Disclaimer: I have no rights to the Joker, Harleen Quinzel or Arkham Asylum. I do however own Jess!! *grins*
Not to upset you all but this is the final chapter!
The Bitter End
Slumped against the flaking wall Jess clawed desperately at the silver tape wrapped around her head. With every torturous second that passed she could feel her chest heaving, attempting to take another breath but to no avail. Swallowing hard she tried not to panic as the unnerving slash of red on white approached her.
"Hmmm!" the suffocating woman whined as the Joker crouched in front of her, lifting his knife to her face. Shaking her head she tried to pull away from him slowly. Her head was fuzzy and she could feel the coldness of death slowly creeping over her. As tears filled her eyes she could feel herself beginning to shake. Gradually the edges of her vision darkened and she could see the darkness swallowing the room. She was dying.
The Joker tilted his head to the side and ran his the edge of his blade over her throat, licking his scarred lips slowly and narrowing his eyes. This was just what he had been waiting for. This was the moment where he himself had to make the decision whether or not to kill her. Trailing the knife over her jugular he moved his face closer to hers. He watched as her blue eyes rolled back in her skull and she began to pass out. She had done well; he'd give her credit for that. She certainly had a hunger to survive.
Running his course fingers through her hair he pulled her head back and held her still, "Now…um, you're really gonna have to trust meee."
Swallowing hard, Jess made a final attempt to pull away from the blood-splattered man as he pressed the edge of his knife against her face.
"I'd advise you to stay still," he gripped her hair tightly. "Hey…HEY!"
Jess felt the back of her skull collide with the wall as the Joker forced her head against it firmly. Wide eyes stared pleadingly at the harsh white features before her as she felt her heart leap into her throat. Her whole body seemed to be beating in time with her slowing heart as her body gradually gave in to the darkness.
Feeling her body begin to slump before him the Joker growled slightly. Frowning he ran his thumb over the thick silver tape, feeling for her mouth. Mentally mapping the rose-bud pout beneath the tough covering he decided he had wasted enough time…it was now or never. Pressing the point of his flick-knife against the tape he gave a short, sharp push forcing the blade between her lips into her mouth. Pulling her head back he grimaced as he slowly slid the weapon to the left, making the slit in the tape longer. Trying to estimate where her mouth ended the Joker gritted his teeth and started to slice the tape in the other direction, stopping when he felt the tough resistance of Jess' cheek. Slowly her pretty blue eyes flickered open as her cells welcomed the much needed oxygen. Staring lazily at the white face in front of her she felt utter relief wash over her in waves. The adrenalin stopped and suddenly she was so cold, so very, very cold. Holding the knife at the corner of her mouth for a moment the Joker smiled to himself, almost daring himself to pull it that little bit further; give her something to remember him by! As he stared at her pale face he felt the familiar twist of 'something' in his gut. Tilting his head to the side slightly he leaned closer to her and…
Suddenly the resistance in the doctor's facial muscles gave way and the double edged blade sliced through her cheek, splitting her face in two. As the thick crimson tears spilled through the silver tape and over his fingers the Joker felt the hot sting of hate burst through his awareness as his dark eyes stared at the bloody hand gripping his sleeve, pulling his arm ever more to the right.
"GrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRR!!!!" the sound was raw and animalistic as the Joker slammed the half-dead security guard against the gurney. As the trolley rolled back against the counter the Joker hoisted Max up onto the leather-bound top and punched him hard in the face. Forcing his 'old friend' into the struggling man's mouth he flicked his wrist, slicing his face. Max instinctively tried to grab his abused cheek only to be stabbed in the arm. "I don't THINK SO!!" the Joker growled viscerally, twisting the small knife earning a groan from the unfortunate man.
As the blood pooled in his mouth Max spat the hot liquid at the painted man. The Joker simply smiled back at his victim; it wasn't often that he murdered someone because they got him angry and the Joker was going to enjoy this…every little bit of it! Reaching over the guard's head to the array of weapons on the work surface he grabbed a particularly large, wooden handled knife and quickly buried it to the hilt in Max's abdomen. As Officer Gray screamed the smaller knife plunged into his throat, slicing his vocal chords, rendering him almost silent. The Joker retracted his bloody hand and forced the double edged knife through Max's other cheek. Lifting the man from the bed he dragged him over to the howling woman and slammed him against the wall, plucking the wooden-handled knife from his gut and re-embedding it in his chest. A thick fountain of blood sliced through the dusty air, painting the ceiling with dark slashes of red.
Wiping Max's blood from his face the Joker let the man's body fall to the floor. Breathing deeply he clicked his 'old friend' back into its case and turned to Jess. Kneeling face to face with her he tried to examine the gaping wound in her face through her trembling fingers.
"Shh sh shsh sh sh," he slowly pulled her bloody hands away from her face and gently pushed her head backwards. Running his fingers over the open wound he grimaced and ran his tongue over the inside of his own scars. "Look at me."
Jess turned away, the pain burning through her facial nerves, down her neck into her skull. Fighting his firm hands she tried to cover her bleeding mouth, only for the Joker to force her arms back to her thighs and grip her head even tighter –forcing her to turn her face towards him.
"Look at me…Jesteeer? Look…Lo…LOOK AT ME!" he bellowed, rendering the quaking woman paralysed. Gripping her cheeks he sucked his lips loudly and turned towards the door, "Hey Sweetheart, do you think you might come and give a little help?"
Harleen rounded the doorframe slowly. Peering around the blood sodden room the bottle-blonde tiptoed over the crimson-streaked tiles, "Yeah?"
"You did say you were going to get me out of here didn't you?" The Joker licked the corners of his mouth and turned back to Jess. "Get my things."
The young intern quickly turned to the various knives and bundled them into the box before lifting the whole lot to her chest. "Do you want me to take them to the car?" she chirped.
"Car?" the Joker slowly frowned. "You have a car?"
Harleen stopped in her tracks and smiled, "He does...well, did."
The Joker grinned. Leaning towards Jess he tilted his head slightly and ran his fingers over her hair, "I'd love to stay but…ah, I gotta go Jester."
Jess peered over his shoulder at the standing woman. Shivering she attempted to pull her feet up under her body to stand up. "Jo…"
"Sh sh sh sh sh," he peered over his shoulder. "Do you have my coat?"
Harleen dragged a large purple swathe of material out of the box from beneath the knives, causing them to clink against one another. Beginning to drape the long coat over the gurney she glanced at Jess' gaping cheek. As Jess' eyes met hers she quickly turned away and stared at the floor, "I need the keys."
"Keeeeys?" the Joker rolled his eyes.
"To Max's car. I need them to get in…"
"Well, I suppose they'll be in his pocket now wont they?" the sarcasm cut through Harleen as deftly as the knife had cut through Max's flesh and the Joker knew it. Waiting for the delayed sound of the young woman's feet making their way across the tiles towards the guard's corpse he stared at Jess, smiling smugly. Jess stared back at him, he was a truly cruel man…but he had saved her. Why?
"You…" Jess started, only to feel the Joker's bloody finger pressed against her lips as pain seared through her face. Shaking her head away she continued, "You wont get past the gates in his car."
"Well, there's no other way out," Harleen quipped.
"Hmm…she does have a point," the Joker purred after a moment.
"What are we supposed to do? He said that he would…"
"Yeah…I don't think that ah…you should really worry about anything that er…heee…said," the Joker glanced around himself quickly, frowning. "Where ah…where's my coat?"
No sooner had he asked the question than the coat was in his hand.
"The van," Jess breathed, clutching her face trying to stop the bleeding.
"Vaan?" eyebrows raised the Joker licked his lips provocatively.
Jess panted, trying to control the pain in her facial muscles and teeth, "The one they bring the patients in. It's kept in the back of the hospital. Argh!"
As she lurched forward the Joker wrapped his coat around her shoulders, "Sort it!"
Harleen nodded and rushed out of the open doorway, her footsteps echoing down the hallway.
"Jester…look at me," the Joker ordered quietly. "This whole…thing? I ah…I didn't…"
Her eyes watched as his blood-smeared made-up face shook slowly from side to side. His blackened eyes seemed different to her. He seemed…sad?
"I know," she whimpered.
Nodding, he rose to his feet and firmly pulled her up to him. "You're weak," he whispered as her knees gave way again and she fell into his arms. He peered down at the fading woman, at the constant seeping blood then at the dead guard. Pulling his coat tight around her he lifted her to her feet once again. Clearing his throat he breathed into her lank, bloody hair, "Walk."
"Huh?" the guard spun around his chair. "Hey, are you lost Miss?"
"Me? No, I work here. I'm Harleen…aren't you um," she glanced at his name-badge quickly, "Tommy?"
"Uh, yeah?" the portly man smiled nervously.
"Oh I'm so glad it's you," Harleen wiggled her hips slowly and smiled. "I hope you don't think I'm being too forward…I just, he I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm sorry, I just….I get so shy when I'm anywhere near you."
"Shy?" the guard stood up and approached the giggling woman. "You don't need to be shy honey."
Shrugging her shoulders sweetly the woman continued, "I was wondering if maybe…well, you're gonna think this is a really strange request…"
Tommy smiled, "No I wont."
"Is that your van?"
"Yeah," he looked back at the black and white armoured truck.
Harleen giggled, "Do you ever just drive around in it…you know, to impress women?"
"Impress women? Why would it…?"
"You're a guard at Arkham Asylum. Girls love a man with authority…"
"Oh…ah, I never…."
"I'd love to see how it all works, would you show me? Tommy?"
"I really…I shouldn't," he shook his head.
"Not even if I say please?" Harleen took a step towards him.
Glancing around the guard rolled his eyes and smiled, "I…"
"Pleeeeeaaaaase?" Harleen batted her eyelids and stroked her neck with her fingertips.
"Okay, just give me a moment to radio through to Max,"
"Max?" she panicked.
"Yeah, he's in charge tonight….and he's a real…"
"If you're going to get into trouble over it why tell him? I wont tell if you don't, Tommy," Harleen caught sight of the Joker and Jess slowly making their way across the courtyard to the back of the van, and quickly kissed the guard on his lips. As soon as the two of them were safely inside the van the intern pulled away and smiled. "So?"
Sighing, the guard bit his lower lip before turning to grab the keys and smile back at his 'admirer'. "Ok, but only a quick drive. Max'll kill me if he finds out."
"Oh trust me he wont,"
Once through the gates Harleen turned to smile at Tommy, "You're such a good driver. I haven't passed my test yet."
"Really? Do you wanna learn? I can teach you if you want," the guard nodded at the controls in front of him.
"Really? You'd show me how to drive this thing?"
"Yeah, come here," he reached over to her and smiled.
"Wouldn't it be safer to stop?" Harleen smiled.
"Yeah, you're right. Just wait till I find somewhere to pull over,"
Harleen stepped down from the van and quickly made her way around the back of the van. Just before she could round the far corner of the vehicle Tommy walked to meet her. "Have you ever seen in the back of one of these?" he slapped the side of the van hard.
"No," Harleen smiled, knowing that the Joker was sat waiting inside.
She watched as Tommy yanked the large, flat handle upwards thus unlocking the rear doors. No sooner had the lock clicked open than the heavy doors sprung forth knocking the tubby man off of his feet. As he glared up at the open van his face filled with utter terror as he was greeted with the sight of a bloodstained Joker leaping on top of him, knife in hand. Turning to glance at the pretty girl who had duped him into transporting the Joker out of Arkham his heart sank as the blade flicked around his throat, severing his arteries and veins.
He thought she liked him.
"Stay here," the Joker mumbled as he jumped down from the vehicle onto the wet tarmac. Looking up at the stars he grinned. He was finally out. Finally able to haunt the Batman once more…how he had missed his favourite pastime. But for now he had other things on his mind. Striding around the black and white van he forcefully unlocked the heavy doors before stepping up onto the small metal step to pull his doctor out.
As her limp body slid across the floor he gazed at her ashen face. She was, again, unconscious. He carefully pulled her towards the edge of the van and tilted his head to the side. She was so pale she almost looked like she was made of stone…or plaster. Lifting her into his arms he glanced across the parking lot at the bright automatic doors of the newly built Gotham General Hospital. Taking her weight in his arms he straightened his back and started on he fairly long walk to the main entrance. Glancing back at Harleen he nodded towards the hospital and waited for the van to make its way around the parking lot. If he was going to risk walking into the hospital he had once blown up he was going to need a good get away.
Turning his attention back to the woman draped over his forearms he smiled. He had been right about her. As he watched the gentle rise and fall of the dirty robe beneath his coat he confirmed it in his mind. She was strong, and she was still alive. Barely, but never-the-less still alive. From the second he had met her she had believed in him. She had trusted him. The least he could do was save her, wasn't it? He nodded silently to himself as the image of her suffocating flashed into his mind. He could have left her to die. He could have left her in Arkham. She was no concern of his. Even though he told himself it didn't matter, the visceral gash in her face bothered him. Even now, although he was dead Max had ultimately beaten him. He had changed her. He had done what the Joker had threatened him not to do. He had broken her.
Striding confidently across the tarmac the fugitive man closed his eyes momentarily to fully appreciate the cool breeze on his face. He was cold but it didn't matter. He glanced back at Jess, his Jester. She was beautiful, it was a true and he couldn't deny it. There was something about the woman he was carrying him that seemed to twist a blade of its very own inside of him. He still wasn't sure what exactly it was but for the moment he figured it didn't matter. She would soon be taken away from him and he would have to feign interest in the lapdog once again. How he disliked the girl. It was no fault of her own, he supposed she was a nice person after all she had managed to secure his ride out of the asylum. It was the sickly 'children's TV' approach that she had to everything that bothered him. She was just too intense, to emotional. Then again, who was he to complain? She was the first woman to actually take a liking to him, and he was no about to bury her just yet. No, he was sure that he could find some use for her.
Jester. Now she was a woman to be reckoned with. A woman who never once admitted there was something between them. Was there something between them? He didn't know. Perhaps his need to escape had pulled the wool over his eyes? Perhaps he had convinced himself the woman had been interested? Interesting, yes. But interested? Highly doubtful. She was a doctor and a damn good one at that. She had only ever done what she believed was right, and when she hadn't done what was right he had stopped her. He hadn't wanted her to step over the edge. He didn't want another Harvey Dent. No. She was too important. She was just perfect the way she was. The way she had been…
Again his eyes trailed over the bloody wound spanning the left side of her face from her mouth to her jawbone. He knew how much pain the blade had inflicted on her and for the first time since he didn't know when it actually upset him. Swallowing hard he pulled her torso towards his chest and noted the thousands of tiny bumps covering her neck and face. She was cold. He couldn't fasten the coat around her but he felt bad that he hadn't thought it decent to do so before he pulled her from the van.
Mentally scolding himself the Joker laughed away the concern over her well being. It meant nothing, he was simply repaying her the kindness she had shown him. He would have another opportunity to end her life…just not this one. He was sure he would know when the time came. When they met again. He was sure they would meet again.
Slowly placing her on the sidewalk a little way from the entrance he stooped to pull the edges of his infamous purple coat around her abused body. Gazing at her face one last time he lowered his head and ran his fingers through her hair. Moving his lips to her ear he lowered his voice to barely a whisper.
"Don't become like me," pulling away he turned his face towards her, allowing his own scarred lips to ghost across the gaping slit in her face. Pausing for a moment he looked at her blank face. Time seemed to stand still as he felt each shallow breath on his mouth. She was so close. But yet, he didn't know what to do. The space between them was so small that he could almost feel her lips against his…
"Isn't that the Joker?"
The moment was gone and he sprung to his feet grinning wildly at the young paramedic.
"Oh my God!! Somebody call the Police!! It's the Joker! It's the Joker!"
As if his lap dog had read his mind, the van screeched to the curb and he jumped into the passenger seat, slamming the door and glancing in the large wing mirror at his Jester. His guardian angel.
"Till next time, Jester," he licked his lips quickly and turned to Harleen. "Drive faster!"
The woman did as she was ordered, pretending not to notice the way his fingers came up to almost touch his lips. Pretending not to know that he had wanted her.
To be continued…