You say you know just who I am
But you can’t imagine
What waits for you across the line
You thought you had me
But I’m still here standing
And I’m tired of backing down
And I’m here now feeling the pain
Of a thousand hearts
Been to hell and back again
I won’t take this
You try so hard to bring me down
You can’t break the broken
You still don’t seem to understand
It’s your turn to see just
How it feels to be me
How it feels to be knocked down
And you’re here now feeling the pain
Of a thousand hearts
You’ve been to hell and back again
You can’t take this
Remember this feeling
How it feels to be alive
Now you see me through my eyes
And we’re here now feeling the beat
Of a thousand hearts
Coming back to life again
We can make it
Remember this feeling
~ Anthem for the Underdog (12 Stones)
The Joker woke from a dream of fire with his hand clamped on his swollen cock. Groaning low in his throat, he tightened his grip and pumped. His other hand hovered over it, waiting, two of the fingers lifting the waistband out of the way to help matters along.
Needing no fleeting images of bare and sweating flesh to induce him, his mind turned back to the dream.
Is it the hospital? Alas, there was no time then to diddle as Gotham burned.
He sucked in his breath as it coiled in his belly, clenched his teeth when it burst. Catching most of it in his palm, he fisted the hand around the pearl-pale mess and carefully drew it out of his waistband. Pushing himself up to sit, his head throbbing, he leaned back and began working the slick into his lank sandy hair.
A few inches at the ends and some random streaks were still rancid green, but most of it had grown out or faded as his hair grew longer. It had started to creep past his shoulders and would require more to get it all coated properly – but that would have to wait.
Slouching where he sat, head lowered, he lifted his gaze to the thin window in the door and spread a slow grin at the wide eyes that stared in at him.
Twisting his torso, he slammed his fist into the stone wall, abusing the scarred knuckles until they gave what he needed. Wiping red across his face from the leaking skin, he used fingertips to smear it into a careless stained grin over lips and scars.
The Joker turned his refreshed smile to the window, but the orderly had already fled – forgetting to work the slot for the tray.
~ ~ ~
Ignoring hunger was simple as he poked and picked at every word the Batman had said as if he were tearing at scabs.
He heard the outer door open and then swing shut, followed by a familiar set of footsteps. When they stopped, he spoke to them without looking up.
“Good morning, Dr. Tanner.”
“You’ve been injuring yourself again.”
Joker shrugged. “A necessary process, since you won’t grant my request for a little greasepaint.”
“You’re pale enough without it these days. Are you going to stop terrorizing Charlie?”
“Alas, no. He’s my last bit of entertainment in this world, at least from inside this hole – for now.”
“If it doesn’t cease, we’ll have to try a few new drugs that might convince you to behave.”
“Is she sweet or salty?”
“Nurse Alice – the last time you entered my hole with your pills and straps, you’d just finished with hers. Imagine that, conducting our session reeking of cheap sex and cheaper French knock-off perfume. I’m curious, Doc – did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
Opting to dismiss the question, the psychiatrist frowned through the glass. “Suit yourself. I’ll just have this tray picked up by Charlie.”
“He might never come back down here; it’s so hard to get good help these days. Tote the hash yourself if you’ve a mind to deprive me.”
Unable to resist, the man asked, “What did you do to him?”
“Not to him, to me – just applying a little pomade; I have to look my best.”
“You never care about your appearance – obviously.”
“Tonight is different.”
Small light eyes narrowed, the thin man frowning his best suspicious frown. “What are you talking about?”
“I have a date – with my imaginary friend, Alice. Not your Alice … don’t be jealous.”
Weariness replaced suspicion all too easily. “Where did you get pomade? If someone’s smuggling anything to you, I’ll have their hide. I might strap you down and toss your cell anyway, just to be sure.”
The Joker giggled and winked. “Ask Charlie – he saw; I can’t imagine he wouldn’t be eager to tell. Now if you’ll excuse me, Doc, I need my rest. Alice is a very demanding lady.”
He turned and stretched out on the bunk, one arm thrown casually over his eyes against the lights that never dimmed. Drawing his long legs up, he put his feet on the wall, one of them tapping to strains of internal music.
Dr. Tanner’s eyes crawled over him. They felt like little bug legs, taking in the slicked and sticky locks of hair, the tell-tale rumpled front of the prison-issue pants. When the disgusted huff of breath sounded, followed by quick footsteps and the door opening and slamming shut, Joker smirked under his forearm.
Tonight, in the wee hours before dawn, Alice will jump down the rabbit hole. Question is, what shall I do with him when he lands?
~ ~ ~
Joker paced, the bat did not. “Technically, I gave you what you wanted last night. Not what you need, but what you specifically asked for.”
“I don’t agree. There must be a way to reverse the madness – without killing him.”
“Catch him and send him here, then. Do I have to do all of your thinking for you?”
“This place wouldn’t cure him – the staff gets locked up here as often as the disturbed people I send to them.”
“That’s all preacher to choir, Bats, though you sing it so prettily. Yes, the old girl has her problems, I admit it.” He patted the stone wall with affection when he reached it again before resuming his stalking pace in front of his visitor. “Then again, we all have things that require improvement; for instance, I’m told that I slouch.”
“I’m not here to chat, Joker. If you have a point, find it.”
“A point: you don’t wanna cure Two-Face; you want Harvey Dent back, as he was. I wonder why? The brave eradicator of the mob, the man who might have made you obsolete – are you tiring of the game?”
With a growl, he turned to go, but the Joker’s next words stopped him cold.
“I can give you what you need, you know.”
“You’re a fool, not an idiot. You don’t know me at all.”
“Don’t I? We’re in the same sharp bag of wet mice, mental health-wise. Also, I’ve had enough experience with psychotherapy by now to be an expert.”
“As the patient – I doubt if that qualifies you to help someone else.”
“Ah, but now you’ve admitted to needing help.”
“Very well, you drive a hard bargain – I’ll offer something I know you want, though I’d still rather attend to what you need.”
“Why do you want me to come here? You should hate me, shouldn’t you?”
“Hate you?” Stopping short, Joker turned and stepped up behind the bat. Hands pressing on the cape, he laid his cheek against the broad stiff back. “Why would I? You complete me, sweetheart, I told you. We’re two sides of a defaced coin, you and I.”
He expected to be backhanded and beaten any second, his mouth watering at the thought of those fists. Then he noticed the stillness, the span of three short breaths before the first blow fell.
Mind racing as he was launched at the wall, he gasped before he struck it. The Batman followed, gripping his shoulders to slam him into the stone again.
Getting his arms up before he laid hold, the grip bruising, Joker’s palms pressed against the sculpted armor of the chest. His fingers framed the symbol that had driven Gotham’s criminals before it in terror. Beneath it, an all too human heart beat wildly.
Ooo, the big bad bat is touch-hungry… What a shock. How will he respond if I…?
Struggling to lift one hand, his fingertips brushed the bare skin of the broad chin. The lips above his fingers pressed tighter together, twisted into a frown – but the heavy body moved, stepping closer, pressing into the touch.
So it’s that, is it? Joker’s tongue darted out to lick salt-tinged lips. The brute doesn’t even know it. “Come on, Lamb Chop – what are you waiting for? Beat me senseless – then you can just take what you need.”
He was disappointed when he was thrown to the floor. One heavy boot came down over his sternum, pressed in.
“You have nothing I want.”
Fingers sliding up the boot, exploring the contours of the molded armor plates over the calf muscle, he whispered, “How ‘bout all the secrets of Gotham’s underworld? Quite a gallery of sinners, hmm? Most of ‘em have either worked for me or tried to – or licked my jaw to keep me from killing ‘em for fun or profit. I know where they hang their hats, who their friends are … all sorts of candy for my little bat boy.”
“Why would you tell me anything about them?”
“Because they’re of no use to me and you are.”
“You wouldn’t trade for nothing.”
“I already told you what I want. Come to me, talk with me. Ply your fists if it makes you feel better – it does me … but come back.”
“So that my being here can help you find a way to escape?”
“No, Bats, you misunderstand. I’ll get loose eventually but out there all we do is fight. In here, with you so sure that stone walls and steel doors will keep your sheep safe, we could have a real discourse, you see.”
The boot lifted, moved, and the Batman walked away to rap on the door.
Twisting his body to face him, Joker remained on the floor. “Do we have a deal?”
The door opened and he went through it before he turned back to glare down. Joker’s breath caught at the haunted and conflicted look in those dark eyes, the road they paved before him stretching out into the blackest of possibilities.
“Yes,” the voice ground out, and then he was gone.
Rolling onto his stomach on the cold stone, Joker pillowed his face in folded arms and laughed until his belly hurt.