AN: Thanks for the reviews!
It had been seven days last night.
A week, back in Arkham. Seven days, seven nights, one hundred and sixty-eight hours, ten thousand and eight minutes, six hundred and four thousand, eight hundred seconds in the asylum. A week, without a glimpse of either of them, Batman or Bruce. And every day of that week made his hope slip that much more.
It hadn't been a bad week, by other standards. He hadn't had any troubles from the orderlies or the other patients, and his friends had been much more understanding in the "I Don't Want to Talk About It" department than he would have ever guessed, after a stern talk from Leland. Not that Isley hadn't grabbed him and demanded answers, but she'd calmed down once Nigma and Tetch pried her off. Even the therapy sessions hadn't been…well, they were still bad, as he hated therapy, but not nightmarish. And Joan had taken being told about Scarecrow surprisingly well.
Surprisingly being subjective, of course. It wasn't as if she said "Oh, you have another person in your head? Don't worry about that, honey, it's not important." It hadn't been the reaction he'd been searching for when he told her. Truth be told, he had no idea what reaction he had been hoping for. Only that it had seemed important to say, despite how much he didn't want to, if he wanted to make the sort of progress the asylum would accept as proof of a cure. They'd had too much bad publicity with the criminal inmates in the past. They weren't going to release him without intense scrutiny, and Jonathan had never been much of an actor.
No, Joan had gone all wide-eyed, biting her lips and looking as if she was restraining herself from speech while he explained. Jonathan couldn't say that he blamed her. It had to be shocking enough to find out that the man she'd worked with was experimenting on their patients, and weird enough that she ended up treating him. Certainly it was beyond uncomfortable on his side of the fence. And on top of all that, now he'd informed her that he'd had a second half that had been speaking to him his entire life, and could take control after the poisoning. A bit much to take in, to say the least.
Joan hadn't reacted with dismay, though, only worry, and he was grateful for that. She'd listened in silence, and had only asked one question once he was through. "So, does…Scarecrow want to participate in our sessions?"
He shook his head. "No. Not now, anyway."
Joan nodded, moved as if to hold his hand, but reconsidered and only patted it. "Thank you for sharing this with me, Jonathan."
Then she'd written something down for his file—presumably the voice in the head bit—and led him to his latest cell. She'd raised the subject of Scarecrow again in their first session the next day, yes, but only to ask if Jonathan would be comfortable talking about him. Not necessarily his birth, just their relationship in general.
He'd said yes. Sometimes that seemed like an innocent enough decision, and other times it made him break into a cold sweat, wondering if he hadn't opened the door for his best friend to be wiped away. Those were the sort of thoughts he tried to avoid.
It had been easier to avoid sinking into anxiety when he'd only been there for a day or two. Then he could remind himself that Bruce's butler had him technically housebound, and that he was injured besides—the sex, as Jonathan always found himself thinking with a blush, couldn't have been good for the stitches—but as the days went by he got the nagging sense that Bruce ought to have snuck out by now. Selfish, yes, but he couldn't help it. The thought of Batman's visits were the only thing that kept him going through most of the day, but the visits weren't happening.
Someone's hand was stroking his hair. He followed the hand to the wrist, and up the arm to meet Harley's concerned expression. They were seated in the rec room, all of them, himself on the end of the couch, flanked by Isley on one side and Harley on the other, and herself beside the couch on top of the Joker.
The Joker had been returned to the asylum six days ago—by Batman, no less, couldn't Bruce have made some excuse to get inside and say hello?—and placed in a wheelchair, as the staff had wisely decided that giving him crutches would be asking for someone to be bludgeoned. Ordinarily, the Joker would have taken anything with wheels as an invitation for chaos, racing down the halls or colliding into orderlies and patients for the fun of it, but the Joker's temperament had changed drastically since Jonathan had last seen him. He refused to speak to anyone, even Harley, and wouldn't do so much as open his mouth. Jonathan had caught the clown glaring at him more times than he could count over the past week, looking as if he was bursting to say something but never getting around to it. He just sat, sulking, his fury incredibly evident without the paint to mask his features. Everyone, staff included, considered the silence a marked improvement. Everyone except Harley, of course.
She had spent the past six days never leaving his side unless she was forced to, hovering over him, hanging off him, or sitting on top of him, whenever she could maneuver her way into the chair. At first it was out of worry, trying to get him to tell her what had happened, or speak at all, or eat more. At some point, Harley had realized he wasn't going to answer no matter how much she persisted, and now Jonathan suspected she was clinging to him just because she liked the closeness.
Jonathan was busy being disturbed by what Bruce could possibly have done to shut the Joker up. Assuming it had been Batman to silence him. And not something else. Something worse, that Batman was up against now that he'd discovered it. God only knew what danger he could be putting himself in. Tears threatened to form in Jonathan's eyes and he blinked rapidly to dry them. "Yes, Harley?"
"What's wrong?" She hadn't stopped stroking his hair.
Someone was holding his opposite hand. Isley. "It's not nothing."
A sigh. Jonathan wondered just how badly they'd respond to "I'm in a relationship with the Batman and I'm anxious because he hasn't come to visit yet." Very badly, by his guess. The Joker was already glaring at him as if he wanted to tear his throat out. "No, it isn't. But it's…irrational, and there's nothing to be done about it."
Harley moved her hand from his hair to his face. "You can tell us anything, you know."
No, I can't. "Really. This is something I need to work out on my own."
She nodded and lowered her hand, though Isley still held his. "You can talk to me if you ever need to, okay?"
Jonathan barely had time to say yes before the Joker harrumphed loudly, his mouth still closed, and jerked the chair away so suddenly that Harley nearly fell off his lap, pushing himself out of the rec room. What's his problem?
Who cares? Scarecrow answered, and Jonathan was inclined to agree. At least he's leaving us alone.
True, and life would be, well, not perfect, but good if Bruce wasn't doing the same thing. His mind went racing through the possibilities again. The Joker had somehow injured him—
He couldn't have, Scarecrow argued, though it sounded more perfunctory than assured. He's the one who dropped the Joker off.
Someone else injured him—
If he was bedridden, he'd have found a way to deliver a message. His butler may hate us, but he has the CEO, and he would have instructed one of them to tell us if anything bad happened.
The butler won't let him see us, or he's stopping the messages—
The butler doesn't like us, but he wouldn't be that cruel. Not to Bruce. Probably.
Scarecrow, what if he's tired of us?
He's not. Don't say that!
Jonathan couldn't tell if Scarecrow was honestly convinced that Bruce wouldn't abandon them, or if he said it so harshly because he wanted to force himself to believe it. Sad, really, that he didn't know whether or not he was lying to himself. I'm sorry.
He'll be here. He has to be.
Maybe Scarecrow was right. There was no harm in hoping, apart from a broken heart, and he'd rather have that later than now. For all he knew, Bruce had a perfectly legitimate reason for his absence. After all, he was insanely busy without throwing a genuine love interest into the mix, between work, heroing, and socializing, all of which he was supposed to be banned from. But then, he'd broken that rule to bring the Joker back.
Why won't he break it for me?
No. That sort of thought would lead to nothing, apart from pain. And that couldn't be the reason. Even if Bruce had tired of him—which he hadn't, the thought was insane—he was a decent person. He would have told Jonathan if he'd decided to break things up. Or sent a letter, if he couldn't do it face to face. He wouldn't leave him hanging like this.
Maybe he's trying to do this legitimately, Scarecrow suggested. His voice sounded hopeful, but the hope sounded forced.
Maybe he's waiting a week because that's what you told him patients do, and he wants to follow the rules as closely as possible to help us adjust.
So he'd be here tonight?
Jonathan considered it. It would be far too much of a risk to visit in the day, when there were doctors and nurses and orderlies and so many others to witness the interaction and raise questions about just how Bruce Wayne got to know Jonathan so well. But he still had a penchant for the rules…it made sense. Maybe he is. He leaned against Isley. She didn't question it, and he turned his head toward the window, waiting for the sun to go down. It was only eleven.
Arkham had once been the only place he'd felt at home, once he'd adjusted to his anger at the captivity. Now, for the first time since his incarceration after the League of Shadows, when he'd become lucid enough to recognize where he was, he wanted to go home again. Not to the apartment he'd lived in before the experiments had been found out, as he once pined for, but back to the mansion. To think that he'd been willing to slice at his own skin and go off the meds to get out of there, once upon a time.
It hadn't been bad, per se, being here, but he could hardly call it good. He hadn't spoken honestly and freely in a session since his time with Harley—and even that had been a result of the Joker's threats, at the beginning—and it was even more bizarre now. With Harley, he'd been speaking to a friend. He didn't know what the sessions with Joan were, whether she genuinely wanted to help him or if she was just trying to treat one of the super criminals, finally get one out, whether she respected his wish to keep Scarecrow around, or if she was trying to undermine their relationship bit by bit. It was terrifying, the worry through each session and afterwards, reviewing all that he'd said and wondering where he could have slipped up.
But the sessions themselves, apart from his fear, weren't bad. Just…talking. Not even about anything in particular, or anything serious. Not yet. Joan hadn't addressed where he'd been in his absence, or how he'd gotten the medication. They'd just talked.
He couldn't tell if that was good or bad. It was frightening, but part of him…part of him didn't hate it.
For a second, he'd thought Isley had spoken, but when he raised his head to look at her, she met his eyes with a questioning glance. He looked forward, to find a nurse standing in front of the couch, young and new and looking entirely disconcerted. "Yes?"
"You have a visitor."
His heart seemed to stop for a moment, eyes widening and body going rigid. Isley had noticed, from what he could see of her in his peripheral vision, and Nigma shifted beside her, but he couldn't bring himself to care what his friends thought of this reaction. Bruce. It's Bruce. He doesn't care about his reputation. But it couldn't be. It was too much of a risk. True, the nurse looked wide-eyed and possibly star struck, but that could indicate a reporter, for all he knew, someone who'd managed to charm his way past security and flirt into getting a visit. There was no sense in getting his hopes up, only to be dashed. Still…
The door to the rec room opened.
Visitors met with patients in a different room, appropriately titled the visitation lounge, also populated with a television, couches, books, and the rest, but slightly smaller and further down the hall. They met in the lounge, the patient's room, or the cafeteria, and were allowed nowhere else—apart from the restrooms—without an employee escort. It was a policy Jonathan himself had enacted, after a woman visiting her husband had been groped by a patient and threatened a lawsuit. Walking into the rec room unescorted was absolutely not allowed.
Unless the person in question happened to be one of the few investors left at Arkham, and the most generous to boot.
Bruce Wayne stood in the doorway, looking polished and professional and entirely out of place. He scanned the room, stopping and breaking into a smile when his eyes reached the couch. Jonathan sat, unable to move. His friends beside him had noticed the intrusion, were speaking, asking him questions, but he didn't hear them. The nurse in front of him turned, began nervously, "Mr. Wayne, visitors really aren't supposed to—"
"Bruce." He was standing. He wasn't sure when that had happened. Maybe it had been Scarecrow's influence.
Jonathan was never quite sure, in the time after that first meeting, what excuses he had made to Joan and his friends for knowing Bruce Wayne, let alone being overjoyed at the sight of him and running across the room to throw himself into the Prince of Gotham's arms. It was a blur, as was the rest of the visit itself. The only clear memory he had of that first visit—though he calmed enough to remember the many, many other visitations once it was clear that he hadn't been abandoned—was the hug, and the quiet whispers of "I love you" into each other's ears before the others could get close enough to listen in. Bruce had held him, managing somehow to look calm and natural as he did, and it was his coolness that had saved them. Immediately after the initial shock had passed his friends circled around them, bewildered and questioning, but he didn't answer, not a word to anyone but his love until Bruce had gone. To be honest, he didn't even remember their words, only the sight of Bruce smiling and everyone else's confounded faces. It hadn't been important, because at that moment, Bruce was there, and Bruce was holding him, and that was the only thing that mattered in the world.
AN: The Joker's too concerned with losing his street cred per the missing teeth to pick on Jonny. Well, that and I'm sure Batsy threatened him with lots of "interfere with Jonathan's progress and I'll give up Batman forever" type nonsense.
I can't believe this fic is finally over, after the start all the way back in May. I've had a great time writing it, even if there were times I had to force myself when the motivation ran out, and I'd never have been able to motivate a hundred chapters onto this laptop if not for all the support I got in reviews, fan art, and PMs. Anyone who's read this far, regardless of reviews, has been a real supporter and you all deserve a thank you. I'm not being facetious when I say I wouldn't have made it without you, and thanks for all the feedback.
I do have another sequel planned to this, in the form of a one shot, but it won't be the next thing I write (though I will try to write it soon) as I've had another idea kicking around my head for several months now, just dying to get out. I'll start on the next fic as soon as possible, and I should warn you that the next fic will be in a different continuity, as in not tying in with the series I've been writing. It's also got the longest title of any of my fics, abbreviated as TDATNTAMS.
Happy New Year, everyone, and once again, thank you for reading!