Disclaimer: I do not own "The Batman".
Betaed by: Zim'smostloyalservant and Trackula
Ethan looked at his watch. It had been twelve minutes since he started ringing the bell.
He was standing outside the door to his partner, former partner's, apartment, feeling a bit like a fool. If Strange was right, he shouldn't be here. But an earlier remark by Bruce had made it hit home how long it had been since he had heard from her. Heard from her period.
And he hadn't checked. Doctor's orders or no, how could he not at least ask her how she was doing? If it meant getting chewed out calmly by Strange, fine. Actually, if after all this time Yin was still not able to see people, he'd feel quite entitled to ask for some answers from the man. Respecting the professional was one thing, letting them off the hook because they were a pro was a whole different ball game.
And this wasn't about Strange. His partner, his friend, and whether or not she was doing alright or needed help was what mattered.
And he really hadn't considered that maybe no one would be home, had he?
"Well, I doubt she's seeing the doctor at this hour. So maybe she's out and about? That's good, right?"
He found himself racking his brain for what Ellen Yin might do with an excess of free time before stopping himself.
"Oh, what is this Ethan, you going to track her down? You are not nearly overworked enough to justify some stalker crap," he chastised himself, taking a step back from the door. He missed her tonight, plain and simple. So, if after stepping away he still felt he needed to touch bases, he'd try again the next time he had an opening.
Solid plan, he thought, reaching the elevator and pressing the button. The door opened seconds later to reveal Ellen Yin.
"Bennett?" She asked.
"Ah, Yin, well I was just leaving, but I was hoping to see you," Ethan said, feeling a bit off balance. It really was a bit unfair, bracing himself for an encounter and when he lets it down to leave she shows up. Sometimes he wondered if all his near-brushes with death was balanced by a slew of regular bad luck.
As it was, he didn't notice her tucking something further into her jacket pocket.
"See me? Been a while since you even called," she pointed out.
"Well, I was told to give you your space."
"And you're here now, why?"
"Well, I kind of hoped to have heard from you by now."
"Well, geez, sorry for not thinking of you on top of everything else I have going on."
"Okay, that came out badly. I get you may not want to see me, bit I wanted to just make sure you're okay."
"Relax, I'm not going to bite your head off," she rolled her eyes. Well, eye, the other seemed to lag behind; was that just a trick of the light?
"Let's head in, I don't want to have one of those conversations in the hallway things."
He followed her as she fished her keys out and opened her door. Ethan flinched as he made to follow her in.
'Whoa nellie, how many varsity teams does this serve?' he thought at the stench of the apartment. With the practice of a cop, he sucked it up but still, as she walked across the living room and ducked into her bedroom, he wondered how she was living in this stench. Was her sense of smell trashed too?
For that matter, the place really could be mistaken for a gym now, and stepping over he confirmed the kitchen trash was overflowing with garbage and the sink was topped off in half by dirty dishes. That added to the smell.
"Looking to poach my fridge?" Yin asked behind him.
'Food's the last thing on my mind right now,' he thought. Though any thought on dodging the question halted as he turned to see her wearing only a sports bra and the sweat pants she came in with. She was padding herself down with a white towel. At least that looked clean, he thought.
"Bennett, I know the face isn't my best feature these days, but eyes up here, detective," she snapped with more irritation than anger.
"Oh! Nothing like that. But I don't think I've ever…"
"We're adults, and we have been in tight spots. But I guess you are the boy scout," she shrugged. At least she didn't seem mad. And he could see the damage running down her neck with streaks and scarred spots on the relevant shoulder. What could that even feel like, he wondered?
'And you'd never undress even partially like this in front of me if you could help it. I wouldn't say you were a prude, but you never ever wanted to be seen as one of those women who use their looks to get anything.'
"Did you have anything specific to say, or just making sure I'm not crying myself to sleep waiting for a hero to sweep in and save me?"
"Hey, you're one of the best cops I know. But even the best need back up sometimes. You want me to leave?"
"…How are things in the department?"
"Well, the new guy is quite the character. He refers to himself by name."
"Yeah, it's about as bad as it sounds. But I gotta say, he's taken his knocks and kept punching the clock."
"So, that's the GCPD way now, is it? So long as you don't run away screaming, we'll give you a badge and a gun. Unless you aren't good looking, of course," she scowled.
"You know I think it's wrong how they've treated you."
"Yes, I know. So, anything you're allowed to tell me?"
"We're working on the Black Mask case."
"Oh. How's that going?"
"Frankly, not much. And the Chief, as usual, wants results but doesn't care much about how we're supposed to get them. Me, I think we're thinking too narrow."
"You want to be pals with the Black Mask?" she said with a smile. Happy to see her actually look happy, he laughed along with her joke a moment before getting serious.
"No, this mask is no Batman."
"Oh, well have you been covering the difference with your partner by teaming up with the Bat?"
"No, of course not," he lied. Yes, since loosing Yin Bats had helped him in some jams, and he'd helped out too. But some things couldn't be shared, and oh my she was not buying it.
"Not much a boy scout these days then? Or is it just hypocrisy?"
"No. You saw me, I'm okay. Mission accomplished," she said. The "get out" was left unsaid as she glared at him.
"Okay. Glad you're doing well, Yin. Just drop a line sometime, alright? You don't have to be alone in this."
"Goodbye, Bennett," she said, following him to the door.
"Be seeing ya?" he said. As she closed the door, for a second he could only see half her face. For some reason that image hung in his head, making him hesitate before leaving the doorstep. Unaware of the the body-size boxing bag that in short order ruptured under a hit to start leaking its filling.
Hugo Strange sat watching TV in his office. He usually did not use the device here, stored on a cart in a closet, but sometimes it was the best way to observe events unfolding. Watching the news, he began after giving the setup data.
"It seems a climax has arrived. A so-called Black Mask has taken hostages of a TV show's crew and cast and is making demands. Specifically calling out the state's justice system for not executing criminals of a certain stripe. The demands are to execute them within the hour and provide proof or the Black Mask will demonstrate that the government truly values the lives of the criminals over the lives of victims, by killing the hostages.
"I am confident this is not Ellen Yin. Height and voice aside, the Black Mask that has seized the state's attention is utterly unlike her. Even as she creeps toward more theatricality, a core of pragmatism remains. And this plan is sloppy. After all, how could proof of demands being met be provided? And Ellen Yin would neither kill those hostages at this point or make an empty threat. Ahh, but what if the plan is not sloppy at all? Yes, sometimes genius masquerades as idiocy. What if this False Mask seeks not justice, but instead seeks to draw someone out with a challenge that cannot be ignored? The Batman, perhaps, this pretender purloining the reputation and image out of a desire to be seen as worthy of the Batman without doing the wider work? Possibly. But I have feeling it is Ellen Yin, or rather the Black Mask, that is being lured.
"But will she come? The smartest thing to do would be to simply stay put. If the pretender is caught, they will be unmasked and clear the Black Mask of the recent surge of brutality, and divert any possible suspicion. Yet can she? That urge to leap at the call has not faded, and perhaps she would even feel responsibility to see this mess she inspired cleaned up. And of course, there is her vanity. Even if she hides it, Ellen Yin is greatly motivated by ego. Her refusal to be promoted off the street is in large part due to her seeing those on the streets as the 'real cops'. Similarly, the Batman provokes her with showing up her profession, and her by extension. And that pride has had the enamel diligently chipped away. The raw nerve is exposed, and if this touches it…
"Show me what you will do. Show me who you are, and who you are becoming, detective," Strange spoke into the recorder, eyes on the screen.
X X X
Why had she bothered to watch TV tonight? What would it be like if she was not there, ignorant of the why of the sirens? But she knew and could not unknow, she thought, sitting in front of the barbell set, legs pulled close while the TV across the room provided the only light.
She needed to do something.
The smart thing was to stay.
She inspired this.
They caused this by throwing her away.
They'll handle it.
Them and Batman? Is it okay to step aside and let them finish what you started?
Aren't you supposed to be one of the best? And better than him. Show them.
Show yourself. Show yourself, what you can do. The mask protects the secret, but you can show them with it that you are great even if they don't know who you are.
"Decide, I have to decide," she whispered, rising slowly to her feet, shadow cast long and vague by the TV's light.
But a memory tugged her further. How could it still sting? She was long beyond mourning a man whose voice she couldn't even properly remember. She had carried on the legacy, that was enough, it was.
'The point, though, that habit that irritated mom. So often eating out, he would get down to two items he couldn't choose between, and he'd ask her if she had a quarter.'
She spilled jar contents on the kitchen counter and flipped the lights on. Ignoring the stinging in her eyes, she shifted through the receipts and lesser coins until her index fingers smacked down on the quarter. Perfectly ordinary in every way, she lifted it up to eye level, balanced on her fingertip.
With a trick of the wrist, she moved the coin on to her fist, posed to fly.
"Head, I go forward. Tails, I hide," she didn't know who she was talking to, but a headache she hadn't noticed seemed to suddenly go away. Expression blank but eyes shining, her thumb sprang up and the coin spun into the air.
X X X
Batman knew it wasn't something he should be bragging about, but it was almost too easy to slip by the police cordon around the studio. One would think that with Chief Rojas' obsession with catching him, security would be tighter, especially in a situation where they had to know he'd show up to intervene, yet within minutes of careful movements he was past the cordon, forcing open an alley door to quietly enter the building, and making his way towards where the false Black Mask was keeping the hostages.
Yes, he knew this was a copycat, not the original; the true Black Mask, for all their flaws, only targeted criminals, and directly at that. They wouldn't have taken innocent people prisoner in order to force the authorities to harm those already in custody. And that was something else that made this entire scenario reek of a trap — whoever this False Mask was, they must realize that their half-baked demands could never be met in time, never mind present them with evidence of it. So clearly, they had no interest in what they were actually saying, so much as making sure someone heard them.
Himself? Possible, but more likely they were trying to lure in the real Black Mask.
The building had been evacuated; even so, stealth was necessary. According to Bennett, the Black Mask had accomplices, hired thugs apparently. Another indicator this was just a trap. Two thugs were standing guard outside the door to the set where the hostages were being held.
"This guy's nuts," one of the thugs said.
"Hey, it's a job, alright?" the other thug said.
"You really think he's going to be square with us?"
"I don't know, but you know this Black Mask guy's rep. We say no, we'd have gotten quite a beating."
Their conversation was interrupted by a pair of marbles rolling up to their feet. With a hiss that drew their eyes down, gas was released. They barely had time to raise their voices before they fell to the ground, guns and all.
Batman walked though the clearing gas confidently, and carefully looked through the small windows on the doors. Narrowing his eyes, he turned and made his way back down the hallway, pausing at the turn to glance down the way he had first come, before hurrying off. Once the Batman was out of sight, a figure stepped into the corridor, a jacketed figure wearing a black mask.
X X X
Batman looked down on the set from above. Fake Mask was pacing about on the stage, having kicked aside the chairs and table of the usual program, four more thugs spread round the room. And the hostages tied to their chairs.
Apparently they had yet to notice the guards had been taken out.
"Time's almost up," Fake Mask said, in that voice Batman was sure was fake.
Batman waited as the Fake Mask moved away from the hostages, leaving only the thugs standing guard. Moving silently on the walk ways, he kept his eyes on them, but the masked man was focused on a set of doors.
"I know you're there, stop messing around," Fake Mask called out suddenly. Batman froze, but realized a second later he wasn't the one being talked to. The doors opened and another black masked person in a jacket walked in, knuckledusters on their hands.
"Black Mask, I assume?" the Fake asked.
"I just wear this because otherwise people would be distracted by how handsome I am," Black Mask answered. Batman was certain they were pitching their voice low. And shorter than reported.
More importantly, all attention was on Black Mask.
Two Batarangs were flying before he hit the floor. They connected, sending two thugs to the floor; the other two went down in four moves, and he turned his attention to the Masks to find Black Mask had moved between him and the Fake, advancing menacingly on the criminal.
Who was holding a remote.
"I didn't tie them to chairs for no reason, Batman. Each of them is sitting on a pressure-triggered party favor. Not near enough to bring the house down, but quite enough to give this room a fresh coat of paint. But it also has a remote timer trigger. Have fun!" the criminal said, twisting a dial on the remote and turning to run through another studio door.
Black Mask hesitated.
"Black Mask!" Batman called, already kneeling to inspect the device under one of the hostage's chairs.
"This is how he gets away. But I won't let him this time," Black Mask said, rushing after the impostor. Batman sighed, pulling the tool he needed and, with a smooth motion revealing the timer, began to meddle with the wireless function.
X X X
Yin went low, ducking in after the Fake Mask through the door. To her surprise, the studio was well lit, a vaguely familiar-looking living room set illuminated, the Fake Mask standing on the coffee table.
"Tell me, have you ever stood on a set and wondered if the world as you know it is just a set being moved around oblivious actors?" he asked in that high drawl.
"No," she answered, standing carefully.
"Well, what I left for Batman should keep him occupied for a bit. So we have this dance to ourselves."
Yin stopped as the confirmation sunk in.
"Your demands, it was all fake."
"Sure was! I mean, I would have killed them, but it was an excuse plot to get the right players on the stage. Not a great script, but sometimes the network just wants an excuse to bring the audience-grabbing cast together."
"What do you want with me?" Yin asked, hoping to keep him talking as she inched closer, foot touching the edge of the set.
"Well, it's not really about you. It's about Batman."
"Of course it is," Yin snapped.
"Ohhh, do you get it, then? You're just a cheap knockoff, a black market ripoff lowering the brand's value by shoddy work. Batman, you can tell, puts the ol' one hundred and ten in his work, from the backups to the principals. A shoe-stringer brute like you, stinks. So, as the police can't be counted on for anything more than cleanup duty, and Batman would probably try and redeem you, it falls to me to remove this threat to a quality dynamic."
"You the Batman's number one fanboy or something?"
"Oh, you could say that!" He said, tilting his head. His voice changed for a bit there, and he coughed into a fist.
"Well, if you want to kill me, what's the harm in showing me who's under the mask?"
"I'll show my face if you show me yours."
"Hahhahahaha!" Fake Mask tore his mask off. Chalk pale skin, dirty green dreadlocks, bloody red eyes, and grin displaying sick yellow teeth. Joker grinned down at her as her stomach dropped into her shoes. When he spoke, it was in his usual voice.
"Well? Your turn."
"I said I'd show my face, not where or to whom. Later, back in my apartment, sounds good."
"Heh! Fine, guess it doesn't really matter. I'll just display your head for the world!" He said, leaping off the table, sending it flying.
Yin leapt to the side, having realized what he was going to do, but he was already on her, wielding a fabric-covered chair.
Joker blinked, looking at the two chair legs he was holding and the knuckleduster-wearing fist in place of his weapon.
"Lousy cheapo in the prop department," he grumbled. He let out pained sounds as Yin followed up with a blow to his jaw. Rolling across the set, he came up on his feet with seeming ease, rubbing his jaw and glaring.
"Hey, watch it, that's my moneymaker! Not just anyone gets to feed it a knuckle sandwich."
He ducked under another swing and went low, kicking her feet out from under her.
"Good punches, but you need more tricks in your bag if you want to play ball in the big leagues, loser," Joker said, bringing his foot down toward Yin's face. She gabbed his foot, stopping it nearly an inch from her mask. He tugged on his foot; it didn't budge even slightly.
"This won't end well," Joker remarked, before Yin rolled, taking him to the ground and pinning him. She pulled back to hit him in the face. And grinning wide, he sprang up, head-butting her.
Both recoiled at the blow.
"Using my head! Ah crap, I flubbed that one. Let's break for a retake," Joker grumbled, backhanding his opponent off.
Yin blinked and focused, bracing herself on the couch.
"Lights, camera, action!" Joker yelled, charging her with a light tripod. Sidestepping the legs, she grabbed the shaft and pulled, sending the Joker swinging, and separating the two halves off the shaft and sending him stumbling a few steps.
"Thanks," she said. Giving him no time to recover, she swatted him aside with the awkward bludgeon and just kept hitting him. Three blows more knocked him to the ground, and the metal was twisted, a leg hanging forlornly, so she dropped and kicked him in the side, grinning under the mask, feeling ribs crack.
The next move was stomping on a hand reaching for an ankle. Then a kick sending him rolling.
He was on the ropes. Down and soon to be out!
She crouched down on the battered clown, dropping her right duster so she could properly grab his neck. She'd been doing hand strengthening exercises; her grip was probably stronger than it had ever been in her life. And if he looked to be too much trouble, her left would just pound his face until she was punching floor.
Ha! Either he'd underestimated her, or the Batman was all flash and no real fight.
"Agh, that's cheap," Joker groaned, as he struggled weakly. Yin didn't let up, heart pounding. She could barely hear him.
"You know, maybe I'll give you a last request, clown. You can see who got the better of you," she hissed, and tore the mask off before slamming the hand back onto his neck.
His eyes widened, and then he grinned.
"Ohhh, very nice," he chuckled somehow as her fingers tightened.
"Detective Yin?" Batman said.
"Uh oh," Joker gasped, grinning before she slammed his head into the wall. Letting him slide unconscious to the floor, Yin pivoted to face the Batman.
"You're Black Mask."
"The original, as it turns out."
"Someone who keeps a secret identity has no right to demand answers from other people. Now, if you'll excuse me," she snapped, grabbing a jagged piece of wood from the the debris around them.
"What are you doing?"
"Putting down the clown."
"That's not how this works."
"No. Because it doesn't work, period," as she turned back to the Joker, he grabbed the makeshift spear in a gauntleted fist.
"You're a cop-"
"Not anymore! He took that from me! YOU FREAKS TOOK EVERYTHING!" she screamed, tearing the wood from the Batman's grip. Eyes widening slightly, he stepped back as she took deep breaths, posture hunching a bit as her eye widened.
"So. If. You want. To make something of what I am OWED! You cut in line and pay first, you lunatic!" She yelled, lunging at Batman with her weapon.
Batman deflected it, knocking it out of her arms but flinching as his guard had to take a knuckleduster left hook.
Unseen by them both, Joker popped an eye open and grinned. Stretching a little bit, he glanced around, spotted something that caught his interest, and rolled off to the side.
Batman caught her wrist, stopping her blow.
"Enough, detective, you need help," he said, then staggered as she kicked him in the shin and slammed a fist into his head.
"I got it, it didn't help. But that's Gotham, isn't it?" she said to Batman, who stood up seemingly undaunted by her blows, making her take a step back.
"Oh come now, you know he's not taking this seriously, right?" Joker said. That drew their attention to where Joker was leaning against a control panel against the wall.
"You freaks aren't anything special."
"Ahhh, that sounds like envy. No need to be like that, you had a decent audition with the Black Mask routine."
"Black Mask was just something I did. But once you two are dead that can just fade away. But first you two can go," Yin growled, brandishing a fist at Joker as Batman silently moved to stand over her.
"Ohhhh? Bit late for secret identities," Joker remarked with a smirk, pointing up. Yin and Batman both looked up to an illuminated green sign which read, ON AIR.
"Smile, Yinny! You're on candid camera. Why don't you give the people of Gotham a big howdy-do for your coming out special?" the clown cackled.
"No," Yin whispered, looking around at all the cameras, seeing the lights on them for the first time. Joker chuckled, putting his feet up.
X X X
"No," Yin said on the building's Jumbotron. Ethan closed his eyes and bowed his head, standing in the police blockade.
"Man, Cash Tankinson really hates reality TV," his partner said, patting Ethan's shoulder.
X X X
"YOU!" Yin yelled, only to come up short as Batman sprayed something on her face from behind. She whirled, taking a swing at him. He easily evaded, and she turned her eyes back to Joker, staggering toward him, even the good side twisted into a hateful grimace before, with a furious groan, she fell to the ground.
"Mhm," Joker nodded, putting his feet down and tapping a few buttons. The sign clicked off, and the cameras powered down.
"Cut! That's a wrap, people, way to bring it in in the clutch. Huh, what's that look? You think I'm going to run a merry chase now? Pshaw! After that climax, extending the feature would just be 'padding'. Nope, time to bring it in and have some descending action before wrapping it up. And besides, it's been quite the long night, so, home James," Joker said, standing up and holding his hands out in anticipation of cuffs.
X X X
"You know they are going to want to grill you for this, partner," Cash said as the blockade broke up. Eyes were on Ethan, even if no one was doing more. But Ethan know Tankinson was right this was going cause waves, and not just on the force.
"Of course they are. I didn't know a thing, but maybe that's my bad."
"Hey, hey, Chief and plenty of others will be out for blood, Bennett; don't go cutting yourself up and jumping on a plate," Cash Tankinson admonished him.
"Still feels like a nightmare or something."
"Well, you always tell me, 'it's Gotham'. Listen, you want to grab a drink before we head back? Nothing big, but something to brace for what'll be waiting?"
"No, no thanks. I appreciate the gesture, but just get the car going, I'll need a moment alone."
"Alright partner," the shade-obsessed cop said, heading off.
Looking back to the now black Jumbotron, Detective Bennett walked into a nearby alley.
"Yes," Batman said. Ethan looked up to see him perched on a fire escape.
"Did you know?"
"No. I suspected the Black Mask had to be a veteran or a cop. But I never suspected Ellen Yin."
"…Where do we go form here?"
"It's out of my hands, detective, but not out of yours."
"Yeah, I guess your bit ends with the arrest, doesn't it? But the thing is…" he trailed off when he looked up to see Bats was gone. And a horn was honking, probably Tankinson.
"…I am not sure how much I'll be allowed to help where they're taking her," Ethan sighed.
X X X
"Pshh, pshh. Pshh, pshh."
Ellen stirred at what sounded like a leak of some sort. She tried to wipe her face off, but her arms were stuck. Her eyes opened blearily, and she realized she wasn't in her bed or on one of the mats. She was in a car, strapped down. A familiar kind of car.
"Ah, sleeping beauty awakens," Joker said, chuckling.
She turned and saw him there, sitting on a bench and practically stapled to the wall in a straight jacket.
"I'm the one with some busted ribs and they give you the gurney. I'm not one to harp, but that ol' double-standard does feminism no favors, I must say," Joker tutted.
"Where…? " she groaned, trying to sit up.
"Huuuuh?! Don't recognize it? Well, I guess you're used to riding shotgun. It's the paddy wagon to the loony bin, and turns out it seats two. Word of advice, don't buy any snacks. The prices aren't too gougy, but they're salty junk. Then they don't get premium soda despite premium prices. Ain't that the real crime?!"
"No," she said, it all setting in.
"Oh yes. Remember, secret's out. I must say, I was not sure what would happen with you. I was starting to think you had just crawled into some corner to cry. Breaking Detective Yin like that would be hilarious, but this is much better. Not a detective anymore, but an inmate. Inmate Yin!"
Breathing rapidly, she made a gurgling sound, trying to think, failing.
"Nimate Yin? Nah, still doesn't work. Inmate is opposite of detective. Oh, oh! Niy, inmate Niy? Ugh, no."
Pounding her head back on the gurney, she let out a bloodcurdling scream, prompting a window in the front of the cab to slide open, letting a rough face look in as she strained against the restraints.
"Do you mind? The lady is losing the last of her marbles. How rude," Joker protested, frowning at the spectator. Yin screamed again.
"That's the spirit. As long as you ditch that lame Black Mask deal — just keep on trucking and a name will come. I get the feeling you'll fit straight in at Arkham. Madness ain't like the police, there's always room for one more. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" the Joker cackled, gleefully mingling with Yin's screams as she struggled against her restraints impotently.
Unseen to either of them, the transport began to slow as it reached a large doorway where several men in white coats and lab coats were waiting. In the center, a rotund man with long, thinning black hair, eyes hidden behind glasses, and slowly tapping his fingers together as Ellen Yin and the Joker were delivered to Arkham.
"NOW ROLL THE CREDITS, BLAST IT!" Joker roared as the transport came to a stop.
Finally! Its up. One scene has had me hung up on this chapter for so long and at last I powered through it.
And of course now we get Yin's cover blown her brief time as the Black Masked Vigilante done. She's in Arkham now ad we van get to some stuff I have been waiting for years to share.
Still there is something I should take care of before the next chapter; there is a hare I need to see too. Here's hoping we get back here sooner eh?
Well let me know what you think if you feel like it.
Long days and pleasant nights to you all.