On the way back through Gotham, Bruce and Alfred rode in silence. The butler offered him a cup of hot tea halfway there. He accepted, even though the gesture was a definite tip off. "He's returned to the Manor then?" he asked quietly. Alfred nodded an affirmative.
"Told me what he'd done," the old man began, eyes never leaving the dark road as the street lamps became fewer and fewer on either side of them. "He's pretty broken up about it actually. Doesn't think you'd forgive him."
The man's voice was too matter of fact, too cool, and too lighthearted at the same time to take. Bruce stared out the window. Everything was boiling inside of him. Sorrow. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal..... All the while he felt quite the fool. Should have known better. Shouldn't be surprised. And he'd gone and let Gordon get too close while he was distracted.
Joker, meanwhile, had gone through every piece of the odd, colorful clothing Bruce had put into his wardrobe and found he didn't want to wear any of it. None of it fitted his mood. Instead he'd gone to Bruce's bedroom, borrowing some of the dark, moody garments the other man seemed to favor. Rolling up the sleeves and cuffs, he padded barefoot back to the bathroom. Eying the soaked bits of armor lying in a pool of water, he grabbed a few towels and started drying them off.
Bruce and Alfred arrived with not a word more spoken between them. The younger man could all but feel what the butler was thinking. Bruce did not understand it. He was nowhere near to being that blindly optimistic. Blind. He felt completely.....blind. Blind as a bat. How appropriate. He left the car before Alfred could step out. "Whatever happens, stay out of it," he warned the old man, and then took off toward the house. He had a feeling as he jogged up the stone steps and entered the large front doors that Alfred would not like what was about to happen between the two madmen. For he too must now count himself as mad. The great door slammed behind him.
Joker finished up the last of the pieces, then bundled them up and took them into the main cave. Dumping them on the floor in front of the storage locker, he began trying to piece them together in the insane hope that making the suit clean, whole, and in its usual spot would help fix things. The rigged acoustics in the lair carried the sound of a slamming door down to him, tinny and distant. Joker swallowed and tried to work faster.
After searching the house, Bruce decided that unless Joker had fled, he must have remained down in the caves. He thought it was odd on the way down in the elevator, that the man would stay surrounded by Batman's presence if he was indeed 'broken up about what he had done' as Alfred had said. The lift stopped, and the metal gate parted. Bruce's eyes locked on the Joker, sitting on the floor across the cavernous room, hunched over what looked like pieces of his suit.
Joker's head snapped up at the sound of the lift descending, turning to see who it contained. When he caught sight of Bruce his eyes filled with real fear - not the wild, animal terror of his waking nightmares but something sentient and despairing. Scrambling backwards and abandoning his attempt to fix the suit, the smaller man backed away as quickly as he dared.
Bruce stalked forward, making a straight line for him. He stepped over gear that had been scattered across the floor from the Joker's frantic search earlier, even threw a tool chest out of his way. It swung dangerously on two wheels, drawers opening and spilling their contents on the floor before it gave way and toppled over with an echoing crash. He backed the smaller man up into the wall, hands grasping his shoulders and pushing him into it. For all that was eating at him, he still did not know what to say. "Why!? Why did you do it? Right in front of me!" He was all but screaming.
Joker was torn between abject fear and, for once in his life, actually looking repentant. There was nothing he could say to Bruce; he didn't have any explanation or reason for it. Trying vainly to shield himself from violent blows that seemed likely to rain down on him at any moment, he couldn't tear his eyes away from Bruce's angry gaze. "I didn't mean to, it just... it just happened! I came to get you and I was angry and-" I hadn't done anything like it for so long, and it felt so good, like food when you're starving, and I did it for you...
Bruce stared at him, bent close, tried to read his mind. But he had a feeling that if he could, he would feel even more hopeless than he did right then. And he didn't know if he could stand that. "You......you.......just betrayed me." His grip did not slacken, he did not move. He wanted to shake the Joker until he couldn't see straight. He wanted to break the man's legs over again so that he couldn't leave.
"... I didn't mean to." The man finally broke down, but his tears and guilt were only for himself and Bruce. The savaged corpses from earlier that day were just a memory of pleasure at too dear a price. "I didn't mean to do it, I just couldn't help it, you were tied up and I was angry and forgot and... and... I couldn't stop."
Bruce squeezed. Goddamnit. There was nothing he could do. "I can't..... I can't let you go. You beg me and beg me to let you free, and then you break my heart." His hands released, the cowering man's shoulders and moved up to his face, mirroring the motion that he had done to Bruce back in Gotham. No blood this time. Sorrow crept into his voice. "I want to break you apart so you can't leave again." One calloused thumb stroked over a cheekbone. "And so you can't leave me."
"Then do it." Joker had gone limp and unresisting in Bruce's hands, black kohl running in damp lines down his face and becoming even more smeared as Bruce touched him. "I didn't want to hurt you. I don't want to again. But I don't know if I'll ever have control." Part of his mind was already wondering how Bat would do it.
Everything inside of Bruce felt twisted. His mind, his thoughts, his gut. It was all upside down. He closed his mouth, which had been parted in a grimace, and looked at the Joker. Really looked at him. If he hadn't been here with him all this time, Bruce might have not believed that he was sorry. So sorry that he had hurt Bruce. If he couldn't see the man's face, hear that tone, see him regret, and mean it, it might have all been a game to the Joker.
There were only two things he could do. Cut him out of Bruce's life; walk away. Or accept him.
The smaller man swallowed nervously as Bruce held him pinned up to the wall, silent and unmoving. The violence hadn't come yet, but that didn't mean that it wouldn't, and there was nothing else he could really say to sway his decision. Perhaps he'd broken things past the point of no return and Bruce would just kill him, or lock him in a cell until he went mad and died.
He only knew that if Bat did lame him to keep him close and helpless he'd forgive him. It was probably the best that he could hope for, even though it meant living permanently in the same state he'd been in the last few months.
"I'll stop you.....if you ever doing anything like that again," Bruce whispered. "I'll be there, by your side, and I will stop you in whatever way that is necessary." He swallowed. The words were laden with implication. The weight that had been sinking deeper and deeper in him......halted its progress. "Whatever way."
It was a warning. Perhaps one day, a sentence to be carried out.
But not today.
Today there was too much at stake, and too much to lose if Bruce didn't see what this man had been trying to tell him for so long. He didn't want the Joker to go.
The slender man nodded, wrapping arms carefully around Bruce's waist. He understood now that, if he wanted to keep the other man and what they had, he would have to spend the rest of his life in a different sort of cage. He couldn't resist the temptation to kill when out on his own, and Bruce probably wouldn't forgive him if he was found doing it again. He wouldn't have the wild freedom he so loved, but he got a different love in return. "I can't go back to the city by myself." His voice was soft, but the statement still echoed in the silence between them.
"No. You can't," Bruce echoed back. He let out a shaky exhale as his hands dropped from the Joker's cheeks. They ran over his shoulders, down the sides of his arms and rested there. He let the Joker hold onto him. He had a feeling his presence was the only thing helping now. And he didn't want to let the other man go. He did want to be there, if, when, the Joker snapped again. He had to be there. For the city's sake. For the Joker's. For his own.
"...I'm sorry I can't help myself," Joker murmured. There was a great measure of comfort in having Bruce's arms around him. They weren't just restraints; they were supports and a shield, a means of control when he had none. "I won't try to go out by myself, if you'll come out with me sometimes."
Bruce lowered his eyes. "I know," he said quietly. After a breath he looked at the Joker again. His green eyes were much softer than when they had met. Maybe it was just Bruce's imagination. "And I will. I'll be there." He could do it. They could.
Joker's arms tightened around Bruce as if he was frightened the man would disappear. It was time to tell him, he supposed. "...I'd do anything for you, you know. Anything I could." Fear jolted through him as soon as the words left his lips, sending a shiver up his spine. Bat could abuse that fact so easily if he so chose. "Anything."
"I think you just proved that." Bruce wouldn't hurt the man so that he would stay. He wouldn't coerce him through some other tactic never to leave the manor again. He would stand by the madman's side, wherever he went, and protect the world around him. In doing so, maybe he'd be there for the Joker. Protect him from the loneliness that engulfed his life. And he, well, standing here like this after what the Joker had done was proof that Bruce needed him too.
Joker burrowed tightly against Bruce, feeling oddly dizzy in... relief? He hadn't spent much thought on worries in years - he'd not had anything he was particularly worried about. Nearly losing Bat, first to a set of murderous kidnappers and then to his own careless bloodthirst nature... it had taken a significant psychological toll.
Bruce wrapped an arm around him, resting his chin on the Joker's bent green head. In that moment he felt a great sense of attachment. Attachment enough to see the impact of the decision he was making, to release his values for this one person in this one moment, and be able to follow through with that decision. Attachment he hadn't felt for....for anyone after his parents. It was something he'd almost had with Rachel, if she'd only let him. He'd lived for himself and for a great number of people, the people of the city he'd chosen to protect, but never for just one.
It was comforting just to be held and hear Bruce's steady heartbeat so close to his ear. Things felt differently this time around - Joker's emotions weren't filtered directly into a violent, animalistic passion, but they weren't lessened any for their different incarnation. Twisting in Bruce's arms until he could look up, his eyes were calmer and saner than the other man had ever seen. They stared at each other for a few quiet moments before Joker reached up and touched their lips together.
The taller of the two sank into it. The act felt like a release of tension. "Come back upstairs with me," he said after pulling away. He wanted to see the sun when it rose, and get away from the cave for a while. To be above ground, breathe the air, chilled as it was, and simply feel free in this decision would be good. He stepped back, leading the Joker with him and away from the wall they'd been up against. A few plates of the suit still rested on the floor, but they were passed by without a glance.
Joker followed Bruce without question, walking with him to the elevator that took them back up to the surface. It was a measure of how far they'd come that they understood this much without speaking.
They stepped off the lift and trudged through the snowy yard. The manor glimmered in the distance. A few lights from within lit it up against the black forest and sky around it. They could have gone straight up into it, but Bruce wanted to feel the air against his skin. It was cold, but not enough to be uncomfortable. The Joker was rarely bothered by extreme temperatures either way. Together they walked, under the muted stars until light from the windows entered their path. A side door led them in, where they kicked of their wet shoes and found themselves in Bruce's den. Logs that Alfred must have tended to earlier were already ablaze in the fireplace, but no other light was on in the room. Bruce took up a seat on the couch, leading the Joker down with him.
Sitting down beside him, Joker watched Bruce carefully, trying to figure out exactly what was running through his head. The other man seemed to be in an unusual mood, quiet and tender. It was a bit unnerving; the madman was used to violent passion, violent emotion, violent sex. Joker found his eyes being drawn to the crackling flames that always held such a pull for him, full of unpredictable chaos and destruction. Fire always fascinated him, representing a sort of kindred spirit to the monstrous thing his soul had become.
Bruce leaned back, watching him watch the fire. He lifted a hand to run through the Joker's hair. Such a familiar motion. Soothing. He found a smile on his lips. "So this is what happens when unusable energy escalates, hm?" Funny, that his mind should turn to science at a time like this. Even funnier that it makes sense this way. If this law applies to the universe, then why not to them? Energy that can't be used becomes frenetic, turns into chaos.
Green eyes turned back to look at him, reflecting the flickering light from the burning logs. "I don't understand." What about this isn't usable? At least Bruce was smiling. "If you mean... earlier, I'll find somewhere to put it where it won't... hurt things." He'd have to find energy sinks for his impulses and desires, or they'd build up again until he was driven to go out into the city and kill and destroy again.
Bruce nodded. The Joker did understand. Neither of them could be afraid of facing it any longer. Bruce didn't have the option of not paying attention. "I'll help you." His hands moved down the lithe body's sides, then wrapped around, embracing. He pulled the Joker over with him until they were side by side along the soft leather of the couch.
Inhaling the scent of him, Joker hooked a leg around Bruce, pulling them together until they were flush against each other. Sighing with pleasure at the contact, the smaller man twined his fingers into Bruce's hair. Close proximity to the other man always affected him, and he was certain his lover had noticed it by now. "Help me how?"
"Any way that I can." Heat of the flames resided on one side of his body, the Joker's heat on the other. Enveloped in warmth and satisfaction, he was no longer unable to imagine how they had come to this point, no longer expected it to fade away as if it were a dream. Rather it....made sense in it's own way. And he was willing to fight for it to stay like this. "You always say you'll give me anything. Stay with me. That is what I want."
The younger man's twisted mouth curled up in delight. "Always. You didn't even have to ask for that one, Bat," he murmured. "I would have trouble staying away even if you didn't want me. I can't help that any more than I can help anything else." He'd known for some time that Bruce would either have him or be the death of him, eventually. "You'll never have to worry about me running out on you." Not even with handsome blond attourneys.
That got a wry smirk out of Bruce. He pulled the Joker into him by the hip, reminding them both of exactly how content they were to be lying there. The wiry muscles in the leg around him tightened. His fingers ran along the slight man's bony spine, feeling its deep dip at the base, all the way to the sharp vertebrae between his shoulders. He felt that column shudder when his hand ran its way back down.
Joker's hands tightened their hold as Bruce continued to explore, heat suddenly flushing his skin. All at once he decided there was too much clothing between the two of them. Returning the wandering touches, the madman created just enough space between their bodies for his hands to reach the fastenings of Bruce's shirt. "I take it this means you're pleased with our agreement? Or is this Demand Number Two?"
"This is me pleased, and Demand Number Two." Bruce grinned into the Joker's neck. When the Joker began making progress on his shirt, he rolled them over both to help and to get the smaller man underneath him. From there he could move as he pleased, immediately going for the belt of the Joker's pants. "We have to keep each other sane somehow, after all."
Joker cackled, always happy to let the other man pin him... at least for this sort of pleasurable activity. "Are you so sure this isn't what made us insane in the first place? Maybe we'll just keep on slipping even further." Insistant hands got through the flimsy barriers and the subsequent feeling they evoked made Joker lose the thought in a blur of sensation.
"I don't know, you look more sane today than you have before." Bruce bent forward, licking at his neck. "But maybe that's just my own madness showing." He was teasing the Joker and they both knew it. But it felt so good. He tugged the other man's pants down further until he had space to move his hand. His other crawled up the Joker's shirt, pulling it over his head and tossing it away to the floor.
The slender man's breath hitched and his eyes lost focus for a moment as fingers closed around him. God, but Bruce had quickly learned exactly where and what to do to manipulate him. Joker was perfectly happy letting Bat dominate him if this is what he got in return. "You always were mad. I knew that from the beginning. You just are starting to see what I do, now."
"Shhhh...." Bruce whispered in his ear and he gave a little twist at the end of his stroke. "You do talk too much." And he knew just how to get the Joker to shut up. They paused only long enough to get the clown's pants all the way off and for Bruce to unzip his own until he was back on the Joker again. They moved in a familiar rhythm, pushing, grinding, soon to become frantic.
Coherent speech left Joker, the world narrowing down to a flurry of building pleasures that made him cling to Bruce and cry out helplessly. Everything was made sweeter and sharper from the near-loss he'd almost endured. The reassurance that he hadn't destroyed everything made everything twice as potent.
Watching him lose it was quite a sight, and Bruce pulled back only far enough to see it, then dove in again before the Joker regained himself. Their mouths locked and Bruce found his mind swimming in the body that was trying to pull him down further and further. The Joker was everywhere at once, or his limbs were. Bruce wondered if it were possible to drown in him.
He was even further gone than normal, unable to do more than hold on for dear life while Bruce moved. Small tremors shook his frame every time they slid together, hitting that small bundle of nerves in his core that set off sparks behind his eyes. Joker finally couldn't take it anymore and arched up against Bruce with a cry, all of his muscles tightening in waves that seemed like they were never going to end.
With arms underneath his back, Bruce caught him up in that arch, pulling him further until his back left the couch completely and he ended sitting atop Bruce's lap. From there Bruce watched his neck bend toward the ceiling and his green head drop back in bliss. Thrust after thrust after thrust like that and Bruce was gone too. One of his large hands caught tangled hair, the other an already bruised hip, and Bruce pulled pulled the Joker down onto him until he came.
They writhed against each other for those last few blissful seconds before collapsing into a sated tangle of limbs. Joker tucked his head against Bruce's neck, both to take in the comforting scent and to watch his lover's pulse in a sort of lazy fascination. He was on the verge of drifting off when the doorbell rang.
Bruce groaned, resting his full weight atop the Joker. He didn't register the noise at first. He was in bliss and something was sounding off in the background that didn't seem very important at the time. Jesus, no one had ever really been able to put him in a state like that after his training. It was only then that Bruce realized that noise was the door. He pulled himself halfway up and looked at the man underneath him. He wasn't about to move, Alfred would get it, until it rang again. A little bell rang in the back of his mind. Something wasn't right. Most people were stopped at the gate. On the third ring, Bruce rose. "Stay here." He pulled on his clothes back on quickly. "I don't know who's here."
Yawning and stretching indulgently, Joker pouted but let Bruce leave, content to stay curled up on the sofa until he returned. Whoever it was, he was confident the other man could take care of it.
The doorbell rang again before Bruce opened the door, revealing a pair of determined eyes and a familiar mustache. Gordon looked like he wasn't about to be easily put off this time, and he was infinitely more confident now that he was away from other eyes and ears. "Bruce, wait. I can explain, don't close the door."
The disheveled billionaire stood still, not shutting it in the cop's face, but not opening it any further either. "Commissioner....." Gordon looked like he'd been awake all night. His eyes were wide, posture anxious, pleading almost. He had a definite look of desperation about him, and Bruce had a pretty good idea what was on his mind. "What are you doing here?"
"I think I know. I had to come to be sure." There were just too many pieces that had been brought to light recently, too many hints. They all pointed towards the same conjecture, and it was merely dumb, fortunate luck that it was he who'd witnessed it and not a different set of eyes and ears. "I didn't even suspect anything until recently..." Gordon's eyes were fixed on Bruce's face, trying to match up the hard eyes behind the mask with the millionaire who stood before him.
Bruce's hair was a mess, sticking up in odd places. His shirt was rumpled and half untucked. He was hunched slightly, but the demeanor he usually wore as Bruce Wayne, Prince of Gotham City was gone. "Come in." He took one step back and held the door for Gordon to pass. The Commissioner held his gaze until Bruce closed the door behind him.
Even that was encouraging; if he was far off the mark the man would have just dismissed him entirely, would have registered more confusion and irritation at being put to more questioning. "It is you, isn't it?" he asked quietly, a myriad of emotions sliding across his face, disbelief and curiosity and awe at the forefront.
Gordon followed Bruce into the living room. "Sit down." Bruce ran a hand through his hair to pull it out of his eyes and gestured to a comfortable chair. When the Commissioner did as told, Bruce pulled up one opposite. Neither men relaxed their posture. He hadn't planned on this, but after tonight, everything happening in front of Gordon, he knew the gears were turning in the policeman's head. Silence filtered through the room with a thick, heavy presence before Bruce finally spoke. "I wanted to thank you. I've always wanted to thank you. For being there. The night my parents died." When the billionaire looked at him again, his eyes were much softer.
Jim Gordon's mind was reeling. "You don't need to. Nobody should have had to go through that, much less so young." Dear God! That's what did it, isn't it? He got everyone convinced he was burying himself in hedonism, but he was really... The thought made him swallow. He'd always known his partner was at least a little off-balanced, but it was an entirely different thing when he knew how and why.
Uncomfortably aware that silence had filled the room once more, Gordon cleared his throat. "...I have a lot of questions, as you can imagine, but I assure you that whatever is said won't leave this house. Knowing who you are doesn't change anything."
Bruce let him go on in silence. He was gauging his own decisions, what exactly he wanted to tell Gordon and whether he would continue to have the man's trust afterward. He'd always trusted Gordon. It was inherent in him after that single day, and the man had never failed him. Even when Bruce was silent. Even when he hid. For the sake of safety, he should have sent the Commissioner away, but....Bruce found that he wanted to tell him. "You've kept my secrets thus far." His lips offered a small smile to put the other man at ease.
Despite the smile, Gordon was still keyed up and reeling. "I just... you have to imagine what a shock this is. You have no idea how- ...everyone in the city thinks you're a mindless, hedonistic socialite. I didn't even suspect anything until recently." A million questions clamored to be answered, but part of Gordon's consciousness reminded him that if Bruce Wayne was indeed Batman... Joker was somewhere on the premisces.
"Well...." And Bruce couldn't stop to the pull at the corners of his lips then. "I do play that up a bit, don't I?" He sat back finally, a little more comfortable under the Commissioner's gaze. He couldn't say much about the hedonistic part; the past year had seen him do things he never imagined in that area. But the rest.... "Think about it. Over seventy five percent of Gotham has ties into Wayne Enterprises. And the public assumes that I leave the running of my company solely in the hands of Lucius Fox. As good of a job he does, that could never realistically be the case. There is far too much room for takeover. It almost happened, before I came back to the city."
"That may very well be, but you always gave the impression that Lucius and the Board were the real power behind the company. Rumors of you sleeping through meetings have spread pretty far through the city." Gordon's mouth quirked into a smile of his own. "Although, I suppose there was a different reason for that than just the monotony of business, wasn't there?" The millionaire's notoriously late schedule made a lot of sense if he was spending all evening running around on rooftops.
"I did sleep through meetings. It happens when you stay up all night." Bruce nodded, clasping his hands together, the perfect picture of ease and sincerity. "Anyway, rumors spread on their own. Some were started intentionally, some weren't. Having this...persona has its advantages." The Commissioner was still staring at him like he was one of the wonders of the world. "I trust you, Gordon. I wouldn't be telling you this if I didn't. Batman trusts you. You know that."
"Of course I know that. It's just a bit different not having masks and shadows between us anymore." His mustache twitched and a nervous smile graced his lips again. "I suppose you were that 'Arkham doctor' that brained me, as well." Gordon mused over the fact; Bruce and... Joker must have a particularly strong bond if he was willing to knock his longtime partner unconscious for him. Not to mention... "He dressed up as you and went into that building for you today, didn't he? Because he thought you couldn't save yourself."
"He did. And I'm sorry about your head." Flash of a comforting smile from the young playboy, and then he took on an air of seriousness. His eyes flicked from the floor to Gordon. He wanted to tell the cop that he knew having the Joker, in any way, wasn't really a good choice. But it was the one he made. There really weren't words for that. "He did that for me." He paused, as though weighing an idea. "Would you like to meet him?"
Gordon looked visibly surprised that Bruce had even offered; he had expected the other man to skirt around the delicate subject for a number of reasons. "Yes, if that's alright." It was fascinating to actually watch the man project his real emotions, no longer hiding behind his Bruce Wayne facade or the black mask he'd seen so often. He seemed almost... ashamed to have the relationship he did with the Joker. Not that Gordon could blame him for that - the madman was a walking train wreck that burned everything and everyone in his path. He was surprised he hadn't already burned Bruce to the point where he wanted nothing to do with him.
Bruce stood, offering Gordon a hand. "I realize you've met on more than one occasion before, but never....well, never without a price at stake. And....I think you should know why I'm doing this." Inexplicably, Bruce wanted Gordon to see he and the Joker together, in the same room. He didn't know if it would have an affect on the policeman at all, but there was the slightest chance that it would move him. Gordon had accepted their situation from Batman's words alone, but it was another thing to be invited into Bruce's home. He had helped the Joker knowingly that night, and the Joker had helped him. It was only fair that they see one another again. He led the Commissioner out of the living room, down the long hall, past rooms that were either locked or were unused.
Gordon followed in silence, but he was growing more nervous by the minute. Despite Batma-... Bruce's convictions that he had a leash on the insane man, the Commissioner felt anything but at ease. Joker's rescue attempt had proved just how easy it was for the man to get out and kill again. Even with Bruce close at hand, getting close to Joker was like sticking your hand into a pirrahna tank - you never knew if you were getting that limb back in one piece.
The door to Bruce's den was an inch from being closed, just where he'd left it on the way out. He couldn't hear movement from inside, but all his senses were telling him that the Joker hadn't moved very far. "Wait here a moment," he said quietly to Gordon before sliding through the door.
Gordon stayed put, not wanting to walk into the room when Joker wasn't expecting company and get attacked. He was unable, however, to stop himself from peeking curiously through the crack in the door. Flushing as he got more of an eyeful than he wanted, the Commissioner stepped back and very carefully began to look at everything but the doorway.
Joker stirred when footsteps approached, slitting an eye open just as Bruce reached the couch. "You were gone for awhile. Did you get rid of them?"
"No," Bruce sat on one of the arms and plucked the Joker's pants off the floor, holding them out to the reclined figure. "Actually, we have company." At the confused gaze, Bruce elaborated. "It's the Commissioner. I'd like you to meet him, off the record."
Joker frowned, not liking this in the slightest. "Why? Where is he? I thought we were supposed to be keeping secrets, not giving them away." Truth be told, the slender man had a distaste for and distrust of lawmen, despite the fact that Batman technically could be counted among their number. They were part of the structure that enforced and reinforced the way some thought everything and everyone should be. They were also part of the system that had decided to drug him to extremes and put him in room to be forgotten about.
"He knows," Bruce answered calmly and quietly, extending his hand out further for the Joker to take his pants. "You coming to my rescue tipped him off." Bruce didn't mean it as an accusation, only a fact. His tone was cool, not hostile. "He knew enough already. It's....it's good to have someone on the inside. And I.....we, owe him this much."
Joker took the offered piece of clothing, pulling it on, but his face was still feral and pinched with suspicion. "How do we owe him? Maybe you do. All he's ever done is put me in cages and restraints whenever he's gotten the opportunity. He might not betray you, but give him half a chance and he'd have me sedated and tied down in a dark corner in Arkham."
"He helped you get to me, didn't he?" Bruce raised an eyebrow. "Without knowing who I was and without any hint that you hadn't taken Batman's gear and left him dead in a gutter somewhere? He trusted my word and then he trusted you last night. That's a far cry from throwing you away in Arkham again."
"He only did so because he thinks I'm your pet. He believes whatever you tell him, enough that he probably thought you had me tamed and on a leash. If I had stayed and gotten caught by him after he saw otherwise he would have put me back in the bin." Joker understood criminals, ordinary selfish humans, corruptable cops. Bruce and Gordon's idealistic thinking and behavior was still alien to him, no matter how long he thought on it or stayed with Bruce.
Bruce slid off the arm of the couch and looked toward the door. "If you want to test that theory, then go and meet him." The Joker looked less than thrilled with his lover's solution, but Bruce stood steadfast. They both knew the Joker's complaining wouldn't reverse the situation. Bruce could only trust that both men would restrain themselves if his comments got out of hand.
Buttoning the ill-fitting, borrowed trousers, Joker's mouth set into a displeased grimace before he stalked towards the door, his scarred back radiating tension. He refused to look back towards Bruce to see if he was coming, if he was going to get support and backup. If Gordon attacked him he was confident he could handle it. If the Commissioner thought he was going to use Bat's identity to hold some sort of leverage over the two of them... well, that would be dealt with when it came.
Bruce did follow, right behind the Joker's back. He caught the door when it was pushed aside and ushered Gordon into the room. With a steadying hand on the Joker's shoulder, he did his best to make sure the fugitive was grounded. "I know you've met before, but now that you know who I am, I thought it would be crucial to do so again," he said to Gordon. "Commissioner Gordon, I'd like you to meet the Joker."
The clown was anything but charming with this introduction, smirking at Gordon with a mixed air of superiority and suspicion. Even the lack of his normal face paints and wild garb didn't quite remove the beastial aura around him; by pure visuals he simply looked like a very scarred young man who'd seen a lot of the ugly side of life, but his eyes and posture left no room for doubt as to what he was. "...Commissioner," he growled, crossing his arms over his bare chest rather than offering Gordon a hand in greeting.
Gordon had only taken a half step into the room, but aborted the motion soon after coming face to face with the Joker. Seeing him back in downtown Gotham was so very different than this. The juxtaposition of him in the Batman suit had been unsettling enough, but it was late at night, out on the street where Gordon had always imagined the Joker thrived, and most importantly, it had been on the job. Here there were signs all over the room that this is where this man lived. More than signs. The clothes strewn about the floor, and the slightly sweet smell of the air, and this man previously lounging about on Bruce's leather couch in the nude told Gordon that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than he had ever seen. He had most definitely never imagined the Joker like this, even when profiling him in the beginning it was difficult for Gordon's mind to go there. But here he was now, standing directly in the Joker's personal space. "Hello." His hands fidgeted together. "This is all.....a bit much to take in."
Joker's eyes were fixed on Gordon like an angry predator that had suddenly discovered an invader in its den. "I see you figured things out. I hope you have enough sense to keep your trap shut and not interfere." He didn't know why Bat wanted him to meet this man again. He felt safe on Bruce's properties, and if Gordon knew who Batman was he'd be able to find Joker, by extension, very easily.
"So long as you don't make yourself a threat, that can be done," Gordon replied soberly. His eyes wavered to Bruce standing behind the lean figure. As direct as this man was, it was hard for the Commissioner to make himself look at the Joker. He had the kind of appearance that took some time to get used to, and Gordon, though he had seen the Joker many times whether in person or from recorded stills, had most definitely never seen him like this. Very close, and very personal. The scars were still etched across his face, and body too when the Commissioner allowed himself to look, but the makeup had always made them seem otherworldly. The palms of Gordon's hands felt sweaty, and his feet felt like there was lead attached to the bottoms of his shoes. He needed something to say, needed to let this man know that....he'd done good. "I......know you probably don't want to hear this from me, but what you did for him last night was.....very admirable."
There was a flicker of an odd expression that Gordon never thought he'd see on the scarred man's face - regret. "...not really. I lost control and broke my word while doing it. I nearly lost everything." He didn't see any need to tell the Commissioner just what he and Bat had agreed, or that they'd come to terms with the fact he couldn't run around alone.
Gordon's uneasiness with his scarring didn't slip by unnoticed. Joker's mouth twitched up slyly, knowing exactly what that would do to the ragged flesh. He wasn't used to being vulnerable. It was far better to turn the tables and set his opponants on edge. "... do I make you uncomfortable? The way I look?"
"A-a little," Gordon answered honestly. Of course the Joker would change the subject. The Commissioner's mind was still tumbling over that....that, dare he say apology? Something he would have never heard out of the lips of the man who once sat across from him in an interrogation, spouting off his aspirations of anarchy and chaos. "But I've been known to get over it." He gestured to Bruce, who had removed his hand from the Joker's shoulder, apparently trusting them enough now. He received an amiable nod from the billionaire in return.
"He has," Bruce echoed. "And as long as we keep to our side of the agreement, Gordon will help us." He was speaking into the Joker's ear, almost directly behind a curl of sickly green hair, but Bruce's hard gaze was all on the Commissioner. The image of it sent a slight chill up Gordon's spine.
Bruce's presence had a visible effect on the Joker that close, especially with his lips so close to the slender man's neck. The clown unconsciously arched and leaned back into his partner's form, eyes half-closed and a pleased smile gracing his scarred mouth. "...will he now? And how can we be so certain of that?" Joker was caught between pleasure at Bat's behavior and glee at seeing Gordon's reactions.
The Commissioner was blinking rapidly, trying to keep his eyes on Bruce when the Joker....moved like that. The larger man was as still as stone, but it surprisingly made the picture of the two of them that much more uncomfortable to take in. They were...quite a contrast. "We'll just have to have a bit of faith," Bruce answered.
Though his heart was beginning to tell him just how nervous he was, Gordon responded with a steady voice. "I will. So long as you, the both of you, do good for this city."
"I can't seem able to do good, as you call it. Just mostly resist doing everything else." Joker eyed Gordon coldly. "I don't have faith in anything or anyone but Bat, but there is something that will make certain you don't betray us." Flashing the Commissioner a feral, yellowed grin, Joker wound an arm behind him to catch Bruce's waist, possessively pulling him close. "Bat is the only reason I'm resisting. If you cause him to be exposed, get caught, or get killed, there's no guarantee I'll play nice anymore." Think on that.
Bruce's fingers curled over the Joker's hip, resting there as if to hold him in place. The motion didn't go unnoticed. Gordon nodded, finally able to look at the Joker again and hold his gaze. He understood the importance of what he was being told, and he did believe the Joker. Gordon would have barely guessed that there laid any kind of humanity within this madman, until now, over these last few days. But, if anything, what he was learning was that a human being is capable of almost any extreme. As a cop on the streets of Gotham City, he had known this already, but here with Bruce Wayne, Batman, the Joker made him see it. "I believe you."
"Make sure you keep him safe, then. If something happens to him and I find out you had a hand in causing it, I will make you pay." The madman looked as fiercely protective as his words; his relative youth and humanity might have been more apparent with the lack of harsh makeup, but Joker was no less intimidating.
"On that you have my word." After so long, and working so hard, they had come to this. Gordon would never have believed it if he'd been told two years ago. He could only imagine that Bruce Wayne was either a damned man, or....or a miracle. And the Joker.... The Commissioner held out his hand, palm up, ready to seal that promise. Perhaps the Joker was a demon. But perhaps he was also one that this city's hero needed.
Sharp green eyes darted to the extended hand, then Gordon's face, warily judging his intentions. After a long moment Joker finally let go of Bruce's waist, padding forward and watching with internal delight as the cop paled as he drew close. Shooting the Commissioner one last suspicious look, the madman hesitantly touched took his hand. Was this what you wanted, Bat? To try to convince me that the Commish is trustable? Or is it to try to convince him you have me leashed?
They shook once, Gordon vaguely surprised by the feel of the Joker's hand. In everything he did, the madman always gave off a sense of being very...tactile.
Bruce was smiling ambivalently over the Joker's shoulder when the broke contact. Once Gordon had composed himself enough, it took only a beat but Bruce noticed it with clarity, the young billionaire finally moved into their space. "You're welcome here at the Manor now, Commissioner."
"Thank you," Gordon replied. "I...I'm sure I won't be seeing the last of either of you, but for tonight, I do believe I've just about enough surprises as I can take."
Joker had already moved away from Gordon, just as eager to have the man out of his personal space as the Commissioner doubtlessly was. "Don't come too often, and take care when you do. We don't need people to start wondering why you're always around and start poking noses where they aren't wanted." Standing slightly behind Bruce, he threaded one arm through his lover's, wanting Bruce to hurry up the dismissal so their visitor would leave.
When Bruce snorted at the Joker's comment, Gordon relaxed only slightly. "You don't have to worry about me." They lead him down the hall, passing room after room that weren't nearly as interesting as the two men who inhabited them, and stopped in the foyer. "Thank you, for everything."
Bruce nodded once more while he watched Gordon realize that he had come in so quickly he didn't have any winter clothes to put back on before he ventured out into the cold. He'd never taken them off. From the look of him, light coat, soggy boots, thin gloves, he'd left the station in a hurry. He laughed at himself lightly before opening the door. And with one last look at the two impossible men, Gordon was gone.
Turning to Bruce as soon as the door shut, Joker raised an eyebrow. "Well? Satisfied? Now we have a cop that knows where to find us. Find us and stick his nose into everything." Besides that, truthfully, the clown was bothered that there was someone else he'd have to share Batman with, to some small degree.
Bruce rose an eyebrow. "Tell me that isn't jealousy I hear? It sounds like it is. And I know that the Joker, criminal mastermind of Gotham, would never be jealous of Commissioner Gordon." Now Bruce was smirking. He couldn't help it. He gripped the man by the hip again and all but dragged him into a kiss.
The smaller man kissed him back, biting his lower lip just shy of drawing blood. So Bat thought it was funny, did he? "You're mine," he whispered softly, wrapping arms tightly around Bruce's chest. His, and he'd do anything to keep it that way. "I won't share you with anyone."
Bruce smiled into the kiss, bending, and pressing himself into it. "I know that." He bit back. Tasted copper. And felt a tendril of warm liquid run down his chin.
"Good. That's one rule that's not to be broken." Smiling lustily up at Bruce, Joker captured his hands, moving forward and backing the other man towards the door... and the couch in the other room.