Title: To Suspend Disbelief

Beta: Lady of Scarlet

Rating: PG-13

Summary: The Joker is at large, Batman close behind him. Poison Ivy dies.

It rains in Gotham, pitter patter in the lonely night, water falling uselessly on dead pavement, draining into the hollowed underground. Crumpled side roads lay unrepaired, asphalt stabbing at the sky. Rain gurgles through their cracks.

The Joker walks alone, unhurried, without purpose. Tonight he is not plagued by the mad plans that spark-crackle inside his head, the white room having simplified him, reduced him, reproduced him as someone else. It's peaceful, while it lasts.

When the sense of gravity intrudes, Joker hardly notices, he is so used to the absence of freewill. The gentle tug on his limbs pulls him south, a fish hook through his lip dragging him toward the black hole of plot, because this is a story—that much he knows.

There's a garden in the city. Only one, the others withered and neglected for the lack of time, the lack of money, and the lack of desire. The geas drives him forward to the garden's hedge of thorns, parts of himself melting away, sinking into the cracks with the rain with every step he takes.

At its edge, green strands of wet grass bow down under rain drops, and a force outside of himself prompts the Joker to remove his shoes. He resists, for a second, for a moment, trying to prove he can (he can't). Something sparks under the tightly pulled strings of god, and the shiny black shoes are carelessly tossed away. The Joker resents it bitterly, his diminishment to a shoeless, penitent worshiper.

Words whisper from behind him, scripting above him. This is Ivy's church.

He walks barefoot into the grass, coat tearing on impressive thorns. His skin catches and rips on their points, blood dripping down to the tips of his fingers, feeding the plants below. As the blood falls, waves of dizziness pass through the Joker, out of proportion with the loss of blood.

He reaches the other side of the hedge, swaying slightly as he weaves through plants. Something cool and clear pours from the gaping hole in his mind where reality peers in, and the gaps and crevasses fill.

The Joker returns.

His eyes grow manically bright, gleaming radioactive green, as his skin deadens from corpse to marble in shade. Half sung words babble cheerfully from his lips as his feet lift into a shuffling dance.

"Poison, poison," he croons, spinning aimlessly, "Where are you at, sweet Poison?"

Vines rustle behind him, and the Joker laughs, twisting to face them. "Hello, my sweet." Madness courses through him, powerful, strong, absolute. He is untouchable, and perfect.

The vines wrap around his arms, soaking up the last of the blood, leaves lapping at his exposed flesh, drinking him in. The Joker grins, skin creasing under the strain of his smile. "Pretty Ivy," he says, voice growing sharper, threatening. "I've come to speak with you."

She steps from the shelter of a looming oak tree, green dryad in the dark of night. "What do you want?" Poison Ivy asks, and he laughs.

"To prove a point." The Joker answers, gripping the thick, healthy flesh of the vines holding him prisoner and tearing it apart. They bleed over his hands, vital fluids pouring on his dead skin, and he cackles, strange joy ringing through him.

Poison Ivy screams in pain and rage, and charges toward him, the ground itself rumbling as plants tear through damp earth, rising pale and whip-like from the ground.

The Joker never stops laughing, yanking a switchblade from his sleeve and slicing everything that comes near him. The vines pull back as she runs closer, tears or maybe rain streaming down her face.

He cuts her. Bleeds the sap from her body, thick and sticky on his hands. It's far from human, and he giggles fitfully as he plays with it, kneeling over her body as vines lash at his back. She struggles weakly as he paws through her alien anatomy, searching for…he doesn't know what. (Her veins feel like roots, and isn't that neat?)

Eventually her twisting and writhing stops, and she lies mostly still under him. The vines stop whipping him. It's better this way.

The park rustles under the falling rain, and droplets fill her open eyes. A cold wind blows, and the Joker looks up, anticipating the blow. It knocks him back, and his chest seizes with laughter, uncomfortable-painful spasms that wrack his body.

"What are you doing?" Bats asks, sounding surprisingly appalled, because shouldn't he know by now?

The Joker glances at Ivy's twitching body. The answer seems quite obvious, so it's with no small amount of curiosity that he replies. "Killing her?" Thin, wheezing giggles punctuate his question, and his smile is beginning to ache at the corners, lips tight, tight, tight across his teeth.

"Why?" the Bat pleads, and it sounds so very strange from his lips.

"Why not?" the Joker replies, licking a stray drop of sap-blood from his bottom lip. Poison Ivy is sweet, minty. The Joker's head tilts to the side as he stares at her remains, wondering if her flesh tastes the same.

"Don't you remember?" Batty-bat-bat stands back, unmoving after that first punch, staring at him intently. Rain drips from his fright mask, or maybe the mask is his face. The Joker has seen stranger things in Gotham, though he'll be damned if he remembers them.

The trees sound like they're crying, rain dripping from their leaves, and the taste of Poison Ivy's blood swells on his tongue. Perhaps she's poison. He laughs.

Joker smiles some more, thoughts running in blissful little circles, tiny birds chasing each other. It's nice. Circular. "Remember what, Bat-friend?"

The bat-cape flutters in the wind, and something presses down on the Joker's mind, monolithic, oppressive. He resists, knowing that he doesn't want it, and his nice and circular thoughts spin frantically, trying to escape.

The birds scream and light on fire.

Poison Ivy walks out of the trees.

All he can taste is ink.