A/N: This is a tribute one-shot to the fantastic story Clockwork (truly one of the best Joker stories ever written) by the wonderful and very talented HoistTheColours. If you haven't read the story yet, you might not understand this one-shot, but if you still want to read this tribute, I'll explain this briefly and without spoilers. This tribute one-shot is based on a deleted scene written by HoistTheColours and is an alternative take on the events taking place right after the Joker murders Anders in Chapter 17. (Wilks is still in the picture in this tribute, just because.) For those of you who are not familiar with Clockwork (in which case, start reading it now): Taylor is a four-year-old adorable girl who was found by the Joker in an abandoned building and is now being taken care of by him. A lot has happened, but now Taylor saw Mr. J murder a man (I won't say anything more to avoid spoilers.)

DISCLAIMER: The Joker is not mine, he belongs to DC Comics. Taylor is not mine, she belongs to HoistTheColours. The story is based on the story Clockwork written by HoistTheColours. The idea for this one-shot is hers alone, I only wrote it down as best as I could.

I tried my best and I hope I got at least some of it right. HoistTheColours, this is for you.

Readers, enjoy!

Sincerely, Lorien Urbani


Hide and Seek

/

The room smelled of murder, the sort of smell that people called odour, but he labelled as perfume. The delightfully copper perfume of blood wanted him to do more, cut and make someone else bleed out on the now marred white tiles, and he really, really wanted to – he wanted to kill Taylor just a few seconds ago. But he changed his mind. It really would have been a waste. And then, disturbing thoughts and realizations began to gnaw at his brain, but her whimpering clogged them shut. Good.

Or not. It annoyed him when she cried and she did that a lot. But for now, he just had to get them out of that room and make them ready for what was coming. He eyed the moaning Taylor, her face hiding in the cradle of her small, slightly blood-stained hands, and felt both compelled to tell her to shut the fuck up and suck it up, and comfort her. Well, he definitely wouldn't do either of the options. He didn't do comforting and he'd been giving her too much attention as it was, and look where it had led him.

He scooped her little body in his arms and she attempted to struggle a little, but he ignored it. He just pressed her face against his chest, making it possible for her to still breathe, but muffling her protests. He was not in the mood for them.

Taylor was so very scared and confused. Mr. J had just done such a terrible, terrible thing and she could just not erase it from her thoughts. She stopped struggling in his arms and concentrated on shutting her eyes tight in the hope of blocking out the pictures and the sounds that made her shudder – the abundance of blood, Mr. J's evil laughter, Anders's desperate, suffering face – but it didn't help. For a moment, the familiar smell of Mr. J's gunpowder-scented clothes felt comforting to Taylor, but her little nose itched with the nauseous, terrible stench of Anders's blood and she began to cry again, wondering why Mr. J would ever do that. She loved him, she did, almost like she loved her mommy, and he had never hurt Taylor, not really, although he often rebuked her in his gruff, not-to-be-contradicted, scary way, but now he hurt that man and it was awful. He really scared her. It was not the first time that she was scared of him, but this time was different. This time, things were more than serious.

When he opened the door to their master bedroom and shut it behind him with the hill of a shoe, Taylor realized something. Before Mr. J killed Anders, he was very bad to her and so very angry, and now that she knew how he could really hurt people, she gasped. He was going to kill her too, just like Anders had told her he would. No, she didn't want that. No. But she just knew that he would kill her with one of his sharp, mean knives, just like he had Anders.

At the thought, she began to writhe in his arms like a freshly caught eel and he tightened his grip on her, but she was persistent. She wriggled with her entire body, determined to make him release her. "Let me go!" she screamed, using her little fists on his chest, but he snatched them with one hand, incapacitating her hands with his large palm. Taylor saw no other option but to use her teeth.

The Joker was surprised by the mild pain stinging his wrist just between the rim of his purple glove and the rim of his coat. Taylor's bite was so unexpected that he loosened his grip and let her go. He growled as the little pest scrambled away from him, disappearing somewhere in the darkness of the room. Oh, she didn't. But she did and apparently, Taylor wanted to play hide and seek with him. He let out a guttural chuckle. She had no idea what she had just gotten herself into. He loved this game; he was the master of the game and the monster in the darkness and he always, always won. He was still under the effect of the recent murder and unfortunately for Taylor, the effect hadn't entirely worn off just yet.

He stayed still for a while, letting her tiptoe around the bedroom in her vain attempt to hide herself from him. She could hide all she liked, but he would seek her out eventually, when he felt like it, and then she better get ready, because he was in a particular mood. His lips curled into a smile that promised danger and he fished out a clean knife from the left pocket of his trousers, chuckling to himself again, loud enough to make sure she heard him, colouring it with a sinister sound that would make her blood curdle. He heard her whimper somewhere to the right of him, probably trying to scramble under the bed by the sound of her unseen movements.

Taylor was trying to get under the bed, but its wooden frame was too low and even her small body couldn't squeeze underneath its safety. Her lower lip trembled and she wiped away a tear, sniffing, then stood up again, thinking about a new place to hide. She was worried because she couldn't see Mr. J in the darkness and all she could hear her was his dangerous, low chuckling that sent cold shivers down her spine.

"I'm done with the counting," he announced suddenly, his voice a snake ready to bite her.

Taylor panicked and scrambled onto the bed. She crossed it on her hands and knees and slid off the mattress on the other side, her feet landing on her teddy. She felt momentary relief to be able to hold her teddy in her hands, but Mr. J was coming to get her and she knew that touching base wouldn't save her in this situation. She could hear his muffled steps approaching her and instinctively, she crossed the bed to the other side again, but not without a tear-stained whimper. She hugged the teddy tight and opened the empty closet by the bed as silently as she could, jumping inside and sitting down in one corner. She was breathing fast and hoping so badly that Mr. J wouldn't find her or that, maybe, he would forget that he wanted to kill her.

The Joker licked his lips in amusement, turning in the direction of the closet. Well, the kid was about as subtle as a gun when it came to hiding, but he would let her hide for a little while longer. The important element of this game was to drive the mouse nuts with frightened anticipation. It would teach her. He would make sure she understood what he wanted from her and it was obedience. He would get that soppy, sentimental, teary-eyed attitude out of her and there would be no more "Mr. J, can you please fix my teddy?" or "Mr. J, I love you" crap. So she loved him, huh? He would make her eat her fucked up words. They made him shudder with disgust.

He hated it when he was not obeyed, when he was contradicted, and Taylor did that a lot, even after all he'd done for the little brat, although he didn't have to. He had had it and he was pissed. Off. If she wanted to be around Mr. J, as she so liked to insist, then she would do exactly as he told her. He had decided he would not kill her. He would wait until the plan had been realized. But if she kept testing him, then he wouldn't keep his promise, even if he was a man of his word.

He walked over to the closet and opened it. He heard a little frightened gasp and then he felt Taylor crawl between his spread legs. He could have just stopped her by squeezing her body between them, but she didn't seem quite scared enough. Her next stop was the bathroom and he followed her there. She locked the door and he had to admit, she was not that bad at this, but still not good. She had forgotten that she had decided to play hide and seek with him. He lifted his foot with pleasure and slammed it into the thin wood of the door, making the door fly open for him with a crash.

Taylor shrieked openly this time and he decided that perhaps it was time he proceeded to the seeking part of the game and found her. He chuckled and allowed his lips to curl into a wide, evil grin. The Big Bad Wolf was coming to take the little, disobedient girl.

Taylor was beside herself. She had hid herself in the shower, enveloping herself and her teddy with the plastic curtain. It wasn't much, but perhaps Mr. J would check the corners first and she could run past him, like she had when he found her in the closet.

"Shh, teddy," she whispered to the plush toy, trying to comfort herself by comforting the teddy.

She would have to be quick and although she was shaking like a leaf, she prepared herself bravely to shoot upwards when Mr. J slid away the plastic curtain. She was still shaken by the crashing sound of the bathroom door opening by force, although she had locked them. Mr. J really wanted to kill her, she knew that now, and she felt entirely alone, abandoned, betrayed and petrified with fear. Oh, if only he didn't find her! The darkness was already scary on its own. He was making it a living nightmare. She didn't know where she would go after she escaped. Mr. J had been taking care of her and she had started to believe that things would stay this way until mommy came back, which she didn't mind, but now Mr. J wanted her dead and that changed things.

Mr. J snapping away the plastic curtain violently, the action followed by a feral growl, made her jump, alright, but she didn't get far. As she tried to run past him, she bumped straight into him and he caught her by an arm. She began to scream, but his gloved hand clammed over her mouth and his other arm snaked around her waist, pulling her up none too gently and crashing her back against his chest. She wriggled hard, but this time she couldn't make him let her go, even though she bit his hand again and again and again and her legs kept hitting his thighs. He took her out of the bathroom and shocked her eyes by turning on the light in the room. She blinked in confusion, but before she knew it, he tossed her on the floor, making her yelp in pain as her bottom hit the hard ground. She didn't get the chance to scramble up to her feet. Mr. J grabbed her shoulders and crashed her against the wall. This time, she didn't scream. The look he was giving her made her shut up. Mr. J looked like...a monster.

The Joker knelt down in front of her, catching Taylor's jaw with one hand and showing her his knife with the other. He saw and felt Taylor cringe, but she didn't scream and he knew that finally, he had her undivided attention. He looked into her teary eyes with twisted, dark amusement and waved the knife in front of her face.

"Please, Mr. J, please don't hurt me..." she begged, her tears gathering on the glove of his hand that was squeezing her cheeks and jaw, washing away the traces of Anders's blood. "I...I really didn't mean to make you angry..." she sobbed, but she was trying to elicit pity from the wrong guy.

He cocked his head to the side, his eyes never leaving hers. Then, he looked at his knife and back at her. "Oh, it seems to me," he said, his voice dangerously low, "that you are afraid...of my knife."

Taylor nodded eagerly and bit her lip in an attempt to keep another whimper inside her throat, but half of it struggled out nonetheless, creating a squealing sound. The Joker smirked.

"Why would you," he grumbled, touching the tip of the knife to her nose, so she was squinting at the blade in horror, "be afraid of my knife, hm? Y'see...this knife...is my toy. Just like your teddy is your toy."

"But," Taylor began with an uncertain whisper, "but knives are...bad. Mommy always says – "

"Screw your mommy!" he growled. "You're ah, you're talking to me now." He shook her head with his hand a little for effect.

Taylor let out a sob and looked at him pitifully. "W-why are you so mean to me, Mr. J? Why do you want to k-k-kill me?"

He smirked into her face, offering her one of his black smiles. "You ah, you want me to be nice to you, Taylor?"

She nodded slowly, shakily, sniffing back the phlegm her tears had been melting out of her nose.

"You...you could try... I really didn't mean to make you angry. Please, don't...don't kill me, Mr J, please..."

He grumbled. Her incessant begging was annoying. "But you did make me angry. You make me angry...a lot. And I...don't. Like. It."

"I...I didn't mean to hide, but...you scared me..." she explained.

He scared her? That was the point. She had gotten under his skin too much for his comfort and he would repair the mistake he had made by letting her do that. Apparently, he had somehow given her a reason to trust him, and that led to her thinking she could do whatever the hell she wanted to. Well, that was over now. From now on, she would not trust him, she would not make herself comfortable in his life and she would do only what he told her to do because she was his to order around, his to hurt, his to do whatever the hell he wanted to do with her. He was the boss and just because she was a child and cute didn't mean she had any say in anything. He was not an old spinster feeding pigeons in the park and cooing over little kids she never had. He was the Joker. He killed people for amusement, not coddled abandoned little girls. She was just part of the plan, nothing more.

"You mean, mean, mean a lotta things," he said roughly, "but what you really gotta do if you want me to be ah, nicer is...to obey. Got it?"

Taylor looked at him both in confusion and understanding, so he explained his demand in more detail. He put the knife back into the pocket of his trousers and she exhaled in relief, wiping the tears from her face and touching his hand in the process. He slapped her hands away angrily, glaring at her, and she shrank against the wall, her eyes two large saucers filled to the brim with fear and uncertainty.

"Now listen," he commanded gruffly, "I'll only say this once. No more of your questions, no more of your little girly games," he began to enumerate in a low, dangerous voice, relishing in the fact that every word seemed to hurt her, screwing up her pale face with worry and disappointment. "If I say you ah, you gotta stay in this room, you will stay in this room. And you're not going anywhere without me. You will not...hide from me. And you will always do what I. Say. You Do. Capisce?"

Taylor nodded, sniffing. "And," he added, "I don't want you to cry and ah, sniff around me." He nodded and she nodded with him, not liking the situation, but seeing no other choice.

"If you break the rules-uh," he was finishing, standing up, lifting Taylor in his arms – she was not struggling at all this time – and putting her on the bed roughly, "don't think that your ah, Mr. J won't play the game of knives with you."

Taylor crumbled into the sitting position on the bed and was fighting back the tears. The good news was, Mr. J was not going to kill her after all, but she was very sad because he had never, ever been so mean to her before. He did not only scare her; he was downright mean and he did not like her, not even a little bit. She wanted to ask him why he didn't like her; she wanted to ask him to please like her, to tell him that she would be even more good than she knew she could be – because she had always been a good girl – if he only liked her, just a little. She missed her mommy and now she lost even Mr. J. And she wasn't allowed to even cry about it because he would get angry again and he told her he would play the game of knives with her then.

She looked up and saw him assessing her, and for a moment she thought she saw a good spark in his eyes, but it was gone the second she believed she saw it and her face fell.

"Go to bed," he ordered and walked away from the bed, towards the door.

Taylor got scared – she didn't want to be left alone in the bedroom again. She was about to ask where he was going, but remembered his warning and closed her mouth. She took off her shoes with shaky hands, threw them on the floor by the bed and scrambled under the covers, swallowing down hot tears. She looked at Mr. J standing by the door, watching her with silent and chilly attitude.

"I'll come back," he grumbled. "Don't try to do anything."

She nodded obediently and as he turned off the light and closed the door, locking it behind him, Taylor buried her head under the covers and began to weep silently.

The Joker paused by the door as he locked it and buried the key inside the breast pocket of his jacket. He could hear her cry and for a strange moment, he felt almost sorry that he had been so rough on her. She was just a kid. But then he checked himself and walked away, not caring whether she cried herself to sleep or not.

When he returned an hour later, having ordered Wilks to take care of the body and checking up on the newly arrived – or rather returned – beat-up Jacob, he took the coat, the gloves, the jacket and the shoes off and plopped himself on the bed beside a sleeping Taylor for a short rest. A lot of things, big things, would be set in motion very soon and he needed some rest. As his back came into contact with the mattress, he felt a bump pressing into his spine and grabbed it, feeling that it was Taylor's teddy. He put the teddy next to her and tucked it in together with the little girl. Then, he realized what he had just done subconsciously and muttered an angry curse under his breath, his fingers itching for the cold comfort of a sharp blade.

He got up from the bed and found his resting place on the couch across the bedroom.

But the Joker didn't sleep that night.


Reviews are most welcome.

P.S. For some bizarre reason, I was listening to the song Introductions by Danny Elfman composed for the Sleepy Hollow soundtrack while writing this, in case you're interested.