Bruce had a rose in each hand. One was red and one was white. He looked to the red. It was a deep red that rivaled the color of blood. He looked to the white and is was pure and blank. It had taken weeks to find just the right kind of roses. At first, he was hesitant to use roses again for yet another passed love one but it didn't seem right to use any other kind of flower. A rose was the flower of love and, to Bruce, the flower of death. It was used to honor the love of those who had passed. He knew that on his parent's anniversary, he'd get a bouquet of red roses, but a light, naive red. Rachel had always gotten a pink rose, soft pink and a little sad. Alfred never received a rose. No, anytime Bruce went to see Alfred, he talked to him. But only him, and that was his special honor.
It had been a year since Joker and Jack's death and the first anniversary was always the hardest. It had seemed that time had passed very slowly and in a way it had. Bruce hadn't been Batman since that night. He just couldn't bring himself to do it.
Bruce put the white rose down first. It was the whitest most flawless rose the world had to offer. It was as pure and as blank as freshly fallen snow. It was for Jack.
In the past year, Bruce had a lot of time to think things over. He realized by examining Jack's past dialogue that Jack eventually became aware of his identity as Joker. However, Jack was separate from Joker. Otherwise he would have lined up motives. In a strange way, maybe he did but Jack wasn't Joker's secret means to harm Bruce or Batman. Jack was Joker's way of loving Bruce and Batman.
It could be said that Bruce and Joker were in love. Bruce was the real person and Joker was the real person. However, Bruce and Joker couldn't really love one another, so they took on identities that allowed that to happen. When Bruce was Batman, he became that immovable object to Joker's unstoppable force. When Joker's mind created Jack, it invested Joker's humanity which allowed him to love Bruce openly. They'd always loved each other through masks but at the end of the day, the masks took on lives of their own. So in the end all of one loved all of the other and vice versa.
Bruce put the white rose down on the ground, resting it against an unmarked grave. There rested one body, two people, a split mind, and a beautiful soul.
Bruce now had just the red rose in his hand. It was the deepest, reddest, darkest rose he could find. Blood red, passionate, and dark. It was Joker's.
Bruce set it down just as carefully. The white was on the left so the red was on the right and they lied beautifully against green grass and grey tombstone.
Bruce heard a rustle in the tall bushes around him. He'd placed Joker and Jack's resting place very carefully. It was in his estate's gardens right in the corner, a private little spot that he'd remembered from childhood. The bushes had grown tall and a little unruly but there was plenty of space and the hole in the bushes had accommodated the years of height. Bruce had to duck down a little and the entrance was right by the large stone wall so he had to press a bit against that but it wasn't difficult.
Jack and Joker now occupied the spot and it was the only spot of garden that Bruce bothered to maintain himself. So Bruce found it strange that there was an intruder but despite that, he remained calm.
"Y'know," Harley huffed, "for a famous rich guy, you sure are a pain to find."
The accent in voice was light. Not like Bruce's previous encounters with her.
"Hello, Harley," Bruce said.
There was a part of him that expected her to show up. A few days after Bruce had buried his lover, he had gone back to the building where it had all happened. He was going there to remove any evidence, dressed in normal clothes but wearing a cloak to conceal his self. He had seen Harley walking around, alone. She too was not in costume. He'd been watching her through the old, shaky, black and white security system of the building. She'd been gathering some things, her things, from an older room somewhere on the second floor before she had gone into what Bruce had assumed was Joker's room.
Bruce had watched as Harley slowly walked into the room. Each foot step was delicate but deliberate. She'd gone into the closet, taken down one of his custom suits, sat down on the bed and cried.
"I watched the tape you left for me," Harley said.
It was the security feed from the night everything had happened. Bruce had snuck down to Joker's room where Harley was and left it right outside the door for her with a note attached saying, 'watch me.'
"You realize he was going to kill you, right?" Harley asked.
Bruce nodded. Yes, he knew. In fact, it was what he was expecting.
"But he didn't," Bruce said, not in a contrary way but just as a matter of fact.
"He must've really loved you," Harley said quietly.
Bruce still stared at his lover's unmarked grave. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. Harley moved in closer and stood next to Bruce.
"Aren't you afraid that I'm gonna blow your secret?" Harley asked.
Bruce gave in to turning and looking at Harley. Her hair was down, cut short and dyed brown. She was wearing a black dress and a pair of sunglasses. Bruce wondered briefly if she'd gone to the trouble of wearing colored contact lenses too.
"You're not going to say anything," Bruce said.
"And what makes you think that?"
"Because, it doesn't matter to you. The only person you would have cared to share that information with was Joker."
"I'm real predictable, aren't I?" she asked.
Bruce looked down to Harley's side. She was holding a briefcase, a rather big one but Harley held it with little effort.
Papers? Bruce wondered.
"Maybe not," Bruce answered, "what's that?"
Harley looked down to it and smiled. She held it out to Bruce.
"It's a present," she said cheerfully, "from Mr. J."
When she said his name, her voice got sad again and the accent seemed thicker.
Bruce hesitated taking it. He wasn't sure why. He just couldn't bring himself to take the brief case.
"Well go on," Harley urged, "I promise, it's nothing dangerous and it really did belong to him."
"So you're not angry with me," Bruce deducted.
Bruce had feared that Harley would watch the tape and blame Bruce/Batman for Joker's death. In a way, Bruce often blamed himself for Joker's and Jack's death. Batman was responsible for Joker and, in the end, Bruce was responsible for Jack. He was reason they existed. He was the reason they died.
"Of course not," Harley shook her head, "Anyone could see that he committed suicide, clear as day."
There was silence. Suicide. That didn't seem like the right word for it. Sacrifice. That seemed better.
"Are you angry with yourself, Bruce?" Harley asked carefully.
Bruce didn't know how to word it. Yes he was. No, he wasn't. Not angry. He just felt... guilty and lonely.
"If it hadn't been for me," Bruce said, "I don't think this would have happened. If I had never been Batman, there would have never been a Joker. He could have been spared all of this."
"If there had never been a Batman," Harley reasoned, "then you're right, there wouldn't have been a Joker. But if there hadn't been a Joker, then you would have never loved him. Who knows who Mr. J would have been but he would have never gotten to find you and even though I know he's incapable of loving, he still loved you somehow."
Not only that but no Batman meant no Joker which meant no Jack. And whether Bruce wanted to admit it or not, he found a lot of healing in just being Batman so no Batman meant that Bruce would have forever been a broken man. He was still broken but he was healing now and he had loved in way he'd never know again.
"I know it's painful but you still have your memories, the good times, and eventually, you'll figure out what to do with yourself. Maybe you'll even be Batman again."
"It seems that all I have is memories." Bruce said as he looked back at the grave.
"'We only have what we remember,'" Harley quoted, "A very smart man said that once, a poet. Red and I ran into him when we were checking out the east coast a few months ago."
Harley put a hand on Bruce's shoulder and nudged him to look at her.
"It's not your fault, Bruce," Harley said, "And don't think I didn't do my research on you when I say that nobody's death is your fault. Your parents, Alfred, Rachel, Joker."
"You've psychoanalyzed me," Bruce said flatly.
"Yeah," she smiled a little, "believe it or not I was actually pretty decent at my old job."
Harley held out the briefcase to Bruce again.
"I think he would've wanted you to have these, maybe. You knew him better than I did, doesn't feel right for me to keep 'em y'know?"
Bruce took the briefcase. It was tan, light leather with a dark handle. Bruce was sure that it was papers. The briefcase felt weighted but still too light to be carrying anything else.
"So, what's happened to you and Ivy?" Bruce asked.
Harley gestured to herself.
"As you can see, we've gone on the lamb," she smiled, "Red's hair is black now which kind of irks me but that's the way it goes."
Bruce had no inclination to turn them in. Really, the correctional facilities were meant to correct behavior and Bruce could tell just by looking at Harley that she was a different person now. He could only assume that Ivy was the same and the lack of eco terrorism in the news seemed to aid to that conclusion. Batman wasn't a bounty hunter so why bother them?
"Have you found a place to stay?" Bruce asked.
Bruce knew better than to invite them to hide out in the mansion but at the same time he wouldn't have minded. The past year had been unbearable lonely. He could use the company even it was a couple of ex-cons.
"Yeah," Harley said with a pleasant expression on her face, "It's a little island a few miles off the coast of California. Nobody owns it and Red says it's just perfect for growing. We're just going to stay there for a while, me and her. Be a couple of jungle babes I guess, at least until all the heat cools and we can really start over. For now though, we're happy."
Harley turned away from Bruce. Bruce was a little disappointed that Harley already knew where she was headed with her life. It wasn't anything particularly grand but it was a direction and Bruce envied that.
"Oh, and, Bruce?"
Harley turned around quickly and hugged Bruce. It was extremely unexpected on Bruce's behalf. Harley just couldn't help herself. He was Joker's Bat and even though that had made Harley crazy with jealously in the past, she saw the man as one of the last links to her beloved Mr. J.
"He'd want you to keep being Batman," her accent was back and her voice hinted at tears, "Gotham needs ya, Bats. He knows, I know it, and so do you."
Harley had to lean up but she gave Bruce a kiss on the cheek before turning and disappearing through the brush.
Bruce knew that Harley was right. Even with Joker gone, Gotham had started to slowly go back to the world it once was and on every radio and television station, people seemed to cry out for Batman.
But I don't know if I can answer that cry anymore...
Bruce needed more than memories and a grave. He wanted something tangible. He just wanted something that reminded him that he meant something to someone on a more human level. Yeah, he was the Batman to Gotham but that didn't help him sleep at night. He wanted Joker and Jack back but he knew that was impossible so instead he yearned for something –anything, that he could take into his old age that would remind him. To solidify the craziness of it all and forever make it something real.
...just something to really prove that Joker had loved him. Then maybe he could be Batman again. To honor that love.
Bruce carried the briefcase back into the mansion. He went into Jack's old room and sat down at the desk. He opened the briefcase and papers seemed to explode out of it, flooding all over the desk.
They were poems. Hundreds of poems. There were sonnets, haikus, free forms. Any possible lyrical set up any English major could imagine.
On the inside of the briefcase was note taped to the top.
I held on to them since he was in the asylum. I never really understood why since they're all about you but maybe I did it because I was meant to give them to you. I've folded the last one he wrote and hid it behind this note. It's a little...weird but maybe you'll make more sense of it than me. It's Mr. J's work, no doubt but it's not quite him. Like I said, just take a look.
P.S I'll be back next year. Just to let you know. I love him too, Bats, so you gotta share.
Bruce took the note off of the top carefully and a folded paper fell into his lap. Bruce opened it slowly. It was twenty lines, every other one rhyming, at least at first glance. It would take Bruce probably the whole night to get through all of the poems but he'd start here, with the last and as he did, he decided to read it out loud.
"I wrote a little something. I wrote it just for you..."
A/N: AND IT WAS DONE. I really enjoyed writing this fic. It's really getting me to open up my abilities and test how far I can take stories. This is officially my longest story standing at twenty chapters and I am proud I pushed-cough-forced-coughcough-DRAGGED-hackandgag- I mean, got myself to the end. I really hope that you guys have enjoyed this little journey with me and for those of you who didn't want a sad ending... I'm sorry but this is how the whole story was laid out from the beginning. :( I've learned a lot about myself through this story and I hope at least one of you enjoyed it overall.
Now, for a quick update. To answer the question before it's asked, I won't be making a Harley/Ivy sequel. However, I might write an Ivy prequel and all about Ivy's life before she came to Gotham. For anyone following the shorter Batsy/Joker fic, Smile For Me, I'm going to try and get up the ending sometime next week. :D
Thank you all for reading. :)