Title: The Fourth Wall in the Room
Beta: Lady of Scarlet
Summary: The Joker sees more than he should.
Disclaimer: I have no claim over these characters or the world, and I am making no profit.
It's a cool dry night in Gotham's autumn, when the Joker wins the day. The Bat lays broken, limbs askew, and the Joker kneels to play. The Joker pries and the Joker twists, skin and flesh and broken bones, but no matter how the Joker tries, Bats does not stir, Bats does not twitch, Bats does not cry.
The Joker sighs and looks to the sky, thick with smog and smoke. He frowns, he hems, he haws. Decision made, he leaps to his feet, and pulls Bats into a car. It is not his, but nothing is, so the taking is of little issue. From each according to ability, to each according to need.
The park remains a bloodstained field, a bat for the Bat left carelessly on wet grass.
Batsman stains the backseat black, dripping blood from the vents in his suit, a limp sack of bones held together by leather, drip dripping on the grey colored fabric.
The Joker drives down the center, blaring horns and swerving cars to mark his passage. The crunch of metal and the scream of brakes makes his contorted grin real, a twist of stop red lips over too big teeth.
In Gotham East lies a series of cracked open houses, deserted in the grand old quake, ignored by the returning crowds. The Joker likes it here, next to the sewage-scented sea. The screaming masses are long far gone, and he is away, alone, and free.
The Joker hums Here Comes the Bride as he carries Bats over the threshold. He knocks the cowl against the door, and bends back the broken leg. Blood falls on the dull grey carpet, lonely drops soon joined by more.
Clean is clean, and close to god, so the Joker cleans Batsy clear of dirt. He wipes at the blood, but much more drizzles out, warm little rivers that stain the floor. The Joker sighs, gives it up, and puts the Lysol away.
He lifts Battykins, soft and malleable, a vessel leaking its contents onto the kitchen floor. A moldering couch sits all alone in an empty room, and the Joker lies upon it, the Bat draped over him, a warm weight of wheezing breath and drip dripping blood. The cape gets in the way, a tangled mass of rags around his legs, so long white fingers clawing it free from the Bat's casing.
Bat's head is pressed against his vulnerable neck, and it is surrender that fills the Joker's mind. A breathing body lies across his own, and fractured things that might be memories sing from the broken windows. Too long arms wrap around Bats.
The Joker closes his eyes and dreams. It's okay, you can rest, I am here.
(We are real.)
When he wakes, Batman is lucid, his blank white eyes glaring from inches away. His growled threats are weak as the Joker eases out from under him. He is gentle—gentle, you don't want to hurt him—but Bats' mouth pulls tight from pain. Something twinges in the Joker's belly, and he doesn't like it very much.
He rises to his too big feet, and paces the rotting, carpet floor. It creaks under his weight, screams of anger against his activity, and the Joker stomps in childish protest.
The Bat hurts.
He presses fingers into his bruises, remembering being hit, being hurt, in all the worlds before this one.
Pain ends when the doctors find you. They tie you up, poke you with needles, and everything stops. When you wake up, the world is as it was the last time you woke up. Bats is better, you are better, the pain is gone. Everything is forgotten.
The Joker's breath hesitates. Ropes and needles make you better. He drops to his bony knees, and crawls to his broken Bat. The Batty one twitches, struggling against broken bones to move, and the Joker stops.
He has no ropes, and he has no needles. He cannot make him well.
"What happens when it's you instead of me?" the Joker whispers, inches away from the Batman's face. He peers into the flat white eyes, wondering if there are real, human eyes under them, or if the matte black face is the real skin, the true being.
The Bat hardly breathes as he replies, "What do you mean?"
"How does the world reset?" The Joker is suddenly desperate to know what they did when it was Bats lying broken on the floor.
"You aren't making any sense," Bats tells him, his voice wary, possibly placating.
The Joker collapses, limbs suddenly weak, in astonishment, in raging disappointment. "You know. You remember. There's no way that you don't know!"
The Bat looks at him, the cowl as blank as ever, the bruised and swollen lips slightly parted. He really, truly doesn't know.
Joker snarls, and asks the question that had given him the clue he needed to see through the veil of poorly faked reality. "How old are you?"
The Bat frowns. "I—It's none of your business."
"Fine. But keep that number in mind. Now answer this. When were you born?" Fear curls in Joker's chest, and he wonders if he really is crazy, if all the little clues and all the little impossibilities are just dreams from misfiring neurons.
The thin slice of skin around the Bat's mouth pales, and crushing relief swallows the Joker. He shudders, wiping at his too thin lips, skin catching on his too big teeth. "And the final world breaking question. What year is it?"
"It's impossible. What did you drug me with?" The Bat takes refuge in his lonely tower of denial, refusing to see the truth.
The Joker growls. "I haven't drugged you." His voice grows cold, and he knows that he's sounding too sane, but he ignores it, desperate relieve the loneliness. He grabs the Bats' shoulder and grips the broken bones he put there. "If you were drugged, that wouldn't hurt so much," he said over the whine of pain that slips from unwilling lips.
"When did I kill your little Robin?" he asks excitedly, reveling in telling someone, anyone, even if it is his only enemy. "Why hasn't anyone killed me?"
"I don't know—it would be wrong to kill you." Bat-Bat sounds bewildered, bemused, in pain. Joker wishes again for the healing powers of needles and ropes, because pain makes it harder to see.
"I've killed thousands. I'm the most prolific mass murderer of all time, Bats." The Joker feels the twisting world, his mind over-sensitized to the rapid scratch of some god's pen. "And you're the only one who remembers me from month to month, who remembers what I've done. The doctors forget my crimes, even as they lock me away for them. It doesn't make sense."
"It can't—some form of treatment—it's impossible."
"I'm glad we agree." Joker rocks slightly, resisting the changes they try to pull, and the pressure eases slightly. "It's you and me, so far as I can tell. We can't die. I've tried killing you a thousand times, tried killing myself at least a dozen—we don't die. I've been testing—to see who comes back—here's a hint, don't worry about your Robins, they always come back—Bats, listen, it's happening again."
"What? What's happening?" Bats sounds worried, as well he should. The Joker won't feel like himself, if this is himself, for much longer.
"It's going to change. They're rewriting us. It's going to—" The Joker's hair grows out by at least three inches, and he can see the Bat's startled jerk. "—We're going to forget for a while," he whispers, squinting against the pain.
"Will we remember?" Batman asks, levering himself up on a formerly broken arm.
The roof cracks open, sparkling sunlight dazzling the inside walls. Superman dives in, heroically to the rescue, and the Joker beams with delight.
"Welcome to the super happy fun hour!" he cackles, rising to his feet, a detonator for a bomb suddenly in his hand.
Batman blinks as if confused, before rising to his feet.
"We're rigged to blow, boys and girls!" the Joker laughs, dancing across the creaking boards.
Somewhere, someone speaks, sounding faintly disturbed.
"Let's retcon that."