A/N: Not a part of my Complete Me story arc, just a oneshot that had been chasing around my head for a while. A look at Joker after he comes through Arkham.


Joker knew exactly how he got his scars. Always. That wasn't to say the truth didn't change with the circumstances. It wasn't his fault if what was true once wasn't true the next time he told the story. The Arkham doctors hadn't seen it that way. A shattered and fragmented memory, they'd said, shaking their heads and scribbling more notes on those damned clipboards. Signs of greater psychological damage. Greater than we can handle by conventional means. Drastic steps are needed.

Change the face, change the man.

Now they considered him cured, the same way a declawed cat was cured, no longer a threat. You're free, they'd said, shooing him into the street, you're healed and we obviously can't give you your suit or knives back, too much chance of a relapse (relapse, like it was some disease) but you're free (for the most part). Go live your life (under supervision, of course). We'll check on you in a few days to make sure you haven't killed anyone (ignore the leash. Pretend it's not there. Everyone else does). They'd even been kind enough to give him an apartment for a month, two unused rooms in an old tenement in the Narrows, until he could rejoin the rat race and find a job. How generous.

He glared at his reflection in the pane of mirrored glass above the sink. A stranger glared back.

That wasn't him, no, it couldn't be. This stranger had the same kind of face as him, true, same eyes even, but that man's brassy hair was cropped short and clean, and no scars gouged their way up those narrow cheekbones. No thick, white makeup smeared his face, a fresh canvas for the day's tricks to come. This poor fool didn't have a mask to cover himself with. He was stuck being just one person all the time, the moron.

It was his fault.

Damn that Wayne brat. Snot-nosed little bastard thought he could throw his money around and people would fall down at his feet, struck blind by his dazzling shark-white smile. He thought he could do whatever he wanted and have whatever he wanted, people included. It had been his idea to have him pumped full of drugs until he couldn't move, and strapped to a gurney just to make sure. His idea to hire a team of overpaid quacks to poke and prod him and cut his face apart. To erase his scars as easily as wiping a countertop clean. As easily as blotting out the past.

True, he didn't really like them. They made it difficult to talk or move his mouth, and sometimes they split open again, sending fresh cascades of blood mixing with the red paint smeared across his cheeks. They were ugly, and uncomfortable, and drew stares and shrieks wherever he went. But they were him. His. And no one else had any right to get rid of them.

Damn Wayne and all the smug, self-righteous little Arkham twits. They'd consider him a job well done, a hard case finally solved, and congratulate themselves as they postured and posed for all the prestigious magazines clamoring to hear about their work with the undone bogeyman, the redomesticated clown. Thanks to them, babies could sleep safely at night, and children could play outside. The heroes of the city, and didn't they know it. They thought they could tame him, cure him, and release him into the wild again, muzzled and collared, to take his place with all the rest of the little society pets, scurrying around like cockroaches bumping against the glass.

He crossed the tiny, musty room with two strides of his long legs and rummaged around in the single tattered cardboard box of odds and ends he'd purchased or found or been given. For a new start, they'd said. Not much of a start. A few pairs of hand-me-down jeans, most of them too big on his wiry frame, and some shirts and toiletries. The only shoes were a pair of faded sneakers lying in the corner like dead things. They were no good, those sneakers, nothing like his shoes before, the stylish leather shoes with a lovely shiny surprise in the toe. These wouldn't do at all.

He finally found what he was looking for, shoved under a plastic pack of convenience-store underwear. It fit snugly into the palm of his hand, the plastic handle fat and gleaming yellow even in the dim light of the single bulb. Thin strips of black rubber snaked across it, like some enormous man-made bumblebee. He could feel them squeaking under his fingers as he pressed down with his thumb. Even bumblebees have stingers.

Why call it a box cutter? he wondered, drawing the grooved tab of plastic forward. The triangular blade emerged like a shark's fin, hooked and predatory. It didn't matter what you called it, whether you claimed it was just a tool for something innocent, like cutting apart cardboard. When all was said and done, it was still a knife.

The blade emerged fully, gleaming dully in the straw-colored glow from the dimming bulb. He watched the light play over the edge of it, fascinated. Moving as if in a daze, he walked back across the creaking floorboards to the only other room and flicked the light on. It illuminated the dirty shower and dirtier toilet, but he ignored both, leaning close to the dingy, flyspecked mirror only a handbreadth from the door.

Now his movements were quick, jerky, anxious, as he brought the blade up and placed the tip of it at the still-tender corner of his mouth. A single, quick movement. A split-second of pure bliss. Pain.

A thought occurred to him as he doubled against the cracked sink, breathing harshly through his nose against the shuddering lump of agony in his belly. It made him laugh, and he almost choked on the laughter, the warm copper of blood mixing in his mouth with the oily tang of steel, as he brought the box cutter up once more and drew the blade sleekly through the unresisting flesh.

This time, he'd know how he got them.


A/N: Let me know what you think. Any and all reviews are welcomed!