Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, The Joker, Jim Gordon
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. The wealthy freeman Bruce Wayne acquires a highly-prized pleasure slave whom has fallen in love with him…but can the Prince of Gotham ever return that love? And will it all be moot as a weak abolitionist movement slowly gathers strength while the Galactic Empire remains in a perpetual state of Cold War? The entire series can be found here.
Categories: Drama, AU
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
Summary: The Batman catches up to the Joker with disastrous results.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): July 25, 2007
Date Of Posting: December 5, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 660
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
The stench of failure
Clings to me,
It burns my skin,
The taste of ashes
In my mouth.
“My Soul Possessed”
THE TASTE OF ASHES
“So, Batty, I hear you’ve been looking for me?”
The mocking voice echoed in the cavernous warehouse. Batman’s lensed eyes scanned every possible crevice, searching for the gaudy clown colors.
“You’ve been a busy man.” His raspy voice reverberated off the concrete walls.
Maniacal laughter bounced off those walls. “Yes, my venom has cheered up quite a few of Gotham’s stodgy citizenry. This city needs to lighten up.” A giggle. “So do you, Batsy.”
Batman began a circuitous move around the warehouse. He did not hear any minions scurrying away in the shadows. Maybe he had gotten lucky and caught the Joker alone.
“I’m thrilled that my little crime spree is attracting so much attention. Well, I guess that fits, eh? Clowns are born for the spotlight. We are performers at heart, you know. Love the applause, making people laugh!”
Batman flowed up a rusted iron ladder, soundless as a Ninja. He crept along the catwalk.
The Joker whistled the traditional circus calliope music then said, “You know the circus is such a happy place. The smell of popcorn, the dazzle of sequined costumes, the majesty of the elephants.” Whistling again. “They have people who fly there. Just like a bat, eh, Bats?”
Suddenly, the world exploded.
& & & & & &
Jim Gordon picked up the telephone. “Gordon here.” He frowned. “Send all available squad cars.” He set down the phone, then rose from his desk chair and strode downstairs to the squadroom. “My driver,” he snapped.
& & & & & &
Batman coughed violently as he swam up to consciousness. Smoke filled the dark warehouse, clogging his lungs. He raged against the beams that pinned him to the concrete floor, and with a great surge of strength threw the heavy rotted wood off his legs, a shower of ash coating him. Grunting, he scrambled up and hobbled to where he remembered the exit was located. Fire burned at the far end of the room.
Grimacing at the pain in his left thigh, Batman left the burning warehouse, clenching his fists. Sirens were wailing in the distance.
Batman cursed as he stumbled and fell, his ragged cape trailing behind him. Blood oozed from several cuts on his arms, torso, and legs.
A dark car with a siren on top pulled up. Jim Gordon got out of the back seat and called, “Batman!” He hurried over.
“Commissioner,” Batman said through gritted teeth.
Jim helped him to his feet. “Let’s get an EMT to check you out.”
“No.” Batman pulled away from Jim’s grip. “I’m fine.”
“It’s all right.” The rasping voice grew soft. “Really, Jim.”
Jim considered, then nodded. “The Joker?” A grim nod. “We’ll handle this. Go home and get some rest.”
Batman nodded again and limped away, Jim watching him go.
& & & & & &
The rage fueled Batman as he drove the Batmobile into the Cave. He parked it and limped out, peeling off his costume. His injured thigh was almost entirely black-and-blue.
A shower was next. He could get all his cuts cleaned and wash away the stink of defeat.
The smell of smoke clung to him as he entered the shower. He turned it on full-force.
He stood under the showerhead as the water pelted him.
He had succeeded in his business life, but this life, the one that dealt with life-and-death, he was failing on a nightly basis.
The stakes were higher than untold billions of dollars.
The stakes here were untold millions of people in Gotham.
Bruce rested his forehead against the shower stall.
Pity his rage and failure couldn’t be washed away as easily as the blood from his body, the taste of ashes in his mouth.