|Putting the Smile Back On
Author: T-c3 PM
The Joker is forced to speak with a counselor once a week, but this time she has a gift to help motivate him to cooperate.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 5,037 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 56 - Follows: 4 - Published: 07-29-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4433207
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own TDK. If I did, it definitely would've sucked.
I can't get into his mind. Sometimes, he leads me to believe that I've uncovered a horrible truth, a reason. But I'm only fooling myself as much as he is. There is no "reason." I don't think there ever was. His mind simply jumps from one thought to another, disjointed, chaotic. He does whatever he pleases without the common human emotion of fear getting in the way. Without that fear of pain or consequences, he's almost invincible. Except, he bleeds just like the rest of us.
It's effortless to forget that he's human. That high-pitched laugh, that eerie grin, those eyes filled with sick joy. It all sends a chill down my spine. But I do my very best to hide it from him. This man thrives on people's fear. I've met many psychotic criminals like that, but none ever effected me in such a way before. When I slip into the uncharted territory of my mind and look at him as a monster, it takes every bit of willpower to keep from trembling. I have to force myself to remember that he is just a man, one no different from the rest of my patients.
I'm currently on my way to have my seventh session with him. His cell is in the far corner of the hall, where the fluorescent light constantly flickers. I really wish they'd fix that. I chose not to have a guard accompany me this time, thinking that perhaps he'll say something different when it's just the two of us. And with no guard, I have been assured that he will be tightly secured to a metal chair, which is, in turn, secured to the bed that is bolted to the floor. I'm not worried. My curiosity is crunching down against my anxiety. I want to know how he'll act this time around.
My heels click loudly against the cement floor, and I hear cat-calls from the inmates as I walk passed their cells, which have little to do with my looks and more to do with my anatomy. I notice, to my dismay, that the light by his cell is completely out this time. It appears as though it finally gave up. It's fitting, I suppose, for that man to have only darkness beyond his confines.
Once I reach his door, I hesitate, taking a deep breath to prepare myself for whatever he'll throw at me. I peer through the tiny window and see him bound and chained. Relieved, I punch in the nine-digit code to unlock the door and walk into the dreary room that houses my most disturbed patient.
He doesn't look up at me until I sit down in the chair across from him, which is about five feet away. Strange . . . He appears somewhat tired. I know he doesn't get much sleep, but it's never shown before. Maybe it's just taking its toll on his body. That and the numerous beatings he's received for misbehaving. Speaking of which, I can see several new bruises on his face. Even though I understand why they have so much disdain for him, I don't condone their violent actions.
"Hello again," he says abruptly, perking up some.
"Hello, Mr. Joker," I respond calmly.
"Donchya think they've gone a little overboard?" the man questions, gesturing to his restraints.
I have to admit that for anyone else, it would be rather excessive, but not for him. The metal chair he's sitting in is chained to the bed frame. Those same chains are wrapped tightly around his calves and the front legs on the chair. His wrists are bound to the armrests with leather straps, and another, much wider, strap is securing his waist to the back of the chair. There isn't much he can move freely.
"They are only being cautious," I reason as I open my notebook.
"'They,' hmm? Not you?"
I don't answer him. Instead I take out my pen, click the top, and poise it above the first blank line on the sheet. I look at him expectantly. I want to see if things go smoother if I let him start, and then I can try to slowly take control of where the conversation heads. I actually have to forget everything I learned when dealing with this man. There's nothing remotely like him in the textbooks.
"What'll it be today, Doc?" He's almost cheery now, all signs of fatigue gone. Perhaps he was only faking.
"Whatever you want it to be." I look him directly in the eye, waiting.
He appears to be waiting as well, probably for some kind of reaction from his penetrating stare. But he eventually speaks.
"You're a strange one, a foolish one, really," he states with a grin. "You're the first to be alone with me."
He seems miffed for just a split second. I almost don't catch it before a look of interest takes its place. When he doesn't get the reaction he wants, he simply goes about it another way until he does. I've been able to pick up on enough when it comes to his temperament, although he can still surprise me.
Suddenly, he notices the small, black bag I brought in with me. He gestures as best he can towards my lap and questions, "What's in that? A gift?"
"Something of the sort. I'll only let you have it if you agree to cooperate."
He raises an eyebrow. "Is it my ticket out of here, Doc?" he asks with a hint of sarcasm.
"As close as you can get to that."
I finally catch him off guard, but he hides his shock well. "Okay, I'll co-op-er-ate." He says it like it's foreign on his tongue, but I know he's simply mocking me.
"That means bringing the lies down to a minimum," I say firmly.
He chuckles. "You know me better than the others."
"The others couldn't handle you for more than one session. I'd say it's hard to get to know someone in such a short amount of time."
"I agree." He licks his lips, something akin to nostalgia shining in his eyes.
"Would you like to discuss something new this time?" I offer.
He feigns a hurt expression, lowering his head like a timid child would. "Are you tired of hearing about my sad past?"
"No, but there are too many opportunities for you to lie with that subject. How about something closer to the present?"
Shifting slightly in his chair, he laughs as though I just said the funniest thing he's ever heard. "Ohhh, I know what you want." One corner of his mouth twists up in an amused smirk. "You want me to talk about the Batman."
"If that's what you wish."
He laughs again, but this time it comes out more as a giggle. "We're 'enemies.'" He uses air quotes with his fingers, but it looks awkward with his wrists bound to the chair. "What more do you need to know?"
"But it is understood that you don't wish to kill him."
For some reason, I don't feel like taking notes this time. I can always jot something down afterwards. Closing my notebook, I reply, "Most people would find that peculiar."
"But where's the fun in killing him? He's my favorite toy." He closes his eyes and grins, head tilted up towards the ceiling. Then, cracking one eye open, he states, "I want to play with him forever."
I have to suppress a shiver. At least he's finally speaking the truth, and I know it's the truth. I'm not exactly sure how I can tell, but there's something in his voice that tells me he isn't lying.
"Can I know what my gift is now?"
I look down at my lap, at the zipped leather bag I was surprised they let me bring in. I suppose they figure that if I give him one thing he wants, he'll stop giving them such a problem for a little while. But I'm taking a big risk. I can't leave it here, so I have to set one of his wrists free in order to give it to him. I just keep telling myself that there's nothing he can do with one unbound wrist when the rest of him can't go anywhere, but it's hard to make myself believe that lie.
"Yes, but if you start lying uncontrollably again," I warn, trying to keep my tone light, "I'll have one of the guards come in here and pour a bucket of water over your head."
A low chuckle escapes his mouth. "So you do have a sense of humor. Now you just need to smile, Doc."
"I'm not kidding," I say as I get up from my chair.
After placing the bag on the seat, I cautiously close the distance between us, keeping my eyes trained on his. He's watching me intently, and it doesn't take long at all to become uncomfortable under his gaze. Even when I place my hand on the leather strap that's securing his left wrist, his eyes never leave mine. But I look away when I undo the strap, feeling very nervous and vulnerable at not being able to see his next move. I only loosen it so that he can slip his wrist out, and once that's done, I take a few steps backwards until I know I'm out of reach before turning around to retrieve the bag. Walking back up to him, I unzip it and hold it out to him, not to take, but simply to reach into.
I see the curiosity dancing in his eyes, and when he pulls out one of the objects, those eyes widen slightly. He turns it around in his hand, a grin making its way onto his deformed face.
"I know you don't like being without your mask," I state calmly, already feeling my anxiety melt away. He looks pleased enough that I feel a bit safer. "Perhaps you'll be more inclined to cooperate when you feel more like yourself."
Looking away from his prize, he asks, "Did you sneak this in, Doc? You shouldn't break the rules."
"I thought you hate rules."
"Yes, but you would be punished for breaking one, while I wouldn't be," he whispers, smirking.
"You don't call getting beaten a punishment? Oh, wait, I forgot." I can't help but roll my eyes, letting my professional persona slip for just a moment. "You enjoy that."
He laughs again, then holds the container out to me. "If you would be so kind."
I hesitantly take it from him and unscrew the lid, revealing the white greasepaint. My nervousness comes back at me full-force as I put my hand just within arm's reach. I know he could easily grab my wrist, pull me forward, and . . . I don't want to think about it.
But he behaves himself. He dips two fingers into the paint and looks up at me. "I don't like people watching me apply my mask," he says grimly.
"Tough. I'm not taking my eyes off of you." Especially when I'm this close.
He glares at me for a moment, and I can't stop the fear from leaking into my eyes. I try to blink it away, and to that he cackles with laughter, that same high-pitched sound I hate so much. Once he calms down, though, he begins applying the greasepaint to his face, seeming all too pleased with himself.
As odd as it sounds, it's somewhat fascinating to watch him put his make-up on. His fingers work quickly, every contour memorized. It's rather impressive to not need a mirror, but he's probably had enough practice without one. After his entire face is sloppily covered in the white paint, I hastily screw the lid back on to avoid staring at him. He looks rather otherworldly with only the white covering his face.
He wipes his fingers on his orange jumpsuit and holds out his hand again, seeming to be rather impatient.
"The black or red, or does it not matter?"
Why am I being so generous to this man? He's been nothing but annoying and cruel to me. Maybe I'm thinking that if I make him happy, he'll stop being a complete bastard for just one second. Even though I'll never have a "breakthrough" with him, it'll be nice to get at least a few honest answers, to understand him better than anyone. Sometimes I wonder if my profession is a bit unhealthy for me.
"Black," he snaps.
I notice that his patience really is running thin. I quickly pull out the container with the black greasepaint, unscrew the lid, and wait the twenty seconds it takes for him to apply the misshapen circles around his dark eyes. He's even quicker when applying his "smile" with the bright red lipstick And once he's done, he lets out a sigh of content.
"That's much better," the Joker says, grinning widely.
Zipping up the bag, I realize there's one problem I didn't think about earlier. How do I get his wrist strapped down again? I can't just leave him that way, or he'll set himself free. I'm not sure how he could get out of the chains, but he's a smart man. He'd figure something out.
I place the bag back on the chair in the same fashion as when I had retrieved it. Then, swallowing hard, I reach out for the Joker's free wrist. My eyes flit back to his face, trying to pick up any sign that he's planning on doing something that would earn him another beating. But he merely smiles at me, a creepy sort of smile that makes me want to shiver.
Holding out his wrist, hand limp and fingers stained with paint, the man says, "Go ahead. I won't bite."
I freeze at that, and he bursts out laughing. He has actually bitten someone before, one of the guards. That unfortunate man now has part of his ear missing.
"Oh, don't worry. I wouldn't do that to a pretty thing like you," he says with amusement, licking his lips.
There's something about the clown make-up that makes his expressions, and even his words, more frightening. It's almost like everything about him is now exaggerated. It probably has very little to do with his new appearance, though. His mask is back in place, so he's no longer exposed. I have to stifle a laugh. Sloppy clown make-up gives this murdering, psychotic genius a self-esteem boost?
"I saw that!" he says abruptly, making me jump.
"The hint of a smile. Something funny, Doc?"
I think for a minute. "I'll tell you once I have you completely restrained again."
"Oh, then please do hurry."
I don't like that tone. It seemed harmless on the surface, but I could hear the malicious intent underlying those words. He's trying to make me nervous, and he's doing a fantastic job at it.
"Slide your wrist back in first," I try to say as calmly as I can.
Making a show of it, the Joker wiggles his fingers as he slips his hand through the loop. I immediately tighten and fasten the strap, now feeling much better. He balls his fist and tries to pull his hand out, but I can tell he's just fooling around, toying with me. If he really wanted to free himself, I could have earlier.
"Nice and tight," he says with a smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth. "Just the way I like it."
Sitting back in my chair, I ignore the comment. The Joker's only trying to make me fearful again, but now that I'm a safe distance away from him, I can stay calm much easier.
"So," he drawls, "what was so funny?"
I wonder what his reaction to me poking fun at him would be. Either anger or laughter, or possibly both. I can word it in a way that doesn't sound as insulting, though.
"I was thinking how your make-up seems to give you more confidence," I state matter-of-factly.
I study his facial features, which are harder to discern with the make-up on. I see a hint of anger in his eyes, but it soon passes. Then I see . . . amusement? It's hard to tell. When he starts laughing, low at first, I can't assume that he thinks what I said was funny. Then the laughter erupts into that loud, high-pitched noise that makes me want to cover my ears and run like hell. He's laughing so hard that his whole body is shaking, the restraints digging into him.
When he finally calms down, he tells me, "I knew you were different. I'm so glad I decided not to kill you."
I do my best to remain unfazed. "You talk as though you've already killed someone in Arkham. Am I missing something?"
"Oh, I've tried." He licks his lips again. "But after I attacked that guard, they've all become very cautious."
"As well they should be. Now will you continue to be cooperative?"
"Only if you continue to amuse me."
"Well, that was never my intention, but alright. How about we go back to our previous topic?"
The Joker looks up in thought, as though he has actually forgotten. "What else would you like to know about the little flying rodent?" he asks as his eyes light up.
"Just what you think of him, other than what you already stated." I suppress a shudder. I don't need to hear that again. "I've deduced that you have somewhat of an . . . obsession."
He lets out a low chuckle. "That's interesting. What's wrong with wanting to have a little fun?"
Ignoring the question, I ask instead, "What kind of 'fun' do you like having with him? Do you like to hurt him?"
"In a way, yes."
He's strangely open today. Maybe I put him a good mood, or maybe Batman is a subject he likes to talk about. Although, if that was the case, I imagine he would have brought it up himself a lot sooner. I think what's probably the most accurate assumption is that he wanted to disturb me into "quitting" with grotesque, made-up stories of his childhood and adolescent years. Since that obviously hasn't had the effect he wanted, I hope he's moved beyond that now.
"I want to make him go over the edge," the Joker continues. "I want to see him just oozing with chaos. I think that can happen quite easily, if only he'll break his one rule."
"And what would that be?"
"Killing," he whispers, that look of sick pleasure glowing in his eyes.
I think for a moment before saying, "You like corrupting people, bringing out the very worst in those who think of themselves as honest and kind-hearted. Am I correct?"
"Bravo, Doc! You're quite the observant one, arenchya?"
His tone is mocking, and I draw my eyebrows together. "It is my job," I say while trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. "So, anyway, what would you do if you accomplished this goal? Would you kill him then?"
Tapping the fingers of his left hand against the armrest, the Joker smiles at me, an animal-like quality set into his facial features. Then he smacks his red lips, leans forward as much as the restraints allow, and says slowly, almost inaudibly, "I told you I want to play with him forever. Once I break him, like I did with my old friend Harvey, I want to sit back and enjoy the show, watch the citizens of Gotham bear witness to the chaos and horror that only he can deliver. They think he's killed those people, right? Well, instead of just reading about it, they'll get to see it." He leans back, that smile of his growing wider. With his voice back to its normal level, he continues, "Manipulating people, you see, is much easier than you think. I know that part of your 'job' is to manipulate the crazies, but you go about it all wrong. You have to work under their skin, stay one step ahead of their thoughts. It's the 'good' people who are predictable, and it's oh so easy to get them to turn with the right . . . guidance." The Joker shifts in his chair, practically giddy with excitement. "I wouldn't kill him. No, no, no. Once I finally corrupt the incorruptible, get him to see that rules in this pathetic world are completely useless, I'll never get bored. Getting Batman to break his one rule would introduce the perfect amount of anarchy. No one has their 'White Knight' anymore, and even though his reputation has been saved, the damage has already been done. Who in this city has a 'hero' to look up to, hmm? There's no one . . . no one to bring order to the chaos after that last 'good' person has been debased. And what can Commissioner Gordon do when he's surrounded by scheming crooks? Batman is the key."
Once I realize he's done, I finally let go of the breath I was holding. The way he spoke, such passion in his words . . . I can definitely understand how easily he can manipulate a person. And the psychologist in me is shouting with joy. It's the most in-depth I've ever gotten with him. I'm finally seeing a part of his mind that he's probably only shown to a select few.
But now I feel ill. He had told me what he did to Harvey Dent during our last session. He knew that no one would believe me if I told. It still makes my stomach churn to think that Gotham's White Knight was reduced to trash, and now an innocent man is taking the blame for our sake.
"You don't look so good, Doc. Maybe you should step outside and get some fresh air. I'll be waiting right here," the Joker states enthusiastically.
Lightly shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I reply, "No, I'm quite alright." I glance at my watch and realize time's up. That's fine by me. I think I've had enough excitement for one day. "My time with you has ended, Mr. Joker." Grabbing the notebook and leather bag from my lap, I stand and head towards the door. "I shall see you next week."
"Just the two of us again?"
He sounds hopeful, and I get the feeling that he won't talk like he did today unless it is just me and him.
"I enjoy our time together much more without some brute with a nightstick watching over us."
I can hear, rather than see, him lick his lips and bring the corners of his mouth up into a devilish sneer. It makes me cringe.
"We'll see." I tap on the glass window to get the attention of the guard who was assigned to come at the end of the session. He looks at me and types the code in, allowing me to escape this madman's prison cell. "Goodbye, Mr. Joker," I say over my shoulder.
"Pleasure talkin' to ya, Doc," he replies amicably, followed by a short chuckle.
It's several minutes later when I hear a bloodcurdling scream. I'm just about to walk through the gate that sections off this hallway, but the instant I hear that cry, I know what happened. The guard at the gate rushes passed me, and I debate whether to join him or not. Some part of me feels guilty, so I quickly turn and run down the hall.
Once I reach his door, I become paralyzed, and I can feel the blood draining from my face. The guard whose job it was to take care of the Joker's restraints was lying on the floor with his nightstick firmly shoved into his right eye socket. The other guard appears to have been knocked unconscious. And now I'm standing face to face with the man responsible.
I don't think quick enough to slam the door shut before he walks up to me and grabs me by the neck. He yanks me forward, and I try to scream, but my throat's too dry to make any sound.
Putting his face mere inches from mine, he croons, "I have to thank you. You've given me the opportunity to feel like myself again. But," he says in his normal tone, taking my chin in his other hand, "there's just one little thing I need to do that would make me feel even better. You wanna know what that is? Hmm?"
I'm too terrified to speak. I just stare at him, eyes wide and body trembling.
"Well, first, I need a knife. Do you know where one might be, Doc?"
I still can't respond.
"No?" He shakes my head back and forth. "Yes?" Then he moves my head up and down.
I have no clue where a knife would be in this place, but I'm too afraid to let him know that. He said before that he was glad he hadn't killed me, but that didn't mean he couldn't change his mind. The Joker has no value for human life, not even his own.
So I decide to lie. I nod my head slowly, and his grip loosens.
"Well then, you go fetch me a knife. I'll be waiting right here. Oh," he says while backing away, "and if you don't come back soon, I'll kill him." The Joker points to the unconscious guard, smiling maliciously. "And don't go telling anyone. It's our little secret."
I nod one more time, then bolt out the door. Where would I find a knife? And wouldn't he just kill the man anyway? I should tell someone. But why does he want a knife? I know he could just escape right now. It would be so easy.
I end up near the break room. Trying to calm myself, I smooth out my blazer and tuck any loose strands of hair behind my ears. I take a deep breath, but not a relaxing one, and walk in. Going straight up to the nearest guard, I concoct some ridiculous story about needing a pocket knife. He shockingly buys it, though.
"All I have is a switchblade. That okay?"
"Yes, yes. That's fine," he reply a little too quickly.
The man gives me an odd look, but he reaches into his pocket anyway and hands me the switchblade. After thanking him, I calmly walk out the door, then break into a run. When I see the occasional guard walking the halls, I slow down and nod at them in greeting.
Finally, I reach his cell, but I'm perplexed by the closed door. Did someone figure out what happened and was able to get the situation under control? I'm hopeful, but when I peek through the window, that hope crashes to the bottom of my stomach, and I feel like I'm going to be sick. The dead guard has been propped up onto the Joker's chair, the wide leather strap secured around his waist, the nightstick now removed and lying in his lap. I have to look away.
Then the door suddenly opens, and I realize that it had never been shut all the way. The Joker beckons me in with the wave of his hand, and I shakily enter the cell. Now he's standing a few feet in front of me, his hand out, palm facing upwards.
"Well?" He wiggles his fingers for emphasis.
I nervously reach into my pant pocket and pull out the switchblade, placing it in his palm.
"Ooooh, nice find there, Doc." The Joker eyes the weapon. When the blade springs out, he looks at it lovingly, sliding his thumb gently along the edge. "Knives are so much better than guns. Do you know why?"
Before I can even blink, his arm lashes out towards me, and the glint of the blade makes an arc as it travels through the air. I can feel the delicate skin on my neck split open and the warm blood leaking out. I bring my hands up to my neck as some sort of reflex, feeling the slick substance coating the skin below my wound, and I collapse to the ground.
The Joker kneels beside me and roughly takes my face in his hand, forcing me to look at him. "Guns are too quick." The man gives me a cruel smile, but I can barely see it, for my vision is starting to fade. "Using a knife, you can see a person for who they truly are as their life slips away."
The last thing I hear is that eerie, high-pitched laughter which makes me shiver, even as the life is withdrawing from my body.
A/N: I purposely left her unnamed because her name really isn't that important. And, obviously, she isn't Harley. Anyway, I hope I kept the Joker in character. I'm open to any constructive criticism. Hope you enjoyed it!