I do not own The Dark Knight Rises. There are some spoilers for the movie as well as some violence, be forewarned. =)
The figure stepped into the road almost too late for John to swerve and miss it. The bike, though designed for such sharp turns, tilted too much to the left and skidded out from under him.
He hit the pavement hard, scraping his legs, arms, and hands on the road. He rolled to a stop, thanking his lucky stars that he wore a helmet; otherwise, he was pretty certain he would be road kill by now. He already regretted taking Batman's motorcycle out to try to learn how to drive it. What if someone saw him with no batsuit, yet driving something that clearly belonged to Batman?
Too late, somebody already saw him – the person he almost hit.
John sat up slowly, groaning as pain flared throughout all of his limbs. But he had to make sure the person was alright. It wouldn't do for him to go around killing the people Batman tried to protect.
It turned out he didn't have to worry about finding the person, for they were walking towards him with a slow, measured pace. As they got closer, John could hear them muttering to themselves. Unfortunately, the lighting was so poor in this section of town, he couldn't make out their features. They sounded male though.
"I'm sorry, sir!" He called out to the man as he struggled to get his legs underneath him. "I didn't see you there. Are you alright?"
"Hmm, not the Batman, not the Batman." The voice sounded oddly familiar.
John struggled to get his helmet off with his injured hands.
The next second it was ripped off his head and tossed to the side while another hand fisted in his jacket and yanked him up. His eyes widened and his stomach sank somewhere to the vicinity of his shoes. "J-Joker!"
He heard stories of the clown prince of crime, of course. But he'd been too young to be on the police force back then and he figured as long as he kept a low profile and focused on helping the boys at his orphanage, he wouldn't have to worry about the madman. It had worked, but now that strange face loomed right in front of his and he wondered how Batman found the courage to fight him.
"You," the Joker shook a finger in his face, "are a very bad boy. What are you doing with Batman's bike when you are not the Batman?"
For some reason, he hadn't expected the Joker to be able to speak in full sentences. Of course that was nonsense now that he thought back on the Joker's rampage eight years ago.
The madman grew tired of his silence and shook him roughly. "Well? Speak up! No need to be shy unless you're mute." Gloved fingers suddenly forced their way into John's mouth, prying his jaw open so the man could peer inside. "And your tongue looks perfectly normal to me. Something else bothering you? Is it the scars?"
Uh-oh. John knew where this particular line of thought typically went with people who encountered the Joker before. "It…it was a gift."
The Joker laughed…or screeched seemed like a better term for the wheezing, maniacal sound. "A gift? Surely, Boy Blunder, you can do better than that. And since you appear to have his bike, maybe you can tell me where the Batman is, hmm? See, I've had a perfectly boring time in prison and he lights up my life, so why don't you tell me where he is?"
Blake could feel the hand tightening on his jacket. Between the pain of his injuries, the terror of meeting the Joker for the first time, and the unpleasant aroma of burnt rubber and whatever the madman had been eating lately, he struggled to remember what happened to Batman. All he could think was that it would be awfully nice if Bruce would sweep in now. That's when his skin began to feel clammy. "He's dead…he saved Gotham from blowing up…he's gone."
Joker grabbed his face with his other hand and squeezed his cheeks together. "You know, I hate a liar. Liars make me do terrible, terrible things."
"I'm not lying!" John protested, but he could see by the glint in the other man's eye that he'd failed to convince him. The next second he was flying through the air. He hit the ground hard, just barely managing to avoid hitting his head.
The Joker followed him, kicking and punching wherever he could find an open space. "Where is the Batman? You must know! Or did you kill him yourself; take all the fun and joy out of my life?"
John curled up as tightly as he could to avoid the blows raining down on him, but it seemed to do little good. Black already dotted his vision and each blow made him feel as if he would never be able to breathe again. It terrified him to think that he would die this way. He'd brushed close to death before, but usually it was only the promise of a quick death by gunshot. Beaten to death was not on his list of top ways to die.
A particularly brutal kick sent him rolling over to the bike that lay on its side, the wheels still giving off a faint burnt rubber smell. Staring at the wheels gave him an idea. He could hear the Joker coming for him and he rolled to the side again, sliding behind the back wheels of the motorcycle.
The Joker laughed again – a sound that Blake was certain would haunt him for months if he happened to survive tonight, of course. "Look at him crawl!"
John army-crawled his way to the handles. His battered body shook earnestly, nearly undone by the movement. He didn't know what injuries he'd incurred, but by the way he could feel his ribs shifting in an unnatural way, he was certain they were serious.
The Joker followed him at a slower pace, kicking at the bike here and there.
Blake shoved himself forward and pressed a button just as the clown reached the back of the bike. The back of the bike lit up in a shower of sparks, releasing some kind of defensive explosive.
The Joker let out something that sounded like a mix between a cackle and a howl as he went flying.
John didn't check to see where he landed or if he was still alive, quite frankly, he didn't care – a rather strange sensation for himself. Instead he tilted the bike back up, grateful that Batman had made it much lighter than regular motorcycles, and dragged his weary body onto the seat. As his stomach brushed against the seat, he winced. At the same time he could see a benefit to why Bruce had the bike designed to be ridden this way – Blake didn't think he would have enough energy to sit up straight now.
A low chuckle sounded to his left and that was enough to get him to gun the engine and get out of there. As he sped away, his thoughts came to him scattered and disjointed. Can't keep going…shelter…pain…can't breathe…
His legs were already having a difficult time staying clenched around the vehicle. The street signs and lights began to blur around the edges. But he recognized the area.
He slowed the bike down, rounding into an alley. The vehicle quieted as it shut down. He staggered off of it and shuffled around to the front of the apartment complex. Glad he lives on the ground floor…alone…I'd scare his family half to death otherwise.
He pounded on the first door that he came to, wincing as the motion pulled at already strained muscles. "Please be home, please be home."
In answer to his prayers, he heard the lock clicking. He figured now would be as good a time as any to stop leaning on the door, otherwise he might achieve a rather inelegant face-plant. He settled against the frame instead.
Gordon's sleep-riddled face suddenly appeared against a backdrop of dim light. The annoyance creasing his eyes vanished as he took in just who was at his front door. "Blake! What happened?"
"I…" Explanations used a lot of words. How very unfortunate. "…bike…um…crashed and there was…the Joker…looking for….looking for…B-Batman. Um…didn't…like me."
"Wait, wait. The Joker attacked you?"
Heaven bless Gordon and his astute mind. Blake managed a crooked smile and a small nod.
Jim let out a curse and quickly draped John's arm over his shoulders and helped him inside. "I'll get you settled on the couch and then I'll need to change clothes before I take you to the hospital. We'll just say you were in a motorcycle accident…I don't want people to panic about that madman."
John only half-listened as he was lowered onto the couch. The cushions seemed unusually comfortable. He was just beginning to drift off when Gordon came in front of him again, slapping his cheek lightly. "Come on, John, you have to get up now."
Blake was almost certain he said something rather unpleasant in return and he immediately felt bad, but his lips couldn't form an apology. Pain flooded his senses again and now he knew "unpleasant" didn't begin to cover the words coming out of his mouth. He owed Gordon an apology and maybe a thank you card…did they come in blue? Why was he thinking of blue? Something to do with Gordon…where were they headed again?
Unconsciousness came rather unexpectedly in the middle of his train of thought.
When next he woke, it was to the familiar beeping of a heart monitor at the hospital. He could still feel a slight throbbing sensation all over his body, but it was dulled by medicine almost to the point of non-existence.
A small shuffling sound drew his attention to the left. Gordon was slumped in a chair, his glasses perched precariously on the tip of his nose. His rumpled appearance sent a twinge of guilt through John. Gordon's loyalty and friendship went beyond the call of duty.
John's throat ached, reminding him that it had been a while since he had drunk anything. There was a plastic cup resting on a table next to him, but as he reached for it, his hand got caught by the IV in his arm and he ended up knocking the cup over.
It hit the floor with a clatter that caused Gordon to jerk awake. His glasses tilted comically on his face as he sat up, rubbing a hand through his hair. He straightened them with a yawn and then nearly started in surprise again when he saw that John was awake. "Blake!"
"Commissioner," he croaked. "Sorry for waking you."
"Nonsense, I wasn't really asleep." Gordon eyed the cup and spilled water. "Are you thirsty?"
Gordon picked up the cup and refilled it from the pitcher that John just now noticed was on the table too. He took the cup from the man and sipped at it gingerly. The coolness soothed his throat in an instant. "Thank you."
They sat in silence for a few moments, but John could tell the other man had something to say to him. Sure enough, it was only a few second later that Jim said, "You know, I thought it strange that the Joker would go after you like that. But I went into the alley outside my house last night and saw it."
"Where did you get it?"
"It was a gift…from Bruce."
"He left you that? Didn't he realize that –" Gordon trailed off. John could practically see all of the pieces coming together in his mind. A crease formed in the middle of his brow. "He didn't…you…it's far too dangerous."
John shifted uncomfortably. "I'm beginning to realize that."
"You can't just throw yourself out there like that. Bruce had training, he knew what he was doing, he had resources!"
"I know!" Blake tried not to get too defensive. He could fight – a little – but it was nowhere near Bruce's level of expertise. He was still starting to learn some basic martial arts. "I wasn't trying to be a hero last night; I was just trying to learn how to ride that bike. I didn't expect the Joker of all people –" he trailed off with a shudder. He suddenly felt like a very small, frightened rookie again. "How did he do it, Gordon? How did he fight against people like that and not back down?"
Jim shook his head, his eyes softer now that he realized Blake wasn't doing this for kicks. "I don't know, John. There was so much more to that man than I thought. I'm still trying to figure him out."
"Yeah," John sighed, scratching at the IV in his hand. "I don't know why he picked me. I don't know what the heck I'm doing, but I don't want to let him down either."
Gordon hesitated for a moment, then reached over and patted his hand. "Maybe you're not quite ready yet, but I know why he picked you. He saw a brave, dedicated young man who wants to do what is right for his city no matter the personal cost and sacrifice he'd have to make. He saw someone who has wrestled with darkness, yet managed to come through stronger for it. You're a good man, John."
"Thank you," Blake whispered. "You're a good man too, Jim. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
The commissioner patted his arm one more time before withdrawing. "You should get some rest, son."
That was one order John had no difficulty obeying.