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the poison we both have inside is the same

Chapter Text

Arthur sits on the couch in nothing but his underwear and smokes his cigarettes, one after another, down to the filter. The ash and embers dangle precariously at an angle that threatens to fall and land on his bare knee. He wishes it would. He watches the ever-growing inch of ash crumble and drift down to the carpet, not moving a muscle to stop it. Penny wouldn’t notice. Arthur grinds his bare foot into the ash to smudge it, and pinches the cigarette out, savoring the way it makes his fingertips burn.

Arthur reflects on the day he’s had- the night stretches long and in the dark he finds his inner monologue much louder than during the day. In the dark he has time to think. He thinks about the stale, bitter coffee he spent a buck fifty on. The noisy sound of loose change rattles in his brain for a few seconds. ‘Wasteful’, he chastises himself. He could have used that money for something else, something important. He thinks about the way his throat ached for two hours after a fit on the subway. Thinks about the way tears tracked down his cheeks, his efforts to stifle the cacophonous laughter he knew was inevitable, all for naught. Like always.

He thinks about the girl that sat next to him during his fit, and the way she placed her hand on his back. The way she shot daggers at anyone-everyone who glared at him- he didn’t blame them though. No one notices arthur fleck, until they do. But she noticed him. He thinks about the way he shakily tried to hand her the card that explained his outbursts.

Forgive my laughter: I have a condition.

And Arthur thinks about the way she disregards the little laminated card entirely, holding it between two fingers in her left hand while her right hand lay gently on his back. If he focused hard enough, he could still feel her. Unlike most people Arthur came into contact with, she leant towards him, and spoke to him. Soothed him with a tenderness that he couldn’t believe resided in Gotham at all. He didn’t really hear her, he thinks- his laughter had left his blood roaring in his ears. Arthur thinks it wouldn’t have even mattered; she could have babbled to him and it wouldn’t have mattered at all.

He remembers the way she brought him down, settling next to him until his laughter trailed off into strained giggles. Less painful, still humiliating. He remembers the moment he plucked up the courage to look at her- really look at her for the first time, and Arthur remembers how his heart thudded. She was beautiful. reminded him of a starlet, one he could only hope to see on a television. High cheekbones, strong jawline. Her lashes feather out and frame brilliant green eyes that hold undeniable kindness. Her hair is short; brown curls dangling softly around her head, with a streak of chartreuse that coiled onto her forehead. She had offered a hand for him to shake, and he remembers how he hesitated at first. God, he wishes he hadn’t.

He remembers her name. Mia.

He remembers repeating it, the mmmmm dragging out of his throat like honey. Arthur whispers it again, a few times, in the emptiness of the living room. It feels more real when he says it out loud, almost tangible. Arthur thinks about how he told her his name, and how no one in his life has said his name with such softness other than her. He had watched her lips, painted red and slick, and the way they moved and formed to allow her voice to carry his name out to the stale air around them. His name. She said his name. Arthur remembers the way he eagerly, finally reaches out, and shakes her hand. His hands were cold (he always was), but she was warm. If pure empathy had a form, it would be heat, the comforting kind that a fireplace might give, and he felt her warmth envelop him fully. Small hands, he remembers. Soft too, red nails glimmering in the light of the subway car.

She had given the card back; people usually didn’t- he has a small stack at home because of that, and said it was nice to meet him. She also said she rides this car often, every morning at seven and every evening at six.

Arthur remembers this and abruptly moves to grab a crumpled napkin on the floor, and a ballpoint pen that laid uncapped on the table, and writes this down. Arthur writes her name down too, and dots the ‘i’ with a little heart. Arthur usually goes to work at nine, but he decides he’ll start going in early, to catch the subway at seven. Arthur needs to see her again. He needs her to be real. He lights another cigarette and revels in its warmth, and for a very fleeting moment, he feels happy.

Chapter Text

Arthur wakes up early, six am, and gets showered and dressed with the fervor of a boy on the night of his first date. He briefly feels foolish, but that thought is squashed with the excitement of maybe seeing her again. Arthur prepares breakfast for Penny, only eating a piece of dry toast himself; his stomach twists with the gnawing feeling of anticipation, and he never had much of an appetite anyway. It’s six thirty when he leaves his building and heads to the subway, and it’s six forty five when the train rolls up for him to step on. Early mornings were pleasant, quiet. As quiet as Gotham could be, and people were tired. Less likely to bother him. Arthur steps into the carriage, and notices it's nearly empty. A few businessmen sit on the far side of the car, and one old woman who reminds him of his mother is standing, clutching her purse. Six fifty five now. a few more stops and it would be seven. Arthur sits on the hard bench and tries his hardest not to look nervous, one knee crossed over the other. No one pays attention to him, and for once, he doesn’t mind.

 

Arthur looks at his watch, the hands ticking by agonizingly slow. He wonders if he will even see her today, if she was running late. If she was real. His brain shoots out a million reasons why she wouldn’t show up, but he furrows his brow and shoves them aside. He’s trying today, and if not today, then tomorrow. Then the next day and the next day and the next day. He needs to see her.

 

Seven o' clock and the subway rumbles to a stop and Arthur has to fight back the urge to stand up. The doors open but he doesn’t hear it, his eyes trained on the crowd that shuffles in, their faces stern and surly. He scans every person that herds into the car, and the prospect of her not even showing up at all rings louder and louder in his mind. If not today then tomorrow, he reminds himself. The last of the sullen crowd crams further in, and Arthur finds himself growing anxious, trying to push the bitter feeling of isolation that creeps up through his guts. Seven ten, the doors are about to close. He chances a look at the doors one more time, and has to stifle a gasp. She walks in, hair blown back from the wind, but face impeccably good-natured, just as he remembered her.

He briefly ponders the silly idea of calling out her name, but before he can move at all, she notices him. No one notices Arthur Fleck. She offers the same, pleasant smile, and he feels that warmth flicker up his belly, all the way around his ribs and crawling up into his chest. She walks over to him, moving through the crowd like smoke, untouchable and invisible to everyone but him.

“Arthur! You’re here, I hoped you would be!”

Hoped. Her voice is light, and he feels the threat of his laughter rise up his throat like bile. He fights it down with a heavy swallow and grins, genuinely, feeling his cheeks start to hurt when she takes the empty seat next to him without a second thought.

“Yeah, I’m here. You are too.”

She giggles and takes a sip of the coffee she had been holding, her lips leaving a cherry red smear on the paper lid. He imagines drinking from the same cup, lining his own mouth up with the print, just to feel where her lips had touched. 

"It’s so early- I don’t go into work until like nine, but I love how still the city is at dawn,” she takes another sip, “almost makes me forget where I am.”

His eyes follow the movement of her throat when she swallows, and he feels his skin prickle when she turns her body so she can look at him directly. Arthur nods, in agreement and to show that he was listening. She could read the dictionary to him and he’d listen. Arthur didn’t have friends, and small talk certainly wasn’t his department, so he wracks his brain to think of something to say. She said she worked, so he settles on that.

“What do you do?- I mean for work.”

She scrunches up her nose and he wonders if he already fucked up and upset her, but she lets out a sigh trailed off with another giggle.

“I work at the animal shelter down on Johnson's. Requires a bit of elbow grease and the pay isn’t that great, but I get to spend time with animals,” she tilts her neck and rests the side of her head on the window of the train, “even if I come home covered in cat hair.” She takes another sip of her coffee and speaks again.

“Do you work?”

Arthur isn’t ashamed of his ‘profession’, but he wonders how she would react. Maybe she was afraid of clowns. He hopes not.

“I work as a clown, for HaHa’s. Businesses and corporations rent me out- I get a lot of hospital gigs to make the kids smile.” His eyes flick up to her face, and his previous apprehension melts away.

“God, that must be great. You do all the makeup too? Full getup and all? I bet everyone loves you.”

Arthur nods meekly, and speaks again. “The kids do, I feel like I can be myself with them. It’s not that hard to make a kid laugh- my mother has always said my purpose is to spread joy and laughter...” he wrings his hands together for a moment, “so I try. I care for my mother too, but that’s not really a job.”

“You’re a wonderful man, Arthur. This city needs more people like you.”

She had said his name again and he thinks those two syllables never sounded better. The compliment washes over him and makes his cheeks hot.

“She needs me.”

“Still, it’s a beautiful thing you do, caring for someone like that. Balancing that with work and relationships-“

“I’m not married.”

She looks up at him through her eyelashes, and takes a swig from the cup.

“Girlfriend, then?”

“No. No one.”

Arthur watches her eyebrows shoot up a little, and she shakes her head.

“Any person would be lucky to have someone as sincere as you.”

She could be his person, he thinks. In fact, he thinks the same exact thing about her. His eyes glimpse down to her fingers- focused on the left ring finger, and with an embarrassing amount of relief he finds it void of any glittering diamonds. Her middle and her pinky adorn jewelry, though, big clunky silver. He can make out the shape of a skull for one.

“What about you?”

The question gnaws out of his throat before he can stop it, and he braces himself for rejection in the unfortunate form of Another Person.

But, she scoffs softly. “No, I haven’t dated anyone since I left school.”

The relief washes over him again, and he feels a frown settle on his face. She titters at that, covering her mouth with her hand.

“What, surprised or something?”

“Yes.” He states plainly. Arthur loves the way her cheeks turn pink when he says this, and she shrugs, scarf around her shoulders bouncing a little with the movement.

“I dunno- no one really talks to me. People avoid me a lot, maybe cause of this,” she gestures to herself, from her hair to her clothes; black on black on black. “I think that’s silly, though.”

He looks at the curls of green in her hair. Truthfully, it was peculiar. He hadn’t seen many people at all with unnatural colored hair, the social stigma surrounding that kind of alternative look prevented it from popping up around the city. He didn’t mind, though. In fact, Arthur loved it. He let his eyes wander slightly down, to her clavicle, and could see a tattoo poking out near her shoulder. A leaf, maybe? Arthur wondered what it looked like in its entirety, and for a second, he pondered about the rest of her body. Was it covered in ink? What did she look like under those clothes? He started to bounce his knee, trying to stomp those thoughts away.

“I like the way you look.” His words were meek, soft. entirely authentic. And Arthur watches her cheeks redden again, the corners of her mouth curling up into a coy smile.

“I like the way you look too.”

“What are you doing? A-after work, I mean.” Arthur stammers. She sighs through her nose, shrugging again.

“I don’t have any plans, I just go home to my cats.”

“Would you want to,” he pauses for a moment, wondering if he’s being too forward. They’ve only just met.

“Would you want to see each other again?”

That smile was back, and he breathed in sharply, the sight of her happiness too lovely to look away.

“I’d love that, Arthur. Coffee? Dinner? My treat.”

“I’d love that too. Coffee is good.”

The train rumbled and he glanced at his watch- eight o clock already? It felt like only minutes passed by. She stood up and smoothed out her coat, and Arthur stands up too. His eyebrows knit upwards in disappointment, and he tries his hardest to not let it bleed through his voice.

“You’re leaving?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah. This is my stop. I’ve got a bit of a walk to the shelter.”

He still had at least half an hour to go until his stop came around, and he felt his heart sink a little. She straightened up and brushed a hand through her hair, and Arthur imagined himself doing it instead. The curls would tangle around his fingers. Maybe he’d tug the strands softly, enough to make her lips part. Her voice yanked him out of his thoughts.

“Would you want to meet up tonight? I get off at six- I understand if that’s too soon though-“

“Tonight is perfect! I’d- I'd love to see you tonight.”

She beamed at him, not put off by his eagerness like he had worried, and he tries to take a mental picture of her face so he wouldn't- couldn't forget her.

“Perfect. I’ll see you around, Arthur.”

She took off as quick as she came, and he had been looking at her for so long he hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye back. Arthur watched the brown curls bounce out of sight as the subway rattled alive again, and he placed his hands on his knees. He’d see her again. And she was real. And she liked the way he looked.

Chapter Text

He had a gig as a sign spinner today, outside of a store called ‘Kenny’s Music’. The shop had gone out of business, bright displays hung on the windows advertising sales and Everything Must Go was painted thickly on the sign Arthur held. A pianist sat outside the shop, clanking the keys to an old ragtime tune, and Arthur danced to the song, clown shoes impressively stepping to-and-fro. No one applauds or notices him; they go out of their way to avoid him, but he doesn’t care. The clown makeup is caked into his face to exaggerate his features, but his smile is genuine. Dancing and swaying the sign to the rhythm, he’s beaming with enthusiasm. He’s going to see her tonight.

 

He lifts the sign above his head with an embellished smile, too lost in his thoughts to notice the teenagers running up to smack it from his hands.

 

“Hey!”

 

They’ve taken off, and with the sign too. Hoyt would have his head.

 

Arthur runs to chase them, clunky clown shoes hitting the ground with thuds that echo in his ears. He’s hollering for someone to stop them, for someone to help. No one notices Arthur Fleck. The kids take off across the street and into an alley, and Arthur briefly skids on the wet pavement, seeing a few of them standing halfway down the alley.

 

Unbeknownst to Arthur, one kid had been hiding, and slams his valued sign directly into his face, the impact knocking him to the ground with a grunt. The rest of the thugs crowd around him and start hitting him, with anything they can. Fists, feet, doesn’t matter. Every blow knocks the wind out of his chest and Arthur curls up on himself to at least try to protect his stomach. They land a few more heavy hits onto his back and finally, finally they retreat.

 

Arthur unfurls himself with a gasp- his ribs are killing him, and sees the sign torn in two, covered in dumpster muck. Pained exhales escape him, he’s finally able to breathe, and with that, a strangled half-sob half-laugh erupts from his throat. He lays on the pavement, breathing erratically, and brings a hand under his lapel, pressing the button that allowed the flower on his collar to release the water with a weak, pathetic stream. He raises his arm to glance at his watch- four pm. He had two hours until he’d see her again, and through his grimace he feels a tiny smile twitch at his lips. Arthur gets himself to his feet, slowly, bracing himself on the gritty wall of the alley, and heads back to HaHa’s.

 

 

Five thirty, and Arthur has packed all of his stuff up and away, wiped the makeup off his face- by some grace of god the kids mostly missed that during their onslaught. On his face, he only suffers a barely split lip. He heads to the train, his entire body aching with just the effort of walking, but his heart thuds with suspense at the thought of seeing her. Just her and him, no loud racket of the subway, shared between coffee. Five forty five and he steps on, the car packed with people on their way home from work. Businessmen, women and their children crowd the car with a heat that is almost unbearable. Arthur stifles a sigh and waits, the fifteen minutes of solitude unforgiving. Six o’ clock stop comes, and Arthur finds himself craning his neck up to look at the doors. He wants to be the first to see her, and he wants her to see him.

 

And see him she does. She walks in quick, nose pink from the brisk city air, and spots him right away with a wide grin. But, her smile falters when she steps closer, mumbling gentle ‘excuse me’s through the horde of people until she finally reaches him, worry etched all over her face.

 

“What happened? Your lip- you’ve got blood on you..”

 

Her eyes are flooded with concern and Arthur briefly considers lying, but instead decides on a shrug.

 

“I got jumped today at work- it’s nothing though,” he chooses his words carefully, “they were just kids.”

 

And for the first time, he sees her face contort into something different. Something angry. Her nose and lips curl into a sneer and her eyebrows furrow hard.

 

“Just kids? Arthur, they hurt you! Are you hurt anywhere else?” Her eyes rake over him then, from head to toe, seemingly trying to spot any notice of injury. He stiffens a little, takes too deep of a breath, and winces. She notices, of course, and her frown grows firmer.

 

“You’ve- you’ve gotta get taken care of. Do you need to go to the hospital-“

“No! I’m- i’ll be fine. I want to get coffee with you.” His confession comes out a bit lamely, and he chances a look at her face, still seeped with worry.

 

Screw coffee, I need to make sure you’re okay.”

 

Her words send a bolt of fire through his spine- no one has ever asked Arthur if he was okay. Anything that was wrong with him was either pushed onto another person to deal with, or disregarded entirely. He gapes at her for a moment before she continues,

 

“I live on 7th street, where are you at?”

“Um...” he has to think, her presence wiping his brain almost entirely. “I’m on the corner of-of Anderson’s, that tall...kinda run down building.”

 

She ponders for a moment, and speaks again.

“Oh! You’re like two blocks away from me.” She worries her bottom lip between sharp teeth. “You need to get this looked over... if you won’t go to the hospital, then please come over so I can help you.”

 

“Come over?” Arthur tries to talk, completely bowled over. “Like to your- your house?”

 

“Yeah. Well, it’s an apartment- if you aren’t comfortable with it I understand, I just...” she glances at his lip, the blood already dry. “I just want to make sure you’re alright.”

 

Arthur thinks he has never felt so strongly for a person before, and he snaps his mouth shut with a click.

She cares about him.

He nods, delicately, and speaks again, his voice cracking with emotion.

 

“I’d,” he struggles to find his words, “i’d like that very much.”

 

She shoots a smile at him, warm and full of sympathy, and looks at her watch.

 

“My stop is coming up, come on.” She offers a hand to help him up, and Arthur stares at it blankly for a moment before placing his palm in hers. She rubs her thumb over his, and Arthur has to lock his knees so he doesn’t fall to them.

Chapter Text

The walk to her apartment was short, and she mentions that she lives on the first floor- he thanks god for that. She fiddles with her keys and opens the door, quietly shushing away at something round and furry. Two cats, one fatter than the other, are poking their heads out at the two of them. They both meow quietly and to Arthur’s amusement, Mia meows back, bending down to push the felines away from the door.

“Sorry about that, they’re always waiting for me. That’s Sugar,” she gestures to the fat cat, “and that’s Tinky. Rescued them from the shelter I work for about a year ago- they were bonded and old and about to be put down.” She absentmindedly strokes the fatter one behind its ears. “I hope you’re not allergic to cats- I didn’t even think about that.”

“I’m not,” he reassures her, “they’re cute...” Arthur watches the other, smaller one come up to curl around his legs. He never had pets, never wanted them, until now. A pet would be nice. Thoughts of a life with a white picket fence, two cats and a dog, and a loving wife run rampant through his brain. A loving, gentle wife with curled brown hair, a streak of green-

“Bathroom’s this way, I’ve got the med kit in here.” She walks through what he assumes is her living room, motioning for him to follow. Arthur does, and allows himself a few indulgent seconds to drink in his surroundings. The entire place smells like her- spearmint and lemongrass and just the faintest smell of smoke. Plants are everywhere, hanging from the ceilings and stacked up on shelves. Books and a stack of vinyls sit on the floor next to a record player and Arthur squints, trying to see what music she listens to. He can barely make out the colorful logo of whatever band it is before she pulls him gently into the bathroom, shutting the door behind them.

It’s white and silver, fairly sized with a tub, sink, and toilet. Nothing fancy, and there’s plants in here too, Arthur notices. She digs into the medicine cabinet, and he can see a few bottles of pills and the first aid kit she spoke about before.

“You can sit there,” she gestures to the toilet, the lid already shut, and to the tub. “Wherever you would like. To properly check you over you might have to remove your shirt, if that’s alright.”

A twinge of boyish insecurity runs through him but he nods, moving towards the toilet to sit on it, and glimpses at himself in the mirror. His hair laid limp to his shoulders, and his lip really had been bleeding. Arthur tilts his head up to see a smear of white paint along his jawline- must have missed that spot. He always did. He sighs, nervous hands moving to work at the buttons of his blouse.

She’s poking through the kit, and when he moves to slide his shirt off of his shoulders, he hears a gasp.

“Arthur...”

He knows it’s bad, he can feel it. He turns around to look at his back in the mirror. splotchy patterns of purple and black and sickly yellow mottle his body like abstract art, twisting around the bumps of his spine. A few splits of his skin where the kids’ boots hit the hardest were crusted with dried blood. She sets a bare hand onto his back and he inhales through his nose- she was so warm.

“Oh Arthur... I’m so sorry.”

He doesn’t know why she’s apologizing, it wasn’t her. He suddenly feels ashamed, and looks into her eyes only to see despair welling up in them.

“You don’t deserve this- out of anyone, you don’t deserve this.”

She leads him to the toilet, lid already closed, and Arthur sits down obediently, without another word. What could he say? She lifts his arm up to get a good look at his ribs, the bruising had spread up there too, and he watches her face crumple when she notices it.

“This is gonna be cold, i’m sorry, but it will help.” He eyes the washcloth held in her other hand and nods wordlessly, flinching only when it touches his skin. She mummers an apology and cleans the shallow wounds that mark his flesh, completely unaware of his eyes fixated on her. Arthur watches the ways she chews on her bottom lip- she does that a lot, he thinks. The way her eyes glaze over with sympathy when he jolts again; she had touched a particular tender spot. Arthur doesn’t mind the pain, and he certainly doesn’t mind the gentle way she touches him.

He can feel a harsh cackle rise up his chest and he presses a hand over his throat as if he could physically catch it and stop it, but it bubbles out of his mouth and makes his nose run. His face contorts as the full-bodied laughter spills out of him, and he at least tries to muffle it, clamping both hands over his mouth. Arthur can see she had stopped moving through his bleary, tear filled eyes, and instead kneels in front of him, a hand on his knee. Arthur feels his shoulders shiver, and he can’t figure out if it’s from the effort of stifling his laughter, or if it’s the intimacy that she has no problem sharing with him. She tells him it’s okay, and waits with all the patience in the world for him to calm down.

“I’m- i’m sorry- it- I-“

“Don’t say sorry. I know.”

“I’m s-“ Arthur quickly stops himself, and chances a very guilty look to her face, which is pinched teasingly in a Don’t You Dare Say It way, and he feels a bout of laughter come from his chest, but this time it’s different. This time it’s real. His brow is sweaty from his fit, and he wipes it with the back of his hand. She had finished going over his injuries, and deemed that nothing was broken, but his ribs had taken the brunt of the damage and everything was going to be rough for a little while.

“It’ll be difficult, breathing, walking- it’s gonna ache. Aspirin or uh, if you’ve got something a little stronger that might work too. Anything that helps, y’know...”

Arthur was no stranger to difficulty, but the compassion she showed towards him felt so foreign. When she moves to help him up, one hand laced in his own, he imagines himself grabbing her face and kissing her. Pressing his mouth to hers with the same tenderness she had shown him, he wanted to do something to show her how much he liked her. Instead, he stands a little taller than before, the realization that he Likes Her racing through his brain like a mantra, anxiety coupled with thrill like a deadly cocktail of mixed pills. It doesn’t hurt as bad anymore, he realizes. It’s not the pain he can’t stand, it’s the cruelty. But she fixes it.

“Thank you.” Arthur’s voice barely comes out as a whisper, and he wonders if she even heard it.

“You’re welcome, Arthur,” she squeezes his hand, “It’s what anyone would do.”

It most certainly was not, Arthur knew that. And deep down, he knew that she knew that too. He shook his head, a few strands coming to fall into his face.

“They wouldn’t. You, you’re the first person to see me,” he feels his voice waver, “To help me.”

‘And I love you’, he adds, only for his own mind to hear.

Chapter Text

She looks at him with soft eyes and opens the door of the bathroom, still holding his hand. The warmth from her skin has spread to his, and Arthur feels it lap at his insides.

 

“It’s maybe too late to go get something, but I can make a decent cup here at home- if you want to stay a little while.” She speaks, and Arthur watches in awe. He expected her to say good night, to let him go- she had wasted enough of her time with him today, almost all of it spent on patching him up. But she wants to spend her time with him.

 

“I’d love that.”

 

The cats come padding into the bathroom, sniffing at the discarded shirt on the counter. He looks at it with disdain, the grime and blood stains standing out tenfold under the soft light of the bathroom.

 

She chuckles at the cats smelling his clothes, and picks up the garment.

“I’ll throw that in the wash too. You can sit wherever you’d like,” she gestures to the living room, “Do you listen to music?”

 

Arthur nods enthusiastically, watching as she had already begun to walk into the other room.

 

“Yeah? I got a lot of these from that music shop that’s closing down. Kinda sucks, but they had some good sales because of it.” She picks up the colorful vinyl he had spotted before and waves it a little.

 

“You can go through them if you want and put one on. I’ve always got music going on in here,” she walks to another hallway and goes into a different room, her voice becoming faint. “The cats like it too.”

 

Arthur steps forward once, then twice, feeling entirely out of place. His hands are folded in front of him, and he eyes the stack of vinyls curiously. He runs a finger down the stack, looking at all the artists. He hears the dull sound of a washer running.

 

Aerosmith, Sam cooke, Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Bee-Gees. She has good taste, he thinks, and settles on the record that sat on the top- Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. Arthur wasn’t one for classic rock n’roll, but honestly, he hadn’t given this band a chance- he didn’t even really know about them. She liked them, and that was enough for him.

 

She comes out of the laundry room to the sound of music playing, and Arthur has already sat on the homely couch in the middle of the room, both of the cats sitting at his feet and blinking at him. He hears her laugh, loudly, and turns to look at her. Maybe she realized how pathetic he was.

 

“What’s so funny?” He hopes his voice didn’t sound as small as he thought.

 

She walks into the kitchen, still giggling, and pulls two mugs from a cupboard.

 

“No it’s just- they don’t really like anyone, but they like you. If I have a friend over, they usually bolt to the bathroom and hide.”

 

 

He watches her move through the kitchen fluidly, grabbing things from the drawers, the fridge.

 

“Sugar? Cream?”

“Yes, please.”

 

He hears the tinny sound of a spoon in a mug and she’s approaching him again. He notices she changed, into something akin to pajamas. Arthur is suddenly very aware that he is still lacking a shirt, but the air in the room is warm, like her.

 

She hands him a mug and he tentatively takes it with a ‘thank you’, observing the light brown swirl around in a spiral. Arthur wants to speak, but cannot, so he sips the coffee quietly. She sits on the floor, legs crossed underneath herself, and coo’s to the cats that have already approached her. She reaches back to the little table and blindly pats it, until her hand grasps a little box of cigarettes. He feels relief flood through him when she asks if he smokes and if he minds if she does.

 

Arthur thinks this is silly; it’s her place. She could do whatever she wants in it, but she’s too considerate. He reaches into his own pocket and pulls a bent pack, plucking one cigarette from the box and putting it between his lips, raising his eyebrows at her with a wordless question. She lights hers and takes a long drag, exhaling the smoke through her nostrils in two thick streams, and leans closer to him.

 

Gooseflesh rises on his neck when she gestures him to lean forward, and he does, the tension in his shoulders tight enough to ache. She moves closer, impossibly close, and is almost nestled between his knees when she holds the cherry of her cigarette to his unlit one to light it, the smoke coiling up between the both of them. He looks at her, so close, able to see the way her lashes fan out and swoop up. There’s a freckle right near her hairline. And she moves away as fast as she approached, leaning back against the table behind her.

 

Arthur inhales, finally, and swears he can taste her. He’s lost in his fantasies for a moment, images of kissing her bright and vivid, before she speaks to him.

 

“So, what do you do? I know you said, you work as a clown right? Anything else?”

 

He nods, his voice soft.

“I- i’m a comedian. Well, I want to be, anyway.”

 

Her eyes glitter at that, and she sits up a little.

“Yeah? You got a joke you wanna tell me?”

 

Arthur blanched; he had forgotten his book at his locker in HaHa’s, so he rattles his brain to think of something.

 

“What did the man with no hands get for Christmas?”

 

She tilts her chin up at him, wordlessly beckoning him to go on.

 

“No idea. He hasn’t opened his present yet.”

 

She’s silent for a moment and Arthur knows she hates him, self loathing running cold through his bones, but then she laughs. It snorts from her nose and her head tilts back to rest on the table, and Arthur can see her eyes are closed.

 

“Oh my god, that’s horrible,” her shoulders tremble with giggles, “I love it.”

 

Something prideful swells through him and Arthur huffs a laugh, shaking his head and smiling at her, tangles of hair falling into his face.

 

“This city needs some of that. some laughter, just something!” She ashes her cigarette, her head still tilted back. Arthur watches her chest rise and fall with every inhale, smoke curling out of her nose. The record player crooning dully in the background.

 

 

kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town

waiting for someone or something to show you the way

 

She stands up with her cigarette placed between her lips and reaches a hand out to him, body slowly swaying side to side. It reminds him of a snake- that slow, deadly motion that only a serpent could manage.

 

“You ever listened to Pink Floyd? This song- hell, this album is my favorite.”

 

Arthur realizes he’s just been staring at her hand instead of taking it, and he way-too-quickly places his hand in hers. She pulls him up off the couch with strength he wouldn’t have assumed she had, and continues to move.

 

“It’s... i’m not sure how to describe it,” her voice is airy, and she places the cigarette in the ashtray, “pleasantly suicidal?” Her laugh chimes in his ears and he can’t do anything but nod, his mouth opening and closing as he tries to speak.

 

“It’s.. i’ve never heard anything like it.”

 

“Mmm.”

 

and then one day you find ten years have got behind you

no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

 

She swings his arm back and forth and Arthur feels his shoulders start to sway gently to the music, her fingers interlocking with his. Undeniably, she has rhythm, and so does he. She pulls her hand up and twirls him into a spin, and Arthur can’t believe how wonderful everything feels. The coffee is cold by now and his cigarette’s ash is about to crumble but Arthur smiles. He stubs the cigarette and flamboyantly gestures his arms outward, rocking his body to the tune. He can barely hear it, all he can see is her. She giggles at his movements, but her gaze wanders beyond him, and she lets out a little gasp.

 

“Oh, my god- it’s twelve in the morning,” her hand comes up to cover her mouth, laughter spilling out. “I’ve kept you so long, i’m so sorry!”

 

Arthur feels disappointment and guilt run cold through his mind- had he really taken up her entire evening? He hadn’t even considered what time it was. Arthur whips his head back to look at the clock on the wall, hoping she was messing with him, hoping it was wrong. He watches her take the record off and quickly pad back to the laundry room. Arthur stands there, and places a bony hand onto his chest to make sure he’s still alive. She comes out with his now clean shirt, folded and presented to him.

 

“I should have kept an eye on that clock,” she shakes her head, lips turned up into a coy smile. “I’ve occupied your whole night-”

 

“I loved it- I like... spending time with you...” He manages to stammer out, softly taking the blouse from her hands and fighting the urge to smell it. It would smell like her, he bets.

 

She crosses her arms and lifts an eyebrow, walking towards the door. Arthur feels his heart sink further when he follows her, knowing he has to leave. He peers behind his shoulder and waves to the cats on the sofa, hearing her unlock and open the door.

 

“I like spending time with you too, you know,” her chin is cocked up so she can look him in the eye. “You’re the first person to really uh... talk to me. I like your company.”

 

She tilts her head and peeks behind him, at the cats.

 

“They like it too.”

 

He knows he won’t see her again; she had helped him and that was that. Arthur forces a smile, trying not to show his sorrow, and quickly tugs on the shirt, fingers nimbly closing the buttons. He clears his throat, trying to will his words to come out.

 

“You’re the first person to really see me,” he walks out the door, turning back to talk to her. He’d curl up in front of the door if he could, he just wants to be close to her. “And I- it’s. Thank you.”

 

“We should do it again sometime. Maybe minus the whole ‘bruises and cuts’ thing.”

 

Arthur feels the wind get knocked out of him, and dumbly-eagerly nods, shoving his hands in his pockets so he doesn’t wring them together. She wants to see him again.

 

“I’ll see you on the train, then?” She looks up at him through her lashes, and he feels warmth spread from his face down to his neck.

 

“Yeah- definitely. Yeah.”

 

“Alright.” She waves her fingers at him and slinks back into her apartment, closing the door slightly, and he starts to walk away when he hears her voice once more.

 

“And darlin’! Be careful out there tonight.” The closing of a door echoes in the building, and he stands still for a moment. Darling.

 

Arthur steps down the hall, swaying his body back in forth to the music only in his head, ‘darling’ repeating again and again and again. And he realizes he really, really loves her.

Chapter Text

Arthur wakes up the next morning and the first thing he does is pull a cigarette out of the banged up pack on the counter, lighting it and taking a heavy drag. He watches the time tick by ever so slowly until the hands hit seven am, and he heads out, sweatshirt hood pulled over his head. Arthur gets on the subway and crams himself into the furthest corner, perseverance pounding through his heart. He won’t see her today, he decided. The train rumbles to a stop and Arthur gets off, glancing at the marker that says where he’s at.

 

7th street.

 

The path to her apartment is engraved in his mind, and he absentmindedly fiddles with the pick in his pocket when he approaches the building. She’d be at work now, and he stands in front of her door, pulling out the little metal bits and carefully inserting them into the lock. He twists and turns them until he hears a click, and wiggles the doorknob until the door opens. The cats aren’t at the door and Arthur sighs with ease- he doesn’t know what he’d do if one happened to get out.

 

Arthur shuts the door behind him with a dull noise, trying to be as quiet as he can. Her place looks just as he remembered, and he takes a deep breath in. Smells like her too. He shrugs off his sweater, folding it neatly onto the counter, and makes his way into the kitchen. He opens cupboards and drawers, picking up anything that strikes his eye- she has an odd number of cutlery, and several boxes of tea line the shelves. He sees the two mugs she had made for them the evening prior in the sink. Arthur leaves the kitchen and makes his way to the living room, making a beeline to the record player. He flicks through them, deciding on Sam Cooke, and places the needle on the vinyl.

 

The room is full of soft, tender noise and Arthur likes it like that. He examines every nook and cranny, every shelf and surface his eyes can reach, and finally settles on the couch with a soft sigh. She left the ashtray on the table, he notices, and he picks it up, turning it in his hand.

 

Only a few cigarette butts are in there, each one with a print of red lipstick around the paper. Arthur plucks one out from the ash tray and marvels at it between his fingers. Smells like menthol and stale tobacco. Arthur closes his eyes and brings the cigarette stub to his mouth, placing it between his lips and inhaling like it was lit. He pinches his fingers around it and gazes at it again, before running his tongue up along the filter where he knew her lips had laid. The sweet, waxy taste of her lipstick mingles with the bitter taste of ash and Arthur sighs through his nose, lavishing the stub with a few more slow licks.

 

Arthur pockets the cigarette butt and makes his way through the rest of her flat, his hand grazing over every surface it can reach- the walls, the counters. He even runs a gentle finger along the stem of one of her plants. He moves past the bathroom; he had seen it before, and cracks open the door to another room. Arthur feels his breath whoosh out of him- it’s her bedroom. A big bed, adorned in grey and white with several pillows sat on top. He doesn’t know where to look first, everything reminds him of her and it overwhelms him immediately.

 

The room is surprisingly bare- a shelf with books and a few art prints adorn the walls, gently basked in an orange light from the sunrise. He steps into the room and his feet scuff on the carpet, but he’s too infatuated to care. There’s an unlit candle on the nightstand next to the bed and Arthur leans down to smell it- spearmint. Everything smells like her, and he feels like his skin is on fire. He toes his shoes off and tucks them neatly by the door, making his way to the bed. Stiffly, Arthur settles himself onto it, inching his body towards the middle, and stares up at the ceiling. His hair lays behind him in tangles and he turns his head to the side, his nose meeting a pillow. Arthur takes a deep inhale and feels like he’ll die- the sweet, spicy scent of Mia flooding his senses. He imagines her in bed, sprawled out on the covers, wearing nothing but her underwear. He imagines what her tattoos would look like in the soft light from the windows, and he imagines her hair tousled and mussed, curls dangling into her face.

 

Arthur moves a hand up to his face, fingers glimpsing across his lips, and down to his neck. He softly drags them down his collarbone, over his ribs, and gently rubs himself. He thinks of her touching him, the way her fingers might tangle in the sparse hair on his chest and her sharp nails might scrape against his skin. He moves his hand further down, fingers pushing against the waistband of his trousers until he finally reaches his cock. He imagines the way she would feel grasped around him, feather light and unyielding. He squeezes himself and brings his other hand to his mouth to stifle a moan. He imagines her eyes looking up at him through thick lashes, lips curled into a smile. Arthur knows she’d be gentle, kind. Arthur pumps himself, hips bucking to meet his palm, and thinks about the way she’d say his name.

 

Arthur, she’d croon. You’re such a good boy.

 

She’d kiss him and he’d be able to taste the fullness of her lips, smoke and all.

 

Arthur, I love you.

 

She’d whisper and breathe her admiration right to his face while she touched him, and she would be so, so warm.

 

“I- love you, Mia- I-“

 

His words tumble out of him with a broken whimper, spoken to no one at all, when he finally comes in his hand, the sticky warmth spreading to the front of his underwear. His toes curl into the comforter and Arthur lays there, eyes squeezed shut and his heartbeat thudding in his ears.

He splays his fingers and feels the remnants of his orgasm stretched and webbed between them and Arthur crinkles his nose, scooting to the edge of the bed and making his way to the bathroom. He nudges the faucet with an elbow and lathers his hands with the lemon scented soap on the counter, scrubbing at his skin with vigor. 

 

Arthur glances back to her bed and unceremoniously shoves his feet in his shoes, drying his hands on his trousers and making his way back to her living room. He switches off the record player and places the vinyl back in its rightful place, looks over her apartment once more, and with a nod, he leaves, locking the door behind him. It’s only four o’ clock- his mother will be hungry soon, so Arthur heads home, walking up the stairs with a little more bounce than usual. He fiddles with the cigarette stub he had taken in his pocket, still slightly wet from his saliva, and Arthur feels his heart tremor again, with the reminder of how much he loves her.

Chapter Text

Arthur opens the door to his apartment with a grin on his face.

 

“Ma! I’m home!”

 

“Oh Happy, is that you? You’re early today.”

 

Arthur shrugs his sweater off and tosses it to the floor, stepping into the dilapidated living room. His mother had the news on, the volume just a touch above white noise.

 

“Who else would it be, ma?” His voice has a lilt to it, a soft kind of humor that spreads to his face. “I had off from work today.”

 

He moves into the kitchen and prepares a frozen dinner for his mother, popping in two pieces of toast for himself. He hears his mother’s prying voice from around the corner.

 

“Then where did you go today, Happy?”

 

Arthur drums his fingers on the counter, shrugging his shoulders even though he knew she couldn’t see her. He remembers the warmth of Mia’s apartment, and with a little bit of misplaced spite, he remembers how it felt more like home than his place did.

 

“I went out, had some stuff to pick up, you know.” The microwave beeps and startles him out of his thoughts, and he hears his mother hum. The words are stuck in Arthur’s throat, and his face splits into a smile before he can stop himself.

 

“I met someone, ma.” He picks up the tray with their food on it and places it in front of her, gently taking his own plate off of it.

 

“Oh? Who?” Her voice is almost taunting and Arthur plays with the crust on his toast.

 

“A girl- a woman. I met her on the train.”

 

His mother perks up at that, raising a thin eyebrow.

 

“You be careful, Happy. This city is full of nasty people-“

 

“She’s the nicest person i’ve ever met, ma. And she’s beautiful, she’s funny, and she’s kind to me.”

 

The scraping of a fork screeches in his ears as his mother takes a bite, her eyes fixated on the television in front of them.

 

“Just be careful, Happy.” Her words are laced with doubt but Arthur doesn’t hear them, he hears only the song that comes from the tv, signaling the end of the Murray Franklin show. Arthur sets down his plate and rests his head back on the old, worn out couch, softly singing along. And when he closes his eyes, he sees Mia.

 

i thought of quitting, baby

but my heart just ain't gonna buy it

 

and if i didn't think it was worth one single try

id jump right on a big bird and then id fly

Chapter Text

Arthur wakes up early again- it’s become the new normal for him, and stops at a dinky cafe on the way to the subway. He picks up two coffees, both loaded with cream and sugar, and pays for them with crumpled bills and loose change. The cigarette butt he had taken still lingers in his pocket, and every time his fingers glimpse against it, Arthur smiles and hums a tune that only he can hear. It’s a secret, something only he knows, and he likes it like that. He wants Mia like that too; all for himself.

 

He walks to the station with two cups in hand and steps inside, and he feels his stomach flip when he sees her already sitting. She looks lovely- a mustard colored turtleneck tucked under an ankle length coat. No scarf today, he muses, and he pushes himself through the throng of people to approach her. Her face looks stoney, like she’s lost to her thoughts, but she sees him before he can even utter a ‘hey’ and immediately, she lights up. Like he was the best thing in the world. She shifts her legs so he can sit beside her, and Arthur gladly obliges, shyly offering one of the coffees to her with a soft “good morning.”

 

She looks at the cup incredulously before her face splits into a grin, a well-manicured hand reaching forward to take it.

 

“Arthur! You did not have to do that!”

 

Suddenly sheepish, he shrugs and watches her take a sip of the beverage, her eyes fluttering shut. Her cheeks are dusted with rose and Arthur has to take a drink of his own before he starts spluttering.

 

“You’re wonderful, you know that?”

 

Her voice yanks him out of his stupor and he blinks, feeling his body heat up at her words.

 

“I just wanted to,” he pauses for a moment, “well, I just wanted to.”

 

She laughs and her breath blows some of the steam away from her cup, and Arthur feels his knees begin to bounce. He stares at his coffee before speaking again.

 

“What are you doing up so early? You’re on the train earlier than me.”

 

“Oh, I’m off today,” she idly waves her hand in the air, “and I’m used to getting up at the crack of dawn, so I thought I’d get some errands done. What about you?”

 

“I’m off today too.”

 

“Got shit to do too?” The profanity didn’t shock him, but it felt delightfully sinful coming from her lips.

 

“Yeah, a little bit.” He did not. In fact, he had nothing to do today.

 

She must have caught on to his wavering tone because she looked at him with her face pinched, lips pursed in a Oh Really kind of way.

 

“Yeah? Like what?”

 

“I have to uh,” he shrugs, attempting to be just a little nonchalant, “have to pick up some... stuff.”

 

Arthur watches her roll her eyes, a playful smile twitching at the corners of her lips.

 

“Y’know, Arthur, I meant it when I said I like spending time with you.”

 

He opens his mouth to protest but she cuts him off.

 

“If you want to spend time with me, you can just ask.”

 

Arthur feels embarrassment flame up into his chest, and he has to stop himself from bouncing his knees. She’s looking at him with a raised eyebrow and he clears his throat, hoping his voice doesn’t crack.

 

“I’d- I’d like to spend time with you.”

 

And she smiles at him again, showing all of her teeth, framed by cherry red lips. Animals bare their teeth to intimidate and threaten, but all Arthur wants to do right now is kiss her.

 

“Wonderful, cause that’s what I want too. Did you eat breakfast?” She eyeballs the forgotten cup of coffee he was holding. “I mean actual breakfast, coffee doesn’t count.”

 

Arthur feels a laugh whoosh out of his nose, feeling more than a little embarrassed.

 

“No...” He didn’t have an excuse, because no one really ever asked him that before- except for maybe his mother.

 

But Mia softly puts a hand on his knee and Arthur has to will himself to not clutch the coffee cup with all the strength he could muster, lest it crumpled and spilled all over the both of him. He can feel every single finger on her hand, rings and all, and she taps him twice.

 

“Me either. Let’s get breakfast, there’s a swanky diner a few blocks from my stop with the best waffles you’ll ever try.”

 

Arthur can only manage a nod. If she asked him to walk to the seventh circle of Hell with her, he’d say yes. He’d say yes every time.

 

Her mouth curls into a smile and she stands, offering a hand to him. He doesn’t hesitate this time, slotting his fingers between hers, feeling the cool silver of her jeweled knuckles. It seems effortless for her- to show affection without worry. But Arthur can’t stop thinking about how small and warm her hands are, and how they feel heavenly in his own.

 

I didn’t know there were angels in Gotham, he reflects to himself, feeling her warmth crawl up his arm and into his chest, settling right where his heart lay beating hard and fast. All for her, and all because of her.

Chapter Text

Gotham was freezing- it was midwinter, after all, and the air was frigid and wet. The walk to the diner was short like she said, and Arthur couldn’t help but steal glances at Mia while they walked hand in hand. The air nipped at her skin, flushing her cheeks and just the very tip of her nose. With every step she took, the curls on her head bounced a little, the wave of green falling onto her forehead.

 

Arthur wondered what the passerby’s thought when they saw them. Did they think they were a couple? He hoped so, and a thrill of euphoria shot through his stomach at the thought of it.

 

Them, a couple.

 

She chattered while they walked, about music she listened to and how she painted in her free time. The art prints on her wall had been her own work, he realized, and Arthur briefly wishes he had splurged on an instant camera in the past so he could have taken photos of them. He wondered if he’d have the chance to see them up close.

 

Probably not, he assumes.

 

She mentions something about how she had been in the hospital for a while, but waves the discussion away before he could pry.

 

“It was odd, I was in there for two months for recovery. It felt like nothing changed when I was released, but clearly it did cause I haven’t thought about relapsing for almost half a year.”

 

Arthur didn’t know what she meant by relapse, but he squeezed her hand a little tighter. He had been in the hospital before too, but he also wasn’t sure if she meant the same kind as he did. He saw no evidence of injury, and his curiosity was peaked. He let the discussion die its natural death when they approached the diner, the smell of coffee instantly permeating the air.

 

He scrambles to hold the door open for her and she titters, tugging at the hem of her coat and bowing slightly.

 

“Well, thank you, my good sir.”

 

A wry grin finds its way onto his face before he can stop it, and Arthur feels his cheeks redden. She walks in and sits at a booth and he follows; it's so much warmer inside than out. It was quiet, and Arthur could hear soft music playing from the speakers on the ceiling.

 

This could be a date, he thought. He wondered if it was.

 

A waitress came by and Mia ordered two coffees- one for each of them. Arthur watched as she picked up the menu, fingertips tapping on the pages. He picked up his own, but couldn’t bring himself to look at it, his eyes focused on her.

 

“I love the strawberry waffles here, they’re so sweet. It’s like a little dessert.”

 

Arthur managed a nod, quickly thumbing through the menu to look like he was doing something other than staring at her. The waitress dropped the coffee off and he watched Mia pick up her mug, stirring it a few times with a spoon before adding a ton of sugar and cream. It was endearingly childlike, Arthur thought, as he watched the dark brown transform to a milky tan.

 

He emulated her, pouring sugar and cream, and took a heavy swallow. He glanced at her mug and saw a red lip print, and was reminded of the cigarette stub he still kept in his pocket. Arthur felt his lips twitch and she immediately notices, tilting her menu down so she can peer at him.

 

“What are you smirking at?” Her tone was playful, her eyes squinted.

 

He cleared his throat. “Nothing- you said the strawberry waffles were good?”

 

“They’re wonderful! This place really knocks it out of the park.”

 

The waitress came back to take their respective orders- Mia ordered the waffles and Arthur settled on some toast. When the waitress left, Mia looked at him with a pursed frown.

 

“You’re only getting toast?”

 

“Yeah I’m- I’m not too hungry.”

 

“Hmm,” she sets the menu down and looks up at him,

 

“We can share, then.”

 

Arthur stares into his cup, relishing in the sweetness of it all; the coffee, and Mia. She props herself up with one hand on her face.

 

“How’s the comedy career goin’?”

 

“It’s... going. I haven’t had a lot of time to write some new material yet.” Arthur confesses with a shrug. He actually hasn’t been able to focus on anything lately, except for Mia.

 

“That’s alright, you’ll know it when it strikes you.”

 

“Mmm.” He lets the air settle before he speaks again.

 

“What do you paint?”

 

She perks up at his question, and Arthur feels himself straighten his back.

 

“All sorts of stuff, mostly portraits though. A lot of uh,” she looks a little sheepish, “self portraits. It’s what I see all the time, yknow?”

 

Arthur nods, curious as ever. He wonders what they look like- no doubt they would be beautiful.

 

“I could paint you sometime, if you’d be comfortable with it. You’ve got a wonderful face!”

 

And Arthur feels his cheeks heat up again, quickly taking a sip of the coffee to distract her from his bashfulness. He imagines it- the both of them in her room. She’s staring at him and working on a canvas, holding a paintbrush between her teeth like a cigarette. Her eyes would rake over his every feature. He wonders how she would work, fast or slow? Arthur clears his throat, attempting to feign nonchalance.

 

“That would- that would be cool. I’d love to see your work.”

 

She beams at him, lacing her hands together.

 

“Then we’ll do it. If you’re free, we can do it tonight,” she stops for a second, “sorry if i’m like, jumping the gun here. I haven’t had a new face to paint since i’ve moved.”

 

“No- no it’s fine! I’d love that.”

 

The waitress comes back with a plate of waffles, stacked high with shiny strawberries and a dollop of cream, and a plate of buttered toast. Mia thanks the woman and eyeballs the plates on the table.

 

“Yeah, you’ve gotta help me with this. There’s no way I can finish it myself.”

 

Arthur has already nibbled into his toast, the bread crumbling against his teeth when he nods. A comfortable sort of quiet rolls over the both of them, and he watches her cut into the waffles with a knife and fork. The whipped cream coats the tines and he follows the movement of her hand when she takes a bite.

 

There is something undeniably erotic about watching someone eat, and Arthur feels his trousers stiffen when he sees a rivulet of strawberry juice drip down her bottom lip, sticky and shiny and sweet. She swipes it away with her tongue and he hears the soft scrape of her teeth against the fork. She pushes the plate towards him with a spare fork and gestures towards it.

 

“Share with me.”

 

Arthur picks up the fork delicately and eyes the almost too decadent breakfast in front of him. He stabs a piece of the waffle and places it in his mouth with a burst of cloyingly fruity flavor. To her defense, it was very good, and Arthur quickly pushed his fork in for another bite.

 

“I told you! And you just ordered toast.” She humorously tch’d, pushing the plate closer to him.

They both picked at the waffle and fall into a lull of simple conversation. Arthur marvels at how easy it is to talk to her, and when he speaks, she gives him all of her attention.

 

“You said you were in the..hospital? I was too-but it might have been a different kind.” He stutters, his interest too peaked to ignore.

She lights a cigarette and scoots the ashtray between the both of them, leaning back against the booth.

 

“Yeah, I tried to kill myself.”

 

Her words hang between them like a ton of bricks, and even through the macabre nature of her them, Arthur feels his heart stutter.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah, it sucked. I got put in a 72 hour psych hold- completely involuntary, by the way,” she rolls her eyes, her tone biting, “and they deemed me ‘clinically insane’. Had to stay for two months until they thought I was ‘better’. Load of shit.”

 

“Oh.”

 

She shrugs, and Arthur thinks it’s almost funny how she doesn’t care.

 

“S’fine now. I’m on my medication and I feel a lot better, clearly. But yeah! This city doesn’t treat mental illness like it should.”

 

Arthur nods insistingly; he knew the ways the city throws people aside without a care in the world, he was one of Those People.

 

“I was in Arkham for a while, it was terrible.” Arthur’s voice is barely above a whisper, but she had laid her cards on the table for him to see. He only felt like it was fair. He can’t offer more details than that- he feels a strained cackle in the back of his throat at the thought of it.

 

But she doesn’t pry. He sees sympathy and tenderness in her gaze, and Arthur tenses when she reaches over the table to place her hand atop his.

 

“It sucks.”

 

The frank, flat way she delivered her comfort tickled Arthur immensely, and he hung his head with a breathy chuckle.

 

“It does,” he ponders for a moment before speaking again, worrying the inside of his bottom lip until he feels the skin split,

 

“I’m glad you’re here.”

 

He feels her hand squeeze his, and he looks up, her face splitting into a grin.

 

“I’m glad you’re here too. Glad I get to spend time with you.”

 

The sincerity in her voice almost makes his eyes well up, and all he can think about is how much he loves her.

 

She pays for the meal- she had insisted since it was her idea she would pay and how he could get the next one, and she leaves the tip under a plate.

 

The next one. Was this a date?

 

She stands up and dusts off her coat, the heels of her boots clicking on the tile of the diner.

 

“I don’t really have anything important to do today actually, would you want to come over again?” She flicks her wrist to look at the time and Arthur mirrors her, looking at his own. It was just past eleven am.

 

“I’d really love to paint you, if you’d let me.” That silly tone laces her voice again, but an utterly genuine smile graces her lips.

 

She was inviting him to her apartment, again. He felt something like butterflies in his gut, but stronger. A swarm of hornets, maybe? Arthur stands and straightens his posture, confidence and anticipation making his heart pound.

 

“I’d love that.”

Chapter Text

The diner had been just a few blocks away from her flat, and she led him to her building, still holding his hand. A pang of Almost Guilt wracks his brain when he remembers that he was here before, by himself. Arthur decides her apartment would be insurmountably better with her in it, and when she brings him inside, he thinks it’s even better than the first- or second time.

 

The space is warm- a wonderful contrast to the stifling cold outside, and it’s delightfully disheveled. There are papers and a few canvases strewn across the couch, and glass jars holding murky water and wooden paintbrushes.

 

“Sorry for the mess, I tend to paint late at night and just clean up when I get back.” She swiftly hustles to straighten up the stack of papers, flipping them over. Mia gestures to the room, picking up one of the cloudy jars and stirring it a few times.

 

“You can sit wherever you’d like, I work anywhere so it’s up to you.”

 

And a jolt of tension runs through Arthur- he had never done anything like this before. She’s still looking at him expectantly, and he settles on the couch, knees together with his hands folded atop them.

 

“I’m not sure how you... want me.”

 

She snickers, and walks up to him. She towers over him whilst he’s sitting, and he tilts his neck up to look at her, seeing the pleasant slope of her jawline.

 

“You’re a little, uh, stiff. Just relax! Here,” she moves to touch his shoulders, gently pushing down until he feels them go slack. The tension in his neck improved greatly- he hadn’t realized he had been so tight, and he slowly nestles himself into the corner of the sofa, propping his head up with a hand, one leg crossed over the other.

 

“There! Doesn’t that feel better?”

 

Arthur nods- it did, but her touch still lingers on him, blisteringly hot. He wishes she’d touch him again.

 

“Good. I’ll get set up, just give me a minute, ok?”

 

“Mhmm.”

 

She smiles and moves to her bedroom and shuts the door, and he can hear her greeting and prattling to the cats- assumably in her room as well. Arthur bounces a knee and looks around the room; everything was nearly the same as the last time. His eyes land on the stack of papers on the coffee table in front of him, and he can see harsh lines through the translucent back of the paper. He tentatively reaches forward and picks up the one on top by its corner, lifting it between a pinched forefinger and thumb.

 

And Arthur sees a graphite sketch, of himself.

 

He inhales harshly through his nose, his eyes scanning the paper he holds. She had gotten his likeness down perfectly, his cheekbones high with just the right amount of shadow, and his hair had been blown back. In the drawing, his eyes were closed, and he could see every little detail she put in- to his eyebrows, eyelashes.

 

 

Hey.”

 

Arthur fumbles with the paper, almost dropping it, and his shoulders crank up to his ears. She had caught him. He peeks over his shoulder, over to where he knows her bedroom is, and sees her standing in the doorway, lips turned up into an elfish smirk. Her voice is soft, lightly teasing him.

 

“Find something you like?”

Chapter Text

Arthur feels himself blanch- she had changed, into a black tank top and black shorts. Through his embarrassment, Arthur lets his eyes flit to her arms- he could see her tattoos now. Intricate designs of flowers embellished her entire right arm, snaking all the way up to her shoulder and curling across her collarbone. Arthur heard her sigh through her nose as she sauntered closer to him, picking up the rest of the papers off of the table.

 

“It’s fine, you can look. I just wanted to,” she idly thumbs through the papers, “just wanted to get it right.” She offers the stack to him, and he tentatively takes them from her.

 

They were all of him.

 

There couldn’t have been more than ten, but they were all of him. Incredible details, every one better than the last.

 

“I really like you, Arthur.”

 

His head slowly tilts up and away from the papers, to look her in the face. No deception, no lies. She meant it.

 

“I- haHAAHAHHAH- I LIKEHHAHHAHHAHA!”

 

His eyes squeeze shut and his hands clamp over his mouth, doing little to stifle the dissonant, insincere cackles that spilled between his fingers. Arthur feels tears sting his eyes, leaving hot wet tracks down his cheeks and over his fingers. Arthur registers a dip in the couch, and he feels her place a hand on his, moving the both of them away from his mouth so she could cup his cheek. His lips trembled with the effort of pushing his laughter down, diminished to mere chuckles. His eyes were wet and he blinked, leaning in to her touch like a wounded animal. He felt so small, so warm with her.

She didn’t shy away, she never did.

 

Arthur brings up his other hand to lay atop hers, his pulse rushing through his ears, and he can hear her speak through the constant thump thump thump.

 

“I really, really like you, Arthur.”

 

He swallows thickly, and gently squeezes her hand. She feels real. He feels his words move through his throat like heavy molasses, a confession.

 

“I like you. So much.”

 

Her eyes glitter in the low light of her living room, her pupils blown and black. Arthur can almost see his own reflection in them.

 

“I’d really like to kiss you.”

 

Arthur feels his stomach jolt up to his throat, a swarm of butterflies once again.

 

“I’ve n-never kissed anyone before. I’m bad.”

 

“You aren’t bad. You’re good,” she moves a little closer to him, “You’re wonderful. And it’s okay. We don’t have to-“

 

I want to!”

 

She giggles, looking up at him through her lashes.

 

“Then we’ll kiss.”

 

She leans in close to him, until their noses brush together, and faintly, gently places her lips on his. He feels her sigh through her nose, a soft huff of warm air on his face, and she pulls away with a smile.

 

“That’s not so bad, is it?-“

 

“I’d-i’d like to kiss again.”

 

Arthur swears he can see a blush bloom across her cheeks, and with an overwhelming amount of inexperience, he kisses her this time. All teeth and rough chapped lips against her own soft cherry red, he feels his skin prickle with the euphoria of relief, what he’s waited for since she spoke to him on the train. She leans in to the kiss and intensifies it, setting a slow pace that Arthur finds easy to follow. She tastes of smoke and coffee and the sweetest strawberries he ever could have, and Arthur feels himself whimper when she cups his face, fingers softly entwined in his hair.

 

Oh my god.

 

Her voice is breathy and light and he swallows her words with another kiss, tilting his head so he can pull her closer- he wonders if he is doing something wrong, if he upset her, but she speaks again.

 

“Arthur, you’re wonderful.”

 

The praise rockets through him and he feels his body push forward, nudging her into the corner of the couch.

 

I want all of you I want all of you all for me only for me I love you I love you I love you

 

Her arms come to rest on his shoulders, her hands  on the back of his neck, pushing his head insistingly closer. Arthur opens his mouth and another moan escapes him when she slips her tongue inside. Warm and wet and sweet, he feels her against his teeth and gums, her flesh against his own and the intimacy of it all makes him shiver. Arthur leans away only to kiss her again, swift and desperate, his words strangled in his throat with each pull away.

 

Thankyouthankyouthankyouohgodthankyou.”

 

He feels her giggle during the kiss and she presses her forehead to his own, her hands holding his head. Arthur feels his muscles slack and he lays on top of her, his meager weight not even making her flinch. She runs her fingers through his hair and he feels the sharp points of her nails on his scalp, pleasant and warm.

 

“You’re so sweet, Arthur. So sweet.”

 

He hums and rests his chin on her chest, looking up to see her face. Adoration is written all over her, and she flutters her eyelashes at him.

 

“You can touch me, if you’d like.”

 

Arthur is suddenly very aware of his hands and where they are; clutching her sides with a gentle grip. He pauses for a moment and squeezes, experimentally. Soft. His hands move down into the dips of her sides, savoring the way they taper inwards and out to lead to the womanly shape of her hips. He sits up a little, taking a second to look at her. She’s reclined fully into the corner of the couch, he can see every line and detail of her tattoos now. He drinks in the slope of her shoulders, the lax muscles in her arms. Arthur can see her chest rise and fall with every tender breath she takes. He feels some kind of emotion swell in his throat, and he brings a shaky hand up to cover his mouth.

 

She is real she is here she is alive and she likes him.

Chapter Text

Arthur sits on his heels and feels himself staring at her, but he can’t bring himself to stop. She looks like one of those renaissance paintings, where the woman is draped in fabric and gold.

 

“I’d like to touch you, too.”

 

Her voice breaks his focus and he feels himself fold inwards, his spine curled. What would she think of him?

 

“Y-yeah.” He can only manage this as she sits up, a kittenish smile playing at the edges of her lips.

 

“Only if you’d like that, of course-“

 

“I would!”

 

She giggles at his enthusiasm and Arthur feels his throat tickle with the threat of a nervous laugh until he sees her hands come to play with the hem of his sweater, lightly lifting it up and down. Oh.

 

“You want me- you want this off? Off?”

 

“Mhmmmm.”

 

He clambers to pull it up and over his head, tossing it onto the floor, feeling the tousled curls of his hair fall into his face. He had a shirt underneath- just a white dress shirt, and Arthur watches her lean forward and tap the buttons up the middle with one red, pointed nail. He can feel himself start to sweat.

 

“This- this too?”

 

“Mmmmmhm. I want to see you.”

 

Arthur fumbles with the buttons on his shirt with all the naivety of a teenager, undoing each and every one until his shirt lay open on his shoulders. He slowly tugs it off, and discards it onto the floor too. It’s enormously quiet in the room, and he registers the nasty sour feeling of self doubt unraveling in his stomach, until she speaks.

 

“You are so, so beautiful Arthur.”

 

He peers up at her through the curtain of tangled hair.

 

“I am?” Arthur hates how weak he sounds, and his voice trembles when he looks at her face.

 

“You are. You really are.”

 

Mia approaches him and places her hands on his jaw, her thumbs softly stroking his cheeks. He feels his eyes close- he doesn’t want her to see the tears welling up in them. Arthur leans back subconsciously, and she settles on top of him, pushing her face up against his jawline.

 

He feels her lips on his chin, soft and faintly sticky with lipstick. She kisses him and moves down his neck, leaving a trail and pressing her mouth firmer each time.

 

You are beautiful, Arthur.

 

He opens his eyes and feels a whimper crackle out of his throat when she reaches his collarbone, hot lips and a pleasant pinch of sharp teeth. Arthur lets his hands wander, to hold her. Touch her, anything. He delicately squeezes her sides and feels her breath on his skin, skimming down to his chest.

 

“Every part of you is so beautiful. You needn’t hide or push anything away from me, you know.”

 

Arthur feels her mouth move over his nipple and he lets out a moan, broken and high. Her nails scratch and scrape at his chest, weaving into the coarse hair, and when she hums he can feel the vibration resonate through his bones.

 

“And I want to hear you. I want to see you. Touch you,” she dips her head and drags her mouth down every exposed rib on his torso, and he feels something hot and wet on his skin.

 

“Taste you.” Her saliva left a cooling trail and arthur feels gooseflesh raise on his arms.

 

Oh god.” He can barely make a sound.

 

Mia kisses his ribs and settles onto his stomach, hollow and solid. She kisses right above his belly button and slips her mouth over his exposed hipbones, gently biting where the bones stuck out most. She rests her chin on his stomach and looks up at him through feathered lashes, her eyes dilated and glazed. Her lipstick had smeared, and he can see marks of red all down his body where she had kissed him.

 

Arthur feels hopelessly in love with her, at this specific moment, and with the realization of it, he’s left lightheaded.

 

“You can stay the night, if you’d like.” Her voice is airy and low and she blinks slowly at him, like a cat might do to show its fondness. Arthur realizes he’s still holding her, his thin arms wrapped around her waist tight.

 

“Mmm.” Arthur can feel himself falling asleep. It’s warm and safe in Mia’s apartment, with her touching him.

 

And he feels like he’s home.

Chapter Text

The sunlight peeks through the blinds of the living room and Arthur squints his eyes open- he feels something on top of him. His hands are clutching whatever it is, and he tentatively tilts his chin down to peer at whatever it is.

 

Oh.

 

It had been real.

 

Mia is laying atop of him, still asleep, the curls on the top of her head disheveled and messy. He can feel her breathing, and his hands unintentionally squeeze, gently kneading her soft flesh between his fingers. She stirs, her eyebrows knitted upwards and her mouth pulled into a smirk.

 

“Aaarrrthuuuuurrrr.”

 

He huffs, his shoulders shaking slightly, when she props herself up on her chin, looking him in the face. Sleep is still seeped into her eyes, her face pleasantly flushed.

 

“Mornin’.”

 

“Mmmmmornin’.”

 

She pushes a hand up to drag across her face, trying to shoo away some of the leftover exhaustion.

 

“Whattimeisit?”

 

“Hmm? Oh it’s,” Arthur looks at his watch, “six in the morning.”

 

His own words sink in and he sits up, bringing her with him with a groan. When was the last time he slept longer than two hours? Arthur pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to not let the weariness he felt flow into his voice.

 

“I have to get back to my mother.”

 

She buries her face in the crook of his neck, and Arthur feels his cheeks flush. She giggled, warm breath hitting his skin.

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

She shakes her head and he feels some of her curls tickle right behind his ear.

 

“No- it’s just this is the second time i’ve kept you so late.”

 

“I want to stay here, though.”

 

She pulls away and cups his face again, patting his cheek lightly.

 

“You’re always welcome. After all, we’ll do this again. Third times the charm,” she presses her lips to his cheek, “go to your mother, she’ll be missing you.”

 

And with a jaded sigh, he heaves himself up, reluctantly untangling himself from her arms. Arthur yanks his clothes off the floor and shrugs them on, not bothering to wash off the lipstick marks that sat prominent all down his body. He wanted them forever, to remember her.

 

She was still on the couch, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. Arthur buttoned the last button on his shirt and turned to her, leaning down and grabbing her face and pressing his lips to hers. She made a delightful noise of surprise, and he holds her tenderly, just like she had done with him.

 

Arthur stands, bringing her with him, and breaks the kiss, a playful smile on his face. She pushes her lips chastely on his jaw, and pulls away to speak.

 

“I’ll see you on the train.”

 

He shuts his eyes and nods, savoring the way she speaks to him. With compassion and patience, and some back burner part of his brain could almost consider it love.

 

“Wait, you can always uh, call me too. Here, lemme uhhh,” she grabs a crumpled receipt off of the coffee table, and jots down her number, writing her name down next to it with a little doodle of a crown. She hands it to Arthur and he stares at it in his palm, before folding it and pushing it into his pocket. He’d memorize her number. She kisses him once more on the cheek before she murmurs again.

 

“I’ll see you.”

 

Arthur lets her go, hesitatingly. He doesn’t want her to slip through his fingers like everything else has in his life. But she feels solid, constant. Real.

 

He moves out of her apartment and makes his way to his own building, faintly becoming aware of a foreign emotion running through his veins. Happiness. Arthur wonders if this is what Frank Sinatra sings about, and when he reaches his hallway, he dances all the way down to his door.

Chapter Text

Arthur walks inside quietly and makes sure not to slam the door- it was much too early and he didn’t want any of his neighbors to have another reason to dislike him.

 

“Ma? I’m home.”

 

His voice is soft, and he feels his shoulders sag with relief when he sees her still asleep, in the recliner she always sat in. Arthur gently makes his way around the room, and brews himself a mug of coffee. He pours copious amounts of sugar and cream in it, and revels in its heated sweetness. He sits himself at the little dining table in the corner, and spots his journal laying on the surface.

 

Arthur drags it over with one finger and flips through it, to a blank, yellowed page. He grabs a pen and plucks the cap off, nestling it between his lips and teeth. He flips the pen between thin, boney fingers, and presses the nib to the paper.

 

 

i met a woman. she is so nice. peepl are so mean

 

but she is not.

 

i didnt think enyone noticed me

but she does.

 

i do not understand how an angel like her

has ended up with

some one like me.

no body has looked at me like

 

the way she looks at me.

 

and i like love her.

 

 

Arthur moves the pen to his other hand, and looks over his shoulder cautiously, like someone might see what he’s writing. He moves to press the pen to the paper again, and slowly writes her name. Mia.

 

He writes it and dots the ‘i’ with a heart, and then does it again and again and again. Each one more tangled than the last, like a lackluster attempt at the cursive script writing he had seen adorned on advertisements and magazines. Arthur draws a heart, shakily, and writes ‘A + M’ in the middle, and instantly he closes the journal, bringing it to his chest and clutching it tight.

 

Arthur sighs through his nose and looks at his watch. He had work today, a gig at a children’s hospital. His muscles still ached with the remnants of the beat down he endured days ago, and before he leaves to go to Ha-Ha’s, he briefly wakes his mother to say goodbye, and he slips the gun Randall had given him into his waistband.

 

 

The day had turned into a hellish blur for Arthur, and with each passing minute, he felt like a changed man. The hospital performance went well, until it didn’t. Even though they were in hospital cots and chairs, the kids laughed at Carnival’s antics, singing and dancing along. But Arthur had flourished his body just a bit too hard, and the gun from his waistband had fallen to the floor with a loud clatter.

 

Hoyt had called him, furious. Arthur felt his face burn with resentment when he remembered the conversation; how Hoyt had talked to him like he was a child. He had fired him, too.

 

And on the train home, Arthur had another laughing fit. His brain and body too overwhelmed with the ill-fated day he had, and three men on the train took it upon themselves to make it worse.  They heckled him, and beat him too. But Arthur thought that was ok.

 

He killed them.

Arthur wondered why he didn’t feel bad about it, he tried to cry but he couldn’t. He couldn’t even laugh. He licked his lips and tasted iron and he didn’t know if it was his blood or theirs. No one really listens to Arthur Fleck, but he wonders if anyone heard the gunshots, or the screams. No one cares about Arthur Fleck, but Arthur Fleck doesn’t care. All he wants is Mia, and when he gets back home at eleven at night, he makes sure his mother is asleep in her room before he approaches the phone on the wall, dialing her number that he now knew by heart.

Chapter Text

The phone rang in Mia’s apartment and she let it ring one two three times before she picked up, ashing her cigarette.

 

“Hello?”

 

Silence.

 

She sighed into the receiver, blowing smoke through her nose.

 

Look, if this is another fuckin’ crank call I swear-“

 

“Mia.”

 

She fumbles a little, her heart jerking up to her throat.

 

“Oh god, Arthur I’m so sorry,” she laughed, “I’ve been getting these crank calls all day and I didn’t even think-!”

 

She hears him chuckle and her shoulders relax a little, the embarrassment of her poor manners ebbing away. She chews on her bottom lip, only able to hear Arthur’s gentle breathing for a moment before he speaks.

 

“Are you home? Are you alone?”

 

She tch’d, a smirk on her face.

 

“Yeah, to both. You gonna ask me what I’m wearing next?”

 

Mia thinks she hears a snort before Arthur speaks again.

 

“Depends on what you’re wearing.”

 

“Well, Mister Fleck, depends on why you’re askin’.”

 

She hears a huff of laughter and pushes herself onto the couch, her face flushed pink. Arthur doesn’t say anything else and briefly, she worries.

 

“You okay?”

 

He sighs blissfully and the sound makes her cheeks hot.

 

“Never better...hmm...so are you gonna tell me what you’re wearing?”

 

His voice is confident and unwavering and completely unlike the Arthur Mia knew, but she liked it. She liked Arthur no matter how or what he was. Mia reclined further into the couch, crossing one leg over the other. She cleared her throat, trying to summon the sultriest tone.

 

“I’m wearing a... big t-shirt and.....sweatpants with paint stains....”

 

She trails off into a giggle and she hears a laugh on the other side too, a genuine one. Mia remembers the first time she witnessed him have a laughing fit, and it never failed to astonish her how different his authentic laugh was. Cute, hiccupy. Sometimes he snorted. The laugh she heard now sounded like the tried and true Arthur Fleck the nervous quiet timid Arthur the one that never looked her in the eye for longer than a few seconds. The one she liked loved.

 

“Wanna hear a joke?”

 

She mhmm’s, tilting her head back and closing her eyes.

 

“How did the dentist suddenly become a brain surgeon?”

 

“How?”

 

“A slip of the hand.”

 

“Oh my god.” Mia snorts, dragging a hand through her hair. “Oh my fucking god.”

 

He’s quiet on the other line for a moment, then he speaks again.

 

“Aren’t you going to ask what I’m wearing?”

 

She titters, and sits up. This again. She’s sure he can hear her smirk through the phone.

 

“What are you wearing, Arthur?”

 

“My clown costume.”

 

“Oh yeah? That’s very sexy.”

 

“Mhm. It has blood on it.” His voice is curiously soft.

 

She quirks a brow. He was so funny. Mia goes along with it, her voice airy.

“Who’s blood, Arthur?”

 

His voice is equally dreamy, like he’s submerged in the warmest bath.

 

“Mine. And the other guys’.”

 

A beat of silence.

 

“Are you alright, Arthur?”

 

She hears a sigh, that trails off into a gentle, barely there moan.

 

Never better, darling.”

 

Darling. She had called him that before, when she patched him up. Hearing it from him, however, made her body flare up. Heat licked up a trail into her guts, and she languidly stretched her legs. He was fine, that’s all that mattered. She glanced to the clock, eleven thirty. Maybe it was too late, and maybe it was a bad idea, but that’s why it was so good. She caught her bottom lip between teeth before she spoke.

 

“You want to come over?”

 

Another beat of silence. Mia ponders if he fell asleep, if he was even there, until she hears his voice again.

 

“Yes. I’d love that.”

 

“Then come over. I’ll be waiting.” She hangs up the phone and breathes out a huff. The heat hadn’t dissipated, only pooling into her lower belly, and she thinks the only thing that could satiate her was Arthur Fleck.