Hallo!

Okay, here's the deal. Even before the Dark Knight came out, I had wanted to do a little Joker centric one-shot. After seeing DK I knew I would do this. Still, there are only few little elements from DK in this. This is mostly inspired by "The Killing Joke" by Alan Moore, Tim Burton's first Batman film from 1989 and the animated film "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm". I hope you'll enjoy it!

Warning: I'm not native English speaker so there can be grammatical mistakes in my text. So sorry about those.

Disclaimers: DC owns them, not me.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS

POV of Jim Gordon:

The first time I had anything to do with him was years ago then, before anyone had even heard of Batman. It started with a simple call for police. A landlady had found two people dead in one of her lodgings. I had been a Sergeant of Gotham police for a while then so I wasn't that shocked. Awful things like that happen in Gotham almost 24/7. Still it might be a little scandalous to say that I was looking forward for this case. In murder cases like these we actually had a chance of convicting the criminal, unlike trying to prove that Rupert Thorne has Commissioner in his back pocket or that Carmine Falcon is responsible for the half of the crimes in Gotham.

We arrived to the scene of the crime. Building was located in a bad neighborhood and looked even worse. The landlady was an elder woman and was a little bit hysterics. Then again, if I wasn't prepared I might be too. The sight in that small apartment was not pretty. The man, who turned out to be a neighbor living in a floor below, was found from the living room. Signs of fight were all around the place and the man's body was lying in a pool of his own blood. By the sight of it he had been beaten badly with a blunt object. He got away easy. The woman was found from the bedroom. As far as we could tell she had not been raped. She had been tied to the bed from her wrists and ankles. Her face had been slashed with a knife, deep cuts beginning from the both sides of her mouth, making a morbid grin on her face. She had died for severe bleeding from the knife stabs to her stomach.

When the landlady had finally calmed down enough that we could question her, the case became a clear one. The woman in the apartment had moved in a year or so ago then with her husband. The two of them were both young and landlady believed them to have married hurriedly. Indeed the woman, Jeannie, seemed to soon become very unhappy. She spend most her times alone while her husband, whom landlady thought was called Joe, spend his days working in a chemical factory and at nights tried to start a career as a standup comedian in various night clubs. Landlady said that he always came back looking disappointed and that his jokes were often bad or they didn't make any sense. The landlady herself didn't talk to the man much, but when she did he often seemed very unsure of his abilities to be a good husband but always wanted to try his best. It seemed however that in doing so and being away from home so much, his wife began a relationship with one of the neighbors.

That day he had come home earlier than usual, and landlady had known that the neighbor was visiting his wife when he arrived. Landlady had heard loud noises but was too afraid to put a stop to it. Ultimately, some hours later, the man had come out of his apartment, his hands in blood and a grin on his face that terrified the landlady. He had looked her straight in the eyes and said:

"I finally made her laugh".

Then he had left and landlady had gone to find the bodies.

When we talked to some of his co-workers and superiors, whom all seemed to remember him as Aaron though were not certain, in the chemical factory, we found out that he had an excellent education and talents in the line of chemist, but was wasting them by doing small jobs. They described him also as a very silent, unsure guy who did try to stay positive and do his best. He was fired from his job that day. The many nights spend in nightclubs had started to take their toll on him and he was slacking.

My conclusion is that after being fired he had come home early and found his wife cheating him. The stress of recent weeks and the emotional hurt had made something in his head snap. One bad day and a decent guy becomes a murderer.

We put a warrant of apprehension after him, but after two months of nothing we started to think he might have left Gotham or died somewhere. How I wish we had been right.

POV of Bob:

I first met him when I was working in the gang of Salvatore Valestra. He was probably in his mid twenties then and looked like a dog taken in from the street, which wasn't that far from the truth. Boss Valestra had found him from the darker streets of Gotham. He had instantly recognized the potential in him and Boss Valestra always used opportunities he could get. The guy claimed he had little recollection of his life before and that he couldn't even remember his name. I don't know if he was laying or not, I'm not sure if even he knew for certain. But nobody questioned Sal Valestra's will to take the new guy in the gang and he was soon given a new identity.

Jack Napier.

Almost everyone in the gang viewed him differently. Chuckie Sol saw him as nothing but a little punk who could be used from time to time. Bronski viewed him as a loser and nothing else. Carl Beaumont tried to stay out of his way because Jack scared the living daylights out of him, even worse than Boss did. And I…I saw him as a partner.

That really is the only way I could describe us. For over half a decade we did our works together, mostly anyway, and I admired how perfect he was for this kind of job. Totally without quilt or shame. Yet, I wouldn't go as far as call us friends. He never confined to me. And there were times when I too saw a glimpse of something in him that made me scared of him. Especially when he got the rare chance of playing with his victim. Usually when we were sent to take care of someone we had to hurry. One shot, two at the most and then take the run for it. He loved those times when he could take it slowly; terrify the unlucky bastards with his low voice, sometimes even crack a joke before killing. He seemed honestly happy when he could be so…evil.

But when came those times that we, according to him, had nothing fun to do (meaning we did do bribing, money laundering but no killings) he became very silent, brooding and even depressed. And it was during those times, when he looked like he was ready to jump from a plane without a parachute, that I got him to talk a little.

It turned out he hated rules.

"My last life…" Jack once started after drinking a better half of whisky, "…what little I can remember of it anyway…was always, always lived by the rules. Every last minute of my life…obeying…bowing to rules…but I escaped…I don't really remember how…or what I did…but I escaped it…and I came here…I mean you're all criminals…you break rules every second of your life…but even here there are rules…always rules…"

I pointed out to him that a life without any rules at all would be a total chaos. As amazing as it was Jack seemed to sober up and he stared me with wide eyes. And then that grin was on his face again.

"A life of total chaos…I kinda like that" he said.

And soon after that Jack started to break our rules. His killings became far more brutal and showing, even when Boss Valestra had insisted of keeping a low profile. Jack also started to seriously intimidate many of our men, even the coppers that we had in our pockets. And when Carl Beaumont betrayed us and disappeared with his daughter and Valestra's moneys, Jack didn't even wait for orders. He hunted the guy down and I've heard he made a spectacle of Carl's death. However, he didn't kill the daughter, let her live. Again a direct disobedient of rules. Jack was seriously testing old Sal's patience.

However, Sal finally made his mind about Jack when he found out that Jack had been secretly seeing his favorite girl, Alicia, from the nearby night club. With that Jack had finally crossed the line and Valestra wasn't going to put up with it anymore. He decided to get rid of Jack. He put Jack, me and some other guys to go to Axis Chemical factory that we used for money laundry, and get any crucial evidence, so that Gotham's new Commissioner named Gordon, and district attorney Harvey Dent, would not get on to us.

When we came to factory in the middle of a night, I noticed that Jack looked somewhat uneasy.

"It's the fumes" he said, while looking around the empty factory and the many huge vats of God only knows what chemicals. The place seemed to bother him.

We went inside and only there did we realize that it was a set up. All the evidence was already gone but soon the whole place was filled with cops, led by this dirty lieutenant whom Valestra had obviously sent to kill Jack. However, somewhere along the firefight and confusion that came, Gordon arrived and ordered Jack to be captured alive. By that time Jack and I were running towards the emergency exit on the roof. Jack was grinning. He was having fun.

I managed to get up and found the exit and I was about to call Jack about it, when I saw him looking something, and the grin on his face had disappeared. I turned my head and saw how our men were being beaten by this huge…bat. A man dressed up as a bat was beating our men. I recalled hearing some rumors of this…Batman, but I had not taken them seriously. Jack watched him in awe, as if the bat was the most amazing thing he had ever seen.

"Brilliant…he has no limitations…" I thought I heard him saying.

Then everything happened very fast. Bat came towards Jack fast. Jack grinned and shot his gun but the bullets had no effect on the bat. I didn't see their fight clearly, but I did hear a sudden yell and saw Jack falling over the rail to one of the chemical vats. Not wanting the bat to see me, I quietly slipped out and thought that would be the last I saw of Jack.

But two days later, while I had been trying to get out of town without getting the attention of Sal Valestra, he called me. At first I couldn't believe it, but it was him, Jack alive. He called me to come to Sal's place. Something in his voice that time truly unsettled me but I still had to go. Call it a morbid curiosity.

When I stepped out of the elevator to Sal's place I couldn't believe what I saw. Salvatore Valestra was lying on the floor, dead, filled with bullets. Alicia was covering in the corner, sobbing like a little child afraid. And Jack was there. Only it wasn't the same Jack anymore. It wasn't the green hair or the white skin that got me. Not even his now yellow eyes. It was the grin. Something about it was a dozen times worse than before.

"Hello, Bob", he called to me, "tell me honestly. Black really isn't my color anymore" he said, pointing to the black coat he had always been wearing.

Then he giggled and laughed. And I knew that laugh would give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

POV of Batman:

I don't know who he is. Even after all these years we've spend fighting against each others, I don't know him. And neither does he know who I am. How can two people, who do not even know each others, hate so much?

I watch him from the shadows, as he sits in his cell in Arkham asylum. His feet are bare, his head held down and he is strapped in his straightjacket. The green hair that has fell down hides his face. Is he sleeping, I wonder. And if so, does he still grin in his sleep?

There are so many unspeakable deeds that he has done. He has killed countless of people and destroyed even more lives. I wonder how many children have lost their parents because of him. And do those children become like me or like him? He killed Andrea Beaumont's father and drove her to the path of crime. He killed Jason Todd, the second boy I had taken under my wings. He killed Gordon's second wife. Because of him Arthur Reeves is in a permanent care. He paralyzed Gordon's daughter Barbara and did that without knowing she was Batgirl. That's probably where the joke lies.

I hear giggling. His shoulders are slightly shaking and very slowly he raises his head. Just so that I can see his cruel yellow eyes.

"Are you there? Have you come to put an end to this, batsy?"

I don't answer. I don't like it how he can feel my presence.

"You know you want it, batsy. You know you want to walk to here a snap my neck broken" he laughs.

I feel sick because I know he is right. I've so often wanted to kill him. Even know, as I watch him, I want to go there and make sure he will never again hurt another person. It would be so easy. He has no way of defending himself. And the only thing that truly stops me from acting is the knowledge…that he wants it. Making me his murderer would be Joker's ultimate triumph.

He sighs and laughs softly. "Still resisting, eh? Do you want to play with me more? Is it fun to have all those people's blood on our hands? It is fun for me but I am not so sure of you. You could have stopped me anytime but you choose not to. You must truly enjoy our mutual game sessions" he laughs.

Long I had hoped that this could be avoided. Long I have hoped that doctors in Arkham could help him. Something somewhere pushed him over the edge. Some terrible thing, like what happened to me. Maybe I had hoped that he could be cured, so then there would be hope for me. But now I am afraid that what I see in him is what I will become. If I'd ever kill him I could no longer put the mask back to my face.

Exactly what he wants.

"You know, don't you? You know, batsy, that I will never stop. I will go on and on and on as long as needed. There are no rules for me and no limitations. I am free of them. You should try also, it's very liberating. Do you know what happens to people who live their whole lives obeying rules? They go crazy!"

He laughs again. The sound of it makes me sick.

Two guards come to his cell.

"Okay, clown, stop laughing. It's time to see your therapist" one of them says.

"Ah, the lovely Harley. Her therapy sessions so warm my heart" Joker laughed as he was pushed up.

"Move, you freak. And she's Dr. Quinzel to you" the guard said.

"I think she rather likes it when I call her Harley".

I watch from shadows as they walk him pass me.

"Maybe next time then" he says to me, much to the puzzlement of the two guards that can't see me.

They take him away. I'm not sure if he's still laughing or if it's only echoing in my head. I just let out a sigh of relief. I didn't do it today. Alfred will be proud.

But am I as strong the next time?

I hope you liked it. Reviews are welcome, no flames please!