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The Echo of You

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[Dear readers: New and old, before we begin please note chapters 1and 2 will be polished and reworked. Finally that rust on my writer's brain is starting to ware off so Im polishing these up before we get too deep. ;)]

 

 

 

 

‘Sleep in peace when the day is done, that's what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
For me
Stars when you shine
You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
you know how I feel,
It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life, For me

And I’m Feeling Good.’

 

Every muscle in your body throbbed and begged for rest, and If it were even the slightest bit within the realm of possibility you would have laid down right there on the street and slept. Even if you'd wanted to it would have been impossible. The trash strike had gone on long enough that the piles of garbage had grown until they toppled over to gather on the sidewalks. Worse areas spilled out into the streets becoming so dangerous that a rise in traffic accidents kept you pulling frequent double shifts to assist in the ER. Not to mention the fact that you'd only been able to leave work early due to the exponential rise in rioting. It somehow had flooded during the evening out into parts of the city a few miles from where it had started and been contained for the past few weeks.

The scene grew before you with a creak of heavy hospital doors as they slowly slid open and the horror and surrealism of it all settled in your chest and gripped it tight. That image….your eyes settled over the street in utter disarray, you couldn't fathom it, you knew it would be branded there behind your lids forever. A place where you kept many secret horrors, a photo album for your subconscious, scars on your memory. The place things no amount of suppression would allow them to be forgotten. Chaos unfolded in every which way, and the familiar street you took to work and back every day was unrecognizable. Debris scattered as far down as u could see, people ran screaming under the sounds of glass being broken, metal being smashed, and somewhere far enough away to almost be indistinguishable there was chanting and clapping. What the hell could have motivated the riots all the way to this lower-class neighborhood so far from the city center, was all u could manage to think before you heard the doors of the hospital close behind you, and click. FUCK! The key was in your locker, with your regular clothes, somehow you'd forgotten to go to get them before u left. Without further hesitation you found yourself having to head down the chaotic road leading toward your apartment. The brisk pace turned into a run as the riots began to surround you.

Even in the terror of navigating your way through it all, you recalled that when you left for your double shift at the hospital the previous morning the rioting was still focused at the heart of Gotham, the area made up of government buildings, elitist banks, and of course Wayne Enterprises. It was only an hour ago you'd heard that the rioting had spread to the entertainment district several city blocks from here, but last you heard was still being held at bay.

So that left you horrified as to what the hell was capable of turning the city on its head in such a short time. Up until you'd left the safety of the hospital walls you'd been soaring on the idea of nice cool leisurely walk before you got home and sunk into a bath. Any idea of leisure was replaced with a gut-wrenching fear that sent adrenaline flooding through your veins. The only thing you could think now was to just run, run as fast as you could and just make it home alive. The city seemed to go up in smoke and violence all around you and only got worse as you tried to find a safe way through the frenzy. People in clown masks were everywhere causing havoc, some held signs and screamed their protests others carried weapons and smashed anything in sight, panicked citizens like yourself sought refuge in desperation. Screams and sirens pierced the air growing in their already deafening volumes, and you ran faster and faster managing only to catch what seemed to be the aftermath of a violent car accident in the direction you’d been heading. A crumpled cop car was left smashed beneath an ambulance, both of which still somehow flashed their reds and blues despite being left abandoned. The smoke rising from both vehicles was thick in the air now and you tasted burnt oil and other chemicals as it filled and hit ur lungs with a force that threatened to bring you to your knees. You felt yourself suffocating, and your legs begin to buckle, but a deafening explosion sends fire and rubble flying everywhere from somewhere behind you, the force shaking the ground and sends you sprinting with everything you have left. Despite your eyes burning from the smoke and ears ringing from the blast you somehow steer yourself into a small dark alley tucked between two brick buildings, and you sprint until your as far from the street as possible. There you give out, praying as you crumple to the ground that you’d be safe for a moment. There you stay on your knees, chest heaving and gasping for oxygen which felt like hot knives scraping your throat and lungs....a few minutes pass until finally, the world began to stop from its erratic spinning.

As if it were no longer you at that moment you hear yourself begin to frantically laugh, which turns into hysterics, the sound is guttural, animalistic, and you can't stop it. The affliction only escalates until it had you gripping at your throat choking on your sobs and tears. The trembling slowly eases after several minutes and the laughter fades to hiccups. At last your panic was fading and your body was suddenly left numb, weightless and without bearings as if it were being swept up with all the fumes of the burning city and you push your palms into the ground, a dull pain digs into your fingertips while you claw at the gravel below. I'm alive I'm alive, I'm alive…. You repeat until blood begins to gather under your nails. “I'm real, I'm alive, I'm alive….” The whole situation felt so far away, but you were alive that's all that mattered, and suddenly you could feel every fiber of our body light up and vibrate with that notion. And a smile curves ur lips when u feel a sense overwhelming liberation from the exhaustion and fear that had almost crippled you until then. It was empowering, and something you hadn't ever felt before. And you basked in it until you were interrupted

“Alive is right Sweetheart.” A soft voice, confident but hoarse, yanked you out of your head and had you scrambling away on your ass and heels. Somehow you had missed the figure leaned up against the opposite corner of the walled-off alley, He stood in the larger part of a shadow but you could plainly see the outline of him lit up by a dim security light overhead. You shot to your feet, ready all over again to sprint for your life if so much as flinched in your direction.

But as you went to turn and take off before he had the chance to move the figure spoke again “Please wait-I..” His voice was ragged and the sound of pain pulled you to glance back at him, he was cut off as a cough shook him, and even in the dim light, you could see him falter from the force. You couldn't help but evaluate his stance for a moment, and what you could gather just from the way he held himself, was that he had been injured and it could very well be serious. Had he been in the car collision which left that mass of vehicles and wreckage in the street a ways back? If that were the case he was lucky to have lived. “If you’d be so kind, I could use your help. Y-your a doctor, is that right my dear?" He said holding back another cough. “I swear I won’t hurt you, I just need some patching up, and then I'll be off” He added with what almost sounded like amusement.

Something made you uncomfortable about the man, despite being wounded and barely visible, there was something in his voice which was vaguely distant and familiar, but felt off in every way. "The hospital is down that way,” you told him with a gesture, he didn't respond for a long moment and instead chuckled the sound strained, and you'd already realized in the same moment he had how idiotic you'd been. If he could have gone there by now he probably would have at least started that way, or at least asked you to help him get there, no this man had been hiding and not from the riots as she had been.

“Can't go to the hospital darlin’, or the police,” He couldn't hold back and lost it before even finishing the word police, his laugh was heavy with mockery and it cackled and stuck you with anxiety though you guessed that it was aimed at the police more so than you. The laughter was soon replaced by harsh coughing and blood leaked from his mouth. Of course, that was his response ...why else would he have asked you after clearly having hidden for some time in the dimmest spot of the dimmest alley. It was sheer coincidence, dumb luck, that a fumbling resident of Arkham stumbled right into his lap, and you felt extremely idiotic at that moment. You were still in your scrubs for fuck's sake, and you cursed yourself for your forgetfulness.

 

Before you could stop yourself you were already turning to face him completely, “ I'm no- I'm doing my residency over at…..” you paused realizing how stupid explaining anything was at a time like this. “ Almost, a Dr. Yeah,” you said shakily. You could just leave him there, it's not like he’d be able to stop you in his battered state, he'd be a burden just getting him to your home safely. He would have a hard enough time walking judging by his posture but even at the passing idea of ditching him there had you sick with yourself. You were never, not once, in your life the kind to just abandon someone in crisis. You knew too well it shouldn't matter who they were, what was in their past or how they acted. If they needed help it was your moral code to help them, so why let the burning garbage and the shit city keep you from doing what you believed was right just because you were frightened. You began to lift your hand and It was then he took a step forward and into the dim orange light flooding in from the street ablaze behind you, and you could start to clearly make out his features. He wore a bright red suit which, with a yellow suit vest speckled in blood, it looked tailored but now hung over his injured body messily. From what you could tell he had shoulder-length hair also in a total mess but the color was strikingly green, but none of that was anything compared to the most terrifying feature which was his face. It was thick with paint, sweat, and blood which had smeared and mixed. It bled color down his sharp almost gaunt features and you could barely make out that there was a man somewhere beneath the haunting image. The only assurance was the look in his eyes, you could barely make them out and initially you read that there was something in them that sent a shiver dancing up your spine, but it was the genuine plea silently shown in their intensity which kept you. That plea, plain and painfully written in them finally brought you to approach him and you offered him a hand which he took gratefully. He was in terrible shape and just hoped you could do enough to help him so he'd be out of your hands as quickly as possible.

He ever so gently gave yours a squeeze as if to say thank you. “Phew, I thought I was a goner” He sighed and leaned backward with a theatrical flourish, his free wrist pressed against his blood matted forehead. From under his hand, he stole a look at you, one that ate you up from your head to toes, making you swallow. Then straightening himself before sending you a wink accompanied by a grin that was far too wide to be one of simple happiness. “Where to my dear?”

Again this feeling of nostalgia took over you, at some point you'd known this man, or at least heard his voice enough to know for certain he wasn't a complete stranger. You'd forgotten he’d even asked you a question by then, and you looked up into his dark eyes to search for a person you could recognize but frowned, “What’s your name? You just seem so-...I feel like I know you from som.._” You blurted out, clapping your hand over your lips in a flash, but it was far too late. You needed to to keep reminding yourself about the fact that he was a criminal and didn't have any clue as to how dangerous he really was. Even if there was a chance you knew him, it would be insane to ask him who he was, not only would that make you a potential threat but would also put yourself in a position to be pursued by the police yourself. Just knowing who he was made you accountable for his actions until he was no longer in your care. You couldn't help but feel like what little control over your life you'd only managed to find for yourself over the last few years was slipping away before your eyes. Same cycle different day... you think to yourself and wonder if building a life simply to have some sort of control in it was even worth it. Your whole life had been fighting the things beyond your control, and hating yourself for trying when it came back to bite you more often than not. Perhaps control and your dreamy ideas of normalcy would only leave a bad taste on your tongue at the end of it all…. You weren't sure how long you both had stood there wordlessly exploring the other's eyes for answers. Not a sound between you could be heard but the air was thick with the sound of words that neither of you chose to speak, and god the look he gave you had a frequency all its own. As if he wasn't searching your eyes to find whether or not he did know you, but more like he was looking into them to see who you'd become. Like he was forming a list of ways you had changed for better or worse. This idea made you swallow hard, and you could suddenly feel how parched you were.

He must have picked up on your anxiety and discomfort at that moment and he lowered his eyes before turning away from you in a gracefully slow way as if he were leading up to a dance performance and he outstretched his arms as if there were an audience sat on the street “You can call me Joker. Since that is MY name.” he only turned his head to take a peek at you while choosing his next words, he took command of every syllable and stretched each with intention, letting them gracefully roll from his mouth in a seductive way that would pull anyones ear at full attention, “However, y/n, the old me you had known fairly well, in fact …” he paused and turned back to the way of the street. Before he spoke again he allowed his arms fall to his sides as if he’d become weak, “You knew him far more than most ever had or ever would ....” Joker’s words seemed to weaken as well and had lost their theatrics, the sound was barely more than a whisper and held an old sadness in it, one you knew so well. What the hell, why was it that you couldn't recall a thing, anything in your past that would help to remember! You had that sick feeling as though his name was about to roll right past your lips, so strong it made you ill not to be able to just say it.You opened your mouth as the right name started to form in your subconscious and was ready to be freed, but before you could even make a sound the feeling died as soon as it had started.

Both Joker and you were stricken with alarm when you picked up the very faint sounds of police sirens heading in your direction and growing in volume as they approached far too quickly. “Time to go!’ He said too matter- of-factly, his far too amused tone had found its way back into his voice and demeanor, and he hooked your elbow into his, “Now then, which way love?”

 

You wiggled free from his grip and let out a long sigh before heading toward the street you’d only just managed to escape moments ago, and guided Joker toward your apartment. You thanked whatever higher power that looked out for you that you had the weekend off from work. It took the better part of the night to navigate just a couple blocks while dodging cops and struggling through the aftermath left by the rioting. The closer you came to being at home the more a feeling in your gut grew, one that screamed your life wouldn't be the same again, and that this man was going to be the end of you.

 

 

x x x

 

First, sorry for errors, I had to type this out as fast as I could while the idea was hot off the ol'brain press. 
Second, that's it for this chapter, as for how our dear reader knows Joker, well I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

If you enjoyed the doodle and would like to see more in future chapters then feel free to let me know.  

   Thank you all for reading!♡

Song Quoted at the beginning: 'Feeling Good' By Nina Simone

Chapter Text

 

"What did you do, wonder where
Your heart came from
What have you done
My only friend keep on
Wander or leave,
Turn into winter lights
Keeping your strength
When it gets dark at night

Keep on
Keep the straight line
I'm running, running
The straight line

What did you do, wonder where
Your heart came from
What have you done
My only friend keep on
Wander or leave,
Turn into winter lights
Keeping your strength
When it gets dark at night

What you're feeling
It's what I'm feeling too
What you're made of
It's what I'm made of too
What are you afraid of
I know that you are
What are you afraid of
I know that you are"

 

 

.      .      .

 

 

To say you were relieved when you entered your apartment complex was one hell of an understatement, you nearly cried  when your eyes finally met the rundown shabby looking wooden door to your unit. If it wasn’t for the company of this fugitive you were harboring (and his ever apparent devil-may-care attitude that made forgetting his presence painfully impossible if even for a second) you probably would have dropped to plant kisses all over your hideously generic welcome mat. Instead you fetch the spare key you thankfully left taped to the bottom of the door and unlock the place, before you could even finish turning the knob Joker pushed against the door in a hurry as soon as the gears made a click and barged his way past you to slide inside,  "Sorry to be so rude my dear, wanted criminals first and all that. Next time I promise I’ll be a true gentleman.” He chimed, dripping with self amusement as he strutted off, barely a limp in his step as he disappeared momentarily into the darkened entryway.

 

Oh god, there damn well better NOT be a next time. You grumbled internally, and flipped the switch, the main light did its usual reluctant flickering before switching on to illuminate your messy apartment. You weren’t a slob by any means but clutter held a certain level of comfort-ability over you for as long as you could remember so keeping a tidy living area was never a priority. Plus you didn’t see the point, you never really had company nor did you really allow anyone to be close enough to you to invite over. You’d basically given up on a social life after having ended a messy relationship a little over a year ago. Since then you allowed random papers, sketches, and clothing to gather in little piles strewn around the place, and you casually shove a stack of unpaid bills aside with a huff to drop your lunch bag lazily on the counter. Yeah, yeah, i’ll deal with you later. Money trouble wasn’t your biggest issue to deal with at the moment, but still you pinched the bridge of your nose as you fought back the anxiety debt always managed to bring you.

 

 Entering the living room, you find Joker bent forward slightly his back facing you as he eyed some sketches on your coffee table, hands in his pockets while he gave them an intimate once over. He hummed,  “Im happy to see you still draw,” He paused to turn toward you, even through the makeup and blood that smeared and warped his features you could see the cocky smirk and raised brow plain as day “You’ve always been an impressive artist, though I don’t recall the content ever being this explicit ” he added with a hoarse laugh. Immediately the realization hit you like a sack of bricks sending a flood of hot embarrassment to your cheeks. The only drawings you had stacked there were ones you did in a rage of  hormonal overload about a week ago, horny as fuck you’d drawn an assortment of faceless couples going at it in various positions and had meant to toss them out. They were less like drawings than they were the anxious scribbles done by that of a sex deprived maniac, and you scrambled to the table to gather them before any more damage could be done to your pride. 

 

“I’d be happy  if you were to mind your own damn business,” You growled crumpling the few sheets of paper before punching them into the waste-basket as if they were his smug face. This only made him laugh harder and he fell backward into the sofa, you spun on your heel ready to grab him by the jacket and toss him out of your apartment only to be stopped dead at the sight of him doubled over where he sat. His laughter had turned into harsh coughing again, and he held one hand over his mouth to stifle it, the other he brought up to grip his  heaving chest.

 

You took a deep breath before you approached him “You need to knock it off and focus on your breathing, I don’t care what you call yourself, but your injuries are no joke,” You say calmly kneeling beside him  “If you actually want my help, then I need to take a look at you so just try and relax, make sure to take slow breaths ok? You probably have at least one broken rib.” You put a hand on his that still clenched his chest and he nodded. You guided him through his breathing until his shoulders began to rise and fall with yours at a steady pace. Finally he had done his best relax and you helped him out of his jacket, the yellow vest and despite the look of panic he shot you briefly he hesitantly allowed you to help him out of the green dress shirt as well. “Jesus” You subconsciously let slip when you saw how thin he was and the extent of his injuries, deep purple and red bruises painted his skin, some of the smaller ones seemed weeks old even. You reached out to touch one particularly dark bruise  that covered the right side of his ribs, but before you could even graze him he jerked away as if he'd never been touched before. The sudden movement caused him to pinch his eyelids tightly together in a grimace and he sucked in breath in through his clenched teeth. “Sorry, I should have warned you” You say genuinely your voice came out far softer than you knew you were capable, and all you wanted in that moment was to sooth him, so much so it was alarming. You had expected some of the wounds and had figured he’d had broken ribs from the moment he stumbled his way toward you in the alleyway, which you had now confirmed. Though nothing you could have seen would have prepared yourself for the way his body seemed covered in years worth of abuse, some evidence of which had scarred over and seemed decades old.

 

“Its fine.” He replied trying to control a shudder before he eased himself slowly backward against the sofa as if to allow you better access and you gave him a moment to stabilize his breathing again. Careful not to make the same mistake a second time you spent several more minutes to look him over with as little touching as possible. Over all you found him to be in relatively decent condition considering the vast amount of injuries he’d suffered, most would fully heal within a week or two . Beside the clearly broken rib which made itself known under the swollen deeply bruised flesh of his side he had several cuts and scrapes. You also made note of some deep contusions to his left collar bone and hip, an injury to his nose that hadn't quite seemed to break it, and finally he was possibly suffering the after effects of a mild concussion judging from the welt that had formed under a small gash just below his hairline.

 

“Well I think you’re going to live.” You said with a smile and got to your feet. “Once we can get you cleaned up I’ll bandage the worst of it, and you can stay here at least until that rib starts to heal. Too much movement with something like that and you can develop serious internal bleeding. So it looks like we’re stuck with each other for a little while.” You added the last bit in a half-hearted attempt at making him smile but it did nothing of the sort.



Joker didn't move a muscle other than to shift his eyes to look you over, his fixated stare was unnerving and you shifted uncomfortably at how small it made you feel. He was carefully studying your face, scrutinizing over every detail as if looking for any hint that you might be trying to trick him.  Any hint that you might take the chance to turn him in if he were to give you one.

 

You would never do something of that sort, even if it was for no better reason than to avoid giving him the excuse to harm you, but even so you felt your confidence take a dive and your heart was thudding violently behind your ears “I uh….I’ll just…” you stumbled on your words, trying to escape the weight of his judgement “get some bandages quick.” And you used the opportunity to retreat into the hall where you ducked into the bathroom, shed your scrubs in exchange for a tank top and pajama pants, then filled your arms with a first aid kit and any other medical supplies in the vicinity. Get a grip for fucks sake, he’d have hurt you already if thats what he wanted. Plus you knew him at one point right? You reminded yourself while staring at your tired reflection in the mirror, Just focus, get him bandaged, and try and figure out who the fuck this man is before getting yourself riled up. You scold yourself internally, and with that you give yourself a nod, straighten your posture and muster up all of the strength you can before practically kicking open the bathroom door to go back to where you’d left him on the sofa.

 

You were stopped at the end of the hall when Joker appeared seemingly out of thin air to meet you face to face, that same scrutiny in his eyes from before only now they were right above you, deep green orbs burned with a ferocity that held you trapped there. You froze like a goddamn trapped animal about to fall victim to its respective predator, one much further up on the proverbial food chain. “You don't remember who I was at all do you?” He asked in a rhetorical way, his voice held a much darker tone than it had before, the deep reverberation threatened you to your core, “You know that I am dangerous. That much is obvious to you at least," he bent to close what little distance was left  between your face and his and you could feel his breath on your face when he stopped with just an inch between your noses. The proximity sent a prickle over your skin with terror “but do you have any idea what I’ve done, any at all?” He asked, his volume rose, every word seemed to bring him closer into a fit of rage, to which you could only respond with eyes snapping shut and a shake of your head, you hadnt the slightest clue and he seemed determined to make you regret it, “You must be the one fucking person in this entire city not to have seen it on television,” This fact humored him and he let out a laugh that seemed to douse the heat behind his anger, “the one person to have somehow not even  heard a rumor of it, and of all the people in this filthy city ...it had to be you.” He scoffed, and followed it up with what sounded like a palm being slammed against the wall beside the two of you and you snapped your eyes open, he was leaning against his outstretched arm with his palm still flat against the drywall, his legs crossed beneath him in a lax manner that was highly out of place. He must have taken a step away while your eyes were shut to give you some room, and he just held himself there for a moment while you recovered from the shock of his outburst. His head was lowered casting his eyes downward toward the floor as if he were ashamed, but all too soon he smiled and looked back at you “It doesn't matter if you remember me or not, either way if you knew what I've done, you wouldn't have brought me here.” despite the smile he wore you could see something else in the way he looked at you, something that called out and needed you to recognize him for what he was, as if you agreeing he was some sort of monster would put him at ease. Perhaps he wanted to test you, so that he could finally lump you in with everyone else that made up the brutally cold city of Gotham. 

 

“Your right…” You said when you finally regained the ability to speak. With every molecule of your body you fought back against the icy fear that had your insides twisted and your knees trembling, “It doesn’t matter if I remember you, now or maybe ever…. but what you’ve done doesn’t interest me at the moment.” You felt the fear being slowly replaced by a growing sense of self assurance, made stronger with a touch of anger drawn from how he’d acted toward you. You had gone out of your way to help him up until now, so blowing up at you felt like painful plucking at your already shaken nerves. “Unless you were out there traumatizing young kids I couldn’t give a damn! Now would you please take a seat so I can at least do what you asked me to?” you lifted the medical supplies you’d held in a death grip until this point and shoved it next to his face to make your point even clearer. 

 

His eyes widened in momentary disbelief, fading the instant he let his arm fall to his side. That damned cocky grin formed over his lips again and his arms crossed themselves over his bare chest, “Well my oh my,” he clucked his tongue. Those wicked flickering eyes devouring  you as though you were one hell of a prize he’d managed to win himself. The level of heated admiration that he sent to slide over you was as tangible as if you’d slipped your entire body into hot water and you couldn't keep the heat from uncomfortably pooling at the base of your spine, the sensation it gave you had you mindlessly biting at your lower lip. “Yes ma’am.” He said far too calmly and let out a deep chuckle, his stare moved to linger a moment over the lip nestled under your teeth and you felt him smile in approval even after turning toward the living room.

 

He had resumed his position on your couch and waited patiently for you to join him. As you set up the things you’d likely need in order to aid him across the stretch of the coffee table you could feel him staring again, and decided the awkward silence was a bit too much for you to stay focused. You switched on the television but shot Joker a look to make sure it was alright, which to your surprise he made a gesture that stated he really couldn’t care less. So you made sure to turn the volume down to a level that was barely audible on the off chance the station playing were to cover whatever it was he had done in front of a live broadcast. You had meant it when you said you didn’t care, but given the choice you thought it best to stay in the dark at least while you tended to him.

 

You took a seat beside him on the sofa, and pulled in a deep breath before you raised the damp towel you had prepared to clean his face, but he took your wrist in his hand and pulled it away, only suprising you with the gentleness of it. “Maybe that should be saved for last sweetheart.” he warned, and you didnt see a reason to argue, if you were to recognize him you felt that you would have by now. So instead  you spent the next hour and a half carefully cleaning and bandaging his body. The tenderness you put toward tending to each wound seemed to sooth him and he sank into the cushions of the sofa. “You can lie down if you want” you tell him with a soft smile to reassure him it would be alright, “It might not be a bad idea, that way we can ice your broken rib.” You added, he hesitated but perhaps realizing his exhaustion was getting the better of him he eventually lowered himself to lay down and you handed him an ice pack to hold over the area while you finished wrapping a cut on his arm. Relief washed over you when only minutes later he was breathing deeper and the hand he’d used to hold the ice had lost its grip and relaxed beside him on the cushions. He’d fallen asleep.

 

You just hoped that cleaning the smear of color from his face wouldn’t wake him, at this point you were more concerned with the neglected wound on his forehead than you were finding a recognizable face beneath his painted mask. You feared it would need stitches since it still bled, not as much by any means but still enough that your medical training had you worried. Tentatively you brought the cloth down and began wiping away the blood and paint around the wound and after several painstakingly delicate swipes of the wet cloth you’d finally cleaned and patched it up temporarily with a butterfly bandage. You took a moment to relax on the floor beside him and looked him over to admire the fruits of your labor as he continued to sleep fairly peacefully. Your mind wandered and you observed the shape of his body and you allowed the artistic part of your mind appreciate the gentle curves and planes of his muscles that gently rose and fell with his breathing. They were  just toned enough to smooth out his overly thin frame and you traced them slowly with your eyes from his waist to the length of his neck and you stopped at his overly pronounced jawline which stood out dramatically from the smudged white paint that painted it. The color drew and settled your eyes back over his face and even though part of you screamed at you to leave the facade there where itd sat all night and to just go to bed. The other side in you began forming an obsessive need to satisfy the curiosity that had festered inside you from the moment you recognized his voice. The more fought yourself while staring at sleeping Joker, the more you gave yourself time to grow impatient and needy, and you couldn’t stop yourself when you finally took to gently wiping the rest of his face free. You hadn't realized you had been holding your breath until you’d had managed to wipe half of his skin clean, and with one last motion across his upper lip you took in a long breath only to have it stop halfway into your lungs. The blood drained from your face before you’d fully registered the man who belonged to the scar you’d just made visible. That scar, and the man who wore it you knew all to well and a swell of  tears forced their way up and past your stinging lids. You tried to blink away the tears but they were relentlessly forcing their way to spill over your cheeks, you’d only managed to fog your vision, and you had to choke back a sob that threatened to erupt from deep inside you. “Shit, oh god, Arthur….” you whispered between swallowing back the urge to completely break down. Your breathing grew unsteady and much to fast and all you could do was gently press your forehead against his shoulder as you were overwrought with images of the sweet, and at times painfully shy man that had been so dear to you once. “Fuck fuck fuck….” you choked back another sob now hating yourself for not knowing that it had been him the entire time. “Im so sorry…Arthur” You knew that you were not apologizing for having failed to recognize him sooner, even though that too sent guilt stabbing at your chest, no you were apologizing for what had happened years ago that had separated your lives for what you thought would be forever. 



Your head was spinning, sending too many memories at you at once. Memories you’d worked tirelessly to try and lock away for the past 8  years due to the pain they’d brought back with them. But as images flickered infinitely for only you to see you finally found yourself settling on a memory, one that had always been your favorite, and you let yourself unravel the images until the day you met him began playing out  in painfully vivid detail behind your closed eyes.

 

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You faked doing some homework and sketched in your notebook as your shift was coming to a close. 5 more minutes. Helm’s Pharmacy, you had not so affectionately nicknamed "Hell’s Pharmacy", as It was the first and worst of any job you were to ever have and it bored you to death. Even being only 17 years old then, you found it idiotic they even had someone run the convenience counter at all times in such a run down tucked away pharmacy. Sure their biggest item to pass through the doors were cigarettes but it wasn't like the fat misogynist running the place would miss a customer. He was always sitting in his back corner of the shop, behind the pharmacy counter adjacent to yours where he filled maybe a handful of prescription a day then resumed his post in front of his mini tv while stuffing his face full of garbage and beer. The sports channel ran all hours of the day, and yet he never seemed to miss the chance to check out your ass when it so much as peeked into his line of sight so it's not like he’d somehow not have the attention span to assist a customer without you working there.  But lately home had gotten even shittier than it’d always been now with your moms new piece of crap she called her man, moving in and using up the little cash they had for booze. So it was up to you to provide for yourself if u wanted to finish school to maybe break the cycle unlike the little bit of family u had known of. 

 

 Your favorite coping mechanism was your sketches, lately they were all portraits of people you’d see around Gotham. Unlike others your age who’d draw their crush or some big celebrity which was the current flavor among your peers... You chose to draw only the people that you found  were disconnected from the world, eaten away at it in someway or another. You had originally thought you had started this fixation because you liked the angst appeal it gave your art and that it somehow spoke to others about your ‘emotional expression’ but after a while you realized you'd started drawing them because they were reflections of yourself and your own feelings toward the rest of the world. The loneliness of feeling cast out ate at you at far too young of an age, and somehow drawing that from faces other than your own made you feel less lonely at times. Today you chose to draw the man who lived a couple apartments down from yours. You had only officially spoken to him for the first time that morning and despite the whole conversation being a mostly awkward mess you couldn’t help but to be fond of the guy. It felt odd at first feeling as though you’d connected to him quicker  than you had ever done with your peers but you felt for him and not many of your peers had gone through the things you had been through so making friends among them was never really your thing. As you sketched his eyes, which you had decided were his best quality, you couldn't help but recall the first conversation with a small smile…

 

You were on your way, and already late to school when you dashed from your apartment down to the elevator as quickly as your legs could carry you. Hope felt lost as you  barely managed to reach the elevator doors as they came nearer to a noisy close but before they could you were happy to see a foot catch the door from inside, and let you squeeze in at the last second. From the time you woke up you’d been in a blind fury to get to school and even as you had ran out your door down the hall and squeezed into the elevator, youd been simultaneously scrambling to cram your things in your bag and only gave the man who’d let you in a nod as a thanks before you jammed some papers in your mess of a bag,  closed the zipper and swung the shoulder strap over yourself. With a sigh you finally leaned back to catch your breath and observed your elevator buddy from the corner of your eyes. He looked to be in his late 20s and despite appearing too thin with a posture that screamed exhaustion, you found him handsome in a way you couldn't quite put into words. Your hormone fueled mind made an instant note of his strong jawline and you knew that mental image wouldn’t be leaving your thoughts any time soon

 

“Hi,” you said. The miserable expression on his face called to your sympathies and it’s ultimately what drove you to speak to him. It took him a second to realize it was you who’d greeted him so cheerfully even though it was only the two of you, his surprised expression almost made it seem like he was an alien being greeted by a human for the first time. “Earth to Major Tom?” you added playfully when he had done nothing but stared at you for a moment. You couldn't help but stare back when you observed the depths of his eyes. They were a deep green, and they seemed lost in a most complex way.

 

“H-hello” He said, it seemed he had tried to smile back but his breath was suddenly caught and he tried to hold back what turned into pained laughter. He avoided looking at you then as if he expected you to cringe or reel back like others may have reacted, perhaps some asshole had even gone as far as to mock him. But you just kept looking at him only with your brow now furrowed with concern, just as you would look if someone had gotten injured and asked “you ok?” to which he nodded and thanked you under his breath. You couldn’t help but wonder if the outburst was something neurological. The elevator groaned as it slowed to a stop on the first level and  before you could try and say something more to him, The man hurried through the barely wide enough gap in the door and squeezed through in a rush. You figured he’d left so abruptly as to put distance between yourself, him and the awkward way the conversation had progressed. But before he could get to far you straighten your bookbag in a frenzy and almost trip over yourself as you rush to chase after him. You tried not to follow too close but just enough so that you could try and continue to speak with him “is it cool if I walk with ya, my school is a few blocks this way anyway,” he raised a brow and looked at you like ‘why me’, or like you’d just called out a bunch of gibberish “its been getting sketchy out lately, more creeps out... doesn't matter the time anymore…” you said at first just to give him a valid point besides being lonely since that seemed weirder, but you trailed off thinking of some close calls you’d had recently, guys trying to grab at you when passing and others shouting nasty things at you when you did not respond to their catcalling, or the occasional vehicle that would drive far to slowly as it passed,  “I see you walk this way around the same time as me anyway. But I can leave you alone if you want, I get it.” You felt ridiculous as the words left your mouth and wished you could take them back, and you almost took your turn to be the one to run off from your embarrassment.

 

“Its alright.” he said quietly, then cleared his throat. You wondered if he had seen the fear on your face and took pity on you, but when you looked up he looked just as skeptical about the whole thing as you were, and even more insecure. Maybe, just maybe it was something else, maybe he was feeling it too, the same desperate need you’d felt lately, a need for that of someone to speak with other than your own thoughts.

 

“Cool!” You chirped with a slight skip in your step as you caught up to him, “So what’s your name?”

 

He looked down at you and saw the genuinely just curious expression and replied “Arthur”

 

“Nice to meet ya Art,” to which you pondered a moment, before you giggled at the idea for a lame joke.

 

 “Hey Art, guess what.” you wanted to cheer him up for some reason, not to mention you really didn’t care if you were late for first class...gym. 

 

“I give up” he offered playing along, and you were happy to see him relaxing into conversation ever so slightly. Having a semi normal conversation with someone other than her school counselor was refreshing.

 

“your the only subject in school I give a shit about, Art.” you couldn’t restrain your amusement with yourself and laughed so hard you cried. It must have been infectious, and you were happy to have caught him as he ducked his head with a smile spread across his face followed by a laugh that seemed far more genuine than the one in the elevator.

 

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The bell over the pharmacy chimed and brought you back to the present and you were more than happy to see none other than Arthur having stepped through the doors, he looked even more worn out  than he did that morning. 

 

“Hey Arthur!” You said happily and his lowered eyes shot to yours. He seemed taken completely by surprise to see you here but he flashed the smallest of smiles your way, it had been barely enough to turn the corner of his mouth, but it was enough for you. 

 

“Buddy, you realize its 8:04 PM right? We’re closed, come back tomorrow.” Your boss ruined the moment with his awful blundering voice, and you spun to face him at your desk and shot him a glare.

 

“I thought maybe you were open late, I just saw the sign was still..” Arthur said far too meekly to combat the sound of your boss as he huffed loudly to interrupt Arthur. 

 

You saw your boss begin to rise and mentally prepared for that ear piercing sound of metal scraping on the smoothed cement floor that had grown painfully predictable as his chair he’d been sitting on was being pushed away from the desk. “Listen pal, I already said we’re closed so get the hell out and come ba-.” 

 

“Oh God can't you tell he’s exhausted too?!” You asked angrily and shot up  from behind the counter you were stationed at while gesturing toward arthur “You didn’t seem to feel the need to tell me to go home when 8:00 came and apparently went without either of our knowledge, so why can’t you take one extra freaking minute to get this guy his shit he’s tried ever so politely to ask for, so we can all go home?! “ You barked just teetering on the edge of a full yell. 

 

Shocked into complacency your boss seemed robotic as he quietly mumbled to himself while he fetched the bag of prescriptions “Name?” He asked, reluctantly.

 

“Arthur Fleck.” Your new friend barely managed to say as he tried desperately to control what seemed to be another episode. As your boss approached the counter to hand over the bag of meds, you saw Arthur as he lost his tiny bit of control, and a fit of laughter had him gripping his throat, and gasping. You almost wanted to cry at the pain written on his face.

 

“You think you two are fucking funny?” Your boss asked him, and you had already jumped over the counter to swipe the bag from his sausage fingers before tossing it to arthur, who caught it, just barely. 

 

“It’s a condition asshole. By the way, I quit,” The only thing that came from your mouth at this point which wasn’t guesswork was the fact you were quitting, but you felt you might as well add an outright lie to make sure things went over smoothly for Arthur in the future, “ but if I ever hear you’ve treated my dear friend Art here badly one more time, I’ll have my father mess you up real good, he’s a cop and he doesn’t mind dirtying his hands once in a while.” You opened the door for arthur who was still coming out of his episode but gladly took the opportunity to flee, and sent your now former boss a wink, and  as you walked out he wore an expression you hoped was that of him pissing his pants.

 

Arthur had thanked you with enthusiasm once he’d caught his breath, and you both began to take the long stairway that led toward the building both of you had once lived in. “How did you know about my condition?” Arthur asked looking over at you, and you couldn't help but notice the pleasant way his dark hair framed his thin face before he combed his hand through it to push it back. 

 

“I didn’t really, I’ve just read a lot of medical books, and it reminded me of some other conditions I’d heard of so it was kind of an educated guess I suppose” You admitted and Arthur nodded, and you both climbed the stairs in silence for a moment. Soon you snickered and Arthur was looking at you with his curiosity peaked so you turned and added “Oh and my dad isnt a cop, in fact I don’t even know him, I just wanted to see the look on that dickhead’s face.” you both laughed a while at the joke only the two of shared.

 

As the both of you reached the top of the stairs Arthur told you how he wished he were able to  stand up to people like you had just done for him. You replied sure of what you were about to say would eventually be the truth and grinned, “ Someday you will Art, I can feel it.” 

 

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Chapter Text

UPDATE FROM AUTHOR: 

First, let me apologize for the late chapter because I am sorry and deeply understand that waiting can be difficult.

Second, I truly had every intention of finishing chapter 3 before the end of November but due to some personal issues, it's been difficult for me to write, and needed some time for my own mental health. I only want to post something I'm proud of, and so it may be a few days more before I'm back up and running like myself enough to finish it like i would like to.

Also, keep an eye out when chapters 3 and possibly 4 go up for their respective notes because I plan on thoroughly editing chapters one and two, and polishing them up nicely. They were rushed and written after a 4 year long case of writers block.

Now without further delay....

 

CHAPTER 3 PREVIEW:

 

 

-sleep wasn’t what you were fighting anymore it was the fear of where it would take you. No, that wasn't it, it was not where it took you, but when - and with that the sound of arthurs name echoed and vanished, taking with it your ability to keep your head above the rising water…

 

                         .               .                .

 

You’ve been here before. Everything feels farther away than it should yet so constricting it suffocates you. Surroundings, fuzzy details all around you become clearer with each impossibly heavy step carrying you further into this building, this hall, toward that apartment not too far from Arthur's and you swallow over and over to keep from letting the closing in walls consume you. You've walked this hall before, and felt a lot of the same things. But this wasn't just any of those times, no this step for step had been done before. but this wasn't just any of them. You know that these exact same steps you're taking are the ones from that night and you can't stop yourself from taking them, and every uneven pull of air you take into your lungs aims to burn you inside out. This framilarity piles onto you like being buried in bricks as the impending horror gets closer and that sound of the screaming you knew was coming but didn't lesson how it claws at your ears. It comes from a few doors down, your door, and you know all of what happens next and you want nothing except to run away, do everything differently, scream until your lungs bleed, because you know exactly how much this had torn you apart, how much it had changed you...how much it changed him.

This night...

... was your  20th birthday, on your way home from university, and heading to that same apartment. It has been almost 3 years after meeting Arthur, 3 years of having someone make you laugh and for you to have someone to do the same in return. Someone you didn't mind getting close, didn't mind trading the secret burdens you both worked hard to keep locked away at home or inside. With him around you had gotten comfortable with the feeling that things would be alright, and even though the odd friendship meant everything to you as it was, you had the passing idea now and again  that you may have started to want more. You were having such a thought when the scream rang out and down the hall… a scream that bit the silence of the air before being cut short, violently short… It only took a second, and that second was all it took to destroy any and all of the fluffy ideas about the future you were playing with in that moment and replaced them with the traumatizing realization that the person who had screamed was your mother.

 

Numb. All you are is numb...