The shattering of glass from the skylight of the abandoned warehouse announced the arrival of the masked vigilante. The Joker greeted his nemesis with a smile.
"Joker," growled Batman.
"Hot on the trail as usual! Isn't that right, Bats?" asked the green-haired man. He spoke in a tone of voice that one could describe as playful, if one didn't know any better.
Batman knew that the Joker was alone; he had surveyed the building from all sides before making his entrance. Harley Quinn was still tightly locked away in Arkham Asylum. With this knowledge, he approached the lunatic, who began to walk backward away from him, smiling all the while.
"Tell me where you're hiding the bomb, Joker," said Batman, flatly.
At this, the Joker merely threw back his head and laughed. A sharp punch to the jaw cut short the crazed fit of laughter and sent the criminal crashing backward against a table and to the floor. Batman then seized the Joker by the collar of his purple jacket, gripping the material firmly and lifting the man a few inches into the air. "Tell me now, or-"
"Or you'll do what? Oh, let me guess! You're going to be creative this time, and beat me up. We all know how well that's worked in the past. It might be time for a little change in routine, sweetheart." The Joker had quickly recovered his smile, even as blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.
Batman began to rain punches on the madman. True to form, the Joker laughed and taunted the other man even as he was being pummeled. This technique, which had worked to loosen the lips of many a common thug, was clearly ineffective when applied to the Joker. The blows from Batman's fists soon came to a halt, as he realized that an unconscious Joker would be even less useful.
The Joker was on the floor, making no effort to resist or escape. Bruises were forming swiftly on his face, and a cut on his lip bled freely down his chin. He smiled up at Batman. "D-done so s-soon?" he sputtered, shakily lifting himself up onto one elbow. "I'm… kaff… a little d-disappointed…"
For all Batman knew, the bomb could be fully assembled and ticking away in a location that could target dozens of innocent lives. Or, it might simply be stored away someplace, unfinished and benign for the time being. But the fact remained that he did not know, and could not assume anything - especially not when the Joker was involved.
There was no time to waste.
A little change in routine, mused Batman, thinking over what the Joker had said earlier. "I might just take your advice, Joker. But you'll probably regret it. Stop being a fool; I am not in the mood for games. Tell me where the bomb is, while you still can."
"Oh, now I'm intrigued," laughed the Joker, wiping his bloodied mouth with the back of his gloved hand. "You rely on the same tired scare-tactics, and remain serenely oblivious to the fact that they do not work on me. I find it all rather funny, really, which is of no help to you, now, is it? Oh, do try something new for once, Bat-brain! I'd be tickled if you could come up with a different idea to get information out of me."
A look came into the caped crusader's eyes then, one which the Joker did not quite like. His smile faded a little.
"What?" the Joker finally asked, with just a trace of uneasiness in his voice.
Batman answered only by slamming the slighter man's face into the floor, momentarily dazing him. He then easily cuffed the Joker's hands behind his back. Batman knew why the Joker wasn't offering any type of physical resistance: the madman held valuable information, the kind that could determine whether the lives of innocents could be spared or not, therefore holding the upper-hand in this diabolical scheme.
Nevertheless, Batman kept the Joker effectively pinned to the floor with a knee in the back. The criminal had started to laugh again, in spite of being unable to move or defend himself. "I certainly don't see any changes so far. Are you sure you've really taken my advice? Ah, well, you know what they say - you can't teach an old bat new tricks."
As he talked, he could feel the vigilante's hands slip under his jacket, prodding his sides searchingly. "Looking for my 'gun'? You'll have to go a bit lower than that, darling," quipped the Joker.
Silence from the caped crusader, and more seemingly aimless prodding. The Joker rolled his eyes with impatience, and said, "Really, if it's weapons you're trying to find, you're looking in all the wrong pl- agh! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
Batman had, in fact, found what he was looking for: after prodding all along the sides of the Joker's ribcage, he had discovered a particularly sensitive point at the very base of it. Contact with this spot had instantly prompted a very strong reaction. At that moment, Batman knew the Joker would indeed be regretting the advice he'd previously given.
Prepared to take full advantage of his enemy's newfound weakness if faced with no other choice in this dire matter, Batman asked the Joker, "Are you going to cooperate and tell me where you've hidden the bomb? Or will I have to use this… unconventional method, on you?"
"Go to hell," spat the Joker, now entirely devoid of humor.
In response to the Joker's refusal to answer his question, Batman again pressed his fingers against that spot on the other man's ribcage, poking and prodding deeply.
A high shriek escaped the Joker, followed closely by an eruption of laughter that sounded oddly different from his usual laugh. For once, the Joker was laughing completely against his will, and he had no control over the way it sounded. It had occurred to Batman before that the Joker used his laugh as a tool with which to frighten his victims and taunt his enemies, manipulating the sound of it for the desired effect. The laughter that came now from the Joker was unrefined and real.
Batman felt ridiculous doing this. People's lives were at stake, and yet here he was, sitting on a defenseless Joker and tickling him into hysterics. It looked and felt incredibly stupid. However, what the Joker had said earlier was true - the old tactics of fear and pain did not work on him. Batman could beat the man into a coma and still not get the information he desperately needed. He had to try something new, and this method certainly qualified as such.
As grimly and seriously as a doctor performing an intricate operation, Batman sought out other ticklish spots on the Joker's body, focusing most on the places that provoked the strongest reactions, and switching from one to the other. The Joker responded, at first, by flinging all manner of curses and threats at him; however, when Batman's fingers struck gold just below the Joker's armpits, nothing could be heard then but uncontrollable shrieks of laughter.
As absurd as this felt to the dark knight, the results were undeniable. While the Joker had spent years building up defenses against pain, even managing to enjoy it in his own warped fashion, he had apparently been entirely unprepared for this. His entire body revolted against the tickling sensation; he bucked and struggled intensely, his diaphragm contracting involuntarily. He laughed and laughed, soon running out of breath, at which point he laughed silently, with tears streaming down his face.
When Batman realized that the Joker was on the verge of fainting, he ceased tickling. The man underneath him began to gasp in much-needed air. Batman observed that, after only about five minutes of applying this… technique, the Joker had been reduced to a breathless, sweat-covered, trembling mess. Batman had to give the Joker a minute to recover.
"Where is it?" questioned Batman again. A note of triumph could be detected in his voice.
"Get off me, you bastard," snarled the Joker, with genuine wrath. "Kill me, or take me back to Arkham, or -"
"Anything but this?" suggested Batman, with a smirk. "Tell me where you're keeping the bomb, Joker, or we'll start on round two. And I will put you through as many rounds as it takes."
Silence from the Joker.
"Wrong answer," said Batman, darkly. Now knowing precisely which spots to target for the best results, he resumed tickling the Joker, who immediately dissolved into fits of helpless laughter. Somewhat recovered from the short break, the Joker struggled with renewed strength at first, fighting in vain to throw Batman off of his back. With the time racing by, Batman began to wonder if he should try something else, when-
"ENOUGH!" yelled the Joker.
Batman stopped and waited impatiently as the Joker desperately took in gulps of air. He then, very sullenly, proceeded to give Batman the exact location of the whereabouts of the bomb, which was nearing its final stages of completion but would need to be dismantled in order to ensure public safety.
"For your own sake, I hope you're telling the truth," said Batman, as he dragged the criminal to his feet and out of the warehouse toward the Batmobile. "Or, I just might let slip your little secret to the guards at Arkham."
"I am telling the truth," snapped the Joker. Batman inwardly smirked at how quick the Joker was to reaffirm.
"One more thing," added Batman, as he pushed the lunatic into the passenger side seat of the Batmobile. "Thanks."
The Joker looked up at him, confused. "For what?"
"For the good advice."