Day One: First Kiss
There had been nothing special about that day. The Joker had always thought he would know, when the right time finally came, but he didn't, and he didn't have anything new in mind when he slipped out of Arkham. He was thinking of robbing a bank. Or maybe kidnapping a billionaire. Haly's Circus was coming to Gotham soon- maybe he could masquerade as a clown and kill the entire audience. Either way, he was going to have some fun with his Bat, but probably nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn't time yet.
The Batman, on the other hand, woke up cold and drenched in sweat. A shower did nothing to wash the feeling away, and when the report came that the Joker had escaped from Arkham Asylum, he wasn't even surprised. It certainly explained the shaky feeling he'd had earlier. Another breakout, another crime spree, another night on the job. He heard the sound of footsteps approaching, and turned.
"Coffee, sir?" Alfred set down his try. "And might I recommend you turn on the lights? The Cave is dark enough even when they're on."
"The Joker's escaped from Arkham Asylum."
"So I've heard. Cream?"
Bruce didn't answer. Alfred sighed and, after flicking on a light switch, started to make his coffee.
"Any leads?" he asked, handing him a cup.
"He hasn't stepped out of the shadows yet," Bruce accepted his cup. "But I intend to be there when he does."
"Of course you do."
Bruce took a sip of his coffee and said nothing.
"Well, I suppose there's no rest for the weary."
"Something's different, Alfred."
"And what makes you say that, Master Bruce?"
He didn't reply.
"Well, I suppose I'll have to start preparing for the Wayne Charity Ball. Which the host will be attending come month's end."
Once again, Bruce didn't speak.
Alfred sighed again and left the Cave, pausing to look back at Bruce. A single, dark, lonely figure hunched over in the glow of his computer screen.
I worry about you, sir.
The Joker had taken one look at the empty grounds, previously occupied by Haly's Circus, and knew he'd found a new hideout. He barley even left the grounds after that, except for the occasional bank robbery. He was lying low. Under the radar. All that shit. He wasn't quite ready for Batman to show up- he had a feeling that he'd want the ferris wheel to be in working order. And his goons were working most of the day, polishing the mirrors in the funhouse. It just wasn't a real fight if the landscape wasn't perfect. But he was starting to get worried. Batman still hadn't shown.
Take money from banks. Eat Chinese food to-go. Steal more money. But still, his Batsy didn't come. Part of him was annoyed.
Part of him loved it when he played hard to get.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Bruce Wayne turned around. The idiotic smile plastered on his face fell away instantly at the sight of Dick Grayson, with his arms folded, and a frown tugging at his lips.
He hurried to push the smile back up, and gestured to the girls hanging off his arms. "Dick, I'm trying to decide who to dance with!" One of the girls, a blonde, giggled.
"Well, I think you're going to have to sit this one out."
Looking disappointed, Bruce shrugged to them. "Sorry, girls. I have to have a chat with Mr. Grayson."
The blonde pouted, and stood on her tiptoes to whisper something in Bruce's ear. He laughed, and she trotted away. He turned back to Dick, the smile starting to fade.
"What's this about?"
"Bruce, are you not aware of the fact that the Joker's robbed five banks in the last three days?"
Bruce's smile vanished instantly. "Oh. That."
"What the hell is wrong with you, Bruce? He's right out in the open?"
Bruce hesitated, then gestured to a table to the side of the ballroom. "Let's sit down."
Dick obeyed, and Bruce sat down across from him.
"So, what is it then? Why haven't you gone after him?"
"I don't want to kill him?"
Dick started to laugh, then realized Bruce was serious. Of course. "That's the most pathetic excuse I've ever heard. I'm aware that you don't want to kill him. We all know about you one rule. So what's your real reason?"
"That's the only one."
Bruce looked troubled. "Dick, something's different this time. Something's going to change."
"Bruce, he's done horrible things, and you haven't killed him. You're not going to do it now when he's just robbing banks."
"I was going to go after him," Bruce said reluctantly. "But I just- couldn't."
"You're not scared?"
"Of course not." Bruce glanced around the ballroom. "Alfred did a nice job with the Charity Ball, don't you think?"
"No changing the subject." Dick leaned forward. "You've got to go after him, Bruce. You've faced your fears plenty of times before, thanks to Scarecrow. And if the GCPD haven't brought Joker in by now, they can't, so it's up to you. And if you don't bring him in, he'll do something that'll justify your killing him. So I suggest you go after him before that happens."
Hold up. Did I just give Bruce advice?
Bruce sighed. "Sure, Dick."
I gave Batman advice! Dick smiled to himself. Being the advisor and not the advisee was pretty fun.
"You're sticking around, aren't you?" Bruce asked in what was clearly an obvious attempt to change the subject. "Alfred's planned quite the firework spectacular."
"When will you go after him?"
Bruce's shoulders sagged. "Tonight. But why don't you do it?"
"I've been pretty busy with the circus, and Nightwing-type stuff. See, there's been some murders in Blüdhaven and-"
"Bruce!" the blonde dropped into an empty chair at the table. "What're we talking about?"
"Oh, my friend Dick is a detective in Blüdhaven."
"Yeah," Dick said.
"That's so cool! Oh! I love this song! C'mon, Brucie!" She yanked him up and Bruce, casting an apologetic look at Dick, was dragged onto the dance floor.
Dick shook his head, grinning, and took a sip of champagne. He looked forward to reading the article about the Joker's arrest.
The Joker was sitting in his chair in the top floor of the funhouse when, purely by chance, he looked out the window and saw him, standing alone by the entrance to the fairgrounds. It looked like he was reading the Haly's Circus poster.
He shrieked with delight and jumped up. Finally! "Lar! Cur! Mo!" Grinning, he turned to find his favorite goons. "I want the Batman tied up, unconscious, and strapped to a chair in the Tunnel of Love in, oh... does five minutes work for you?"
It did. And Joker got to watch the fight from his window. He hurried downstairs and out of the funhouse, just in time to watch an unconscious Batman getting tied to one of the empty boats.
"'Kay boys. Here's the plan. I'm going to get comfy-cozy in the ferris wheel with my handy-dandy microphone. And Batsy here is going to go for a little ride."
Lar, Cur, and Mo nodded. Joker clapped with excitement and dashed for the ferris wheel.
I knew oiling it was a good idea!
"Let me know when he wakes up!" he screeched, climbing into one of the carts and starting the ferris wheel up. Cheesy carnival music started to play.
In a few hours, or maybe just a few minutes, he heard Mo yelling that Batman was awake. Joker nodded and immediately turned on his microphone. He was starting to get all tingly.
"So, Batsy, you're finally awake!" He giggled. "It seems like we always end up here, doesn't it? You and me! Mano e mano!"
"Where are you?"
"Naughty, naughty. Some things are for me to know and you to deduce."
"I'll find you."
"That's the idea!" Joker chuckled. "Don't you love the Tunnel of Love? Cheap promises, corny decor, and anatomically incorrect hearts! All the things that make life great, right?"
"What do you want?"
"To chat, Batsy. After all, you're just so much fun!"
No reply from Batman.
"Soooo. You're playing hard to get? I love it when you do that! You've been doing it all month! Why? Bat in your belfry?" He tapped his foot impatiently. Still, no one talking. The ferris wheel came to a stop, his cart near the top.
"Still not feeling chatty? No matter. I'll keep talking. You wanna hear a joke? Knock knock."
"If you're listening, say jackrabbit."
"Hellooo? Batman?" He tapped the microphone. "Is this thing on? Piece of junk!" He tossed the microphone over the edge of his cart, and immediately regretted the decision. Not only would Batman have to look for him the old-fashioned way, he'd have to do so without the Joker talking to him.
Joker sighed and cupped his hand in his chin. Now he bored and lonely. What a terrific turn of events. He glanced around. It was kind of a pretty night. Shame he didn't have any company.
And then came the voice.
So that's why the wheel stopped!
He turned and was met immediately with a fist. He sprawled backward, over the edge of the cart. Batman's hands were around his throat, and his nose was bleeding, and he was kicking and struggling and biting back a laugh-
And then, all of a sudden, he knew.
The time had come. The time to stop the fighting. The time to make his move.
He leaned forward and kissed him. Batman was completely unresponsive- like salty stone. Joker felt the hands disappear from his throat and Batman pushed him away, so that once again he was pressed up against the edge of the cart, chest heaving.
When he spoke, his voice was weak, and the words that came out didn't feel like they belonged to him.
Batman stepped forward, and Joker shrank down, terrified. The night suddenly seemed very dark, and Batman suddenly seemed very, very tall. And dangerous. And completely uninterested in the Joker.
The image of him as a poor, rejected teenage girl flashed through his head.
Batman took another step closer, and Joker prepared for the beating of a lifetime.
Batman leaned forward.
The Joker didn't even have time to gasp before their lips met. Batman pushed up against him, one of his hands burning his lower back, the other in his hair. The Joker had the wonderful feeling that his lipstick was smudging, and he could feel sparks flying.
But all too soon, Batman pulled away, and he was looking not at the Joker, but at the sky above him, almost smiling. Joker tipped his head back to see what he was looking at.
He sat back down and somehow, ended up curled up against Batman, watching them explode into what was easily the greatest fireworks spectacular he'd seen.
And then it appeared in a dazzling shade of red, as if someone had planned it.
"Look," Batman said softly. "An anatomically incorrect heart."
Joker frowned suddenly. "You didn't break the ferris wheel to get up here, did you?"
"So we're stuck up here?"
"You're stuck up here. I know how to get down."
Looking sorry, Batman turned to face him. "It's not so bad."
"No," Joker smiled, snuggling into Batman's side. "It isn't bad at all."