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The Joker spun into the room, a wide smile on his blood red lips. His white and black overcoat swirled around his body as he walked toward the woman clad in black and red leather garments that hugged her slender frame. His lovely, loyal Ecco looked up at him from her work at the table. Her face was painted white to match his skin with a little black heart drawn under her right eye, and her blonde hair was hidden by the jester hat on her head. He bowed to her and held out a gloved hand to her in a flourish. 

"Come, my Lady, my darling, my Ecco," the Joker crooned. "We have much to do today. Leave that for now." 

"Yes, sir," Ecco replied, her British accent soft. She stood up from her chair and accepted his hand. The Joker giggled. 

"Great! Let's get going then," he said. 

The Joker spun them around a few times before they reached the door. He only had to stab one of the lackeys in the eye for looking at Ecco in a less than polite way and she kicked the offensive man in between the legs, but all in all, a great start to his day. It was just starting to drizzle, the sky a deep cloudy grey. Perfect weather to play with Batsy. Ecco would have probably voiced her agreement, but she didn't really talk when she wore her mask. That was just her thing. 

"A call for you, boss," Random Underling Number Ten said. He held out a cell phone to him. 

"For little old me?" the Joker gasped, placing his hand over his chest. "Yes, yes, give it to me." 

He grabbed it from the underling and pressed it to his ear. 

"Joker speaking," the Joker said. 

"Okay, whatever you call yourself now, fine. I need to ask you something," the Cat Girl's voice drifted over the phone line. 

Oh, the Joker didn't like the Cat Girl. She stole his Bruce from him before. He had shot her in the stomach, but, sadly, she did not have any permanent damage. She was still up to her wily ways.

"Well, go on and speak, Kitty Cat," the Joker snickered. "You have, oh uh, a minute before I change my mind and hang up." 

"Just shut up and listen to me. It's about Batm- um, Bruce," she said. 

"What about him?" the Joker asked suspiciously. 

"He's, he's - screw it - Bane's beating the shit out of him, okay? I can't really get to him, so can you do something?" Selina pleaded. 

"Where. Is. Bruce?" the Joker hissed. 

"Texting you the address now. Please hurry," the Cat Girl said. Her voice got fainter as she started cursing off to the side. 

There was a faint ping as the text came through. Ecco's blue eyes looked at him with concern. He understood her silent question. 

"Crab Face has my Batsy," the Joker snarled. He felt Ecco's gloved fingers twine in his, and he took a deep breath, seething not so silently. His men cautiously inched away from him.

 

"We are initiated, aren't we, Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows," Bane said. Bruce tried to get in a punch, but the older man lashed out with his hand and caught him by the throat. Powerful fingers wrapped around his neck, tightening, making it difficult to breathe. "But you betrayed us." 

Bruce couldn't help but make a comment. 

"You were excommunicated by a gang of psychopaths," he choked out. 

Bane's eyes hardened in anger, and Bruce was thrown across the room where he smacked into the junction between the wall and the floor. His back and right side protested at the impact. Damn, that hurt. He scrambled to his feet. 

"I am the League of Shadows. I am here to continue Ra's al Ghul's destiny," Bane proclaimed. 

Bruce ran at him and tackled him around the waist, causing them both to fall to the ground. He landed on top of the villain, and he punched him in the face once, twice. Bane reared his head up and cracked their foreheads together. Bruce fell off of him, his head ringing. 

"You fight like a younger man. Nothing held back. Admirable... but mistaken," Bane said. 

He fumbled for the clicker in one of his many pockets, and he hurriedly pressed his thumb to the small button. The lights in the room shut off, plunging them into darkness. His opponent let out a dark chuckle. 

"Ooh, you think the darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it. Molded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, and by then, it was nothing to me but blinding," Bane said. His arm lashed out at him again, striking exactly where Bruce was trying to sneak up on him. Bruce's breath cut off as Bane's hand clamped around his throat again, and he was slammed into the opposite wall, hard enough to crumble plaster. "The shadows betray you because they belong to me!" 

Damn it, he should have listened to Alfred. Bane fended off his futile attempts to pull his hand away and banged his head down on the metal box in the corner. His vision blurred from the pain, a thin line of blood dribbling from where it had caught his skin under his mask, and he was finding it hard to focus. Bane threw him down on the ground and brought his boot down on his chest. Bruce choked on a groan, air wheezing out of his chest. 

There was a loud explosion and a burst of fiery light off to the side. Even Bane was startled by it, and he jumped aside to avoid whatever it was. Bruce tried to turn his head to see what it was, but the small movement made him want to puke. He panted on the ground, trying to stop seeing double. 

"It is not your turn to play with the Batman," Bane sneered. 

"Oh, but, pal, you've got it all backwards," the Joker's familiar voice registered in his ears. "That's my Batsy you've got all messed up there, and I don't appreciate my things being broken!" 

There was another whoosh, and something else exploded in a ball of flame. He was pretty sure the curtains were on fire, actually. Bruce's head lolled to the side, and the Joker's pale face blurred in front of his face. Those unnatural green eyes glistened in the light of fire. A gloved hand cupped his cheek oh so gently. 

"Don't worry yourself, Bruce," the Joker whispered. "I've got ya." 

Bruce blinked and tried to focus again, but everything was going sort of fuzzy and dark. 

Chapter Text

The next thing Bruce was able to remember was a light shining in his eyes. 

"Easy," someone said, someone that sounded like a doctor. "Easy, Mr. Wayne. You've taken a bad knock - don't move, don't - he's bleeding."

Bruce blinked. Once, twice. The doctor's face was twisting in and out of his vision, black spots crumbling across his eyes. The man doubled, tripled, quadrupled, each copy blurring and merging into a single nauseating version. Bruce raised his hand and futilely attempted to wipe away the spots. They only slid away from his hands, just out of reach of his fingers. Why were his hands bare? He groaned, pain bleeding through his fogginess.

"Of course, he's bleeding, idiot. He hit his head. What did I kidnap you for again, Captain Obvious?" Bruce heard the Joker say somewhere off to the side of him, his voice sharp and cutting. 

"Mr. Wayne, Mr. Wayne, can you focus on me?" the doctor asked. 

It seemed loud. Bruce winced and tried to back away from the abrasive noise, the jarring light. What on earth had he done last night? He couldn't really recall what he had done. Tiny fragmented snapshots slipped by his mind's eye, vanishing just as quickly. His head, his head - there were bright spots of light shining in his vision, cutting, like a sharp noise. He tried to shut it up, although he was vaguely aware that light didn't make noise.

"Just stay calm, Bruce. I won't anything happen to you," the man's voice said. It had turned gentle, and it caught on his muddled mind, drawing a name he hadn't thought about in quite some time. 

Bruce blinked again and tried to steel himself, the word getting stuck in his throat. Jeremiah, he wanted to say, but the sharp noise had turned into ringing in his ears. The figures were doubling in and out of his vision, and he groaned again, feeling his eyes roll back into his head. The doctor's fingers probed his head. It hurt. Bruce let out a soft moan of discomfort and tried to push him away. The next thing he knew, there was a stretcher. Things got blurry, his vision blanking out. He was sitting on a bed, pillows pressed into his back. 

"Bruce," Jeremiah said. Bruce stared at him, blinking. His hair looked funny. It was sticking up all over, and it was almost black rather than orangey red. 

"What?" Bruce slurred.

Jeremiah was sitting in a chair next to his bed. The engineer was propping him up with one hand, keeping him sitting on the edge of the bed. Bruce was wearing some light purple shirt and sleep pants. It was cottony and felt kind of nice. He smiled dazedly up at Jeremiah. 

"You are concussed, do you understand me?" Jeremiah said. The vigilante blinked, his head going fuzzy. 

"Do you understand me?" Bruce repeated slowly. His friend stared at him. 

"No, Bruce, no. Do you understand that you are concussed?" Jeremiah asked. 

Bruce frowned, thinking. Concussion. Concussion. Con-cuss-ion. He must have hit his head. He reached up, and he patted along his scalp. His hair felt dry and brittle, and a few strands of black came out with his fingers. His gloveless fingers. He stared at them in the palm of his hand. Con-cuss-ion. He blinked and looked at Jeremiah. His hair didn't look as dry as his. He tried to touch it, to see if bits of it came out too. Jeremiah let him pat his head for a few moments, looking at him with a strange look in his eye. None of his funny green hair came out even when he tugged on it. Jeremiah gently pushed his hand back down to the bed, pinning it in place with his own. 

"Okay. Too soon, I see," his friend said. 

"I am concussed," Bruce replied slowly. His thoughts moved sluggishly, like they were running through hot toffee. Hot, syrupy toffee. Syrup, then. Golden syrup. He was like golden syrup. Wait, no. That wasn't right. What was like golden syrup? He couldn't remember.

"Yeah, you are," Jeremiah said with a wry smile. "You took one heck of a beating, Bruce." 

Bruce stared at him, uncomprehending. What the hell is he talking about? Bruce blinked. 

"Yes," he said eventually.

"'Yes' what?" Jeremiah asked. Bruce frowned.

"Yes, I - I am concussed?" he said, confused. 

"Okay," Jeremiah murmured. "You are that."

You are that. You are... that. That you are. Are you that? The words didn't make sense. You. Are. That. He was what? He didn't even feel himself listing to the side until he heard a soft curse from under Jeremiah's breath. If Bruce didn't feel like he was about to expel everything from his stomach still, he might have giggled at the absurdity of it all. Jeremiah, cursing? He would never. 

"My head hurts," Bruce slurred in response.

"I bet it does," Jeremiah said. "How are your ears?"

"Your ears?" Bruce asked. He stared at him. 

"Not mine. You told me your ears were ringing," Jeremiah said. 

Bruce didn't remember that. Had he? 

"Ding dong," he said. Like a doorbell. Did doorbells ring? Maybe they chimed? Phones rang, definitely, although his was always on silent. It went buzz in his pocket. Were his ears ringing? Maybe someone was trying to call him? God, Jeremiah just didn't make sense.

"Bruce," Jeremiah snapped, and Bruce jerked in place, brown eyes snapping back open. "Don't you dare go to sleep."

Bruce realized he was leaned forward. His head was now resting on Jeremiah's shoulder. It felt heavy, like he could not support it on his shoulders. He let him stay like that for a few seconds before Jeremiah had to push him back up to sitting. He let out a quiet sigh. His white gloved fingers brushed over Bruce's for a few seconds, returning to his side. 

"I do hope you're okay," Jeremiah said. Bruce blinked at him. The redhead. Hmm. Green... head. "I hope you're okay," Jeremiah said again. "You won't remember this, will you? Fine. But anyway, I hope you're not too scrambled."

"Eggs," Bruce said intelligently.

"I - yeah," Jeremiah agreed. He smiled gently. "Like eggs, Bruce, just like scrambled eggs."

Syrup. Where did that come from? Scrambled eggs and syrup. There was a word for it. There was a word, there was a word...

"Breakfast!" Bruce announced, and he heard a clatter. He blinked, searching for the shy redhead. "Where'd he go?"

"Where'd who go, Bruce?" Selena asked.

Bruce frowned, looking at her. When had she gotten there? He was not on a bed, more like one of those things people got in doctor's offices, covered in a flimsy sheet of paper. He was wearing a blue hospital gown. It was chilly, and very, very bright. It hurt to look at, so he didn't. 

"I'm concussed," Bruce told her.