Joker strolled into his latest hide-out like he owned the world. And, in many ways, he did. He pressed his hand to his wounded side. It still ached like a bitch but he found he wasn't in all that bad a mood any more. Maybe, he wouldn't kill any lackeys after all. Maybe.

"Oh, boys! Uncle Joker is home! Come out, come out wherever you are." His keen eyes took in his surroundings carefully. Most of his true enemies were dead but that didn't mean that some nitwit, hoping to make a name for himself, wouldn't try to off him. Besides, paranoia was a good thing, it made your toes tingle.

There was some shuffling in the corner and a timid voice squeaked, "Boss?"

"Who the hell else would it be, Shiffy." Poor little schizo Shiff, loyal as a dog and just about as smart.

The timid little man ran forward, "Boss! Thank god. The news said they had you cornered over on the east side. We didn't know what to think." He rubbed his hands against his pants legs. "Should have known they'd never get you."

"Yeah, you should have known. Where's the rest of the boys?"

"Deke and the others went to check on that project for you. They should be back in a few. I stayed to watch the place. You want I should get you something to eat?"

The Joker ran his hand through his tangled mop, "What are you, my mother? Tell you what I need you to do for me." The Joker put his arm around boney shoulders, "I need you find me a paneled van. Something non-descript, got it?"

Shiff nodded enthusiastically.

"Bring it back here, gassed up and ready to go. We're gonna make something go boom."

Shiff smiled, "I like that. You always make it so pretty."

Joker patted his head, "I know you like it. You're a good dog, Shiffy. Go on now." He watched his lackey dash off. He shook his head. Seriously, the mentally deranged were a goldmine, he thought. Now he just needed to decide what his target would be. What would be the proper payment to the Gotham PD?

He strolled over to a kitchen area that the gang had set-up. He looked in the fridge and settled on some orange juice. They needed to be taught a lesson, one that they would remember for a long while. You would think after blowing up a hospital and various other assorted locations that they would have already learned to just leave him be... but no. The Bat was teaching them bad habits.

The mob had yet to really recover from the shit storm of lawfulness that had descended on the city after Harvey's "death". Of course, he was also partially to blame for that as well. He couldn't seem to help himself. He liked to fuck with the criminals almost as much as he liked to fuck with the rest. After all, they weren't any different really. The same old blah, blah, money, power, fame, at least the stiffs were funny.

The Joker slid into the nearest chair and leaned his head back. The Bat would, of course, be on the case. He hadn't spoken to him in months. Not since his little game at the stadium. Brother Bat had been positively grim, that was some fun shit, he mused. He could give him a call, drop a few hints, make sure that the Bat would be around for the boom.

Joker tapped his fingers on the table. Of course, that's what everyone would be expecting him to do. No doubt the police were ready to shit themselves in anticipation of how he would retaliate. So in truth, he didn't need to do anything. He could sit back and watch the tension mount and mount until it exploded on its own. He was just so fucking bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. Steal, kill, maim, try your damnest to teach people a valuable life lesson and still they won't listen. It was enough to make a clown want to hang up his greasepaint.

Still, he had a reputation to maintain. It was a necessary evil. When pushed, he had to push back, if he didn't he'd soon have every little puke with delusions of grandeur in his face. That would be annoying. So back to the boom. Someone would have to pay for his displeasure and it would have to be in a public way. Joker downed the last of the orange juice and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. White paint smeared across his knuckles. There had to be a way to make it interesting, a plan within a scheme, that could be fun. It would give Brother Bat something to do too, don't want to leave him out, not when he always went to the trouble of hunting him so diligently. That would just be rude.

The Joker stood, peeling off his coat. He walked slowly towards the bathroom humming a tune. He'd have to come up with something really special. He could even dedicate it to his brother. He'd hate that, probably pop another blood vessel. That was always amusing. Family was just so much work sometimes. Family. He had a kid somewhere. Some place far away from Gotham if he knew Brother Bat. Still, if he really wanted to find Harley, he would.

Truth was, he didn't really give a shit but something was stirring in the back of his mind and he wasn't quite sure what it meant. No doubt when it was fully formed it would be glorious. His inspirations usually were. He needed to take it one step further than he ever taken it. Bring his legend to new heights.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Bruce peeled off the last of his armor and fell back into the chair. He'd been on the move for more than forty eight hours now. They'd been close this time, really close. He tossed his gloves onto the nearest table. It was too late now. They'd missed their window of opportunity. The Joker would go to ground for a few days while he put together a response.

Depending on how angry he was, they could expect anything from an annoying prank to utter devastation. Luckily, for everyone concerned, the Joker had been in a mellow mood of late. His actions while still dangerous had been little more than playful. While the Gotham PD might not see it that way, Bruce was grateful for the respite. He liked to think that he had something to do with the recent lack of lethality on the Joker's part.

Doctor Bradshaw's suggestions on how to deal with his brother's behavior had actually been working to some degree. Psychopaths got bored apparently... dangerously bored. They needed constant stimulation and he was happy to oblige if it would keep his brother focused on him and not on innocents.

Of course, it was never that simple. Too many things would catch Jack's attention. Once Jack started to obsess over something, there would be no distracting him. He would latch onto something and not let go until he'd torn it to shreds. Unfortunately, that "something" was usually "someone" that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When that happened, you could never predict the outcome. Take Emily Ross.

Bruce leaned back, dragging his hand across his face. What had really happened that night? Could that sweet looking little girl really be complicit in two deaths? No, whatever had happened, in the end the only one responsible was Jack. Even if she was involved, it wasn't her fault. The child was obviously ill and Jack would have played to that. Again, it wasn't that simple. It was more than that. Jack had actually engaged the child, made a connection in some way, sick though it might be. What did that even mean?

He'd been trying to get in touch with Bradshaw since he'd spoken with Emily at the scene. He needed to get a professional's opinion. There wasn't much time. Even now, the Joker would be planning his next move. He had to be realistic. Despite the Joker's recent rash of what passed for benevolence on his part, this incident wouldn't be so casually dismissed. No, if he was right, his brother would come back swinging. He didn't like to be pushed into a corner, especially, not by the Gotham PD, whom he considered a joke. He'd be angry and looking for some pay-back. God help them. He needed to find a way to defuse the situation. Try and get Jack focused on something else. Fat chance. He was just so tired.

Bruce closed his eyes.