It had been a few days since the liberation of every criminal held in Blackgate Prison by Bane and the throng of disgruntled Gothamites. The first two nights had been the worst, with rampant mobs running the streets, looting, destroying property, and killing those unfortunate enough to be a target, or even just get in the way. Families hunkered down at home behind locked doors, holding each other tight. Many were lucky, and managed to remain safe. Some were not so fortunate though, particularly those in Gotham's upper-class. Mansions, penthouses, and condos were raided, the families living there dragged into the streets to meet grisly fates, and the spoils of their homes were enjoyed by the rabid mob. The people of Gotham were eating each other.

Times were never better for some however. Joseph Rossi - former right-hand man to Carmine Falcone, turned two-bit drug dealer working under Sal Maroni after Falcone's incarceration, turned Blackgate prisoner when everything went to hell eight years ago - was currently on top of the world. And things could only go up from there.

When Bane busted everyone out, a large fraction of the inmates happily picked up guns and followed after Bane and his men, ready to throw in their chips with who they saw as the guy on top. Some, like Rossi, however, wanted to claim a piece of this new Gotham for themselves. So Joseph pulled together a group of men who he'd worked with before, wise guys he trusted from both the Falcone and Maroni families, and even a couple of Russians. Together, with him calling the shots, they managed to take control of Maroni's old territory.

There had been very little competition in the chaos following the prison break, though a few other gangs had formed with the same idea as Rossi, none of them were big enough to oppose him. They either stayed out of Rossi's hood, joined him, or were put out of commission. And as for Bane and his people, so long as Rossi left them alone, they seemed to care less what Gotham's mafia was doing.

Rossi had plans for taking more of the city, but until then, he needed to gather supplies, and more men. Joseph and his gang raided the neighborhood stores and restaurants, taking anything they could use before the looters could pass through, and stored it all in their current base of operations, one of the cities bigger clubs, The Cauldron. The building was large enough to house most of them, had a basement where all of the supplies could be stored safely, and was easily defendable. They even had a few generators ferreted away under the building for when the power inevitably went out. Joseph always believed in being prepared, and he'd be damned if he had to give up his hard won chunk of Gotham because he and his men starved, or froze to death.

The club was also fully stocked with alcohol, and had an amazing sound system, so that on days like today, when Rossi and his men could just kick back and relax, they could do so in style. The house lighting was down low, but the regular strobes and neon lights that would flash from all directions were turned off. They always gave Rossi a headache anyways. The speakers pounded with a fast, exhilarating beat, and drinks were already being passed around. Joseph leaned his back against the bar, and shouted for someone to pass him a rum and coke.

Not all of the guys were in here having fun though. Joseph always had a large force of men on the outside, and inside of the building guarding entrances and windows. It was a strange new world out there, and besides the rioters, Bane, and rival gangs to be wary of, there was also a herd of freshly released weirdoes on the streets. Rossi had spent time with a few of these whack-jobs who had been moved over from Arkham while he was in Blackgate, so he knew enough to be on guard while the deranged ran in the streets.

"Hey, boss, Tony's back with the tail!" One of the guys shouted rowdily as the front doors swung open, and a group of scantily clad women started to filter in.

Rossi had sent one of the guys off an hour ago to round up any prostitutes he could find. Not an easy task considering anyone with half a brain would be hiding safely behind doors. But Tony had a reputation for knowing the streetwalkers in this town well, and probably knew where many of them would be holed up at. He watched the women lustfully as they spread out into the club, waiting for one to catch his interest. It had been far too long since he had a good lay.

Most of the men had been in prison for eight long, lonely years, so it was no surprise that every man in the room was vying for a girl, and a fist fight had already broken out. Rossi began to consider pulling rank and just charging in to grab his piece of flesh when a flash of red and blonde in his peripheral vision caught his attention. One of the women had broken away from the rest of the group, and stood at the end of the bar, next to the wall, facing slightly away from him.

The low lighting in the room made details hard to see from a distance, but from what Rossi could tell she was tall, and wore a very short red and black dress. Her shoulders were a little too wide, and hips a little too narrow for his taste, but she had some killer legs. And Joseph always preferred blondes.

Picking up his glass he stalked down to the end of the bar, and slid onto a stool next to her. "Lookin' for a drink sweetheart?" he asked slickly.

However, the smirk playing on his lips vanished in an instant as she turned around. A ghastly white face, red smeared lips, and eyes circled with too much black makeup could easily be a description given to many prostitutes in Gotham. But the face that Rossi saw was no woman's, it belonged to the Joker. The image of Gotham's very own terrorist in a wig and skirt would be comical if he wasn't aware of what this man was capable of doing. Joseph swallowed thickly.

"Hiya Puddin'," the Joker whispered huskily at him in a parody of seduction.

With those words Joseph thrust himself into action. His hand shot up into his suit jacket after his gun, and he shouted for the attention of his men. Before he could even grip the handle of his weapon however, the Joker had a knife pressed against his jugular. He batted Rossi's hand away and reached into his jacket to pull the gun from its holster, looking at it, and then back to Rossi with a brief look of mock disappointment.

"What'sa matter, I'm not pretty enough for you?" The Jokers face was inches from his own now, and he spoke with a hint of wheezy laughter barely in check.

Joseph had worked with the clown once before, back when he ran with Maroni, and when the Joker had promised to eliminate the thorn in the mob's side called Batman. Rossi had been given the job of relaying instructions to the dirty cops who were to pick up Dent and his girl. Detective Wuertz was the cop watching Rossi's drug dealing operations, and thus was already being paid off by him. The Joker had come by to tell Joseph in very explicit detail who was to be taken where. The experience had been thankfully brief, and Joseph never had to deal with the clown again, until today.

By now the loud bumping music had been turned down, and the other wise guys in the club all had their attentions trained on what was going on in the corner, Joseph's shouted warning having made them all look over to him. The Joker roughly flipped Joseph around so that his back was to the clown like a human shield, and pushed the knife harder into his throat. Rossi remained as still as he could to avoid an accidental slice of the blade. Seeing the flash of the knife reflexively made half the room pull guns, and the sound of the myriad weapons cocking filled the air.

"Oh, was this a B.Y.O.G. party?" The Joker asked Rossi whimsically. "I must have forgotten mine. Luckily I brought this little shiny along with me instead," he played the blade across Rossi's neck dramatically. "So how about you guys put those away before I give 'lover boy' something to smile about. And it won't be in the way Joey here was hoping."

Rossi motioned frantically for the men to put the guns down with his hands, as sweat beaded on his forehead. Muzzles were slowly lowered, and some were put away, though many remained in their owner's hands. Joker seemed unfazed though, apparently secure with his human shield.

"Don't anyone fret those little heads of yours though, because some of you will get to keep your precious guns. I come to you fine gentlemen with a proposition." The room was quiet as everyone listened to what the Joker would say, including Joseph. "I'm taking back my city, and I'll need some help doing it. That's where all of you fit in. All I need is a little co-operation until I take down the big guy with the spaghetti colander on his face. Once that's done, you'll be free to play in as much of Gotham as you like. It will be like home sweet anarchy. So any volunteers?"

There was a slight shuffling of feet as the group looked around at each other gauging who would be taking the Joker up on this insane proposition. No one looked quite convinced, but neither did anyone believe for one second that the Joker would really leave the choice up to them. Dino, one of the newer men to join the gang, was the first to make a decision. Quietly, he tucked his gun into his pants, and marched up to the bar, to stand next to the Joker. Several more men followed soon after.

"And what happens to anyone who don't wanna join you huh?" An angry voice shouted from the back.

"Anyone who doesn't want to stay to help out will be set free, along with Joey here. I'm sure you'll all have so much fun hanging out too." He petted Rossi affectionately on the head.

There was more foot shuffling, and uncertain glances around the room, and a couple last minute joiners, but soon it was apparent the crowd had made its decision.

"Ok, you've got the men you need, I take it you're keeping my club, just get yer hands off a' me and let us go!" Joseph snapped desperately. Some of the men that had defected to the Joker looked at their old boss with thinly veiled contempt as she stood there sweating bullets, one step away from begging for his life.

"Sure thing buddy," he replied, giving Rossi a cheerful pinch on the cheek with his free hand. "Hey but first, we're gonna need all your guns. Bullets may be cheap, but firearms aren't." He motioned for the men left standing on the other side of the room to place their weapons on the ground. The room fell silent as they reluctantly complied, and the music still playing quietly from the stereos was more audible. A very familiar beat started playing as the song switched, and Joker smirked to himself.

Looking over at the men who had joined him, he nodded his head in the direction of their former comrades. "Ok boys, set 'em free." He punctuated his words with a dramatic flourish of his hands, the one holding the knife to Rossi's throat swept across flesh in an almost graceful arch. Blood speckled across the white greasepaint of his face as he let the body slump to the floor, and held his arms out expressively, indicating the freedom he referred to.

There was a slight pause on both sides of the room, but the reprieve was short lived, as the sound of gunfire almost drowned out the music completely. The Joker grabbed Rossi's confiscated gun from the bar behind him where he'd placed it, and joined in on gunning the men loyal to the would-be mob boss down.

"I know its cliché, but I've always wanted to be in a shoot-out while 'Another One Bites the Dust' played," he said with a grin to no one in particular, as he fired his weapon to the sound of the beat.

-0-

John Blake walked briskly down the street, the collar of his coat pulled up, and the brim of a hat pulled down to help hide his face. The new place he and Gordon were staying at was very temporary, especially since a gang of former mafia members had taken this district as their territory. And if he and the commissioner had any hope of not being caught they needed to move again. So John was out scoping for a possible change of venue.

Blake knew he was reaching the edge of Joseph Rossi's neighborhood when he crossed the street at 119th. He didn't need to get far out of Rossi's hood, in fact staying somewhere at the outskirts might serve them best. Bane seemed to be leaving the mafia alone to do what they wanted, and while Blake had no doubt that Rossi and his men would turn the two of them over for a fat reward if they found them, he also knew none of Joseph's gang would be actively searching for them. John would rather deal with the enemy he knew then the one he didn't, and in this city, he'd grown to know the mob very well.

He paused at the corner after crossing the street, and looked both ways down the city block. There was a truck traveling up the road towards him, and John had no doubt it would be Rossi's men. Very few people traveled the streets of Gotham these days, and of those few who braved the dangers outside of their hideaways for food or supplies, none of them drove for the risk of the attention it would draw. So only men confident in their ability to protect themselves drove the street.

John faltered momentarily as he tried to decide if he should run and hide at this point, or keep going on his way and hope they don't pay him any attention. The hope of the latter was a very slim one, but Blake also knew it was impossible for them to have not seen him yet, so trying to run or hide would draw even more attention to himself.

Today John was lucky however, as the truck cruised past him without incident and not even a glance from the driver in his direction. He let a sigh of relief escape his lungs, as he turned his head and watched the truck pass. The sigh caught in his throat however as he noticed what the truck's cargo was. A pile of dead bodies had been loaded onto the pickup bed, watched over by two very grim faced men who rode in the back.

The truck slowed to a halt half a block away, and John's curiosity got the best of him. As carefully as he could he approached the now parked vehicle to try and see what was going on. As he watched the men in the back jumped from where they sat, and began to haul one of the bodies from the truck. Blake immediately noticed that oddly, the dead man's face had been painted white. One of the men who had pulled the body off the truck took a knife to the unnaturally pale face, and slashed his cheeks open from the corners of the mouth, almost all the way to each ear in a grotesque Glasgow Grin. Blake observed all this with quiet unease. Who exactly the dead men in the truck were, and why they were being mutilated he had no idea, but this didn't exactly strike John as typical mafia behavior.

The men were not finished yet however. Next they carried the body to the intersection lights, while a man who had been sitting in the cab of the truck threw a rope over the traffic light pole, and tied one end to the body. In a matter of moments they had heaved the body up so it hung in plain view of anyone who passed, and tied off the rope so it would stay put. As the body swung slightly from the rope, a small amount of slightly congealed blood seeped from the lacerations on its face, and trickled down the gashed cheeks leaving trails of red that looked like a melting smile.

The whole time John watched in horrified transfixion, and didn't even realize another car had pulled up behind him until a gun cocked at his ear.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" A gruff voice asked. John raised his hands in surrender and slowly turned his head to see who had spoken to him. A man with a steep widow's peak, and dark, dirty looking hair held the gun level to Blake's face.

"Marvin, you've made a new friend, I'm so happy for you!"

The voice came from behind the man holding the gun to John, and was chillingly familiar. John risked looking around the man apparently named Marvin, and saw a figure no man woman or child who had lived in Gotham eight years ago could fail to recognize. The Joker leaned casually against the passenger side door of the car they had arrived in, and seemed to be paying more attention to the work the men in the truck were doing then to John.

The man accompanying the Joker pressed the muzzle to Blake's temple persistently. "I asked you a question."

"I-I'm just passing through…" John effected a stutter to try and appease the man with the gun, though he remained as calm as he could inwardly. He began to wonder how fast he could draw his own gun from its holster when the Joker finally turned his attention to him. He seemed to study the detective for a moment before finally speaking.

"You look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?" The clown asked.

John's hat was ripped from his head quickly by the other man so that his face was more visible. He wasn't sure why or how he could be recognized by anyone, let alone someone who was supposed to be rotting in Arkham for the past eight years.

"Hmm, did we go to high school together maybe?" The Joker continued.

Damn unlikely, John thought to himself as he tried to figure out what the Joker was playing at. However, a commotion at the pickup truck down the street pulled the Joker's attention from him at that moment. John turned his head back to investigate, and saw one of the previously assumed dead bodies rolling from the back of the truck, and run stumblingly towards an alleyway. The men who had ridden in the back of the truck hesitated for a moment, before making pursuit.

A growl of irritation escaped the Joker, who motioned for the man holding the gun at John to follow the escapee. He gave Blake only a cursory glance before complying, and the Joker stalked quickly after his henchman, glancing at John only long enough to wink unnervingly at him as he passed.

Astonished he'd been left alone in favor of their escaped dead man, John wasted no time in turning around, and running in the opposite direction.

-0-

Bane stood against a wall in the Gotham stock exchange building while a large group of men worked at clearing the area for what they would need it for. An elevated podium was being set up at one end of the vast hallway, what was to be the new judge's bench for the 'people's court' in Gotham now. He watched over the activity in the building sparingly, as most of his attention, and thoughts were focused on an item in his hands. The item was a small, careworn book, Nyssa's book to be exact. It was that same copy of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' he had given to her when she was a child.

The next morning after Bane's meeting with Talia, he had gone personally to where Nyssa had made her home while she was in Gotham. He had found the front door shut, but unlocked, and the apartment itself nearly untouched. There had been obvious signs of packing, and a car in front of the building with some items already loaded in the trunk, and luggage just inside the doorway. It was while inspecting her bags that he had found Nyssa's book. There were no apparent signs of a struggle in the building, however Bane was sure that whatever had caused Nyssa to leave her apartment without one of her most dear possessions, had not made her do so willingly.

His thoughts were interrupted when several shouts sounded at the entrance of the stock exchange. A man was struggling to get past two mercenaries who guarded the front doors of the room they were building their new court in. He wore what had most-likely been a fairly expensive suit once, but a rather large, fresh bloodstain that soaked his left side, and left leg had done its job in completely ruining his attire. His face was smudged in a white paint of some type. Whatever adrenalin the man had been running on when he'd tried to barge past Bane's men however was obviously wearing off now, as he began to struggle less against the mercenaries, and actually slumped slightly in their grip.

"I need to talk to Bane, it's important, he'll want to know! Please, just let me see Bane!" The man pleaded through his exhaustion.

One of the mercenaries looked over to Bane, and he nodded, allowing them to bring the disheveled man to him. As they half escorted, half dragged the stranger to him, Bane noticed that the blood staining his suit came from a bullet wound in his side. A very small trickle of red seeped from the hole as they came to a stop before him.

"I'm Tony Fabriano, I was one of Joseph Rossi's men," he stated immediately, not waiting for Bane to give him leave to speak. "The Joker is loose, he was just at Rossi's place, The Cauldron. He killed over half of Rossi's men, I just barely got away!" Fabriano spoke quickly, barely contained panic sparking in his face. He spoke as if Bane would have any concern over what he was saying.

It was true Bane had heard enough about the crazed terrorist known as the Joker to know what he was capable of. And he had had no plans to free him from his lonely prison in Arkham. But not because he was at all concerned about what the Joker would do while free in Gotham during martial law, but rather because he saw no reason to waste any thought on the man.

Bane studied the half dead man in front of him calmly before finally speaking. "And you felt this was a concern of mine?"

Fabriano seemed to be lost for words for a moment before finally gasping out a response. "But, it's the Joker. Don't you know what that whack-job could do running around out there? He's already killed Rossi, took his club, his neighborhood…"

"I gave Gotham back to the people, back to you. I have no interest in what you do with whatever piece of this city you claim. If you want back what the Joker took from you, then take it back." Bane looked down at the mobster dispassionately, and Tony stared back with incredulity.

"You don't understand, you're making a mistake-" Fabriano was cut off as the mercenaries jerked him back, and started dragging him away after a dismissive gesture from Bane.

The desperate shouting faded as the man was dragged from the building, and Bane turned to continue watching the rearrangement of the stock house. He could hardly see how the actions of a loose mad man should be any threat to him. After all, Batman had defeated the Joker, and Bane had defeated Batman. Had broken him. So if the Joker proved to make a nuisance of himself in the end, Bane would simply eliminate him. Quickly, and efficiently.

Until then he'd let the Joker have his fun with the corrupt members of Gotham. If nothing else the Joker's actions today had proven one very crucial point to Bane. He was only a criminal after all, out to grab what he could by force from others. And criminals weren't complicated.


Ok guys, I dressed the Joker in drag for you, that's worth a review or two right?

Bah, who am I kidding, he probably would have worn the dress just because it made him look fabulous.

Crow T: LOL I didn't even consider that video until now, thanks for bringing back painful memories. To this day I'm still fairly sure I've never finished that video. I think I get like a quarter of the way through and just say 'Fuck this!' each and every time. And I'm a Nostalgia Critic fan! :P

Melvin White was the name of the guy who owned the apartment overlooking the parade the day Joker tried to kill the Mayor in TDK. The place where the real honor guard was all tied up nekkid and in the dark. Nothing to do here...