PREFACE

This story is combines the JLU-Animated Universe with the Batman: Arkham City videogame. Generally speaking, the Arkham City events will have taken place soon after Destroyer. I'm counting it as JL/comic rather than Arkham/game as it does occur within the JLU Universe with Arkham City as one event taking place just post-JLU.

MAJOR SPOILERS for the game will be included throughout the story. If you haven't played it, plan to, and don't want to be spoiled, I suggest you stop reading right now and pull out your consol. If you have played, don't plan to play, or don't mind being spoiled if you are going to play – by all means, enjoy. For those of you who know the game, if I make any mistakes, please let me know. I didn't play myself, but watched most of it. However, it is possible that I've missed moments here and there and got something wrong. If you want more background about the game, I suggest the Batman: Arkham City wiki, which gives a pretty good description of the highlights. This story takes place after the Harley's Revenge download/add-on. That download sets up this story so if you haven't played or seen it, you can check out YouTube. It's not long. I hope to give enough background that you won't have to do any homework unless you want to.

The intent of this story is to be darker, grittier, and overall more "real" than my first two. Although the rating is M, content may be included down the road that is MA or NC-17 and if it is, it will be posted only on sites where those ratings are allowed. I'll let you know in an A/N if that happens and if you need the other site, please PM me.

PROLOGUE

-From Harley Quinn's Revenge Downloadable Content, Batman: Arkham City.

Just as the building exploded, Batman grabbed Harley Quinn and leapt out of a window, saving both of their lives. They hit the ground hard, not far from where Commissioner Jim Gordon had been thrown by the blast.

"You should have left me to die," said Harley as she struggled onto her feet. "Then I could have been back together with Mr. J."

Ignoring her, Batman turned to Jim Gordon, "Where's Robin?"

"I thought he was with you," responded the Commissioner. They both looked back toward the building.

Behind the two men, Harley chuckled sadistically. "See, it hurts, don't it?" she taunted.

Batman turned on her with an angry and hateful glare. "What have you done?" he snarled.

"Now you know how it feels."

Batman turned his back on the crazed woman and again looked toward the burning building with a growing sense of panic. His distraction offered Harley the opportunity to make her move.

As she lifted her arm and lunged with the intent on stabbing him in the back, a shuriken came from out of the darkness and hit the woman, knocking the knife from her hand and knocking her out cold. Robin plucked the shuriken smoothly from the air as it circiled back and turned to face his mentor.

"So, did you miss me?" he said with a smirk.

"Where are the cops?"

"They're safe."

"I'm done here." Masking both his fear and relief, Batman shot his grapple into the sky and disappeared into the darkness.

"Hey kid, is he alright?" asked Gordon.

"Yeah, sure…course he is."

But he wasn't. And he hadn't been since that night in Arkham City, two weeks before.

Chapter One…

A/N: As usual, many thanks to DaisyJane for suggestions and beta services.

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and events are the property of DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Rocksteady and affiliated companies. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made.

Chapter titles and some of the content inspired by music by Lifehouse. I gave you the youtube codes if you are into songfics and want to check it out.

Oh, and Geoff Johns can bite me.

youtube - TDHdvZDskoe

NERVE DAMAGE

He found himself sitting in a rundown bar in Gotham, just outside the wall that closed off the now-abandoned slums that had recently functioned as the open-air prison, Arkham City. What the city leaders were going to do with that wasteland in the middle of Gotham, he didn't know. Burning the whole thing to the ground was a good start as far as he was concerned. He was glad to be out of the place.

The last couple of days had been rough. The GCPD was still looking for him. Now that most of the bosses were back in jail, they were hunting down henchman like him. Needless to say, he had no intention of getting sent back to Blackgate Prison. He looked down at the almost empty glass of cheap bourbon that sat in front of him. Tomorrow he would try to figure out what he was going to do.

Tonight he was going to relax. That meant laying low. It meant staying out of trouble. It also meant being anywhere that Batman wasn't. He was sitting in one of the more crime-ridden areas of the city just outside the former open-air prison. But this bar wasn't yet known for attracting the criminal element and that meant he wasn't moving his ass from this barstool until he had to.

He was now the only customer in this dump. There were two young girls in the corner, but they were with the man working behind the bar. The bartender was tall and lanky, with shaggy blonde hair that hung over his eyes. He had that look about him that screamed hardcore crack junkie. The only other person working in the bar was the sweaty, stocky, balding man cooking in the kitchen. Despite the cold outside, he wore a white sleeveless t-shirt that bore the evidence of the establishments most popular fare.

He'd been watching the girls for hours. The cook was also closely watching the girls. At every opportunity the cook came out of the kitchen and brought them drinks and food – French fries, cheeseburgers, whatever greasy mess he had back there. Each time he did, the girls lowered their eyes and thanked the cook with a whisper.

He didn't like how the cook looked at them. Like the girls were the meal. The bartender hadn't noticed. Or maybe he just didn't care.

For most of the night, the girls remained at a table in the corner. Occasionally they left the room together and made their way to the bathroom, holding hands. Each time they went, the bartender yelled at them to hurry up and get their "asses back to the table". He wasn't sure why they were sitting in this dive at all. At the moment, he was glad they were though. He liked watching them. They were beautiful.

He saw the bruises. The cuts. The burns. They were hard to miss; their thin t-shirts left exposed arms dotted with them. One girl had the telltale purple shadow of a healing black eye. When the other pushed up the sleeve of her red t-shirt and scratched her arm, she revealed several small circles near her shoulder. They were roughly the size of a cigarette. The girl caught him watching her and pulled down her sleeve quickly, covering the marks. Then she abruptly lowered her head and turned away, her blonde hair swinging around to cover her face.

Throughout the evening, the two men conversed with each other while they worked. It was inane chatter. Mostly.

"Hey Joe?" asked the cook.

"Yeah?" replied Joe as he pulled a beer from the tap.

"Ever had Primo Turbo? Want to smoke at my place when we're done?"

Joe shook his head. "Nah. Sorry Colin. The girls. I got them all night tonight."

He could hear the gleam in Colin's eye. "You could bring 'em with you. I don't mind."

He felt the slow burn of anger build. As far as he was concerned, there was no chance Joe would be taking those girls with him to Colin's tonight.

Eventually, the two men prepared to close the bar. The girls were now sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. Their eyes were closed. He was the last of the bar's patrons. He found himself alone with the two men.

"Hey buddy," the bartender said to him, "We're shutting down. Time to close out your tab."

He glanced toward the kitchen and watched the cook go out a side door with several bags of trash. Without saying a word, he reached across the counter and grabbed a handful of the man's hair in his left hand and pulled him closer. Joe's eyes widened in surprise as his assailant reached down and took a Microtech Halo knife from a nylon sheath fastened to his calf. In one fluid motion he gripped the black anodized aluminum handle, hit the trigger button to release the blade, and swung it around and stuck it deep into the left side of Joe's neck, severing his carotid artery. Blood sprayed everywhere, coating the bar and walls in red until Joe's heart stopped beating.

Colin walked back into the kitchen from the alley where he had deposited the night's trash. Before there was a chance to see the blood-soaked bar, the killer grabbed the cook from behind, the switchblade now slicing across his neck from left to right. He left Colin dying on the kitchen floor.

He walked back to the bar from kitchen and slowly turned, looking toward the corner of the room. Two sets blue eyes watched him, wide with terror.

He walked toward them. Mine, he thought. Ours.


Batman thundered across the city in the Batmobile. Oracle had intercepted a 911 call reporting two bodies at a local bar. So, he was headed toward a small, hole in the wall dive, just on the outskirts of what had recently become one of the seedier areas of Gotham City. Right outside the walls of Arkham City.

It seemed much longer than two weeks since he'd shut down the open-air prison. Even though he'd accomplished his mission by making it no longer operational, as far as he was concerned, the pile of bodies left behind that night were evidence of his ultimate failure. Tyger mercenaries hired by Hugo Strange had killed dozens and possibly hundreds of inmates before he'd been able to get to him and stop Protocol 10. Protocol 10 was the brainchild of Hugo Strange and Ra's al Ghul, developed to wipe out the entire criminal element of Gotham City - by the mass execution of all of Arkham City's residents. Both men had died as a result of their actions. He felt little to no remorse or regret as a result of their deaths. He'd tried to save them both. Besides, Ra's al Ghul never stayed dead for long.

However, he hadn't yet been able to shake the overwhelming sense of failure and regret for the deaths of Talia and Joker that night. Talia had saved his life twice in Arkham City, then lost her own. He'd failed to save her from Joker's gun. The bodies of her and Ra's weren't recovered from Arkham City by the GCPD. Most likely the League of Assassins took them away en route to another Lazarus Pit. Logically, he knew that Talia, like her father, would likely be back. Despite this fact, her death had hit him hard. Dead or revived, he needed to find her.

He loved her – or at least he had at one time with a crazy passion that made him overlook that the relationship was doomed from the start – and watching Talia die had brought to the surface those emotions he'd worked hard to repress for thirty years. Someone else he loved had died in his arms. The constant fear that he always carried with him – the failure to protect someone he cared for – was realized. What he had never expected was to also share that responsibility and the blame for Talia's death. For others, the experience could have inspired an effort to show the people he loved more appreciation. For him, it had only caused him to push his loved ones away in order to protect them, and protect himself, from another of his failures.

Joker's death had been the result of the Titan toxin that poisoned his system. Joker had infected him with the poison too, knowing that there was a good chance he'd be saved when the Batman found a cure for himself. The psychopath had been correct and could have recovered, but in his haste to take the antidote from him, had inadvertently destroyed what remained. Batman knew he should feel no remorse over Joker's death. Nonetheless, that failure caused some measure of guilt, as did the knowledge of how Joker's death had affected Harley. Her grief had overwhelmed her. In her pain, a darker, stronger, thirst for blood had emerged – his blood.

Several days ago Harley had attempted to get her revenge. She had escaped from the psychiatric ward at Gotham General and quickly reunited Joker's gang inside the walls of Arkham City. They had ambushed a SWAT team sweeping the city for any remaining inmates and taken two of them hostage. He went in, but was careless. He was captured by Harley's thugs. After two days, Robin came in after him and together they rescued the officers and took Harley into custody.

Harley Quinn was now at the temporary holding facility at Blackgate Penitentiary – secure this time with extra guards and security measures. The GCPD did not intend to let her escape again. She would go back to Arkham Asylum as soon as it reopened. Currently, it was undergoing renovations and state of the art security upgrades, courtesy of Wayne Tech. He was overseeing the project himself and was secretly tying the whole system together to be accessed from the supercomputer in the Batcave. It should have been done a long time ago.

As much as he'd involved Bruce Wayne in the redevelopment of Arkham Asylum, he'd pulled Batman back from his nightly watch over Gotham City. He was distracted. His head wasn't in the game right now and he knew that going out on the streets could risk more lives than his absence would. His capture by Harley was proof enough of that. His withdrawal, however, had caused the growing concern of those around him, especially Alfred. At least Alfred had been the most vocal about it. Dick, Tim, and Barbara…so far they had all held back from confronting him.

He had taken a temporary leave of absence from the Justice League. The Founders shouldn't trust him right now. He was contemplating making the leave of absence permanent. Diana would probably react the most strongly, although with how things were right now he couldn't be sure. She was pissed off that he'd been so close to death in Arkham City and hadn't asked her or anyone else for help.

It really wasn't like Diana, but over the last two weeks he'd sensed her withdrawal from him on the few occasions he was on the Watchtower. There was the possibility that King Faraday was the reason for keeping her distance, but that was unlikely. That was still very new. From what he'd heard, she'd been resisting King's advances for months until recently when she'd finally given in. She had no reason not to – Bruce had made sure of that. But he was sure it wasn't the reason for her withdrawal. He knew the signs of emotional self-preservation when he saw it. It was a way of life for him - like looking in a mirror. His guilt over hurting her over and over again was only tempered by the fact that her anger and withdrawal made it easier for him to stay away. He could never tell her, but that night in Arkham had made something abundantly clear – if Talia's had death had crippled him - Diana's would kill him. He couldn't risk their getting any closer.

Batman had withdrawn from his mission and Bruce had withdrawn from everyone.

His behavior had Gordon concerned as well. His carelessness when he went back into Arkham City after Harley had gotten him captured and nearly killed. Tim had been forced to rescue him. When Harley blew up the Steel Mill, for a moment he had believed Tim was still inside. The moments that he'd believed Tim dead had almost broken him.

Since that night, he'd pulled back on his patrols. Fortunately, most of the occupants of Arkham City had already been rounded up, cleared out, and locked up in Blackgate. Aside from Harley's stunt, most of the criminal activity had been petty and nonviolent. Until tonight. Tonight Gotham called. It was time to put his personal crap aside.

The tip from Oracle allowed him to reach the murder scene well ahead of the GCPD. Within a few minutes of his arrival, he had managed to scan the entire crime scene for evidence and efficiently gathered samples of what he would likely need to conduct his own investigation.

He'd seen far more gruesome crime scenes, of course. What was remarkable about this one though, was the blood. The sheer volume of it. In the small confines of the bar, he was practically swimming in it.

"Do I want to know how you got here before me? Again?" Commissioner Jim Gordon walked into the front door of the bar, followed closely by two detectives and several uniformed patrolman. He motioned for his entourage to go back and wait outside.

Silence was the only response the Commissioner received to his question. Correctly assuming that the silence meant he wasn't going to find out how Batman was always one step ahead of him, Gordon continued, "The anonymous call came in from a disposable cell phone, untraceable."

"The caller didn't do this," Batman said, finally breaking his silence. "Somebody came in after the murders and cleaned out the cash register. That was probably the caller. We'll find him anyway, he left fingerprints behind the bar."

"He could still be our killer." Gordon looked over the bloody scene as he spoke, pulling a pair of standard plastic blue covers out of his pocket to cover his shoes. Batman wore clear covers over his black boots to protect from contaminating the physical evidence. No blue booties for the Batman. It might diminish his scariness.

Batman shook his head. "Two sets of bloody footprints. One leading from the front door to the register and out again. Pretty straight forward. That's your caller." He paused and walked behind the bar where one of the victims lay on the floor. "The footprints and the blood spatter tell the tale. The bartender was killed first, across the bar. The killer then walked around the bar – ignoring the cash register – and surprised the cook from behind, slashing his throat." He pointed out the trail of footprints as he spoke, detailing the killer's actions step by step.

"Then the killer came back out into the bar and stopped facing the wall here. Then he turned and left through the kitchen, out the back door." Batman paused and stood staring at the wall.

After what seemed like an eternity waiting for Batman's silent contemplation, Gordon had to ask, "What is it?"

"The killer came back out of the kitchen and stood here facing the wall before turning around and walking back out through the kitchen door into the alley. But why?" He lifted one gauntleted arm and pointed towards the wall. "There's a void here in the blood spatter. No more than three feet off of the floor. Something was here and whatever it was, it was important enough that he took it with him."

Batman took another step back from the wall and re-scanned the area of the void with his cowl. Back in the cave he could use the scan to try and identify what had created the void. The two walked toward the front door of the bar.

"You done? Can I turn our boys loose now?" Gordon asked.

"I have everything I need-," Batman replied before he suddenly began to cough.

"You ok?" Gordon asked when Batman had caught his breath. The smoke in the air of the bar was thick and as a smoker, Jim Gordon was used to it. He assumed that someone in the kind of shape Batman was in probably wouldn't be. "You probably aren't used to this smoke," he continued, "Shape you're in, you probably sleep in an oxygen chamber."

The commissioner was not surprised when received no response to his question. "Ok. Anyway, we'll start processing the crime scene and run the prints. Although I'll bet you'll know who the players are long before I do, as usual," commented Gordon.

Batman ignored the comment, but respectfully nodded and added, "I'll let you know what I find."

Before Jim Gordon could reply, the door in front of them burst open and a woman, flanked with two patrolmen, practically fell through the door. The woman dressed in black thigh high boots, leather shorts, and a purple tank top. Her clothes and the track marks on her arm made it a safe assumption that she was a prostitute.

The cops attempted to restrain her as she tried to enter the bar. She screamed at them, "Get off me you assholes! I need to find Joe!" The second she caught sight of Batman she froze, silent for just a moment before turning to Gordon. "What's happening in here? Where is Joe?"

"Why would you think he's in here ma'am?" asked Gordon.

"He's the bartender and he was working tonight…" she broke off as she finally took in the scene behind the Commissioner and Gotham's masked vigilante. She jumped and tried to push past the two men. Batman's sheer bulk was enough to prevent her from entering the bloody crime scene.

The woman began to scream again. "Where are they? Where is Joe? Where are the girls?"

"What girls? Prostitutes? Is Joe your pimp? There are two bodies back there. One of them is probably his," Batman questioned her coldly. "Do you turn tricks out of this place?"

The hysterical woman suddenly screamed, then turned on Batman and attacked him, clawing and scratching at his armor. It surprised him but he didn't make a move except to grab her wrists and hold her away from him as he growled, "Stop."

"Fuck you, you bastard! I'm talking about our twins - they're three! They were here with their father!"

Batman looked back at the void in the blood spatter with a sick feeling growing in his belly. He had no doubt that the two girls had been what caused it. Two small girls huddled together in fear, covered in their father's blood. "They watched their father's murder," Batman said. "And the killer has them."

E/N: This is where I shamelessly beg for reviews. With the 'soulmate' theme in my last story, this time I'm writing with a little more of a male audience in mind but hopefully still making it appeal to the 'girls'. I am one after all.

Oh yeah - Geoff Johns can still bite me.

9/9/12 update - So nobody else gets worked up, I wanted to assure everyone who is tired of King Faraday - he is simply a means to an end. The role he plays is so small it wasn't worth the time to develop a brand new character. There will be more than enough going on if you choose to stick with me and I hope that you do. Thanks for reading.