What He Thinks

Author's note: This is a follow up to the comic "Forever Evil" #6, so if you haven't read it yet, you may not be able to follow this. After reading it, a plot bunny has been chewing on me steadily until I could write this. Let me know what you think about it. It fits, in a strange way, with "What He Said", my other Joker fic. This is NOT related to my own Forever Evil story.

I dragged myself back into the mansion after the funeral and went into my study, firmly shutting the door behind me. Alfred could take care of the mourners; God knew, I couldn't.

I sank into the easy chair beside the fireplace and rested my head in my hands. It had been his chair, the one he had always sat in while I taught him to play chess, taught him strategy and tactics, taught him... A bead of water splashed onto my trouser leg. I couldn't believe that he was gone, really gone this time. What is it they always say? Never declare a hero dead until you have a body. Well, I had a body and I'd witnessed his death, powerless to prevent it.

"Well, Batsy," a hated voice giggled at me from over my shoulder. "You can't say I didn't warn you. I warned him, too. You're dangerous to all the kiddies, just like they'll be the death of you!"

"What are you doing here, Joker?" I asked, not bothering to raise my head from my hands. "I don't have time to bother with you today."

With a quiet movement, my arch-nemesis sat himself in the wing chair I normally occupied. "I heard about the bird-boy and came to cheer you up with a good joke!" he said and giggled again.

I raised my head now and looked into his mad, mad eyes. "What could possibly be funny about Dick's murder?"

"Why, the irony of it!" the Joker said. "And the utter inevitability of it. And while I'm using my "i" words, let's try the word 'idiot' to describe you and your actions! You could have saved him and you know it, you just let your eeeee-mo-tions get the better of you." The Joker's eternal grin got wider. "And you should have known about the danger, you idiot! I told you! Birdboys One through Three were always your weakness, Birdboy Number One was the worst, though. To get to you, all anybody had to do was kidnap him. And kill him? Why Batsy-Watsy would go all to pieces!" The Joker leaned in, his charnel-house breath hot on my face. "And you did, didn't you? When the kid's heartbeat stopped, YOU got hysterical and let your rage slip the clutch on your intellect. Another "i" word. You could have resuscitated him. You know how. You've done it before when I tried to kill him."

I was glaring into his green eyes and he laughed right back.

"You resuscitated ME when your DickieBird killed ME! But nooooooooooo," the Joker's giggle became a belly-laugh. "When your precious Dickie's heart stops, YOU go for Lex Luthor's jugular and forget to revive your little Nightwing. Took ya so long to get him out of that machine, that you were Too. Damn. Late. And he wasn't just mostly dead, he was really dead this time!" Joker's belly laugh erupted again. He slapped his thigh in glee, dancing around the room. "Batsy lost it and lost his partner at the same time!"

By this time, my own mix of guilt and rage had built from the small inferno into a towering volcano. I stood up, hands clenched into fists, opening and closing. You see, he was right. When I heard the machine that imprisoned Dick begin a long tone that showed my boy had flatlined, I lost it. I completely lost my self-control. Luthor had stunned me to get at Dick, to solve the problem that the bomb presented. It could only be disarmed, you see, if Dick's heart stopped.

When Luthor hit me with the stun beam, I couldn't move but I could see him smothering the life out of the boy I had raised. He'd been my best friend, my family, for years and I watched as Dick didn't even struggle against Luthor's hand. Dick agreed that he needed to die, to save me and everyone else in that room. By the time I could move again, Dick had flatlined. My mind went white, soundless and blank with only one thought: to kill the man who had taken Dick away from me. I didn't think. I just moved over to pound Luthor out of existence.

Luthor fought back and it was several minutes later that I finally understood what he was saying. "He can be revived! It's not permanent! Get him out of that goddamned machine and do CPR on him! If you don't know how, I do!"

I dropped Luthor and ran back to the machine. I tore it to pieces and got Dick out, laying him on the floor and tipping his head back. Then I began CPR. Luthor and I took turns and worked on him for forty five minutes but he never came back. Dick never woke up.

The ambulance men said that it was a mercy. That being without oxygen for that long would have left him irretrievably brain damaged and even if he had been revived, he wouldn't have been Dick anymore. He'd have been a vegetable in an asylum for the rest of his short life. And I knew, to the bottom of my heart, that it wasn't Lex's fault. It was mine. I had delayed the help Dick needed to revive. I had delayed resuscitation too long...too long...

I have lived my life in strict control of my emotions, relying on intellect to guide my actions and decisions. Dick himself made the first crack in my armor. His brilliance of spirit made me love him, made him family. Now he was dead and it was my fault.

Now, here was the Joker, capering around in my study and rubbing my nose in it. In the truth. He had been right, I suppose. My feelings for my 'family', that tiny bit of humanity I had allowed myself did weaken me. The love I felt for each of my 'children' and the rage whenever one of them was threatened...they were problems, but I couldn't wall myself off from the people I loved anymore, although God knows I had tried.

"Haaaa haaaa haaaa!" The Joker chortled. "You killed your own little Dickie Bird! Isn't that ironic, Bats? You don't kill criminals and you won't kill me, either, but you killed your own Robin." He capered in a circle around me and I could feel the loss, the grief, the rage and, above all, the guilt, building up inside me. My parents were murdered and I hadn't prevented it. There was no punishment for me, they told me it wasn't my fault. Dick was dead and I didn't prevent it and they told me it wasn' t my fault. The entire Justice League was milling around in my dining room after Nightwing's funeral.

I reached out a hand and caught Joker by the neck. He made a gurgling sound as I lowered him to the ground. He shook his head, as if to say, this is a fine joke you're playing, Batsy. You know you won't kill me. You never kill. I could only think one thought. I had killed. I killed Dick Grayson. It was my fault and I deserved to be punished for it, but they would never arrest me for that.

I had always been afraid that after the first murder, the second would be too easy. I was right. When the light went out of the Joker's eyes, I tossed him to the floor and walked over to the telephone where I dialed your cell, Jim. Fortunately, you were in the house, milling with the rest of the mourners.

My negligence killed Dick Grayson. I'm a killer, Jim. I just murdered the Joker. Arrest me.