Title: Patior

Setting: DCU

Characters: Batman/Joker

Genre: Psychological, suspense, drama

Warnings: Contains elements of S and M. If you don't like that, click return.

Disclaimer: I do not own. Please do not sue.

Feedback: Is nice.

Author's note: April 29th, 2010. Seems like my last beta failed miserably to catch the mispelled words. I was inspired by Anne Rice's Claiming of Beauty to write this down. This was an annoying plot bunny. I give thee, Patior. Enjoy folks!!

The cool October night did little to quell the stifling atmosphere in the conference room at the police precinct. Although the Gotham City Police Department was not exactly well known for its stellar record, that did not mean that there were not good and hard working men giving their heart and soul into their work. Jim Gordon was a diamond in the rough, the last trickle of integrity that the city possessed. He was the last of his kind, a relic that represented the last drops of what it meant to be a cop before it got swallowed up by the monster, like Elizabeth Taylor and old Hollywood.

Next to him stood Harvey Bullock, a no holds barred man who had the subtlety of a chainsaw in a china shop. In between spitting out tobacco and stuffing himself with cinnamon glazed donuts, Jim's right hand man observed the tall dark shadow that stood a few feet away from him, Jim and two other rookies in the room. The presence of the Bat made Harvey alert, like a dog about to protect its owner because like the rest of the Force, he saw the vigilante as a dangerous freak with deep psychological issues that made him a ticking time bomb. He was a man who did not conform to regulations but enjoyed to impose his own brand of justice. For Harvey, the Bat was no different than any of the psychos he had sent to Arkham over the years.

All three men gazed down at the telephone which had a beeping red light over one of the extension lines. They all knew who was holding on the other side of that phone line, but no one dared to pick up the line just yet, not until it was safe to do so and treated the source of the call as if it was toxic and cancerous which in essence, it was.

"He's got Arkham, again." The last word was like trying to swim in molasses. Acknowledging that Arkham had once again been lassoed by the Joker was like admitting his short comings as a city leader.

"Did he give any specifics?" The Batman queried in a gruff voice.

"He has a hostage. Female, twenty six years old. He says he wants you to show up at the appointed time or he will handle her… personally." Harvey said the last word with force. He couldn't avoid that the circumstances were starting to resemble a very familiar scenario. One that everybody in the Department; especially Gordon were trying to forget. She was the same age as Barbara too. Gordon had seen a lot in his career as a rookie, private, detective, lieutenant and commissioner. He had seen so many things and so many people but this time, he could not do anything but help feel a little emotionally invested.

"Anything else?" The Dark Knight asked. Gordon and Bullock looked at each other.

"Yeah, he sent you this." Harvey pushed a shoe box sized container onto the table and pushed it towards the dark figure of the detective. A black gloved hand reached out and lifted the lid and after a few seconds, he shut it down and nodded.

"Keep the cops at hand," Batman ordered.

"It's you he wants. Why does he have to involve the blue?" Gordon said angrily before he took a puff of his pipe. "Damn. I can't just sit back now knowing that psycho has a hostage."

"No, if he sees you, then it would only make him angry." Batman said sharply.

"Angry? Why are you so concerned over how clowny will react, Bats? We are going to save the girl, not him." Bullock said in a snide fashion. "Who cares if he gets upset?"

"You should care. If Joker feels you are threatening to interrupt him in the middle of his 'scene' he will not hesitate to take the girl out. It will be his punch line, her death and your fault." Batman said as he emphasized each scenario with a tone that lowered in timbre each time.

Gordon digested the words and in the end, conceded that it was perhaps the best thing to do. He had never had experience handling the killer clown one on one and he went at Batman's word. Batman was skilled in handling the clown like a ring leader was to a lion.

"I still would like to have some special units nearby, just in case." The Commissioner said.

"Don't underestimate the Joker, Jim. He's unpredictable and if you don't play along with his game, the results can be deadly." Batman said darkly. Harvey scoffed.

"I ain't taking any orders from any clown! I get on my knees for no one!" Bullock said bitterly. Batman just narrowed his eyes as the Lieutenant went on. "This is bullshit, and you're startin' to sound like the Clown, Bats, no offense…" Montoya sighed. She knew that Bullock was like this because he had issues with control and some jealousy. He did not like that the Bat got special treatment but he could not deny that the Bat was at least an asset for slippery situations and this was ideal.

Batman ignored the stubborn cop. Batman and Gordon glanced at one another and proceeded to press 'speakerphone'. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

"Joker?" Batman said finally into the machine.

"No, it's Dalene Kurtis!" The falsetto responded which then erupted into a crescendo of giggles.

"What do you want, Joker?" Batman growled into the speakerphone. The clown's cackles subsided momentarily He leaned in closer. Perhaps the background noise could give him some more hints.

"I want a pay raise, a three month vacation to French Polynesia and a pony, but most importantly I want you to refill my dance card because you got me waiting here an eternity. Where were you? On your coffee break?" The Jester said busting into another fit of hysterical laughter. Batman let out a low, deep growl. He was starting to lose it with the Clown. "Your voice is so soothing to me, it is like music, Bats. Did you know that?" Joker said in a soft tone. Bullock winced when he heard the clown's voice.

"Stop joking and tell me what your game is!" The Knight snapped

"Oh yes, games, the games I play and games you lose. Bats, life is all about games," Joker said with a chuckle. "And this game requires a partner. Thought Gordy would have told you. I want my favorite rat for this is Harry Potter without his broomstick?"

"You have my whole attention, Joker." Batman said in a monosyllabic pattern. It was always like that. Joker would be putty, Batman was iron.

"No, no, no. This is not how we play. I want you Bats, but not over some nineteenth century mechanical communication device. I want you here in the flesh." The harlequin said in a sour note. He petted the device in his hand with his long, bony hands.

"And if I refuse?" Batman asked knowing even though he knew there were no refusals where the Clown was concerned.

"If you are not here by two thirty then I am going to make haggis out of the trachea and lungs of the beautiful specimen sitting before me, okay?" the clown crooned before he let out a small subset of giggles. On that note, he hung up.

It was the same old dance but the steps would be different each time. It always was. On that note, the Batman silently turned and headed out of the open window. Goodbyes were never his style.

"What now?" Bullock asked stuffing a bear claw in his mouth. Gordon exchange looks between Harvey, Montoya and the shoe box on his desk and wondered how the Detective could still have an appetite The Commissioner opened the box and retrieved a small liquid-filled glass container. Floating within the green fluid was a severed middle finger with a platinum ring, with the initials M.C., U. of Michigan and the year 1984 engraved on its inside.

"We'll wait, for now," Gordon said taking his glasses off. "Take this to forensics for identification and get the Special Unit ready to leave on my command. I will call the Mayor. I think we will need the SWAT Team involved in this."

Brenda Duarte sat silently as she observed her patient walk back and forth in the conference room. It was in Wing C, Hall 12 at the Asylum. She had been recently transferred from New Jersey State and came from a long line of cops who had seen it all. Instead of choosing continuing the family tradition, she chose to be a doctor because she wanted to help the less than fortunate and not be a part of it. The way she thought about it, police only exacerbated the situation with their brute force. She wanted to be more hands on, so to speak. As a cop you could not do that. You cannot communicate with people using guns and a loud voice. They were people, not animals that had to be trained.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, was an art form into itself. Each patient was a subject waiting to be discovered. To her, they were pieces of a puzzle that had to be handled a certain way. Each person was individually wrapped with their own unique set of circumstances and psychoses. Cops treated real life individuals no different than dirt between their toes. You could not enforce the law and get desired results by doing that. This was human life no matter where it came from. The only thing that stood between her and real rehabilitation were the state regulations. That was true except in the Joker's case, for the only thing that stood between Joker and rehabilitation was…Joker himself.

The Joker was a special case. The man could not be classified. It was as if he had personified all known disorders but at the same time he did not. It was easier to categorize amoeba than the man standing before her. The tall, thin chalk skinned man was a very exotic specimen, indeed. It was as if he defied classification. Carolus Linneas, Charles Darwin and Erik Erikson would have a field day with him. The key word was consciousness and Joker, being the performance artist he was, showed more signs of premeditation that were consistent with a performer who changes his roles and tonight, for reasons she couldn't understand, she had become the star, or unwilling volunteer in one of the Jester's wickedly staged plans.

She sat there quietly observing her client, noting the subtle movements using perception and body language to hint at the clown's state of mind. Rule one of psychology therapy one zero one:study your subject's behavior and distinguish the patterns. The patterns will allow you understand…and predict.

"…..and so that's how I disposed of the idiot. Fed to the very same dog he owned. And you think the dog cared? NO of course not! Because it's all about survival." Joker concluded. His rabid arm waving was reminiscent of her Jewish stepmother's at Passover dinner. "But you have to admit that it was a clever ending. Just imagine what his son is going to tell mommy when he explains why daddy is not coming for dinner"

Joker cleared his throat between giggles. "Mom…my dog ate my homework" and wait for it, Joker thought "…and my dad." The Jester then exploded in laughter.

"You are a very creative individual, Mr. Joker…" Brenda started slowly. Although she tried to treat him like a human being, she still could not stomach his slasher film like violence as he spoke about his latest spree with the enthusiasm of a film studies student who overestimated their endeavors.

"Creative is such an overused word thrown around so casually these days, my dear, it is almost tragic…" Joker said casually as he walked to and fro in the small room, pacing around like lion waiting for its keeper at the zoo.

"What do you mean, casual, Mr. Joker?" she said with all the calmness she could muster. The clown scoffed.

"The arts are not appreciated like they used to be, it seems," Joker said as he glared at the dusky skinned doctor sitting before him. Joker looked at her like she had made an obscene hand gesture. "Now I know how Benvenuto and Cellini felt like. They were so unappreciated for their time…." Joker moaned in mock fashion.

She made a mental note she intended to add to her journal later if she survived this:Grandiose sense of entitlement, delusions of grandeur to make up for the emptiness in his soul. He is a misunderstood artist and in his twisted mind, murder is just another form or art. It is a form of expression, the way he rationalized it. That was a dangerous word. Dictators rationalized the deaths of millions of people but that did not make it okay.

"I understand that art is subjective Mr. Joker but I do not think removing my colleague's finger constitutes art," Dr. Duarte said calmly. She wanted so bad to break down the clown one by one into little pieces and analyze every bit, but now the secret was survival: Keep him talking long enough so he would not turn on you.

"But art is also about expressing the inner self and I did express myself, my dear, in case you did not notice. I was making a statement!" Joker declared proudly. He patted himself on his chest. Brenda noted a beautiful rose on his chest lapel. It was a sign of old world grandeur.He had the charm of Fred Astaire and the sophistication of Cary Grant. It was hard to ignore the animal magnetism that this man possessed, she had to admit.

"You can make a statement without hurting anyone, you know…" she said calmly

"Ah ah ah, you see… THERE is the problem. Anybody can make art like that. I take the stakes a little bit further and push the limits, like a real artist, and create a masterpiece. Besides, there is nothing that a little ice, a thick towel and a tourniquet cannot fix." Joker said carelessly.

She made another mental note. Total disregard for life or the well being for the rest of the world. To him, real life flesh and blood, breathing human beings did not count because they were no different than marionettes. They were mere props in his worldly stage.

"So explain to me how taking off Mr. Carter's finger becomes a masterpiece?" Brenda protested as she tried to rein the emotion in her voice.

Joker's emerald green eyes glared at the sun toned woman sitting before him. She was about to receive an education that she was never going to forget.

"Anger, my dear is a very powerful brush and I am angry that Mr. Carter did not take my requests for more toilet paper seriously. Number two, red is a very rich color, often associated with the most base of passions and pathos! Royalty such as myself and it is associated with the very thing that allows you to breathe, walk and talk! Rembrandt prefers shadows and light, Monet prefers splashes and brushstrokes, me, I prefer hemoglobin on my subjects. It makes for a far more, lively expression, don't you think? You can't tell me that you do not find appreciation in Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya, don't you?" the clown cooed.

Joker took a moment to catch up his breath and he continued explaining. "It is my God given right to express myself. Should I not do that, then I would turn to more dangerous behaviors and repression is very unhealthy for a person like me. Didn't you read my file 6.2 Section C added by Dr. Arthur Hammond, Harvard MD? Repression is like poison to me, doctor. Just ask the good doctor's widow. She knows of the things I can do to people when they try to suppress me."

Brenda remembered the reference. Dr. Hammond had concluded that curing the Joker would require to deny the patient any means of expressing his…artistic talents. Once deprived of what fueled his fantasies, the doctor reasoned, his brain should have opened to other more positive and constructive ways of handling his psychoses. It was him who suggested art therapy for the clown. It should have opened him to alternative forms of therapy. Instead, it turned out to be a big mistake for Joker thought it would be much better to cut out Dr. Hammon's tongue and to cut of each of his finger's one by one. The Joker laughed as he recalled this assault because in his mind, he had stripped this once respected lecturer and Nobel Prize winner of his most precious assets. He was not reduced to a mere vegetable, in a sense. This was a fate worse than death.

"Dr. Hammond knew you were talented but he thought he could channel those talents for more positive things," Brenda said with a calm voice as sweet as honey, making sure he appealed to the Jester's ego.

"Sweetheart, please stop rubbing my ego." Joker said snidely. "It just sparks my inspiration and I still need you…alive."

"I am afraid I do not understand…" Brenda Duarte said nervously. Her throat was as parched as the Sonora Desert.

"Positive is subjective, just like art. What's positive for you and the idiot masses of this city is not exactly what is positive for me."

"And what could be a positive result for you?" the doctor said as her breath quickened. This conversation was making a turn she was not too sure she could handle. She was sort of glad that she could sneak in ethics.

"That it makes me happy. And I'm happy when people laugh…"the Jester giggled, "…to death. Tell me something dear, you think having HIV is positive?" The doctor shook her head. "Well, for me, is the most side splitting thing in the world. It's the immutable proof that anything that is alive will expire, so why not just laugh at death instead of stressing over it? Life is like a bowl of cherries and instead of thinking it's the pits, why not savor it? Even better, why not make death…a form of art? It's only logical, you know? Look at that painting about the college seminar that uses a corpse fresh from the gallows. Why not make death an educational one as well?" Joker said with a toothy grin.

"Enough!" A dark husky voice sounded off. The clown's attention shifted towards the welcomed intruder.

"About time you showed up. I was about to put a pencil in her eye!" Joker cackled. "She was boring me." The clown ran his thin fingers into his green patch of hair.

The Batman glided into the small quarters. Although the place was about one hundred feet in diameter, the Batman's presence added an aura of stuffiness to the place, an aura the Joker picked up and savored, like a freshly baked apple pie.

"Out, get out!" He ordered the doctor. She acquiesced without question. Now, it was as if time had stopped for the two of them. The Joker sat down and stretched his long, lean legs onto the table.

"I feel so special," the clown cooed. "You came, you finally came! Did you get my gift?" The clown batted his eyes. The Knight remained silent, glaring at the Jester. "Of course you did. Otherwise you wouldn't be here, but you don't seem impressed."

"I don't think sending dismembered body parts is a way to make a positive gesture, especially after you destroyed that opportunity several years ago." Batman said darkly.

"Why it is that Van Gogh does it and everybody adores him and when I try to imitate the master, all I get is your ungrateful mug glaring at me?" Joker spat back.

"That's because he was not a psychopath like you!" Batman said growing more and more visibly impatient.

Joker let out a generous chuckle.

"My dear sweet Bats, if one is an artist, then they have to be a little off the kilter, don't you think?" Joker said while waving a bony finger at his captor. "The best people are a little off the head! I'm just the white rabbit showing you down this hole and you will not even take my hand."

"It's not the same. You are not an artist, Joker, you are a beast!" Batman spat back.

At that point, the clown leaned back before propping himself up. His large blue trench coat almost rivaled the cape that his enemy donned. He reached over for a small block of chalk and started to play with it by shuffling it between his fingers.

"I figured it would come down to something like this." Joker sighed as he walked towards the Bat. "You think I will just walk back to my cell after your little visit and have a chat about the game over poker and chips? There are a few things you need to learn before this ends."

"I'll make it easier for you if you cooperate," the Batman said warningly. "You wanted my attention, I am here."

"I don't like easy and this is just the first lesson." Joker snapped as he crushed the piece of chalk in his hand and in a split second, blew the contents from his hand onto the Batman's face. The Dark Knight tried to hit the clown missing him by an inch, and then felt a burning sensation along his tear ducts and lungs. Breathing became labored and then painful. Batman recognized the symptoms: Joker's toxin or at least one of its many variants. The Jester must have found a way to turn the gas into a solid form.

The last thing he saw was the clown's feet on the floor and the last thing he heard was his voice. "And you fail this one."


The haze wore off more or less quickly as Batman started to regain consciousness. His mind slowly recollected the last moments he was awake. Immediately, the gaunt chalk white face of the clown came into his mind. He tried to move his leg but found that he was bound like a trapped animal for a hunt. He found out that the same was true for his arms as well. He had been tied down on some sort of hard surface and stripped of his utility belt and his most precious advantage: mobility

"You look so cute looking all helpless like that," Joker snickered. Batman turned towards the direction of the caustic voice. "I wouldn't resist that if I were you, you see. Any subtle movement and the cables lash on a little tighter, like a boa constrictor." Joker moved forward, walking out of the shadows and into the light. Batman had wished that the clown had stayed in the darkness for the last thing he wanted to see now was the clown hovering over him, mocking him by just standing Detective started devising an escape plan in his mind.

"You don't seem happy," the clown said in a soft voice. It was the most chilling thing Bruce had ever heard for the clown never spoke with such tenderness.

"And you're enjoying every minute," Batman snarled. The smile in the Jester's face widened. "I don't think I'll have a say if I itch or feel numb, right?"

"Hmm, let me get that for you then!" Joker said with utmost enthusiasm as he pulled a wireless remote control out of his pocket and pushed a button. Electricity vibrated and tickled throughout the Knight's body, tensing, testing his muscles and endurance against his binds which responded by tightening around ankles and wrists. "Electrotherapy has always worked for me. It will numb those pain receptors." But not before the fun begins, Joker said to himself. He licked his lips in a devilish fashion.

Batman panted heavily after the electricity was interrupted. "Did that took care of your itch?" The clown chuckled as he hovered over the Bat, gazing at the most human part of Batman's face. "I hope it did, because I have bigger plans for you." The harlequin cooed.

Joker reached down and placed his hands on the Batman's profile. The other man twitched and squirmed as soon as the clown touched him. It was like being exposed to an acid. Yes, it was flesh and bone against his face but Batman would have preferred hot wax over his stomach than this kind of contact.

"Ah, silent treatment," Joker cooed. "Now, Bats, is that any way really to fix burnt bridges?"

"There is nothing to rebuild!" Batman ordered, his voice cut between gasps. "You're making it all up in your head!"

Joker's face contorted in a delicate manner. "I feel offended. After all these years of you chasing after me, I would have thought that you and I--."

"In your dreams!" Batman roared as he pulled on his binds only succeeding on making them tighter. He could feel the pull on his joints that threatened to dislocate his clavicle and tendons.

"And what do you know of my dreams? They really don't have to end like they always do: me with a black eye or two, few broken ribs and you on the giving end." Joker mused. He sat down by Batman's feet and turned to face him. "I know I'm a little bit twisted, but that doesn't mean that I am not capable of changing my ways."

"You won't change! You're not fooling anyone!" Batman spat back.

"Now, hold on a second. You act as if I don't have a sensitive bone in my body. Well, I have got news for you, Sherlock Bats, I do. I really do. For example, did you know that it drives me absolutely bonkers to have my shins tickled when Harley and I….well, you get the idea."

Batman stared ahead. He did his best to suppress the bile that threatened to erupt. The last thing he wanted to see was envision the Joker in such a manner. The thought was just as repulsive as seeing himself defenseless in the presence of the maniac.

Joker caught the twitch in Batman's face. "Now you seriously don't believe me, do you?" Joker chirped.

"Why would I? You're a pathological liar. Your truth is as inconsistent as the myriad of lies you have spilled throughout the years."

"But I am consistent with you, am I not?" Joker reached out and ran his delicate hand across the Dark Knight's face. "And I'm not a liar…I just adapt to my environment, like….water." The Jester nodded as if to reaffirm his statement. "Yeah, I just mold to the needs of the moment and like a good artist…improvise. I am always in a state of metamorphisis, like a good performer otherwise I get stale like bread or bad 80s music." Joker cackled.

"You're completely out of your mind." Batman said and with that, he was greeted by a slap from the clown on the face. Batman growled softly, and the Jester wagged a warning finger.

"Hush you! The artist is talking!" Joker spat back then cupped his hear. "Ahhh, I can almost hear the muses whispering at my ears perking up my intellect to create the most magnificent work of art ever conceived. My fingers tickle, Bats, I need to get to work. Not a moment to lose." Joker queried softly, as he turned around towards a large table were some boxes were nicely arranged side by side.

Batman rolled his eyes. Just put up with it and try and wriggle out of these cables. They were tearing into his Kevlar and he could feel a pinch in his wrists and wondered if the Jester had designed the cables to go through the armor and the skin. He needed to find a way out and fast and one of the first things he would do was wring the Clown's scrawny little neck.

"Remember the time when my gags were more, how shall we say, trite and corny?" Joker asked from within one of the boxes he was searching, his voice reverberating in the hollow cardboard. "Remember those gags that involved robbing banks and puns that would make Shakespeare cringe? Oh, we had fun then but even then, you can only take the joke so far. Natural selection favors those that can adapt and evolve."

"There you go, talking about change again," Batman spat back as he worked attentively on the binds holding his right arm. Just keep talking, Joker. Give me a few moments to get out of your trap and I will even the scores with you. "Change psychoses. You're starting to sound like a broken record."

The clown looked slightly taken aback but paid no mind to the Dark Knight's word and went back to his search. He was missing the point.

"You can change but still maintain the same basic ingredients and still keep the soul. Like always, you're blind…as a Bat. I will show you I've changed." Joker said in a casual manner. There was a small hint of that piercing falsetto. It was a soft, almost calm timbre to it.

"Yes, for the worse." Batman said with a sneer. He finally found a weakness in the Jester's trap. "And you seem proud of it."

"Of course I am. Don't you understand our relationship? I am the Yin to your Yang, the white to your black, the crackers to your soup. The worse I am, the better you are. That's why I do the things I do. All for you, dear." Joker's giggle echoed in the box.

"Then I suppose I should be thankful for all the people you have killed or maimed." Batman said sardonically.

"Yes, show your appreciation. See? I knew you would get it sooner or later." Joker moved to the next box beside him "Oh, here it is."

"You can talk all you want, but the only time you really change is when you are having one of your psychotic mood swings and even those are predictable." The Dark Knight said bitterly.

"My spidey senses are tingling. Am I sensing some doubt, Bats?" Joker cooed as he approached the bound Knight. He ran his hand down Batman's face again. Watching him try to avoid Joker's gloved hand tickled the clown pink. "Believe me. After today…you'll be convinced that I am a totally renewed and changed clown. You can have my word for it."

"If this is one of your mind games, then out with it." The words tempted the clown like catnip. With a white bony finger the Jester traced the chiseled features of the Detective's face and smiled. He then straightened himself up and ran a carefree hand through his green curls. With a mischievous wink at his bound prisoner, Joker stepped back about ten feet and it was then that Batman caught a better glance of the clown's attire…though he wished he hadn't. He caught sight Joker's low cut vest which exposed a bony white chest.

"My, I love an enthusiastic volunteer!" The Jester said as he sensually undid his trench coat. Like one of those strip tease shows, the coat revealed the thin pale chest sprinkled with small scars he had accumulated during most of his criminal career. Most of those scars had been courtesy of the man now bound to the table. Batman noted that the Joker had not only stop wearing one of his expensive suits, but had also exchanged his purple pants for a pair of black leather pants fit so tightly against his body, his 'assets' were now emphasized and outlined in detail. Batman looked away to check his progress with the binds in his right arm, but suddenly felt his muscles and ligaments tense again.

"And you thought I will not notice you are working hard on that right arm, eh Bats?" Joker said giggling childishly as he approached the electrified figure that now was at the mercy and whim of his remote control. He played with the amplitude of the current and the Knight changed the tempo of his dance under each new setting. Joker's giggle slowly started to escalate when he saw the Knight's eyes narrow into slits. It was his nonverbal way of communicating discomfort. "Are you cold? Awww, let me warm you up a little. I do feel a little draft, don't you?"

Joker turned the dial to the max setting, left it there for a few seconds and then finally turned it down and then off. He walked over the bound man that now panted heavily the table, with his head to the sides. He let out a low moan.

"Hey, Bats!" The Jester grabbed the tip of one of the ears in the cowl and shook it violently. The man under the cowl gurgled something unintelligible. The Clown Prince shook the cowl again. "What? Did you say something, Bats?"

"Damn you." Batman let out in a puff of hair releasing the last of his strength to annunciate the words then drifted into unconsciousness. This phone was for now temporarily out of service.

Joker ran a tender hand along the chest plate and felt the subtle movement with each breath and sighed in relief. Good, breathing was always a good sign. He then patted the armor and started to undo the binds. "Great. I see you're ready for part two."

The darkness lifted in a jolt of pain that forced him to shake violently against his bind as the skin over his chest felt to have burst on fire. He opened his eyes and quickly searched for the reason of his pain and on his chest he discovered a very fresh red wound that still throbbed painfully. In the Joker's hand he discovered the weapon that was responsible for the cut. It was a very large bull leather bullwhip.

"Wakey, wakey, Batsy." Joker greeted with a threatening sway of the whip. Batman looked around and realized they were definitely not in the same room as they were before and that he had lost the top part of his armor, exposing his broad torso shamelessly to his captor who savored the view.

"Where are we?" Batman asked as he surveyed the rest of this hidden fortress which was illuminated dimly by the light of over a hundred candles arranged throughout the floor and furniture. "What have you done?"

"An old office space someone forgot. Actually, this used to be Arkham senior's office, right before he went insane and I thought you would appreciate the change in attire." The Joker modeled the black leather vest he now chose to wear. A red rose bud adorned the vest's lapel. "Since things are about to heat up I thought you could benefit from the extra…draft?" Joker giggled. "But does that really matter now, Bats?"

"If this is your version of Black Mass then try and be original next time." Batman said sharply. The clown hovered over him again.

"No, no Mass but I am sure you will still want to say your prayers after I am done with you." The clown responded with a fit of giggles. Hyenas laughing sounded less scary.

Batman looked around and noticed that they were alone. Good. Anything that was to occur within the corridors of these walls was a secret that should remain with him and only him. The detective also noticed that he had been moved to what seemed a different table modified with metal bracelets to snare his wrists and ankles and keep them in place should he try to make sudden movements. He tried the shackles which didn't give an inch. Great. It was back to square one.

As the Jester approached him, Batman caught a scent from the air. It smelled like primrose oil. It was coming from the Joker. The Knight looked at the Jester dead on as the Clown hovered playfully over his face.

"Do you like it? Harley never liked Obsession by CK on me. She said it was too pedestrian." Joker yawned. At that moment, an orderly came in. Batman could see the chip on his work hat. The Mad Hatter was involved as well. What pay off would they have to work with the clown? Batman at this time noted some four large wax candles burning on top of the sturdy table. Their combined light almost as bright as the one from the hundred smaller candles scattered throughout the office. What exactly the clown had in mind, he did not want to know.

"Oh and these?" Joker said, as if he had read the Knight's mind, motioning to the hundred of little candles that were lit scattered through the office furniture and floor."The lights are broken and if I were to have them fixed, they would be too bright. I find that this is more appropriate for the occasion."

Batman did not want to know what thought processes went on in the clown's mind. His brain was like a freeway breaking off into several places. It was best to just endure the clown's idea of fun and not give into his demands, for now. When he was free then he would give the clown just desserts but for now, he had no choice but to submit to his wishes.

At this point, the clown grabbed one of the large candles and got on top of the platform where Batman was being held captive, sat over his prisoner's stomach leaning forward until his face was just a few centimeters from the Knight. The Joker slowly slid his crotch down the detective's stomach and the leather of his pants gave away a painful moan as he stretched. He was making himself comfortable but it was obvious that he was not interested in sitting comfortably as he was now savoring having Batman under his body. He set the large candle beside the captive's head. Batman took note of the clown's long and skinny arms that emerged from a very tight fitting black leather vest. They were well built. Not twigs like some of the trashy tabloids and TV shows liked to sensationalize. They were well sculpted and they gave the skinny clown some leverage. His whole body was lithe and long but not razor thin or emaciated.

"What was that thing you said about me not able to change?" Joker said holding his weight on his lean arms as he hovered over the dark detective, "You also said I had become predictable. Tell me my dear, is this what you were expecting me to do now?" The clown cooed. He leaned down and ran his tongue on the other man's chin. Batman spat at the clown's face. Joker wiped the spit with a purple satin handkerchief.

"Now, we won't need lubrication, unless of course you think we need to get a little more…physical?" Batman shook a little harder at the suggestion. He hated such filthy language.

"You are such a beast, Bats. That is what I like about you. You might hide all those feelings under the cold Kevlar, but I know that underneath, you are very passionate…and intense." Joker giggled and turned around. Joker's green patch of hair made him look almost like a palm tree in contrast to his midnight black get up. Joker's heels accentuated his long legs. Batman mentally caught himself for processing a thought. He always knew that the Joker was a brilliant man who projected that intelligence in the wrong direction. He did not want to admit that the clown was…attractive outside of his traditional get up.

The clown searched a container beside him for something. He fumbled through objects in the bag. Batman in the meantime tried to wriggle out of his situation. He was not going to give the clown the upper hand. That had to be put on hold for now, when he saw his reflection on the broad blade of a knife glinting playfully in the Jester's hand.

"Now, this won't hurt if you hold still." Joker said softly. Batman could never take the clown's words at face value. He moved. The clown sighed.

"Well, don't say that I did not warn you." Joker said as he dug the weapon into flesh. Batman could feel the sharp jagged edge go against his skin, delineating the pectorals with the tip and leaving a red welt in its path. Joker moved then to the chest area, paying special attention to the most sensitive parts which he tenderly outlined with his weapon. Batman cringed at the touch. It pinched at first but it eventually turned into a burning sensation as he moved the knife thought that sensitive spot and then up his muscular arms. The Jester finally started to demarcae the abdominal musculature with the same dedication. Batman tried pushing away from the knife when Joker pressed hard. It drew a small amount of blood.

"Well, I told you to hold still but you didn't believe me!" Joker said with an air of impatience. "An artist's work is never done. Now the sculptor must sign his work." Joker said grabbing the large candle he had brought to the table. The wick was almost totally submerged in a pool of molten wax. With a giggle, the Jester tilted the candle over the Batman's torso, drawing a large letter J in green hot wax over the chest and abdomen of his captive. The Knight gasped as the wax hit his exposed skin, but refrained from giving the Clown the satisfaction of seeing him in pain by grinding his teeth.

Once the Jester had completely delineated his signature, he blew the candle and then blew on the wax solidifying in the broad chest. He malevolently blew cold air over the exposed nipples, expecting the Knight to shiver under the arousing sensation. Nothing happened. The Bat just stared at him, his eyes cold sapphires behind the dark cowl. Joker let out a disappointed grunt and used his nails to dig deep on the hardened skin stripping away the wax from the Knight's chest and leaving swollen red tracks in their path.

The Joker then turned around and began to levy the Batman's table and continued to do so until he met the other man face to face. Now, they were at eye level and Joker caught the brilliant orbs of blue underneath the mask. They were deep like the sea in contrast to the clown's green ones which bespoke a wild uninhibited passion that lurked beneath the surface.

"Why?" The Batman bellowed. Joker responded with a low bit of chuckles before he replied.

"What? Can't you predict my next move?" The Clown cooed with a wide toothy smile

""If you intend to use those tools to torture me into submission then you can forget about it." Joker responded with an unholy hoot of laughter.

"I am not going to torture you, silly!" Joker said with a wide smile. "Just a little change in the routine, that is all." Joker added casually. The clown placed his hand on his mouth and chin, looking as if he was studying the Batman as if he were a fascinating display at a museum.

"Then what are all these devices for? I doubt you are going to leave them there for display." The Dark Knight said sourly.

"Tut tut tut," Joker said in a bored expression. "Like always, you are always thinking you right. You think you have me all figured out like a Rubik's cube." Batman grumbled. It was one thing when the clown was one step ahead, it was quite another when he rubbed it in his face. "I am not going to torture you, Bats. That is boring and trite."

"Then what are all those other toys for, a tea party for the Mad Hatter?" Batman jerked.

"Shush!" Joker demanded with a slap on the face. "Bats, why do you take your time to build these muscles? Do you use elephants as weights?" Joker said softly as he ran his hand along Batman's thick arms.

"I do it so that I can catch criminals like you and break your bones." Batman said quickly. Joker smiled.

"Ah ha, and how do you know when it is working or not?" Joker leaned in. His hooked nose was close to Batman's.

"When I have the pleasure of feeling the pain go through your body." Batman said finally. Joker stepped back and put his hands on his thin hips.

"Ah ha! You see, there's the answer to your riddle!" Joker said thoughtfully. "The operative word in that sentence is 'pain'! Life is pain. Pleasure is pain and I am about to indulge in one of life's sweetest pleasures!" Joker said in a low growling voice. "You had all the fun breaking me before. It's about time I returned the favor." Joker turned around and proceeded to grab a whip. It was perhaps the first step in a long night.

"This is where your training will be thrown out the window. You're in my playground now, so it's my rules. You have any questions? Then refer to the manual." Joker said darkly. His green eyes narrowed. His face gave off an air of aristocratic arrogance."Oh, that's right. There is no rule book for this game."

Batman shook once again in a violent manner, making the shackles rattle under him. Joker walked back to the table and grabbed the bull whip which he swayed menacingly beside him.

"That was the wrong thing to say, Batman" Joker said warningly before he proceeded to strike the larger, taller man with the first violent blow. A large red cut formed over the Knight's abdomen. "You should know better."

The crack of the whip pierced at the other man's skin. The Batman winced but did not let out a verbal signal. It had to be kept that way. The Joker smiled.

"I caught that subtle mouth gesture, Batman. Don't think that I missed it." Joker said with a warning of a finger. He proceeded to continue with another blow. He aimed back for a maximum hit. The crack was thunderous. Batman's body snapped at the contact with the air and leather. The pressure point was immeasurable. It produced the desired effect but he made a mental note to keep it under control. If the clown caught any hint of pain, then that means he would have won. He could not win this game. He could never win.

The bull whip produced sharp tension on the Bat's body but he told himself not to give in. He was stronger than this. He was in control of his body and what his body felt. At best, they were annoying tickles. That's all that they were. That is how his mind processed them. Annoying tickles was the low point, muscle cramps when he lifted weights was the highest. He had to endure. He looked down, with his eyes closed and fists clenched. He felt another blow from the whip hit him. It was like the knife. He could feel the sting in his fresh. When Joker found that Batman was not responding after the fifth and sixth hit, he decided to up the pressure. He put down the bull whip and grabbed a cat o'nine tails.

"Bats, how many times have you broken my ribs? Six, seven times?" Joker sneered when he started to whip the Batman again, this time the cat o'nine tails left bloody marks every time it hit. "Ten? Naughty boys must be punished!" The bull whip was supposed to tenderize his prisoner, now the cat o'nine tails allowed the juices flow. To Joker it was like hitting a piñata and he now wanted the candy. The cat o'nine tails was supposed to snap him into submission. Like a hungry dominatrix who was not satisfied with the responses, Joker continued whipping the other man.

His lungs were labored, as if they had been carrying a mountain on his back. His muscles jerked and stretched to where they felt like they were about to tear. Batman maintained his poise. The only clue that he had felt the pain was through his clenched teeth which the clown could not see, at least not yet. Right now, it was he who held the power. The Joker was still trying to attain it and take it away from him. He was the one that was desperate, judging by his blows which became more frequent and came down with more force. That in itself was proof that the clown was losing.

"You deserved it every time. You know how much pain you have caused?" Batman shouted back. He was greeted with yet another blunt force of air and leather. "The only way to stop you…is to break you." Batman panted

"Did you say banana? I didn't hear you!" Joker said in a sing song voice. At this point, the Batman felt as if he had pulled the weight of two bull elephants. His muscles were in spasms and were threatening to tear under the stress. It was not the worst he had been through. He had survived Joker's attack with a jagged knife one time. He had put up with Catwoman's own brand of weapons. He had lived through Killer Croc on a bad day. This was just a warm up, he thought. Pain is only on the mind. It stinged but this was not the end of it.

"Mmmm, stubborn little Bat, aren't you?" Joker licked his lips between heaves. He marveled at Batman's endurance but he was not done. He had proven to be a frustrating case but the clown was determined to get to that soft spot he had yearned to touch and he craved it badly. He wanted to find that soft and wet spot that would make the man opposite from him beg. There were more surprises in his bag of goodies and he was going to go through with them one by one. Joker went up to admire his handiwork. He wiped away the specks of blood. His hand tenderly brushed aside the grime and dirt.

The muscles were chiseled. It was as if Michelangelo had come back from the dead and created the beautiful specimen standing before him. Joker ran his index finger onto a nipple before he touched the taut stomach before him. He marveled at this work of art. Too bad it needed some upgrading.

"Oooh, this feels too hot." Joker said to himself but it was obvious he wanted the Bat to hear him Joker then turned around to a small green container and pulled out a block of ice. He returned and set the ice block on the Knight's chest, rubbing against the welts the whips had made. "Yes, I think this is a good spot." Joker pressed an ice block onto the Bat's wounds. No, he was applying cold pressure onto him. Ice water would be next.

"In case you are wondering how I got this, Victor's been giving some free reign to do his cryogenic experiments for good behavior. I hear he is even volunteering at the university with his expertise. He let me have a block. I said I would put in a good word for him." Joker smiled to himself.

Batman groaned and prepared to take the next blows in pride. He was not going to give the clown the satisfaction of knowing that he was breaking him. That was a warm up. It would only get worse. Even if he talked the clown would ignore him or come up with some excuse to do so.

Batman suppressed a groan and put up with the clown's method of torture. The tingles produced by the clown's touches made his mind focus on the cooling almost healing aspects of the exchange but not before he felt the almost burning feeling the block produced when he was left too long on a sensitive part.. It reminded him of the feeling he got when he felt a muscle spasm. It meant results, it meant that it was working and that was good. He had feeling which meant that he was conscious.

But this was not good. This was pure madness. This was the opposite of that. Joker was turning a sacred and private act into an act that unpurified it.

"It's not exactly IceyHot, but it will do." Joker smiled. Joker began to rub the block up and down Batman's torso, waiting for a minute response to the touch.

"It's just a little cool down before the next, eh?" The clown smiled devilishly.

Batman could do little but to put up with the clown's game. He focused his mind in an image of his distant memory, away from here, away from the Clown and away from the pain. He pictured Talia giving him warm cocoa over the Alps or indulging in a midnight romp with Selina.

"If you are doing this because you want something secretive then you are mistaken," Batman said rudely. Joker gazed at the man with subtle contempt.

"You think I want something as mundane as your identity? You could be the milkman underneath all of that and I still wouldn't care." Joker said with tenderness as he continued rubbing the icy block on the other man's stomach. Batman's hands clenched at Joker's talented administrations. The clown caught Batman's limited utterances. That silence was loud.

"You're so frigid. What's up?" Joker said calmly.

"You're trying to pry me open and you ask me that?" Batman barked back. How dare he be so casual?

"I just want to see if you can keep up with me. You're lucky that there aren't any others around. I would be quick to make them my ducks in a row, you know…"

"You're sick and twisted." Batman growled through clenched teeth.

"Testy, tell me something I do not know…" Joker said sardonically. "You're so icy; perhaps you need to remedy that, Batman." Joker said in a twisted manner. He then managed to proceed with presenting the Bat with the next method. It was a meat brander and it hissed. It had an eerie color of orange as it glowed.

As soon as Joker applied the burning hook onto the other man's skin, Batman let out a low groan. It was only a fraction of what he really felt like letting out. This created a hissing sound. The mark would be permanent. It was burning skin and muscle. Not bone, at least. This was only pain and pain was temporary. Pain was only a state of mind. Pain would come and go.

But it would not stop.

"Does it tickle?" Joker asked before he cackled. Batman regained his composure. He tried to ignore the burning sensation on his muscle. It was just over the area where Joker ran the block of ice. He felt like he could not breathe. He tried to apply a form of Buddhist philosophy that stressed the separation of the mind and of the body."Tell me Bats…you like it rare or well done?"

Joker took away the brander from the Batman's body. He noted the area where the burn marks made their imprint, just under the rib cage. Now, he was his. This was a mark of possession and Joker looked at it with pride. Like a rancher brands a cow, the Joker had made his mark on the Batman's body. Now everyone would know that he was his and when Batman looked into the mirror he would know who he belonged to. The clown sucked in his lips and savored the imprint. He traced a finger onto the area where the tissue was sensitive. The Batman winced at the clown's touches.

"You don't like my touch?" Joker asked kittenishly.

"I don't like you touching me period!" Batman spat back.

"Why, I don't have AIDS, I don't have cancer, I don't have the bird flu. What are you so afraid of?" The harlequin pressed on. The Dark Knight turned away. "Are you afraid of intimacy? Are you afraid you might like this? Is that why you run away from Catlady?" Joker cooed softly. The clown jerked his arm and pressed the meat brander onto the other man's stomach, he was enjoying the scene. He was bringing the Batman to his knees and there was nothing he could do about it. Now, he just needed to hear the magic words. He wanted the verbal confirmation that he was bringing Batman into submission. The Batman twisted and writhed underneath the Joker's weapon.

Words were useless. The clown would not hear them. If he talked, then the Joker would just use them against him. At this point and time, Batman's attention focused on the pain generated by the meat brander.

"Capsaicin is not going to fix that, I am afraid…" Joker crooned. He took off pressure from the brander until it lifted completely off the Batman's flesh. It stuck momentarily onto the Joker's weapon.

At this point, the Batman's breaths were heavy. They were the kind of breaths one would hear after an intimate romp but these were not the sounds of pleasure. They were desperate, almost defeated but not quite. His body had put up with a beating. He had been through several Crisis events, he had dueled with the most skilled and deadly of fighters, and he had trained his body for the most punishing of assaults. Joker was coming close but not quite. At this point, he could still make it back to the car and put it on auto. The salt from his sweat created a stinging sensation into the scars.

"Having fun are we?" Joker said in a sarcastic fashion.

"We, who is we?" Batman spat back. Joker sneered.

"It's my playground, it's my rules!" Joker said with a voice laced with pride.

"Did you add all these contraptions so that you can cheat, Joker? Is it because you know you will lose if you fought the REAL way instead of relying on shortcuts?" Batman coughed.

The Joker's green eyes tensed. The fact that the Batman had called him weak was an insult to his manhood. He was a skilled fighter, true but physically he was not match for him. He had to make some improvements and use some short cuts in physical combat. On an intellectual level, they were equals and that always resulted in a power struggle. Joker needed to prove to Bats that there was something that he had that the other lacked. This was his domain and this was where he was going to bring the other man to his knees.

Joker turned around but instead of turning towards his box of goodies, he instead grabbed a pair of black gloves from over a nearby table. He rubbed the palms together and a bright spark of electricity bridged between the Jester's hands. Batman recognized the Joker's new weapon: a modified version of his deadly joy buzzer. It was obvious that he was playing with 10,000 volts of trouble.

"Just for that rude remark, I'm going have to teach you a lesson, Bats!" Joker hissed. He proceeded to walk towards the other man.

Batman saw the blue electric current between the two hands and tightened his jaw as he prepared mentally for the worst that was to come.

"Did you seriously think that that was a good idea?" Joker said coolly.

"It's true," Batman coughed. "You won't stop until you get what you want which is my head on a lance."

"A bit graphic but you read my mind."Joker smiled. "Now let's finish this, shall we?"

"If you think you will get anything by frying me with electricity you are wrong," Batman said positively.

"I will take that risk. Besides, I heard Bat is a delicacy in South East Asia." Joker declared and proceeded make contact with the other man's skin. The gloves bridged the current and the Knight's body tensed against the touch.

Batman could smell his skin as it burned. His skin. The electricity was cooking him from the inside out, but he still tried to maintain composure. He could hear the sizzle from the current. His concentration was boiling over. Joker moved his hands along the entire length of the Detective's torso, entertaining his touch in certain sensitive areas. The skin let out some visible smoke. Batman shook but he still maintained his poise. This made the clown testy.

At this point, the Batman let out a scream. Joker savored it like a favorite flavor of ice cream. It was a confirmation that he had won. All evening, he internalized the pain. He suppressed feeling and now, he was letting it out. Like a volcano exploding, Joker savored the Batman submitting to him, to his pain, to his touch.

Batman knew he couldn't take this much longer. The calibration was throwing his natural body rhythm out of tune and it will soon interfere with his heart leading him to cardiac arrest. Any longer and he would go into shock.

"You're like Stretch Armstrong, you just won't break!" Joker declared. He added some slight pressure to the current. At this point, Batman's mind was out of whack.

In a split second it was over. It felt like an eternity. He was not moving. The most dangerous game was the shortest.

Only seconds ago, Joker laughed as he savored the Batman letting out verbal confirmation that he won that night. He brought Batman to his knees. Unfortunately, that victory would be short lived.

"Bats?" Joker said softly.

There was no sound coming from the other man. It was as if his soul had ebbed from his body. He stood there, looking lifeless. The clown's green eyes widened.

"Batman?" Joker prodded on. He pinched his cheek and slapped him a few times. The clown sneered. "No, really…wake up!"

The Batman was barely conscious when he heard the clown's voice. It was desperate, almost tender. His breathing was far below the usual pattern. It was weak. His muscles felt like putty and were atrophied of any activity. His heart was at a delicate state. He was conscious but the clown did not note it. He pressed his head against the burly chest. There was barely a heartbeat he could detect.

"No, no, no. Come on…wake up!" The clown said in an emotionally charged voice. "You were not supposed to break!!" he screeched. He was his favorite ball of yarn. He was the clown's favorite toy. No matter how harshly he treated it, no matter how many times he threw it across, no matter how rough he was, it was something that he still cherished. The clown immediately undid the cables. The clown replayed the tape in his mind. He hated himself for not being observant. His favorite toy had broken and he desperately wanted to fix it. He wanted to have that joy back in his life now, but for now, that spark was out and he was angry. He had been deprived of the one thing that gave him the greatest pleasure and now it was gone.

As he did so, Batman's eyes fluttered open slowly. He caught the emotion in the clown's beautiful green eyes. They bespoke worry, desperation but most importantly, feeling. These were traits he never associated with him but after tonight, they would be forever imprinted in his memory like the scar on his stomach.

The Joker looked up and caught the other man regaining consciousness and sneered.

"Get out," he ordered. He turned around and crossed his arms across his skinny chest. Batman coughed. The confirmation was deafening. "Leave now." Joker ordered. He turned around, making sure that the other man did not catch a glimpse of his face which was contorting into bitter and angry one. "Don't you EVER play me like that again, capice, Bats?"

''Your hostages …"The Knight gasped between labored breaths.

"There were never any hostages. It was only you and me." Joker said letting out a disappointed snort. "Now get out. NOW!"

The Dark Knight ignored the clown's words and proceeded for the exit, his consciousness and mind were coming back into focus.

As he drove him, Batman replayed the image in his head over and over. The Joker's eyes which usually bespoke insanity and were as dead as glass hinted at a tortured soul tonight. This evening, he saw the clown at his most vulnerable and he was not the one who had to endure multiple methods of punishment. What he wanted the most turned out to be the vilest thing for him. Complete and utter submission was not on the clown's agenda but tonight, it became too much for him. The shame Batman caught afterwards confirmed it. His pride and arrogance after he saw the passion in those beautiful jade colored eyes were a front. It was not a hallucination from his psycho-shock therapy. It was ephemeral at best but it was there. It was as genuine as the scar on his skin. While the Dark Knight submitted to the pain, the Caliph of Clowns submitted to his emotions which he hide under a veil of insanity. Joker might not have hurt if he was stabbed in the leg, but his sentiments were rattled at the possibility of the Dark Knight taking his last breath by his own hand.

Whether or not the clown was true in his view of 'change' or not did not matter. One thing was for sure. Batman would never forget the soul pouring out of those desperately beautiful field-colored eyes.

I wrote this after the plot bunny would not leave me alone. I would like to extend my thanks to my beta and partner in crime, Jokerlady.