Joker's Biography  
 
Biography of a Joker

Bottou-chan

My Page

Author's Note:
Arigatou to Chris for helping me with this! I tried two or three other formats before I finally settled on this one which he suggested. He also helped with some of the questions. You also might notice that some parts of his high-school life have been taken from Fuuko no Miko's depiction in the Reunion story. ^_^ Also, for those of you who don't know what a slave bracelet is, it's something you can find in the (Asian) Indian jewelry shops... it's a tight-fitting bracelet, with some sort of ornamentation which lies over the hand, and then there are five finger-rings to go over your thumb and fingers. The rings are attached to the ornament by little chains. FYI, to help you visualize. -Bottou-chan



 

Bottou-chan knocked on the door of the Uruha mansion. She stepped back and waited patiently. Finally, the door opened a crack. It was Neon.

"Ahh... you're right on time! For once," smiled Neon, opening the door a little wider. "Come on in."

"There wasn't any traffic today," replied Bottou-chan, her laptop tucked safely under an arm. She wandered inside. "Where is he?"

"He's in the main parlor," said Neon, as Raiha joined them in the hallway. He glanced down at Bottou-chan's right hand.

"Good. You're wearing it," he smiled in approval.

"It itches," confided Bottou-chan, rubbing her fingers absently. She wasn't used to wearing slave bracelets.

"It's more than worth it," Neon assured her. "Don't worry... it's for your own good. We wouldn't want our dear Joker-san to pull a fast one on his biggest fan, ne?"

Raiha returned her innocent smile. "Not that our Joker-san would try anything like that," he agreed. "But just in case, ne?"

Bottou-chan flashed them a knowing grin. "Don't worry," she assured them. "It'll stay on."

"Right this way," said Neon in a louder voice, opening a door. She allowed Bottou-chan to enter the parlor, and then withdrew, shutting the door firmly behind her.

Joker was standing nervously by the fireplace, his hands clasped behind him. "Oi! Bottou-chan!" he said, making his way across the room to give her a brief hug. "Good to see you made it. On time, even!"

"No traffic," repeated Bottou-chan. "Is there an outlet for this...?"

"Yeah..." Within moments, the laptop was loading up, and Joker offered her something to drink. "We've got Coke; cherry Coke; rum and Coke; Crown and Coke; spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and Coke..." He flashed her a weak grin.

"Err... just a regular Coke would be good. With lots of ice... arigatou." She accepted it, and they sat down opposite one another. "What's the matter?" she asked in some concern. "You don't seem to be your usual cheerful self."

He glanced around furtively. "Just between you and me... I'm a bit nervous," he confided. "I've never had anyone want to write my biography. It's a bit intimidating."

"Nonsense. It's just me," said Bottou-chan firmly. "We've worked together tons of times... you should be used to this by now."

He clasped and unclasped his hands. "Yeah... but those were all fiction. This is a biography. What if all my hordes of fans suddenly think that their beloved mysterious Joker doesn't have an interesting past? That it was just too perfect? After all, how could anything less than perfection produce the wonderful specimen I am today? Or what if my drooling fangirls get intimidated by my way cool history? What if they grow disheartened by the legions of women loved and left by myself over the course of time?"

Bottou-chan took a sip of her Coke. "Why don't we start at the beginning?" she suggested. Her eyes fell guiltily on the slave bracelet. Joker hadn't noticed it, fortunately. "Your childhood. Where were you born?"

"Osaka."

Bottou-chan raised her eyes towards the ceiling for a moment, then prodded. "Tell me more about your background. Your mom. Your dad. Your early childhood. I can't write a biography starting, 'He was born in Osaka' and then jump to your being Jyushinshuu and talking to me."

"Oi! For a koibito, you're not very understanding," sulked Joker. "But all right... I'll oblige." He flashed her the fanged grin in the hopes it would inspire her to treat him more nicely. The fanged grin never failed, right? Women were putty, right? He hoped. "My mother was Kasamatsu Chieko, of Tokyo. My father was Odokemono Kuniyoshi, a Naval officer from Osaka. They had been married for four years when I was born. My real name is Odokemono Hiroji, but if anyone calls me that nowadays, I'm not responsible for the consequences."
 

Images flashed through Bottou-chan's mind. A beautiful, smiling woman picking up a little messy-haired toddler wearing a sailor suit. A tall, handsome Naval officer joining his wife and son and posing for a picture. The little boy looked so happy... he smiled and laughed cheerfully at the cameraman as he snapped a photo.
 

It works, she thought, looking at the bracelet again. Not just any bracelet... the Kioku. It channeled the thoughts of one who was being questioned.

"Now, when I was little, I loved my ka-chan," said Joker, reminiscing. "My father was often times on ship duty, so he wasn't around too much. I loved him too, yeah, but not as much as ka-chan. But ka-chan was sick... she was taking medication for it, but she was still always sick."
 

A scrawny little boy with short black hair, amber eyes, and fangs appeared in Bottou-chan's mind. He looked to be about five years old, and held on to his mother's hand as they did their grocery shopping.
"Ka-chan! Can you buy ice cream for dessert tonight?" he asked hopefully, giving his mother puppy-dog eyes and hoping they were effective.
"Hiroji-chan... we can't afford it right now," she said, affectionately touseling his hair. "Perhaps later, after my medication stops."
Hiroji pouted. "I wish the medicine wasn't so expensive. Then we could have ice cream." He looked eagerly up at his mother. "Get better, ka-chan, so we can buy ice cream again!"
 

A frown crossed Joker's face. "But she died when I was seven. I was very upset... I loved my ka-chan... and Dad was always out on the ship. So I had to take care of myself pretty much. But it was no big deal to me that he wasn't around. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I never got lonely or anything. I had tons of friends to play with, and I loved to read. The other kids respected me a lot, for putting up with all the junk I did. Plus, they admired me for being so smart."
 

Hiroji was seven. He was still the same scrawny little kid, with short black hair, amber eyes, and fangs. But his large, soft eyes were full of tears, and he kept wiping ineffectually at his runny nose. Some larger boys were taunting him.
"Hiroji-kun is a crybaby," chanted one.
"Hiroji-kun is a momma's boy," teased another.
"Hiroji-kun is teacher's pet," scowled a third.
The little boy burst into tears again, escaping back into his house, locking the door behind him. He slid against a wall, bawling as though his heart would break. Eventually, he pulled a book from a bookshelf and began reading.
 

"An aunt came over to help take care of me, even though I didn't need it. She was a very pleasant person, but I wanted to be around my friends. So I found myself out on the streets a lot, and it really helped toughen me up. From the beginning, those people instantly accepted me as their leader. Their superior. And I grew more and more feared as time went on."
 

"Hiroji-kun! You can't stay in here forever!" scowled a large woman, her beefy hands placed on her hips. "Get out of the house and come back at dinnertime... go play!"
Hiroji dragged his feet as he walked outside reluctantly. There were other children there... a predatory gleam lit up in their eyes when they saw him bouncing a ball against his garage door. One of them darted in and grabbed the ball before he could stop him. When he tried to take the ball back, the others pushed him to the ground. Hiroji scraped his knees and began crying, provoking more taunts. Infuriated, Hiroji catapaulted himself against one of his tormentors, knocking the boy to the ground. His victim ended up skinning his own knees and bruising his rear end. He howled, and the others ganged up on Hiroji, beating him up for having hurt one of their own. He ended up with a black eye and countless bruises...

The scene shifted in a swirl of colors.

Hiroji, perhaps a year later, was standing off by himself in the schoolyard. A little girl was whispering to her friend about him nearby. "Did you hear about Hiroji-kun? He got detention... he beat up Gozairu's friends all by himself when they wouldn't let him on the swings... one of them broke a tooth, and two of them had sprained ankles." Hiroji heard them, and gave them a severe look. His amber eyes flashed them a silent message. The two little girls' eyes widened. They had been overheard by the Odokemono Hiroji... they fled. Bottou-chan could hear the young Hiroji thinking, 'Yeah, you run away... you tell people not to mess with me. 'Cause I won't take it.' He scowled to himself and kicked a stone.
 

Joker continued to speak. It wasn't hard once one began, now, was it? "As a matter of fact, I got so tough, the other kids were scared of me. Like they thought I was a bully or something. And so around junior high... I guess I was twelve... I decided I wanted to change my reputation. I didn't want to just be feared... I wanted to be liked. Admired. Emulated. It's no fun when people just run from you, ne?" He frowned.
 

"Ermm... Odokemono-san, are you sure you want to join the Yearbook Club?" The counselor looked at him doubtfully.
"Yeah." Hiroji's eyes were hidden behind a pair of shades now. His hair had grown slightly longer, and was still rather unruly.
"And you're signed up for the basketball team..."
"I passed the test," shrugged Hiroji.
"And you've signed up for the Tennis Club..."
"So I like playing tennis," scowled Hiroji.
"And you've signed up for the Literary Club?"
"So I like to write. Do you have a problem?" demanded Hiroji challengingly.
"Oh, no, Odokemono-san. You've got excellent grades... but your student record is marred by a, erm, a serious discipline problem. I'm afraid that by spreading yourself so thin over so many clubs, your grades will drop... and you'll have, erm, a larger possibility for getting into trouble."
Hiroji slid his shades down his nose just far enough to gaze solemnly at the counselor. "So I want to get involved for once," he shrugged. "If I don't like it, I'll drop out. But I want a chance."
 

"By high school," said Joker, oblivious to the scenarios flashing through the writer's mind, "I had the best of both worlds. I had established myself as someone who you didn't want to mess with... and I was popular enough so that people wouldn't want to mess with me. It was really great. I was involved in all kinds of things in high school... tennis... basketball...creative writing... soccer... the yearbook...the photography club... the school newspaper."

Bottou-chan raised an eyebrow. "How did you find time for all that?"

"I was a dedicated invidual!" said Joker, striking a pose. "Amazing that I found time for friends at all... but there was only that pesky aunt back home, so there really wasn't much incentive for me to be anywhere besides school."
 

"Ma, Odokemono-san... matte!" It was Narazaki Satsuki, and Hiroji turned to look at her. His hair was longer by this time, caught back in a little ponytail.
"Yeah? Keep up," he said, turning slightly, but not breaking stride. "What do you need?"
"I'm doing the story on the Christmas dance," she said. "Could you take some pictures for it?"
"Sure," said Hiroji. "No problem." He stopped by his locker and began to work the combination.
"And... um... you wanna be my date?" she smiled hopefully up at him.
If this had been four years ago, he would have laughed at her and said there was no way. But he had an image of friendliness to keep up. "Gomen," he said, "But I've already got a date." He lied. With a bigger grin, he added, "If you want a date with the Odokemono Hiroji, you've got to pencil yourself in sooner than later. Do you have any idea how many women have been falling over themselves to ask me to the dance?"
Satsuki's face fell. "Oh. Well, ja ne!" and she ran off.
Hiroji opened his locker, and a note fell out. It had a little heart-sticker on the envelope, with Suzuko's name on the outside. Asanuma Suzuko... a year younger than he was. She was on the women's tennis team, played flute in the band, and worked with him on the school newspaper. She had lovely long red hair and a charming personality. Unfortunately, Suzuko was standing nearby and had heard his conversation with Satsuki. Her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, and she quickly retrieved the note from his hands, scurrying away and leaving him standing there.
He hadn't been able to read the note, but he knew what it would have said. And he quietly cursed himself.
He had ended up taking someone else to the dance. It wasn't hard-- he was popular, after all. The girl was cute, but she wasn't Suzuko.::
 
 

"By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to major in physics. I've always had an interest in that kind of thing, back to when I was a little kid," continued Joker, refilling his Coke and splashing some rum into it. "So I went to the college there... nothing much happened in college. I graduated with honors... I learned a lot about people. I saw a lot of girls, but never was very serious with anyone. There was never anyone who really touched the right chord..." He gazed off at the ceiling quietly for a moment, and the only sound was the steady clatter of Bottou-chan's fingers on the keyboard.
 

Suzuko's eyes were full of tears. "What did you think you were doing?" she asked, her voice soft, although she was furious. "Did you think I wouldn't find out?"
"Relax, Suzuko-chan! Do you really think I'd toss you aside for that little creep? But Satsuki's been bugging me since high school... and I needed her help to pass that political science class. Otherwise, it'll screw up my GPA, and I won't graduate summa cum laude. She was easy. No big deal. The Final's over with, and so I'm finished with her. Case closed."
"No big deal," replied Suzuko, looking numb. "Hiroji-kun, you're just absolutely clueless, aren't you! Do you have any idea how I felt when I saw you two together? She was crawling all over you... and you did absolutely nothing to discourage her. And if what you were doing wasn't encouragement... I'd hate to see what you think encouragement is."
"But that's all she was doing... just crawling," Hiroji hastened to assure her. "Relax... I just used her. And if she knew that, I doubt she'd even care. Why should you? Be happy with the results, and let's move on." His shades had been discarded off to the side, and he was gazing earnestly into her eyes.
"Have you been using me, too, all these years?" demanded Suzuko ferociously.
"Baka! Suzuko-chan! You know you mean too much for me to think of using you..." He attempted to clasp her hands between his own, but she shook his hands away. "I love you, Suzuko-chan. I want to marry you when you graduate. Just one more year... one more year."
"Gomen, Hiroji-kun," said Suzuko. "But... but... just seeing you two together have raised a lot of doubts in my mind." There were tears in her eyes. "You looked like it didn't matter at all... like she was just as good as me... I don't think I could handle something like that happening again."
"It won't happen again, Suzuko-chan, I promise-" he began, but she cut him off.
"I don't care anymore," she told him, twisting off the little diamond ring which sparkled on her hand. She pressed it into his hand, closing his fingers around it. "You can do whatever you want now."
 

"No one touched the right chord, h'm?" asked Bottou-chan, gazing at him thoughtfully.

He shook his head firmly. "Nope. Anyhow, I graduated, got a job. But I wasn't really very happy... There was something missing from my life. I went to a museum one day, and I found this Taishaku Kaiten. It was on loan from an anonymous donor... I went and talked to the donor, and bought it from him. The silly guy didn't know what it did, or what it was. But I knew, somehow... instinctively... that it was meant for me."
 

Nanami stood in the doorway of the museum's collections area. "What do you think you're doing." Hiroji jumped, startled. He wasn't supposed to be there... but this was no time to be intimidated. "Put it back. Get out of here. Get out of the museum... get out of my life." There were tears on her face.
"It's mine," he said, holding the Taishaku Kaiten to himself. His bangs had grown to the point of obscuring his face, and his small ponytail had grown into short rasta braids by this time. The Museum was holding a costume ball, and he had come dressed as a joker. "You leave... you forget you ever saw this... and you won't get hurt."
"Too late for that," she said, laughing bitterly. "You and your silly little toy. That's all it is to you. A shiny object that you want. That's more important to you than my feelings. You never cared about me, did you?" The tears were welling up and she was choking on the words now. "All you did was use me. You used me so you could have your shiny toy. Well, I'm not going to let you--!" She lunged at him, clawing angrily at his face, and with one fluid motion, he had scooped her between the prongs of the Taishaku Kaiten and had hurled her down the corridor. She hit the wall with an ugly thud, and slid motionless to the floor.
Hiroji walked past her, gazing down indifferently. She was still alive... still breathing. Dangerous. But he would let her live. The poor girl never had a chance against him, anyways.
 

"After that, I got my costume and my whole Joker persona developed," he explained.

"Why so?" asked Bottou-chan, looking up from the computer screen. "Isn't it kind of strange... just leaving your whole past life behind because you obtained a madougu?" She eyed him carefully.

He glared. "I felt like it."

"That's not much of an answer..."

"That's all the answer you're going to get," he returned smugly. "What, you think I'm holding back on you?"

"I'm your biographer," pointed out Bottou-chan. "You've got to be candid with me... no half-truths."

Joker looked innocently at her. "Like I would try and lie to my biggest fan!" The fangs again. "Anyhow, I went and practiced with my Taishaku Kaiten for a while, and became very expert in it. It was just... natural. Maybe in a past life, I possessed it or something." He shrugged. "But you don't need to write that part out... Anyhow, I picked a fight with Jisho, and Kurei came up to me and offered to allow me into his Uruha."
 

"You fight well," remarked Kurei, over a glass of wine. He and Joker had both removed their masks.
Joker laughed. "It was just playing for me," he said confidently. "I can do much, much more than that."
"Would you care to join us?" asked Kurei, gazing thoughtfully at the newcomer.
Joker smiled. "I fought him because I wanted to talk to you," he said. "But if you want me to join... you'll have to agree to two conditions."
Kurei raised an eyebrow. "There are few who would negotiate with me. But I'm amused... I'll hear you out."
"I want my freedom," said Joker, leaning forward intently. "I want to do what I want... with no problems. And secondly, I don't want to have to use any respectful honorifics... Kurei-han."
Kurei laughed. "Most people would ask for a little more than that. I believe that could be arranged... welcome to our little group."
 

"And so I got accepted into the Uruha. After a short probationary period, I was accepted into the Jyushinshuu. Now, Neon-han was attracted to me right from the beginning. She wasn't anyone special to me at first, of course, because I was used to being mobbed by adoring women."
 

He was laughing and talking, dressed up for one of Mori Kouran's formal parties. Joker and several other of the Uruha were there incognito, as Kurei's bodyguard. He caught a flash of red hair out of the corner of his eye and made his way towards the source.
"Ermmm-- excuse me?" he asked, reaching out and grabbing someone by the hand. The woman turned and looked at him coldly.
"Do you mind?" she asked, retrieving her hand. "Oh, it's you."
"Ah, gomen. I thought you were someone else," said Joker, looking a bit disappointed. "You reminded me of someone I used to know... have we met?"
"I've seen you around," said Neon, for it was she. "You haven't met me, though. I'm Neon... one of the others."
"The others."
"One of THE others," she stressed, annoyed by his apparent density.
"Ahhh..."
"You know, you really need a haircut."
"You shouldn't make personal remarks."
"You shouldn't come up and grab people. You might get a black eye."
"You want to dance?"
"You've got to be kidding. Excuse me, but I'm busy watching over Kurei-sama. Like you should be."
"Ah, c'mon. We can have some fun. If you're really lucky, we can have lots of fun." He flashed her the fanged grin.
Neon rolled her eyes. To the girl standing to her left, she remarked, "Aki, remind me to ask Kurei-sama not to send me on any missions with this freak."
"I can see you're writhing in hopeless unconfessed admiration of myself," he grinned. 'Wow, she's fun to rile!' he thought. 'I'm going to have fun wreaking havoc in this one's life...'
 
 

"Anyhow, because it's so difficult for us to get into any real relationships within the Uruha, it was difficult for Neon-han and myself to allow our mutual attraction to blossom into a relationship. We found time to be together... but like I said, it was difficult. Love isn't in the life of an Uruha assassin, let alone for the Jyushinshuu. Besides the fact that Mori Kouran had this thing about viewing it as a weakness. But we found time to murmur our endearments and give vent to our mutual attraction."
 
 

"Truth or dare, Neon-san?" asked Natsuko. Natsuko was a recent initiate into the Uruha. Joker didn't care much for her. She showed too many teeth when smiling, and was shamelessly pursuing Kurei. Not to mention, she didn't know her limits.
"Dare," grinned Neon. She had had a few too many Crown-and-Cokes that evening, and was feeling feisty.
"I dare you... to kiss Joker-san!" Natsuko grinned wolfishly, showing too many teeth once more.
Joker rolled his eyes, although it was obscured by his mask. The girl was going to get it from Neon when Neon was back to normal. But he couldn't miss this chance to annoy Neon.
"You've got to be kidding," said Neon. She hadn't had that many Crown-and-Cokes.
"It's a dare," pointed out Tsukeshiro. "You've got precious little choice, ne?"
Neon scowled darkly at Joker, who was contenting himself with grinning impishly. "No comments from YOU!" she said, moving over.
"Make it a good one," taunted Natsuko, irritatingly. Neon cast a scornful look at her as she moved closer to Joker. He removed his mask and set it to the side.
"Yeah, make it a good one," he chorused, leaning over towards her. He brushed his lips lightly across her cheek, nuzzling at her ear. In a soft whisper that only she could hear, he murmured, "You don't have to if you don't want to."
Neon made a soft negative noise. "Like I'm going to allow that girl to get me frazzled," she murmured into her ear. She then slid her lips over Joker's, nipping his lower lip gently with her teeth, encouraging him to respond.
'She even kisses like Suzuko-chan...' he had marveled to himself, shocked. His fellow Uruha looked... felt... smelled... tasted... so familiar. Like his former fiancee. How long had it been...? He had leaned forward, deepening the kiss, startling both Neon and himself with the intensity of his response.
After several seconds, Neon pulled away, her eyes wide as she gazed searchingly at him. But she quickly composed herself and turned back to Natsuko. "Good enough for you?" she had asked challengingly. The girl had looked a bit disappointed, having expected more of a fuss. But it was Tsukeshiro's turn now, and the game proceeded.
Joker bit his lip and hastily put his mask back on. It wouldn't do if anyone had seen the tears welling up in his eyes.
 

"What about your relationship with Raiha?" asked Bottou-chan.

"Yaoi," he answered. "Just kidding. I look up to Raiha about as much as I look up to anyone, I guess. He's a great guy, with a sense of humor. He's fun to be around, even though he wimps out when it comes to using his madougu. He says he's a bit scared of its power... I think that you have to keep practicing to adapt yourself. After all, the stronger you grow, the better able you are to control your powers. But he and I will go out and tussel sometimes, just to keep ourselves in shape. Or we sit and talk... sometimes, we'll write together. But it's fun, just being together."
 

Joker and Raiha were lazily lying on their backs on the grass. Raiha's katana and Joker's Taishaku Kaiten were placed within arm's reach, but they were too busy staring at the clouds.
"That one's a duck," said Raiha, pointing.
"Oi, look at that one... it looks like a hippopotamus," grinned Joker.
Raiha heaved a contented sigh. "Great fight today... you've got to watch your left leg, though. Whenever you go into that step-thrust-step-scoop-stab move of yours, it's open for anyone to take."
"Yeah, I've been trying to work on that," agreed Joker, watching a hawk gliding across the sky. "You're getting better at pulling out that katana mid-fight. When we first started, it was pretty choppy... but you've got it down to a pretty fluid move now."
Raiha yawned. "You want to work on that leg tomorrow?"
"Yeah, that would work fine with me." He glanced over at his friend. "Hey, guess what I read yesterday. A fic about you and Koganei."
Raiha raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding," he remarked.
"Yeah... it seems like Kurei has a thing for little boys, and you wanted to comfort him." Joker stifled another yawn. "Because you'd been in his place a few years back, and knew what it was like..."
Raiha shook his head. "I've seen a bunch of yaoi about Kurei... a little about me... funny, I've never seen one of you."
"I consider myself lucky." Joker grinned fangedly. "Sometimes, it's good to exist in the shadows... and not get dragged out of them. Scary things happen to you then."
"I went out for drinks with Tasuki-san and Tamahome-san and Hotohori-sama the other day. They had some pretty scary stories to tell me." Raiha's eyes were wide. "Promise me, Joker... no matter what else you write, you won't put me in a yaoi?"
"I don't know... you'd be kind of cute paired with Mokuren," grinned Joker, propping himself up on his elbows.
Raiha rolled over and grabbed his katana. "Take it back!" he said threateningly, although there was a playful glint in his eye.
Joker easily rolled the other way and scooped up his Taishaku Kaiten, leaping to a defensive stance. "I can see it now... you've gotten on Mori-han's bad side, and he sends Mokuren to, erm, discipline you properly," he teased.
Raiha leaped towards his friend, brandishing the katana, and their fighting resumed once more.
 

"What about you and Kurei?" asked Bottou-chan, her fingers speedily typing on the keyboard.

"Kurei and I have an interesting relationship," said Joker. "I enjoy my independence... I don't like to submit myself as much to his orders as the others do, but we're all right with that. We've got an understanding," he explained. "But despite everything else, we've still got mutual respect for each other's strengths. And I think it's safe to say that while I don't always do what Kurei-han says he wants me to do, I usually do what he really _wants_ , deep down inside. Understand?"

"Yeah... like the whole Koganei incident," suggested Bottou-chan.

"Exactly."

"Do you ever misassume what Kurei wants?"

"Never."
 

"What's this?" asked Kurei, looking distastefully at his dessert.
"It's ice cream," explained Joker. "Mint chocolate chip."
"I asked you to pick up peppermint."
"Oi, Kurei-han. You said you wanted peppermint... but you really wanted mint chocolate chip." Joker grinned at his master.
Kurei raised an eyebrow. "If I wanted mint chocolate chip, I would have written that on your shopping list. But I don't feel like chocolate chips in my otherwise-minty ice cream. Which should be pink, and not green."
"Crumble a candy cane into it, and eat around the chocolate," suggested Joker. "And close your eyes... and you won't tell the difference."
He was rewarded with a stony stare.
"All right, all right," he sighed. "Oi, oi, oi. I'm off to the store... don't wait up for me." He grabbed his car keys from his pocket and left the dining room.
 

Bottou-chan smiled to herself and typed some more. "Now... on a more personal note, what color are your eyes really?" She remembered the large, earnest amber eyes begging for ice cream... filling with tears from his early fights... staring at the counselor... pleading with Suzuko... Bottou-chan glanced up at Joker, who stood up.

"I figured you'd ask me that," he said, turning around and fumbling for a bit. When he faced her once more, he had on a pair of googly-eye glasses. "Tadaaaaa!"

The eyes bounced and goggled on their springs.

Bottou-chan sighed. "Jo-kerrrrr. If you're getting bored with the interview, let me know a little more nicely than that." But she was smiling.

"Oi, Bottou-chan, have a sense of humor!" he complained. "You're too uptight... but Fuuko no Miko guessed right. They're amber with gold flecks. See?" He removed the googly-eye glasses and brushed his bangs back long enough to allow Bottou-chan to gaze thoughtfully into his eyes.

"They're so very lovely," said Bottou-chan approvingly. "Why do you hide them all the time?"

Joker shrugged. "The eyes are the key to the soul, ne? I'm not going to let just anyone gaze freely into this Joker's heart, ne? Plus, I think it's cool and mysterious. I attract lots of fangirls that way."

"So, are you seeing anyone at the moment?" asked Bottou-chan. "Apart from Neon, of course." The words were barely out of her mouth before she realized she had chosen the wrong follow-up question.

"Oi! You putting the moves on me, koibito o'mine?" he asked, grinning slyly at her.

"I'm getting married in November," Bottou-chan reminded him, wagging a finger in his face. "So, sorry to turn you down, but I'm taken."

"Oi... I'm the one who's supposed to deal out the rejection," grinned Joker. "But no... I have to be available for my public, ne? Perhaps someday, I'll cave in to Neon-han's amorous advances. But I've got willpower of steel."
 

He brushed his lips lightly across her cheek, nuzzling at her ear. In a soft whisper that only she could hear, he murmured, "You don't have to if you don't want to."
Neon made a soft negative noise. "Like I'm going to allow that girl to get me frazzled," she murmured into her ear. She then slid her lips over Joker's, nipping his lower lip gently with her teeth, encouraging him to respond.
'She even kisses like Suzuko-chan...' he had marveled to himself, shocked. His fellow Uruha looked... felt... smelled... tasted... so familiar. Like his former fiancee. How long had it been...? He had leaned forward, deepening the kiss, startling both Neon and himself with the intensity of his response.
After several seconds, Neon pulled away, her eyes wide as she gazed searchingly at him. But she quickly composed herself and turned back to Natsuko. "Good enough for you?" she had asked challengingly.
 

"You're obsessing," said Bottou-chan, and Joker perked up his ears, looking at her strangely. "I mean, about Neon," she amended hastily. It's difficult, keeping what he's thinking and what he's saying separate, thought Bottou-chan, wriggling uncomfortably under his penetrating stare. "The poor woman... she's obviously so far gone, but she can't find the proper way of telling you. You should perhaps give her some space, so she can collect her feelings and find a good way to tell you."

He nodded silently, still watching her carefully.

"How about when you first joined the Uruha... was there any hazing involved? Inquiring minds want to know," grinned Bottou-chan.

"You mean, apart from the fact that Kurei-han likes getting a little taste of all his subordinates?" grinned Joker.

Bottou-chan lifted an eyebrow.

"Oi, just kidding," laughed Joker. "But it seems to be a popular basis for some fics... poor Koganei-chan seems to get the short end of the stick pretty frequently. But let's see... hazing? Erm, sometimes Mokuren-han or Mikoto-han would have some fun with the recent recruits. But no one bothered me. They were intimidated by my Taishaku Kaiten."
 

"This skinny little guy's got status?" Magensha eyed Joker loathfully. It was common knowledge that Magensha lusted after a position in the Jyushinshuu. It had been promised to him by Mori Kouran for who-knows-how-long, but had never become reality.
"Welcome to the club," Mokuren grinned toothily, coming up from behind Joker and placing his hands on Joker's shoulders.
Mikoto stood nearby, her arms crossed. She walked up to Joker and gently removed his Taishaku Kaiten from his grasp. "So if you're going to be Jyushinshuu... you should be able to work nearly just as well without your weapon as with. You think you're good enough?"
Joker looked at her scornfully. "I'm more than good enough," he responded.
Mikoto flashed him a grin. "Let's see about that..." She hopped inside her Mikoto robot, and the three came at Joker from all sides at once... They moved too fast for Bottou-chan to catch what exactly happened, but mere seconds later, both Magensha and Mokuren were lying on the ground, writhing. Joker was clutching one arm. Liberal amounts of blood were splashed around, and Mikoto continued to advance...
 
 

"What's your favorite song?" asked Bottou-chan.

"'Joker', by the Steve Miller Band," he grinned. "I even made up new lyrics for it. Wanna hear?"

"Ummm... sure," said Bottou-chan hesitantly. "Can you sing?"

"I can try," he offered. "Besides, those whoooo-hoooo's are really fun. You know how the song goes?"

"Vaguely," she responded. He handed her a kazoo.

"You can play my accompaniment," he suggested.

She held the kazoo doubtfully. "It seems like drums or a guitar would be better," she suggested.

"Can you play the drums or guitar?"

"No."

"Good, because we don't have any. Now, come on."

Bottou-chan obediently raised the kazoo to her lips and began to toot the song.

"Some people call me the bad guy, yeah; Some call me the gangster of love. Some people call me unspeakable names, Cause I speak of their pompousness, that they don't love.

"People talk about me, baby, Say I'm doin' bad things, doin' bad things. Well, don't you worry baby, don't worry, Cause I'm right here, right here, right here, right here at home.

"Cause I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover, And I'm a sinner, I fight my battles in the sun.

"I'm a joker, I'm a scoper, I play midnight poker, I get my lovin' on the run. Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo!

"You've got the cutest madougu That I ever did see; I really love your fighting, Want to come fight here with me? Smart-alecky, smart-alecky, smart-alecky all the time; Ooo-eee baby, I know we'll have a good time.

"Cause I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover, And I'm a sinner, I fight my battles in the sun.

"I'm a joker, I'm a scoper, I play midnight poker, I sure don't want to hurt no one. Whooo-hooo! Whoooo-hooo!"

Bottou-chan glanced at him. "Why did you have to rewrite the lyrics?" she asked, setting aside the kazoo before he could repeat about how people talk about him, baby.

"Because I don't smoke cigarettes, and I don't do weed," he explained. "It would give my fans a bad impression of me if I did."

"Ahhh..." agreed Bottou-chan. Smiling impishly, she added, "Who would want to kiss someone with smoker's breath, anyways?"

"My point exactly!" crowed Joker. "You know, Altoids have a number of uses--"

Bottou-chan shook her head. "I know," she assured him. "I know..." She glanced at the clock. "I've been here for quite a while... why don't we call it a day for now? I can go home... get my notes typed up into some semblance of sense... think up new questions... and then I can schedule myself for a new session?"

Sure, thought Joker.

"Good. See you then," began Bottou-chan, and then stopped. There was a knowing look on Joker's face, and she clapped her hand over her mouth. "Agh!" she growled in disgust at herself. How had she allowed herself to be tripped up so easily?

"I knew it! Something was fishy!" he said accusingly. He grabbed her arm. "Where is it?" He patted her pockets, in search of a hidden madougu. She batted his hand away irately.

"Ma, Joker-san... leave her alone," said Raiha calmly, entering the room.

"Betrayed by my own koibito!" mourned Joker, as he finally spotted it. "Terrific... who let you borrow the Kioku?"

"The Kioku... developed by the Hokage to be used for espionage, not combat. Like with interrogation," said Neon informatively, entering the scene. "It takes a person's memories and projects them into the mind of the wearer."

Joker scowled. "I know that much," he frowned. "Betrayed by my koibito and my two best friends." A sudden realization dawned upon him. "Exactly how much did you see?" he asked her uncertainly.

Bottou-chan returned his look evenly. "A lot," she admitted.

Joker slid onto the couch. "And do tell, how  am I supposed to preserve my amazingly cool facade with you running around telling people my real past?" He scowled at her. "Some fan you are."

"Maybe people will be intrigued by it... empathize with you and your situation... see how you grew to be what you are today."

"I don't want people feeling sorry for me," growled Joker.

"I said 'empathize', not 'sympathize'," reminded Bottou-chan, a slight edge to her voice. She removed the bracelet from her wrist and gave it back to Raiha. "Besides," she added, "It's a pretty mean trick, lying to your biographer like that. What happened to your agreement to be candid?"

"Now, now," interrupted Neon. "It's not like you to sulk. You don't want to give Bottou-chan any more bad things to write about you, now, do you? You've got a reputation as a good sport to uphold."

"So I do," grinned Joker, his bad mood suddenly dissipating and his normal cheerful self back again. "Anyhow, good luck writing it up... I had a good time, and look forward to our next session."

"Arigatou!" smiled Bottou-chan, giving him an impulsive hug. She turned to Neon and Raiha. "And thank you for letting me use the Kioku... it's given me a lot of material to work with."

"No problem," smiled Neon. Raiha added, "It's nice to know that there's a real Bottou-chan out there... and all those fics aren't the product of just one depraved mind. I was thinking about telling Joker to get a life, you know, and stop writing so much."

Bottou-chan sweatdropped and made a hasty escape.

From the window, Joker watched her hop into her car and drive off. Turning to Raiha and Neon, he asked very seriously, "Do we have any memory-erasing madougu?"