A/N: This is based on characters from The Dark Knight. I don't own any of them. This is just a little fantasy about what they were like as teenagers, and how the Joker came to be; and fair warning, it is SLASH, eventually, between Jack/Bruce and, later, Joker/Batman. Readers are deeply appreciated, Reviewers are LOVED!! Thanks in advance, hope you like it.

Bruce Wayne walked into his first period science class with his classmates, Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent. The three were a tightly knit little group that tended to band together, even though each of them was popular and well-liked on their own.

Bruce took his seat; once everyone had more or less settled down, the instructor called for the class' attention; Bruce looked up and saw a new classmate shamble into the room, a tall, slim long-haired blonde boy wearing tattered jeans, a flannel shirt and worn sneakers. He had a battered messenger bag over his shoulder. The teacher motioned him over to her desk and introduced him to the class.

"Ok, everyone, I want you to meet your new classmate, Jack Ramsey; Jack just transferred here from Gotham's East Side High. Please make him feel welcome!" The latter sentence came as more of an order than a suggestion, but no one seemed to pay much attention.

Jack sauntered over to the closest vacant desk, the one on the next row over from Bruce; he never smiled or looked around him, just lowered himself into the chair and slouched down in an appearance of utter disdain and boredom.

Bruce noticed his long brownish-blonde hair fell around his face, obscuring his features; but not before he had taken in his brown eyes and scarred lower lip. He was good-looking enough; skinny, not athletic, but fluid in his movement. Probably would make a good sprinter or swimmer, if he went out for sports at all; Bruce suspected he wasn't much of a team-sports kind of guy.

Bruce turned his attention back to the teacher, and after class was over he headed to his second period, forgetting all about the newcomer until lunch. He, Rachel, Harvey and a couple of other sophomores were seated at their usual table. They all watched Jack Ramsey carrying his lunch tray, heading for the most out of the way table in the room, finding a seat far from anyone else, to eat his lunch alone.

"Well, that's sad." said Rachel indignantly. "Not one of you socially responsible guys could offer him a seat at our table?"

"Come on, Rachel, he's not going to want to sit with us. The freaks'll take him under their wing soon enough." said Harvey dismissively.

"You are such a snob! Just because he has long hair and shabby clothes, you think you're better than he is?" asked Rachel.

"I don't think that at all, I just know how it is. You feel more comfortable with your own kind."

"Look, Rachel," said Bruce, "if it'll make you feel better, I'll invite him to sit with us tomorrow." Bruce was crazy about Rachel. He'd known her his whole life, but this was the first year they had actually begun to date, and he was eager to differentiate himself from Harvey whenever possible.

"That's perfect, Bruce! I think he'll appreciate the effort, even if he doesn't accept."

Bruce's eyes wandered over to the blonde boy, and observed he was picking at his food while reading a paperback book. Nope, he would not fit in with their crowd; not at all. But he'd make the effort, since it meant so much to Rachel.

The next day, Bruce kept his word. As Jack passed their table, Bruce called out "Jack! Jack Ramsey! Would you like to sit with us?"

The slight young man turned and stared at athletic, dark haired Bruce Wayne with a bewildered expression; he glanced around as if to make sure he was actually the object of the question, then headed over and set his tray down. He peered at each of them in turn with a suspicious frown, but said, "Sure."

He sat and, without looking at anyone, began eating.

Bruce, Harvey, and Rachel exchanged glances.

"Jack, what brings you to North Gotham?" Rachel asked pleasantly.

Jack looked up as if someone had slapped him, stopped chewing, and swallowed before answering.

"Uh…I got kicked out of my old foster home. The new one is in this school district."

He went back to eating and the trio again looked at each other for a long moment. Not one of them had ever met anyone from a foster home, much less someone who had managed to get kicked out of one.

"What'd you do?" Harvey asked, openly curious.

"Harvey!" Rachel chided.

"What? What's wrong with that?" Harvey asked, dismayed.

"That's a terrible thing to ask!"

"No, no, it's ok." Jack assured Harvey. "I got caught…with one of the girls living there." He gave a lopsided grin, and a rather nasty wink. "She was the parents' 'real' daughter, and I guess they didn't like her fraternizing with the riff-raff." His smile faded, he shrugged, and went back to eating.

All three of his table mates stared uncomfortably at Jack for a moment, then dropped their eyes, trying to think of something else to say. Finally, Bruce piped up with, "So, Jack, you going out for football?" He knew it was an inane question for this particular individual, but he felt he had to come up with something to break the uncomfortable silence.

Jack raised his eyes in disbelief. "Huh?...Is that a joke? Do I look like a football player to you?" He started laughing to himself.

Rachel interjected gently, "I think Bruce is just trying to make conversation. What are you interested in, Jack?"

Jack looked at her, forcing himself not to mouth off with "Weed and pussy, in that order" as he normally would. He had some vague hope of making it through his first week at his new school without getting the shit beaten out of him, and he suspected that whichever of the two guys sitting next to Rachel aspiring to being her boyfriend would feel he was being disrespectful to her. Which, of course, he was. But, still.

He paused a moment, then answered, "Well…music, I guess. Books. Stuff like that. Oh, and I play a pretty mean game of five card stud." He hoped the quiz portion of the lunch hour was now over; if they persisted, he would just have to get up and sit somewhere else.

"You play poker?" Bruce asked, interestedly. "Harvey runs a game every Thursday night; we could use another hand. Want to come?" Bruce was aware of Harvey's desperate facial expressions trying to stop him from offering that invitation, but cheerfully ignored him.

Jack looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Well, I don't have any transportation…." He really hoped they would drop this fucking friendliness act, he knew none of them wanted anything to do with him, socially or otherwise. But Bruce was determined….

"That's not a problem--you can ride home with me and I can drop you off." Bruce was sixteen and had just gotten his license.


"I think that's a great idea, Bruce. Jack, that'll be a very good way for you to meet some of the other guys we hang around with!" Rachel was good at micro-managing her friends.

Harvey reluctantly took his cue from Rachel, and added, "Sure…we'd love to shake down the new guy…hope you've got plenty of cash on you when you come, friend."

"Yeah, well…." Just then the bell rang for the next class.

At the end of the school day, Bruce was dialing the combination to his locker, when he became aware of a presence standing by his shoulder. He turned to see Jack waiting to say something to him.

"Oh, Jack. What's up?" He went back to his lock.

"Bruce…it was really, uh, nice of you to get me invited to Harvey's poker night, but…I really can't go. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it at lunch, but would you just tell him I won't be there?" he asked uncomfortably.

"What are you talking about, it's all set!" Bruce turned to take a good look at the guy who was trying to weasel out of the game.

"Yeah, but I can't. Just tell him for me, ok?"

"Why can't you?" Bruce was a little irritated that he had gone out of his way to be nice to the hippie freak-guy, and for him to now be so ungrateful….

Jack sighed, and gave up trying to be casual about his excuse.

"Look…you guys play for money, right?" he asked.

"Yeah, quarter to start, quarter ante…"

"Right. Well, unless I win the first hand, I won't be in for more than one round. I don't have a job yet, and…" he dropped his eyes to the floor. "I just don't have any money, Bruce. So, please, just tell Harvey I forgot about a thing I had to do that night, or something. Ok?" He looked up with a pleading expression. Bruce felt terrible. It had never occurred to him that money might be the reason Jack was trying to get out of the game.

He really looked at his new acquaintance for the first time. He hadn't paid attention before, but the boy's clothes were definitely not the expensive, purposely "distressed" designer clothes that most of the stoner kids at North Gotham High sported; he suddenly got the idea that the holes in his jeans and wear on his sneakers came from not having very many pairs to choose from, and the ones he did have were cheaply made.

Bruce tried to think; it just didn't seem fair that Jack couldn't have an evening of fun with new friends simply because of a few dollars. He had an idea….

"Look, Jack…I'm supposed to spend all day Saturday cleaning out my family's storage locker, and it's going to take forever doing it by myself. What if you come over and help me? I can pay you ten bucks for your trouble, and give you an advance for Thursday. So, then, you could join the game. What do you think?"

Jack stared at Bruce, somewhat taken aback. He had never had many friends at school, and certainly none among the social class that Bruce Wayne was obviously a part of. Was he planning to humiliate him, or otherwise use him as the butt of some cruel joke? He wanted to trust him, but….

Jack looked at the ceiling for a moment, considering, then decided to take the chance.

"Ok, Bruce. If you want to waste your money on me, fine. But, I'm warning you, I'm one lazy bastard, good luck getting ten dollars worth of work out of me." With that, he waved, flashed a surprisingly charming grin, and walked away.