Death Is No Laughing Matter

By Scott Claybrook (

Summary: When tragedy strikes in Gotham City, Clark finds himself consumed with thoughts of revenge. He turns to the Batman for help in tracking down a killer.

Author's intro: This is an elseworld or what if story. It doesn't tie into any of the episodes or anything, so don't worry about it if you typically wonder about those kinds of things. I would like to thank all the fanfic authors whose materials have inspired me to sit down and get this story out of my head. I would also like to thank my wife, Janice, for her editing and critique. Since this is my first attempt at creative writing in over ten years, I would greatly appreciate any comments and criticisms. Send them, good or bad, to me, Scott, at Oh yeah, legal mumbo jumbo — Warner/DC Comics and ABC TV own the rights to all the characters, I'm just borrowing them.


Chapter 1

The Daily Planet, late afternoon. Clark Kent was putting the finishing touches on a story. His phone rang.

"Clark Kent."

"Hey, Clark, it's me."

"Hi, hon. How did your lead pan out?"

"It's a bust. There is no way that Waynetech is vulnerable to a takeover by Luthor Industries. I've spent all day talking to members of the Board of Directors and analyzing budgets, revenue, and all sorts of financial data, and there's just no way."

"I'm sorry you wasted your whole day. What time do you think that you'll get back to Metropolis? I was looking forward to spending a quiet evening with the woman I love."

"That's why I'm calling. I'm exhausted and the traffic looks horrible, so I think I'm just gong to stay in Gotham tonight, get a good night's sleep, and drive back first thing in the morning. I've already gotten a room at a Holiday Inn."

"Well, OK. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with you tonight. We've been so busy with work, wedding plans, and my, um, volunteer work, I feel like I haven't had a chance to really see you lately."

"In ten more days, we'll be married and you'll get to see a whole lot more of me."

That comment sent Clark's mind reeling, "Ah, are you sure you don't want me to come and pick you up and bring you back home?"

"No, that's all right. Besides, you need to save that super strength of yours for the wedding night."

"Ah, um, if you're sure."

"I'm sure. I'll be back by mid-morning and we can go to lunch."

"All right, I'll see you tomorrow. I love you."

"I love you too."


Lois hung up the phone and looked around at her hotel room and sighed. She had been tempted to let Clark come and get her, but that kind of thing could get dangerous. They had to try to minimize the association between her and Superman now that she was engaged to Clark Kent. If too many people saw Lois and Superman flying around, it might get suspicious. And Superman flying a Jeep Cherokee with Lois sitting in the driver's seat might look a little too suspicious. *Boy, I'm about to starve. Where is the room service menu? Hmmm, nothing looks good. I think I'm in the mood for Chinese and I think I saw a Chinese place a couple of blocks back.*


The next morning, Clark walked into the Planet newsroom whistling happily. Last night had been pretty good. He had helped the UN deliver relief supplies to the Middle East in the suit and had even gotten back early enough to watch most of Monday Night Football. Plus Lois would be back soon and they had lunch plans. He was a happy man. He saw Perry and Jimmy discussing something at the coffee machine and waved good morning as he sat down at his desk to check his messages and mail.

Perry, seeing Clark, started to walk over to find out what Lois had found out. Just as he reached Clark's desk, he heard a secretary's voice, "Mr. White, there is a call from Inspector Henderson on line 2."

"Ok, thanks, Sheila. I'll take it in my office." Muttering halfway to himself, "That's strange. Why is Henderson calling me this early in the morning?"

Clark, hearing Perry's comment, wondered the same thing. *Maybe Henderson is one of Perry's secret sources. Nah, if he were, he wouldn't identify himself to Sheila. Maybe there is a tip and it'll be something for me and Lois to work on. Maybe it's something for Superman to work on.* Suddenly, he saw Perry go pale white, slowly shake his head back and forth, and fall back into his chair. Concerned, he tuned his hearing in on Perry and heard him saying in a flat voice, "All right, I'll notify everybody and make arrangements. Thank you, Inspector, I know, thank you, good bye."

Perry looked out into the newsroom and saw Clark sitting there, looking at him with a concerned look on his face. "Lord, I don't want to do this, but I have to," and motioned for Clark to come into the office. "Clark, sit down. I've got some bad news." In a cracking voice, "Lois is dead."

Clark felt his heart stop. He couldn't believe what he just heard come out of Perry's mouth. It must be some kind of mistake. Lois couldn't be dead. They were supposed to be together. Their wedding was in Kansas in nine days. She couldn't be gone. "Nooooo," he whispered.

"I'm so sorry, son. Henderson said that Gotham P.D. just notified him. There aren't a lot of details yet, but apparently, a bunch of people were killed in some Chinese restaurant. Lois must have been there and got caught in the cross-fire."

"Where is she?"

"Her body is still at the Gotham City Morgue. They need somebody to come and claim the body. You go on home and I'll send somebody…"

"No, I'll go."

"Are your sure?" Clark nodded once. "OK, if you're sure. Go down to Travel and get a voucher for a ticket. I'll try to contact her parents since the police didn't get an answer." Perry watched Clark get up and walk out, blank faced, not really hearing what he had said. He wished that he could do something, anything, to ease Clark's grief and pain, and his own.


Clark couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't think straight. *Getout,run,love,pain,hide,tears,fear,laughter,death* Images ran through his mind—Lois laughing and smiling, Lois at dinner with him and his parents, Lois mad at him for stupid excuses, Lois and him watching movies, Lois kissing him

Never again.


Reaching the roof, Clark shot straight up into the sky without bothering to change into the suit. *I should have been there. I should have saved her. I should have gone and gotten her.* He could hear her voice, teasing him to save his strength. *Ha, what a joke!*

Somewhere out around Jupiter, Clark started to notice a burning sensation in his lungs where he was beginning to use up the breath that he had been holding. For a second, he considered expelling the remaining air from his lungs. That seemed easier and less painful than the prospect of going back. Then he considered how that would affect others, his parents, Perry, Jimmy, the rest of the world. No, he had responsibilities that he could not ignore. And his first one was to Lois and finding her killer. God help him when he did. With that thought, he turned back toward the earth and angled toward Gotham.


Chapter 2 Gotham City

Clark arrived at the Gotham City Morgue and asked for the coroner so he could claim Lois' body and make arrangements for it to be transported back to Metropolis. After spending most of the day filling out paperwork and making arrangements for transport, Clark felt numb. "All that remains is the visual identification of the body, Mr. Kent." Clark steeled himself during the short walk to the cold storage area. He thought that he was prepared, but when the coroner pulled the sheet away from her head, his mind was once more sent reeling. He felt the blood drain from his face and his legs go limp. The coroner covered her back up, led him to a chair in the hallway, and walked off to allow Clark some privacy. Clark didn't notice any of that. All he could see was the vision of her face. Her eyes were wide open and her mouth was pulled back into a hideous, leering grin. There was no mistaking the significance of that.

The Joker.


*This city looks so peaceful from up here at night; unfortunately, I know better.* Gotham City Police Commissioner James W. Gordon was not having a good week. Not only did he have to deal with all the muggings, robberies, and murders that any major American city dealt with, now the Joker was on the loose again. *That psycho killed twenty- seven people last night, and who knows how many more before we catch him. I'm just glad we were able to keep his name out of the news. All I need is a city-wide panic if the media gets wind of this.*

At that point, Gordon heard his office door open and Sgt. Murphy's voice saying ,"Excuse me sir, but there is, uh, someone here wanting to, uh, talk with you."

Without looking away from the window, he was about to tell Murphy that he was in no mood to talk with anybody right then and to let one of the deputy commissioners handle it. Then he heard a deep, authoritative voice say, "I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but I need to talk to the Batman, and you are going to contact him for me, please."

Gordon turned, ready to tell whoever had just barged into his office that he wasn't Batman's private messenger service when he caught sight of a red cape and a yellow shield with a red stylized S.

"It's about the Joker and his latest crime."


Smallville, Kansas

Jonathan Kent got up out of his chair after watching the local weather. "I think I'm going to get a glass of milk and a piece of pie. Do you want anything, Martha?"

She looked up at her husband and smiled. "No thanks, you go ahead. I think I'll turn on the satellite and see what's going on nationally."

Jonathan had finished about half of his pie when he heard Martha screaming for him to get in there. Something in her voice sounded almost hysterical. When he rushed into the living room, he saw his wife, tears streaming down her face, pointing at the TV. He looked over and saw an old picture of Lois and heard the voice of the announcer saying, "… finished an assignment in Gotham City, but it apparently was not related. Police do not have any suspects or any motive for the killings." *Oh my god! Poor Clark.* He reached out for his wife, needing her support as much she needed his. *My boy.*


Gotham P.D. Rooftop

"We can call, but he isn't always able to answer. I would have thought you heroes would know how to contact each other."

"I could fly around the city until I stumbled across him, but your signal seemed like it would be quicker."

"Probably is," came a third voice, deep and gravelly, walking out of the shadows at the edge of the building. With a nod to Gordon, "Jim", and a cold stare, he asked, "What are you doing in my city, Superman?"

Clark hesitated, having to stop himself from taking a step back. *This is ridiculous. He can't possibly hurt me.* "I want the Joker. I need whatever information you can give me."

Batman continued to stare. "I have some leads. Why the sudden interest in the Joker? You've never been concerned with him before." As he said this, he noticed something briefly flash across Superman's face.

Trying to keep his voice neutral, "I just want him. There are two ways we can do this, Batman. One, we work together and bring him down or"

"I've already got a partner."

"or I can follow you around until you find the Joker, then I'll take him down."

"Fifteen minutes, on top of the old Gotham Clock Tower." Looking over at the Commissioner, "Anything else, Jim?"

Clark looked over at the Commissioner and saw him shake his head. He looked back where the Batman had been standing, but he was gone. *Man, I though I could disappear in a hurry.* There must have been a surprised look on his face, because when he turned back to thank the Commissioner, Gordon had this little smile on his face, as if he had known that was going to happen.


Gotham Clock Tower

As Clark approached the tower, he was surprised to see the Batman already there, perched at the apex. *How did he beat me here?*

"All right, Superman, now that we have some privacy, why don't you tell me the real reason that you're suddenly interested in the Joker? Also, how do you even know about it? His involvement was never leaked."

Not having a good explanation that wouldn't involve going into too many painful details, he simply replied, "I said, it's personal."

Once again, Batman saw something flash across Superman's face, something akin to despair. Mentally, he reviewed the report Gordon had sent him on the massacre at the Jade Palace Restaurant. *Twenty seven people killed by the poison that had come to be known as Joker Venom. Gas canister recovered at the scene, but it was Army surplus and no help. No witnesses. The only Metropolis connection was one of the victims, Lois Lane, a Daily Planet reporter. She's done Superman stories for several years now, no, that's not enough.* He reviewed what he knew about Lane in his mind. *White female, age 31, major award-winning journalist and columnist, both parents living and one sister, recently engaged to her partner, Clark Kent* Kent had interviewed Bruce Wayne two years earlier on some piece he had been working on. *Alfred provided him with most of the information he had wanted, but I spent about ten minutes talking to him.* Using his computer- like memory, Batman pulled up an image of Clark Kent in his mind.

"I understand, Kent."

Clark was floored. *How can he know, we've never even met before.* Trying to maintain some semblance of composure, he tried to deny it. "Wh-, H-, What are you talking about?"

"It isn't that difficult. I've trained myself to be VERY observant. Your body language suggested very strong feelings, whenever I asked you about the Joker. Lois Lane was the only Metropolis connection at the crime scene, and the Joker hasn't struck today. I knew that she was partnered with and engaged to Clark Kent; they have been photographed often. The pieces are all there; you just have to be able to put them all together."

"I didn't realize that I was giving so much away."

"Don't worry. There are probably only two or three other people on the planet besides myself who could have put it all together. Now, down to business."


Chapter 3 Gotham's Red Light District

William "Willie the Worm" Worthington was having a good night. He had just hustled two of his "friends" at darts and was now $300 richer. *I ought to find me some decent companionship with this much dough.* Suddenly, he felt some kind of rope wrapping around his chest and arms and felt himself being jerked upwards, off the ground. He looked up and saw the Batman effortlessly pulling him up to the rooftop on which he stood. Willie almost lost control of his bladder, until he noticed that there was someone else with the Batman on the roof. Gathering the courage to actually look away from the terrifying sight of the Dark Knight, he saw that the second person was Superman! Strangely, that relaxed Willie and gave him confidence. He knew that Superman wouldn't allow the Batman to hurt him.

Batman, seeing that he had lost Willie's attention grabbed him by the shirt and pulled Willie nose to nose. Using his most intimidating voice, "Worm, you've got your hand into everything and your ear is always to the ground. I'm only going to ask once. Where is the Joker?"

"I ain't saying a thing."

"Don't make me repeat my question."

"Or what? You gonna bust me up? I don't think so. Superman ain't goin' ta let ya hurt me, are ya Supes?"

The Dark Knight glanced over at Superman, who just stood there impassively. Batman knew that Willie had called his semi-bluff. He had no hesitancy to lean on crooks a little to get information, and he knew that he wouldn't permanently injure anybody for information. But the crooks didn't know that. Normally it took little or no effort since his reputation proceeded him in the Gotham criminal society. Tonight, Willie had the upper hand. He suspected that Superman wouldn't let anything really bad happen to him, and he thought he was tough enough to take anything that Superman would allow Batman to dish out. *I've got to cut my losses on this one.*

Willie felt himself being tossed through the air and landed hard on the rooftop. "All right, Worm, just remember, I'll be seeing you again, and next time, Superman won't be around." With that, the Dark Knight, turned and stepped off the ledge and was gone. Willie never saw Superman leave either.

Clark had watched the exchange with interest. *I could never do that intimidation thing. I wonder if he practices in front of a mirror.* When he saw that the Batman was done, he took off. Paying closer attention this time, he followed the Batman back to his car, which was parked a block away. "Now what?"

"Now we find somebody else." Batman sat down in his Batmobile and activated a miniature computer that was built into the center console. "According to my files, Steve Baker, AKA "Nails" was just released from Blackgate last week. He was one of Joker's regular flunkies. He typically hangs out at Sharkey's pool hall. It's a few streets over. Worth checking to see if he's there."


The two heroes looked down at Sharkey's from a rooftop across the street. Batman had binoculars out, looking for their quarry. "There he is. When he comes out, he'll go down this alley as a shortcut to the dump he lives in. When he gets below us, I'll grab him."

"Why don't we just go in and get him. It'll be a lot quicker than having to wait for him.

"We do this my way. I want as few people as possible knowing we're after the Joker. Less chance of tipping him off.

Not liking it, but seeing the logic, Clark had to agree.

"Also, when I move, stay out of sight. I don't want a repeat of the Worm. Listen, but stay out of sight.


Three hours later, Baker walked out of Sharkey's and headed towards the alley, just as Batman had predicted. When he got almost right below him, Clark saw Batman gather himself and jump.

Baker felt, more than saw, something coming at him. Instinctively, he looked up and saw what appeared to be a giant bat swooping down at him.

*Here goes* Batman saw Baker look up, a primal fear on his face, That fear changed to recognition, and then to a learned fear. As he landed directly in front of Baker, he thought *which will it be? Will he faint, run, or take a swing?* Baker decided on option three, trying a left hook at Batman's head. Batman simply reached up and caught the punch in his right hand. Maintaining his hold on Baker's fist, he started squeezing, forcing the man to his knees. "Heard from your old boss lately, Nails?"

Clearly in pain, Baker tried to answer, but his voice came out as a squeak, "No, I ain't seen him since I went in. I'm clean."

"Where can I find him?"

"I don't KNOW. Ow, OW, OW! You might try the old Jack's Cookies warehouse over on the other side of town. Last time I worked for him, he told us that it was the back-up meeting spot."

"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Releasing the man's hand, "Now, get out of here. And I don't want to hear of you talking about our little conversation. Understand?" Baker vigorously shook his head, got up, and ran for all he was worth. The Batman just watched him go.


Chapter 4 Outside Jack's Cookies warehouse

"I can't see inside. The building must be painted with a lead-based paint and my x-ray vision can't penetrate lead."

"Two armed guards for a deserted warehouse. It's a good bet he's in there. You go around back, take out any guards back there. Give me five minutes to take care of those two and any others and disable any alarms or traps. Then we go in from both sides to cut off any possible escape route."


As the Batman slipped silently away, Clark took off. He thought that he would go over the building, sweep the grounds with his x-ray vision for other guards, and incapacitate any he found, and wait the five minutes. He knew that they were close. He could feel it. *Soon, this will be over. He's mine and he'll pay for what he's done.*

When Clark got directly over the building, he noticed that the roof was tar papered, not painted. Discovering that there was nothing blocking his vision, he scanned the inside. *There he is. Now I've finally got you.* Forgetting about the Batman and the plan, Clark dove straight through the roof and grabbed the surprised Joker before he could even begin to move.

"Hee, hee ,hee, hee, hee, you're not ol' pointy ears. You're that big, blue boy scout from Metropolis. What the hell do you want with me?"

"I'm bringing you in for the murder of twenty-seven people at the Jade Palace last night."

The Joker just looked at him and started giggling maniacally, "Oh, that little thing? Is that all? It was barely worth the effort I put into it."

"Why, Joker?"

"Have you ever eaten at that place? The food was simply h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e, horrible. In good conscience, I couldn't let them remain open."

Clark started to see red. He grabbed the Joker by the neck and lifted him off the ground. "All those people…"

Coughing, "showed an alarming lack of taste and style, eating in a dump like that. They couldn't possibly be allowed to propagate those horrendous tendencies on this already dreadfully dull world. That would have been a REAL crime. Hahahahahahahehehehehe!"

Batman bursts through a window in the front in time to hear the last bit of their exchange. He immediately noticed the look of rage painted on Superman's face. "Superman! PUT HIM DOWN NOW!" He saw Superman look slowly in his direction, and then look back at the Joker.


The sound of Batman's voice broke the spell of hate and rage that had engulfed Clark. His arms, and then his body began to shake. He tossed the Joker in the direction of Batman. "Take him and lock him up. Get him out of my sight," he said with disgust. Nausea swept over Clark, a reaction to what he had just felt, what he had almost done. He had to either sit down or fall down, and he chose to sit.

Meanwhile, Batman tied the Joker up, cuffed him to a cross bar on the other side of the warehouse, and used a miniature cellular phone from his utility belt to call Gordon for a pick up. As he walked back toward Superman, he saw the pain and fear in his eyes. He spoke to Superman in a voice low enough so the Joker could not hear. "The pain will lessen. It will never go completely away, but it will lessen. Trust me, I know."

"I almost…"

"But you didn't. You didn't cross that line. You did the right thing. That's what keeps us from becoming monsters like him."

"Thank you for your help, Batman."

"Bruce," whispered the Batman as he clasped Clark's hand.

"Thanks, Bruce, for everything" he whispered.


Five days later, Metropolis Cemetery

Clark knelt by a headstone staring at the inscription, "Lois Lane, 1965-1996, She Was Loved." As he ran his fingers over the stone, he felt the loss and sorrow, but also a sense of closure. "Joker was committed to Arkham Asylum today. It's over. Rest in peace, darling, I love you now and forever."


Author's postscript

What follows here is my original ending to this story. My wife and I decided that it did not fully capture the spirit of Lois & Clark, so I did a rewrite and came up with the ending you just read. I still maintain that the following one remains true to all the characters involved, so I am including it as an alternate ending, sort of like a choose your own adventure story. If you are interested, read on! (And before you flame me, please read the entire alternate ending.)

"Superman! PUT HIM DOWN NOW!" He saw Superman look slowly in his direction, and then look back at the Joker.

"You heard him Superdud," He laughed hysterically, "put me down."

*This maniac has killed hundreds, maybe thousands, for no real reason. He is the one who killed Lois, for no reason. FOR NO REASON." Regarding the Joker with pure loathing on his face, Clark whispered, "I don't think so. It ends here." and Clark squeezed.

The Batman was already moving before Superman ever opened his mouth. He sprang across the room, bringing down a two-handed clubbing blow on Superman's arm, trying to break his grip. *No effect. I might as well be hitting a tank for all the good that did.* The Dark Knight followed up with a side kick to the midsection, with the same result. Batman was coiling his body, preparing to launch himself into a flying body block to try to knock him off balance when he heard the Joker's death rattle.

Clark dropped the body and turned his gaze toward the Batman, who was tensed for another attack. "Don't, you'll just hurt yourself."

"You killed him. That makes you just as bad as he was. I'm taking you down, now."

Starting to rise toward the hole he had made in the ceiling, Clark looked down at the Batman. "You just don't understand. You can't understand."

"This isn't over, Kent!"

Clearing the building, Clark whispered "I know."


Metropolis Cemetery, two days later

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…" Mourners filed past the grave tossing their handfuls of earth onto Lois' casket. Finally, Clark approached the grave. *Good bye. my love. My world will be a much darker place from now on. God, please take care of her for me* he prayed.

From the trees surrounding the edge of the cemetery, the Batman had watched the entire funeral, waiting motionless. He had watched the processional arrive, the minister perform the service, watched them lower the casket into the grave, and watched the mourners file past the grave, until only the lone figure of Clark Kent remained. "We have unfinished business, Kent," he said softly, knowing he would be heard. He saw Clark turn, look in his direction, nod, and start walking towards him.

When Clark arrived at the tree line, he said simply, "Thank you for waiting until the service was over." The Dark Knight just nodded, and they stood there, regarding each other for several moments.

"We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but …"

Clark held up his hand, stopping him. "I'm not going to fight you." Reaching into his coat, he pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to the Batman. "This is a copy of the signed confession I have written detailing how Clark Kent tracked down the Joker and killed him." Batman took the paper and scanned it quickly. Clark continued, "I simply ask that you let me take the blame as Clark Kent and leave Superman's name out of it. That way, I take my responsibility for my crime, but Superman's reputation is untarnished. Also, it protects my secret identity by not linking Lois' death, the Joker, and Superman. It will also protect my friends and family from people who would harm them to get to me. As you can see at the bottom, I asked Inspector Henderson for permission to turn myself in tomorrow morning so that I could attend her funeral and have time to make arrangements. He agreed, has already made arrangements for extradition to Gotham, and is even putting in a good word for me with Gotham's District Attorney. My lawyer thinks that we will be able to make a deal for crime of passion. I just ask that you let me do this my way."

"Agreed. Good luck, Kent." He watched Clark head for his car, get in, and drive off. "And I do understand, Clark, more than you could possibly know."