It was cold, wet, and raining. The kind of night where steam rose from the sewer grates and cars drove down the road with their windshield wipers turned on full-speed. It was a typical evening in Gotham. School had just let out and it was nearly summer, meaning that there were a bunch of young, adolescent teenagers roaming around, bored to death (ha, death,) and looking to cause a little mayhem. There was a small group of them just up ahead, setting off car alarms and throwing rocks into the apartment building windows above them. They laughed in their drunken stupor when the glass broke and shattered over their heads. So naïve, the Joker scoffed. They wanted to cause destruction and disorder but they didn't know how to properly do it.
The Joker thought that if he were in the right state, he might have waltzed over and shown them a few pointers. He'd give them a little demonstration, perhaps. Show them real chaos, the kind that was so deafeningly loud that the explosion rung in your ears days after. The kind where chunks of concrete and glass were rocketed into the sky and a torrent of black, thick smoke exploded into the night air. The kind of chaos where the fire was so staggeringly tall that the orange flames seemed to lick the very tips of the stars above.
Now that was chaos; none of this throwing rocks into windows shit.
He was tempted to just slaughter them all; put them out of their misery. He figured they wouldn't even feel a thing, most of them too drunk to even stand.
Against his better instincts, he turned away with a grimace when the pain in his side flared up again. Batman had been rougher than usual that evening, but the Joker wasn't complaining. They didn't get to see each other much, nowadays. Crime had skyrocketed, just like he'd always wanted, but he hadn't expected for it to be like this. Batman had become so preoccupied with trying to keep the underbelly of Gotham under control that he had forgotten about him, the Clown Prince of Crime.
The Joker tried, vainly, to get his attention. Two weeks ago, he'd set fire to an elementary school. He'd held all the children hostage, knowing that Batman had a weak spot for kids, what with his new, young sidekick, Robin, trailing at his heels like a helpless little puppy. But even despite that, Batman had never shown up, not even after the Joker had sent a video to GCN.
With a disappointed frown, the Joker realized that they had probably never aired the clip on television—he had been cutting out a little girl's entrails, after all.
The problem wasn't that his crimes weren't extravagant enough, the problem was that there was a new villain on the loose. A girl, the Joker bitterly scowled. The new villain was a stupid girl who stole fucking jewelry. It was all so petty and childish. And that was all the Joker viewed her as—just some petty jewel thief who robbed the wealthy and made out like a bandit every time. But hell if he cared. She was no threat to him; she was just another lowly criminal trying to make it to the top. No one could ever top him, though. He thought that the people of Gotham would've learned that by now. He always took out the top dogs eventually. She'd be next on his list, the little burglar bitch. He was furious over the situation, really. He had gotten himself all dressed up for a night out on the town with his favorite rodent but then she had come along and ruined everything. He'd never met her, not yet, anyway, but he'd heard the gossip; heard that she'd gotten Bats wrapped around her little, leather-clad finger. That, though, was just a rumor. A rumor he was ignoring. Bats only had eyes for him, after all.
Batman had knocked him up quite violently earlier that evening though, and the Joker had the bruises to prove it. As he reached his hand inside his jacket and pressed it against his ribcage, he felt blood coat his fingers. Great, just great.
He had just gotten his damn suit dry-cleaned, and with a snazzy outfit like his, it wasn't cheap to do, so he didn't appreciate all the blood. Batman had somehow managed to wedge one of his Batarangs right in-between his ribs and it stung annoyingly. Batman had been angry tonight, more so than usual, and he had taken his frustrations out on the Joker like he was some kind of personal punching bag. As much as the Joker adored their little get-togethers, he didn't really appreciate Batman's little meltdown. So he fought him back. And that's how he ended up like he was now, hunched over and clutching at his side in some dark, narrow alleyway, watching the drunk, teenage idiots trying to piss off their neighbors.
He was in too much pain to breathe let alone walk, and it was getting harder to stand with each passing second. Batman had also gotten him in the leg, too; he'd taken the Joker's own knife and used it against him, burying it into his thigh. It wasn't a deep intrusion, not like the gash in his ribs, but it was still going to need stitches. The pain had been welcoming at first, as it always was, but now it was annoying and he wanted it to go away.
Grunting in discomfort, he leaned against the brick wall for support, still clutching his side. Uninterestedly, he happened to glance upwards, and that's when he noticed the fire-escape. The ladder, conveniently enough, was already let down. If he crawled up it and luck happened to be on his side, he figured that one of those windows up there might be unlocked. He needed a place to crash and gather his bearings, just for a few hours. If he was really lucky, the owners wouldn't even be home and he wouldn't have to worry about staining the carpet with their unfortunate demise.
He limped over to the ladder, (it was such a pathetic sight, him being the Clown Prince of Crime and all, so he'd rather you not picture it, if you please,) and grabbed onto the bottom rung, hoisting himself up. When he reached the first landing, he peered into the window, the wet glass a cool relief to his painted skin. His eyes were met with only darkness, and so he tried to lift up on the window only to discover that it was locked.
So he tried the second window, and then the third one, and then the fourth one, and finally, the fifth one. Whoever said "third time's the charm" was lying, because it was obviously the fifth time that was the charm.
Even though the drapes were closed inside, the window was unlocked, and he slowly lifted it upwards, pushing aside the floor-length curtains and quietly slipping inside, trying to control his labored breathing. The room was lit by one of those bendy lamps that was sitting on a desk, the bulb facing downwards so that the light was trapped against the tabletop and therefore only allowing a faint, yellow glow to illuminate the room.
He was in a bedroom, he came to realize, and it was a rather small and nondescript looking one at that. Closet there, desk here, dresser over there, and bed right—oh.
Curled up under the covers, right there in front of him and naught but two feet away . . . was a young woman.
He didn't know why it had come as such a surprise to him, but he supposed it was mostly due to the fact that her mouth and nose were covered by a clear, plastic oxygen mask. The sight normally wouldn't have struck him as being odd, but it was the fact that she was so young.
Must be twenty-something, at least.
Not that it mattered in the long run. He'd make her death quick and painless. He didn't want to wake her from her beauty sleep, after all. That would have just been entirely rude.
Pulling out his switchblade, he took a step towards the bed, but immediately regretted it when his foot landed on something that sounded a lot like wrapping paper. It crunched nosily, the very sound of it making even him wince, and, not surprisingly, the woman in bed was awakened.
Oh, joy. He only hoped she didn't put up much of a fight. He was getting weaker and he didn't know how much more excitement he could take as pathetic as he felt.
It was dark enough that she couldn't see him from where she was sitting, but it was still light enough that he could see her. Good, this will be easy then.
"Nancy, is that you?" she asked. Her voice was raspy and her vocal cords somehow sounded very broken. The Joker almost wanted to feel sorry for her.
The woman removed her oxygen mask and set it on the nightstand next to her, coughing something fierce the second it was off as she struggled into a sitting position. "I—I thought you went home." The Joker remained in the shadows as the woman coughed a little more, heavier this time. He waited for her to calm down, but then her chest began to heave and she was breathing erratically and began panting through her choked coughs, like she had just run a marathon. Something was definitely not right. "Nancy?" she choked out. "Nancy, I need—ah—" She gasped loudly then and couldn't seem to catch her breath. The Joker watched with hooded eyes, wondering what was happening and who the hell is Nancy?
When her coughing finally stopped and she was no longer gasping for breath like a fish out of water, she sighed shakily, as if she were on the verge of tears. She pushed back the covers, and the Joker could only stand and watch in silence as the small, flimsy nightgown she was wearing fell around her, ending mid-thigh. She was a tiny little thing, bony and thin and of average height with big, wide eyes and a small mouth.
The Joker realized then that now was time. Now was the time for him to come up behind her and slit her tiny little throat. She wouldn't even know what hit—er, cut her.
Yet, for some reason, he couldn't.
He couldn't bring himself to do it.
He didn't know why, call it morbid curiosity perhaps, but he wanted to see what she was going to do next.
He watched her glance over at her oxygen mask, and she stared at it for a moment through hazy eyes. He noticed then that she was beginning to sway a bit dizzily, and as she took a step forward, she collapsed to the carpet, her legs giving out underneath her as if they were made of Jell-o.
When she began to cry, the sound was so quiet that he hardly heard it at first. He stood next to the window and remained hidden in the shadows, listening to her quiet sobs for nearly five whole minutes. This is so pathetic. What on earth is she crying about? She couldn't have been in as much pain as he was, and yet she was sobbing on the floor. He wasn't crying. She needed to buck up, if you asked him.
When she finally finished, she let out a heavy sigh and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Slowly, her head began to lift when she noticed that the window was open. Conveniently enough, a cool breeze drifted in behind the Joker, making the curtains undulate in small, rippled waves. She must have sensed that something wasn't right because her whole body went noticeably rigid and her breathing got quieter, as if she were holding her breath and waiting for someone like him to pop out of the shadows. She grunted and tried to stand.
And that's when the Joker decided that it was time to end his little charade. He stepped forward, standing almost directly behind her with his knife clutched in hand, ready to slit her throat. He knew she heard him this time because her head snapped up and her eyes went wide.
Before he could think of a reply to her question, she was gasping again, stumbling onto the floor on her hands and knees as she panted breathlessly. She was clearly hyperventilating this time, her mouth open as she lied on the floor, trying to suck in more oxygen.
"Please, please someone help me," she managed to choke out. "I—I ca—can't breathe." She wheezed on the floor as she tried to crawl towards the nightstand, attempting to reach her oxygen mask. The Joker could tell she was disoriented and dizzy, because as her hand reached for the mask, she missed it by a long shot as her hand fell back to the floor. She cried out, her voice cracking pitifully. "Someone help . . . ."
Oh, I plan to, he thought, twirling his knife between blood-stained fingers.
The Joker's body, though, seemed to have other ideas. He stood over her, his legs on either side of her waist as he put his arms underneath hers and helped her up off the floor. The sharp pain in his side flared up again, but he managed to hold back a groan. He needed to get stitched up before he lost too much blood.
Ignoring his own pain, he dragged the woman over to the bed and hoisted her onto it. She choked on air that she didn't have as he retrieved her oxygen mask, not even bothering to put the strap around her head and just placing it over her mouth. She grabbed at it frantically, their fingers brushing in the process as he pulled his hand away, and pressed it to her face, breathing in precious oxygen.
He stood with his thighs pressed up against the side of the bed while he looked down at her and she looked up at him. He was surprised when her hand suddenly reached up and weakly clutched at his jacket. He let his eyes trail up her frame before he met her own. Her eyes shone and her mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, but she only squeezed his jacket once before her grip loosened. Her eyelashes fluttered and then closed, her hand falling limply to her side. She had passed out, but was still breathing.
What the hell just happened?
This was definitely now what he had expected. He had just wanted to get in, clean up his wounds, maybe eat a little something and take a powernap, and then get out.
He should've just killed her, although it certainly wasn't too late to do so . . . .
As he looked down at her, he felt something in his chest, something akin to a twinge of sympathy even though he had no idea what exactly that was supposed to feel like.
He sighed and studied her messy hair and face that was damp with sweat, and then to her nightgown that had ridden all the way up to her stomach and had revealed her underwear. Being the honorable gentlemen that he was, he pulled it back down for her so that she wasn't completely exposed. His hands happened to brush against her skin in the process and he found that she was unnaturally cold despite her sweating.
He pursed his lips in thought then, realizing that he didn't need to kill her. As long as she was knocked out, she didn't pose any threat. The Joker would stitch himself up and be out of there before she even woke.
He hated killing people like her. It somehow felt . . . pointless, like kicking a dog when it was already down. There was no fun in it, no excitement, no . . . adrenaline rush. She seemed as if she was in a lot of pain and probably wanted to die anyway, and the Joker wasn't going to be the person to send her where she wanted to go. He didn't do requests.
With that decided, he hobbled out of the bedroom and wandered down the dark halls of her apartment. There was another bedroom just across from her own but she had turned it into an office of sorts. There was a desk and a computer and a nifty swivel chair, and various boxes full of junk spewing from the closet. Uninterested, he meandered (see: limped,) into the kitchen/living room, which was plainly furnished. There weren't any lavish decorations or weirdly-shaped potted plants or cheesy family photos or lawn gnomes. He kinda liked it.
In the kitchen, he happened to notice a pan of brownies on the counter, and he cut myself a piece, chewing contently and momentarily forgetting about his bleeding side. There were lots of pictures on the fridge, and so he moved closer to it so he could better inspect them.
There was a picture of her with some of her friends in the downtown art gallery, a random picture of a dog sitting in the grass, and then a picture of her and some man—her dad, maybe?—who was dressed in hospital garb while she sat at his bedside, both of them smiling. Uninterestedly glancing over all the other pictures, his eyes fell upon her magnetic day-planner on the side of the fridge.
Well well well, she is quite the busy little bee, isn't she? Almost every day of the month she had some kind of plan or to-do list scribbled in. Work out at the gym on Saturday, visit parents on Sunday, meeting with the boss on Monday, and etc. After a minute of studying the calendar, however, he began to notice a pattern. On Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, she had doctor's appointments, all of which were marked in red pen. Also, listed on nearly all the work days of the week was the word "visitation," which was also written in red pen. What did that mean, and why the hell did she go to the doctor's so damn much?
The Joker was so lost in his own thoughts that he happened to miss the light, barely-there sound of footsteps. The suddenness of a soft, quiet voice, however, broke through his jumble of thoughts.
Immediately, he spun around to see the woman standing just outside of the kitchen, staring at him. If she was surprised to find that the Joker was in her kitchen, she didn't let it show. She regarded him with an air of cautious interest. She was frightened though, he could tell by the way her hands clutched at the hem of her nightgown.
As she swallowed down her growing panic, he folded his arms across his chest, staring at her levelly.
"You got a first-aid kit?"