From the Knight Vs Anarchy community on LiveJournal, Prompt: Pagliacci
Disclaimer: I own nothing or no one of the DC universe nor the opera, Pagliacci. In no way am I profiting from this.
Warnings: None really. Minor Het and Warped infidelity, maybe?
Summary: Joker witnesses something that simply isn't right.

A/N: This is my first time writing present tense, so I hope it works out well. It's meant to be choppy, so if you hate that then... yeah. But if you don't mind, please tell me what you think? I thought I'd post this while I'm finishing up the next chapter of Bastards Deranged.

It starts with a chuckle.

No, that's not right.

The chuckle comes later.

Much later.

It starts with healed flesh. White skin and silver scars. He had noticed he could walk unhindered, talk and chew with a smooth-hinged jaw, nothing is ruptured or broken, not even a yellow shadow of a bruise he could dig his bony finger into.

It wasn't right.

Then it comes to stalking dark alleys and following screams he isn't responsible for... today. He's a color guy and squinting into blackness isn't the easiest task, but he manages since he knows exactly what he's looking for. It's like catching smoke only for it to curl and slip between your fingers. That's why he wears gloves, his cracked and dirty hands aren't up to the task to caress -to tear apart- the flicker of woven shadow snapping over a narrow break between buildings.

His eyes luckily catch this, and he's running like a sane man gone mad.

Rust rubs off onto his purple hands and dusts his painted face and clings to his suit front. He hardly notices, scampering up the fire escape and stifling the giddiness that consumes him, because he knows -he knows- his sweetheart is just at the top.

It's been far too long.

When his head peers over the roof's edge, he's smiling and he's opening his mouth to deliver some witty greeting -something to make his Bat giggle- but the words abruptly lose their air.

At first he isn't sure what he's seeing: There's no doubt of course the tall, solid black figure with the darling pointed ears is his Bat, who else could stand with such a stiff spine and look so serious; but there's one body too many.

Not right.

The ebony second skin of material clinging to a woman's curves slinking into view keeps him good and quiet.

Who's that?

Gravel crunches under spike heels as this woman with flecks of cloth resembling devil horns fixed on her head sashays closer to his Bat, long tail swishing around her ankles. Oh, a pussy cat, how original.

A cat and a Bat.

In her clawed hands, a whip coils and attaches to her hip. Though her face is partially hidden by a thin cross-section of black, it isn't hard to gather the face is attractive. He can't hear the words coming out of her mouth but knows that that color of lipstick is all wrong.

Too dark. Bats doesn't like plum; he prefers vermilion.

His mind can't quite catch up with his eyes as the curvy harlot sidles up to a Kevlar chest, steel nails glinting in the moonlight and scratching lightly at the insignia printed there. His jaw and the vigilante's tighten, but where he is flicking his wrist to eject the knife up his sleeve, his Bat's perpetual fists are squeezing tighter with an audible groan.

Only He is allowed that close. No one else. Him.

But that isn't right, because she's pressing closer and slipping a hand to cradle and loosen the exposed lower half of his face. That mouth is everything and it's emotionless. It's strange to see when all he's ever seen have been snarls and scowls and sour pinches.

The switchblade snaps open and quivers dully in the shadow of the building. He realizes then it's not the knife that is shaking but him. It knows something he doesn't know yet.

Why hasn't Batsy shoved her away or swept out into the night?

Gotham's nocturnal sound track, sirens and car alarms and things that makes one cringe if they aren't used to it, drown out his deep rasp as the Bat holds his hand out for something. The purring in reply is loud though. Smalls hands latch around a protected neck while a lean leg hooks around his waist, her head coyly shaking. The Bat's fangs bear, and the clown is still confused because the hero hasn't lashed out yet when he looks so angry.

That anger should be His.

It shouldn't matter if it's a girl. When you get close to His sweetums, batting your tarantula eyelashes, you should expect to get hit. And right now, it's all he could do to not vault over the edge and stab-stab-stab! Straight to the heart all nine times, and fifty more after that just to make sure. But like always, He wants to see what the morally-stifled man would do.

Believe it or not, it matters.

Broad shoulders jerk to rid himself of the weight of her arms, and watching eyes are a light in triumph.


But then it all just goes so wrong.

Plum swiftly meets pale pink, and half moon-stretched red lips strain, frozen on his painted face. The blade slices through the air and lands in a pillow of trash. He hardly notices, because everything feels numb like he isn't even here, that he somehow forgot to exist, and all he could do was let the wind dry his exposed teeth into a sticky film against his lips. Then he realizes belatedly he's falling, sliding awkwardly down the ladder, his hands forgotten in their hook shapes. His retinas are stained with the waxen moon framing a shadowy beast with two backs, a cloak swirling around their meeting, flaring and trying to protect against prying eyes.

His prying eyes.

He lands with a stagger and sharp, glorious pain shoots up his legs from the soles of his feet. For a moment, green eyes stare past the grimy brick and the rusted fire escape, absently wondering why he hadn't broken the first rung. He clings to this anomaly, because it's so much better to focus on that then the couple at the top of this death trap.

Insistent, plump lips and a strong jaw apprehensively opening up to a sandpaper tongue invasion.

That- ... that was supposed to be His. . .


Mine. Mine. Mine.

And he's gone. He doesn't know he's leaving the dark, little alley wreaking of waste until he's standing at its mouth and squinting at the streetlight. Such a pathetic sepia glow. His mind's clicking like a stalling engine. The pounding space between his lungs is curdling and it's making it hard to breathe, and he guesses he should probably be concerned but that's how he knows for sure something is wrong because physical health isn't a priority unless thick, black knuckles are kissing bruises into his skin and his body is flying through the air with the greatest of ease and smashing into a wall with a cracked skull. Then he throws out his broken arms and goes Ta-da!

It begins with the bubble of air burning at the back of his throat swelling bigger and bigger, surging up his palette and popping past his lips.

A hiccup. A chuckle. A sob.

It happens again, easier this time, like instinctive vomit. Once you get started, it feels so good. Cathartic. And he's laughing, howling to the night with such mirth he's sure if he's loud enough, the screaming in his head will give up and go away.

And maybe if he's even louder, his Bat will hear him and come back to him.

Bats bite and flap leather wings and beat clowns with a delectable rage. There isn't room for anything else. Unstoppable force, immovable object. But now it's as if the object has spontaneously shifted forty-six point nine degrees to the left, no longer equally opposing the force, and the force is knocked off balance and is spinning, spinning, spinning...

Pedestrians, whores and their pimps, and muggers in the shadows are running away. The stretch of street is as empty as his lungs, squeezed and burning for oxygen, and he can't remember if he has a gun on him to blast them all down. It doesn't matter now. They're all gone.

It's when funny thoughts like the abomination there up on the roof could possibly be his fault, because he's been away so long make the ache worse. Batsy must have gotten bored and lonely while his clown stayed holed up in his hidey hole, making plans to spice up their love life. He's really been awfully neglectful.

What a, uh, logical thought that makes him so... furious.

Where's- where's the... Commitment?

The laughter dwindles to gravel giggles grinding in his chest. How can he act a comedy with tragedy in his heart?[1] This person, this sorry creature isn't him. Bats and cats, they're silly pests that live and die by the same means. But him, he's kinda like... a dog chasing cars [2]. He'd gotten so fixated on running after the Bat mobile, he's forgotten about Gotham. That just wouldn't, couldn't do! Someone has to teach her how to laugh after all; no one could do it better than a sharp-dressed clown with a forever smile.


The switchblade clicks and slips back into his sleeve. Plum leather hands smooth back greasy green hair in a tangled flop against his scalp. The taste of wax flits over his taste buds upon wetting his lips. His fingers brush away the damning rust off his lapels. He adjusts his tie, fixing it at a crooked angle to his white-slicked Adams apple as he gazes at his dark, translucent reflection in a parked car window. The white of his face is the easiest to pick out; it glows and fancies him a ghost. The red slash of his mouth quirks and widens to a toothy grin. The messy, black pits blots out his eyes, but he gives himself a saucy wink regardless, because he knows -simply knows- he looks purrrfect.

He must look so, of course.

One must look his absolute best when one has a date with Lady Gotham. The Big Bad Bat had him running late, but all is right now. He's going to make it up to her with poisoned candies, sweet-smelling bouquets spitting acid, glittering knives, whispered sweet nothings, surprise assassinations, and pretty, pretty fireworks.

And maybe, if all goes according to plan, he'll have her gangly legs spread by the night's end, fucking her into chaotic oblivion.

He tells himself this with satisfied glee.

Ending his grand thoughts with a chuckle.

Thou art not a man, thou'rt but a jester!
On with the motley, and the paint, and the powder!
The people pay thee, and want their laugh, you know!
If Harlequin thy Columbine has stolen, laugh Punchinello!
The world will cry, "Bravo!"

He strolls away with a proud puff of his chest into the city's waiting arms. He also tells himself, with a weak smile and an odd swoop in his gut, that the comedy was never, ever about a Bat.

[1] A line from the opera, "Pagliacci"
[2] Line from "The Dark Knight"
[3] A section from the English transcript of "Pagliacci." Hope it's right.

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