Batman and all related elements and characters belong to DC Comics. Certainly not to me, and if you ever believed they could be mine, I have some real nice Jupiter swampland to sell you.

I make no money at all out of writing or posting this. Wish I could, but I can't and don't!

'Nuff said. Oh no, wait, that's Marvel.



Adam Mansfield is just a normal nice guy in an abnormal mean city. That doesn't mean he won't carry a gun around. He has had it since he was eighteen, and never had an accident with it. He is highly mindful of gun safety laws and rules, but he knows how nasty Gotham can be at times, and he's aware he will likely have a close encounter with violent crime someday.

That day is today.

Adam and Maggie are at the mall, buying Christmas gifts for their parents when the Joker's gang takes over the place. He freaks out when he notices the guy casually striding their way, chatting a storm while his men shatter windows. He isn't looking at Adam or Maggie. He has a gun in a hand, one with a ridiculously long barrel and a little red flag coming out of it, but he isn't particularly aiming it anywhere. He's just waving it around as a toy, which it probably is. Or probably not.

Adam doesn't stop to think about it. His mind goes into autopilot, like it hadn't in years. The next thing he really notices is the guy is falling on his back, and he thinks he's just seen a red small hole in his head, and the henchmen have stopped breaking windows to look at them, horrified, as if the idea someone could have just killed the boss was something as ridiculous as impossible.

The next few days are almost as blurry, or at least Adam prefers keeping them that way. He's miraculously survived the henchmen's retaliation with the quick assistance of the mall's security guards, who took advantage of the criminals' brief confusion. But Maggie is badly wounded in the crossfire, and even when she gets out of Critical, she won't talk to him. Not like he has that long to talk with her.

He suddenly is in the middle of a media circus. There are several inquiries on the subject of if he was actually acting on self-defense, and if he recklessly endangered himself and others. It's only made worse when, five days later, the teenager who also was wounded in the crossfire dies. Some call him a hero. Some say he saved the lives of everyone in the mall. He only can think of that girl and Maggie. Especially Maggie.

Public pressure and media opinions favor him, and the verdict, after far too many audiences and interviews, is he felt actually threatened, and the Joker's very presence was a legit cause for self-preservation. He receives tons of supporting mail and even a few marriage proposals, which do nothing to sooth Maggie, although they at least talk to each other again.

The next few months seem to go mostly okay. Their marriage recovers, and Adam starts thinking about children, although Maggie still won't hear about them. He can tell she's worried, just like him. The police doubts the Joker's henchmen remaining at large will care enough to take revenge, but there's that Quinn woman in Arkham. Arkham, with its ridiculously high escape rate. Adam gets himself the best security system he can buy, which is inconvenienced by the loss of his job last month. The boss claimed an overall need for cuts with the current crisis, but since only he and Walt the chronic drunk were fired, Adam can tell the boss was just worried about endangering himself by being near him.

Adam gets an offer as a spokesperson for the NRA, but he politely mails them saying the Joker and his gang had guns too. Plenty of them. He doesn't get any more offers from them.

Eventually, he gets a job at Wayne Enterprises. Things pick up again.

Much to his surprise, he reads in the newspaper, after Easter, the Quinn woman hung herself in prison. Maggie is relieved. They are, indeed, glad a human being took her own life. Adam tries not to think too much about it.

The news Harvey Dent escaped during the ceremonies are only a footnote in Adam's mind.

Two weeks after, Adam arrives from the job to find Harvey Dent sitting on his couch, drinking his beer and flanked by armed men. So much for the security system.

But Dent is shockingly affable and cordial. He tells Adam he already flipped the coin on him, and just came to thank and congratulate him. He extends thanks from Tetch, Crane, Killer Croc, two Clayfaces and Zsasz, as well. It was sad, he said, Miss Quinn did what she did, but not like they'll cry over her. He tells him Maggie is safe and unaware at her parents', and sorry, she had left cookies, but the boys had been hungry.

He pats Adam's shoulders with those large, heavy hands, and then asks him if he wants to go for his second supervillain kill.

Adam is almost crying for his life. No, of course he doesn't want to! He's no vigilante, he's no crime fighter, he only wants a normal, simple life, he only-

Dent understands, or says so. The fact he and the gang leave him alive shortly after seems to point at his sincerity.

Adam still crumples down shaking just after they left.

The huge new amount on his bank account, the largest cypher made of twos he's ever seen, is there by the next day. Maggie's eyes shine, and she insists on keping it there. Adam protests, saying it'll be tracked. Maggie argues the guy must be too skilled for that, and that they'll suspect him anyway if he denounces it, and that they'll never believe him. Adam ends up relenting. He has deserved it, after all, right?

He tries not to think about the blood that must have washed that money. All money, he reasons, is actually dirty in one way or another.

Just like all human beings.

He nearly has an attack when the Bat shows up at his house three weeks after. He's sure he's caught on him. But the Bat only mentions some nonsense about a world crisis resurrecting dead supervillains, and warns him, while offhandedly mentioning he'll leave someone watching over the house. Before disappearing, he tells him to get himself a better security system.

Maggie says the next day, after coming back very late from the spa, she thinks she's seen some girl in a Batman costume up the tree on the garden.

"Just ignore it," he grumbles, at his wit's end, trying to hide behind the newspaper. "This is Gotham."

Maggie leaves him late in August. Her yoga trainer, he understands her, while Adam has been so cold and distant lately, and he isn't the same guy she already loved, and they must discuss the divorce terms...

Adam, perhaps too quickly, agrees on everything but the divorce terms. Then she threatens to tell the police about the Two-Face thing, since the deposit was made on his account, after all.

Adam capitulates.

Late in October, he's pulled into an alley by vines while walking around the red lights district. The most beautiful woman he's ever seen slaps him, scratches him, furiously blames him for her Harley's death, and Adam still can't really make the connection until after the Bat has dropped on her from above, and subdued her after a quick struggle. He asks Adam if he's okay. He's honest and answers "No," and the Bat doesn't press on further. He injects him with what Adam guesses is some sort of antidote, not like he really cares anymore.

Before he takes off with the woman, Adam asks on the whole resurrected supervillains thing. He reacts as you would when asked about a trivial matter from several months ago in the job, one you even barely remembered anymore. "It was dealt with long ago. Don't worry about it."

No, not about that, he won't.

His father tells him, early December, he's got lung cancer.

Little Luke, the son of the Parkers down the street. He hadn't seen him for months, since they sent him to rehab. He breaks into his house the anniversary of the clown's death, with a gun.

"Why do you this?" Adam wearily. "You looking for money? Shoulda come here months ago."

He doesn't want money. He wants respect. He's going to be the guy who aced the guy who aced the Joker. He's going to rule the local circuit. He's going to be the biggest, baddest mofo with the boys. But he's gotta do it right now, see, on this date, before everyone forgets about the Joker again, and-

The boy talks a lot, and Adam still carries a gun. He had stopped to after last Christmas, but started again after the divorce and the Poison Ivy assault.

He killed the Joker. A punk kid is no problem for him, right?


The media isn't as understanding this time around, and his profile in this occasion isn't as high, but he still walks free after a long, even more torturous process.


What a joke.

Adam Mansfield has seen the truth, in the eye of his mind. It talked to him with the voices of Little Luke and Dent and Ivy and Maggie, and even the Bat. The Joker is not a guy you can kill, even when you do it. That was only the shell, the latest package of the most noticeable thing in a long series of things that are actually the Joker, even if you never realized it before. The Joker is the reason why bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people. The Joker is a product of Gotham, like the smog or the traffic jams. As long as there's a Gotham, and a Batman, the Joker doesn't die, just sleeps for a while.

He walks into his apartment, and rummages through the kitchen mess for the knife. He walks for the bathroom mirror and starts carving the smile on his face. He wonders what kind of product would bleach his face down the best without poisoning him or anything.

Maybe he'll just go with facepaint.