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Joker didn’t so much escape Arkham Asylum as he did leave it when he got bored of being there. The staff and locked doors provided some resistance but they were obstacles easily overcome. Twenty minutes after deciding to leave the Asylum, Joker was walking out the front doors whistling a merry tune with his hands in the pockets of the dress he’d stolen from a doctor. Good on her for finding a dress with pockets; that was a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

 

Though it was important for him to leave the area as quickly as possible, Joker paused to breathe in the night air. The city smelled like rain and smog with an undertone of something sweetly rotten. Joker loved Gotham. It was his favorite playground; Joker couldn’t imagine another city to play in. Gotham was so corrupt that it guaranteed that Batman would never leave. Which meant that Joker didn’t have to worry about Batman getting bored and leaving the city while Joker came up with bigger and better games to play with the Bat. Joker took another deep breath that stung his lungs with its cool freshness. Then he started down the sidewalk, walking at a casual place.

 

Batman would be here soon and Joker wasn’t keen on seeing him just yet. There were things to do first, plans to be made so that Bats didn’t get bored. A breeze picked up and the dress fluttered around his knees. A chill went up his dress and Joker giggled. Maybe he should keep the dress, find out what Batman thought of him in drag. He had a brief, vibrant image of Batman throwing him over the hood of his Batmobile, hiking up the dress, and having his way with Joker. Joker’s heart stuttered and his breath came in a little quicker as his cock gave an interested twitch.

 

Joker smiled ruefully. Bats would never go for that. He was so damn shy it was adorable but ultimately frustrating. The hairs along the back of Joker’s neck rose. Speak of the devil. Joker left the sidewalk to duck into an alley just in time to see the Batmobile turn the corner. Joker could appreciate a good car and Batman had a fittingly sexy vehicle. His eyes tracked the Batmobiles progress down the street. The car slowed as it neared the alley and Joker’s heart jackhammered. His Bat knew he was there. Would he stop or would he let Joker slip away?

 

The Batmobile kept going. It picked up speed as it passed Joker’s hiding place.

 

Joker smiled. He walked down the alley and started whistling again. He would go to one of the safe houses, find Harley and his men, then start preparations for his dance with Batman. It was going to be an explosive reunion.

 


 

Joker stood among a room of cowering hostages. There was a tripwire that would set off a bomb on the stairs. As soon as Batman came, beat the shit out of Joker, and let the hostages go, they would be dead. It was going to be hilarious! For now, though, Joker kept the hostages in place with a machine gun. He had no intentions of using it on Batman because hurting him too much meant that they wouldn’t play for a while.

 

All Batman had to do was show up.

 

It had been an hour and Batman wasn’t there. Everyone was getting restless. The hostages were chirping among themselves. Joker was irritated. He tried to understand. None of the other villians were planning anything for tonight so where was Batman? What on earth could keep him from coming to play with Joker? He laughed to cover up the batish growl he wanted to let loose.

 

A shadow fell over the window but Joker immediately knew it wasn’t the right size. Nightwing crouched in the window and narrowed his eyes at Joker. “Let the hostages go, Joker.” A smaller form showed up next to Nightwing; one of the Robins.

 

If they were here before Batman it meant that the Bat wasn’t coming. Or maybe he was just late. In instances like this it was better to go with his gut and Joker’s was telling him that there was something wrong. Batman never sent his little birdies after Joker. “I DON’T WANT YOU!” Joker shouted at the not-Batmans.  

 

“He isn’t showing up tonight,” Robin snarled. That’s right. This was the one with the attitude. The little pup who thought he could fight like the big wolves. He had a crowbar in one hand. Irony at its finest since Joker had used that very tool to murder the Robin’s brother.

 

Joker pulled the trigger on his machine gun. Bullets flew. There was barely a chance for screams to go up before they were dying in their throats, choking on their own blood as it streamed from bullet holes. By the time he was out of bullets, all of the hostages were dead and the Robins had vanished from sight. Joker dropped the spent gun and slipped out a window.

 

He all but ran home that night. Where was Bats? Where was he? Why didn’t he show up? Joker heard the bomb go off but it didn’t bring him any joy. He was seething and confused and that not right feeling in his gut wouldn’t go away. Joker unlocked his apartment door.

 

“Puddin’, you’re home early!” Harley exclaimed.

 

Joker strode across the room and punched Harley in the face. He hit her again and again, barely even aware that she was a living thing beneath his fists. All of his pent up energy went into breaking her bones and bruising her skin. By the time he’d worn himself out, Harley was unconscious - or dead - and Joker didn’t want to be in the stifling apartment. He wasn’t even sure why he’d come in the first place. Joker left the apartment, walked to the nearest, park, and passed out on a bench.

 

When he got home the next morning, Harley was nowhere to be seen but her blood was still on the floor.

 


 

It took three weeks for Batman to show up to one of the dances that Joker arranged. Three long, terrible weeks without Batman. Three long, terrible weeks with nothing to take his mind off the fact that Batman wasn’t there. Every night Joker tried something new but by the time Batman actually showed up it was for a crime that was more in the area of vandalism than mass murder or extreme property damage. He was spray painting dicks on museum paintings out of sheer boredom.

 

Joker had expected the Robin to come. Nightwing was out of commission for a while because of the bomb and Batman was M.I.A. Yet Joker had felt that familiar chill down his spine when Batman showed up and he’d dropped the spray paint to take off for the stairs to the roof. They ran past dead security guards (one of which had gotten a lucky shot in Joker’s thigh before he died with a victorious smile on his face).

 

It was the first time Joker really noticed something off about his dance partner was when Batman didn’t make the leap between buildings. Sure, he tried. But he missed. It should have been so easy for Bats to make that jump. He was in peak physical condition, had made farther jumps in more risky circumstances. Hell, Joker had made it across with a bullet lodged in his thigh.

 

Joker had a split second to do something. He’d lunged for the edge, hand outstretched. His gloved fingers closed around Batman’s wrist. The gauntlets cut his hand to ribbons but he didn’t let go. They hung there, balanced precariously.

 

Joker didn’t weigh enough to pull Bats up. He could feel himself slipping forward. They were both going to fall because Joker wasn’t going to let go. “Uh, some help here, Bats? This isn’t the blaze of glory I was planning to go out in.” They were twenty stories up. The fall would kill them and maybe some unfortunate people below. That made Joker laugh.

 

With a twist of his hand, Batman gripped Joker’s wrist. His gauntlets dug into pale skin. “Hold on, Jay.” His smirk was enough to take Joker’s breath away. Then he pulled Joker down. At the last possible second Batman shot off his grappling gun.

 

Joker hadn’t been prepared to be pulled down. Falling, yes. A wild ride crushed against Batman as they soared through the air, no. Joker clung to the plates of Batman’s armor as they flew through the night. He screamed, a noise of terror and joy because he was being held by his Bat and this whole thing was terrifying.

 

They rolled when they hit the rooftop of a parking garage. The rain was a mist around them. The landing was a little rough but nothing was broken. Joker untangled himself from Batman’s cape and hobbled away. He recognized this building; his car was parked here somewhere.

 

“Where are you going?” Batman was slow to get to his feet. He moved like it hurt.

 

Joker glanced over his shoulder with a smile. “Looking for my car and then going home.” Not that he had a home. Home was where Batman was but he didn’t want to say ‘ the apartment/warehouse/house I live in between fights ’ because that sounded sad and clingy. And no one liked sad clowns.

 

“I’ve got to take you to Arkham.” Bats didn’t sound very sure of himself.

 

Joker hummed. “No need to drive me, Bats. I can get there myself.” Even though he had no intentions of going back to the Asylum. Not tonight. He wandered to a lower level, ears pricked for footsteps following him and eyes on the lookout for his damn car.

 

Batman’s footsteps were quiet but Joker was listening for them so he heard them. No wonder criminals shit themselves when he appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

 

Joker paused and turned around. “Did you want a ride home or something, darling?” Their fight was over and so was the chase. Joker could feel it. So he didn’t understand why Bats was following him.

 

Batman’s face was hard to see with the cowl and low lighting but Joker thought he might be blushing. “Ah, no. My car is parked here too.” He took out a set of keys from the utility belt and clicked the button.

 

On the other side of the garage the lights on a sleek black car lit up. Next to it was Joker’s vehicle. Joker beamed at Batman. “There’s my car!” He laughed then because how had they missed each other?

 

The walk to their respective cars ws awkward, both waiting for the other to do something. Joker planned on getting arrested. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that Bats had a thing for throwing him in Arkham where Joker was easy to find. But they made it to their cars without lashing out. “So...am I not going to Arkham?”

 

“Only if you’re driving yourself.” Batman sighed.

 

“I’ll take a rain check on Arkham. Sometimes they need a break from all this.” Joker gestured to himself with a grin.

 

Batman rolled his eyes and his lips twitched. Then his expression turned serious again. “You tried to saved me, Jay.”

 

Joker shrugged, uncomfortable with the acknowledgement. “You’ve been trying to save me for years, Bats. It’s only right to return the favor.” Then he got into his car and took off. This wasn’t the first time he had run from Batman but it was the first time that he didn’t want Batman to chase him. If he had known how long it would be before he saw Batman again, Joker might have stayed.

 


 

After months of no contact from Batman, Joker was right where he was supposed to be. He danced across the rooftop, easily dodging swinging fists and relishing the growls of frustration that Batman let out. Moonlight shone down on them, their own personal spotlight, giving everything a silvery blue look to it. Joker twisted around to see his Bat, danced backwards a few steps, and giggled with glee. His blood sang with the thrill of the chase, with the knowledge that he had Bat’s undivided attention. Everything was perfect. Almost.

 

With a warm smile, Joker allowed Batman closer. Ever so close. Batman made a beeline right for him, hands curled into fists, shaking with rage. This was how Joker loved him. Not to say Joker didn’t love him always but this, the second before one of them struck, always made him painfully hard and so hopelessly full of love for his Bat. Anticipation shimmered between them until Joker couldn’t wait anymore. What could he say? He couldn’t resist his Bat. He punched Batman right in the stomach. It wasn’t his best punch ever and Bat probably couldn’t feel it much with all that armor...so Joker’s jaw literally dropped wide open when Batman doubled over.

 

At the unusual behavior, Joker froze. Was Bats changing the rules of the game? It was usually Joker who did that - he had to keep his lover on his toes - but Joker wasn’t sure where this was going. Absinthe green eyes watched curiously.

 

Batman groaned like he was a dying thing - like he wasn’t enjoying their dance anymore - and then he vomited right onto the rooftop. Foodstuffs splattered onto the roof and it didn’t stop coming.

 

Joker stepped back in surprise. His smile was glued to his face with the shock of it though the manic glint had left his eyes. “Jeez, Bats, I didn’t hit you that hard.” He hadn’t, either. Bats had sprained his wrist only twenty minutes earlier and so Joker’s punch hadn’t been as damaging as usual.

 

Batman didn’t respond except to drop to his knees. He missed the mess he’d made - thank god, because Joker didn’t like vomit; it kinda killed the mood - and vomited again. His body shuddered as his muscles worked and more of his stomach contents came up.

 

“Have you been drinking?” Joker asked uncertainly, a joke, a desperate grab at something. He knew that Batman didn’t drink alcohol. Never once had Joker smelt it on the Batman’s breath.

 

The vigilante was on all fours now. Batman vomited until there was nothing left to come up but stomach acid. The bile was thin and liquid and yellow. He shook his head as his muscles bunched again for another round of retching.

 

So nice of him to answer Joker’s question while he was puking his guts out. Joker wondered if he should be doing something but couldn’t think of what to do. It’s not like Batman had hair to pull back. That thought made his smile falter. He was frozen to the spot with uncertainty. It was a new feeling for him, this sense of uselessness.

 

Finally, nothing was coming up anymore. His breathing was ragged panting. Batman made no move to get up. He remained on all fours, arms trembling as though it took all his strength just to stay upright.

 

Joker’s hands shook as well. There was something wrong with his Bats. He’d felt something niggling at him during the whole fight but he brushed it off. Like he’d been brushing off all the other slight oddness these past few months. Joker’s smile faded completely. He touched his bruised ribs. When was the last time he’d had a scar from Batman? Had a serious wound that he needed actual time to heal from?

 

Once Batman had gotten his breath back, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He wore a grimace of disgust.

 

Without thinking, Joker took a hanky out of his pocket and wordlessly handed it to Batman. Finally he could do something.

 

It spoke volumes as to how Batman felt because he took the hanky without hesitation. Didn’t even make a quip about poison. It wasn’t poisoned. Batman used the hanky to wipe his mouth again and the back of his hand. He didn’t offer to give the hanky back and Joker wouldn’t have taken it even if he had. When he was done cleaning himself up, Batman looked up at Joker. “Any chance we could do a rain check?” Batman’s blue eyes were pleading through the cowl.

 

A cloud drifted over the moon and their spotlight was gone. Joker looked up because it was easier than looking at Batman like this. He should smile. Bats liked it when he smiled and since Bats wasn’t feeling good, then Joker should really smile. Give him his best smile. When he looked down at Batman again he was smiling once more. “Ya know, tonight wasn’t really working for me anyway.” Joker danced over and kissed the cowl between Bat’s pointed ears. Then he skipped away, still a bit wary about this being a trick. “See ya later, Bats.”

 

Joker left Batman on the rooftop but he didn’t leave the area. As soon as he was out of sight, Joker found a nook where he would be able to observe the Bat without being seen.

 

Bats didn’t get up even after the Joker left. With a groan of effort, he sat back on his haunches. A hand came up to his ear. “Robin,” Batman gave the little birdie his location and then crawled a few feet away from the vomit. He didn’t say anything else, couldn’t even keep his head up. His forehead rested against his drawn up knees.

 

This was a side of Batman that Joker had never seen before. It felt like he was viewing something sick and wrong. His Bat wasn’t like this. His Bat was ever vigilant, he fought hard even when he was an inch from death. Something in Joker’s stomach twisted and he hoped that he wouldn’t throw up too. Joker grit his teeth until his jaw hurt. There had been enough of that for one night.

 

When the little birdie finally arrived, there was a small argument. They were talking too softly for Joker to hear but it was clear that Robin was not happy with Batman and Batman was being his usual stubborn self. Joker watched as Robin helped Batman to the Batmobile.

 

Once the two of them were both in the vehicle, Joker turned away. He pulled out his phone and called Harley. Her voice screeching on the other end of the line made him wince. “Shut up, Harley.” Joker kept his eyes on the cloudy sky. “What can cause excessive vomiting?”

 

There was a moment of silence on the other end. “Are you okay, Mistah J?” Harley asked tentatively.

 

Was he? He would be once he knew what was going on with his Bat. “Just tell me.”

 

“I’m not that kind of doctor, puddin’,” Harley protested. However, he heard the click of a keyboard. She was googling it for him. Joker didn’t own a smartphone so google wasn’t an option for him.

 

He waited impatiently.

 

The clicking of keys stopped. “Uh, food poisoning, emotional stress, motion sickness, pregnancy, brain tumors, cancer.”

 

A chill went down Joker’s spine. He could rule out most of those - pregnancy, ha! Motion sickness was equally funny - which left only a few. Joker didn’t think it was emotional stress. Batman didn’t experience emotional stress. The man was the most resilient person that Joker had ever known. Stress didn’t eat away at him like it did the sheep they were surrounded by. It was possible that Batman had eaten something bad. That was probably it. Just some bad sushi or whatever it was that Bats ate.

 

Joker hung up the phone with a satisfying click. He would research himself. See what he could dig up with what little he knew.

 


 

 

Batman didn’t come out again for an entire month. Nothing Joker did lured him out although he saw plenty of the little birdies that Batman surrounded himself with. Nightwing was back in the game though he favored his left side. It felt like such a huge waste without the Bat there to witness what Joker was doing for him. Joker entertained the idea of killing another little bird but he had other things on his mind. If the Bat wasn’t coming to him then he would have to go to the Bat. But to do that, Joker needed to find his Bat.

 

In less than one day, Joker had the entire city on lockdown. It was amazing what could be done when people feared you and when you controlled the streets. They called Joker a prince of crime for a reason although the lockdown was far more subtle than Joker’s usual calling card. He pulled every string he had, made threats and went through with a few of them for those unwilling to believe that he was serious.

 

The average Gotham citizen didn’t realize that they weren’t allowed in or out of the city. It was just one thing after another. Tolls didn’t work, construction blocked the path, things were deemed unsafe or just flat out closed. A few low-grade villains had taken over a small part of the city to distract the police and the Robins. Slowly but surely the city was put on lockdown. No one left and no one came in.

 

Joker knew that Bats would never leave the city but his alter ego would. Whoever the fuck that was. It was never really an issue before this. Joker didn’t want to know who Batman was underneath the cowl because that man was fake. Whatever persona he put on during the daytime wasn’t his real self. Batman was the only one who mattered and so Joker had allowed that to remain something he didn’t look at too closely.

 

Except now he needed to know because no matter how hard Joker looked, he’d never found any of Batman’s hiding spots. He had no idea where they were and even the Robins didn’t slip up.

 

Which was how he ended up with Harley typing away at a computer on one side and Riddler on the other. Glaring holes in his back was Ivy, there only for Harley’s moral support and safety. After Joker had come home to beat Harley within an inch of her life, Harley had managed to call Ivy to come and get her. Since then, Ivy hadn’t let Harley out of her sight. It was whatever. Joker wasn’t in the mood to deal with the lady drama. The only reason he’d reached out was because he needed this information.

 

Most of the work was done via the computers. They looked for anyone who came into the hospital with vomiting for the past month. Someone with scars covering his body. Nothing. Not a damn thing except a toddler who’d drank some poison. Joker turned his nose up in disgust. Humans were so pathetic.

 

They kept looking.

 

“Mistah J,” Harley paused in her typing. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. “If the Bat is really...like you say then maybe we should be looking at...other things.” She was walking on eggshells with him, like she usually did because he scared her even though she loved him.

 

Joker glanced at her to get a read on her expression. She looked nervous. He bared his teeth in something that was supposed to be a smile but he was stressed out lately. Bats hadn’t come to play and he was going through withdrawals. Plus he had to keep a rigid control on all his pieces to make sure that Bats didn’t slip through the cracks. Because if there was anyone who could slip through the cracks then it was Batman. “What kind of other things, Harley?” He didn’t bring up the fact that he didn’t know anymore details but it hung there in the air.

 

“Widen the search time,” Harley started. She didn’t take her eyes off him. Her manicured fingers hovered over the keys.

 

Joker narrowed his eyes. “You think you know something about my Bat that I don’t?” He purred the words because Joker didn’t growl.

 

Harley shook her head quickly. Her pigtails swung. “You know the Bat better than anyone, Mistah J.”

 

Damn right he did. Joker glanced over at Riddler and then Ivy. They were both watching him attentively. Riddler tried hard not to draw attention to himself. “Nigma, baby, tell me you’ve got something.”

 

“If the Bat’s gone to a doctor it isn’t listed under just vomiting.” Riddler did his best to avoid eye contact. “Uh, Joker, why do you think something’s wrong with Batman that hasn’t resolved itself already?”

 

Joker put a finger to Riddler’s lips to silence him. He met Riddler’s brown eyes with his green ones. “I can feel it, Nigma. You don’t have a greatest lover so you wouldn’t know what it’s like but I can tell that something isn’t right with him.” Joker wasn’t lying. Something was twisted up in his gut and it told him that Batman wasn’t well.

 

Before they could continue the conversation, there was a knock on the door. The four of them exchanged looks. A tingle down Joker’s spine told him who it was. He got up to answer the door like a good host.

 

There stood Batman. Well, more or less stood. He was on his feet but he leaned against the hallway wall. “Call off the lockdown, Joker.”

 

Joker put on a smile. He noticed that Bat’s mouth looked paler than normal. “Just the man I wanted to see.” Joker said it in a deadpan. He didn’t ask how Batman had found his hideout because he didn’t care. At this point he’d been practically advertising where he was just so that the Bat would be enticed enough to show up.

 

Batman made a noise like a sigh. He didn’t seem to be in the mood for any of their banter today. Which wasn’t fair at all because he’s left Joker hanging for so long. “Jay…”

 

Joker blinked. Bat didn’t call him that often. Only when he was trying to appeal to Joker’s better nature. Joker crossed his arms and cocked his hip. “Tell me what’s wrong with you and I’ll call it off.” He hadn’t meant to say that but now that it was out he realized that he really did want to know. If the Bat told him it would be faster than trying to figure it out himself.

 

Batman said nothing while he weighed his options. His eyes flickered from Joker’s form to the other three houseguests. There were several long moments of silence during which Batman grew more pale.  “Alone.”

 

“No deal then.” Joker moved to close the door.

 

“Fine.”

 

Joker paused.

 

Batman pushed off the wall and stepped closer. He leaned in close. Close enough for Joker to smell sickness on him and a strange dash of chemicals that made Joker’s tongue tingle. He whispered one word against Joker’s ear, mouth nearly touching Joker’s skin. “Cancer.”

 

The word hit Joker like a train. He jerked away from Batman as though he’d been hit. “Everyone out now!” Joker pulled Bats into the loft by his arm and held the door open so that everyone could vacate the premises. He pulled out his gun. “Five seconds before I start shooting!”

 

They left quickly. No one argued. No one tried to stay.

 

Joker slammed the door shut and locked it. The gun tumbled from his fingers. It wasn’t loaded anyway. Probably. For a moment he pressed his forehead to the cool metal of the door. His skin felt feverish all of a sudden. He felt Bat’s weight against him.

 

Batman took both of Joker’s hands in one of his and held them above Joker’s head. “Call it off.”

 

“You’re lying!” Joker smashed his forehead into the door. Cancer. No. What kind of bullshit was this.

 

“Joker, I thought you didn’t lie to me.” Batman sounded so put off.

 

Joker’s lip trembled in a pout. He made a point of not lying to Batman and now that he had the man in his presence there wasn’t a need to keep the city on lockdown. It wasn’t even very fun. “Oh, alright.” He glanced over his shoulder at Batman, could only see a tiny part of his face and the cowl. “But if I really didn’t want to I don’t think you could stop me.”

 

Batman growled. The sound went straight to Joker’s cock. “Phone.”

 

“Can’t you feel it?” Joker wiggled his butt. Batman growled again, lower, deeper; a warning to quit fucking around. “Back right pocket.”

 

Batman slipped the phone out of Joker’s back pocket. He held both of Joker’s wrists in one hand with a grip that was slowly slackening. He placed the phone in Joker’s hands without letting go of them.

 

Joker had to crane his neck to see his phone screen. He sent out another mass text: < everyone go home. I got what I want.> The phone slipped out of his hands and clattered to the floor with his gun. “Happy?”

 

Batman then checked with his Bat Family about the status of the city. Sure enough, Joker’s group was going home. Traffic started to move again. Batman released Joker with a tired noise. “Thank you.” He sounded sincere.

 

Joker pulled his arms in and rubbed his wrists. He turned heel to face Batman.  “I don’t appreciate your joke, Bats. Your sense of humor needs some work.”

 

“I’m not joking, Joker.” He didn’t look so steady on his feet.

 

“You can’t have cancer. You’re Batman.” Joker felt his world tilt. Cancer was tough for most people. He was confident that Batman could kick cancer’s ass. After all, he was the only other real person in the world. Joker couldn’t lose him.

 

Batman didn’t say anything for a long time. Finally he gestured to one of the chairs. “Do you mind if I sit down?”

 

Joker wanted to refuse. He bit his tongue instead and shrugged. Do whatever you want, it said.

 

Batman sank into the chair with a sigh. His whole body sagged. “The chemo isn’t working, Jay. I don’t have a lot of time left.”

 

“Bullshit!” Joker spat. He stalked closer, body trembling with rage and denial and desperation. “You’re lying to me! Why are you lying?” Joker leaned down into Batman’s space. “You said you wouldn’t lie to me.”

 

Batman grabbed Joker’s arm. His baby blue eyes looked into Joker’s absinthe green ones. “I’m dying, Jay. For real this time.”

 

“But you can’t ,” Joker protested. He twisted his hand to hold onto Batman’s gauntlet and squeezed hard enough that Batman would feel it. Then he let go, withdrew his hand. “I need...some space.”

 

“Okay.” Batman got up with a quiet groan and left the apartment.

 


 

For the first time in his life, Joker needed to be away from his Bat. He needed space. Time to think and plan. As a rule Joker didn’t live in the future and the past was always multiple choice. He was solidly in the present and a master at improvising. Plans were often changed last minute.

 

But this required future thinking. Imaginative thinking. Which Joker was good at. He now needed to imagine a life without Batman. Nearly impossible since he couldn’t remember life before Batman. It was as though Bats just brought him into existence. Or someone did, someone who didn’t want Bats to be lonely or maybe they were gods themselves. Joker didn’t know and he didn’t particularly care.

 

A life without Batman. Joker without Batman. Not thinking constantly about Batman. Never able to call his Bat out again. Never able to play and dance with his Bat. What would he do? Who would he dance with?

 

Everyone was afraid of Joker. They didn’t want to stop him or team up with him. And teaming up was so boring. Joker was likely to kill playmates before they could bond. Joker would be left alone doing menial household things like feeding the hyenas and baking pies that didn’t explode.

 

Joker shuddered.

 

Just as easily he could imagine pulling the trigger on himself. Or some other way to commit suicide. Didn’t have to use a gun. The whole thing left a bad taste in his mouth though. Everyone would know that Joker would kill himself for Batman. Over Batman. In a world without Batman. That wasn’t a world Joker wanted to live in. He refused to. If Bats was dying then Joker had an expiration date too.

 


 

His feet didn’t carry him to any particular destination. People stayed out of his way. Joker passed by street vendors without taking much in. Until the word CANCER jumped out at him in big, bold letters.

 

Joker paused to read the article.

 

BRUCE WAYNE HAS CANCER

 

Joker reread the title. He pressed his fingers to his temples. All of the information stored in his mind - decades of knowledge about Batman - pushed in all at once, vying for attention and connecting dots. Dots that Joker didn’t want connected. Joker opened his eyes and snatched the newspaper off the rack.

 

BRUCE WAYNE HAS ANNOUNCED THAT HE IS SICK WITH CANCER. HIS ELDEST WARD, RICHARD GRAYSON WILL BE INHERITING WAYNE ENTERPRISES AND -

 

Joker stopped reading to gaze at the picture beneath the article. It was of Bruce Wayne and his eldest ward, Richard Grayson. Or rather, Batman and Nightwing. The resemblance was easy to see. They both had huge, ripped figures that very few other people in Gotham had. Sometimes Joker wondered if all the Gothamites were really as stupid as they seemed or if the entire city was just collectively ignoring what was right in front of their faces.

 

Joker put the newspaper back and kept walking. Bruce Wayne was Batman. Batman was dying. Joker slipped into a phone booth. He dug through his pocket for some change then dialed the number he knew by heart. “Harley, I need you.” Joker leaned against the payphone booth. He ran his fingers along the greasy metal cord. His heart was heavy but otherwise Joker felt empty. His world had lost all its color. Things weren’t funny anymore.

 

“Sorry, Mistah J, but I’m with Ivy now. I-I can’t keep going back to you.” She sounded like it was hard to say but Harley also sounded sure. She hung up on him.

 

Joker wasn’t sure how long he stayed in the phone booth before he managed to make himself move. He left the phone off the hook, the buzzing in the background.

 


 

Joker sat down at the computer and moved his fingers across the keyboard. Now that he wasn’t pretending to not know who Batman’s other face was, there was no need to avoid this any longer. He hacked into a few different hospitals and doctors offices before he came across one that Bruce Wayne was visiting. Getting a copy of Bruce’s medical file was too fucking easy.

 

He rolled his eyes. Technology wasn’t even his forte but this was child’s play. Joker read over the file and his bad mood plummeted even more. A year that Bruce had been on chemo. An entire fucking year. It felt like the air was being squeezed out of his lungs. Joker jerked backwards from the computer and ran his nails down his forearms. A year a year a year. He threw back his head and laughed until he coughed up blood.

 

 


 

Joker slumped on his couch watching static on the television when his door was kicked in. He glanced over, saw one of the Robins, then looked back at the television.

 

The Robin tensed in a fighting stance. Then he slid into the apartment. He stopped in front of the television. “Batman wants to see you,” the little Robin said. He sounded deeply unhappy with this.

 

Joker should have been happy but the fact that Bats sent his boy wonder to fetch Joker did not sit well with him.

 

“He’s put the bat suit back on and is out looking for you right now. He can barely even walk, Joker.” Robin continued. Well that was interesting. So Bats hadn’t sent the boy after Joker. Of course not; Bats would come to Joker himself but never send one of his flying birdies. Not after Jason Todd. “Please. He’s my dad and he’s dying and I don’t know why but he wants to see you.”

 

Damian. That was this little bird’s name. This was the bird that Joker hated the most because he actually was Batman’s biological son and Bats had been violated by someone who wasn’t Joker to make the brat.

 

“Please, Joker. Find him before someone else does. He won’t let us near him.” Robin rubbed at his shoulder and it was then that Joker noticed the cut on it, the tear in his uniform. Bats must have been serious about this if he was willing to hurt his stupid Bat Family.

 

Joker sighed. He turned the television off and slowly pulled himself to his feet. “Where did you see him last?”

 

Robin told him but also mentioned that it had been quite some time ago. He’d had to track Joker down himself. Robin touched his ear and talked to Oracle for Batman’s location.

 

Joker whipped out his phone and sent a mass text to all his contacts: < anyone who touches Batman is dead.>

 

They wouldn’t dare to disobey.

 

Apparently he was going to do this. He knew every day that had passed. Fifty-two of them. Joker hadn’t yet been able to bring himself back. Part of him still thought it was an unfunny joke. Robin gave Joker Batman’s coordinates and Joker took off at a run. It was only a few blocks away.  It was raining in Gotham. “ He can barely walk .” Joker thought of all the trouble Batman could get into while he was sick. Bats shouldn’t have come out. Why did he come out? Because Joker was so goddamn stubborn that he’d refused to see him. He ran faster.

 

Joker nearly ran past the alley that Batman hid in. He skidded to a stop, kicked up water.

 

If you didn’t know what to look for then you wouldn’t know that Bats was in pain. He hid it extremely well but Joker knew him. It was clear as day that Bats could hardly stand to move, forgive the pun. He leaned against the brick wall with his eyes closed, not moving. When he did move about, his movements were stiff. He held onto the wall for support. Crutches that were normal for most people but not for Batman. To an outsider, seeing Bruce Wayne leaning against a wall with his arms crossed wouldn’t look too out of place. But this was Batman and right now he reeked of weakness.

 

Joker slowed to close the distance between them. He stopped in front of Batman. Joker could see the pain glazing Bat’s blue eyes and the tense set of his shoulders. The careful breaths and neutral expression. Batman exhuded such normality that it was abnormal.  “You’re an idiot.”

 

Batman smiled. “I knew you’d find me.”

 

“Moron.” Joker cupped Batman’s face in his hands. The stubble on Bat’s jaw scraped against his palms.

 

A hand snaked around Joker’s waist to pull him close. “You came for me.”

 

J’ai besoin de vous.” Joker reached up on his tiptoes and kissed Batman’s wet lips. “Take me home, Bruce.”

 

If he was surprised that Joker knew his secret identity, Batman didn’t show it. He sighed into Joker’s hair. “Okay, Jay.”

 


 

The butler wasn’t happy with Joker’s presence but he didn’t say a word about it. The three of them got Batman out of his batsuit and the butler handed him a towel. He put his hand on Batman’s shoulder. Some silent conversation passed between them. Something intimate and bitterly sweet that Joker wasn’t privileged to know. Finally they seemed to reach some sort of conclusion. The butler left.

 

“This way,” Batman pulled Joker away. They made slow progress up the stairs and to Batman’s bedroom.

 

This was not the first time that Joker had been in the room and even if it had been, Batman was the one who held all of his attention. Joker liked the way the Bat’s hot body was pressed against his, the way he could feel Batman breathing in sync with him. It was Bruce Wayne’s face but Batman’s scent and strength that Joker focused on. He liked it. Joker turned his head and nuzzled against Batman’s chest.

 

The Bat didn’t stiffen against him like he’d done before. He merely pulled Joker into bed with him.

 

Joker laid next to him on his stomach, ribs pressed to Batman’s ribs. “How much longer, Bats?”

 

Batman brought a hand up to run through Joker’s green locks. “Any day now.” There were rings around his eyes that Joker could see even though the lights were off. He looked wasted, nearly skeletal. Something important had gone out of him. Batman lifted his head off the pillow and kissed Joker. “I missed you.”

 

“I’m sorry I left,” Joker whispered. He was. If he had known it was this bad, that it would take Batman this fast, he wouldn’t have ever left his lover’s side. Cancer didn’t usually kill this fast, did it? Joker couldn’t be sure. But he also wasn’t sure how long Batman had been hiding it from him. He kissed Batman, their lips moving unhurried. “I’m not leaving you again.”

 

“I know.” Batman closed his eyes with a sigh. He kept one arm around Joker’s body.

 

It was hard to stay still even in the face of such a tragedy. Joker fidgeted and when he sensed that he was bothering Batman, he got to his feet to snoop around the room. He didn’t find many interesting things but that was okay. It just gave him something to do while Bats rested. He glanced at Bats often, went back to the edge of his bed and placed kisses against his lips and neck. Joker didn’t try to lie to himself; he was checking for a pulse.

 

Joker explored every inch of the room. He ran his fingers over everything. He even went into the bathroom to run the shower until the heat fogged up the mirrors and he could draw in the condensation. When he grew bored of that, Joker shed his clothes and crawled naked into bed with Batman.

 

“Hey,” Batman held Joker close to his chest.

 

“Hi,” Joker curled up against him. He kissed Batman’s neck to feel his pulse beneath his lips. He stayed as still as he could, only moving to kiss or touch Batman. There were very few times when Joker had touched this man and pain hadn’t been a part of the equation. This was a gift, a rare chance to explore what might have been even for a second.

 

As if reading his thoughts Batman said, “Could it have been like this before I got sick?”

 

Joker bit his cheek. He felt old scars between his molars. Bats needed an honest answer. A really honest one. Not a joke or a half truth. “I’m on my best behavior for you Bats, and it hasn’t been easy being so...tame.” He didn’t like that word, especially not applying it to himself. “This is my...it’s my way of...thanking you. You’ve put a lot of effort into me and our relationship. And I try...but I...it isn’t easy being like this.”

 

Batman turned his face to kiss the top of Joker’s head. “I noticed.” He sounded amused. “It’s only been a few hours and you need to be moving.”

 

Joker counted it as a personal victory. It was so hard to make Batman laugh. He tried to still the urge in him to keep moving, to smother it down beneath a metaphorical pillow. Then he started humming. It was a nothing song, just whatever noises wanted to come from his throat.

 

“Jay?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“All the, uh, flirting and sexual comments...did you mean those?” Batman asked.

 

Joker’s heart skipped a beat. “I do mean those.” He found Batman’s hand and laced their fingers together. “You can do whatever you want to me, darling.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Batman didn’t make any moves and Joker wasn’t surprised by it. This thing they had right now was precious enough. He took up the song that Joker had been humming, mimicking it perfectly.

 


 

 

They spent the entire next day in the room together. Joker got up and paced and took a quick shower and watched Batman.

 

Bats stayed in bed all day, drifting in and out of sleep. But most in sleep. He didn’t eat, didn’t try to get up. He barely drank anything.

 

Joker paced and paced and kissed Batman over and over, until he woke up again and kissed back. Then they’d start the process over again. Every time he turned his back, Joker worried that Batman will have taken his last breath. But every time he faced Batman again, Bats drew another breath. The anxiety grew within Joker the longer he was there. There was a very clear deadline and Joker was afraid about how fast they were drawing near it.

 

Eventually, Joker snatched up Batman’s cell phone and made a call. Bats didn’t even have a lock on his phone. He told his most trusted henchman exactly what he needed, when, and how to get it to Joker. Then he waited and paced and scratched himself to soothe his anxiety.

 

When it was time for the delivery to be made, Joker opened the balcony doors. A drone came towards him unchallenged. Either Bruce didn’t have great security or it was down at the moment. The drone dropped its package into Joker’s open hands and then flew off. Joker returned to the bedroom and closed the doors again. The entire exchange took only a minute. Joker glanced at the sleeping form of his Bat on the bed then went into the bathroom and tucked the package under the sink where he’d be able to get to it later.

 

Now. He wasn’t sure. Joker didn’t feel like now was the right time. He slipped back into bed beside Bruce and curled up against his warm body.

 


 

Joker dreamed of the Bat. He dreamed that Batman had him handcuffed to the ground. It was raining, it was dark because Gotham was always both of those things. Bat straddled him, strong thighs on either side of Joker’s ass. the words that came out of his mouth were unintelligible but the emotion conveyed in Batman’s tone came through clear as day.

 

Batman tugged down Joker’s pants. He wasn’t wearing underwear because he never did. Batman shifted down Joker’s body, left sharp bites that grew softer the closer he got to Joker’s ass. He parted the globes of Joker’s ass to expose his hole.

 

Joker keened when he felt the tongue prodding him. He gripped the concrete so hard that his fingers shifted through it like bedsheets. Joker grew painfully hard, ground down against a ground that was a little too soft to give much relief. He woke up in segments like rising from the depths of the ocean. Awareness came to him bit by bit.  

 

They were in Batman’s bed. Bats pushed his tongue deep into Joker’s body. He licked at the clown’s sensitive insides. His lips pressed flush against Joker’s skin.

 

“Bats!” Joker curled his fingers into the sheets. He shivered and spread his legs wider. It felt good. Part of him wondered if they were already dead.

 

Batman opened Joker up with his tongue; licked and sucked and kissed him until he was an open, wet mess. He ran his hands up and down Joker’s thighs, along his ass, to the small of his back.

 

Joker was torn between grinding down into the mattress to give his aching cock some relief or pushing back against Batman’s mouth. It was all the better because he hadn’t been expecting this. It was a sweet surprise and Joker forced himself to leave it at that and not think about what the timing meant.

 

Just when Joker was getting too sensitive, Batman pulled back. He kissed his way up Joker’s spine and lightly bit the back of his neck. His bare skin glided across Joker’s bare skin. The knots and scars on Batman’s skin caught against Joker’s scars and knots. Batman’s cock pressed between his cheeks.  “Is this okay?”

 

“More than okay, Bats.” Joker rolled over onto his back so that they could look at each other.

 

Bats nodded. He looked relieved at Joker’s words. He spread Joker’s thighs and lined up his cock to Joker’s hole. His blue eyes were on Joker’s green ones the entire time. Batman was gentle and maybe that was the sickness but he was sweet with Joker. His teeth only grazed, his fingers didn’t press bruises in Joker’s skin. Bats made noises of love and appreciation in Joker’s ear.

 

Joker expected Batman to tear away at him, to rip him apart to get at the raw center of Joker, to find his twisted soul. Instead, Batman was taking Joker apart carefully, delicately, with touches so soft and sweet that Joker cried. He cried when Batman touched him like something precious. If asked about sex with Batman before this, Joker would admit that he wasn’t hopeful. But if they were to have sex he knew it would be rough. It would be hate fucking.

 

This was not hate fucking. It wasn’t rough. Batman managed to top for a few minutes until he laid down on Joker and muttered that he was sorry. He shook and Joker was sure it was more from exhaustion than anything.

 

Joker locked his legs around Batman and whispered back “roll over, Bats.” Batman was still inside him when they switched positions. “Don’t worry, Bats, baby, I’m a good power bottom.” He winked as he adjusted himself on Batman’s cock to sit more comfortably.

 

Batman gave him a wane smile. He rested his hands lightly on Joker’s hips. “You must be hating this.”

 

“It’s not what I imagined,” Joker admitted. He rode Batman slowly, easing up and back down carefully. The slow drag of friction burned hot within him. He wanted more but it didn’t look like Bats could handle it. They should have fucked years ago. Why didn’t they? “But that’s okay. I like...this.” He gestured to how they were connected.

 

Batman reached up and brought Joker’s head down so they could kiss. He nipped Joker’s bottom lip. “I like this too.”

 

Joker’s heart had always done outrageous things when Batman was concerned but even he didn’t expect to fill up with tenderness at Batman’s soft words. Batman was so sweet when he was dying. It was enough to give a man a toothache. It took a long time to reach orgasm and when they did it was drawn out, built to a height that Joker had never felt before. They didn’t hate fuck but this was so much sweeter. Joker pulled off and laid down next to Batman. He wished he could melt into Batman’s flesh, soak up all the things killing him and die with him.

 

Soon.

 

 


 

Joker looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He seemed...like a shadow of his former self. Without Bats to liven him up there wasn’t a point. Joker was tied to his Bat. And if the Bat was dying then so was Joker. When he woke up from his nap, he knew it was time. He rolled up his sleeve and tapped one of the veins in the crook of his arm.

 

There were track marks but not from doing hard drugs...it was always a medical professional who stuck Joker with needles and filled him with fluids of various types. Joker looked at them indifferently. He tapped the side of his syringe and smiled a little at the clear fluid inside. Then he injected it into his vein. He felt the rush of fluid entering him but nothing else. It would take about fifteen minutes for it to kick in.

 

Joker left the syringe on the counter and pocketed an identical but full one. He exited the bathroom and walked over to the bed.

 

Bats lay on the bed and watched him through half lidded eyes. “What’s that?” His voice slurred with pain and death.

 

Joker smiled. “Something to help.” Joker carefully injected the needle into a vein in Bruce’s pitifully pale arm. “Just something that’ll make us fall asleep.”

 

Even in death, Batman was sharp. “You gave it to yourself?”

 

Joker studied Bats for a long moment. There was so much he could say. Then he laid down in bed beside Batman. They didn’t have long now. Joker wished he could tell Bats everything he needed to tell him but he thought that maybe Bats already knew. “We’ve had a good run together.”

 

“Eighty years,” Bats agreed. He slipped and arm around Joker to hold him close. “I’ve failed you for so long.”

 

Joker scoffed. “No. Hush. No you didn’t, Bats. I love you. You haven’t failed me.” Joker could see where his Bat was coming from though. How he could be considered a lifelong failure. “Isn’t this proof?”

 

Bats nuzzled Joker’s hair weakly. “I love you too, Jaybird.” He sighed. “I guess we did end up killing each other after all.”

 

Joker rolled his eyes. “We’re exactly where we should be, Bats.”

 

“I thought you wanted a blaze of glory.”

 

“Overrated,” Joker replied confidently. “Everyone is expecting that and I don’t like being predictable.”

 

Batman squeezed him. “You’ve never been predictable, Jay.”

 

“If you want I could light some fireworks.” Joker offered, an offer he wasn’t sure he could go through with.

 

That got a weak laugh from Batman. His fingers twitched against Joker’s hand.

 

Then Batman’s words caught up with him. “I love you too, Bats. Always.” Joker laced their fingers together. As the minutes ticked on, Joker found it harder and harder to keep his eyelids open. He didn’t try to fight it. Joker had injected himself first because he didn’t want to live in a world without Batman.

 


 

It was Alfred who found them. The man who had raised Bruce as his own son, who had been by his side for more decades than Alfred thought possible. He knew when he opened the bedroom door that he wouldn’t find any breath but his own in the room. He also knew that he would find them together.

 

Alfred looked upon the two of them with pain in his heart. It wasn’t just that his adopted son was dead. It was that it took death to bring these two hearts together in peace. He left the lovers alone and began to make the necessary phone calls. The Bat Family needed to be informed and Alfred was sure that Ms. Quinzel would also like to know.

 

One thought followed Alfred through the following hours; Alfred had never seen either of them quite so content as they looked wrapped in each other’s and death’s embrace.