Chapter 1 Matchy
Poisonous, toxic, acidic, malicious green gazed into hazel contacts that hid sea blue underneath. Flaying the mind away. Searching every part of their owner. Wanting in to the secrets behind the contact eyes that hid who he really was. It was nerve wracking. Staring into the maniacs green. What secrets were locked away in the madmans mine? Did he want to know? Yes and No? Neither blinked for a few minutes. Studying each other. Observing every single detail. A chuckle escaped the red painted on lips. The lips pulling into a grin, stretching the scars on his cheeks. Red contrast to the chemical caused pale skin underneath. Scars though, those scars he had no idea how he got him. Green hair, chalk white skin he knew were caused by the chemicals at Ace Chemicals Plant when he fell in. Scars that made him look like he was always smiling that was something he didn't know what caused them. He'd never ask. No. It must of been a blade but did the madman do it? Or did someone else cause them? Questions he knew the sadistic clown would never answer true-fully.
"You know you remind me of someone?" The words were a raspy purr that made his heart quicken.
"Who Boss?" Boss that word was bitter on the tip of his tongue. Hating the taste of it. Sound of it. Everything about that word. Worse was saying it to the murderous clown. Bruce had no choice in the matter right now. He was undercover. It was risky, it was dangerous also probably stupid but he needed to find out what the Joker was up to. As Batman the maniac wouldn't tell him anything until it was to late if at all. That's how all this started. It had been a week now that he had been undercover. Joker had escaped Arkham three weeks ago after an eighth month stay. One of the longest stays the clown did. Last time Bruce saw the clown before going undercover they were in an all out brawl on a bridge. 'To mock you' his words to the homicidal clown came back to his mind. Those three words made Joker snap and it was one of the few time Bruce felt the madman was truly trying to kill him. Oh sure it wasn't like the Clown prince of crime wasn't dangerous to Bruce's health countless times before but that moment was something else. He was absolutely livid with Batman. Joker claimed time and time again he'd never kill Batman. That he was to much fun. Where would he be without the Dark Knight? Still the maniac went ballistic during their last fight. Bruce ended up with a lot of knife wounds. Joker always seemed to know just where to stab through the Kelvar to hurt him. To scar his body. 'How many scars have I given you Batsy?' Joker had asked during one of their fights a few years back. To many Bruce had thought then and still thought now.
Joker grinned but had a contemplative look in his eyes as he gazed in Bruce's direction.
"You remind me of Jonny Jonny." Joker said finally.
"Who?" Bruce asked.
Jonny Frost. That man died during their last fight as Joker shot him in the jaw. Bruce didn't like to admit it to himself but he really didn't do much to save him. The man was a common criminal. In and out of prison countless times. When Joker was released from Arkham last time Bruce kept a close eye on the clown when he had more free time as he was busy a lot during the time with other criminals. Bruce though did feel guilty though. So many people died by the Jokers hand and he did nothing to stop it until Harvey Dent came to him for help during an all out crime war. As much as the guilt had affected Bruce it came down to one thing. Who Joker was killing. Fellow scum of the earth criminals. Though an elderly couple was killed brutally in their home and a register worker at a store was also killed and Bruce didn't stop it. When he learned of their deaths he felt more guilty than ever for allowing the Joker free for so long. Making a million and one excuses why he didn't stop the madman sooner what it seemed to come down to that the Joker killing fellow criminals made his job easier. It was a mistake Bruce wasn't going to make again. A mistake he realized he made when he found out that Jonny Frost fell to his death from the bridge they were fighting on last time.
"Oh he was an old friend." The disgusted look in his face at the mention of him made Bruce a bit nervous. Joker may not kill Batman as Batman was the only person Joker truly seemed to want to keep alive, Bruce on the other hand was not on that list in his disguise.
"You though, Matchy! Aren't as obviousness, dull or boring as he is though!" Joker finally proclaimed smugly.
'Matchy' God even when Bruce wasn't Batman he couldn't escape those damn pet names Joker seemed to like giving him. Matches Malone was a small time criminal who died years ago that Bruce took on his name for an alias recently. During the 'hiring' process to join Jokers gang the name did help him out big time though. The moment he introduced himself the clown giggled so happily and grinned so big at it. 'Matches I like that! Reminds me of everything fun in the world besides being named Batman!' He had said. Of course the clown would like the nickname, he often smelled of gasoline after all. A smell Bruce was annoyingly getting used to the more time he spent around the maniac.
"That's good." Bruce says as he sips his water at the bar. Even undercover he refused to break his no drinking rule. "So, Boss what's the next plan?" Bruce asked wanting to know more of Jokers secrets.
Joker leaned in close, his shoulders brushing against his own. A purple gloved finger brushed against Bruce's arm. Personal space was never a word in the Jokers dictionary. "Matchy. Tsk, tsk. It's all work and no play with you. Ah lighten up why don't you?"
Hazel eyed contacts glanced into the acidic green eyes. "Just want to be prepared."
A scoff and Joker pulled away dramatically. Shaking his head at the words. "Where's the fun in that?!"
"I really don't want to get shot at if I'm not prepared for it." Bruce retorted. Though it was true. Having enough bullet scars on his body as it was. Getting shot and not being prepared was not his idea of a good time.
Joker started to laugh loudly at that. A laugh that haunted Bruce for years now. A laugh that till his dying day would never leave him. It made his muscles go stiff at the sound.
"But but Matchy! Getting shot at is one of the most fun games life has to offer!"
Bruce just stayed silent at that. He already knew well enough what the clown found fun in life. Sadly he was the top of that list.
"You know, you shouldn't take life so seriously. I mean look at you! All stiff and tense not relaxing at all! You don't even drink! Gotta relaxxx!" Joker sing song voiced.
"This is me relaxed." That was a lie. Joker raised an eyebrow at that. Knowing full well he was lying. Bruce was always on guard around the madman. "Plus I don't like to drink when there's a job to do in the morning. The hangovers a real bitch." Bruce normally didn't cuss. But he was playing a role.
"See. That's exactly what I'm talkin' about! Way to serious. I can show ya how to loosen up ya know." The psychopath scooted closer to Bruce. "Take a load off." Purple gloved fingers traced a smiley face in front of Bruce on the table. "Learn to smile. Like me! It does wonders for your health trust me." He grinned as the scars made it more menacing.
"Smiling is more your thing than mine."
"Now you're just sounding like the Bat." Bat was purred in a longing fashion that made Bruce uneasy with how close the maniac was to him. Joker seemed to drop the conversation there as he stared off into the wall, whatever was going through his mind made him smile more. If Bruce had to guess it was probably about whatever new encounter he'd have with Batman.
Taking another sip of his water he listened to the other men the Joker hired. They all stayed in the back of the small bar not daring to go near the clown. Smart. Working for the Joker was a sentence to an early grave and yet so many thugs did just that. There were rules of course. As much as Joker claimed to hate them it was obvious that there were rules. Rule number one: Always laugh at the Jokers jokes. If you didn't you'll die or not but most likely die. Also to add never ignore the madman, he craves attention and if isn't getting it he became even more murderous and dangerous. Rule number two: Don't flirt with Harley. Joker didn't love Harley or much care for her but as the clown put it he didn't like sharing his toys. Rule number three: Always be careful how you act around the maniac. Best to keep quiet and away from him as much as possible. Bruce was breaking that rule but Joker seemed to find him interesting so it hadn't killed him yet. Which surprised all the other goons. Rule number four: Never complain about your personal space. Again it wasn't a concept Joker ever understood and if he did he didn't care. Last but most important rule which Bruce couldn't help but find intriguing. Rule number five: Careful about anything Batman. Don't claim to want to kill him or try to, don't insult him, don't mention him with Catwoman (jealousy much?) Don't say anything about him that the clown prince of crime wouldn't like. Batman for better words was 'property' of the clowns as Joker put it. 'His and his alone to do with how he pleased.' Joker also claimed. It made Bruce annoyed and nauseous but that's just how it was with Jokers obsession with him. All these rules were unspoken mostly, at least to the point never around the lunatic. Better to stay alive than break them. Though how bipolar Joker could be that may not even be true. He killed his own men with as much ease as he killed innocent people. It's what he did. It's what angered Bruce. Thinking about it just made me Bruce want to retire for the night, at the very least not have to deal with being so close to the madman.
"Come on Matchy! Don't go to bed yet! Don't you know clowns are nocturnal!" Joker whined as Bruce stood up.
"Well good thing I'm not a clown. So I'm not nocturnal." Bruce grumbled. It was a lie. Being Batman he never really slept at night.
"Funny." Joker seemed to seethe for a moment which made the room nervous. Then like clockwork the maniac grinned happily. "Oooooo Matchy! I know tomorrow you'll enjoy the game."
Bruce stopped in his tracks and glanced at the madman. "Oh?" He questioned.
Joker spun up and turned on his heels and walked to Bruce. Sliding a hand down his chest which made Bruce want to recoil from the touch.
"I know how much you like fire." Purring the words as he moved closer and Bruce had to force a small smile. All fake but he guessed he was a good actor because the clown believed it. His giddy laughter confirmed that.
"What we burning?" Bruce asked. He needed to at least find out and try to get the information to Alfred to tell Gordon. People could be in danger.
"Shhhh. You'll find out tomorrow. Just ah bring yourself, we'll need matches after all!" Joker chuckled darkly at his bad joke. Bruce simply nodded with a feigned smirk.
"Will do Boss." With that Joker turned and went over towards the other men in the room much to their fearful dismay.
Bruce slipped out of the room and breathed in the cool Gotham air. The place they were laying role was an abandoned motel. A bar was added to the motel in what Bruce guessed was an attempt to get more customers that never worked to stay afloat. Now it was 'owned' by the clown. It worked a bit in Bruce's favor. He had his own room. Besides Joker only he had a room to himself. It was something he had to fight for though. A fight he had to calculate perfectly to not fight like Batman. When the green eyes were on him during it Bruce knew that if he fought like himself Joker would know who he was in a instant. Joker always noticed every twitch or movement Batman would do in the years of fighting each other. The madman had it down to memory. Making each new fight between them even more dangerous. His scars were a testimony to that. There was one particular carved design scars in his flesh that he-
The voice made Bruce leave his thought behind as he glanced over at the hefty blond man leaning against one of the motel rooms doors. Chuck was his name though he had been given the nickname Chuckles by the clown maniac. Chuck was an average drug dealer, with accounts of murder, attempted murder, destruction of property and graffiti in his record. The man had worked for the clown for about three years now and Bruce had broken the mans bones countless times over the years. Hell he was the one he had to fight to get his own room.
"Yes Chuck?" Bruce spoke with a bit of annoyance in his voice.
"You better be careful kid." Chuck replied as he took a drag of his cigar.
"Of what?" He asked.
Chuck just side way glanced at him. "Of getting to close to the clown. Don't want to end up like Frost after all."
Jonny Frost was becoming a name that would haunt Bruce. The man Bruce didn't bother to save for his own selfish reasons. Bruce has saved countless criminals in the past yet allowed everything the Joker did to continue when he got out of Arkham last time. Chuck bringing him up on the same level of Bruce just irked him. Though what irked him more was he needed to be close to the clown. Not only to find out what the maniac was up to but to also figure the Joker out. He was an enigma. No known name, no past, nothing. Just the Joker. That didn't sit well with Bruce. He needed to know more. Find out more.
"I'm sure you'd like that but what happened to Frost won't happen to me." Bruce stated matter of fact. Even in disguise Bruce knew he'd be able to survive the clown. Joker took an interest in him. That was enough currently to keep him alive and get the answers he needed.
"Even if he doesn't kill you boy, you'll lose your mind the longer you hang with him. Yeah I can see it now, that blind arrogance, you'll end up like Frost in no time." Chuck chuckled which was making Bruce lose his temper more and more.
"Chuck. Jealousy doesn't look good on you." Bruce retorted annoyed. A comment he would normally never say. Chuck he had come to learn though enjoyed his long working with the clown. It payed him well and Joker hadn't killed him in three years yet so he must have gotten somewhat lucky position in the clowns gang.
"Real funny Malone. But I'd watch yer self if I were you." Chuck snorted as he dropped the cigar to the ground and used his shoe to stomp it out. "If you keep it up you may not ever wake up ya know." Chuck finished speaking and Bruce was ready for a fight.
"You know Chuck, you better be careful who you threaten if you can't back it up. Don't want to get your ass beat like last time." Bruce stated matter-of-fact. It was enough. Chuck stepped towards him. Trying to show dominance in his body language. It would intimidate weaker men but not Bruce.
"Is that so? Wanna try something you little shit? You're a no body kid! Just some run of the mill arsonist with a big mouth and no respect." Chuck was fuming. Bruce just smirked. Playing the cocky role of his disguise.
"Go ahead, Chuck. Make a move. I dare you." Bruce being away as Batman for the past week was getting to him. He needed the adrenaline and he only had one actual fight since all this started. With the annoyance of not being able to shut up the clown with typical violence it was getting on his nerves. This could be good for him.
"You two gonna kiss or what?" The raspy voice spoke through the tension of the two men like a knife. Both Bruce and Chuck heads snapped to the right in the direction of the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker had his arm around Harley's waist. Harley must of came in the back because Bruce didn't see her earlier in the bar. Great. She was one person he didn't want to also deal with. Though with how many times the Joker kicked her out and she went to stay with Poison Ivy, she may not stay to long.
"I think they are about to Mistah J. Oh young love!" She giggled. Leaning her head on the Jokers shoulder. Bruce could see that slight twitch of irritation in the Jokers body. No one else would have noticed. That moment Bruce realized that he could detect the Jokers body language almost as well as Joker could detect Batmans. It made him uneasy.
"Yes, Harl, young love indeed." The words held dark amusement behind them.
Bruce and Chuck turned and looked at each other for a moment, the mutual glare was exchanged as they stepped away from each other in rhythm.
"Awww. I'm hurt Chuckles. Here I thought you were pinning over me. Or was it Matchy that was? I can't keep it all together most of the time. So many admires after all." Joker giggled but there was a dangerous edge to his voice.
Both men felt the same disgust at the Jokers words.
"Was just talking boss." Chuck grumbled out annoyed.
Green eyes glanced at him and the danger in them was enough to make Chuck start to sweat. Bruce on the other hand wasn't nervous. He dealt with the homicidal maniac enough times not to be.
"Harley, head back to the room. Daddy will be there in just a minute." He didn't even glance at her.
"But puddin!" Harley whined which earned her a hard shove.
"Go." He snapped and she complied. Shooting a glare at Bruce and Chuck. When she entered room ten of the motel rooms Bruce almost growled in annoyance. That meant that Jokers now chosen room would be right next to Bruce's.
"Soooo. Chuckles, Matchy, what were you two discussing? Hmmm?" Joker moved closer to them.
Chuck was obviously nervous. Bruce had noticed that Chuck rarely stayed to close to the maniac, for his own protection no doubt. Plus given the conversation they were having that would sign his one way ticket to the morgue.
"Just giving the kid a few pointers boss." Chuck spoke nonchalant. Hiding his nervousness pretty well even when he was only giving half truths.
With a raised eyebrow Joker looked at Bruce.
"Tsk, if Matchy needed any pointers he should hear them from me. Dontcha think?" Joker grinned from ear to ear in a predatory fashion as he moved closer to Bruce and wrapped an arm around his waist the same way he was doing with Harley earlier. Bruce stiffened at the touch. Rule number four Bruce. Rule number four.
"Next time I'll leave the pointers to you boss." Chuck finally spoke.
"Yeah, yeah, you do that." Joker laid his head on Bruce's shoulder in mock affection. Waving his hand for Chuck to leave them be. With that Chuck left and went to his own room. Room number three he took a mental note of.
"You know. I'm a pretty selfish guy. You don't want me to get the wrong idea of you and Chuckles do you?" The warning was there in the tease. Bruce hated being this close to the madman. That teasing habit of the clown even when the billionaire wasn't dressed up as the dark knight made him want to bash the clowns face in.
"Nothin' to worry about boss. Blondes aren't my type." He joked, halfheartedly. It wasn't really true. As Bruce Wayne he had dated and bedded his fair share of blondes in his life. But a jealous Joker was never a good thing. It was like a ticking time bomb, if not defused than there was sure to be destruction. So he had to cool down the rising storm in the madman. Getting stabbed by the crazy clown was not on his to do list that night.
"Hehe good. Green hair is so much more attractive isn't it?" No, Joker it's not.
The psychopathic lunatic was just trying to get under his skin. Bruce knew that. It was working though and he had to scourge every urge to let the Bat out of its cage.
"Puddin! Come on! Come to bed!" Harley yelled from the now open door at the two of them. Joker grimaced in annoyance. "Does that minx have a death wish?" He whispered in the nook of Bruce's neck.
"Coming pumpkin pie!" Joker called out to her. Hesitating in moving away from Bruce.
"See ya tomorrow handsome." Joker cooed as he moved away to much of Bruce's happiness and walked angrily back to his room. A Yelp was heard as Joker shoved Harley back into the room hard and he slammed the door.
Sighing Bruce walked to his room, room number eleven, using the key to unlock the door. He didn't want to deal with anything else tonight. Still he had a routine he adopted for the past week. Closing the door, locking it and flicking on the light switch, the room was no longer shrouded in darkness. The room was pretty bare. There was a bathroom, a king size bed that had purple and green bed sheets and comforter (Jokers idea much to Bruce's annoyance), small closet and a drawer. The window was wooden up tight as the clown had said 'I don't know why but Bats have this tendcy to always break through glass' the comment almost made Bruce laugh. Few moments in his life did the Joker ever make him smile just a little bit. Something he hated admiring to himself. Something he'd never admit out loud.
Bruce walked into the bathroom and flicked on the light. Looking himself in the mirror he had hardly recognized himself. He had gone to great lengths to hide his identity while undercover. Hazel contacts that were so good in quality that no one could tell they weren't his actual eye color. His Raven black hair had been dyed a lighter shade of brown. Fake facial hair that would even make Hollywood jealous by how real they looked. Even his voice he had made to sound not like Bruce Wayne or Batman. He was glad for all his years of training to be able to do that. Removing the contacts and facial hair made him look more like Bruce Wayne. More like himself. He needed these moments of peace after for a week pretending to be some criminal. A moment just to unwind and be himself again. Sighing he leaned his head against the mirror. His breath fogging up the glass. Slow breathing, in and out to relax his body. Being around the psychopath was taking its toll on him. Not that he wanted to admit it. Dreading tomorrow was making this night worse. The week had been somewhat calm as Joker hadn't actually planned anything to do except stay at the hideout of this dingy abandoned motel. Now though, Bruce would be expected to actually commit a crime. Do a job for the madman. Could he actually do it? What if people died? Should he just leave and come back as Batman? If he did that though he would destroy any chance he had of learning more about his arch nemesis. Maybe he could prevent death as Malone. Maybe? Sighing Bruce left the bathroom with his mind made up. He'd go and do the job. Protect people at the same time if they needed protecting. Without blowing his cover. If he screwed up now then he wouldn't ever have this chance again.
Bruce walked over to the drawer and yanked, pulling it towards the door. All part of his routine. Under the floorboards where the drawer used to be was hidden a duffel bag. He had his certain items there. Every night he'd go through the bag. Text Alfred that he was fine or any information he needed to deliver. Had new contacts for the next day. Fake facial hair for his disguise. Few of his Batman gadgets if the situation called for it. But the hardest and most important part of his routine was to listen and watch Arkham sessions on the Joker. He had copy of the doctors notes and the Jokers files with him. So he'd go over and read, listen and watch. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Trying to get into the madmans head. He had to. If he wanted to ever hope to one day stop all this madness for good without breaking his one role. So he had illegally obtained copies to a tablet. So every night he'd lay on the bed after his shower and listen or just watch the footage of the Joker with one of his multiple doctors. Trying to find something. Something the doctors had missed. So tonight was no different. Same routine. Same maddening game.