To Our Mutual Friend

by dead2self

Rating: PG

Pairings: None

Summary: After killing off a room of hostages to lure the Batman, the Joker is in for a nasty surprise.

Notes: Please review! They make me want to write more!

The scene replayed, unbidden, in Gordon's head. The hostages whimpering in the background as the Joker made his terms: Batman's presence or a hostage every half hour. He'd start with the service industry since they never got enough credit and seniority got priority.

The calm, collected old man with not more than a twinkle of fear in his eyes, even as the Joker shoved him before the camera with a gun to his temple. Then the feral yell from off camera and the gunshot, and the Prince of Gotham with the oddest expression on his face. A mixed look of confusion and pain, as if he had not expected the bullet he had taken for the old man to hurt so badly.

There was only one way to deal with it: the strongest brandy he had stocked in his desk. Gordon sat on the roof of MCU, alternating between taking a swig from the bottle and taking another swing at the already broken spotlight.

"Why the long face, Commissioner?" said a high, teasing voice from the shadows. "Sad your bat didn't swoop to the rescue?"

Gordon started so badly he nearly dropped his brandy – a small feat, as he had a death grip on it – and scanned the shadows for the familiar voice.

He didn't have to look hard; the Joker loped forward into the light with a sneering grin on his face. "I'll let you in on a little secret," he said, tongue darting across his lips with barely concealed frustration. "I wasn't too happy myself. What gives?"

Dragging a hand across his eyes just to make sure he wasn't hallucinating – it wouldn't be the first time tonight – Gordon regarded the Joker with dark eyes. "I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you," he answered, unable to even muster up the motivation to draw his weapon on the man. The monster.

"Now, what's that supposed to mean?" the Joker asked, his high voice dipping into a growl.

"He's dead."

At first the Joker didn't respond, and then he laughed, soft and light. "That's a good one, Commissioner. You sure he didn't just want the day off, damn the consequences?"

Gordon barked a bitter laugh and tossed back another drink. The Joker eyed him suspiciously, taking a step closer. "No. Who?"

At this, the police commissioner seemed to re-gather some of his resolve, which he quickly redirected into a fierce glare in the Joker's direction. "You did. Tonight."

The Joker bristled, his hands twitching angrily toward his coat pockets, where any multitude of knives waited to disfigure the mouth of any idiot who dared tell such a ridiculous fabrication. "I did not," he answered, biting off each word. "I would never."

"You didn't know," Gordon answered, finally setting down his bottle so he could pull a cell phone from his pocket, opening it with fumbling hands. "I didn't know."

At least not until the note. In the end, the Joker had killed off every hostage without the Batman making an appearance, and even so, the madman had slipped through the police defenses. Gordon had been angry, both with himself and with Batman who had, for the first time, seemed to turn a blind eye. And then his phone had rung.

"'If you are reading this,'" Gordon read out loud, squinting to see the letters on the tiny screen that seemed to be dancing together. "'I, Bruce Wayne, Batman, have passed away.'" He paused to take note of the Joker, who had frozen on the spot, a deer in headlights. Gordon continued.

"'When I undertook this endeavor, early on I was forced to consider the possibility of my death and take appropriate measures as a precaution. I implanted a chip in my body that registers my vital signs, and if I were ever to go for thirty minutes without registering life, these pre-recorded messages were to be delivered.'"

A sudden, hissing giggle cut Gordon off from reading any further. The Joker was shaking with silent laughter, clutching his face in his hands, sudden barks of sound escaping from his mouth intermittently. Then, as his knees buckled, a full, bellowing laugh clawed its way out of his throat, his voice breaking halfway through. He knelt, doubled, laughing so hard that he was in pain. When his hands came away from his face, it was wet and smeared in lines.

Gordon watched in fascination, both his drink and his phone forgotten, until the Joker could barely breathe and sound was not coming from his mouth any longer. Then he roared and slammed his fist down on the concrete, turning his watery, black gaze on Gordon.

"Read the rest," he wheezed. Gordon didn't think twice, and the Joker bowed his head as he listened.

"'Gordon, I have a favor to ask of you. Batman cannot die with me. You see, as a symbol, Batman cannot be confined to one man, stopped by something as mere as death. He is not a hero, not a man, because he goes beyond that. He is an ideal.

'I have sent similar messages to both Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth, the two other men who know my secret and can prove to you what I am saying. With Lucius is a list of possible candidates I have compiled that may be able to take on the guise of Batman. My request is simply that you would work with them to select the correct man for the job—"

At this, the Joker's head snapped up and he scrambled across the roof on all fours, staring up at Gordon with imploring, wild eyes. "Me," he gasped. "Me, choose me! I can do it!"

Even in his inebriated state, Gordon was dumbstruck. Luckily, he did not have to rebuke the Joker's proposition, because almost the instant the words had left his mouth, the Joker realized how impossible his request was.

"No, no," he muttered to himself. "It wouldn't work." His face fell for a brief second, and then he brightened again. "I could help! When I felt like it… if I felt like it..."

"No, you couldn't," Gordon answered firmly.

"No, I couldn't," the Joker repeated. Gordon shifted uneasily at the close proximity of the madman by his feet, but the Joker looked like he was thinking again. "Read the rest," he said, though preoccupied.

The phone fumbled between his fingers and almost fell. "It's personal," Gordon said after a pause.

The Joker shot him a glare, intimidating despite the tear stains on his cheeks. Intimidating because of the tear stains on his cheeks. "Read it."

With a quick swallow, Gordon returned his eyes to the last portion of the note and tried to keep his voice steady as he read.

"'Finally, Gordon, whether you decide to take up this mantle or not, I wanted to thank you for everything. For being the cop that would comfort a little boy who lost his parents and the one cop who would stand firm against corruption with the Batman. I thank you for never giving up on Gotham. You may not know me as well as I know you, but I have always counted you amongst my dearest friends, and certainly amongst my strongest allies. I half-suspect you won't accept it, but I have provided for you and your family in my will – in a very subvert way as to avoid suspicion – because I want your son and daughter to grow up in a better Gotham – and a better life – than I did. Please, accept this not as charity, but the passing whim of a rich man with too much money to spend on himself.

'My dearest hope is that Gotham is restored to its former glory: a time when Batman was not necessary to contain crime and poverty. I believe I can trust you, Gordon, to continue working toward that dream.

'Thank you and goodbye. Bruce Wayne.'"

Only their breathing and the city sounds below could be heard in the silence that followed. Finally, a husky chuckle escaped the Joker. "I think I need one of those," said the Joker, pulling himself to his feet and licking his lips as he motioned to the alcohol. Wordlessly, Gordon handed him the bottle.

The Joker took a long gulp, choking it down with a cough, and then giggled. "Wo—ow," he breathed, handing it back to Gordon as he slung a friendly arm around the cop's shoulders. Gordon flinched, but the Joker seemed to have something else on his mind. Abruptly, he proposed, "A toast. To our mutual friend."

And it didn't matter. It didn't matter that they were mourning a great man for the opposite reasons. It didn't matter that Gordon would wake up the next morning and want to shoot himself for getting so drunk that he told the Joker everything. It didn't matter that a month later, a new Batman was roaming the streets and the Joker played with him with almost as much enthusiasm.

"To Bruce Wayne," said Gordon, taking a swig and handing it off to the Joker, who raised it to the heavens.

"To Batman."