Title: The Spirit and the Flesh (1/??)

Author: Allaine

Email: eac2nd@yahoo.com

Disclaimers: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, along with the other residents of Gotham, are the property of DC Comics, the creators of "Batman: The Animated Series", and God knows who else. All other characters are my invention. And if you have a problem with women who love each other, then this story is not for you.

Feedback: As always, greatly desired and usually responded to.

Rating: R

Spoilers: I strongly recommend you read "Wrath", "It's Just Allergies", "Life Don't Have to be No Bed of Roses", and "Perfect Opportunity" first.

Distribution: If you want it, just ask.

Summary: Six months later, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn have finally returned to Gotham. Unfortunately, so has a legendary killer, one who preys on the guilty.

_______________________________

Chapter 1

She closed and locked the door behind her, another fun-filled day exploring the Athenian countryside over. Greece was a lovely country, but she was growing weary of it, much as she grew weary of every country she visited. Perhaps something appropriate, something on the other end of the spectrum. Istanbul evoked mystery in her mind . . .

She went over to the answering machine, but in the dark, she couldn't see it, which was odd. A red light, either blinking or steady, should have guided her toward it. She felt her way over and, with her hand, felt something lying on top of it. Perplexed, she reached over and turned the lamp on.

A death's head glared implacably back at her.

She gasped and backed away. Someone, she realized, had broken into her apartment and put that skeletal mask on her -

Feeling inordinately frightened now, she went towards it again. It wasn't an ordinary mask, she saw now with dismay. It was . . .

She was leaving. She was leaving _now_.

"Ms. Beaumont?"

With a cry she spun around.

Another light was turned on, not by her, and she realized there were three other people in the room with her. How had they gone unnoticed?

There was an older man seated in one of her more comfortable chairs who gazed at her with searing, impenetrable eyes. Two others loomed protectively behind him. One was a mountain of a man with a shaved head who stared back impassively, arms crossed. The other was a mere slip of a woman who carried an air of exoticism and danger. And while she didn't know why, this strange woman appeared to eye her with dislike.

"Who - who are you?" she asked fearfully. "And why did you call me that name?"

"It's your name, isn't it?" the older man replied. "Beaumont, Andrea Beaumont?"

"My name is Doris Montclaire," she retorted, even as her heart hammered in her chest. She knew she was trapped.

"You were very hard to find, Ms. Beaumont," he continued, ignoring her reply as if unworthy of mention. "_Very_ hard. Evidently not even the Detective could find you. But I did. Sooner or later, all knowledge comes to me."

"What do you want?" Andrea asked, wondering if he was a Greek police inspector, perhaps. Interpol, maybe?

He smiled. It was utterly lacking in warmth. "I want you. I want the Phantasm."

She gasped, no longer bothering with pretense. "The Phantasm is dead," she said quickly. "It never lived to begin with."

"And yet, here you are, alive," he replied. "All my research has led me here to you. It is you, out of all those who have faced the Detective, fought him. Only you have never been brought to justice."

"The Detective?" Andrea asked, thoroughly bewildered.

"Why, Batman, of course. Or you may know him better as Bruce Wayne."

_How did he know that?_

"I know Bruce Wayne," Andrea admitted, since it wasn't exactly a secret. (The fact that she was Andrea Beaumont _was_ a secret, but this strange man had found her anyway.) "Knew him, anyway. I don't know you, though," she added, evading the "Batman" remark. "Who are you?"

"I apologize. After all these years, my manners have been known to slip now and then," he said. "My name is Ra's al-Ghul. This is my servant, Ubu, and my daughter Talia."

She looked at the trio. "I'm sorry," she said truthfully, "but I've never heard of you."

He laughed briefly. "Well, now you have the privilege of knowing me. Much as I suspect you have the privilege of knowing who Batman is. You were his lover once. You faced him again as the Phantasm. The authorities know Andrea Beaumont is the Phantasm, even if they do believe you are dead. How could they know, unless Batman told them? And how could Batman know, unless you told him?"

Ra's al-Ghul stopped. "Whether you knew or not is immaterial. You know now, but you will never tell anyone. What matters is that you will be returning to Gotham."

"What?!" Andrea said, shocked. "I'm under arrest?!"

He laughed for real this time, and he clapped his hands. "You take me for a police officer?" he asked mirthfully. "Oh, my dear, I am no lawman. I should have spoken more clearly. What I really want is for the Phantasm to return to Gotham. You see, there are a few people there who you should have killed the first time."

She backed away. "No," she said. "I won't kill again. And I won't wear that mask again. You can't make me."

"I can hand you over to the authorities," al-Ghul replied. "I can make what the Americans call a 'citizen's arrest'. Or Talia could do it." He looked at his daughter fondly. "Your beloved Bruce would thank you for such a gift, would he not?"

"As a proper gentleman, I have no doubt he would," Talia spoke for the first time. She had a musical, vaguely foreign voice that pleased the ears.

Andrea now understood why Talia seemed to dislike her immediately. Both women loved, or had loved, Bruce. Did Talia see her as _competition_?

"And I can make you do whatever I want," he added. "Ubu."

Unlike Talia, he said nothing. He only came toward Andrea.

She turned to run, but he seemed to come up behind her impossibly quickly and applied pressure to the back of her neck. Andrea's vision darkened immediately.

The last thing she saw was Ra's standing over her. "I think you will find," he said calmly, the Phantasm mask in his hand, "this still fits perfectly."

Andrea would have screamed as she felt the old, familiar disguise being fitted on, as her world was limited to a pair of narrow eyeholes before she mercifully lost all consciousness.

______________________

"You will not come to Gotham, father?" Talia asked. She looked at the woman on the floor and thought, not for the first time, that she looked nothing like the never-apprehended killer of several Gotham Mafia figures. The mask didn't make her look scary. She made the mask look comical.

"No," he replied. "You will monitor her performance, my daughter. You will train her so that she is once again ready to bring the Phantasm back from the river Styx. And you will make sure she is up to the task."

Talia suppressed a sigh and nodded. She would be able to see her beloved again, at least. And if this plan succeeded, there could be no more excuses. He would have to be with her always.

She scowled at Andrea. What had Bruce seen in her?

"Ubu, we will take her to the plane. Make sure her things are kept safe for now. If she is successful," Ra's observed, "there is no reason why she should not have them returned to her. But we can't have anyone thinking her disappearance wasn't her idea."

Ubu nodded and picked Andrea up, cradling her in his brawny arms.

"Come, Talia. Soon the Phantasm will make the Batman irrelevant."

"And if she doesn't?"

"Then you will kill her."

Talia nodded. That was more to her liking.

________________________

"Easy does it, men," Commissioner Gordon warned them as he supervised the "lowering". "Bet this place feels just like home."

The latter remark was directed at the shadowy figure who had emerged next to him. Gordon never could sense him coming, but he'd long stopped being startled to find the Batman where he hadn't been a moment before.

"Who was responsible?" Batman asked.

"Not sure yet," Gordon replied. "Whoever it was disabled the security cameras. And as far as we know, nothing was taken. It was either one very strong individual, though, or a gang. Not just anybody could have done that."

"That" was a frightened security guard at the Gotham Zoo who had been bound, gagged, and suspended upside-down from the top of one of the animal exhibits with ropes and a pulley. Undoubtedly the commotion had spooked all the bats, but they now appeared to be roosting comfortably in their usual spots, avoiding the policemen milling around. A few had been disturbed yet again as a few officers carefully lowered him to the ground.

"We think it might have been the Joker," Gordon added, "since not many people would leave you a Christmas present like that, wrapped in red ribbons."

"He's passed out, sir," one of the officers said as the paramedics checked him out on the ground. "Probably scared out of his wits."

"And there was this," another said, handing over a broad, white card that had been folded in two. "It was attached to the ribbon like gift wrapping."

On the outside it said, "To Batman, From Santa".

"Well?" Gordon asked.

Batman said nothing, but mutely held out his hand. Examining the card for hidden booby traps, he experimentally opened it face down. No gases or powders came out. With no more trepidation, he turned it over and read it.

"Oh, no," he muttered.

"What?" Gordon asked.

"It's definitely not the Joker." He gave it to Gordon.

The commissioner stared at the contents.

"Dear Batman,

Maybe if you hung a few things on your walls at the little cave sweet cave, you'd smile more often.

So let us cheer you up, chump!

Love, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn"

"Damn them," Gordon said. "We had a deal. They leave Gotham and never come back, period."

"It's been six months," Batman replied. "I'm only surprised this didn't come sooner."

Gordon sighed. "Well, it was six months where life was a _little_ easier, anyway."

There had been zero reports of either woman since they'd left Gotham, Batman reflected. Nothing from Oracle, nothing from the Watchtower, nothing.

It had been relaxing.

He clenched and unclenched his fist. He thought about what would happen tonight, and he knew he was going to need it.

To be continued . . .

(Author's Note - First, this story is inspired by the first five issues of the new "animated" Gotham Adventures comic book. Familiarity with these issues, however, is not required, or even recommended. Familiarity with "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm", however, would be a big help.

Second, as some of you know, Harley and Ivy drove out of Gotham and into my Gargoyles series. This, however, is an alternate world. What if they hadn't gone to NYC, and what if they'd inevitably returned? So while you should definitely have read "Wrath", "It's Just Allergies", "Life Don't Have to be No Bed of Roses", and "Perfect Opportunity", their adventures in the Gargoyles stories and "Kiss From a Rose" have never and will never happen in this universe.)