This is my first time posting here. I hope everyone enjoys this and please let me know what you think.
He Who Laughs Last…
Jim Gordon fell into his chair with a heavy sigh. It had been a long day. He woke up this morning knowing that today was not going to go well. After all his years as Police Commissioner of Gotham and now New Gotham, he could feel a bad day coming, like a farmer could tell when it was going to rain or snow. He could not pinpoint it exactly, but it was like the feeling of having gigantic butterflies swirling around in his stomach. He endured that strange feeling all morning, waiting for some sort of disaster to strike. When the phone rang just after one o'clock, he knew that it was going to be bad. The Joker had escaped from Arkham Asylum again. It was beyond anyone and especially beyond Jim, how the Joker could continue to escape despite the extra precautions that were taken to keep caged. Jim immediately had called in every officer in the city and assigned as many as possible to hunt down the insane clown, but as night fell, the Joker was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, the Joker was not the only one who had aces up his sleeve. Jim had his own ace: Batman. After a few hours, Batman was able to track down the Joker. Jim had personally been there to take the Joker from Batman and Batgirl. Jim had never met Batgirl. If Jim thought Batman was mysterious and reclusive, Batgirl was twice that. He had only ever been able to catch a glimpse of her long red hair and nothing else. She was usually gone before he arrived on the scene.
Now that Joker was in his cell in Arkham, the butterflies in Jim's stomach should stop, but if anything, the ominous feeling had doubled since Jim had seen Joker placed in his cell. Jim sat behind his desk in his office in police headquarters and stared at the phone, knowing that more bad news was to come, and wishing with all his might that he was wrong.
"I told you he's just a friend," Helena Kyle said trying to appear angry, but she could not prevent her giggle from escaping.
"Helena, Helena, Helena, you should know better than to try and hide things from me. I'm your mother," Selina Kyle said, enjoying the sound of her daughter's giggle and the sight of Helena's red cheeks. "I know everything about you, like how you snuck out last night after curfew."
Helena's laughter suddenly stopped as she paused in the middle of the sidewalk with a deer-in-the-headlights-of-a-car look on her face. "How?" Helena asked. She had been so careful. "I thought you were sleeping."
"Last week, Barbara helped me to install a motion detector outside your bedroom window," Selina answered.
"What?!" Helena yelled. "How could you do that?! I can't believe that Barbara would help you! I'm never talking to her again!"
Selina could not hold it in any longer. She burst out laughing. "Helena, I'm kidding," Selina said when her laughter had subsided. "There's no motion detector outside your room. You should tell your 'friend', John, that he should fix his muffler."
"His name is James," Helena said indignantly. Then with a sigh, she asked, "How long am I grounded for?"
Selina put her arm around her daughter's shoulders, hugging her close, and whispering, "I don't want to ruin our girls' night out with that information. Let's just say that this will probably be your last dinner and a movie for awhile."
Helena had to smile. Even when Selina was dishing out punishment, Helena could not stay mad at her mother for very long. She loved her mom so much. The two of them had always been more like friends than mother and daughter. Maybe that was why Helena had never felt like she missed out not having a father around.
"It's too bad that Barbara couldn't come with us," Helena said. Barbara was like the older sister that Helena had always wanted.
"Well, she had to work tonight," Selina answered.
"Teachers don't work on Saturday nights," Helena said rolling her eyes.
"Barbara has a second job. Now what movie are we going to see?" Selina asked quickly changing the subject. There were times when Helena felt like her mother knew things that she was not willing to share with Helena.
"I don't know," Helena said as they started to walk again. The sidewalk was getting crowded. "I want to laugh. Let's go see a comedy. Something really stupid so that we laugh the whole time."
"Come on, Helena. Don't you want to see something that will expand your mind. There's a documentary playing at that little theatre two blocks over," Selina said.
Both women started to laugh. Girls' night out never involved documentaries. The sidewalk was so crowded with people that neither Helena nor Selina noticed when a man in a brown trench coat approached them. Instead of moving over to let Selina pass, he walked right into her. Helena continued to walk and then turned back to see her mother's face contorted in pain. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Helena tried to reach out to her mother. The man moved out of the way and Helena could see the gaping wound in her mother's side. Helena caught her mother and tried to gently lower her to the ground.
"Mom? Mom?" Helena cried to her mother. Selina's eyes were open, but they were glazed over. "Mom, can you hear me? You have to hear me."
Helena looked up to see the man in the trench coat, her mother's attacker, standing at the edge of the crowd that had begun to form around the young girl and her mother.
"Someone stop him!" Helena shouted, but no one moved. The man ran away, leaving his bloody knife in a puddle as it started to rain.
Batgirl hopped rooftops until she spotted the right building. She was careful to be quiet as she pried open a fourth story window and climbed in. The last thing she needed was for nosy Mrs. Roberts to see Barbara Gordon sneaking into the apartment building in her Batgirl costume.
Once inside, Barbara peeled off her mask and ran her hand through her sweaty hair. It had been a long night. It was amazing that even with Batman, Batgirl, and on occasion Nightwing, the crime rate in New Gotham continued to climb. It could be quite disheartening to have one's efforts make no difference, but Barbara felt like she had accomplished something good tonight by helping Batman to catch the Joker.
She walked into the bathroom and turned on the radio loud enough to hear over the running shower that she turned on as hot as she could stand. She pulled off the rest of her costume and let it fall to the ground. Her muscles already ached and she knew that she was going to be sore in the morning. It was late and she was tired, but she had to get up early the next morning because Bruce wanted to do some training. Bruce was always demanding perfection from himself and everyone around him. That was fine with Barbara because she was also a perfectionist. She climbed into the shower and let the hot water melt away all her thoughts until her mind was completely blank.
"This just in," Barbara heard the reporter say over the radio. "There has been a murder on the East side of the city. Local businesswoman, Selina Kyle, was killed as she walked home with her daughter…."
Barbara did not hear the rest of the announcement. She turned off the water and rested her head against the glass door. No, Barbara thought. It must be a mistake. Even as the thought enter her mind, Barbara instinctively knew that was not the case. Barbara was in too much shock to fully grasp the pain of losing her friend and then she thought of Helena. Without conscious thought, Barbara got out of the shower and put on a robe. She needed to find Helena. Poor Helena, Barbara thought. Who would do this? Guilt washed over Barbara. She was Batgirl. She should have been able to protect Helena and Selina. They were her friends. No, they were more than friends, they were like family. I shouldn't have come home, Barbara thought angrily. I should have done another sweep of the city and then this would never have happened. It's all my fault.
Barbara's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her doorbell. She almost did not notice it and then she realized that it might be Helena. Barbara ran to the door, trying to figure out what she should say to the young girl. Her worry was unnecessary since Helena was not the one standing on the other side of the door.
Helena ran through the city streets blinded by the tears that would not stop falling. She could not believe what had happened and part of her was sure that this was all a bad dream. She did not notice the police cars and the ambulance outside the building as she ran inside. Helena flew up the four flights of stairs and ran down the hall only to stop behind police crime tape that was blocking the rest of the hallway.
"Please, no," Helena mumbled to herself.
She was now sure that she was dreaming. There was no other explanation for what she was seeing. The door to Barbara's apartment was wide open and there were police standing just outside the door. Several building residents were also standing behind the police tape watching. Nosy Mrs. Roberts was standing next to Helena, but the young girl did not notice because she could not pull her eyes away from the sight of the two paramedics lifting a stretcher on which Barbara laid, unconscious. One paramedic shouted something to the other and they quickly made their way down the hall to the elevator. Helena turned her head and watched, but she could not move. Barbara looked as pale as her mother had only a short time ago.
Everyone that Helena really cared about were dead. She was all alone. Her mind could not make sense of what had happened, what was happening. Finally, her mind reached the only conclusion that made any sense to her after the night's events. This is all my fault, Helena thought.
Jim Gordon sat at his desk in his office, waiting. He could have left hours ago, but he knew that this night had more to offer him. The ominous feeling had not yet left him and was only intensifying by the minute. He had just been briefed about the Selina Kyle murder. Jim knew that Barbara was close to Selina and her daughter, Helena. He tried to call Barbara. He wanted to be the one to tell Barbara, but his call went unanswered. Jim figured that his daughter must be out having fun, maybe she was out with Dick Grayson.
Jim was momentarily lost in thought, and that was when the phone rang. For years to come, he would blame that brief lapse in concentration for what had happened. Jim listened quietly to the person on the other end of the phone line. Finally, the butterflies were gone. This was what he had been waiting for all day. He hung up the phone without any sign of emotion.
"My baby," he whispered quietly.
Batman stepped out of the Batmobile. He walked over to the giant screen in the Batcave and turned on the news. A commercial break was interrupted by a breaking news story. Bruce Wayne sighed as he pulled off his cowl. No matter how hard he tried he could not stop every crime. He sat down to listen to the reporter. Alfred came running into the Batcave.
"Master Bruce, there is something that I must tell you," Alfred Pennyworth said breathlessly. He was not sure where to start. He, himself, was still in shock from the phone call that he had just received. Fortunately for Alfred, the news reporter beat him to the chase.
"Blood has been shed over the city tonight," the newsman said with the unemotional tone of someone used to announcing horrible events, but never having been directly affected by such an event. "Earlier this evening, Selina Kyle, a local businesswoman, was stabbed to death as she was walking around the east end of town with her daughter. An hour later, Police Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Barbara, was shot in her apartment. She is in critical condition at New Gotham General Hospital and may not survive the night. At this time, the two events are believed to be unrelated. Now, we go to Sally McIntyre who is at Arkham Asylum, where the Joker has escaped for the second time today."
Bruce turned off the television. An eerie silence filled the cave as Bruce tried to process what he had just learned.
"Selina…Barbara…no…" Bruce mumbled to himself. Then he was filled with anger as he shouted, "JOKER!"
Bruce quickly stood up and re-donned his cowl. He ran to the Batmobile.
"This is the last time!" Bruce shouted as he hoped into the car.
"Wait! Master Bruce, where are you going?" Alfred asked as he tried to run after Batman. He had never seen such anger in the younger man's eyes.
"Hello, Batman!" Joker said gleefully as Batman entered the room. "I've been waiting you know. Did you like my gifts? "
"This ends here, Joker," Batman said flatly. Bruce had come to a decision. "You're never going to hurt anyone again."
"Oh! Come on, Bats! It was just a joke," Joker said shaking his head and laughing. Then his tone became sinister as he said, "The cat mews no more and the bat no longer flies. And the punch line is that you don't have the balls to finish me off. That's the problem with you, vigilantes, and your moral code. You can't do the job right. I kill your lover and hopefully your partner too and still you can't kill me."
Batman lunged at the Joker and the two traded a few blows, but the Joker was no match for the Dark Knight. Batman put the Joker in a headlock. He could hear the news report replay in his mind over and over again. Each time, his arms tightened around the Joker's neck a little bit more until the clown stopped laughing. The Joker lost consciousness, but Batman did not ease up. He squeezed harder. The Joker's neck was at the point of snapping and still Batman did not stop.
"Freeze!" a police officer yelled as she and her partner burst into the room, guns drawn. "Put him down!"
Batman snapped out of his anger. He dropped the Joker to the floor.
Jim sat next to Barbara's hospital bed, watching her chest rise and fall as a machine breathed for her. He held her hand, wishing and praying that she would open her eyes, smile at him, and then call him a goofball for getting so emotional.
"Oh, Barbara…" he moaned trying not to break down into tears. He gently kissed the back of her hand afraid to move her too much, afraid that he would make things worse.
"I'm so sorry, Barbie," he said quietly and then he began to yell, "I'm the police commissioner, damn it! What the hell kind of police officer am I if I couldn't even protect my own daughter?!"
He stopped as tears began to fall.
"I know you don't like it when I swear," he said wiping away the tears. "I'm not worried, Barbara. I know how pigheaded you can be. I know that you're going to be fine." He nearly began to cry again remembering what the doctor had said. If she survived, nothing would be fine again. "Don't listen to the doctors, Barbara. Doctors are wrong all the time and they don't know how tenacious and determined you can be. You're a fighter just like your old man. Anyway, I think I'm going to take up jogging like you 'politely' suggested at Thanksgiving last year when you poked at my growing waistline. I'm really going to do it this time. I promise. I could come with you on your morning jog, but of course, you'll give your old man a head start because he isn't as young or athletic as he used to be.
"I love you, Barbara. Please don't leave me. I can't go on without you," Jim said softly. "I'm sorry, baby. This is all my fault."
Batman stood outside Barbara's window. He could see Jim sitting next to Barbara, talking to her. Jim seemed to have aged at least ten years since Batman had seen him a few hours ago. A nurse came into the room and urged Jim to go take a walk and get some coffee to clear his head. She promised to get him if anything changed.
After Jim and the nurse left the room, Batman quietly snuck into the room. He just stood there staring at Barbara's still form, listening to the beep of the heart monitor and the whoosh of the respirator. It was just as he feared. He had not dreamed the earlier part of this night. He had just come from breaking into the morgue where he had witnessed with his own eyes Selina's dead body. It was taking all his strength and determination not to break down and collapse to the ground in tears.
"Barbara…" he started. "I'm not sure if you can hear me, but I need to tell you this before I leave. I don't think that I've ever told you this, because as you know I can sometimes be headstrong, but you are…were…no…are a great partner. I'm sorry if I didn't always let you feel like my equal, but you are."
He kept waiting for her to sit up and tell him that this was all some kind of prank, a late April Fool's joke.
"I can't do this anymore," he said quietly. "Selina is dead. I thought that I had gotten over her when she left Gotham sixteen years ago, but I never stopped loving her and this city reeks of her presence. On the way here, I past at least ten places were I caught her stealing something. I always thought that if the Joker wanted to hurt me that he would come after me personally. I never imagined that he would go after you or Selina to get to me. I can't afford to make that mistake again. I'm leaving New Gotham. Joker is getting what he wants. Batman is no more. Tonight, I became more like him than I ever would have thought possible, because tonight I almost killed the Joker. That's not event the worst part. I was happy about it and as we speak, the thought of killing him does not disgust me. I'm sorry that I'm leaving you when you need me the most, but I'm no good to anyone anymore. I need to leave, to be alone. I don't know when or if I'll ever be back, but know that you are always in my thoughts. I'm having papers drawn up that will start a fund for you so you can continue our work. This city still needs a hero, Barbara. I'm also setting up a fund for Selina's daughter. I know that it won't replace her mother, but I'm a billionaire and so if Batman can't help then maybe Bruce Wayne can."
Batman turned away from Barbara and walked to the window. He looked out over the city that had taken so much from him.
"I'm sorry, Barbara," he said climbing onto the window ledge. "Good-bye, Batgirl."
As he jumped out the window, one thought passed through his mind. This is all my fault.
In Arkham's maximum security wing, laughter echoed through the hall. The laughter came from a small, dark cell with no windows. The Joker laughed as he thought of the nights events. He laughed so hard that he fell to the floor and still he continued to laugh like a maniac. He laughed so hysterically that he could barely get enough air into his lungs to keep him alive. Still, he kept laughing. He laughed all through the night and into the morning and even as they led him to the van that would take him far away from New Gotham. He laughed because he knew that it was really all his fault.