POSSIBLE SPOILERS for those who have yet to complete Batman: A Telltale Series Season 2: The Enemy Within. Inspired by the Vigilante ending and choosing to consider John Doe a friend.
John laid down on his cot, staring blankly at the grimy ceiling of his room, contemplating everything that had happened recently. While mostly a cheerful kind of guy, he had to fight off the frown when he thought back to how badly he had messed things up... With Harley, with Bruce... His foray into vigilantism wasn't exactly his finest moment.
His focus shifted outwards as he heard footsteps approaching. He sat up, slightly confused, when he heard a key being inserted into the locks of his room- which was odd. The orderlies, since he had returned to Arkham, had been on edge around him. His fellow patients also gave him a wide berth, even Zsasz- though, depending on the inmate, it was out of either respect or worshipful awe rather than fear. The only exception to this was Dent, who mostly kept to himself.
He supposed it was to be expected. After all, he worked with some bigtime players- like The Riddler, whom even the likes of Carmine Falconi, Mayor Hamilton Hill and Thomas Wayne had steered clear of at the height of their power.
He'd gone mano a mano with The Batman. Sure, he had lost, but it was him, more than anyone else, who had provided Bruce with his biggest challenge to date. Harvey Dent, The Children of Arkham, Amanda Waller and her Agency, Nygma ad his crew... They'd all been warm-ups for him. And yet, despite several set backs, and many near defeats, Bruce had managed to beat them all. John couldn't help but admire Bruce's sheer willpower, despite the fact that the vigilante had beaten the holy hell out of him, before sending him back to Arkham.
To be fair, John had given as good as he'd gotten.
In any case, the door to his room/cell was being unlocked outside of his usually sceduled time to be out in the common room or the cafeteria. John could honestly admit to being completely flabbergasted when he saw who was being let into his room. "B-Bruce! What...? I mean, don't take this the wrong way, I'm glad to see ya, but what are you doing here!?"
Bruce offered him an awkward, but genuine grin. "I'm visiting my friend."
"I..." John wasn't sure how to respond to that as his eyes teared up. Sure, while they sat in the main office of Ace Chemicals, battered and bruised after beating the holy hell out of one another, Bruce had admitted that, despite everything, he still considered him a friend; John had honestly not expected Bruce to actually visit him.
"I thought you might like this," Bruce stated as he pulled something out of his pocket. It was a purple envelope.
John, hands shaking, accepted it, knowing instantly it was a card. He sat down as he carefully opened it before pulling out the card. He grinned openly as he saw the clown on the front, with the lame pun saying. He opened it up and saw the hand written messege from Bruce. Also on the inside was the selfie John had taken of him and Bruce at Lucius Fox's funeral- which now seemed like a lifetime ago. "Bruce, I... I don't... Thank you." He wiped away the tears of happiness that he had shed.
"It was the least I could do after... After everything," Bruce said as he sat down next to him. "How are you doing?"
"I'm... I'm doing good. Well... Better at least," John replied, touched by the concern he could her in Bruce's voice. "It's good to be back home, with the schedules and the order. It doesn't feel the same as it used to, but it's still comforting to be back."
"I'm glad to hear that," Bruce stated.
"Are you going to visit Harvey while you're hear?" John asked.
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Bruce uneasily responded.
"Why not? Isn't he your friend too?" John inquired with honest concern.
"He was, right up until he caught me in Selina's apartment," Bruce hesitantly admitted.
"Oh... OH!" John replied with wide-eyed surprise. "You mean he and... And then you..."
Bruce grimaced at the memory of what happened. While he didn't regret anything between himself and Selina, Harvey had deserved much better than he'd gotten from either of them. "Something like that."
"If you want, I could sound him out for you," John offered.
Bruce's smile returned, though it was warmer and less awkward than his usual honest smiles. Most people, John surmised, couldn't see beyond the false smiles Bruce often put on for the general populace. He could though. It was how he could tell when Bruce was being genuine with him or not. Bruce almost never smiled for real and when he did, there was always a hint of awkwardness to it, as if he'd forgotten what it was like to be happy. The only time the billionaire had ever genuinely smiled without the slightest hint of awkwardness was when he was around Selina or Alfred.
"Don't worry about it. Alot of what happened between me and Harvey was my fault. As much as I tried to be, I wasn't there for him as much as I should have been. Add that to what happened between us and Selina..." Bruce trailed off. "It's better if I try to fix it myself."
John frowned in concern for his friend. "You will try won't you?"
Bruce sighed. "Yeah, I will. I owe it to the man he used to be to do so."
"I'm glad," John said smilingly. "Speaking of Selina, how is our favorite Cat Lady?
Bruce's face turned into a mask of neutrality. Despite this, John could see the sadness and frustration in his expression. "She's still under Waller's thumb."
"I-I'm sorry to hear that, Bruce," John replied, his mood dropping sharply. It was because of him, he felt, that Bruce wasn't able to save the woman he loved.
"It wasn't your fault," Bruce assured him. John was glad that Bruce seemed to be able to read him as well as he could read Bruce. Not that it was as difficult to tell what sort of mood he was in, especially when compared to Bruce. After all, he emoted liked a billion times more than the billionaire vigilante did. And most of the time when he did emote, the expressions acted more to hide than express the feelings of the broken man underneath the facade.
"I didn't make it any easier for you," John rebutted.
"No, but Waller was going to make it difficult for me to secure her freedom in any and every way she could," Bruce pointed out.
It was John's turn to offer Bruce an awkward smile. "At least you still got Al, right?"
John was alarmed to see Bruce's stoic facade morph into a genuinely sad expression. "Alfred left Gotham..."
"What!? Why!? What happened!? Was it because...?" John began inquiring, guilt gnawing at his insides. He genuinely liked both Bruce and Alfred. They gave him a chance. It hadn't worked out, but they still tried. That he was the cause of a rift between them... It wasn't something he wanted to contemplate.
He'd only wanted to help, to help Bruce, to help Batman. His persona as The Joker was meant to help people. To stand shoulder to shoulder with The Batman to defend Gotham City from people like... Well, people like him. And like practically everything else he'd tried to do after he'd been released from Arkham, he'd obviously messed that up too. It hurt like a stab to the chest to think that he might have been the cause for Alfred abandoning Bruce.
"It wasn't because of you, not really. It was more about the actions we took while dealing with The Pact and The Agency, and our willingness to use you to accomplish our objective," Bruce explained. "He left because he was afraid I'd become like my father."
John was shocked beyond all belief. "How could he of all people think you could ever be like your dad? I doubt there is anyone in the world out there as incorruptable as you!"
"It's not so much he thinks I'll become corrupt, as he is worried that one day some punk with a gun might get lucky and he'll be called to identify my body one day," Bruce clarified. "Once Waller and her people left and everything got settled, he gave me an ultimatum: Quit being Batman and leave Gotham with him, or continue The Mission without him."
John felt sad for and proud of his friend simultaneously. More sad though, as he knew just how much Bruce loved Alfred. "You chose Gotham... Why?"
"Gotham is my home and Gotham needs Batman," Bruce answered instantly.
John's frown became less sad, more irritated by that answer. "Lie to me all you want, Bruce, but don't lie to yourself."
Bruce's shoulder's slumped tiredly. "I'm not lying, John. I'll admit there's more to it, but that IS what I genuinely believe."
"Bruce... Your father's sins were his own. You shouldn't feel like you need to atone for them," John stated.
"Gotham used to be a jewel that rivaled Metropolis, once upon a time. What my father did... And then there's my mistakes, my sins as both Batman and Bruce: Harvey, Oswald, Lucius, Selina, Agent Blake, Jim... You..." Bruce countered in response.
"Did you ever stop to think that perhaps Al had a point? I mean, you pretty much sacrificed Alfred for Gotham and Selina for me. I've seen some of the scars and the bruises... Added a few of them myself," John replied with concern aplenty showing on his face. "How much will you have to sacrifice for this city before enough is enough? Before you don't have anything else to sacrifice? I don't want to see my friend die."
"I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't," Bruce replied. "And given everything that's happened in Gotham over the last year: Lady Arkham and the Children of Arkham, Harvey, Riddler and The Pact, Waller and The Agency, you... I can't help but think things are going to get worse before they get better. And that's not accounting for the regular criminals like Salvator Maroni or Roman Sionis who are looking to take Carmine Falconi's place as Gotham's number one crime boss. Batman is still needed, whether you, me or Alfred like it or not."
"Those people out there, this city... We don't deserve you, Bruce," John told him.
"Maybe, maybe not, but I believe Gotham is worth saving," Bruce declared.
"But can this city BE saved?" John asked.
"Someone has to try. Jim doesn't have the manpower to do it alone and Tiffany isn't ready yet. When the day comes that Batman is no longer needed, I'll hang up the cowl, but not before then," Bruce informed John.
John accepted that answer to the extent that he was capable. He seriously had his doubts that, that day would ever come. He left that concern unvoiced, since he knew Bruce had more than enough to deal with on his plate already. Despite this, he knew that Bruce knew what his unasked question was.
What would Bruce do if that day never came?