HA. HA. HA. HAAHHHH.

Bruce felt a ticking. He didn't hear it, he felt it. Through the rumbling of the Batcave was the one faint ticking. He zeroed in on it, it was the one thing that mattered in the moment. For if it was one thing he learned in the 15 years as a vigilante…

Ticking isn't good.

Bruce took a running start, he angled his torso downward to work up speed. Barreling toward the cave's entrance and back into Wayne Manor. He wasn't quick enough, the bridge of rock beneath him, collapsed. He plummeted straight down. Momentarily, Bruce was debating whether he should save himself. He had lost. The Joker knows who he is, where he lives, and who he can hurt.

He had to stay.

He had to bury the Batman.

He had to bury the Joker.

Just like an old habit, he grappled. Just barely missing the cave floor. His rope was cut, and he fell deeper.

CRACK.

Bruce hit the ground like a brick and rolled a few feet until coming to a halt at a mound of rock protruding from the ground.

His side was bleeding. He didn't have to feel it. He just knew something was bleeding.

Readjusting his mask, he got back up. Much like he had for 15 years. And just like Alfred had told him.

"Huhh." Bruce groaned.

"Don't tell me you're gonna quit before we start. I'm having too much fun!"

Bruce squinted through the darkness of the cave. Lights that had fallen from above illuminated the ground floor just enough to see a few feet in front of him.

Bruce felt his muscles tense. A footstep to his left cracked, and with a swipe there was a sudden pain in his left thigh. The Joker slid past him, clutching one of his switchblades. Bruce had felt worse pains, so he barely doubled over.

"You have gotten old, haven't you,"

Bruce flinched at the remark. He was old. And Bruce knew it.

"That's alright," He wiped blood from his lip. "We have plenty of time to remember the good old days."

Joker charged. He raised the knife and swiped at Batman's torso. Bruce jumped back, the knife just grazing the leather. "You can't hurt me Bruce, you lost! I live to ruin you! HAHAHAHAHA."

The Joker swiped again, coming in on Bruce's upper right. Bruce caught the blade in his fist, the leather of his glove provided almost no protection against the sharp steel. "AGGH," Bruce cried.

The Joker continued to laugh at Bruce's attempt to counter his attack. The Joker threw a punch to his left jaw. Catching Joker's wrist, Bruce grunted. For it was the shift in both of their weight that pressed more pain onto his hand.

"This is the endgame, isn't it? The moment we've both dreamed about!" Joker screamed through the roaring collapse of the Batcave.

Joker cut through Bruce's hand, drawing a large amount of blood to fall from his open palm. He inserted the knife lower and through Batman's side. "AHHH," Bruce stepped backward, out of Joker's grasp. Bruce looked down at his flesh wound.

The battle slowed to a halt. "Look at me Bruce, I want you to gaze upon the man that finally beat you." Joker remarked.

"You haven't beat me, yet!"

Batman lunged toward him, ignoring the pain in his side and bringing his fist around once more to meet Joker's jaw. He staggered, surprised by the sudden urge of valor. Joker's surprise slowed him down however, leaving enough time for Batman to jab Joker in the side with his other braided glove. Joker exhaled and was finally kicked to the ground by Bruce's boot.

"The thousands of people I've killed. Because I let you live. You're right Joker, this is the endgame. But I won't be lying on my back tonight. And if I am, you'll be right there with me."

"You don't have the bat balls to kill me Bruce. Better men than you have tried. HAHAHAHA."

Joker quickly rose to his feet. Leaping at Batman with malicious intent. With one stroke, Batman took the knife out of his side and swiped at the Joker, drawing a string of blood from his undefended neck.

Joker regained his balance upon being cut. But staggered backward. It wasn't a deep cut, only a clean cut on the side of Joker's neck. Debris from the batcave continued to fall. Landing just next to the two enemies.

He laughed. A broken laugh. His face was paler than ever. He was surprised. Startled. He grasped his bloodied neck, "Look at you. Heh heh heh."

Bruce clutched his side and leaned on a pile of falling debris. His vision was fading.

Joker laughed once more. "I made you lose control. I made you do what you swore… On your parents graves… To never do. I brought that out of you. I win... " He chuckled. "I win… I made you lose control."

More debris continued to fall. He didn't brace himself, he didn't try. "I understand now, Joker. I understand. This is what it all came down to. Was it worth it?"

Joker tilted his chin up from gazing at the dirt, "Every… Second."

Batman sneered.

"Fifteen years… heh heh. And not once did I make you laugh." He chuckled even more. "I wonder what's more crazy? Me or a grown man that dresses up as the only flying mammal in existence because of some serious parental issues. That's the real joke here… Isn't it?"

Bruce chuckles a tiny bit.

"Will you stay with me?" Joker wheezed.

Batman eased up. "What?"

Joker coughed up red. "Will you stay? I think we both know where I'm going. I'd hate to endure my last moments all alone."

Batman's side still ached. He didn't have much time left. He limped toward Joker, rocks continued to fall like rain. As he neared the clown, he dropped and leaned against another pile of debris. He sat down for a moment, and closed his eyes.

Joker picked himself up from the ground. Gripping a rock, he crawled toward Bruce. "But… I'll still get the last- ACK!" Another pile of steel debris landed. Crushing Joker's body beneath it's massive weight. The look on his face remained one last sinister smile.

"Bruce. Bruce do you copy? Bruce we're gonna get you out of there," His radio sounded.

"Barbara? There's no way in or out of the cave. It's collapsing."

"Bruce…"

"I'll be alright Barb. I'm just gonna lay here for a while. I'll rest. For the first time in 15 years. I'll rest. And I'll be with my parents soon."

"Bruce!"

He takes the radio from the ear of his mask and crushes it. He lays in the cave, as the debris begin to cover all the candescent light. But something else reflects, leaving the Batman in the darkness of his secluded cave.