again from scratch.

 

Bruce tried to be remote, to think of his body in clinical terms: as bundles of nerves and signals. But he was not able to escape the rush of feeling from these nerves, the flaring brain chemistry signals. Pleasure. Warmth. Touch.

 

Unable to escape for the moment, but not to be outdone, Bruce stretched his neck up to close the gap between he and Jo, catching the thin man by surprise as he mashed their mouths together. The thin man growled a little as he returned the stolen embrace, mouth parted, tongue pushing.

 

The lipstick made the kiss slippery, buttery pigment smearing across the billionaire's face, his mouth full of the soapy taste of cosmetics. His head swam with endorphins and energy, kissing those red painted lips at last. A mouthful of Joker and Jo together.

 

The thin man broke them apart, panting, lipstick spread in a cloud of crazy red around his mouth. Bruce was sure his lips matched.  “Untie me,” the billionaire ordered, but helpless want colored the timber of his words.

 

The Christmas lights clattered against the headboard as the billionaire strained to free himself.  He was intrigued by Joker's game, but he desperately wanted to embrace the thin man: to feel the warmth emanating from his pale skin, to pull Jo close and get his hands tangled in that green hair, to grasp the delicious hardness between his legs--

 

The thin man leaned hard into Bruce’s wrists to stop his struggling, “Now I know you like being in the driver's seat, my dear, but sometimes you need to give up the wheel for a little while.”  

 

“I'm getting impatient,” Bruce bucked his hips up into the thin man, brushing his cock against whatever flesh he could find.  The Christmas lights caught his ankles from moving too much further, keeping his legs splayed apart.  

 

“Oh ho ho, you’re impatient?” in reply, Joker dragged his dripping erection along the billionaire's hip, his whole body nearly quivering at the sensation. Bruce tried to suppress how much the action undid him, but a groan rumbled in his chest anyway.

 

Jo kissed him again, this time with teeth, pinching the billionaire's bottom lip as he drew away. “You have to remember who's running the show tonight, Batsy,” the thin man husked against his mouth. He moved his lips to kiss at the spot at Bruce’s temple where he had smashed the teapot; the touch seemed say: I can make you bleed.

 

Angling down, Joker planted a wet kiss at the billionaire's jugular: I can slit your throat.

 

He moved lower still, teasing and sucking at both nipples. He lingered on the left side of the billionaire's chest, stamping the spot over his heart with a kiss of its own. Red lip-prints marked the place: I can stop your heart.

 

Joker had slid lower still, moving himself down between Bruce’s legs, lapping at his belly button. I can slit you open.

 

The thin man could do all of those dangerous things, could damage each of those places he touched, but he merely kissed the billionaire instead, leaving his body smattered with lipstick smooches.  The deliberate pace and placement of each kiss made Bruce prickle at the danger and tremble with pleasure.

 

The billionaire knew he should try and free himself, try and stop the thin man from whatever he had planned, but when each point of contact ended not in a wound but a kiss he found himself opening up to Joker, wanting more of this delicacy, wanting more contact, more willing to go where the thin man suggested.   

 

Jo had reached the billionaire’s erection, brushing it lightly with his fingers. Bruce lifted up off the mattress at the touch, calling out tremulous nonsense, a desperate plea for more.  

 

“Ooh, easy! Down boy!” the thin man barked, amused.  The billionaire watched as Joker licked his lips, glancing at Bruce, green eyes shaded under dark lashes. He slowly curled his fingers around Bruce’s cock, and held still.  When he saw the billionaire’s melty blue eyes helplessly watching him, Joker moved his grip and mocked, “Oh, did you like it when I touched you like this?”  

 

The billionaire shuddered, couldn’t catch his breath, but managed to nod.  A few times.  Vigorously.  Jo fully gripped and stroked him, and Bruce gasped, “ Jesus --”

 

To be inside that mouth -- was the most reckless, dangerous thing he could imagine, every self-preservation reflex pulling against it, but in the moment Bruce wanted nothing more.

 

With one last flicker of wily, green eyes, Joker bent down closed his mouth down around him… and Bruce lost himself, sparks firing in his brain, every nerve and sensation forgotten except for Jo’s hot tongue against his cock. He was surrounded by the warm flush of the thin man’s cheeks and the gentle ridges of his palette. Joker’s smooth lips left red streaks of lipstick up and down the shaft of his cock, smearing further as Jo used his hand to tug on Bruce, fingers following behind his mouth.

 

They worked like this for several long moments of warm, plunging flesh, until Joker pulled his mouth away, and Bruce realized he hadn't taken a breath since the thin man started.  The cool air struck the billionaire’s cock, making him gasp.   

 

“I didn't gag you for a reason, Bats, let's hear some chatter.”

 

“Ohhh… don’t stop… just… ngh!”

 

His nearly choked on his own words as Joker took him back down again.  The sweet slip of the thin man’s tongue made him feel strange, his joints seemed so loose it felt like he’d never lift his arms again, but his thighs were flexed tense with the effort not to tip his hips and ram his cock down Joker’s throat.  When he couldn't help himself, and arched too deep into Jo’s mouth, the thin man pushed Bruce’s hips back down onto the bed and raked his teeth along the shaft of the billionaire’s erection in erotic punishment.  

 

It made Bruce toss his head back and moan, “Don’t stop… never stop--!”  

 

The billionaire’s outburst made the thin man giggle.  And Bruce could feel the giggle bubble against his cock, rattling within Joker’s mouth and he nearly spilled it right then and there.  “ Jo--! ”  

 

The only reason he didn’t go plowing over the edge was the hard squeeze of Joker’s firm hand.  With one last twirl of his tongue, the thin man pulled off his cock, and consoled, “Steady, steady, darling.”  

 

“I-- I want--” the billionaire’s chest was heaving, words tumbling out of him, “I want to touch you.  Did you have to tie--?” He wriggled his wrists against the restraints, his body throbbing at the edge of surrender.  “You could have asked me to… to sit back…”

 

“Ohhh,” the thin man laughed, low in his throat, “I think we both know this next part was going to take more persuading than I have the patience for,” Jo reached somewhere on the end of the bed and grabbed a tube of lubricant.  

 

Despite the sweet knot of heat driving him mad between his legs, Bruce was doused in a wave of uncertainty.  He didn’t speak, he didn’t know what to say.   Stop?  Go on?   “Just-- please--” he started.  

 

“This won’t hurt as much if you relax , but I’ll leave that choice up to you,” Joker’s slick finger circled the billionaire’s asshole before pressing inside.  Despite the invasion, the touch was delicate, and slowly turned the throbbing desire in his balls into a deep, permeating heat.  

 

As Jo fingered him, the thin man kept up his touch on Bruce’s cock; the billionaire’s want and wariness made for a confusing blend of sensations.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but Bruce didn’t know how to work through his feelings.  He’d never done this from this side of things before and he didn’t trust Joker to go easy on him.  In some secret part of his mind, he was curious about letting this play out.

 

The thin man slipped another finger inside, stretching wider, pressing deeper.  He hissed through his teeth, “I bet Harv didn’t get this part of you,” he angled his fingers with a hard jab, “Did he, baby?”  

 

The touch glanced off Bruce’s prostate in a burst of electricity and he called out, gulping for air.  “N-no,” the billionaire answered, desperate for focus, “No, he didn’t.”  

 

“Oh Batsy, you’re so good at this…” Joker moaned, curling his fingers within the billionaire, startlingly tender, “You’ve always been my favorite captive,” his words were weirdly flattering, even as he eased a third finger beside the others.  When he heard Bruce take a sharp breath, Jo groaned in response, “You never break or beg,” he was panting, face flushed even under the face powder, “Oh you’re so tough , baby.”  

 

Staring at the marvel below him, Bruce was captivated, hypnotized; what would happen if he moved or spoke?  Would Jo stop?  Would the thin man get brutal?  Would Bruce come to his senses and stop this?  He didn’t want to test it; he didn’t dare.  

 

The thin man added more lubricant and kept pressing and stretching, “You’re the only one that’s ever been able to keep up with me…”  

 

There was sweat on Bruce’s brow and his heart was racing.  Joker was gorgeous like this: on his knees between the billionaire’s legs, his hips gently thrusting against the air, erection bouncing, unable to help himself.  The billionaire was overwhelmed with the desire to fuck but the logistics of who would go where were all mixed up in his mind.  

 

Luckily, he wasn’t the one behind the wheel tonight.  

 

“You’re mine ,” in a sudden, slippery moment, Joker was up and easing his cock inside the billionaire, biting at his smeared lips, almost hyperventilating.  The push of Jo’s flesh against his own burned with a sweet, deep ache.  The thin man filled him in a way he hadn’t known he was empty, intimate and vulnerable and dizzyingly full and tight and warm and oh fuck .  

 

Eyes squeezed shut, Jo let out a wordless sob of pleasure and for a long moment the thin man was still and speechless; the combination of which was jarring to both of them.  

 

After a few long breaths, Joker leaned in over the billionaire, arms propped beside him on the pillows.  Bruce was swimming in his own head: Jo was within him, on top of him, his arms were pinned, his body branded with lipstick, possessed by the thin man in every possible way.  It was terrifying, remarkable, other-wordly.  

 

The thin man nudged his nose against the side of the billionaire’s face, a gentle call to attention.  Bruce had to blink to bring himself into the reality of the moment, to focus on the green eyes under tousled green bangs.  Breathless, Joker whispered, “You okay, Bats?”  

 

All through this process, Jo could have hurt him if wanted to, he had hurt him in the old days, but that tiny question now opened another door.  If the billionaire said no, if something had gone wrong in the night’s festivities, he thought he could feel the promise that Jo would stop.  

 

But Bruce only gasped, “Yeah,” meeting Jo’s eyes, with unabashed honesty, “I’m okay… I’m… good… it’s… good… ”  

 

In response, Joker kissed him, gentle tongue and soft lips, creating heat and suction between their mouths.  He began to move his hips, just barely, grinding into the billionaire, the small movements felt huge after the stillness, and the newness of it all magnified the feelings.  

 

Joker was breathing hard, grunting softly between breaths.  With every small shift inside, Bruce gasped and adjusted, the tensile burn of stretching now blooming into something more intense.  They kissed each other harder, as if attempting to devour the other was a reasonable reaction to the building madness of their desire.  

 

When Jo finally moved out and in with a larger thrust, they had to break the kiss, both groaning against the other’s lips.  “Oh fuck,” the thin man moaned.  The tone of his voice was strange, more sane and adjusted than he had ever presented before, though his tenor almost sounded like he was close to tears, “Oh… you’re so good baby… ngh!  You’re so strong and tough-- oh fuck--”  

 

Bruce could feel each move the the thin man made inside him, the push and depth of a private, important length he now knew intimately.  Each thrust went against his prostate and balls, and ran across hundreds of nerve ending he didn’t know needed to be pushed.  Their movement put a light friction on his cock, laying heavy and dripping on his hip between them, and Bruce was disoriented by the rising wave of pleasure building in himself.  

 

Neither of them would last, this was too long in the making, too many years of wanting and disatisfaction.  The billionaire had been so close to spilling it all in the thin man’s mouth, it had taken no time to get past his wariness and right back to the edge of release.  The thought alone dangerously tipped the scales, and the idea that he could come without a hand on him, with just Joker’s cock pushing into him, he’d never thought it possible.  

 

Through his own delirium, Jo seemed to notice that the billionaire was coming unraveled.  The thin man rolled his hips harder, and managed a few, important words between his gasping, “You belong to me, Batsy,” he choked a little; he was as close to the end as Bruce.  “You’re mine.”  

 

“You’re mine,” the billionaire repeatedly immediately, echoing the opposite sentiment before blurting out, “I’m yours!”  

 

They were in the final stretch, the rhythm of their breath and bodies growing more and more irregular and urgent.  Bruce wanted to wrap himself around Jo in every way, pull him inside; he wished he could lift his legs further and wrap his thighs against the thin man’s hips, close his arms around Joker’s body and feel the muscles pumping beneath his skin.  

 

Neither noticed that Bruce’s hand was free from the restraints until the billionaire wrapped his arm around Jo, pulling the thin man against his chest; they both lit up at the contact, the fun of denial long since faded, and the want for touch and teamwork and movement overtaking all other thoughts.  

 

The billionaire was first, one last sharp prod at the right internal angle and he was coming, all but shouting with ecstasy and release as his cock spilled on the skin between them.  Jo was only a moment behind, tumbling after Bruce, thrusting himself up and in until he was weeping against the billionaire’s neck, holding himself still and tense as his orgasm took him.  

 

It seemed as though they were melted together in the moments that followed, skin and semen and sweat; eyes closed, breathing hard, dazed with relief.  Joker stayed in place, laying atop Bruce with his full weight, face in the pillows beside the billionaire, giving him a face full of green hair.

 

Carefully, Bruce dropped his other hand out of the Christmas lights, the knots long undone, and he wrapped both his arms around Jo.  “Mmm,” the thin man giggled weakly, approving of the gesture.  The billionaire kissed at the side Joker’s face, kissed his ear in silent gratitude.  

 

Thank you, there were thoughts in his head that he didn’t dare speak aloud, thank you for not hurting me, Bruce focused on the ideas so loudly he was sure they could be heard without his voice, thank you for showing me this…  In that moment, Bruce knew, undeniably, that things could not go back to the way they were, he could not part with Jo, this feeling could not be temporary.  

 

Eventually they took care of the housekeeping details, took the garlands off Bruce’s ankles, cleaned themselves up from all the lipstick and mess.  They were both still shellshocked, not quite at full sentences, chuckling with disbelief of bashfulness.  

 

It was when they were laying under the sheets, Joker’s head leaned the billionaire’s shoulder that Bruce spoke, “I have an idea.”  

 

“Already, Bats?”  the thin man inquired, sleepy, “I thought I would have tired you out by now,” he yawned and pulled himself closer, “You’ve tired me out.”  

 

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Bruce tightened his arm against his partner, “I have an idea to get you out of the asylum.”