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A New Smile

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After a long and draining day working on your future exhibit, you decided to call it a night and went for a walk in the city of Gotham. The weather was kind for a night of November; the gentle breeze touching your skin was soothing and pleasant. The street lights added something almost whimsical to the city, you thought.  Gotham was surprisingly quiet tonight; except for the few people you could hear discussing on the terrace of a restaurant, or some others laughing while exiting a bar, the city was relatively calm.

Once in a while, however, the bright lights of a police car would pierce the shadows of the night, and you could hear some people shouting at each other, reminding you that you were still in Gotham after all, and wandering in its busiest part. You often debated the idea of living further away from the center, but you had your own habits that were hard to break. 

You appreciated how easy it was to find someone to talk to whenever you were in town having a drink, going grocery shopping, or even while buying the newspaper. There was always something to do in Gotham, a special event such as a food or music festival, the beautiful Christmas market that you like so much, a sport competition, and whatnot. The city really tried to be as close to its citizens as possible, involving them in activities and proposing them safe places, perhaps to compensate for the high criminal activity more or less visible.

Gotham was an important source of inspiration for your work. The city’s architecture, the old botanical garden, or the very different sceneries you could witness were the main subjects of your paintings. Adding your own subjectivity and interpretation in the process, you transformed Gotham into very interesting and delicate works of art that started to get noticed. In fact, after years of hard work, the owner of Gotham’s most popular art gallery contacted you and proposed you to be part of their next exhibit. You of course accepted, promising to provide five new paintings before December. You were still working on your last one, when you decided to go get some fresh air.

After a while, you decided it was time to head back home, and took a different route through a smaller street, thinking you would be less disturbed by the multiple police officers, probably looking for some thief or drug dealer. For a moment, you tried to grasp what they were talking about but finally decided to brush it off as you couldn’t clearly understand what was going on, besides the fact that the person they were looking for was shot and thus couldn’t be far, which was more than enough information. Even as a born and raised Gotham citizen, you were still not completely used to preoccupied cops or questionable business happening around you. Although you weren’t exactly a fearful person, the atmosphere would make anyone slightly anxious at best.

As you almost reached home, you slowly reduced your pace. You could have sworn that you heard someone panting nearby. You progressed through the street until you reached the level of a poorly lighted alley. The labored breathing was clearly noticeable now.  What little you could see was a man sitting on the floor, probably 5 meters (16 feet) away from you at best, badly hidden behind a garbage container. He was wrapped in a dirty purple coat, wearing an even dirtier makeup of a clown with roughly dyed green hair. In addition to his coat, he was wearing matching purple pants and a green vest. In any other situation you would have loved the eccentricity of this man, but in this instant you completely froze.

He was pressing a gloved hand against his thigh. Visibly harmed, you figured he was the person the officers were looking for. You wondered if he even noticed you; his eyes, covered in smudged black makeup, were closed and he seemed like he was trying to calm down. A wide red smile was painted on his white face. You could feel your heart pounding, unsure of what to do; this was such an unusual situation, and you were mildly scared of that strange man. He licked his lips, and took a deep breath. Under the poor light of the old street lamp you noticed the important scars on his cheeks, like another macabre smile. He suddenly looked much more dangerous, and you felt anxious.

You recollected yourself and as you thought you finally found the courage to leave the place, the man opened his dark eyes and looked at you. He clicked his tongue and offered you a wide chilling smile. He was staring at you, and chuckled. He cleared his throat.

“Well, hello beautiful !” he finally said in a soft and playful voice. “Wonderful evening, isn’t it ?” he frowned, then laughed. You took a step back. “Come on, come on, come on. Don’t be scared, look at me. I’m not gonna hurt you ! You see, I got shot just a little while ago !” he laughed once again, making you question his sanity.

A blue and red light flashed in the distance, and you could hear footsteps approaching. You turned your head in the direction of the sound, opened your mouth, but got interrupted before you had the time to say anything.

“Hey, would you mind not moving and staying quiet just for a minute ?” he asked. The footsteps got closer, and two cops finally passed in front of you. One of them looked at you and gently waved, probably trying to reassure you. You realized that you were blocking the alley, thus hiding the clown, still sitting behind the garbage container. The officers then left, and the night was quiet again.

It was too late to do anything now. You were staring at the empty street and heard the man behind you standing up with immense difficulty. He chuckled once again, visibly in pain, and approached you. You started walking away, trying to leave that hell of a place, but he then grabbed your arm. His grip made you panic, you then faced him, terrorized. You could clearly see the scars on his face now, two wide cuts covered in red. His piercing eyes were shining in the dark and his smile was absolutely chilling. He looked tired however; his makeup was partially running, he still seemed to have difficulties standing up and breathing.

He ran his hand through his hair and clicked his tongue.

“What’s your name ?” he said in an incredibly serious voice. You reluctantly gave him your name, you didn’t exactly know why; probably because you didn’t want to upset him. His grip didn’t quite hurt you, but it was firm enough to intimidate you. He licked his lips and stared at you, nodding. You couldn’t really tell what was going on inside his head. He then laughed hysterically, destabilizing you completely. He pointed a finger at you.

“I really owe you one, uh ?” he clicked his tongue one more time. For a moment, he seemed calm; you could feel his grip loosening.

– Maybe you could… let me go then ? you asked firmly, which surprised him, and made him chuckle.

– Now, I told you I wouldn’t hurt you, did I ?” he rolled his eyes, as if you said something stupid. “Go, go… I’m a man of my word. Maybe I'll see you again, who knows ?” he said in a deep voice, releasing you.

You then ran away, and didn’t look back even once. You could hear him laughing in the distance, giving you shivers down your spine. Out of breath, you finally reached your apartment, frantically locked your door behind you and sat on the floor. In a state of panic and confusion, you tried to understand what the hell just happened. Who exactly was that scary clown ? What has he done, why was the police looking for him ? 

After a cold shower to calm you down, you directly went to bed, hoping that tomorrow would be a better day. You struggled to fall asleep, perturbed by tonight's events. The idea of meeting him again sent chills down your spine. You could still hear his laugh, haunting you.

Chapter Text

The first snows of December started falling on Gotham. A sweet smell of spices, cinnamon and pine was floating in the cold air, the streets were beautifully decorated with colorful lights and Christmas ornaments of all sorts. Wooden cabins selling hot chocolates, knitted hats, socks and scarves, handmade jewelries, and hot mulled wine opened for the season. You liked that time of the year, everyone seemed so happy that you could almost share their joy.

You went out to get a cup of hot spiced tea, before heading back home to finish your final painting. You couldn’t believe that the exhibit was already next week, you were equally excited and anxious about it since you learnt that very important people would be present at the opening of the exhibit, including the businessman Bruce Wayne and the respectable district attorney Harvey Dent. You were especially hoping to meet the latter, as you have been following his successes for a long time now.

On your way home, you stopped in front of a clothes shop. For years now, you’ve been wearing essentially the same clothes, and so you thought it would be the occasion to get yourself a brand new dress. You entered the shop and started wandering around, until you spotted several different dresses to try on. After a few minutes spent in the fitting room, you fell in love with a gorgeous calf length pine green skater dress with bishop sleeves and a turtle neck. A simple yet very elegant dress that you felt comfortable in. You happily came back home, put on some music and worked on your last painting.

*

You liked the noise of your low heels on the pavement, that night. Despite the cold temperature, a fire was burning inside of you. Tonight, your work was part of an exhibit about the perception of Gotham by different artists. You took a look at your watch and accelerated the pace; you didn’t want to be late ! After a sleepless night, you fell asleep during the afternoon and woke up a few hours later. You just had enough time to brush your hair and put on a dark red lipstick to match the deep pine green color of your dress.

It was a fancy vernissage. The Gotham art gallery was a magnificent 4-storey building, highly praised by the critics. The exhibit was on the first and second floor. The paintings and sculptures all had their own strategic spot carefully chosen, and every piece of art had a small frame describing the view of the artist. Some of them were decorated with a discreet blue sticker, indicating that the piece was sold. You could see the name of the buyer written on the sticker. 

On the third floor was a permanent exhibit about the story of Gotham, and the reception room. People were welcomed with all kind of delicate appetizers and drinks served in ridiculously thin and tall glasses, and multiple tables and seats were offered at the back of the room to discuss without disturbing the other visitors. 

Finally, on the last floor, there was a calmer room with a bay window opening onto a terrace, usually not open to the public but exceptionally made available for the vernissage. 

Your heart was pounding as you discovered the exhibit and recognized many familiar faces that you have only seen in magazines or on television. After a while, you decided to get a drink on the third floor. You noticed an important crowd at the back of the room; the reason was simple, the successful businessman Bruce Wayne arrived and many people wanted his attention. Your heart skipped a beat, and for a moment you couldn’t move, but decided it was your time to shine and thought you would introduce yourself. As you got closer to him, he looked back at you and smiled.

“Good evening, Mrs.” he gently said, shaking your hand. Everything about him was elegant; his voice was soft and welcoming, his gesture was slow and precise, even his suit was perfectly fitting him. Wayne was mostly known for his fruitful company, but other than that you didn’t know much about him.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr Wayne. My name is (…), you can see part of my work on the second floor.”

“The pleasure is all mine, (…). Oh, I remember your paintings, it’s a very interesting take on Gotham.” You exchanged a few words but he then received a call, excused himself and left the room. 

*

Later this evening, you felt a little overwhelmed. You were not exactly used to such big events, and you decided to isolate yourself on the last floor. The room was smaller than the others; there were a few comfortable seats, a coffee table covered in magazines of art, enough space to wander around, and a huge beautiful bay window opening onto a terrace. You looked at the city through the window, covered in snow, decorated with lights; everything seemed so small from that height. You smiled, closed your eyes and rested your forehead against the cold window; you appreciated this moment of calm.

You then heard some noise coming from the elevator at the other side of the room. You turned your head and frowned, wondering what was happening. You heard the bell of the elevator stopping at your floor, and several armed men wearing clown masks ran out of it. In the middle of them, there was a familiar face; it was the man in a purple coat hiding in the alley. As soon as you saw him, your blood ran cold and you completely froze. One of the masked men noticed you, and shouted at the others. They approached you, terrorized, until you heard their leader interrupting them.

“Come on, guys ! Don’t you see she’s all alone?” He screamed at them. He walked towards you, raised an eyebrow, looked at you from head to toe, and licked his lips. When he was close enough to you, he clicked his tongue, frowned and pointed a finger at you. His expression was a mix of curiosity and amusement.

“You… I know you, right? How do I know you?” He said in a very calm voice. Despite your obvious fear, you jumped on the opportunity to refresh his memory.

“I’m (…). Remember me? It was in November, you were hiding and–”

“Oh yeah ! Yeah !” He interrupted you, and laughed hysterically. “Of course I remember you” He ran his hand in his hair, licked his lips and paused for a minute. He was thinking of something, but you couldn’t guess what exactly. One of the men approached him.

“The others are in position, Joker.” He turned his head, waved at him visibly exasperated, and looked back at you, smiling.

“ You know… you helped me back then, right?”

“You said that you owed me one, Joker.” He chuckled at your answer. You shouldn’t be so full of yourself, you thought. Not with armed people all around you.

“You know what? You’re right. And who am I, if I don’t even have principles, mh? I’d be a clown, and a pretty stupid one, yeah?” He chuckled, smiled at you for a while, then continued. “I tell you what, this building is surrounded with my men. Just a courtesy visit… Well, even if I’d let you go now, you couldn’t go very far without finding one of… them.” He waved at the masked men. “So, how about I tell you exactly what to do to leave the place safely instead?” He licked his lips and raised his eyebrows, waiting for your answer. You nodded, and he gave you a chilling smile.

With one of his gloved hands, he grabbed the back of your neck. You whimpered in surprise, as he pulled your head closer to him, until his mouth was right next to your ear. You could feel his breath caressing your skin, and the sound of his tongue licking his lips. You thought he had a delicate smell, a mixture of orange and a lightly musky perfume. Your body was pressing against his, you could feel its warmth. You didn’t move an inch, your heart was pounding so hard you were afraid of it exploding.

Joker then whispered into your ear how to leave the building safely. His slow voice resonated in you, you could guess he was smiling by the tone he used. He would sometimes lick his lips, it felt like a warm heartbeat to your ear. There was something surprisingly tender in his voice, you didn’t feel afraid as much as you thought you would. Once he was done, he released his grip and looked at you with shiny eyes, holding your face in one hand. He raised his eyebrows and smiled at you. 

“You got that right, beautiful?” He asked. You nodded, unable to utter a single sound. He completely released you, walked away and then stopped, turned his back, and ran a hand in his hair. He pointed a finger in your direction.

“You know what’s funny?” he said in an amused voice before laughing some more. He clicked his tongue, and opened his arms. “Next time, it’ll be your turn!”

*

The cold night felt good on your burning face. After carefully following the Joker’s instructions, you safely escaped the building; he didn’t lie to you. You had a very hard time processing tonight’s events. You could still feel his grip behind your neck, and the warmth of his breath. You moved your hair behind your ear and noticed some red makeup on your fingers; he was so close to you that his skin probably touched yours. You looked at your hands and wondered what would have happened if he didn’t remember you, and if you would ever see him again.

 As you walked away, you turned your head and looked at the gallery one last time. You heard a gunshot, a window exploding, and soon after a woman falling from the third floor. You covered your mouth in horror, until you saw a dark shape jumping out of the window. You never saw him before, and only heard of him on television or in the newspapers. The Batman.

You had a hard time breathing. In the distance, you heard the sirens of police cars as you walked home, flustered and overwhelmed.

Chapter Text

It took you a while to come home. You couldn’t exactly describe how you felt; it was a cocktail of anger, sadness, fear and disappointment. This day wasn’t supposed to be like this. You were supposed to feel proud of your work, to meet new artists, to drink fancy pineapple juice and talk about Gotham with important people. 

The snow didn’t look magical anymore, the smell of cinnamon in the streets didn’t give you any sparkle of joy, even the Christmas lights failed to cheer you up. You were in a bad mood, and all you wanted to do now was going back home, and not talk to anyone.

After a long walk from the art gallery, you sighed at the view of your building. You looked for your keys in your bag, and entered your apartment. It was dark and silent. You stayed in the middle of your living room for a while, shaking your head. You know what would make you feel better ? Painting. That would cheer you up. With some smooth jazz, and a cup of tea.

Your apartment wasn’t exactly the apartment of your dreams. It was located on the 4th floor of an old 6-storey building. You did not have many furnitures; the essentials such as a bed and a nightstand, a bookshelf, a wardrobe, a table and coffee table, two chairs, a record player and an old couch. You told yourself you would get more furnitures and decoration once you completely moved in, that was four years ago. You picked that apartment because it was convenient, closer to the center, and cheap. And, all things considered, you were satisfied with it. The main room, the living room, had a nice and huge window offering you a wonderful view on Gotham. In front of the window was your easel; it was old and dirty but still perfectly functional. On the floor were some blank canvases. In the center of the living room was your couch and a coffee table, covered in unopened mail. In the corner was your record player. You selected a record of smooth Jazz and played it while you undressed.

You then made some tea. At the beginning, you absolutely hated your open kitchen, but you have grown to like it. It was small but very useful, and provided all you needed. You ignored the few plates in your sink and grabbed a mug. Tomorrow , you promised. Tomorrow, you would take care of the dishes.

In addition to your living room and kitchen, you also had a decent bathroom with a bathtub –a luxury that you absolutely needed– and a surprisingly big bedroom filled with canvases.

Now wearing an old shirt and a pair of pants, you tied your hair, put your mug on the coffee table and secured the canvas on the easel. You looked at the blank canvas and nodded your head to the music. You felt your throat closing, and had tears in your eyes. You waved your hand, brushing off your thoughts, and closed your eyes for a moment, enjoying the music. Your body gently danced to the slow rhythm, and for a moment you didn’t think of anything. You could not dance. In fact, you never danced in front of anyone, but you knew you would look ridiculous. Yet, once you were home alone, you enjoyed being carried by the music.

You allowed a few silent tears to roll down your cheeks. There were times like these, where you would feel lonely and melancholic for a short while, but would soon brush it off, telling yourself everything was okay. You were probably simply internalizing more than you would care to admit. You didn’t really have any coping mechanism to help you deal with your raw emotions; putting on a happy face was more difficult each day. You never really felt adequate. Painting was a way to express some of your feelings, but many more boiled inside of you.

After some time, you sat down on your couch and buried your face in your hands. You closed your eyes, listened to the music and the outside noises; the heavy snow hitting your window, people laughing in the middle of the night, cars moving carefully, someone knocking on your door, the noise of the stylus on the record. Someone knocking on your door .

Lost in your thoughts, it was only after the third knock that you realized someone was at your door. Each knock was brief but soon followed by another one, more persistent. You frowned and wondered who could possibly want to see you in the middle of the night. You sighed and eventually walked to the door, upset. 

As soon as you opened the door, you completely froze. It was the Joker, a wide smile on his face that rapidly turned into a hysterical laugh. “So I was right, this is where you live !” he said, visibly excited.

“How did you even find me ?” You snapped. After tonight’s events, you thought he had a lot of nerve to show himself at your door out of nowhere.

“Oh, well, remember the first time we met ?” He tilted his head and licked his lips. “You ran away like a terrorized fawn !” He laughed. “I was just standing in the alley, you see, I was a little bit tired . And I saw , I saw in which building you entered.”

“What do you want, Joker ?” Your attitude seemed to make him smile even more.

“I thought we left abruptly tonight, don’t you think so ? I didn’t even get a chance to compliment you on your paintings !”

“Excuse me ?”

“Your… paintings. You paint, right ?” He pointed a finger at the canvases behind you. “I saw them at the gallery, with your name on them.”

You paused for a moment, unsure how to react to that information. You sighed, and although you didn’t exactly trust him, you allowed him in your apartment. This evening could not get any weirder anyway. You went to your kitchen, poured some boiled water and added a bag of tea in a mug that you left on the kitchen table. You sat down after getting your own mug and Joker joined you, after removing his coat. You liked his eccentric outfit.

“So, what happened ?” You finally asked after a long pause.

“I was simply looking for someone .”

“Did you find them ?” The Joker laughed and looked at you with shiny eyes. You took it as a yes.

“Are you not scared to get in trouble ?” He sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Trouble… Did you ever notice how easily people panic every time something unexpected happens, every time something troubles their nicely ordered little life ? That… order they’re trying to keep, it’s just an excuse, a big joke . The same one they’ve been telling themselves every single morning since they were born and that they will keep telling themselves until they die.”

“Do you prefer chaos ?”

 He smiled, visibly excited. “I am an agent of chaos.” He said, looking at you.

You weren’t exactly sure that you understood everything he was saying, but you did understand something . You couldn’t tell if he was insane or not, there was something ambiguous about him. In his own way, he intrigued you.

“What’s your next plan?” This question made him chuckle. He shook his head, ran a hand in his hair and licked his lips.

“I don’t have one. I just do things. I fire first, I aim next. The criminals of Gotham… frankly, they’re boring. I want to mark the memory of this city. Destroy their definition of order, and release the people from that lie . I will be the criminal Gotham deserves.” He seemed genuinely excited. He gestured to you, didn’t flinch or stutter even once. He was convinced.

His view on chaos and order fascinated you. He would have been immensely scarier if you haven’t met him before. There was some sort of connection between you now, a kind of twisted silent pact. He seemed like a lion in a cage; surely, seeing a lion in real life would terrorize you to say the least, but put it in a cage and suddenly, you feel safe. For some reason, you couldn’t really fear the Joker anymore, but couldn’t trust him yet either.

Once he was done talking, there was a comfortable silence between you both. You looked at the snow falling through the window.

“What did you think of them ?” You asked.

“Think of what ?”

“The paintings.”

He clicked his tongue and gently chuckled. “It’s Gotham.”

*

The record player stopped. You left the table and changed the record. From the other side of the room, you asked the Joker: “Will I see you again ?”

He frowned, and licked his lips.

“Would you like that ?”

“I could use a little bit of chaos in my life.”

Chapter Text

During the whole night, you talked about the Joker’s view on criminality, about order and chaos, Gotham… But never about his life, or yours. Most of the time, you carefully listened to him. He would often punctuate his sentences with a “you see?” and you usually nodded. Sometimes, you would ask him questions, or clarifications. At first, you had a hard time grasping his explanations; not everything he said made sense. But slowly, you found a sort of pattern, a complex and twisted logic.

Most of all, you thought he seemed like an incredibly free person. Even his own existence didn’t seem to really matter; was he curious about it? Did he find life pointless, or was it just a joke and nothing serious? You definitely nurtured a mad curiosity for him, he fascinated you.

The Joker left your apartment early in the morning. He adjusted his coat, walked to the door and sighed.

“It’s a funny world we live in, don’t you think?” He finally said. You gently smiled, joined him at the door, and crossed your arms.

“Good night, Joker.”

“Good night, (…).” He looked at you with shiny eyes. He lightly chuckled, then walked away. You watched his silhouette disappear in the dark and stayed in front of your door until you couldn’t hear his heels clicking on the stairs anymore. It sounded like a happy melody. You could feel your heart pounding, and a pleasant warmth in your stomach. A bright smile stayed with you until you fell asleep.

You woke up from a dream; you didn’t remember it, but the Joker’s laugh still resonated in your head. Usually, you didn’t sleep that much, but you guessed you felt especially tired and drained. You looked at the time on your phone; it was almost two in the afternoon. You sighed, still half asleep. You felt as if your brain was wrapped in cotton wool. You walked to the bathroom and entered your bathtub. You turned on the shower.

You closed your eyes, feeling the warm water on your naked skin, caressing your breasts, your stomach, your thighs. You lightly opened your mouth and breathed deeply. Your wet hair stroked your face and your neck. You felt your heartbeat, slow and profound. The steam embraced the parts of you that were not touched by the water. You put your fingertips on your face, caressing your cheeks, your lips, your chin, your neck. You tilted your head back.

Your hands explored the shapes of your body; they brushed your collarbones, held your breasts, drew your waist, caressed your stomach, stroked your thighs. The warmth of the water reminded you of his breath, your touch could be his. Your mind wandered; you thought of him, his smell, his smile. I could use a little bit of chaos in my life, you told him.

Was it his laugh, was it his gestures, was it his eyes that made you moan? You weren’t sure, but it was him. Something about him was inside of you; in your soul, in your stomach. Something twisted touched your heart, something about him bit you. Your fingertips touched your stomach, stroked your pubic hair, reached your labia. It felt like you were discovering your body all over again. You slowly caressed yourself, your fingers sometimes grazing your clitoris.

Your cheeks felt hot, your breath was irregular. I need your chaos in my life, that’s what you really meant. You needed him, in a very particular way; you needed him to tear the order of your life, you needed him to make you feel alive because everything else burns, you needed him to complete you.

Your heart raced, you struggled to breath, and felt dizzy. A pressure was building in your lower belly, like a call from your insides, a burning fire that wouldn’t calm down. And suddenly, like a firework, it exploded at your fingertips. Gentle, but intense at the same time. Like a kiss, that ended up with a bite.

Once you calmed down, you left the shower, wrapped your body in a towel, and went to your bedroom to sit on your bed. You put your face in your hands, and felt overwhelmed. You didn’t exactly understand what was on your mind right now. Multiple confusing feelings embraced you, and you struggled identifying all of them.

Your ringing phone made you jump. For a few seconds, you looked at your phone without moving an inch, still lost in your thoughts. Finally, you took it; you  didn’t recognized the number. You reluctantly picked it up anyway.

“Hello?” You asked.

“Excuse me, am I speaking to (…)?”

“This is she, who am I speaking to?”

“Hello (…), this is Bruce Wayne. I asked the gallery’s owner for your number, I hope you don’t mind.” You choked and became nervous.

“Mr Wayne, what a surprise! How can I help you?”

“Please, you can call me Bruce. I wanted to apologize for the way I left in the middle of our conversation, yesterday. I didn’t see you later this evening, did you get home safely?” Your mind raced, trying to think of an explanation that didn’t involve the Joker. You felt mildly panicked.

“Oh, thank you for your concern. I didn’t feel too well and, well…” You didn’t have the right words to build a lie.

“Right, I think I saw you on the last floor at some point. Probably half a hour after that, there was an attack. Did you have the time to leave before it happened?” You felt stuck. You couldn’t possibly tell him what really happened, but would it be credible if you told him that you left at that moment? Would it be safer to pretend you were still inside when all of it happened? You started panicking when you realized how long you took to answer a simple question. 

“My apologies, it’s probably none of my business.” Simply said Bruce. You sighed in relief.

“Almost no one got hurt, and none of the art pieces got stolen or even damaged.” He added. 

“Thank God…” You whispered.

“Anyway, now you have my number. Feel free to call me, even in the middle of the night, if something unusual happened.” You recognized the legendary politeness of Bruce Wayne in those words.

“Thank you, Bruce. I will…” …probably not.

Once the phone call was over, you felt troubled, and couldn’t stay home. You quickly dressed and left your apartment. What an odd phone call, you thought. 

It was a beautiful afternoon. Children laughed, played in the snow. You walked through the streets of Gotham. People’s happiness was contagious, you mimicked their smile; as if you pretended to be happy yourself, or pretended to be like them. How you really felt, you wouldn’t know. Inadequate, mostly.

The sign in front of the usual bar you would go to was covered in snow. You entered and had a seat. You liked that place; it was one of those old bars with an used dusty piano in the back, small lamps on each table, and wooden stools with red velvet cushions. A smell of spices and peanuts floated around the room.

There were always enough people for you to not look too weird, alone at the table with your usual drink. You enjoyed drawing people, or looking at them, imagining them a life. Sometimes, someone would offer you a drink, or join you and talk to you for a bit. You would gladly spend time with them, listening to their stories. Some of them would confide in you –you supposed it was easier to talk to a stranger sometimes, they probably felt more comfortable, didn’t have to hide their true feelings. 

We all put a mask in this society. We have to smile, laugh, we have to hide, be ashamed and be afraid. The rules of that game were still a bit unclear to you. Because you were not always sure of what was socially acceptable and did not want to hurt people, you quite often thought it would be wiser to remain silent. You watched and listened, qualities that many people lacked, you thought.

You spent the rest of the afternoon, and the beginning of the evening there, drawing the people around you and sceneries of Gotham, drinking tea or fruit juice, and daydreaming. Sometimes, your pencil was searching for the shape of his face. You drew many eyes, but none of them were as shiny as his. You drew several mouths, but none of them had his smile. 

So you closed your eyes, and you saw him.

Chapter Text

There is something unnerving about how quickly a day, a week, or a month can pass by. No matter how busy, complicated, filled with joys or sorrows a day can be, the sun will always set and the moon will always rise. This certainty is very comforting for some; eventually, another day will succeed to the last one, and we will never have any control on it.

The exhibit attracted quite a few visitors. Many were impressed by the quality of the multiple artists’ work. You sold all your paintings between December and January, and some people contacted you to paint new pieces. Sometimes, you thought that everything went back to normal. This month brought you a renewed energy; you went out more often, met new people, felt more inspired.

Today was one of those busy days; you had to go to the bank, get some painting supplies, work on a client’s order and get ready for a Jazz concert later this evening. You probably spent half a hour to collect all the documents you needed for the bank; after weeks of ignoring the pile of mail on your coffee table, you eventually lost the thread. You sighed in relief when you found the last missing letter, immediately put on your coat and left your apartment.

The bank of Gotham was an impressive building, probably built a century ago. You nervously waited in line; excited for tonight, you were thinking about what you could wear. Though it was not crowded, the main room was particularly noisy; there were multiple ringing phones, some people were talking loudly, some of them sighed to manifest their exasperation. You didn’t mind it, the place looked like a small anthill, which you found funny.

The normality of this day suddenly got interrupted by a loud noise followed by several screaming people as a group of masked and armed men entered the bank, shooting in the air. Immediately, you turned your head in the direction of the noise. Your heart was beating so fast and loudly that you couldn’t even hear what the men were screaming. You looked around you, searching for him. You knew he was here, he had to be here.

In the distance, you noticed a purple coat. You felt tears in your eyes, as the Joker walked towards you, surrounded by his men. One of the masked clowns ordered everyone to stay on the floor, which you did. Your heart skipped a beat when the Joker walked past you, without noticing you. You swore you heard something breaking inside of you, as you kept looking in his direction, begging with your eyes for him to face you.

Finally, he stopped, not far from you, and clicked his tongue.

“My apologies for the mess, I swear we won’t take long. But I need you all to stay quiet and calm. Alright?” His voice felt like a bite; you remembered everything about him. You were gently shaking, confused about what you felt in this particular moment; an odd mix of fear and excitement.

A few clowns left the place, probably in order to find the vault, only three of them stayed in the main room. Suddenly, someone shot one of them in the right leg, making him fall and scream in pain. Another one got shot in the shoulder. The bank manager faced them, about to shoot one more time.

“Do you have any idea who you're stealing from?! You and your friends are dead!” He shouted.

The Joker suddenly grabbed you by the arm. You whimpered in surprise. He then pulled you in front of him, wrapped his arm around your throat and put his gun on your temple.

“…Or she dies, if you take one more step.” He said, in a deep voice.

You felt the warmth of his body against yours, clashing with the cold metal of his gun against your head. You started panicking and sobbing. He then moved his face closer to you and murmured in your ear, so softly that you almost didn’t hear it.

“Shh, shh…”

You felt your muscles relaxing slightly. It was now clear that he noticed you, remembered you. You could not, however, feel comfortable. Not with loaded guns surrounding you. The bank manager didn’t move, he didn’t want anyone dead besides the Joker’s gang. The Joker ordered his men to take care of the rest. He walked backwards, until you reached the emergency exit, opening to a stairway. Once the door closed, he released you, grabbed your arm, and walked down the stairs until you stopped in a calm hallway.

He looked at you, with shiny eyes and laughed maniacally. You, on the other hand, didn’t find any of this funny. You struggled catching your breath, you felt tears in your eyes, and your heart was racing. The Joker licked his lips, ran his hand in his hair.

“You did great, you know that? You really helped me there!”

“Are you kidding me? If I knew what would happen, I wouldn’t have entered that bank!”

“Come on, I wouldn’t have let him hurt you.”

“How should I know that?!” He gently chuckled, and looked at you. There was a comfortable silence; you could only hear your heartbeat. His eyes seemed like two diamonds, his smile lit a fire inside of you.

He approached his hand to your face, and gently held it by the fingertips, almost grazing it. He lightly rubbed your trembling bottom lip with his thumb, you slightly opened your mouth. He then grabbed your face with just a little of strength. He moved his face closer to yours.

“You know I wouldn’t.” He whispered.

He pressed his lips on yours. You sighed, and closed your eyes. You felt the warmth of his mouth, the softness of his makeup on your skin, your heart pounding. Slowly, you reached his face with your hands and held it, pulling him closer to you. This made him gently chuckle. He licked your lips, you lightly opened your mouth, allowing him to penetrate it. You tasted his tongue, caressed it, sucked on it. Your hand crawled behind his neck that you stroke, he slid a hand behind your back.

His kiss was making you feel dizzy. His tongue was soft and warm, his body pressed against yours filled you with desire. He probably felt the same, as he pulled you closer. His breath was irregular. You couldn’t tell which heartbeat you were feeling. His smell was all over you –a mix of orange and lightly musky perfume.

You heard a voice on the top floor screaming.

“Joker, we’re ready! The cops are coming!”

He slowly stopped kissing you, looked into your eyes still holding your face, and sighed. He licked his lips. The words were stuck in your throat, you were unable to express how you felt right now, but you knew you didn’t want him to leave. His hands released you, and grazed yours, as he walked back.

“Please don’t…” You murmured in a trembling voice. He chuckled, and offered you his biggest smile.

“Why so serious, darling? Give me a smile, you know it’s not over.” He finally said. You smiled, watching him leave the hallway. You kept smiling after the door closed behind him. Your entire body trembled, a single tear rolled down your cheek. You quickly wiped it.

You used one hand to clean his makeup around your lips, but didn’t touch your mouth. You pressed your lips together and lightly tapped them with your fingers, in an attempt to make them look more even. It probably looked sloppy.

You left the hallway and exited the bank. The police sirens roaring by pierced the silence of the streets. There was no trace of the Joker or his gang anymore, only scared citizens and curious gazes. You quickly walked away, ignoring the bank manager who called you and the police officer waving at you. 

You didn’t even notice the impressive black shape standing in front of the second-floor window. You simply escaped the place, unable to focus on what was happening around you. For a moment, you were not here anymore. You left for another place. Somewhere beyond the city of Gotham.

Chapter Text

Nothing was ever the same since that day. It seemed like a curtain fell, revealing a new world. That day, you could have followed the Joker, if he asked you to. One word, and you would leave everything behind, because nothing really mattered anymore. Your relationship with society and reality was always blurry, confused. But you now knew that the life you were living was lie, despite the efforts you put to convince yourself otherwise.

This new mindset had a considerable impact on your art; you felt free, wild. This brand new perception of Gotham inspired you, and you loved what you created. Each painting reminded you of the Joker’s words. It’s just a joke, everything is a joke. Everything burns. You never felt like them. They are interesting, they have a little family, they laugh at parties. You are inadequate. Like a stain on the picture.

For weeks, you wouldn’t answer the phone anymore, barely talked to anyone. Everyday, you would read the newspaper; this was usually how you would hear from him. Occasionally, you would go to the bar, but the people didn’t look as interesting anymore. Frankly, nothing was interesting anymore.

Confused, lost, overwhelmed, you wandered in the empty streets of Gotham, that night. People stared at you, you wondered if you had something on your face.

There was some noise in the distance; the voice of a man through what seemed to be a megaphone, you walked in its direction. There were multiple police cars surrounding a building. The street was partially closed, making it difficult to see what was happening; not that it was complicated to recognize his laugh breaking the night. While walking around the crowd, you tried to get a better view of what was happening. An officer waved at you, indicating to back off, but you purely ignored her. The police cars’ aggressive lights made you nervous, but you kept walking. Eventually, you found a good enough spot, and started watching the scene.

The Joker was holding a terrified woman at gunpoint, outside the entrance of an old building. Several officers seemed ready to open fire if he moved an inch. In the middle, a man that you recognized from the newspapers, Jim Gordon, was speaking to him through a megaphone, trying to bargain with him. You fool, you thought; nothing you can offer could possibly interest him. The woman sobbed, making the officers even more nervous. As they raised their guns, the Joker screamed.

“Do it! Do it!” He laughed. To him, the whole situation was obviously terribly exciting. It didn’t amuse you one bit. Your heart was pounding, you were worried so much your legs were shaking. He could still escape, through the building. Maybe there was an emergency exit somewhere. You didn’t see any cars behind the building. He could still leave, if he wanted to. But you knew perfectly well that he was more interested in this little game. You couldn’t just stand here and watch him dig his own grave. Come on, think of something, you thought to yourself. You looked around you, desperately trying to collect your thoughts, completely panicked.

Not far from here, you spotted an empty car, right in front of the Joker, behind the wall of police officers. You jumped on top of it, trying not to fall, half blinded by the multiple lights. Your heart was racing; in fact, you thought you could have an attack, right now. You struggled breathing. Now what?! It didn’t take long for an officer to spot you, and yell in your direction. It’s now or never! Do something!

You put your hands around your mouth, and screamed, from the top of your lungs. You called his name so loudly your throat hurt. Your whole body was shaking, you felt tears in your eyes. Look at me, now! A few people stared at you, confused or annoyed. They probably thought you were crazy. And right now, you were not so sure of your own sanity either.

Despite the distance and the relative obscurity of the night, you could swear you saw him looking in your direction. You frantically waved, jumped on the top of the car, until he noticed you. Come on, look at me, you thought. You owe me, this time! Look at me!! You screamed his name one more time, definitely upsetting the officer, who now walked towards you. Leave that place, now! Or they’re gonna kill you! Tears rolled down your cheeks, you never felt so afraid in your entire life.

It seemed like your screams reached him. After a moment that seemed like an eternity to you, he walked back, and pushed the woman, who crawled back to Jim Gordon as soon as he safely entered the building. A few officers immediately chased him. Gordon looked at you with surprised eyes. You took advantage of the confusion to jump from the car and run, as fast as you could. The adrenaline rush helped you escape before anyone could catch you. Not that many people were focused on you, though. You ran on your way back home, locked the door behind you and fell on the floor. You put your head in your hands, trying to calm down, hoping that no one followed you.

At first, you silently sobbed. Tilting your head back against the door, it felt for a moment that you were in a sort of nightmare. You gasped, and finally cried, loudly. You screamed, hit the floor. Completely drained, emotionally exhausted, dizzy, you tried to recollect yourself and think about what just happened. The reality was very hard to swallow; you willingly helped the Joker, which was something morally wrong, considering the fact that he’s a criminal, right? Right?

Why did it feel so good, then? Why did you feel relieved when he escaped? Why did you think for a moment that you did the right thing? There was an immensely painful battle inside of you, two wolves biting each other, and you were not sure which one was the strongest. Or were they simply harming each other equivalently?

Once you calmed down, you shakily stood up. Like an empty shell, you sat on your couch, looking at the window. You looked at the shiny stars piercing the dark sky. This felt like your mind right now. This thought made you sob some more. Your face was red and your eyes swollen.

Did you ever wonder who you really were, before tonight? What your name meant, what your existence meant? Did you ever wonder if you were supposed to be part of that life? You breath and your heart beats, but are you alive? Why are you the inadequate one?

Your thoughts got interrupted by someone loudly banging on the door. It didn’t take you more than a second to know who it was. Your blood boiled, your pulse raced. You ran to the door, and opened it.

He fell, in your arms. Surprised, you didn’t hold him long before falling together on the floor. You were shaking, holding him as close as you could. A few tears rolled down your cheeks, and you closed your eyes. His warmth burnt you. His smell was all over you. You stroked his back. He moaned in pain.

“Are you alright?” You asked, letting go of him. He gently chuckled, holding his ribs, and looked at you. He seemed exhausted. He had blood on his clothes. You saw a few bruises on his face, he probably went into a fight, or worse.

“I am. I escaped.” He simply said. He licked his lips.

“Are you hurt somewhere?”

“I… hit myself pretty badly a few times.” He chuckled. “I just need some rest, but I’ll be fine.” 

You helped him stand up, removed his coat, and walked to your bedroom. You made him lay on your bed, and you sat besides him. He caressed your face with his hand, which you soon held. He smiled, then licked his lips.

“Seems like you helped me, again.” He laughed.

“Yeah… we’re a good pair.” You didn’t mean to say that out loud. Flustered, you released his hand and looked down. You couldn’t have helped it. There was a silence in the room.

“I guess we are…” He murmured. You looked at him, your face was burning. His eyes were closed, but he was breathing. As he fell asleep, you gently caressed his hair. You looked at the window. The shiny stars pierced the dark sky. This felt like your mind right now.

Chapter Text

 

His soft breath filled the silent room. The blood covering his clothes stained the white sheets. As delicately as possible, you removed his shoes, and his gloves. You took at look at his hands; scarred, covered in makeup, hair dye and blood, yet thin and soft.

Under his smudged makeup, you could guess his facial features; huge almond eyes decorated with long eyelashes, a small rounded nose, soft thin lips. You went to your bathroom to pick up some makeup remover and cotton pads. You kneeled besides him, watching him sleep peacefully. After soaking a cotton pad, you gently removed the makeup of his face. Starting with the forehead first, revealing a smooth skin underneath his white mask, you then cleaned his scattered eyebrows.

Carefully, you brushed the cotton pad on his eyelids, then his nose, lips and neck. You paid attention to every detail of his skin; a mole on his cheek, a tiny vein under his eyes, the shadow of his beard, the bruise on his forehead. Finally, you gently cleaned his scars; they looked much less scary without all this red, you thought. With your fingertips, your caressed the borders of his scars; they felt thick and warm.

Once you finished removing all of his makeup, you spent a long time staring at him. He looked so young, so gentle, so beautiful.  He didn’t look anything like the Joker anymore. You fetched a warm wet towel to clear his face. Your calm heartbeat played the melody of your feelings, a piano piece which you only knew the rhythm.

You laid next to him and stroked his hair, until you eventually fell asleep, rocked by the relaxing sound of his breathing. Or was it his presence, making you feel safe and fulfilled?

Something warm was caressing your face. You opened an eye, Joker was stroking your face. He chuckled.

“Did I wake you up?” He whispered. You shook your head.

“How are you feeling?”

“Much better.” He smiled. “I passed out, right?” You nodded. The room was almost completely dark; you probably didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours. As you didn’t close the blinds, the city provided just enough light for you to see his face, close to yours. He licked his lips and ran his hand in his hair.

“You… removed my makeup.” He chuckled. “Sorry for the mess!”

“I thought you’d feel more comfortable this way.”

“I already was.” He gently smiled.

Joker approached his face and pressed his lips on yours. You closed your eyes, and caressed his face with your hand. A pleasant warmth was developing in your stomach, like the wings of a trapped butterfly. You opened your mouth and tasted his tongue. His hand stroked your back, making you sigh. In an attempt to explore everything of him, you gently bit his lip. He chuckled, and pressed your body against his. Your bodies moved together, in the rhythm of your impatient breathing. He kissed you deeply, grabbing you as if he was scared you would leave. You held the back of his neck, pulling him closer to you. A fire was burning you both.

He pushed you on your back, and climbed on top of you. His legs were between yours, one hand held yours, his face was buried in your neck, kissing it, biting it. Your free hand played with his hair, as you moaned. You danced together. Joker kissed your cheek, your lips, and put his hand on your waist, trying to remove your top above your head.

Now half naked, you reached for the buttons of his vest. He helped you undress himself, and got rid of his vest, then his shirt, before kissing you passionately. You felt his hands caressing you, burning you, marking you. Your fingertips caressed his naked back, his sides, his stomach. He then kissed your neck down to your breasts, making you gently moan. His lips felt warm on your soft skin.

You helped him remove your pants and underwear. You were now fully naked. He looked at your body, caressed your thighs, and gently kissed your lips. “Beautiful.” He simply said, in a soft, warm voice.

Your hands stroke his chest and stomach until you reached his belt. He helped you remove it, along with his pants, continuously kissing you. Your hands wandered until you felt his erected sex from your fingertips, making him shiver. His hand gently grazed your vulva, you moaned. His other hand grabbed the back of your neck. “Look at me.” He whispered.

His eyes shined in the obscurity. With one hand, you held his face, while the other now caressed him, making him pant. He licked your lips once, then looked at you. His fingers stroked your lips, grazed your clitoris. He was very patient, enjoying all your reactions. He rubbed your clit in a way, in another, trying to figure which way made you react the most. He then explored your wet vulva. You struggled breathing, your heart pounded, and your hips moved like an invitation.

He held your face still so he could look into your eyes as he slipped a finger inside of you. You both moaned. You stroked him, touched his dripping glans, firmly masturbated him. When you reached a rhythm that he enjoyed, he breathed loudly. He kissed you deeply and closed his eyes. He slipped another finger inside of you, and explored until he found the right spot. Your voice directed him. After a long torture, you whispered into his ear. “I want you.” It made him chuckle.

“As you wish, darling.” He laughed and slowly removed his fingers. He kissed you once, before rubbing his sex against your entrance. As you closed your eyes, sighing, enjoying his warmth, he caressed your hair and ordered: “Look at me.” You opened your eyes, and felt him pushing inside of you.

You gasped, as you felt him filling you whole. Your heart skipped a beat, you couldn’t breath for a while. He was now fully inside of you. Instinctively, you lifted your legs a little bit to make it easier for him to penetrate you. Once he felt comfortable, he didn’t move for a short while, and sighed. He chuckled nervously; he never felt more irresistible than he was right now.

Burning with desire, you stroked his back, kissed and bit his shoulder, making him sigh and gently chuckle. One hand on your waist, he then started to move. You moaned loudly than expected, as he thrusted deeply inside of you. He looked at you, held your face and kissed you passionately, continuously thrusting, growling, moaning. Your whole body was shaking from pleasure, you couldn’t tell where the warmth came from, whose breathing was caressing your skin.

You held him, pulled him closer to you. Each one of his moves brought you closer to climax. You begged. “I want you to come, please, I’m so close.” Which made him moan. “How close?” He asked, violently thrusting and stopping, making you scream. “This close?” He thrusted inside of you once again. He repeated his brutal movements, hitting the right spot, looking at you screaming. As you felt the orgasm coming, you repeatedly called him, holding him. Joker didn’t stop until he felt your muscles tensing, your body shaking. You heard him growl, his hands grabbing your thighs, his nails digging into your skin. He laid on you for a while, you felt his heart racing, his irregular breath caressing your neck. You ran your fingers in his hair, kissed his head.

Joker rolled over and faced you, a bright smile on his face. You felt your cheeks burning. You laughed together. He embraced you, you buried your face in his neck. His touch was so soft, so calming. You stayed like this for a while, caressing each other, enjoying each other’s warmth, feeling each other’s heartbeat, before slowly falling asleep.

In this moment, you felt happy, content, fulfilled. You also felt immensely safe. Nothing could hurt you anymore, as long as his arms protected you, as long as both of your hearts played the same melody.

Chapter Text

The cold light of the morning embraced the room through the blinds, the howling wind and the tapping sound of the rain against the window woke you up. The water drops smashing, rolling, breaking against your window sounded like a lullaby, making you feel even comfier, buried under the blankets. You opened your eyes, and stared at the ceiling for a couple of seconds that seemed like hours. After a while, you turned your head, the place next to you was empty. You leaned on your elbow and blinked, still half asleep and groggy.

His clothes and shoes were missing. A strand of green hair remained on the pillow, you picked it between your fingers. Once you decided you spent enough time daydreaming, you sighed and sat on the bed. Your legs were weak, it required a lot of energy to get your underwear and your top. 

In the hallway, you looked at the living room. Sitting on the couch, he was admiring the window. He barely moved. Small and dirty pans of white and black makeup, a tube of lipstick and his gloves were on the coffee table. His coat was on the couch, next to him.

“I thought you’d leave.” You said.

Joker turned his head, licked his lips and frowned.

“Even for me, that’d be cold.” You chuckled, and sat next to him.

“How are you feeling?” You asked.

He smiled at you in response, then chuckled some more.

“What really happened, yesterday?” You finally asked. He cleared his throat.

“Right, remember our little date at the bank the other day? Well, some people apparently don’t like to share, so we had a not-so-cordial talk, see?” He laughed. “They’re acting all tough, threatening people for a bit of money, that’s simply grotesque.”

You didn’t quite follow him.

“Who are you talking about?” He looked at you and smiled.

“Maroni and his men, part of the mob, they’re completely scared of the Night now, so they’ve been killing people, trying to be the Kings of Gotham.” He gestured in the air, obviously exasperated.

“Do they want you dead too?”

“They want any criminal dead, ‘cause they know how ridiculous they are. And now, they’re trying to get him.”

Him?

He chuckled. “But they won’t, no they won’t get him.” He laughed maniacally, which hurt him. He massaged his ribs. Worried, you put a hand on his arm. You stayed like that for some time, silently.

“I should go.” He finally said. You watched him standing up slowly, taking his coat.

“Joker?”

“Mh?”

“Take me with you.”

He faced you, and frowned. He ran a hand in his hair, and licked his lips, seemingly confused.

“Take you… where?”

You shrugged. “Anywhere.” He gently chuckled and held your face in his hands. He looked at you in the eyes for a while, and nodded.

“You’ll be fine, darling.”

“I’m never fine when you leave. Besides, I don’t have anything left here.”

He pressed his lips on your forehead. It was incredibly soft. You closed your eyes, and put one hand on his. With his thumb, he caressed your face. In this moment, you felt safe. He then released you, and walked to the door. You didn’t move, but watched him once again walk out of your life. You remembered the first time he left your apartment, a few months ago. Back then, you thought you still had a place in society. You didn’t know then how much you wanted, or needed him.

At the door, he looked at you. You stared at him, seemingly upset. You crossed your arms, tears filled your eyes. He pressed his two index fingers on his lips, and drew a smile on his face, like an invitation. You then smiled at him, as genuinely as you could, despite feeling your throat closing.

“You know… I really like it. Your smile.” He chuckled, and closed the door behind him. You sobbed, silently at first, then bursted into tears. You sat on the couch and allowed yourself to cry for an unbearably long time.

When you woke up, you were laying on your couch; it was dark, your eyes were still burning, and you had the worst headache of your life. You probably slept through the whole day. If I’m staying here for one more minute, I’m going to explode, you thought to yourself. You dressed up, grabbed your coat, and left soon after.

The cold weather really helped with your headache and burning face. It calmed you down for a little bit. You didn’t walk for too long, you stopped at your regular bar, ordered a fruit juice, and stared at people. You let your thoughts wander. You buried your face in your hands. Was I wrong, all this time? You thought.

The people around you seemed joyful, as usual. There were friends, heavily drinking and laughing. The lovers who just wanted to grab a beer to celebrate the end of the day. The coworkers having a polite drink after work. A few lonely people, waiting for the rest of their friends, partner, date to join them, looking around them. Sometimes, they looked at you, and smiled. You would feel an intense pain, similar to dozens of needles stabbing your heart, as you smiled back.

Something heavy was stuck in your throat, on your shoulders, in your head. I don’t understand people, I don’t belong here, even Joker doesn’t want me. I don’t belong anywhere. You had those occasional parasitic thoughts through the evening, between two sips of juice. With your sleeves, you’d sometimes wipe a few silent tears. Mentally exhausted, you spent the rest of the night at the bar. In your sketchbook, you drew the city of Gotham. What I’m good at, you thought.

Focused on this sketch, you didn’t notice the silhouette coming closer to you. You didn’t even hear it sitting right in front of you, looking at you. It was the sound of its glass of whisky on the table that made you jump. In front of you was sitting an elegant middle-aged man with dark hair and huge green eyes. His face had harsh features; a chiseled chin, an aquiline nose, wide forehead. He could have been an Hollywood actor, you thought for a moment.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to scare you.” He said, in a very low yet incredibly soft voice. You mumbled and gestured, trying to say that everything was fine. He nodded, and gently smiled at you. He then pointed at your sketchbook.

“It looks nice, are you an artist?”

You cleared your throat, feeling a little bit more comfortable. “Yeah, I paint a little b…” You interrupted yourself. “Actually, I was part of the last exhibit at the Gotham’s art gallery.” He lifted an eyebrow and shook his head, seemingly impressed.

“What are you doing here all alone? Shouldn’t you be at a fancy event with other talented artists? Unless you’re waiting for someone…?” He seemed rather direct, but not hostile. You tried to not feel destabilized, and smiled.

“Oh, no… No, it’s not exactly my cup of tea. Too clean… Too serious.”

“And what is your cup of tea?” He asked, taking a sip of whisky. His eyes were shiny, it felt like they could pierce your soul. You ran your hand in your hair.

“Chaos.” You whispered, looking at your sketchbook. You were not sure that he heard you, but he chuckled.

“What’s your name, Mrs the artist?”

“(…). What’s yours?”

“Salvatore. It’s very nice to meet you. Maybe we could grab a cup of tea sometimes?” You didn’t exactly plan to meet him again, but there was something intimidating about him. You had a weird gut feeling. You closed your sketchbook, and grabbed your coat.

“Maybe. I have to go now, but it was very nice to meet you too. Good night!” Salvatore gently smiled at you, and nodded in response. His face seemed friendly again.

You left the bar, and walked down the street. It was pitch dark, the only source of light were of a few old street lamps. There were no stars in the sky anymore, you wondered if they too left. You sighed, lost in your thoughts. So lost that you didn’t hear the footsteps behind you.

Suddenly, you felt someone grabbing you from behind, a gloved hand pressing a piece of cloth against your mouth and nose. Then, everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Jim Gordon sighed, looking through his files for the umpteenth time. This case didn’t make any sense.

Batman stared at the different documents on the table. He carefully took each picture, each note, and examined them. Jim Gordon looked at him, silently. 

“We’re stuck.” He admitted. “Every day, more people are missing. We discover them a few days later, when it’s too late. They keep sending us wrong leads to follow, we’re losing time. When we finally identify one of their hideouts, it’s too late; they already left. At first, their only motive was the money, a ridiculously large sum of money. Now they want you as well.”

“What do we know for sure about them ?” Asked Batman.

“We know that Sal Maroni and his gang are behind it. They send us letters, pictures or videos of a new victim every few days, threatening them if we don’t obey. It’s been going on for two weeks now. We discovered four bodies so far. We recognized every place shown in the videos, but didn’t get there in time.”

“Why didn’t you give them what they wanted?” Batman looked a the map of Gotham covered in small dots, indicating the last time we saw the victims alive, where they were found dead, the locations of the hideouts and possible hideouts.

“They always set a date to meet them with the ransom. We determined that the victims were already dead before that date, but after we received the threat, with no exception. It’s as if it wasn’t even about the ransom in the first place.”

“I’d like to see the videos.” 

Gordon sighed, and took one of the CD on the table with him. He played it on the television.

The video showed a motionless woman laying on the floor of a basement, restrained with a rope. She seemed to be alive, but had bruises on her head and knees; she probably fought some way or another. She was breathing very slowly, she seemed like she was drugged. She had a piece of cloth in her mouth. The man holding the camera talked in a muffled voice, explaining what he wanted, when the transaction would happen.

“We received that video a week ago. They wanted to meet us 2 days ago. We identified the basement 3 days ago, when we went there it was empty. We found the body 4 days ago.” Explained Gordon. “It’s the first one where they mentioned you. They want you to reveal yourself.”

Batman didn’t say anything and carefully watched the screen.

“And we received the last one this morning. We’re still trying to identify the place it’s from. We thought that maybe you could help us, this time. We don’t have a clue, so far.” Gordon removed the CD and played the second one. It was another woman, laying on the concrete floor of what seemed to be an abandoned building. The windows were covered with wooden planks. Pieces of glass covered the dirty floor. Batman leaned against the table, his breathing accelerated. He squinted, trying to get as many details as possible from this video.

“Do you have any idea where this place could possibly be?” Asked Gordon.

“None. But I know someone who will.” Said Batman, before leaving the room.

*

The easiest part was to catch him. Finding him was something else entirely. It took Batman two entire days to find the trace of the Joker, and it was only because he interrupted him in the middle of a bank robbery. Batman never really understood why the Joker was doing what he was doing; he knew that he had no interest in money, and he refused to admit that someone could be insane enough to do questionable things just because… they do.

Batman was dragging a laughing Joker to the police station. They passed in front of multiple surprised officers and Jim Gordon, walked across the hallway and went straight to an interrogatory room. There, Batman threw him on the floor with all of his strength. Despite the pain that caused his fall, the Joker was still laughing as hard as when he first entered the room. Gordon walked to the other side of the interrogatory room and looked at what would happen next. 

Silently, Batman stepped in front of the Joker, waiting for him to calm down.

“Come on, why the long face now?!” The Joker asked.

“I want you to tell me everything you know about Sal Maroni and where to find him.” He knew that if someone was aware of any criminal business, it could only be Joker. He saw in him the only hope they currently had to stop the gang from their murderous rage.

The Joker squinted, licked his lips and looked at him, trying to express some kind of surprise but eventually failing pathetically.

“Well, I wish I could help you on this one, trust me I wish I could. But I’m afraid I don’t care enough about Maroni’s little business.” Wrong answer.

He then grabbed the Joker by the collar and shoved him against the wall. Joker maniacally laughed at him. 

“You have nothing to threaten me with, nothing!”

He released him, making him fall on the floor, and left the room. The Joker seemed confused for a moment but didn’t think too much of it. He was now sitting against the wall, completely calm, and patiently waited for something to happen.

After a short while, Batman came back with a television on a rolling cabinet. He put the television on the floor, and played the last video Gordon received from Maroni.

“Are you going to show me your last vacation photos?” Joker laughed. Batman remained silent. The video started, but Joker was still chuckling uncontrollably. He raised an eyebrow when he saw the dirty old building, probably thinking that it was an absolutely tasteless crime, then he noticed the body on the floor and the chuckling stopped, until he became completely silent.

Of course he knew that woman, and this didn’t make him laugh. He swallowed his saliva and couldn’t take his eyes off your motionless body on the floor. His whole body was tense but he himself didn’t express any sort of feeling. You were restrained by a rope. Your head, legs and arms were bruised. The Joker tilted his head, as if he wanted to face you through the screen. He licked his lips. He completely ignored the other men talking or moving in the video.

The video ended.

“Do you know where she is?” Asked Batman. The Joker sighed. 

“We’re running out of time, Joker. I need to know.”

“This is an abandoned building at 250, 52nd street.” He said in a calm, deep voice.

Batman left the room as soon as he had this information, leaving the Joker on the floor, facing the black screen of the television.

Batman didn’t have any trouble to find the abandoned building at the address the Joker gave him. His heart was pounding, he knew that each minute counted. He entered the building and broke every door on the first floor –when there was even one left. He looked through every room, looked for any stain, drop of blood, trace of you. Sometimes, he would stop and listen carefully, trying to catch any noise, any voice. He repeated the same gestures, like a dancer, at every floor. Until he reached the last one.

There was only one room left. Facing the closed door, Batman had a terrible gut feeling. He took a deep breath, and broke the door.

The room was empty. Batman sighed, clenched his fists. He looked around him; there was no footsteps, no string of hair, no trace of rope in the dirt. Come to think of it, it didn’t even really look like the place in the video. Batman screamed out of anger.

He lied. He knew you were in danger, and he lied.

Chapter Text

Batman looked all around him, in a desperate attempt to find a clue or the trace of a presence, anything that could help the case, but he soon realized that he was not in the right building at all. Filled with rage, he thought he could kill Joker right this instant, or hurt him badly enough that he would never be able to lie again. Or talk at all, for that matter. With his bare hands, he would make him regret lying to him. He would not smile anymore, not to him.

Joker’s terrifying laugh resonated in his head, filling him with anger. Furious, he punched an already crumbled wall and screamed. His voice disappeared in the cold night, and the silence embraced the room again. He could not lose his temper now, he was already running out of time. He needed an answer, now.

In a hurry, he exited the building and jumped on his motorcycle. Passing every vehicle in front of him, he tried to recollect himself and think of every other possible hideouts that he knew, but quickly his thoughts were on you again. 

He knew you did not simply leave the Gotham Art Gallery that night, every floor was guarded by at least one of Joker’s men. Your poor reaction on the phone the next day confirmed his thoughts; he did not know what exactly happened, but Joker let you go in a way or another. Perhaps you were part of his plan, or maybe you helped him enter the building.

Then, there was the incident at the bank. You left later than the rest of the crowd, you did not come to the police, it seemed like you were trying to not get noticed. He was not entirely sure of how involved you were in his crimes, but there was definitely something between the two of you; if you were not partners in crime, you at least knew each other, he was certain of it.

Finally, Gordon told him about a disoriented woman yelling in the night, confusing everyone but who ultimately helped in a hostage taking. She apparently ran away soon after Joker escaped. It was clear to Batman that not only you were that woman, but that you also cared enough about him to help him.

What was your implication in Joker’s life? From the informations he gathered about you, you did not seem like a dangerous person. In fact, your profile was not the one of a criminal, by far. Yet, you cared about him enough to help him, and he probably at least trusted you enough to involve you in his crimes.

Then, why would your safety not be important? Did he overestimate your relationship? Did Joker thought that if Batman rescued you, he would make you talk and help the police? Batman shook his head; Joker was smarter than that. For someone who pretends to never have a plan, it seemed like he would always be one step ahead. Whether you confessed or not was probably not important to him.

A thought chilled his blood; maybe he was stupid enough to believe in Joker’s humanity, just for once. Joker does not have any goal in life. Madness is like gravity, all it takes is a little push, he once told him.

*

After a short while, Batman broke into the police station. Multiple officers looked hurt, and could not face him as he entered the hallway. He glanced at the empty interrogatory room, and furiously grabbed one of the officers by the collar. He yelled: “Where is he?!” but no sound came out of his mouth.

“He escaped.” From the back of the room, the voice of Jim Gordon was faint. Releasing the officer, Batman slowly walked towards him. Gordon was sitting on a chair, his face buried in his hands. For a moment, the room was filled with silence; Batman was standing in front of Gordon, loudly breathing. “He hurt several officers. He escaped.” His short sentences were almost cryptics. He obviously did not want to talk about what happened. His shame and disappointment floated around him, the atmosphere was terribly heavy.

Batman sighed. He grabbed a chair, sat next to Gordon and massaged his temple.

“Did it help at all?” Asked Gordon in a trembling voice. Batman remained silent as an answer.

The sharp pain in his heart was tearing him apart. It felt like an already familiar wound that opened again. He knew that pain all too well; he felt it every time he failed to save someone. Each failure reminded him of his parents.

Batman looked at the interrogatory room. The corner of the table was damaged and covered in blood, as if something hit it brutally. There were fresh red drops on the floor and on the walls. A chair was broken in half, one of them was at the other extremity of the room. Dark rubber and sole marks covered the floor. People fought violently in that room.

He sighed, contemplating the place, imagining what happened. A detail however picked his interest. Almost unnoticeable at first, it was then shining like a diamond. He stood up and entered the room. Slowly, he walked to the television and kneeled. His breath accelerated, and for a moment there was no other noise in the room but his pounding heart. It was just a simple detail, five small shiny dots on the black screen. Five fingerprints.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed since the last time Gordon heard of Sal Maroni. No threat, no videotape, not a letter, and we never found your missing body. 

The news quickly spread; the artist of Gotham was the last victim of Maroni. A real publicity stunt for the gallery, considering the many visitors witnessing your remaining paintings. You would have found funny how lonely and out of the society you were then, and how people noticed you now. People feed on tragedies.

The police broke into your apartment since you disappeared, trying to find any clue possible. It was not particularly clean or messy, a pretty average place. A light dust on the furnitures indicated that no one visited that place for weeks. It seemed clear to them that Maroni or his men did not come here, and so they quickly gave up.

One night, Batman entered your apartment, investigating on his own. He could not help feeling his heart ache at the view of your canvases on the floor. It has been a few months now since the first time you met. He immediately thought there was something different about you, but was not sure if it was a crushed soul or a burning will to live. Those two traits often looked similar, he knew it more than anyone.

Batman looked at the pile of documents on your coffee table, the dusty record on the player, the mugs in the sink. It will soon be two months since you disappeared, and next week your apartment will be emptied and rented again, probably for a higher price now that there was a story behind this place.

The bedroom was simple, but looked comfortable. He sat on the bed, and looked at the pillows. He raised an eyebrow and blinked. A single strand of hair remained on the sheets, he carefully picked it up between his fingers. Without great surprise, it was green. Batman sighed, closed his eyes and pressed his fist against his forehead. Did Maroni know about the two of you?

Batman got lost in his thoughts. There was a sharp pain in his chest, he struggled breathing. Whenever a case tormented him, he felt anxious. And this case was particularly unusual to him.

After a long time, he decided to leave. Holding the door handle of the front door, he looked one last time at the apartment. It’s time to say goodbye, Bruce. Then, he closed the door and left in the thick night of Gotham.

This particular night still haunted Bruce Wayne to this day. He would sometimes think of that old building, the videotape, Joker’s laugh. Before going to bed, he thought of what he could have done differently. He would think of you, and how the police would eventually find your body rotting somewhere.

*

The Bat-Signal pierced the sky, that night. Gordon was waiting in the cold for him to come. It did not take long before the dark silhouette appeared dramatically in front of him.

“What’s the matter, Gordon?” He promptly asked. Batman was firmly standing in front of him, like a statue, a gargoyle. Gordon handed him an used envelope.

“You deserve to know.” Gordon said in a calm voice. They locked eyes. When Batman took the envelope without a word, he adjusted his coat, ran a hand through his hair and raised his eyebrows. He then opened his mouth, but no sound could possibly come out of it. There was nothing else to say, so he simply left. Once he disappeared in the night, Batman opened the used envelope; it was a CD. His blood turned cold, he knew that this CD was the closure he hoped for. In a hurry, he left the top of the building.

Arrived at the Wayne Manor, Bruce immediately entered his room and played the CD on his computer without even taking the time to undress first, he simply removed his cowl. His heart was racing, his breath was fast, his body was shaking.

He immediately recognized the place that gave him nightmares. He also recognized your body on the floor as if this happened yesterday. His heart skipped a beat, and he felt this sharp pain once again. During long minutes that seemed to be hours, he listened to Sal Maroni and his men talking about their plan, what was supposed to happen next, without even acknowledging you once, almost unconscious on the floor.

There was a muffled sound on the next room, quickly followed by screams. Maroni yelled at his men, asking what was going on. Several gunshots pierced the walls. Bruce couldn’t breath for several seconds, his heart stopped completely.

 Someone broke the door. Bruce sighed loudly and shook his head, watching the Joker shooting in the room. Shooting Sal Maroni and his men, one by one. He didn’t stop until everyone was laying motionless. At each gun shot, Bruce startled. Joker looked at the floor, making sure everyone was dead. Shortly after, he threw his gun on the floor, and ran to your body.

He took a knife out of his pocket and cut the ropes. You were so exhausted that you struggled to move or talk, you only moaned when you saw his face. He removed his coat and whispered to you. “Shh… shh. I’m here, It’s over now.” He wrapped you in his coat, and carried you delicately. You passed your arms around his neck. You could feel his warmth again, you could smell him again –a mix of oranges and a lightly musky perfume–, and you felt safe.

The Joker walked to the camera. He offered Bruce his brighter smile before stopping the recording.

Bruce tilted his head up, ran a hand in his hair and took a deep breath. He then undressed, laid in his bed and looked through the window; it was a beautiful night, the stars were particularly bright. And finally, everything was quiet.

*

Everything was quiet, except for the light breath of the Joker and his warm heartbeat. You gave him a soft kiss on the shoulder, accidentally waking him up. You gently chuckled, and snuggled against him. You felt safe. Joker brushed your hair delicately, and smiled at you. 

It was a smile unlike any you had seen before. 

The End