A/N: There's something deceptively alluring to writing a Joker/OC romance story, even if it's a pseudo-romance based more on one-sided lust than actual love. Scratch that – especially if it's based on one-sided lust. For some reason, Nolanverse Joker fangirls have a horrible fondness for putting the Joker in situations where he either takes advantage of a girl who falls for him (see any number of the millions of Harley Quinn stories or a good half of the Joker/OC romance stories that don't involve rape), or falls for a beautiful femme fatale himself. It's not surprising – Heath Ledger was a rather handsome man, and his portrayal of the Joker has a sort of dark allure to it. Unfortunately, this fact leads to some rather odd views on the Joker in a relationship, most of which aren't quite factual considering that he's a psychopath.

We all know my opinion on what I like to call 'Harley Quinn Romances' – those Joker stories where the female (sometimes male, but that's less often) OC winds up falling head over heels for the Joker, usually to their downfall. The particularly bad ones are either sheer wish fulfillment or contain unrealistic depictions of sexual abuse. The good ones usually have a satisfying reason for the OC to fall for the Joker – she's already insane, she's desperate, she's a hostage who develops a very strange case of Stockholm syndrome, she's an expy of Harley Quinn, or she actually is Harleen Quinzel as the Joker's doctor. Either way, they all end the same: the female joins the Joker on his crime spree, often going insane in the process. Not only do these stories seem anti-feminist to me, they also just feel too sappy to work as a real relationship between the Joker and another person (with, perhaps, the exception of Harley origin retellings, but even those are mere retellings).

I think the reason I prefer stories where the Joker himself goes loony over someone is this: it's devastatingly hilarious to watch such a vile, evil man be brought down by one woman like that – for once, he's the one whose knees are shaking instead of the fangirls. It's like a little bit of fangirl revenge and a declaration of female power to boot. Yeah, we fangirls have had our "Please kidnap and ravish me, Joker" moments – but if you think about it, we've also had our moments where we get to play cat and mouse with the Clown Prince of Crime; where we're the ones with the power and not him. Of course, we might not have this seductive power in real life, nor are we as dangerous as the character the Joker falls for, but we are human and these kind of fantasies – empowering or dominated – are part of life as a human being. We have our follies – and in a realistic world, so would the Joker. Think of this not as a Sue-ish self-fulfillment story, but an example of the vaguely human parts of a monster – the part that needs; the part that does have a very vague semblance of a black heart. The part with a twisted sense of what love is, because it doesn't know anything other than lust. In the end, this is a fic for everyone, one that I think quite a few female Ledger Joker fans can relate to and appreciate. Just remember – this story's labeled as Romance/Humor for a good reason, so don't take it too seriously. ;)

Disclaimer: I don't own the Joker or any character from DC comics. All characters are the property of their respective owners and creators. The unnamed female (Protagonist? Antagonist?) in this story does belong to me, but she's less a character than a representative of the type of girl the Joker might fall for...

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Discord

I like nighttime.

Night's the time the whole city goes crazy, especially down here. The Narrows. Monsters start huntin' out here, people start runnin'. An' a certain big winged rodent comes outta the woodwork ta chase 'em – and me too, if I draw the right cards.

My kinda huntin' grounds.

Not that I'm a monster. No, no. I'm somethin' a little better; somethin' with a purpose. Everything I do's gotta message to it – that the world's fallen ta madness and chaos already; Gotham's gotta catch up with the times. An' I gotta be the one ta show 'em, 'cause nobody else has the balls ta do it.

The night air's cool against my face as I stroll leisurely. Feels good against the greasepaint; reminds me it's there. Every so often, it moves sleek against my scars; the air, I mean. Not a star's in the sky; big cities like this put out too much smog fer that. S'a perfect night ta be out – s'just like a Gotham summer, a mild night like this.

I gaze lazily at a cracked building front, licking at my scars in apathy. There's nobody out here tonight; nobody out in my territory – not even the big bad bat. S'just little ol' me an' the big nasty city. And I'm bored outta my skull!

I get restless when I'm bored. If I don't find somethin' ta do soon, I might just go outta my mind.

Heh. If yer bored, then yer boring, they say – I'm usually anything but. But in order ta be somethin' not boring, I need somethin' ta chase. Anything'll do. I'm like a dog that way – problem is, I dunno what I'd do with the thing when I caught it. Tear it ta pieces like I always do, probably.

I'm a rabid dog, heheh. Someone call the pound!

I pull my long coat around my shoulders, growling softly. I wanna hunt something, dammit! I can feel every synapse in my body aching for it, I'm gonna go into paroxysms if the blade doesn't get ta bite into somethin'. I mean, really – usually some hapless soul's unfortunate ta wander down here by now, s'nearly midnight…

I venture into an alley, hoping fer some dumb homeless loser ta be in the right place at the wrong time… but there's nothin'. Just empty boxes, cans, an' dumpsters full'a trash, but not quite the kind I was lookin' fer.

I slide out my switchblade, flicking it open an' closed, open an' closed. S'too quiet out here; I don't like quiet. I fidget when it's quiet.

I didn't come out here fer quiet. I came out here ta taste the underlying chaos below Gotham's grimy surface; ta leech off all the madness in its underbelly an' bring a little of it to the surface…

Sudden footsteps on pavement catch my ears, bearing the promise of a fresh victim.

I smirk and crouch in the shadows near a box. The nice thing about wearin' a purple suit's that nobody can see ya in the shadows. Blends in just as good as black, but looks flashy in the light, too. S'always good ta make a statement…

I peer out of the alley, watching for the first sign of my prey. Sounds like a woman; only high heels make that distinct footfall. S'good, real good – women get tripped up in high heels if they run too fast; makes 'em easy ta catch.

Speakin' of, here she comes now… oh… my…

Well… geez, wasn't expectin' that sorta bombshell ta drop! She's wearin' casual clothes –knee-length skirt that shows off her legs… damn, she's got nice legs… green top that accents her huge…

Shake it off, J-man. Get yer mind outta the gutter now and focus. Besides, she doesn't look like that kinda girl…

Still… she looks outta place fer walkin' around the Narrows at midnight… an' she's nervous. An' she's had the terrible misfortune ta fall right into my hands. She's the perfect target, and she's gorgeous ta boot. If I were some sorta religious fucknut I'd say I had an angel lookin' out fer me.

I wait until she's just out of sight before I quietly follow, pulling my long purple coat around me like a cloak as I peer from beneath my fedora. I look a little outta style fer a Gotham summer, yeah, but I've never been a slave ta fashion… or anythin' else fer that matter.

My footsteps speed up to match her sharp, frightened footfalls, and she doesn't turn to investigate. I grin darkly. She suspects nothing

I observe her calmly as we walk, bridling the urge to destroy her fer just a little longer. She's not a real big girl; thin, but with nice curves an' legs worthy of a showgirl. She's definitely a businesswoman, judgin' by her clothing – likely from outta town. She's got fiery auburn hair that falls down her back in waves.

Mm. I wonder if her personality's that fiery…

Only one way ta find out.

I stop dead. Heh, dead…

"S'cuse me, Ma'am… Y'look kinda lost…"

The woman spins abruptly; her face looks shocked at my sudden appearance. Christ, she's got a face ta kill. Any man'd lose his mind over the deep hazel eyes, the full lips, the roundish face.

My eyes briefly flick downward. Big mistake. God, if those are natural…

I quietly snap myself out of it. No need fer me ta break the façade now. I do that, an' my night'a fun might just be over a little too quickly.

Not that she knew I was fakin', apparently – her face had calmed considerably, though she still looked tense. All nervousness had left her features, though – why, she looked almost as if she trusted me.

Foolish girl.

"Oh," she mutters, almost apologetically. "You scared me… sneaking out of nowhere like that. It's just… I'm in a bit of a jam, that's all. You see, my car just broke down, and…"

She gives me an 'oh-well-what-can-you-do' look, shrugging her shoulders in acceptance. Her face stayed friendly and open. Guess it's my suit – girls get all formal when a guy's in a suit. 'Cause loonies don't wear nice suits, everyone knows that…

"Y'need help?" I query, donning the mask of a helpful civilian. "S'awful late, an' this really isn't the best part'a town…"

"Yes… yes, please," she murmurs. "I'm a bit lost…"

I smirk. Works every time with these outta-towners, the Helpful Civilian act. Not that I trust her much, oh no. She doesn't carry herself like a plain-clothes cop, but those bastards are awful sneaky…

But if she doesn't know where she is… That, that right there, is golden. She's got no idea she's in my territory, the huntin' grounds of one'a Gotham's most wanted. S'child's play.

"S'no problem, I know a mechanic," I lie convincingly. "C'mon, follow me…"

I walk past her at a brisk pace, and she follows. Like a good little lamb ta the slaughter.

"So, uh, yer not from around here, are ya?" I ask, peering over my shoulder to make sure she's – oh, Lord, look at that figure…

Focus, J-man, focus… You'll have her soon enough, an' then y'can do whatever y'want with her…

"No… no, I'm not," she responds, obviously not noticing my little fault. "I'm from Chicago; I'm here to visit my aunt…"

"Hm. Well, y'picked a funny time'a night ta visit her, then…" I respond, a little skeptical. "An' Chicago, that's not too far…"

I drift off into thought, pushing through random strings of violence to get to memories… She… she reminds me of someone, my… my wife? Shit, no; did I ever even have a wife? Not too sure myself… Guess the scars were a turn-off an' she left, heheh. Or maybe I just snapped one day an' turned on her; killed her. Yeah, sounds plausible… but not quite right.

Hell, nothin' I come up with ever sounds right. Guess it's best ta just smile an' not ask too many questions!

I wander streets with her, looking out for a suitable alley.

One in particular jumps out at me. I stop abruptly at the entrance of it, and she stops with me.

"S'a shortcut ta the mechanic's shop down this way," I murmur, nodding towards it. "S'not the safest, but it's nearly two miles ta walk around…"

"Alright…" she murmurs in response, nervous yet again. "Just… just promise you'll stay close, alright? I feel safer with someone walking nearby…"

I nod silently, watching as she slides closer. Geez lady, if y'knew what y'were doin' ta me…

I bite my tongue to nip the idea in the bud and start down the long, dark alley, my female target in tow.

"It's alright if… if he's closed for the night," she says. "The mechanic, I mean. If he's closed, my car's not too far from here…"

Yeah, yeah, whatever ya say, sweetheart…

She doesn't notice as I slide a hand into the pocket of my coat. My fingers brush eagerly against the blade's handle, and I shiver in anticipation of the first blood… This knife… This knife's my favorite make an' model; it looks sorta like a veggie peeler an' stings like one, too. Cutting with it's effortless, even when I need ta cut thick muscle'r tendon, and the small size makes it easy ta conceal in a shoe, a pocket, whatever. The best part's how thin an' flexible the blade is – s'the perfect width ta slide between a pair'a ribs… or effortlessly carve an unsuspecting smile, ear ta ear…

The alley'd come to an end shortly, I knew. This alley, I was very familiar with. After all, this was where my first real kill happened; where I started, where I began. Where I was born, I like ta think. I remember the acoustics best of all – the blood on my hands made her scream, an' it wrapped around an' hit the brick an' bounced everywhere… Did the same with my laughter, it did – an' when I heard it, I knew exactly who I was: an entertainer, the Jester of Entropy's court.

At least, I think that's what happened…

"We're real close now," I notify dismissively. Indeed, the alley ended just after a sharp bend, and we'd made it to the bend. I stop and turn, motioning around it.

"Ladies first," I offer, feigning politeness.

She nods her thanks, disappearing around a corner. Mm, she works out, looks like… judging by how strong her legs look…

C'mon, y'gotta work fast. I mean, geez, y'been doin' this all night; s'just a girl. An' she's about ta be dead in the water, anyway… Don't be gettin' attached ta yer prey, now, Joker…

I set my hat to the side, propping it against a nearby wall fer safe-keeping. I really like that hat… I'd hate fer it ta get damaged in the struggle. I'm kinda like Indy Jones that way – don't go anywhere without my hat; never leave it behind. Only, Indy never took delight in huntin' like I do…

I sneak carefully behind her as she walks. She's just reached the dead end, looks like… an' she's awful confused, too, lookin' fer a non-existent door ta a non-existent auto repair shop. Poor little lost lamb…

The knife comes out, flicking open with a soft sound of metal on plastic.

Man, she's not too street smart, is she? Ya'd think she'd notice a guy sneakin' up behind her like some sorta creeper. In any case, I'm pretty close now. Close enough to touch her long, wavy auburn hair; close enough to smell her light perfume. Close enough to wrap my arms around her waist an' pull her to me if I wanted to…

I lick my lips at the thought. God damn, I wanted to… She'd struggle an' scream, I knew, an' I'd pin her t'the wall an' then she'd be mine…

"Are… are you so sure this is the right spot?" she asks nobody in particular.

She's so oblivious… it's pathetically funny.

I lean over her shoulder until my chin's barely resting on it, breathing into her ear.

"Oh, I'm sure it's the right spot. An' sweetheart, y'got no idea what's about ta hit ya…"

She has no time to react before I have her pinned against me, arms folded around her like a living paperclip. She gives this surprised, half-frightened yelp disguised as an angry cry, and struggles… but in all the wrong directions. An' she's not screaming.

I prod my upper lip with a skeptical tongue. I don't like how fishy this feels, but then again, she hasn't seen her attacker's face yet. They always scream at that fer some reason. Maybe it reminds 'em too much of a war, heheh.

"Whoa there, gorgeous," I growl, holding her painfully close. "Yer already in a real bad situation; strugglin's not gonna get ya any freer, so just… hold… still… Nah really, hold still – yer grindin' in a weird way an' it's makin' it really hard fer me ta focus…"

She makes a disgusted noise and arches her back violently, sending me stumbling back in an effort to hold on. She's a feisty one, I'll give her that… I really wish she'd stop, though – I wasn't lyin' when I told her it was gettin' hard ta focus… in more ways than one.

She's a slippery one, though. I let my guard down fer one second, an' somethin' slams painfully into my thigh… I feel myself bleed; I feel the frantic sizzle of nerves as the pain slides out from the initial wound… Feels like a stab… Looks like a stab, from what I can see.

She rips the knife out of my skin and starts tryin' ta go fer vitals, growlin' like she's some sorta feral beast. I don't have much choice but ta let her go; this prey's gettin' too wild ta hold anymore, an' I can't do much with my hands tied up holdin' her… Besides, I feel up fer a little chase tonight…

But she doesn't run. She spins abruptly on a sharp heel and glares at me… but the glare turns to a disbelieving look after she sees my face.

"See somethin' ya like, sugar?" I tease, smirking. I'm honestly surprised. She's a predator? And I didn't recognize her when I saw her? God, I'm losin' my touch.

Her eyes set in a look of hatred, and she runs at me like a speeding semi, the blade poised like a fatal claw. I merely stand and wait, quietly playing chicken, until she gets close enough for me to grab. We spin in a strange waltz from the force of the impact (I'm gettin' dizzy, lovely) and she goes flying into the wall, her knife falling from her hand ta hit the pavement with a clatter.

She's disoriented. I gotta get her while she's still distracted…

She has time only ta stand before I slam her into the wall, kicking her knife out of the way. Curious confusion mars my features – how'd she not know another predator when she saw one? How'd she not sense it?

I examine her face curiously. She looks… angry, seething mad. But there's… hm. In her eyes, there's just this faint touch'a fear, I think. S'kinda hard ta tell… I've never been good at readin' faces, honestly. She's gotta sense'a internalized panic, though her face looks pissed as Hell. An' beautiful as Hell, too, but that's another story.

"Let go," she spits fiercely. Her auburn hair has the look of silky fire in this dim light; I can tell she's one'a those chicks that only looks hotter when she's mad. Her breathing's heavy, not in anger, but what looks like fear… fear of me, no doubt. She's a smart girl, she knows the stories, she knows who I am. Her chest heaves up and down in thinly veiled panic, jiggling her… uh…

"Hey. Hey!" She snaps, her hand coming from nowhere to strike my face. "Don't fucking stare at me like I'm some sort of whore, jackass!"

That got my attention, alright – and it pissed me off, too. I was enjoying the view, so sue me! I growl in soft annoyance at the defensive slap, my grasp tightening on her arms. But I was far too intrigued by this dangerous, pretty young thing to even think of killing her… yet.

"Y'got quite the potty mouth on ya, doncha?" I quip. "Now, what's a nice young lady like you doin' way out here in my territory so late at night, hmm? S'dangerous ta be out in the Narrows. Why, someone could get hurt!"

I giggle at that. Oh, someone could get hurt, alright… or maimed, killed, slaughtered, and brutalized… Nobody out this late survived a Gotham night. Nobody.

My laughter puts her on edge, or so it seems. C'mon, like she hasn't dealt with other killers before…

"S'a good thing ya ran into me, huh? I mean, nobody bugs a random clown about town running around at midnight… " I press against her. She's very, very warm… "C'mere…"

"Don't you dare," she hisses, falsifying courage. But I know yer run of the mill sociopath when I see 'em – always tryin' ta fake what they aren't. At least I know an' show what I am!

I ignore her threat, sliding my arms around her waist in an embrace. She struggles like a little worm on a hook. I almost haveta laugh at how this tiny woman (she can't be taller than 5'3" at the most) thought she could pin me, ridiculously tall as I am. She's gotta be inexperienced, 'cause she pounced a guy most trained assassins couldn't take down.

She can see my face real clearly now – s'about a good couple'a inches from hers – and the sight clearly terrifies some small, animal-brain part'a her. Her eyes keep tracin' my scars, fer one – I absolutely hate it when people do that. They're always starin' at the scars, an' when they do that, I don't get eye contact. I mean, really – my eyes are up here, lady!

Ah well… guess I gotta scare her into it, like I always do…

"There, ah, somthin' wrong with me, gorgeous?" I murmur. My face is a perfect poker-playing mask – I find it gets under people's skin better. And it worked like a charm, setting her on edge. She probably thinks I'm gonna kill her or worse… but I don't want power, I just want her.

… There, I admit it. I want her. But who could blame me, eh? Her figure alone's enough ta give a man an obsession…

Paging Doc Arkham! The patient seems ta be gettin' worse

I lean in closer yet, examining every inch'a her face. She keeps tryin' ta back away from me; s'kinda funny ta see, really. S'a shame I might haveta carve that beautiful face'a hers…

"You, uh, wanna know how I got 'em?" I ask, sounding like the shy kid unable to ask the popular girl to the Prom. Her head shakes no, but I can see the faintest hint of a smirk on her lips – oh, she knows she's got me, an' she thinks she can play me like a fiddle, too…

An' she very well might… If I don't keep on my toes.

"See, I got 'em from a, uh, streetfight with another'a Gotham's freaks," I start, eyes keeping harsh contact with hers. My tongue prods the scarred edge of my mouth, emphasizing the marks. "I mean, y'don't get a killer smile like this without a little conflict. So one night, I'm out walkin', an' this robber girl comes right at me outta nowhere, pins me ta the wall. An' she's just gorgeous, I mean, real femme fatale Bonnie an' Clyde thing goin' here. So I play real nice, thinkin' she's just gonna mug me, right? I let her search me; tell her I got no cash on me. Let her get just a bit too close…"

The switchblade slides out from its concealed spot in my sleeve; the blade flicks out automatically like a talon. I hear her breath hitch again in soft fear…

That's it, lovely, struggle… Lemmie see just how vulnerable ya really are… I like my women in awkward situations like this…

"Turns out she's a killer," I half-whisper, grinning in delight at her discomfort. God, her terror's so blatantly obvious, and yet she's still tryin' ta hide behind a mask'a courage. I gotta admire her fightin' spirit – I don't like my women weak.

If I were anything other than an entertainer, I'd rip her clothes off an' do her right her, against the wall. Nobody'd hear her scream… But there's no comedy in rape. No message. Just greed. In Gotham an' everywhere else, greed's what motivates society. I hate society…

"She's a killer," I reiterate softly, gently trailing the tip of the blade down her spine. She shivers in what could be delight; it's certainly not fear, as far as I can tell. "An' so she takes the knife… hey, pay attention, sweetheart… She takes the knife, an' she carves my face up... Ear. To ear."

I allow the knife just enough pressure to cut a shallow, thin line above her tailbone; she shudders noticeably. Oh, damn, I've drawn all the right cards tonight… If that's her kink, I'm more than ready ta give her it…

I pull the knife away, feeling her tensed muscles relax. Oh, she's scared, alright… scared an' maybe just a little flirtatious, unless she's playin' me fer a fool. But damn if she'll admit any of that, sneaky little trickster that she is.

"Y'were gonna kill me tonight, am I right, sugar?" I ask, eyes surveying her lazily as I wait for a response.

"Fuck you," she spits through gritted teeth.

"Oh, wouldya really?" I exclaim eagerly. "That'd be great. 'Cause y'see, I'm getting just a little bit excited here, an' it's not helpin' my cause much…"

"You're a disgusting freak!" she cried, eyes blazing with a fire to match her hair. "I wouldn't screw you if you were the last man on earth, you male chauvinistic pig."

"Well, now, most people call me names a little worse than 'pig'," I respond, bemused that she was still fighting me to the bitter end. I gotta admire that – most girls give up after I draw blood; the rest crumble when I destroy someone or somethin' right before their eyes. But not her. She wouldn't care if the world burned as long as she survived. Actually, I think she'd like survivin' it, just ta see it all fall apart…

"Y'like it, doncha?" I tease, taking a lock of her silky hair between my fingers. It smells like some sort of fruity conditioner and a hint of what might be either gunpowder or gasoline… "The blood, I mean. The feel'a the blade. Y'like that, doncha? S'what drives ya… S'what gets ya outta bed in the mornin', the promise that tonight, someone's gonna die…"

A brief glint sparks in her eyes at the idea, the first I've seen since I saw her; the ghost of a vague smile slides on an' off her face… The look'a someone laughing mad against a burning backdrop'a shrapnel an' fire… an' enjoying every minute'a it. She's probably imagining my demise, same as I'm imagining hers… That, an' she's got a beautiful smile.

Dammit, girl, ya drive me cuh-razy… An' y'know y'do, too. Yer smirk says it all…

"… Tell ya what, beautiful," I murmur, sliding the knife's edge against her throat in case she tries anything. "I'll give ya one chance ta save yerself. Just one, an' if ya fail, ya die. But y'gotta gimmie somethin' impressive…"

A night in bed with you'd be real nice…

She tenses; her eyes like harsh daggers. God, that look could melt steel…

"… Why?" she asks, skeptical. "What could you possibly want besides my body, you sick freak?"

"Oh, yer one ta talk, sweetheart," I muse. "Callin' me a freak when we're both in the same boat… Pot an' Kettle, Lady Spitfire, Pot an' Kettle…"

No? Disappointing… Well, if that's the case… I'd settle for a kiss…

I chuckle softly, half at my thoughts an' half at my own joke, before briskly pulling her close, my lips crashing into hers with concussive force. She struggles, as I knew she would, mumbling in protest, but I don't let go. Not now. Not yet.

She doesn't wanna let me in, feels like.

My hand slides up her neck ta choke her; she's not stubborn enough ta forgo the need ta breathe… An' it works. She gasps fer air, an' that's all I need ta slip in.

I run my fingers through her hair; feel her tense shoulders relax ever so slightly as a single hand grasps my arm… but not ta move it away.

That's it, sweetheart, just go with it… I like a girl who knows when ta just go with it… Oh, they always open up eventually, torture victim or otherwise. They all gotta give in sometime…

The inside of her cheeks are smooth, a direct parallel ta mine. S'like the difference between sandpaper an' silk… Her tongue's smoothish, too, an' gentle – but her teeth say otherwise. She's surprisingly harsh about it, biting my tongue outta some… misplaced revenge, I guess. I taste blood, my pulse increases…

Oh, she's a cruel little demoness, alright. An' I think she's pissed off at me. Can't imagine why. All the better ta get her away from me as soon as possible; this girl's pure poison.

Oh, someone call the doctor, I'm feelin' dizzy

I regretfully pull back, licking the rough edge of my lips at the missing proximity. Dammit, it's not fair! It's not fair I gotta give her up so soon…

I'll find ya again someday, gorgeous, an' then I'll have ya right where I want ya… I swear I will…

She snarls something, probably some expression of disgust or another. S'the scars, I bet. Oh, don't feel bad, sweetheart, I loathe 'em just as much as you do, an' probably more – they're on my face, not yers.

I keep her close, resting my head on her shoulder. Jesus Christ on a bike, I want her fer myself…

"… freak… You sick, disgusting sonuvabitch, let go of me!"

Her shrieking snaps me out of it, much ta my annoyance. Granted, this ain't exactly a Harlequin Romance, but…

"Ohhh wow…" I murmur, half-dazed. "Y'do that a little too well, beautiful… Tell ya what – I was gonna stab ya in the back in the middle'a all that, but, ah… I think I'll let ya off with a warning… this time."

I lift my mouth to her ear, nipping it in mock playfulness. She squeaks in protest, the only moment of weakness I've seen her show yet.

"I see ya 'round here again," I whisper menacingly, "I'm gonna haveta start roundin' bases. An' after I'm through with that, I'll tear ya ta shreds. Literally. Got that?"

Somethin' about how I say my false threat makes her breath hitch in fear again, and it's delicious…

"Be careful who ya seduce next time, Lillith. An' the big bad wolf said ta the girl… run."

I reluctantly let her go, an' she scrambles away, even her knife forgotten.

I quietly pick up her forgotten blade, a slender, sleekly curved flick knife. I test it. Lightweight, decent heft, a recently sharpened edge. Sweetheart certainly knew her knives.

I pause in thought a moment. I… I almost wanna… give it back.

But nah, she's probably long gone by now, halfway down one'a Gotham's sidestreets or alleys, probably tryin' ta hide from me. Maybe headed outta my territory, maybe not. No, I'll keep her blade; it'll be number thirty-four in my arsenal. She's too far gone ta give it back now…

I've gotta laugh out loud at that – she really did try so hard ta kill me, an' in the end she turned tail an' ran away scared like the rest of 'em. It's sad, but devastatingly hilarious.

And so I laugh, a wild cackle that sends even mob bosses scampering in terror. My hand finds my fedora again, an' I set it jauntily on my head. Oh, I'll remember this one, alright…

That's a promise.