Batman: The Man Behind the Grin

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Batman: The Man Behind the Grin

Postby Rowena » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:37 am

Disclaimer: I do not own the Joker, Batman, or Gordon. Please don’t sue me or steal my story. Thanks!

BATMAN: The Man Behind the Grin
By Rowena Zahnrei
Inspired by: Batman #85 “Batman—Clown of Crime”
Detective Comics #168 “The Man Behind the Red Hood”
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Going Sane
Batman: The Man Who Laughs


“…I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

“Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you.”

~Bob Dylan
Positively 4th Street

Prologue

A maniac’s laughter ricochets around the dim, cavernous space—a decrepit, decaying warehouse, one of many that line the seedy docklands of Gotham Harbor. Outside the building’s shattered windows, lightening flashes. The blinding bolts highlight the rain that sheets down from the curdled nighttime sky to puddle on the stained concrete floor.

Clanging footsteps from above—a catwalk! Two shadows, one long and lean, the other caped and menacing, race across its treacherous length. The slender man is in the lead, his chalk-pale face stretched into a broad, toothy rictus. Nimbly, he climbs over the safety railing and leaps for the support pole nearly two meters away. The caped figure is forced to pause at the railing as his quarry’s laughter cuts the air. “Toodles, Batsy!” he waves as he slides down the pole. “Ha HA hee hee wheee!

Expressionless, the caped man pulls a grappling gun from his belt and fires the customized hook toward the ceiling. It catches an exposed, metal beam and he swings from its attached cable, his cape billowing behind him like the wings of a monstrous bat.

The Batman lands first, his boots splashing heavily in the pooled rainwater. His ghost-faced quarry cackles again and jumps the last few feet to the ground, performing a series of oddly graceful leaps and twirls as he edges for the side entrance, all the way at the other end of the building. The Batman watches for a moment, disgust etched in every line of his face. But the madcap dance is deceptive; there is method somewhere in this man’s madness. The Joker is avoiding the deeper puddles, keeping his polished shoes as dry as possible. Batman crouches low, touching the dark water with his gloved finger and bringing it to his nose.

“Gasoline…” he realizes. The entire floor is coated with it and, as the rain pours in, the slick, flammable liquid is rising to the surface.

The Batman surges to his feet. “It’s over, Joker,” he proclaims, once more brandishing his grappling gun. “Stop where you are.” The slim man rolls his eyes and giggles, but doesn’t slow his dance. The exit is in sight now, his getaway car and waiting henchmen in view. Still, he can’t resist hurling a taunt back at his pursuer.

“Oh please, Batman! After all these chases, all these games, the best you come up with is a hackneyed line like that? What’s next? ‘The gig is up?’” He laughs. “Well, whatever floats your boat, right? Don’t let me rain on your hit parade! Ha HA ha ha ha haa!

“This isn’t a game, Joker,” the Batman growls. “It never was. You have one chance. Hand over the Tetch microchips or—“

“Or what?” The Joker smirks as he sideswipes another puddle, his long purple coattails flaring out behind him in a demented parody of grace. “You’ll harm me? Beat me to a bleeding pulp, then lock me away for years and years and years and years? Sorry, Bats, but that one’s been tried too. And we both know you haven’t the stomach for anything stronger.”

The clown’s eyes glint with mocking challenge, as hard and cold as chips of jade. Batman’s square jaw clenches and he pulls the trigger of his gun. Quicker than he can blink, the cable wraps around its target, cutting into the Joker’s arms as it pins them to his sides. The startled criminal overbalances and falls face-first into a reeking puddle, saturating his tailored suit and staining his spats with rust and tinted gasoline. The Batman leans over his fallen foe with the smallest of smiles.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t expect that,” he says. But before the Joker can respond, a burly hood in a clown mask hoves into view, followed by six more. Almost simultaneously, a siren wails and flashes at the far end of the warehouse and a small wall of uniformed police come crashing in through the main doors.

“No, no, not here. Not now…” the Batman mutters, and the Joker starts to cackle. With a grunt that’s more annoyance than exertion, Batman hauls the sopping madman over his shoulder like a sack of soggy rice and fires his grappling gun into the air.

The standoff between cops and crooks lasts barely three seconds. Joker’s goons fire first and the cops respond quickly, their bullets sparking dangerously as they collide with decayed pipes and unshielded wiring. As projectiles fly, the grappling gun’s metal cord wraps around what appears to be a gas pipe, but as it is forced to take on the weight of the Batman and his prize, the corroded metal begins to bend and crumble, revealing the bundled wires inside. Lightening flashes, thunder rumbles, and bullets ping, but the Batman continues to rise higher, gambling that the wires will hold until he and the Joker can reach the catwalk. Bound as he is, and slung unceremoniously over the Batman’s cowled shoulder, the Joker cannot see the danger above. He sees only the hail of bullets beneath their dangling feet, and he taunts, “You better not let me fall, Batman! I fully intend to sue if, while in your care, my precious person is dropped, dented or otherwise damaged!”

Batman blocks out his foe’s mocking tones. The cord has cut completely through the pipe now—they are dangling from only three fat wires that are drooping more dramatically every moment. It is clear they won’t reach the catwalk before the cord slices them too. There is no choice but to descend.

“Wha—what do you think you’re doing!” the Joker yelps as they sink closer to the gunfight. “UP! Go up! It’s murder down there!”

But it’s already too late. The wires snap in an explosion of sparks and the cord goes slack. As they fall, the Joker’s struggling stops and he erupts into hysterical laughter. The Batman remains calm. He spreads his cape to deflect the flying bullets as he tucks himself into a roll, absorbing the impact of their fall with the Joker clasped securely in his arms. It is a skillful landing, technically flawless—but for one detail. As Batman and the Joker crash into the ankle-deep water, the sparking wires fall to ground directly beside them. Carried by the water, the electric current shoots through the foes with shocking violence. Their muscles clench, their hair crackles—and the stolen microchips secreted in the Joker’s vest pocket burst to sudden, unexpected life…

…mere instants before the floating gasoline and its rising vapor explode in a fireball rush of flame and displaced air.

To Be Continued...

Sooo..... Any opinions?

:bamf

[Edited on 5/12/2010 by Rowena]
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."
~The Doctor, Survival

"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."
~The Doctor, Robot

"If this isn't civilization, why am I standing in a bomb crater?"
~Hawkeye Pierce, M.A.S.H.

Rowena Zahnrei's Stories: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/526713/Rowena_Zahnrei
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Batman: The Man Behind the Grin

Postby Rowena » Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:29 pm

1.

"Hee. Hee hee. Ha ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Hee hee."

Commissioner Gordon frowned as he peered through the window into the Batman's hospital room. Even laid up in a stark white hospital bed, his left arm and torso wrapped in gauze and bandages, there was nothing frail about this man. His damaged cape and suit had been draped across a chair but, for some shared, unspoken reason, the hospital staff had left him his mask.

"All the times he's been here, I don't think I've ever heard the Batman laugh," Dr. Moss commented from behind him. "It's really quite eerie."

"I thought you said he was unconscious," Gordon said. The balding doctor looked up from the chart he was flipping through. "He is," he said. "He's been laughing like this since he was brought in."

Gordon growled. "That damned Joker Juice! The fiend must have dosed him with it back at the warehouse. Did you—"

"We administered the antidote for the Joker's neurotoxin several hours ago, but it's had little effect. I sent some of his blood up to the lab for tests, but it'll be some time before there's any news."

Gordon rubbed his mustache in frustration, but nodded his understanding. "Any idea how long he'll be out? And the Joker, any word on him?"

"That electric shock these men experienced put quite a strain on their systems. Coupled with the explosion and the resulting burns…" The doctor shrugged. "It could be a while."

"Is that all you can say?" Gordon fumed, his frustration starting to get the better of him. "You doctors are as bad as politicians! Never a straight answer among you!"

The doctor straightened, peering down at Gordon over his thin spectacles. "Frankly, Commissioner, it's a miracle these two men are alive at all. As for their healing, that will happen in its own time. Now, if you don't mind, I do have other patients to attend to. This hospital does not revolve around the Batman and his victims, no matter how often they fall at our doorstep."

Gordon scowled at the doctor's departing back, then spun on the uniformed officers he'd brought with him from the precinct.

"Conrad, Johnson, go stand guard over the Joker's room. Mendez, Pearce, you stay here. I want everyone, everyone to be thoroughly searched before they pass through those doors. Doctors, nurses, no exceptions. There'll be no rescue or murder attempts here on my watch, got it?"

"Yes sir, Commissioner," the officers nodded, and took their places. Gordon grunted his satisfaction and headed toward the stairs, only to be sidetracked when he spotted a stocky detective on his way up the corridor.

"O'Hara!" Gordon called. "So, you're back. What can you tell me about those microchips the Joker was after? Any ideas what he wanted them for?"

The detective looked tired. "We don't have many leads as of yet, Commish," he admitted. "Them science geeks over at Tetch Labs are keepin' pretty tight lipped about the nature of their projects-takin' their cue from that Jervis character in charge. Kept goin' on about intellectual property an' patent rights like we were the thieves. All we could get outta them was somethin' about…erm…" He pulled out a crumpled notepad and shuffled through its rain-wrinkled pages. "Remote impulse control in rats," he read.

"Impulse control…" Gordon tapped his chin, his brow furrowed in thought.

"Yeah, I think it's somethin' to do with, like, controlin' the rats' impulse to eat," the detective explained. "Sorta like an electronic diet pill or somethin'."

"Impulse control," Gordon repeated, his frown deepening. "I'm getting a bad feeling about this one. Of all times for the Batman to be out of commission! I could really use his input about now."

The detective crossed his beefy arms. "Hey, Commish… No offense, but why're you so hung up on that masked vigilante? By all accounts, he's as messed up as those weirdo freaks he hauls in."

Gordon shrugged. "Maybe. But I'll tell you this. No one knows the Joker's mind better than he does. No one. And we'll need that level of understanding if we're to figure out what this lunatic had planned for those microchi—"

A horrible, strangled roar ripped through the antiseptic air of the hospital, followed by the distant tinkling crash of metal impacting with glass. Gordon's head snapped up. The officers he'd just sent out were pelting toward him down the tiled corridor.

"Commissioner!" Johnson was shouting. "Commissioner, it's the Joker! One minute he was unconscious and the next— He went berserk, sir! Grabbed the chair…shattered the mirror, the window, and…"

"And what, Johnson?" Gordon demanded. "Has the Joker been restrained?"

Johnson swallowed, her dark eyes wide with guilt, anger, and a hint of fear. "No, sir. I'm afraid I have to report that the Joker has escaped."

To Be Continued...

:bamf
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."
~The Doctor, Survival

"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."
~The Doctor, Robot

"If this isn't civilization, why am I standing in a bomb crater?"
~Hawkeye Pierce, M.A.S.H.

Rowena Zahnrei's Stories: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/526713/Rowena_Zahnrei
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Batman: The Man Behind the Grin

Postby Rowena » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:44 pm

2.

The nightmare… He had awoken to a nightmare and it was still chasing him. Everywhere he turned, shadows loomed like monstrous bats. The dark figures he passed leered at him with mocking eyes, laughing, always laughing. The laughter vibrated his ears, rattled in his skull, harsh and cruel and hateful. So many faces…!

His legs hurt, his lungs were burning. He couldn't run anymore. Diving into an alley, he slammed his back against the wall and slid down, down, down into the sour, reeking darkness. There, with a sobbing cry, he felt the faces take him, carry him away with death-cold hands along a stream of memories that were not his own…

"Mom! Mom, are you here? Please, Mom… You've gotta answer me…"

The ancient high-rise was condemned, falling apart. Moisture dripped down the peeling walls, mold climbed up and through the exposed asbestos insulation. The floor had rotted in patches, and it was difficult to know where to step. But he kept going, doing his best to avoid the rat droppings, the bat droppings, the human waste and vomit that carpeted the narrow corridor.

There was no electricity, no heat. The moans and sighs and sobs that choked the sour air were his only guide as he climbed the slippery, urine-soaked stairs. And then, there they were. Bodies without souls, ragged and wretched, packed together like slaves in a dungeon of their own making. The smell was worse here, the sounds, the half-mad laughter…

"Mom?"

The meth-heads didn't move, just stared straight up or straight ahead with their empty, bloodshot eyes. He picked his way through, searching the faces. But, in the dark they all looked the same. Male, female, young, old, there was no difference. They were just bodies, huddled bodies, hiding behind lank hair and brown, bleeding grins.

"Mom, please!" he cried, fiercely wiping away the tears he couldn't stop. "I know you're here. You gotta know my voice, Mom. You gotta know who I am!"

"I know who you are. You're that stringbean's brat, ain'tcha?"

A shadow broke away from the wall, bald and looming. The man's face was cloaked in darkness; all he could see were his eyes, and the gleam of his silver tooth when he smiled.

"Where's my Mom," he demanded, struggling not to show his fear. This man carried a knife, he'd see him use it on rats and strays and customers who tried to trick or fool or double-cross him.

"On an errand, my boy," he said in the smooth, cocky voice of a man who's climbed to the top of his own little world. "She can't expect something for nothing. If she can't pay in cash there are…other uses for her."

He swallowed. "When will she be back?"

"I wouldn't wait up." The man smiled his cruel, silver smile. "Go home, boy. This place isn't for you. Yet."

"Bastard..."

"What was that?" the man snarled.

"You're a bastard!" he yelled, too angry to be afraid. "Just you wait till I'm big. I'll pay you back. You'll see!"

"Kid," the man said, "trust me. You ain't gonna live that long."

The knife was in the monster's hand before he could blink and a jolt of real terror surged through him. Acting fast, he grabbed the nearest meth-head and shoved her at the man. Then, he ran. He ran down the stairs and out into the cold, sweet-smelling street. He couldn't go home. There was no point without his mom there, and besides, that scumball knew where he lived. So he just ran. Ran past the junkies and the alcoholics, past the homeless schizophrenics lost in strange and frightening realities all their own. And as he ran, he began to laugh. He'd told that jerk off and made it out with his life. At that moment, he felt free, like he could do anything, be anything, have anything he wanted. And what he wanted was to make that bastard pay. Not for his mother, although that was still part of it. He wanted to make him pay for pulling that knife on him, for making him feel so afraid…


*******

"Mom... Mother. Father... No!"

The nightmare… He had awoken to a nightmare and it was still chasing him. He turned and tossed on the starched hospital pillow, his thoughts bursting like fireworks with no coherence, no pattern. All he saw were images, unfamiliar memories he knew were not his own...

An elevated train curves through the nighttime city, a man in the seat across from him holds out his stethoscope, letting him listen to his heartbeat.

Father…

But Father was dead. Two gunshots in the street. Two roses on the snow, on the grave where Father and Mother were buried together under the headstone…


WAYNE

He sat up with a gasp and reached up to touch his face. A mask, cool and smooth, met his searching fingers, and he stared down at his hands in confusion. Blunt fingers, thick, muscular arms…

And there, on the chair, an armored suit and cape as black as the night.

He practically heard the lightbulb click on in his brain, and he realized he understood. He understood it all.

The laughter bubbled up inside him, uncontainable, uncontrollable. It brought the nurses running, needles in hand, and as they pumped the tranquilizing drugs into his veins his hysterical laughter calmed enough to let him get a few words in between the chuckles.

"It's a dream, it's a dream. Oh ho! It's a dream come true…"

*******

"A nightmare," he grunted, only dimly aware that someone was there, smoothing a warm, damp cloth over his forehead. "All those people, in the dark… That man…"

"It's all right, puddin'."

It was a woman's voice, shrill yet somehow gentle. He felt her fingers stroking his hair, calming, soothing. "The big bad Batman can't get you no more. You're with me now, yeah? And I know how to make everythin' all better."

Warm lips on his cheek, the sharp chemical scent of greasepaint and hairspray—

He opened his eyes.

"Gah!" he exclaimed, pushing her away as he shot to his feet. His memory was still hazy, disjointed. But that woman, dressed up like a porcelain doll with her white-painted face, her black lipstick and skintight costume…

"I know you," he muttered, casting his gaze around the room. It was large and cluttered with brightly colored boxes and posters and broken arcade games. Fun House mirrors lined one wall, and he approached them cautiously, not quite trusting his eyes.

"No…"

"It's only a little burn, hun," the woman said, coming up behind him, her fingers brushing the side of his head where the green hair was singed and brittle. "Mommy'll make it better."

"Don't touch me," he said and pulled away from her, stepping closer to the mirrors.

Wide, jade-green eyes stared back at him, slender fingers reached up to touch a long, chalk-pale face, its muscles stretched into a permanent grin.

The sight was so impossible, so repulsive, he had to laugh. A horrified, hysterical laugh that tore from his gut like a sob.

"Mistah J?"

He looked at her face, as distorted as his own in the mirror's wavy glass. "Harley," he said slowly. "You're Harley Quinn. And I… I am…"

A cloud of squeaking bats swarmed behind his eyes, blotting out the moon. He saw a cave, a high-tech computer console tucked in among the eerie rock formations. A man's face. Alfred…

"You're comin' back to bed," Harley said, taking him by the arm. "Oh, my poor puddin'. That mean ol' Batsy must have walloped you harder than I thought."

He started to go with her, then yanked his arm away. Dashing to a purple trunk, he hefted it open and dug through its contents, pulling out socks, underwear, a dark shirt, dark pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and a long trench coat.

"Get out of here while I change out of this filthy hospital gown," he ordered. Harley looked like she was about to protest, but a glare from him sent her scurrying. He dressed quickly with his eyes focused on the wall in front of him. He knew where he had to go, who he had to contact. There was only one person he could trust to look past this freakish body and recognize the man trapped inside.

Gathering his resolve, he took a final glance at his warped reflection, then strode from the room. Harley was there, crouched between her two hyenas. They stood and snarled when he appeared.

"Shh, babies," Harley said, stroking their bristly heads. "That's your Daddy. You know your Daddy."

Their growls deepened, but they lay back down. Harley stood up and danced over to him. "Goin' somewhere?" she asked brightly.

"Out," he grunted. "I want you to stay here, Harley. Don't follow me."

"Oh, but can't I-?"

"No," he said firmly. "Stay here, and don't cause any trouble."

"Sheesh," he heard her say as he strode out the door, his thoughts still muzzy and disconnected. "'Stay here, and don't cause any trouble!' Honestly, babies, sometimes your Daddy can be as bossy as Batman."

To Be Continued…
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."
~The Doctor, Survival

"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."
~The Doctor, Robot

"If this isn't civilization, why am I standing in a bomb crater?"
~Hawkeye Pierce, M.A.S.H.

Rowena Zahnrei's Stories: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/526713/Rowena_Zahnrei
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Rowena
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