AN: Hello! Chances are if you're reading this, you've read my previous stories. If you haven't that's fine, but in order for the fic to make sense to you, you should know that in my previous stories, Crane and the Joker had a relationship that ended with a rather violent falling out, and for a bit afterwards the Joker tried to kill him before getting bored and giving up.
The story title comes from the Batman: The Animated Series episode 'Harlequinade.' It's a song Harley sings regarding her relationship with the Joker, and if you search "Say That We're Sweethearts Again" on Youtube, the actual episode clip is there, the one by Little Yaoiste, should you care to see it.
That being said, although the song itself is romantic, the fic is not. It's about rebuilding the friendship between Jonathan Crane and the Joker, not the romance.
It began, as the relationship had begun, with the Joker breaking into his cell. It began, as the friendship—if it could be called that—had begun, with the Joker creeping into his bed and waking him up.
Unlike the last time he'd been woken up, however, he wasn't grabbed and shaken into consciousness. Rather, it was a slow awakening, beginning when his sleep was disturbed by the sound of a lullaby being hummed and gradually pulling him closer and closer to consciousness, until he was jolted awake by the realization that he was being hugged.
"Evening," the Joker said, as though his companion had not just violently started, hugging a little tighter as he stroked the scars on Crane's arm with his free hand. "Or, morning by now, I guess. Hey, can I ask you something? How much can you actually feel with all these scars?" He pushed down on one of the deeper ones, Crane feeling nothing but the pressure.
Not that he told him that. Verbally, he didn't respond at all, only began trying to thrash his way out of the Joker's grasp. Whatever the clown wanted, it could not be good.
He couldn't believe that he'd actually been stupid enough to think the Joker would keep his word about leaving him alone. God knows he'd been vigilant at first; jumping at the slightest sound, coming up with defense strategies for attacks at various locations in the asylum, staying up nights on end because he was too afraid of being assaulted to sleep, no matter how exhausted he was. That last one had led to being prescribed sleeping pills, pills that were even now weakening his body's resistance against the Joker, making sleep seem far more appealing than protecting his life. He should never have agreed to take those drugs. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Still, it had seemed for once in his life the Joker would keep his word. Weeks had gone by, long enough for Crane to go from emaciated back to his usual, if still underweight state. Weeks where he hadn't seen the Joker once, no more than the occasional glimpse in the cafeteria or coming across each other in the rec room. But on those inevitable occasions, the Joker actually hadn't done anything. No trying to draw Crane's attention, no attempts at conversation or any form of interaction, aside from the first time they'd happened upon each other and he'd waved.
Not that there hadn't efforts to get his attention in other ways. Even in the room's current darkness, the pictures lining the walls of the cell were still visible. There were over a hundred now, a new one—or often, several—appearing each day, draw in crayon or markers or whatever the Joker had on hand at the time. Which sometimes appeared to be lipstick or barbeque sauce, or what looked horribly like blood. The fact that the content of the pictures wasn't threatening or otherwise terrible—though some, like the drawing of the Joker and Crane frolicking in a field, accompanied by a rather fat unicorn, were odd enough to be disturbing—didn't make them any less irritating.
He'd complained about the pictures once, and was promised that something would be done about them. Nothing was, of course. He suspected the Joker was paying the night guard off in some way. Though, the pictures weren't always placed in the room at night. Maybe the clown had figured out how to get into the ventilation shafts and crawl to this cell whenever the mood struck him.
Not that the Joker's picture delivery method was particularly important at the moment. The fact remained that the Joker had broken his word now—not twisted it, as with the drawings, but truly broken it—and if he didn't get out of here now, he was almost certainly going to die.
Unfortunately, his strength had never been a match for the Joker's, and even with desperation and adrenaline on his side, the sleeping pills were draining his will to run away far too quickly. Of course he had to get the kind that not only knocked you out, but kept you out. It was a wonder he'd woken up to begin with. He fought with all he could, but he imagined keeping hold of him for the Joker took about as much effort as it would to drown a kitten; the kitten could thrash with all its might, but it was never going to resurface.
"Relax, Jonny." He could only have been struggling for a few minutes or so when the Joker managed to get both arms around him, pinning his own arms to his sides and effectively ending the fight then and there. Crane tried kicking and biting, but the Joker evaded the attacks so easily it seemed trying had hardly been worth it at all. "No, relax. I'm not gonna hurt ya. I made a promise, remember?"
A promise that also said you'd leave me the hell alone.
"I just wanna talk, that's all. Is that such a crime?"
That was probably the thing he hated most about the Joker, even over the using, betrayal, near killing, and then attempted killing; the way he acted as if he hadn't done those things. Not that he didn't acknowledge they'd happened, but pretended they shouldn't matter. As if he could waltz in here after all he'd done, and Crane was simply supposed to have gotten over it, just like that. It was like infants and object permanence; if they couldn't see it, it wasn't there. Joker wasn't distraught over all the suffering he'd put Crane through, and so Crane by extension shouldn't be either.
Egotistical lying son of a bitch.
He gave up on trying to break free; there was no chance and he was only tiring himself out even more. At this point, his best chance was to be still, focus on keeping consciousness and conserving his energy, and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. That said, drugs or not, it was nearly impossible, forcing himself to lie still in the Joker's arms.
"Good boy." He sounded as if he was congratulating a dog he'd just taught to sit. One of the arms wrapped around Crane loosened, hand reaching up to stroke his hair. Crane was unable to keep from shuddering, and the arm remaining around him tightened, holding him closer. "How've you been, Jonny?"
He glared, not bothering to answer. He was sick of the clown's games. Whatever he'd come in here to do, he needed to do it, and skip the foreplay. Even if it resulted in torture or death. Especially if it resulted in torture or death. He wanted the pain over with, not to sit around for hours becoming more and more afraid while the Joker made small talk.
Come to think of it, that was probably what the Joker wanted; to horrify him as much as possible before he got to whatever sick thing he'd planned.
"Jonny?" The hand stroking his hair moved, waved in his face. "Hello? Cat got your tongue or what?"
No response. He reflected that the Joker would probably hurt him even more for refusing to play along, but he was tired of being the clown's doll.
"Ah. The silent treatment, I take it. C'mon, scaredy cat, don't be like that. I don't want there to be any hard feelings between us."
He found it ridiculously hard not to scoff at that.
"Look, I've kept my promise, haven't I? I mean, I really wanted to use that whole 'torch the scarecrow' plan. That was clever. That's a big sacrifice to make, Jonny. You should be grateful. I mean, I get that you're mad about the 'trying to kill you' thing, but quit living in the past."
He started stroking Crane's hair again, and Crane, too busy staying coherent enough to glare to notice the Joker's movements, started violently at the touch.
"Shh." He kept stroking, eyes meeting Crane's with sort of an understanding smirk on his face. "Shh, shh. So you're afraid, then, and not pissed?" His hand trailed from Crane's hair to his chest, feeling the heartbeat there. "Yeah, your pulse is doing that thumping thing again. Hey, remember when we did this at the hos—"
And that was crossing the line. It seemed Scarecrow was able to contain himself through the shock of waking in the Joker's arms, and being forcibly held and touched, but bringing up their sex life was going too far. He bolted upright, pulling himself out of the Joker's grip with sudden force that would have surprised him had he not been so focused on grabbing the Joker's throat and tearing it out with his bare hands.
Not that he did that, of course. Taking the Joker by surprise was easy, if the method was something like taking four or five people and having them all dive at him from different directions. When there was only one person coming from straight in front of him, his reactions were much faster. His hands closed around Scarecrow's wrists before he could make contact, knocking him back on the bed and moving swiftly on top of him, pinning him down with humiliating ease. "Jonny, that wasn't very nice."
"Get out of my room, you son of a bitch."
"Oh. You." He rolled his eyes. "Nice to see you too, Crow, but I came here to see your better half."
"I think," he said, trying to pull his wrists free and only succeeding in hurting himself. "That whatever you've got to say to him also affects me."
"Be that as it may, brainless, I'd rather talk to the one who, you know, listens when I say things. You, on the other hand, have exactly two moods that I've ever seen: total whore or murderous idiot, and, uh, neither of those is of use to me now."
"Too bad. We're a package deal."
The Joker sighed, leaned down. His hair was less than an inch from brushing against Scarecrow's face, brown eyes boring into blue. "Jonathan."
Just one word, but it was enough to bring him back out. Damn the Joker for having that much power over him. Damn him for letting the Joker get close enough to have such power in the first place. The fact that he couldn't fully hate him, even after all the Joker had done, made him hate himself all the more.
"Welcome back." The Joker grinned. Apparently he could tell them apart by expression. Yet another reminder of how sickeningly close Crane had let him get. If he lived through this, he'd never made that mistake again. Trusting others was asking to be betrayed. "Jonny, could you do me a favor and make sure your split personality doesn't bother us again?"
"He's not a spli—"
"I know, I know, if he was you couldn't be aware of him and all that crap. But look, Sybil, there's a huge rift between the two of you and I think it's gotten wider since last I had the pleasure of speaking to him." He thought for a moment, eyes darting back and forth as his tongue ran over his lips. "Come to think of it, it's probably 'cause of me that it's wider." His smile broadened.
Crane was not at all surprised that the Joker would find exacerbating mental illness amusing. Not that he was mentally ill, but no one else seemed to understand that. "Why are you here?"
"Because." The Joker released Crane's wrist, stroking his face with one hand while he held him down with the other. "Je m'inquiète pour toi, mon ange."
"Am not." Judging by his tone, he was offended, but the hand brushing against Jonathan's face stayed soft as ever. Which, annoyingly, made staying awake that much harder. Stupid drugs, making falling asleep while been pinned down by a psychopath such an appealing prospect. "Look, I miss you, Jonny. We had fun together, didn't we?"
"You almost killed me." Jesus Christ. Was he going to kill him or not? Dying would certainly be better than listening to this crap. He had no interest in renewing their relationship, not now or ever. Well, somewhere deep, deep inside there was a part that might be interested, but he refused to ever let that part see the light of day.
"Yeah, yeah, and that's the point you always return to." The Joker sighed. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened."
"No, you're not. You never feel sorry for anything you've done."
"I didn't say I was sorry for my actions." He blinked, as if the concept of such a thing was entirely foreign to him. Which it probably was. "I'm sorry about the situation. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is about as good as it gets. So take it or leave it, Jonny."
"I'll leave it, thank you very much." Unbelievable. He actually expected all to be forgiven just because he'd 'apologized.' Stupid bastard.
"Look, I'm not expecting you to forgive me, scaredy cat. Just to talk to me again. Is that so much to ask?"
He sighed again, eyes showing what Crane would have believed was genuine hurt had it come from anyone else. "I've kept my promise, haven't I?"
The confused look was back. "Jonny? This isn't violating the agreement. I know you're rather, uh, medicated at the moment, but you must realize that I haven't done anything I promised I wouldn't."
His expression of anger and contempt immediately gave way to disgusted disbelief. "You promised you wouldn't sneak into my cell."
"No, I promised I wouldn't sneak into your cell and hurt you. And I haven't. I didn't even touch Scarecrow, though he wasn't covered under the promise and was absolutely asking for it." Having paused momentarily in confusion, he resumed stroking Crane's face. "So I haven't done anything I told you I wouldn't."
"I believe the promise covered emotional hurt as well." He turned his head away from the Joker's hand, and the Joker didn't follow.
"If this innocent little conversation is screwing up your feelings, that's hardly my fault. I'm being nice here, Jonny." The hand that had been stroking him took Crane's own, thumb running gently over the nail gun scar. "I've been nice, haven't I? Don't you like the pictures?"
"No." After he'd realized that the staff could do nothing to keep the pictures from his room, he'd tried taking them off the walls, only to find them back up each morning. Even when he'd tried ripping the drawings, or crumpling them up, they'd be back the next day, smoothed out and taped together.
"But they're a sign of affection. I'm going to make a thousand for you."
"Why a thousand?" he asked, though he knew he shouldn't encourage this.
"Because when you make a thousand drawings, you get a wish granted. Duh. And I wish for us to be friends again."
"First of all," he said, unable to keep from rolling his eyes. "If you tell wishes, they don't come true. And secondly, it's a thousand paper cranes, not a thousand drawings. Idiot."
"Oh." The corners of his mouth turned down slightly. "I don't know origami."
"Well, it doesn't matter, because I'm never being your friend again." It was bad enough that he'd been stupid enough to make the mistake once.
"You say that now. You try denying our connection when there's a thousand paper cranes backing me up." He was smiling again. "Cranes…I like that. That sort of coincidence means it's gotta work."
Wonderful. As if he didn't put up with enough scarecrow jokes from the clown, there were bird jokes now. "You could make a thousand cranes from aluminum foil, if you wanted, and I still would not be your friend."
The Joker stared, tilted his head. "Why aluminum foil?"
Idiot. "Because it tears easily. It'd be harder."
"Ah. Well, the point is, I'm going to find a way to reconcile things between us. Don't worry, it'll be so wonderful you won't even be mad about the whole 'trying to kill you' business."
"Right." He yawned. "Somehow, I doubt that."
"Oh ye of little faith." The Joker squeezed his hand, but not painful. "You can go back to sleep now. I just wanted you to know that I'm gonna be your friend again, even if it kills us both."
If he was a little less tired and a little more suicidal, he would have hit him. "I'm not going to sleep with you sitting on top of me."
"Oh. Right." He shifted off, lying down beside Crane to hug him again. "How's that?"
Would the audacity never cease? "I'm not sleeping with you here at all, stupid."
"That's real nice, Jonny." He hugged tighter. "Now I'm not leaving until you go to sleep."
"Well then, I guess we'll both just lie here until we die."
The Joker laughed. "Somehow, I doubt that." His hand was stroking Crane's hair again, and he was humming something which Crane realized, after a moment's thought, was the song "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins.
"I really hate you." It was getting harder to keep his eyes open. He supposed closing them wouldn't be that much of a problem, as long as his mind stayed alert.
"I know. You won't forever, though."
"Will so." The words were slurred, slightly. Crane wished he could bring himself to care.
"No, you won't, Jonny. Hell, I bet you don't even completely hate me now." Receiving no response for a long moment, he loosened his grip slightly, shifted to stare at his companion. Crane's eyes were closed, his breathing slower. "Looks like I was right."
Jonathan, being asleep, didn't argue. The Joker sat up, kissed him on the forehead, and made his way out.
AN: The fat unicorn in the Joker's drawing is a reference to a fan art done for my story Act Like We Are Fools by sapzberry. It's a picture of the Joker sleeping, and on the wall there's a drawing of a unicorn. It's on her Deviantart account, her username there is atroxbasium if you care to see it.
'Brainless' refers to The Wizard of Oz. 'Sybil' refers to the book/movie Sybil, the true story of a woman with sixteen personalities.
What the Joker says in French is "I care about you, my angel." Thanks to Jaensdenim for the translation!