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Chilling, the silence that filled the city air. It felt thick with the lack of sound, somehow seeming louder then when the city was alive in daylight. It made the city feel like dead weight.

Perched on the roof of a small building, cast in shadow, dark eyes darted along the city street. A scowl was set on his face, and that was about all anyone would ever see. Shifting slightly to get a different angle down the street, Batman’s eyes were assaulted by a hot breeze. He blinked once, twice, his vision clouding for a moment and clearing.

And in that moment he saw a blur. A movement of sorts, from one corner of his eyes to the other. Silently, he stood and hopped down, landing in a crouch and again standing. He sprinted down the street, staying in shadow, curious as to what he saw. It was probably nothing, nothing at all, but in Gotham one could never be too careful. Besides, the city had been too quiet lately, and Batman knew under the surface something was smoldering.

He turned a corner and stepped, pressing back against the brick wall, eyes concentrated at the end of the street. Yes, there was a figure there, near the intersection, leading away from the outer parts of the city and into its heart. And it seemed like he, or she, very well could have been a she, was staring down the street, right at the vigilante, despite his disappearance in the shadows. It sent a chill down Batman’s spine, as if the gaze pierced the fabric of the air itself to slice through him. He waited, and the figure turned and continued walking, the faint sound of whistling filling the night air.

Thinking this person strange, but harmless, he considered turning and heading back to other posts about the city, but something pulled him through the shadows and down the streets. Something in his gut said “follow,” and he did. He kept a good distance away, only able to see the figure for a few moments before it would turn some which way. After only a few minutes of the hunt, it felt like he was traveling in circles, and as he looked up at a street sign he realized he had been.

Madness, pure madness, he thought, staring at the empty street, having just lost sight of his stranger. This whole idea had been strange, and a waste of precious night hours. Batman knew daylight would come soon, and it was time to retire, to hide away and put on a new mask. One for the sunlight.

Turning swiftly, he sprinted off into the blackness to fade to nothing.

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When Bruce Wayne’s eyes next opened, it was to light filtering in from a crack in his curtains. He rolled from his side to his stomach, burying his face in his pillows and wistfully debating going straight back to sleep. However, just as his consciousness began to slip, a rapping came at his door. He mumbled some inaudible greeting, and the door opened.

“I’m coming in anyway, Master Wayne,” came Alfred’s firm voice as the butler walked into the room. He walked straight to the thick curtains, a heavy black fabric lying over a flowing layer of cream silk, and pulled them open. Light filtered in, just as Bruce turned to look at the butler. He groaned and hid his face, waving a hand at Alfred and muttering something.

“What was that?” the butler asked, stepping closer and leaning over, “I couldn’t hear you, what with your face so far into that pillow, sir.”

“I said,” Bruce started, lifting up slightly and turning to look at Alfred, “to close those curtains before I turn blind.”

“As a bat?” The butler grinned as Bruce only rolled his dark eyes, falling back to his bed with a heavy sigh. Feeling some compassion of course, Alfred turned and closed the silk curtain, pulling the black ones partially closed over them. “Better?”

“Yes,” Bruce said, rolling now onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. After a moment of silence, his eyes darted towards Alfred. “Is there something you wanted?”

“Just to make sure you were still one of the living,” he said as he walked towards the door. “When you’re ready, Master Wayne, please do call me for breakfast.” With that he slipped out of the room, closing the door tight. Bruce continued to stare up at the ceiling in the dim but comforting light, trying to fully rouse himself from his post-slumbering state.

After a hot shower and dressing in something casual, he headed down towards the kitchen area, finding Alfred standing at the stove, spatula in hand, classical music playing softly from a radio set on the counter.

“You know, I didn’t even call to ask you to make breakfast,” Bruce mused, leaning a hip against the counter in the center of the large area. The butler cracked a smile.

“I’ve been here far too long to not understand your moods and the routines that follow them,” Alfred pointed out, not once needing to turn around. Bruce chuckled and picked the paper up off the counter, scanning the front page. Nothing out of the ordinary, the city was at peace.

He was reminded of the night before, however, and his strange impulse to follow a figure despite there being nothing particularly suspicious about them. Shrugging, he walked out towards a small dining table and sat down, a cup of coffee waiting right in front of his seat. He sipped idly as he skimmed the paper, deeming it extremely dull after only a few minutes. Thankfully, Alfred came out, baring a try just in time, and set it down.

“Will you be needing anything else?” Alfred asked, and Bruce smiled at him.

“Only some company,” he said, looking at the chair across from him. Alfred smiled.

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The darkness of night again, warm like the last, air still thick. Kept in the shadows as always, Batman watched. The night was young, and folks were still bustling about the busier parts of the city. Even in the outer limits people moved. It was a Friday night, that meant kids were going out, coming home late. That meant there were targets now.

He was leaning back on a roof, sitting, back against the bulge of an attic. Honestly, his work now felt like simple people watching as he stared down at the street. A stream of teenagers walked back, the boys’ with their pants hanging nearly off, the girls’ in something he was sure was not actual clothing. His eyes darted away, watching as cars drove through the streets.

Feeling tired after less than an hour of this, Batman contemplated just leaving the night be. He wasn’t needed, and even though his gut screamed that the instant he looked away everything would go up in smoke, his body couldn’t deny the need for a real night’s sleep. He slipped down carefully, taking great car not to be seen, and was about to disappear into the shadows when he felt something. Someone was watching, and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He turned, scanning the street.

At the end was a figure. Lone, unmoving, watching. Just watching. A chill passed through the vigilante. Same stature, same build, it had to be the stranger from the night before. Confused, Batman stared. A moment passed, then the figure stepped back, one step, two, three, and then was gone, around a corner, in the crowd. Just gone.

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Hands casually in his pockets, Bruce strolled up the steps of the GCPD the next morning. Well rested, he felt alive again. He slipped inside, getting a few odd looks, and headed on back towards a door. A knock, and a voice yelled for entrance. Smiling, he slipped in.

“Gordon,” he said, and the man looked up from his stack of papers. His eyes widened for a moment, before he regained composure.

“Mister Wayne! What can I do for you?” Bruce sat down opposite him from the desk and swept a hand back through his black hair. In the heat, he’d decided against gel and left it to fall naturally around his well structured face.

“I just thought I’d drop in and say hello,” he began, “but, I was wondering if perhaps you could get me the latest report from Arkham?” Gordon pressed his lips together, then nodded.

“Yes, I suppose I can get you an update on how things are running there.” He turned to his computer, fingers typing on the keyboard. “You know, Mister Wayne, it’s and off fascination of yours, that place. I’d think a man of your…stature would have different hobbies.”

Bruce casually shrugged a shoulder, and the cranking of a printer’s gears could be heard. Gordon stooped over, gathered the warm print-off, and handed it to Bruce. With a smile and a thanks, he stood up; papers tucked under one arm, and silently slipped out.

Once in the confines of his Lamborghini his thoughts began to wonder. Traffic was light for a Saturday, and wanting a little freedom, he’d driven himself. Yes, an odd hobby to the outside world. If they knew, they’d understand why he had to keep up on the confines of Arkham. He needed to know which of his favorite psychopaths were still enjoying their stay, after all.

Upon getting home, he headed into one of his offices and settled on a couch with the papers. It was a rather thick stack, but of course, he hadn’t looked at the report in a while. Idly skimming through the first page, the surface made it seem as if nothing had changed. Just as he was about to skip deeper into the pile, a knock came at his door.

“Yes?”

Alfred stepped in, one arm extended with a mass of color hanging from it. Ties.

“Sorry to bother you, sir,” he said, “but I was wondering what color tie you wanted to wear tonight.”

Confused, Bruce raised an eyebrow. “For what?” Alfred sighed, shaking his head.

“The Mayor’s little get-together you were invited to. Sir, you’ve known about this for nearly a month now.” Bruce groaned, remembering, and set his papers aside.

“Yeah, that.” He stood up, hands in his pockets, and eyed the ties. “How about a black one?” To this, Alfred sighed. He’d been hoping maybe to get a little color into the man’s life for once. Or at least into his clothing.

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That night Bruce stood at the “little” get-together, one hand resting in the pocket of his black slacks, the other holding a glass of champagne. Idly he watched the people around him, the men in their expensive suits, the woman in their silk gowns and shining diamonds. The norm, the boring, the slightly sickening. Sometimes Bruce really hated the life he had to lead by daylight. Even if it was well past dark now.

He reached up to straighten his tie, the only thing that stood out again the black suit and shirt. A rather harsh magenta, it was only on his person to make Alfred smile and leave him be. He contemplated just taking it off, but before he could slip away to do so and get away from the crowd, voices began speaking to him, and he was forced into the socialites grasps once again.

The party went on, well into the night, and though Bruce had been weary at first because being here meant not being on the streets or ready to jump into action, he was beginning to relax. With the night half over, it seemed there may be a little chance, if at all, of anything going wrong.

But that’s when the blast came.

A loud, crashing sound, the catastrophic and cliché boom that always followed an explosion. The room went into a momentary silence, before people started rushing around, trying to get a good look out the window to see what it was. Bruce made his way through the flood of people, seeing just out of the large glass pane that across the street, an office building was burning, chunks of it littering the road. He was sure some had flown across and hit the building they were in.

As sirens wailed in the distance, he made his way out of the room before anyone could notice, and hurried towards the stairs. Despite being so far up, he knew waiting would only take longer.

He threw the door open and began running down, taking the stairs two at a time. He wondered if anyone had been in the building, how long it would take to find them if they were. And, of course, he wondered what psychopath was behind the blast, and why.

Concentrating on only getting out of this building, changed, and into the next, Bruce grabbed the railing and spun himself around to head down the next flight of stairs. However, after only getting down two, his movements stilled, and he stared ahead of him.

Grinning from literally ear to ear, thanks to his scars, the Joker stood casually, hands stuffed in the pockets of his purple slacks. His nearly black eyes were staring intently at Bruce, and a low laugh escaped his lips.

“Hello there,” he said, slowly ascending the stairs. The sound of his shoes on the hard stairs echoed and hurt Bruce’s ears, as if it was the first and only sound that existed and it was tearing his eardrums apart. He wanted to take a step back, but he felt immobile. Staring down the Joker without the protection of his armor was unnerving. Of all the psychopaths in Bruce’s life, he was sure this one was the least stable. The Joker stopped two steps below him and looked up, lips opening in a real grin. “Oh, you look so scared,” he cooed, in the voice one might use with a young child. He reached up and smoothed his hand over Bruce’s hair, making the man wince. He only grinned wider. “See something scary, darling?”

“Only that face of yours,” Bruce said without thinking. The instant the words left his lips, he knew it was a mistake to say that without the protection of his second layer of skin. The Joker raised his eyebrows and clicked his tongue in amusement.

“Oooh, feisty,” he said, leaning up on his toes and in, “I like that in my men.” His hand gripped some of Bruce’s hair, pulling it so his head tilted up. The Joker’s other hand reached out and traced his throat, the bump of his Adam’s apple. For a moment Bruce was sure the maniac was going to slit his throat, and his heart began to race. The Joker smiled, feeling the blood rushing suddenly quicker beneath his touch. “Oooh,” he cooed again, “am I ex-citing you, darling?” He tugged on Bruce’s hair hard, and he grimaced.

Chuckling, the Joker released him and pressed his hands to his chest, shoving him back. Bruce fell and landed on the landing on his butt. The Joker almost pounced him, crouching between his splayed legs and leaning in. Bruce tried to lean back, but the Joker simply leaned in more.

“See, I’d love to stay and chat,” he said, tilting his head a little, his dingy green curls brushing his painted face. “But I knooow my man would be so angry with me.” He reached up, tracing his own ruby lips with a finger. “See, he’s a real brute, this guy. Never lets me have any fun. Real kill joy.” He grinned more, again reaching out to play with Bruce’s hair. He was staring right into his eyes, and it was very unsettling. Bruce wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he knew he wanted to get the hell away from him. For a few minutes, anyway.

After what felt like forever, but couldn’t have been nearly that long, the Joker’s eyes glinted, and his grin curved into a bit of a knowing smile. Bruce parted his lips to ask what was on his mind, but before he could the Joker grabbed his tie and yanked, hard. Bruce was lurched forward, and he felt the crash of the Joker’s lips against his before he could even breathe. The man’s painted lips moved against his own in an erratic rhythm, and Bruce was sure he felt the tip of his tongue trace his bottom lip.

Disgusted, Bruce pulled back, and the Joker let him go. He fell flat on his back, and the maniac stood, looming over him. His eyes were dancing, not an ounce of sanity in them, just wild blackness.

“So long beau-tiful!” He said, mocking removing a hat and bowing. Then he turned and was gone before Bruce could sit up. Bruce stood up, running a hand back through his hair to fix it, before sprinting down the stairs. Of course he couldn’t see the Joker, he knew the maniac was long gone, but he knew he’d be seeing him soon.

When he reached the bottom he called Alfred, who would be over in a matter of minutes. Changing in the dark confines of a car may not be his first choice, but it was the only option Bruce saw right now. He waited away from the building, seeing that the road was closed. In the shadows, he watched as the cops moved, as the paramedics attended to people. Yes, the building had been inhabited at the time. That made this heinous crime even more disgusting.

When Alfred pulled up Bruce hopped into the back seat and began stripping, jacket and ties and shirt and everything else being thrown over the passenger seat and landing in a heap. Alfred drove around the block, biding time, keeping his eyes on the road and trying to not look suspicious.

“Over there,” Bruce said, the only thing lacking now in his outfit his mask. “Pull into that alley, and I’ll sneak out in the shadows.”

“Of course, Master Wayne,” he said as he turned into the alley as he was told. Bruce pulled his mask on, straightening it, and before the car even stopped he had opened the door and hopped out. Not wasting a moment, he darted into the shadows and began sprinting back to the building. He came up around the side, easily slipping past the few cops there to keep the scene secure. There was only one cop he wanted to see.

And he found him, standing off on his own near the shadows, saying something over his walkie. Bruce, now Gotham’s vigilante, walked over calmly, making just enough noise with his boots to get Gordon to turn around. A relieved smile spread over his face.

“Thank God,” he said, shoving the walkie into its holster, “I was afraid for a second you might not come.”

“I was…distracted,” Batman said in that achingly low, gravelly voice.

“Well, we’ve got bodies piling up. Survivors being carted off, and deceased being dragged from the rubble. We’ve got a rescue team inside, but so much of the building is in shambles that even if there are survivors we might not find them in time. But…I don’t think there are.”

Batman gritted his teeth. He wished so badly now that he’d reached out and strangled the Joker just minutes earlier. That’d he’d opened his mouth and bit his slithering tongue off.

Thinking of the kiss made Batman’s stomach tighten, and he shoved it from his mind. No time to distract himself now. As he brushed past Gordon, no words were exchanged, as if the two mutually understood each other. Gordon would keep control below, in public eye, and he would stalk off into the ruins in search of survivors, in search of anything or anyone that could be responsible.

And he knew one man he’d find for sure.

The building hadn’t been extremely tall, and Batman found a staircase that wasn’t in complete shambles. Ascending quickly, he skipped the first two floors entirely, which, though a mess of debris, were accessible to most. It was the upper levels that were blocked off due to the crumbled stairs, and the instability. For a rescue team it would be too much of a risk.

For him it was just another night on the job.

He scaled a mess of crumbled concrete and made it past the third floor. The building held an eerie silence, staying unchanged as he squeezed past more debris to get to the fifth floor. Above was the roof, and Batman just knew who would be waiting for him, grinning madly like early. Taking a deep breath, he bounded up the last bit of stairs and crashed into the door, shoulder first, throwing it open. The figure waiting for him didn’t turn, instead kept looking over the side of the buildings, cast in a dim shadow but not completely visible. He raised his arms slowly out to his sides, hands open, and then in one quick motion turned.

Yes, grinning madly. “Welcome to the show!” He stared intently at Batman, who glared back. “Oh darling, I was afraid you weren’t going to come.” The Joker advanced, leaving his arms outstretched for a bit, before slowly letting them fall as he got close. Dangerously close. “But of course, that should never be a problem when you’re with me.”

Before the Joker could say another word, Batman shoved him violently away. Stumbling, the maniac stepped back, before a punch landed straight to his jaw. He began to lose his balance, and Batman made sure he did by kicking his legs out from under him. With a painful thud he landed on the rooftop, staring up at Batman with a dazed look for a second.

Just a second.

Then he was laughing, hysterically. Loud cackles filled the air and he nearly doubled over, holding his stomach. This went on for a few moments, before he looked up at Batman and went completely silent.

“You’re sooo rough,” he said, pushing out his lower lip in a pout. “Can we at least cuddle after, bat boy? Or are you gonna fly aaaaall the way into the night and not even call the next day?” He smirked, and Batman’s fists tightened. He was beyond sick of the sexual jokes.

“Cut the shit,” he said, crouching down and grabbing the Joker by his collar with one hand. “What the hell do you want?”

“Oh, the usual,” he said, lifting up a hand and counting on his fingers. “Chaos. Destruction. Hysteria. Oh, and a little…satisfaction.” He licked his lips and snickered, and Batman’s jaw clenched tight. Swiftly, his fist connected with the Joker’s face, the clown’s head lulling back momentarily, eyes rolling up and turning fully white. Then he was grinning at him again, his lips split open, though it was hard to tell beneath the red paint. “Yeah, that’s it,” he said, trying to lean closer, “hit me again, bab-y.”

Disgusted, Batman threw him, and the Joker landed with a thud on his back feet away. Before he could move, the vigilante stood over him and crouched down, almost straddling his hips.

“You’re sick,” he said, and the Joker gave a breathless laugh.

“Sick?” He asked, looking into his eyes. “Sssssick? Meee? Oh, no, batsy, you’ve got it all wrong.” With a smirk he reached out and grabbed the man above him, so he lost his balance and fell into contact with him. Pushing his hips up, the Joker effectively ground against him, groaning deep in his throat at the friction. Batman just stared for a second, then jumped up and away from the madman, who started laughing, loud and shrill.

He pushed himself up and dusted his coat off as his laughter slowly subsided. “Well darling,” he said, putting a hand to his ear and listening, “it sounds like we may have company coming, so I guess we’ll have to cut this little meeting short tonight.” Batman’s eyes darted to the broken door, and he could hear footsteps in the distance, the sound of rubble tumbling around. They were breaking down all the barricades.

When he looked back, the Joker stood at the edge of the roof, still grinning at him.

“Until another night sweetie!” Dramatically, he blew him a kiss, and then stepped back. Giving a feral growl, Batman lunged forward, but when he looked over the edge there was not a trace of the Joker, only empty black.

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Later that night, rather frustrated, Bruce stood in the shower, scorching water pelting his skin. He ached, but he had sustained very few injuries, which was a pleasant surprise. Not pleasant enough to overpower the rage he felt for the Joker escaping, however. Or the fear of just how easily the Joker might have been able to slit his throat earlier, finding him completely unarmed. And the stronger fear of what if the madman made the connection between the two.

Sighing, he ran a hand back through his black hair, closing his eyes. What floated to mind behind his heavy lids wasn’t how he could prevent all this from happening again, or the feeling of the Joker’s lip splitting against his gloved fist earlier. No, it was earlier still, his painted lips on his, the way they moved with no rhythm. The force the Joker used in such perfect control when he pulled him closer, the ferocity in those black eyes…

Shuddering, Bruce cracked his eyes open and groaned, cursing himself. It had been too long, that was his excuse. It had been too long since he’d enjoyed anyone’s company intimately, and that was the only reason he wasn’t as disgusted as he had hoped.

Slipping into a pair of loose fitting black pants, he walked back into his room after his shower and looked at the suit he’d left lying on his bed. It needed to be cleaned for sure now. And sitting on top of the pile of clothing was his tie, that bright magenta, the thing the Joker had used to pull him so close, to violate him in a sickly sweet way.

He grabbed it and threw it across the room, making a silent, mental note to tell Alfred to burn it.

 

A few days of calm, a few nights of silence. That’s what followed. The Joker didn’t show his made-up face, didn’t sound his hysterical laugh. The news covered the attack on the office building; police began patrolling the area a little tighter at night. That would fade, Bruce knew, but for now it was nice to have a little extra help.

It was just after dusk, the night was young, and the shadows were again his cloak. The streets were fairly quiet in this part of the city, and Batman hadn’t intended to stay here long, he was just giving it a once over to make sure it was clear. Just when he was about to leave, he heard the distinct sound of footsteps. Looking down the street, yes, there he was again, that same figure that had been present on other nights.

This time Batman wasted no time sprinting after him in the darkness. Even as thunder rumbled in the sky and the air felt wet with waiting rain, he kept after him. He didn’t want to startle the stranger, for some reason he didn’t want him to run, yet he wanted to close the gap. He slowed to a walk when he was close enough that he felt he wouldn’t lose this mystery, but stayed in the shadows. By now the thunder was louder, and a few stray raindrops fell down, gliding along his mask.

Would this man stay out, even in the rain?

A loud crash came after about only another block, and the rain began falling in more steady drops. Instantly the air felt cold, uncomfortable, but Batman didn’t move. His stranger had stopped moving too, stood at the corner of the street, looking ahead at nothing. This part of town was near deserted, and after taking a deep breath to calm some unknown nervousness, Batman began to approach.

With each step details came into view. Slender body, darkly clad, and Batman froze when he saw a mop of green curls framing the back of the man’s head, his shoulders. He swallowed, hard, as another rumble of thunder came from the clouds.

“Knew you’d finally come see me, lover.”

Looking over his shoulder, the hair and make-up the only thing recognizable about him, the Joker looked hard at Batman. For once no laughter shone in those insane eyes, just a deep, dark hole. Just nothing. It sent chills through the vigilante.

Batman wanted to jump on the man, throw him against the wall and clamp his wrists together. Capture him and take him back to Arkham where he belonged. Locked in a padded room in a pretty white coat. But those eyes, they were so lifeless and dead, they kept him from moving.

“What?” the Joker sneered, turning fully and leaning in, “lost your nerve or something, batsy?” The same snide remarks, the same voice, but something was different. Something was just wrong here.

“What are you doing?” Batman finally asked, watching water drip from the Joker’s curls as he was slowly drenched. His hair stuck to his forehead and neck, and his make-up was faded and running a little.

“Can’t enjoy a walk in this oh-so fine city?” he asked, shoving his hands in his pockets. Batman didn’t doubt there was at least a knife in there, but somehow he didn’t feel threatened. After a moment the Joker’s shoulders relaxed, sagged a little, and he tilted his head down, looking up through wet curls. “No,” he started, “no, I suppose I can’t, now can I?”

There was silence, as nothing but the sound of rain and the low rumble of thunder raged through their ears. Then the Joker was moving, walking slowly to meet Batman, and the vigilante didn’t move. He stopped right in front of him, reached an ungloved hand up and traced a water trail down his mask. Confused, the vigilante simply watcher. He didn’t feel threatened, for possibly the first time in this man’s presence. He was simply intrigued.

Tracing up another water trail, then along the ridge of the mask’s nose, the Joker just stared, watching his own finger, before looking Batman right in the eyes.

“You know, I’ve never seen eyes so black,” he said, and Batman wondered if he’d never looked in a mirror then. “Except once…” He sucked in his lower lip; an odd little flash of emotion on his face, one Batman couldn’t place. “Just recently, saw a real pretty boy with eyes just like yours.” He traced around one eye, leaning even closer. “And I just wonder if his mouth tastes the same too…”

Before he could breathe, the Joker had closed the gap, lips ghosting over his. Unlike before, this wasn’t rough; this wasn’t violent and seemingly violating. This was soft; this was just a gentle movement of lips that made the vigilante’s nerves tingle. This was sweet in a way that sent chills down his spine because it just couldn’t happen.

Seconds passed, and the Joker stopped on his own, allowing that tiny gap between them to appear again. “The same eyes, the same lips,” he reached up, traced one with a cold, rain-wet finger. “I’ve looked into you, Mister Wayne, and I know who you really are.”

Bruce’s blood went cold at that. His instincts screamed at him then to attack, to beat the man in front of him, to resort back to the original plan of locking him away. But he couldn’t. Something in those dark eyes kept him still unmoving.

“Nothing to say to that, batsy?” the Joker asked, his voice soft, strange. Finally, Bruce managed to move a little, got his arm to reach up. He wrapped it around the Joker’s shoulders and pulled him back to him, lips meeting a little less timidly then before. Their chests crashed together, and the madman’s eyes went wide as the vigilante’s mouth moved over his in a slow, hypnotic, soothing movement. Bruce’s hand squeezed his one shoulder, pulling tighter around him. The Joker’s arms lay limp at his sides as he succumbed, mouth moving to meet the vigilante’s rhythm, fingers twitching to glide over that smooth, wet suit.

“Not a thing,” Bruce finally said, whispering it against the madman’s lips, “except that you confuse me.” The Joker grinned, a bit too wide to be sane, and kissed him again, this time his tongue tracing the vigilante’s lips. Not a single thought of disgust or sickness flashed through Bruce’s mind as he opened his lips and met him with an eager tongue. They stood in the rain like that, the Joker’s hands finally reaching up, tracing along Bruce’s shoulders, his teeth playfully nipping the other’s lower lip.

Bruce couldn’t explain this, or anything else that happened. He didn’t know why he took the man whose face he had wanted to beat in nights ago by the hand and led him through the shadows. He wasn’t sure why he took him to his car, not the bat mobile but his Lamborghini hidden blocks and blocks away in the shadows. He wasn’t sure why it was so hard to disconnect his lips, or why he wasn’t scared for his life and his identity. All he knew was where he was going, and that was home.

It was hard to drive with the Joker squirming around in the seat next to him, constantly trying to lean over and take that mask off, lips unhappy connecting with its material on his neck. However, Bruce was still unwilling, and the closer he got to home, the crazier he thought he was.

He parked his car in the shadows and sat in silence for a second, the Joker scanning him with dark eyes. “Are we going to sit here all night?” he asked, leaning over almost into Bruce’s lap. He shook his head, and finally opened his door. Back into the rain they went, into a complete downpour that left them soaked to the bone.

The penthouse was quiet and dark. Bruce assumed Alfred was fast asleep, and was thankful for it. He wasn’t sure how he would explain this. Following him like a teenage girl follows a boy up to his room while his parents sleep, the Joker move silently, an oddly serious look on his face.

They hiked up the stairs, and Bruce led him down the hallway, to his room. He closed the door tight behind him, and when he turned to look at the man, dripping wet with his make-up smeared standing in his bedroom, in his sanctuary, he wasn’t sure what he was thinking, intending. He suddenly had no idea why he was here. But he was very sure that now they both should be locked up in Arkham.

The Joker shivered a little, and Bruce crossed the small gap between them, still restrained within his suit. He reached forward, running his fingers over the dark purple shirt, the plastic buttons that kept it closed. They traced up, over the ridge of the Joker’s collar bone, slightly exposed, and along his neck. His skin felt like ice.

“Take off the mask,” he said, sounding so different from the normal request. Bruce almost expected a snide remark to follow, a knife to gleam in the dim moon and street light slipping in through a crack in the curtains. Anything to show him that the man standing in front of him even resembled the Joker he saw just days before. But nothing came, and he seemed a completely different person.

Bruce reached up, carefully unhooking the mask from the neck of his suit. He hesitated a moment, but decided it was useless. It was obvious who he was now, and even before bringing him here, the Joker had known. He tore it off and tossed it to the ground, his black hair left in messy tufts along his cheeks and neck. The Joker smiled, reaching up and burying his hands in it, pulling Bruce’s forehead against his own.

“I think we should undress before we both get sick…er.” He grinned, a hint of his insanity back in those eyes, and Bruce had to admit, it was exciting. He reached down, fingers deftly working each button of the Joker’s shirt open, revealing a very pale chest. In the dim light he could just see the color change of the scar tissue that decorated him. He ran his fingers down his torso, tracing every bit of scared, puckered skin he could find. The Joker’s lids grew heavy and drooped in response, lips parting as he moaned softly. He gripped at Bruce’s suit, fumbling as he tried to find a way to unhook it. Gently the vigilante batted his hands away and did it himself, slowly stripping of every layer until he had nothing but the leggings on. Smirking, the Joker ran his hands down Bruce’s naked chest, shivering over-zealously.

“Ooooh,” he cooed, leaning in, “aren’t you just gore-geous?” He snickered and Bruce promptly shut the laughter up with a fierce kiss, mashing their bodies together. The Joker mumbled a moan and gripped at his shoulders as Bruce forced the man’s shirt down his arms. It joined the other articles on the floor, and then his hands were tracing along the Joker’s pants, popping the button open between them and yanking the zipper down. Though the pants were tight, fitted, they still slid down a little over his hips, exposing just that little bit more of pale skin.

The Joker shivered as Bruce’s strong hands roamed all over him, a combination of excitement and the fact that he was freezing from the air hitting his rain soaked skin. Bruce took in the chilled state of his skin and smirked against the villain’s lips. He grabbed his hand and pulled him towards a door. He knocked it open and turned the dial of the light, illuminating the spacious bathroom.

The Joker snickered. “Even your bathroom is the definition of style,” he said, voice thick with something slightly bitter, slightly sarcastic, “I can only imagine how many of high society’s women you’ve,” he cleared his throat, “entertained in here.” He chuckled, and Bruce ignored him, starting the shower. When he turned the Joker was leaning casually against the sink, playing with his curls and watching Bruce idly. They stared at each other for a moment, before the Joker cracked a grin. His former self, the usual maniac Bruce was used to, was showing. It was oddly relieving.

After a moment he looked past Bruce at the steam rising from the shower, then back. “Gonna invite me in, or are ya just gonna let me freeze, batsy?” Bruce didn’t say anything; it must have been the look in his eyes, because the Joker, after a moment, sauntered over and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pressing their bare chests together. “Should I take that silence as an invite?” he whispered, running a finger along Bruce’s jaw line, “Or are you losing your cool? Afraid I might cut you up when you’re not looking?”

As if just to intimidate Bruce, a knife appeared in the madman’s hand, probably from his pocket, though Bruce was unsure how he got it so quickly. He flipped it open and ran it along Bruce’s jaw line, where his finger had been, before he slipped it between them and it traced over the vigilante’s leggings, along the obvious bulge forming between his thighs. Bruce inhaled sharply, worried yes about what the maniac may do, but oddly turned on at his unstable antics.

He chuckled and tossed the blade aside, instead cupping Bruce with one hand and kissing him again, fierce and erratically. Bruce moaned against his lips and reached down, hooking his fingers in the Joker’s remaining clothes and tugging. The two began tugging and pulling at their remaining clothes until nothing was left, and the vigilante was pulling the Joker into the shower, under hot water.

The Joker hissed as it hit his freezing skin, and buried his face in the crook of Bruce’s neck, nibbling and sucking on any bit of skin he could reach. Bruce sighed and ran his hands down the Joker’s spine, stopping to trace every bit of raised scar tissue he could find.

Neither was really sure how soap got involved, who grabbed it first, how it got all over their hair and skin. They just knew it did. Bruce’s fingers were tangled in green locks, the Joker’s fingers spreading suds all over the vigilante’s chest and stomach, memorizing the feel of tight muscle beneath his skin.

Then their lips were locked again, Bruce sliding his tongue into the Joker’s warm mouth and groaning low in his throat when it was met by an eager tongue, at the same time the Joker was slipping a hand between them and taking a firm hold on Bruce’s erection, stroking painfully slowly. He snickered against his current lover’s lips, before biting gently on Bruce’s lower lip.

“Ready to try me out?” he asked, nuzzling Bruce’s neck then, stroking a little faster. Bruce shuddered, all too eager inside to get his hands on this madman. He reached past him as the Joker released his cock and proceeded to explore his chest and stomach again, lips kissing every bit of flesh they came into contact with. The vigilante turned the water off, then yanked the shower curtain open and guided the Joker out. He grabbed a towel off and reached around him, rubbing it along those green curls. The Joker giggled, an oddly innocent sound, and grabbed another towel, rubbing it along Bruce’s chest and stomach and back. When the towel moved from the Joker’s head down his chest and stomach though, and finally between his legs, his giggles turned to low groans. His hands clamped onto Bruce’s shoulders as he unintentionally thrust into the tunnel shape Bruce had made with the fluffy towel around his cock.

Grinning Bruce dropped the towel and scooped the Joker up in his arms, somehow managing to get the light dimmed off on his way out from the room. The Joker was busying himself with Bruce’s neck again as he was carried, nibbling and sucking, sure to leave a pretty array of marks behind. When he was suddenly tossed onto a rather high, extremely plush bed he yelped with surprise, before moaning as Bruce nearly lunged on him, going straight to his chest and tracing designs with his tongue into his skin. His tongue swirled around one of the Joker’s nipples before mouth closed on it, and the madman arched his back towards Bruce, hands burying in his dark hair.

Then they were rolling over, the Joker pushing Bruce deep into the bed, and he was sliding down the muscled man, tongue leaving a hot, wet trail down the center of his body. Bruce shuddered and watched as the Joker nestled between his legs, nipping one of his thighs. His face was still covered in bits of his paint, but his lips were turning now to a more natural rosy shade, and random white flakes had come off during the shower. Bruce wished he had scrubbed it clean, so he could see what lay beneath all the paint and hysterical laughter.

Smirking, the Joker let his tongue trace up the underside of Bruce’s cock, around his head slowly. He shuddered, trying not to push his hips up and bury himself inside the madman’s mouth, though it was very hard. Snickering at Bruce’s obvious dilemma, the Joker grasped the base of his cock and sucked the head into his mouth, tongue rhythmically flicking against the head as he sucked, his hand stroking Bruce steadily. The vigilante groaned and closed his eyes, focusing on the Joker’s hand, the feeling of his lips, and that warm, slick tongue.

Bruce’s body felt hot, like the blood was raging in his veins just under the skin at a thousand degrees, like someone had lit a fire in the pit of his stomach. He gasped as the Joker’s teeth gently dragged up his length, as his other hand cupped his balls and massaged them gently. It threatened to be too much, but Bruce didn’t want to come yet. No, not just yet…

He reached down and caught the Joker’s face in his hands, lifting his mouth away. Now sitting partially up, Bruce stared down at him, and realized for the first time that the Joker very well could be pretty beneath all that make-up. His dark eyes were bottomless, pits of warm black fire that were warming his insides by just staring up at him. Yes, beneath the make-up and the scars, this man very well could have been beautiful.

Bruce sat fully up and pulled the Joker up into a kiss, still holding his face in such intimacy that it scared them both a little. The Joker’s heart raced a bit faster, his skin tingling as he got his arms hooked around Bruce’s neck and stayed close. Bruce rolled them over so, once again, the Joker was beneath him, pushed down into the sheets. Bruce lay on top of him, a solid weight keeping him from doing any more then squirming. It was thrilling.

“Mmmm,” the Joker murmured, raking his nails up Bruce’s back. The other man gasped. “I’m pretty sure all the other times I’ve been under you it never felt this good.” He chuckled and Bruce nuzzled under his neck, giving his throat a warning nip. The laughter died.

“Sarcasm might not be the best idea,” he said, kissing up along the Joker’s neck to his ear, “unless you want me to stop, right here, and leave you like this.” His lips hovered just above the Joker’s skin, but instead of whining, instead of begging, the Joker just laughed.

“Oh honey,” he started, reaching down with his hands and grasping Bruce’s butt firmly, “you know you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands off me.”

He winked, and Bruce kissed him with bruising force, shutting him up a more pleasant way. Then he was sliding down his body, spreading the Joker’s legs and tracing a finger from behind his balls along his ass. The Joker’s breath hitched in his throat. He wiggled a little as Bruce sucked his finger into his mouth, getting it good and wet, before it returned, pressing against the Joker’s asshole. He mewled softly as Bruce gently pushed it in; seeming so tender you would think he was petting a little kitten, not fingering a madman.

Bruce kept his free hand resting on the Joker’s pale thigh, absently stroking it. The madman wasn’t sure if he should enjoy the tenderness or beg for the rough, violent actions he was always used, from both Bruce and really any person he’d ever been with. His mind didn’t know how to react.

Bruce tentatively pushed a second finger in, and this time the Joker moaned. He smirked and squirmed around, trying to get Bruce to move his fingers in different directions, to get him to move faster. “You won’t break me,” he said, before gasping as Bruce’s fingers did a scissor like motion. “Ahhhhh, that’s better,” the Joker groaned, arching his back slightly as his nerves sparked to life. Bruce couldn’t help but smirk as he watched the man writhe around on the bed. He felt a slight bump pass under his fingers, and the Joker’s slight moans turned into loud cries as his back arched completely off the bed and his cock twitched. “Fuck, yeah,” he said, licking his lips, “hit it again, Batsy.”

For some reason the nick name sent a different type of fire through Bruce. Not the usual frustration he felt, but a lusty fire that made him find the spot and rub it slowly with his fingers. The Joker’s voice escalated, tears even welled in his eyes as they squeezed shut. Bruce’s cock throbbed between his legs, and suddenly he couldn’t wait.

He pulled his fingers out, and as if on cue, the Joker was scrambling to get down to him, to suck his sex as far into his mouth as he could so it would be slick and ready for him. Then he was shoved back on his back and Bruce gripped his hips, rising him up and pressing to head of his cock to his entrance. The Joker’s legs wrapped around Bruce’s waist and the maniac let out a loud sigh as Bruce pushed into him. The vigilante groaned low in his throat, his erection being engulfed by a tight, soft fire that felt like nothing else in the world.

The Joker fidgeted, trying to adjust to the intrusion, trying to quiet the slight burn tingling his nerves. But when Bruce moved, a slow, tentative thrust, he began to forget both things and sighed again, tightening the grip his legs had so his body was brought closer. Bruce’s cock was forced deeper inside him, making them both groan. The vigilante set a steady rhythm, a slightly soft one, with enough force to make the Joker moan and squirm, but not enough to make him cry out.

Wanting Bruce to pound his body to the point of near death, the Joker unhooked his legs from around his waist. The vigilante stopped moving, though it was an obvious struggle on his face to not keep burying inside the Joker’s warm body. Without a word the madman slipped back, severing them momentarily as he flipped over and supported himself on his hands and knees, arching his back enticingly and raising his ass.

Not wasting a second Bruce grabbed his hips and slammed inside him again, making the Joker cry out at the sheer force of the thrust. His rhythm this time was far from slow or soft, and every thrust inside the maniac had him crying out, every slip back leaving him whimpering. When Bruce adjusted his angle a little, the head of his cock brushing over the Joker’s prostate, the madman’s moans turned to a shuttering low groan, his body going rigid. The vigilante stopped when he felt the Joker stiffen, thinking he had hurt him, which for once, was not his goal.

“No!” the Joker nearly yelled, looking back over his shoulder, nearly black eyes dancing with ecstasy. “Don’t fucking stop,” he whined, and pushed his hips back, forcing Bruce deeper inside him, again brushing over his sweet spot. He groaned again, and this time Bruce got the hint and continued moving, leaning down over him so he could nip at his shoulder blade. While one hand braced him on the bed, Bruce’s other hand fisted in the Joker’s drying hair and yanked, pulling his head up so he could get at his throat.

Sounds mingled in the room between all this, the Joker’s groans and contented sighs, Bruce’s breathless moans, the sound of his lips on the villain’s skin, the sheets rustling. It was the most erotic symphony either had ever heard.

The Joker began mumbling some incoherent babble, a slur of obscenities and orders, his hips bucking back to meet Bruce’s thrusts, and down towards the sheets, trying to find some sort of contact, friction. Without a real thought Bruce released the Joker’s hair and reached below them, grasping his cock at the base and stroking firmly along the length. The Joker moaned and pushed back against Bruce’s body, reeling in the overload of sensations.

He came first, his back arching so the vigilante was buried deeper inside his ass, muscles clenching and unclenching rhythmically around him, his cock twitching, pulsing as he shot his seed into Bruce’s fist. His cry was loud, followed by a train of muffled giggles and moans as Bruce pumped into him once, twice, three more times before he shuddered and came, a low groan vibrating straight from his chest.

The two collapsed onto the bed, Bruce laying on top of the Joker and pressing him into the sheets. The madman squirmed a little, and Bruce slipped out of him and rolled onto his back next to him, exhausted. The Joker turned his head, watching Bruce through heavy lidded eyes and curls of green. The vigilante’s chest was rising and falling at a slowing pace as he caught his breath.

“Don’t tell me you’re just going to lay there,” the Joker said, rolling onto his side so he could stare at Bruce, “I thought we could at least cuddle!”

Bruce frowned, looking at the madman, whose mouth was twisted into a very familiar, unstable grin. His sarcasm was so thick Bruce could have cut it with a baterang.

Bruce rolled onto his side and reached out, pulling the Joker to him a little roughly and wrapped an arm around him, over his shoulders, a little impersonally. He figured the best way to get the madman to shut up would be to go along with the joke.

Assuming some other retort would follow, Bruce braced himself and waited. And waited. After a few moments of silence, Bruce felt the Joker move, slip closer to him over the sheets. His legs intertwined with Bruce’s, and his head rested on his bicep, one of the vigilante’s arms stretched out under a pillow. Frozen, Bruce still half expected some smartass remark to leave those faded red lips.

It never came.

Bruce lay in the dark, silent room, and realized minutes later that the Joker’s breathing had turned steady, calm. He was asleep. Without really thinking, Bruce tightened his arm over the man’s shoulders, and let his lips brush his forehead, a spot were real skin had come through the white paint.

He wanted to keep his eyes open, he really did, but Bruce’s lids felt so heavy there was no stopping them from falling shut, and there was no way to fight the heavy sleep that overcame him.

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A loud rapping sound woke Bruce, a knocking at his door. Alfred’s voice rang through, and Bruce was about to tell him to come in, when the night before flooded back into his groggy mind.

He jumped and looked next to him, but there was nothing but an empty bed. He sat up and looked around the room. His batsuit still lay in pieces around the room, but the Joker’s clothing was all gone. In fact, every trace of the man was gone from the room, except for the disturbance in the sheets next to Bruce.

Bruce got out of bed and pulled a pair of flannel pants out, slipping into them before calling for Alfred to enter. The butler walked in and looked around, noticing the batsuit left all over the floor.

“Master Wayne…where you in a rush last night?” He began collecting pieces, and Bruce ran a hand back through his tussled black hair.

“…Yes,” he said, noticing his curtains were moving. He walked over and pulled them apart, staring out through an open window. He smiled and shook his head. He should have known the Joker would be gone by morning.

“Master Wayne.” Bruce turned towards Alfred, who was looking at something on his bed. “Sir, you should take a look at this.”

Bruce walked over, following Alfred’s eyes to a pillow. And a card laying on it. Quickly, Bruce snatched the card up, looking at it in the natural light.

A joker card. His calling card. Bruce smirked, and read the scribbled handwriting on it, “Don’t forget to call,” in red. Alfred, peering at the card, seemed confused.

Bruce just chuckled.

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Later that day, once Bruce had taken another shower, and been reminded of the night before as hot water nearly scorched his body, he made his way through traffic to Wayne Tower. Though he had no meetings that day, he still felt like being present. It would distract him from thinking about what he’d done last night, though he knew at one point, he was going to have to think about it.

He was sitting in a rather plush computer chair, one leg bent at the knee and resting on the other, skimming through papers sitting idly on a desk. The dull part of his life, the supposed break from the craziness of the night. He’d rather be chasing the psychopaths down by night then doing paperwork, or sitting in a meeting, or really any of this.

His door suddenly opened and Bruce looked back to see Lucius Fox standing in the door way, face set in an oddly grim expression.

“There’s something you should see.”

“Oh,” Bruce said, turning the chair fully and raising a curious eyebrow, “what?”

“Turn on the TV.”

Bruce reached for the remote, sitting on his desk, and flipped on the television, already set to Gotham’s news station. The picture that popped up was horrifying.

“Another explosion rocked the city today,” the report said, clutching the microphone tightly as her hair blew around her face. “The casualties have not been totaled yet, but we’re expecting far greater numbers than those from this week’s earlier-“

Bruce cut the woman off by clicking the TV off. He looked at Lucius, who smiled.

“I gave Alfred a call already and told him you’d be stopping by.”

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As Bruce sped away from Wayne Tower, he could only imagine how awkward it would be to get the Bat Mobile to the building in broad daylight. Sure, he could have Alfred drive him and drop him off away from the building, like before, but for some reason, Bruce didn’t want Alfred anywhere near this time.

Maybe it was because he really wasn’t sure what he was going to do. There was no doubt, there couldn’t be, this had to be the Joker. No note, no message, nothing, just chaos. Exactly what he liked. And Bruce knew he should be after the man’s head, should throw him back in Arkham like he should have done the night before. But…he wasn’t sure he was capable anymore. Last night, it had been amazing. It was like the maniac had been a completely different person, with just bits of his personality snaking through.

Bruce shook his head and groaned. He was growing soft for the madman, and this was no time for it. Not at all. And though he was sure he should go home and get his suit at least, he instead turned towards the street he knew the building was on. He didn’t want to wait; he wanted to get there now. And, part of him was sure the batsuit wouldn’t matter. If it was just the Joker, hiding his identity was pointless. And he was partially sure the maniac wouldn’t kill him…

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When Bruce stepped out of his car, parked down an old alley, as Gotham seemed to be full of them, the wind had picked up and the sky was clouding over. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his black slacks and watched from across the street as fire trucks pelted a burning building. There was barely anything left this time, it was obvious more explosions had gone off since the first news report, and fire had been set. Bruce frowned, unable to do anything but watch from the safe distance.

“Pretty sight, isn’t it, Batsy darling?”

Bruce jumped and turned, his skin rising into goose bumps at the familiar voice. Sitting on a dumpster, swinging his legs was the Joker, grinning from a freshly painted face. His dark eyes were dancing like they always did, insanely.

“No,” Bruce said, stepping towards him slowly. The Joker laughed at every step he took.

“Ooooh no,” he said, reaching up and slapping his palms to his cheeks, “the big bad bat is comin’ for me!” He stopped, index finger going to his lips thoughtfully. “Oh wait, I’m pretty sure that happened last night too…”

He giggled, and Bruce stopped a few steps away, watching the man as he nearly doubled over. His own face had tinted rouge, and his hands were fisting in his pockets.

Abruptly the Joker’s laughter stopped and he stared at Bruce, rather seriously. “Oh Brucie, you look so mad. Don’t tell me you think little ole me did all that damage?” The Joker hopped down, purple trench coat bellowing out around him before calming as he closed the gap between the two. His face was dead serious this time as he spoke. “I like chaos,” he said flatly, reaching a gloved hand up and tracing along Bruce’s cheek with one finger, “but this is too dull for me.” He grinned wickedly, finger now tracing down Bruce’s Adam’s apple. “There was no fun with this, just a big boom and lots of fire.”

He reached around and fisted his hand in Bruce’s hair, yanking his head back. Bruce grimaced and the Joker attacked his neck, teeth nipping along his throat, biting hard along the base. The vigilante gasped as the Joker’s teeth broke skin and his mouth was tinted with the slight coppery taste of Bruce’s blood.

“Besides,” he murmured, tracing a few slightly bloody kissed up to Bruce’s ear, “I’ve been a bit sore since last night, I haven’t done nearly enough moving to cause that damage.” He sucked on Bruce’s ear lobe, nipped it before adding, “Guess you fucked me good and hard.”

He grasped Bruce’s crotch and the vigilante moaned, unconsciously pushing towards his hand. Oh yes, this was going just as planned Bruce could only think sarcastically as he ground his teeth together as the Joker stroked him through the fabric.

“You know,” the Joker mused, twirling some of Bruce’s hair with his free hand, “I’ve got the mind to do you right here, where all those nasty little people could just walk over and see. Oh, wouldn’t that be loooovely? The billionaire playboy caught in some dank alley with the cit-y’s prized maniac.” His grin was full, but his words seemed a bit bitter, but it was too hard for Bruce to really concentrate on. All he could think about was the way the Joker’s hand was moving, the friction it was creating.

When the Joker managed to get his belt open and popped the button to his slacks, Bruce’s arms locked around his neck and he nestled into his hair, gasping as the madman pulled his cock free and stroked it in the limited space between them. The Joker’s glove made for an odd sensation, and Bruce desperately wanted his bare hand.

Before he could beg, the Joker let go and shoved him. Bruce fell back against the hood of the Lamborghini, and watched as the Joker ripped his glove off with his teeth and advanced, pushing him down against the hood and stroking him fiercely. The strokes were fast, erratic, some running down the whole of Bruce’s cock, some staying close to his swelling head.

Fuck,” Bruce gasped, back arching off the hood. He wanted to look up, to see the Joker’s face as he worked him, but he seemed unable to move except for squirms and back arches. His hands scrapped at the hood and he drove into the Joker’s fist, already feeling a warm knot in his belly tightening.

“Cum for me, Bruce,” the Joker hissed, and like a little lap dog, Bruce obeyed. He gave a guttural groan and pushed up into the Joker’s hand, nerves exploding at their raw ends and sending his mind spinning. His eyes fell shut and he lay panting, body humming in post-orgasmic bliss.

When he opened his eyes and slowly sat up, the Joker was gone. Bruce sighed, he should have known. He fumbled with his pants, tucking his cock away, still feeling the Joker’s hand around it even though he was gone.

Had there been truth in any of those words, that the Joker hadn’t done this? Was he just lying to Bruce to throw him off, playing with him so he could get away with something bigger? Knowing the Joker, Bruce knew he should lean towards the later, but something just didn’t feel right…

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In bed that night, Bruce stared at the ceiling. He should be out, he knew that, but he felt a few hours of sleep early in the night might be helpful. He sighed and tried to picture the ceiling in the just setting dark. All he saw was a heavy darkness, and a distracting image of a painted, grinning face.

He rolled over and buried his face in his pillow. It smelled like shampoo, with a hint of something else. Something human that wasn’t him, but another man. He groaned, felt something in his chest tighten.

No, no, this was all wrong. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to be bringing Gotham’s insane to bed with him. He wasn’t supposed to be melting flesh with them, burning in some hot fire they could create. And his heart wasn’t supposed to jolt to life upon first thoughts of any of them, no matter how possibly attractive they were underneath the grim and the insanity and the hate.

His arms slipped under the pillow and he wondered what he was going to do. How was he going to ever keep the Joker under control if the thought of locking him away actually made him ache?

Another groan, then Bruce jumped in his skin as his door burst open. Alfred flipped the light on and shuffled over, met by the dilating eyes of the vigilante as he adjusted to the light.

“Alfred-“

“So sorry to not knock,” he began, “but you need to get up, now. There’s trouble.”

Bruce didn’t wait; he was up and out the door, heading for his suit.

 

He was crouching on the roof, watching the flames of yet another explosion. His jaw was set in a tight scowl, beyond pissed. Not just at the criminal, but at himself. If he had been up, if he had been awake, maybe he would have done something, instead of watching as flames licked the sky.

He stood up, cape bellowing around him, and turned, sprinting to the end of the building and leaping. The next building was close enough that he managed to land on the roof, and hopped over the edge onto the fire escape. This was enough waiting around; obviously his own eyes were missing something drastic. It was time to get some information.

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Walking into a club through the front door in the batsuit would have turned heads, and though it was almost tempting to Bruce, he opted for the back door. In the back of a dank, wet alley he pulled a heavy metal door and slipped into the building. The hall he found himself in was far too white and almost blinding, and instantly, he was spotted be a large, dark man. Instead of the shock a normal person may show, the man only folded his arms and stared at him unfazed.

“The Boss is busy taday,” he said, jerking his head down the hall, “so unless this important Bat, git out.”

Batman advanced, eyes staring into the man. Words weren’t needed from him, and the man turned and walked ahead down the hall, stopping at a door. He opened it, and Bruce stepped in, the door closing behind him and nearly pushing him forward.

The room was dimly let, and the red plush carpet gave beneath Batman’s feet as he approached a large oak desk. A short, fat man looked up from the other side, his bird-like face unwavering by the sight of the Bat.

“I quite expected you sooner,” the Penguin mused, leaning back and tugging on his vest beneath his expensive coat. “And I know exactly why you’re here.”

“Then save us both time,” Bruce said, not amused in the slightest as he gripped the edge of the desk and leaned over it. “Talk to me about the explosions.”

“Oh, those little fireworks?” The Penguin smirked. “They’re nothing compared to what’s coming.”

“Tell me who.”

“Oh, God, I’m not sure I can do that, Bat,” he said, smirking a bit beneath that beak like nose. “You know, it’d do no good to me if I rat out my customers.”

Bruce slammed his fists down on the desk, then reached across it and grabbed the pompous bastard by the lapels of his jacket, yanking him forward.

“Listen bird,” he nearly spat, “the only reason I let some of the things in your club slid by is because the information you can get here is valuable. Don’t make me regret that, or change my policy.” He let him go and the Penguin fell roughly back. He cleared his throat and adjusted his jacket, frowning.

“Alright, alright! No need to play rough, Bat, I’ll tell you what you want to know. There’s this new kid, Chase is the name. Some new mob boss, a real cocky kid with pretty pricey tastes. He’s in here all the time with multiple dates, the finest clothes, the works. A life like he wants takes a lot of money.”

“So?” Batman asked, folding his arms over his chest.

“Well, maybe he wants the city to know whose boss.” The Penguin adjusted his monocle, then opened a drawer and pulled a glass out and a bottle of bourbon. “Maybe a little fire power will scare other thugs away, leave the city to him and his drugs and his threats.”

A nod from the Bat, and then he asked, “Where can I find him?”

“Well, if he’s not here, I’m not completely sure,” the bird said, pouring his bourbon. “And I didn’t get word of him gracing my premise tonight. He’s got something in the slums though, of course. I’m not sure exactly where, but I’m sure if you get down there and ask around, you’ll find him. The kid’s got pizzazz, he’s not afraid of anything. When someone brought your name up, he laughed and dared someone in a Halloween costume to even try and lay a finger on him.”

Bruce didn’t say a word, just turned and head for the door. The Penguin chuckled and simply downed his drink.

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The Bat Mobile sped down the abandoned streets of the Gotham slums. Were this a busy part of the city, Bruce might be worried about being spotted before he even got to the real work, but here he wasn’t worried. Left in the depths of an old, abandoned parking garage, waiting for him to return hopefully with a filthy little mob bastard, the Bat Mobile would sit undisturbed.

Batman kept to the shadows, as usual. Really, there was no need for him to ask around to find the kid, it was obvious which huge building he had over-taken by the expensive, showy cars lined up outside with waiting drivers. Obviously the guy didn’t care who knew where he was.

Bruce slipped in easily, finding that it was an old apartment building. The elevator, an old cargo type, had been boarded up, and that left only the stairs, which had two rather large men holding guns blocking it.

This was nothing, Bruce could only think as he stayed in the shadows. The room was horribly lit, and it was hard to see anything, making it perfect for him in his dark suit. He crept up, waited as the two began pacing a little. As one turned to walk the length of the stairs along the first floor, he grabbed him in a choke hold and covered his mouth. The man spasmed, and Bruce tightened his grip until he turned limp from lack of oxygen. His gun clattered from his unconscious hand to the floor, and Bruce let him follow with a loud thud.

Footsteps pattered in the darkness, the sound of a gun being lifted. Bruce moved towards the second guard, smacked the gun from his hand. The man, stunned, flailed, and Bruce grabbed him and turned him, bashing his head against the stairs. He too, fell to the floor unconscious.

Then Bruce was bounding up the stairs, two at a time, launching himself with his arm off the railing. The lights were a bit brighter on the first floor, and as his feet hit the floor he was met with gunfire to his left. He fell and tumbled to his right, turning and bracing his back to the corner. Reaching to his belt, he grabbed two baterangs, and without hesitation turned and rolled from the corner, landing with one knee on the floor and flung them. They sliced against the backs of two men’s hands, causing them to drop their guns and clutch at their bleeding flesh. Bruce was up in an instant, running towards them and holding his arms up, folded at the elbows so they got a point to the face. They went down, and Bruce straddled one’s chest while he grabbed the other by his tie and yanked him close.

Before there was a reaction and delivered a quick punch to the face, and the one was down. Still holding the other man down with his body weight, he took the unconscious man and nearly ripped his tie off. Bruce grabbed the man’s wrists beneath him and swiftly tied them together, then took his tie and did the same to the unconscious man.

The man below him opened his mouth to shout, as if just realizing he could, but was met with a forceful fist, and then blackness.

Batman stood up and looked around the hall. A few doors, but no sound. This floor was deserted aside of these two patrols. Therefore, it was back to the stairs.

Bruce skipped the second floor, went straight to the third. He could hear voices. Crouching low and staying close to the wall, he stayed half way up the stairs, just seeing men as they would pass, guns slung over their shoulders in lazy boredom.

When they were out of sight he bolted up, side stepping down a hall and pressing to the wall. He could very well take these patrols out like the others, but through the thin walls Bruce could hear voices, and he didn’t want to make too much noise, cause alarm. He didn’t want this kid to flee.

So he patiently hid in the shadows, against the wall as the men moved back and forth along the halls, as the voices behind the door turned to laughter. Then footsteps, the sound of a door opening. Perfect.

Bruce stayed still, ready to strike out as they walked by, ready to grab this new punk ass kid by the throat and break through the thin walls if he had to. Anyone sick enough to have so many people die just to show some sick sense of dominance deserved a few broken bones from a fall like that. At least.

The footsteps got louder, and Bruce could just begin to see someone walking between two large men. Some man not older than his mid twenties, with his stylish, spiky brown hair and pinstripe jacket. And worst of all, cocky smile.

Yes, he’d have to get through the guards. Knowing that, Bruce turned and launched out, tackling one straight to the ground. The man’s gun went off as he unintentionally pulled the trigger, spilling bullets into a cracked wall. The sounds of shouts, of feet moving, and Bruce saw the kid being ushered away. He grabbed the gun from the man below him and smacked him in the face with it, then threw it behind him and started after them.

They had thrown open a door and began up a metal stair well. Bruce followed, ducking to the side as random sprays of bullets would fall down. When he reached the top he threw a door open and found himself on the roof. The empty roof.

Confused, Bruce spun around, and came face to face with a man holding up his automatic gun, grinning widely at him.

“Boo,” he said, and then there was a loud bang. Bruce braced himself for a spray of bullets on his Kevlar, for the bruising pain, for maybe his armor to break and a bullet to get through somewhere. It didn’t come.

He watched as the man dropped his gun and doubled over, hitting the concrete ground. Blood began pooling around him, gushing from a gaping wound in the guts.

Bruce spun around, eyes widening at the sight he took in. The Joker stood at the opposite end of the roof, holding a shotgun in his hands. He snapped it open and the empty shells fell out, and Bruce was motionless as he shoved two more in, clicked it closed, and raised it up.

“Lock and load, baby,” he said, then grinned and pulled the trigger. The sound exploded again, and a man in the doorway back to the building crumpled to the ground. Bruce looked at him, then back at the Joker. The madman who had just…possibly saved his life?

Bruce watched as the Joker leaned the shotgun on one shoulder and walked over, kicking one of the bodies. It rolled a little to its side, showed off the gaping hole, innards beginning to show. Bruce swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Can’t leave you alone for a minute,” the Joker mused, stopping just in front of Bruce. “You get yourself killed; you’ll be of no use to me, Batsy.”

Bruce tried to find his voice, but the Joker continued before he could speak.

“Gotta learn to break a few rules,” he said, just dropping the shotgun. It clattered to the ground, and the Joker reached around Bruce, grasping the back of his head, yanking him closer. Their lips crashed together, the Joker’s dominantly moving, his tongue forcing its way into Bruce’s mouth and playing against his. Part of Bruce fell right into the kiss, moved his lips and tongue along with the madman’s, but the other part tried to break away, because of who he was, because there were more important things.

But the attraction won over, and Bruce grasped the Joker’s biceps, squeezing gently as he followed the kiss. Then their lips parted, both gasping slightly, breaths mingling in the slight gap between them.

“I need to follow them,” Bruce managed to force out, and the Joker stepped back, gesturing towards the side of the building.

“Then run,” he said, and Bruce didn’t ask why the Joker had done what he did, or why he wasn’t getting in the way. He just ran. Ran towards the edge of the building and leapt, grabbing the fire escape railing of the next building over and sliding and swinging his way to the ground. His feet hit the pavement and he was off, towards the sounds of cars racing away.

He knew he’d never catch them on foot, but he was reluctant to leave the trail. He swerved into the old parking garage, sprinting at top speed to the Bat mobile…

And there he was again, somehow, leaning against the vehicle like he’d been waiting hours. The Joker grinned, and Bruce didn’t ask. There just wasn’t time for questions. He opened the vehicle and hopped in, and without questioning himself he grabbed the Joker’s arm and guided him in.

Wasting no time, the door closed and Bruce grabbed the throttle, thrusting it forward and shooting out of the garage. The Bat mobile swerved onto the street and sped in the direction Bruce last heard the cars moving.

“I don’t remember what the cars looked like,” Bruce muttered as he ravaged the streets with the vehicle like tank.

“I do,” the Joker said, leaning forward and looking at the radar Bruce used to drive. “You’ve gotta have a camera on this tank of yours, Batsy.” Bruce nodded and reached up with one hand, hitting a button, flipping a switch. A little monitor flipped down and a picture appeared of the outside world. Between when they had climbed in the vehicle and when they had gotten onto a much more mainstream street it had begun raining. “There,” the Joker said, pointing to a flashy white car. “That’s one. Where’s the fire power on this bitch?”

He looked around, a little too eager, and Bruce’s hand clamped on the sifter with the trigger. “Keep your hands to yourself,” he said as he steered with hand and tried to aim with the other. After a few failed attempts to lock on, he had to give up and weave around cars as the pursuit continued towards the main streets of Gotham.

“Give it!” the Joker said, sounding like a child, and batting Bruce’s hands away. He grabbed the shifter and began moving it, aiming the gun for the car and hitting the trigger before Bruce could even say anything. An array of bullets flew out, spraying the car, popping the tires. It swerved and crashed into a guard rail, flipping over it and rolling a few times. As the Bat Mobile sped past, the explosion could be heard.

“Dammit!” Bruce said, shooting an aggravated glance at the Joker, “I want him alive!”

“Then it’s a good thing he wasn’t in that car,” the Joker said, grinning and pointing at the monitor. “He’s in that one.” His finger tapped a red car quickly trying to speed away, and he moved the shifter.

“Alive!” Bruce yelled as the Joker pressed the trigger a little too soon. Bruce swerved the Bat mobile just in time to throw the bullets off so they missed another ongoing car. Bruce grimaced, and the Joker tried to line the shot up again. Again an array of bullets, and this time they hit the rear tire of the red car. It skidded, swerved a little, and a few more bullets popped one of the front tires. The car stopped when its side crashed into a guard rail. Bruce turned the wheel sharp, slamming on the brakes. The Joker was flung violently back and he lost his grip on the trigger, as he wasn’t in a real seat like Bruce was.

He sat sprawled out, dazed, as Bruce opened the Bat mobile and jumped out, running towards the car. As the doors opened in the front he grabbed the man that begin climbed out and slammed his head against the car, then let him slump to the ground. Then he was launching himself over the hood, pulling the skinny kid from the passenger seat. He slammed him against the back door, voice coming out a menacing, low grumble.

“What were you thinking!” he yelled, and the kid looked at him, blood leaking down the side of his face from a cut along his head. “You killed countless people to show a little dominance!”

The kid laughed, smiling at Batman like he was an old friend. There was blood on his teeth.

“Gotta do what I gotta do,” he said, leaning forward. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world mister, and you either bite or you get stuck in the fucking cage barkin’.”

Bruce slammed his head back against the car, hard enough to make his vision spin but not knock him out. He was about to spat more insults, more rage at the boy when he heard laughing.

He looked over his shoulder, saw the Joker walking over. Some of his make-up was smudged on one side from his rough ride in the Bat Mobile.

“You call that a bite?” he asked, stopping next to Batman and leaning in to the kid. With what seemed like a lightning fast movement, he had a switch blade drawn from one pocket and flipped it open. He stuck it in the kid’s mouth, pressed it to one cheek. “Your mouth is too small, darling, for a real bite. Maybe I should make it a bit bigger.” He left a little knick at the edge of the kid’s check, between his lips, before Bruce was pulling him back. Sirens wailed in the distance.

“Don’t touch him,” Bruce warned, and watched with more than mild pleasure as all the trauma really set in and the kid’s eyes rolled back into his head. He slumped down to the ground, and that was it. Bruce could leave him like that for the cops. “They’ll figure it out,” he said, grabbing the Joker by the wrist and pulling him towards the Bat Mobile. Yes, the cops would figure it out, so right now Bruce knew he had to concentrate on getting them out of there before the cops showed up.

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

Away from the noise, the heat and the commotion, Bruce stood in the dim moonlight of the back alleys and stared at the Joker. The man was fixing his vest, his jacket, seeming unconcerned.

God, what was he going to do? He should lock him up; throw him to the dogs in Arkham where he belonged. Of course, these tragedies hadn’t been his doing, but he was guilty of so much to begin with he didn’t need any new offenses to earn time in the nut house.

But still. He hadn’t caused any real damage tonight. On the contrary, he’d been helpful. Very helpful. Ridiculously helpful.

And part of him didn’t want to cage the animal standing in front of him. Part of him liked knowing the Joker was running around, begging to be chased. And all of him loved knowing that if the Joker ran free, it meant there could be other nights…

“So, gonna cuff me or not?” the Joker asked, holding his hands up, wrists together. Bruce walked towards him, reaching towards his belt, but when he got to the madman he just buried his hand in those green curls and pulled his face close. Their lips met and the Joker stood, actually stunned for a moment as Bruce kissed him, before he fell into the movement, his hands pressed to Bruce’s chest, gripping at the chest plates of his suit.

“No,” Bruce said nearly against his lips, “I’m not. I should…but I’m not.”

“Because I was a good boy?” the Joker asked, grinning wickedly. “Don’t get used to it-“

“No,” Bruce said, playing with a few curls, wrapping them around a gloved finger. “No, not that. Not any of that. I’m letting you go because I want to.” He sighed and stepped back. “There’s no other reason.”

The Joker stared at him for a second, then brushed some of his hair back from his painted face. “Honestly,” he said, sounding sincere for a moment, “I didn’t expect that.” He clicked his tongue. “But really, don’t get used to this. I wasn’t helping you out because I’ve rediscovered justice or some bullshit like that.” He closed the gap, grabbed a hold of some of Bruce’s cape and pulled him so their chests crashed together. “This is my city, and I didn’t like the idea of some little brat thinking he could come in and just take it.” He leaned close, pecked Bruce’s lips. “And I didn’t like the thought of someone blowing holes in my current hobby.”

Hobby, well, Bruce was sure that was just great, being called a hobby. Yet he couldn’t retaliate, and he couldn’t get mad. He just stood there in the Joker’s grasp.

He kissed Bruce again, nipping his lower lip, then shoved him. The vigilante fell on his butt on the ground and watched as the Joker turned and began walking away into the streets. The rain that had started before, that Bruce hadn’t even realized was slowly soaking them finally came to notice as it left the Joker’s curls dripping along his neck and shoulders.

Bruce stayed on the ground, just watching him disappear. This was his city. Bruce wanted to disagree, but he knew somewhere deep inside that the Joker still could pull more strings in this city then he could. Leaving him out to wonder left Bruce a goal, he decided.

To take the city back from the madman. And maybe take his sanity back to, which the Joker had walked away with. And those heart strings that Bruce felt ripped right from his chest, possibly the scariest realization of all. Yes, take all of those back. One night at a time.