Chapter 5

The Joker stepped out of his observation spot in the back of the room to step forward and face this new figure. He had been watching from the start, noting the girl's reactions to her predicament. But as soon as her life was threatened…'she' seemed to turn into a 'he'.

And it wasn't an act. The Joker had been around mental jobs for years, and he knew an act when he saw one. This kid in front of him had two personalities—a damsel in distress, and a cutthroat dog of war. Interesting. Very. Very. Interesting.

He stepped up to this new object of interest, observing on guard, as always. "Pretty nifty knife work there, kid," he said, waiting for a response. The kid only looked over his shoulder at him, and held up his bloody knife.

"Impressed?" he asked, his voice husky and edgy, a smirk on his young face. "Thanks. Self-taught." He flicked his eyes to the remaining people. "Got anymore assholes to knife?" The Joker saw the knife in the kid's hand twitch, and he had to grin.

'Fascinating,' he thought to himself. He smirked at the rest of the people around the kid. "…Have fun." He flicked his vision over to the new kid, whose grin grew much wider.

Show time.

It was barely five minutes later that Jack was polishing off his knife with a kerchief that he snagged from one of the gutted men on the floor. The Joker only watched with avid fascination. This kid had skill; real skill. Skill that could be very useful to him in the long run...

"You got the time?"

The Joker snapped out of his musings when Jack spoke up, stuffing the knife into a coat pocket. "What?" Jack held up his left hand, and the Joker could see a smashed watch on his wrist.

"The time. What time is it?"

The Joker looked at his own watch. "...Nine fifty," he said. Jack swore under his breath and smoothed out his jacket.

"Damn it, Momma's gonna ground me until I'm thirty!" He turned to the door, and Joker quickly stepped forward.

"What's so important about the time?" he asked. Jack ran a hand through his hair impatiently.

"I promised Momma that I'd be home by ten-thirty!" he said. "Those fucktards completely ruined my plans for the night, and now, I'm going to be late!"

The Joker only stared at the split-personality. "...That's your only worry?" he asked, amused. "...Your curfew?"

"YES!" Jack shot back. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go." He turned back to the door.

"Not so fast, kid." Jack could hear the subtle 'flick' of a switchblade being opened. He rolled his eyes and pulled his own blade out of his pocket.

"I dont have time for this shit," he growled without turning around. "Just tell me what the hell you want so I can make it home."

The Joker contemplated Jack's turned back, his eyes mostly lingering on what was most definitely HIS jacket. This whole situation was just too good to let go and ignore. "...Information," he replied, tapping the blade against his finger. "If you can give me your word that you'll give me what information I ask for, you're completely free to go."

"I live on the upper west side of Gotham in the shopping district," Jack said without a pause. "Aston Place Apartments, top floor." The Joker whistled.

"You live pretty ritzy," he commented. Jack rolled his shoulders, his backbone cracking.

"Momma and me get by," he said. He pocketed the knife again. "See ya." The Joker watched as Jack ran out of the warehouse, only looking around briefly before disappearing into the night.

When the kid was gone, the Joker stepped back into his current domain, closing the door behind him and stepping over the bodies on the floor.

"Well," he said aloud to himself, twirling his knife between his fingers. "This has been a great night. A fuckin' great night..."

Three days later, just at sundown, the Joker found himself looking at Aston Place Apartments. Indeed, this WAS the higher-class of Gotham; not first class, but not middle-class, either. It was about seven-o-clock, and the Joker was starting to get annoyed. He had been waiting here for over an hour, and he was about ready to scale the ladder to the top floor when the building door opened and he saw the unmistakable color of his purple jacket.

…It was the female personality, the Joker decided. She was dressed more carefully than the boy had been last night, and her hair was pulled neatly out of her face. She straightened her jacket and stepped onto the sidewalk to head into the shopping district.

The Joker followed her silently, watching her as she walked aimlessly down the road, stopping every once and awhile to look at something in a shop window before moving on. He followed her for about thirty minutes before she slipped into an alley and down some stairs before walking through a door and into a noisy bar that immediately went quiet at her arrival. Joker walked in after her and took a seat in the back, in the shadows, to watch.

Jackie stepped over to the jukebox and turned on some pleasant Mozart, and the Joker saw that no one made a move to change it. So, he thought, Jack had a reputation around here. Fascinating.

He saw the barkeep give Jackie a drink and edge away carefully. Jackie took a sip of the drink and pulled out a small notebook out of his pocket to flip through it, then she paused, a confused look passed over her face, and looked around.

The Joker took that as something of a cue, and got up from his seat to sit next to her up at the bar. She gave him a sidelong glance, but nothing else as she went back to her drink.

"…I believe you owe me some information," the Joker said, staring at her. Jackie turned to stare back at him.

"…Excuse me?" she asked, brushing a stray strand of hair from her face. "I don't even know you." She turned back to her drink. The Joker's eye twitched slightly.

"…I know you know what I'm talking about." He pulled his switchblade out of his pocket and tapped it against the bar. "Now is not the time to play stupid." Jackie's eyes froze on the blade, her hand clenching her drink hard. "Now, are you going to stop playing the idiot?" Jackie's eyes remained glued to the knife. The Joker's eyes followed where hers were locked, and grinned. "You like?" he asked. Jackie shook her head. "No? Shame." With one swift move, he slammed the blade into the bar in front of her, and just one second later, a blade slipped into her hand and pointed right down on the Joker's wrist.

The Joker looked up to see a hard expression on Jack's face. Jack stared at him for a moment before slamming his own blade into the bar next to the Joker's. "Lovely to see you again," he said, his voice changing a 180 from light and feminine to deep and husky. He picked up his drink and downed the whole thing in one chug. "Though, next time you might want to make sure it's ME before making contact. Jackie doesn't usually share my experiences."

"…'Jackie', huh?" Joker said, picking his knife out of the bar. "Is that your name?" Jack shook his head.

"No, that's HER name," he replied. "MY name is Jack." He made a gesture to the barkeep, who immediately began making another drink.

"…You have split personalities?" Joker asked, twirling his switchblade between his fingers. Jack nodded a thanks to the barkeep and took a small swig of his drink.

"…That's too much of an understatement," he said. "We have more like…split lives. We're two entirely different people. Jackie is female…she's timid and scares easily." He grinned. "Strong emotions trigger the mindset from hers to mine."

"Ah, I see," Joker replied. "I recall your little switch back at the warehouse." Jack nodded.

"You'd be surprised how many things can trigger me," Jack said. "Before I even became a dominating personality, little things would make me come out—a teacher yelling at her, some kid picking on her, some asshole knocking her over; you name it." Jack took another swig of his drink. "…She even used to have a name for me, before Momma gave me a name." He looked at the Joker. "…Black. She said it was what she felt whenever I took over, before she blanked out."

The Joker blinked, then snorted. "Black. Black Jack." He heaved a sigh and gestured to the barkeep for a drink of his own. "…Classic."

"And 'Joker' is no more classic?" he asked. He polished off his drink. "Any more questions you want to ask? I have some shopping to do and territories to clear out." The Joker rolled his eyes.

"I have many more questions, regarding, well, you," he replied. "But I suppose those can wait, in lieu of your oh-so-important shopping trip." Jack slapped a ten on the bar.

"They can," he said. "I'm shopping for Mother's Day." He stood up and smoothed out his jacket. "Well, it's been a pleasure. We'll have to find another time to meet up." He pulled out his small notebook and a pen, then wrote down something on it. "So she'll know not to freak out when she sees you," he clarified, putting the notebook back into her pocket.

"That would be great," the Joker said, chugging his drink. "Any way I can get a hold of YOU, in case I run into Jackie?"

"Sure," Jack said. "Just ask." With that, he left.

The Joker stared after him for a moment before realizing that Jack had made a bad joke.

"….Ha ha ha."

He finished his drink and left without paying.

ARGH!!! Sorry for not updating! But here I am!