It’s the twenty third of June when Bruce brings the Joker home again, and the first thing you see is the frantic look in his eyes, in his movements, in his voice as he tries to wake the man slumped over in the front seat of the tumbler.
The Joker wakes easily enough, and although he’s clearly battered and in pain he seems no worse off than any other time. Bruce seems close to tears.
You bring out a wheelchair.
You set up an IV.
Bruce is magnetized toward this man, refuses to leave his side. You watch him hold the Joker’s head in his lap. You watch him stroke his fingers through the Joker’s hair over and over while he stares at the television as if in a trance, while the madman looks back up him with a contented but puzzled expression on his face.
He doesn’t know, you’ve come to realize. But it’s hardly your business to tell him.
He is not a well man, with half of his body covered in abrasions of varying depth and severity. He can barely bend his knees. But he still smiles whenever Bruce touches him, or speaks to him, or pays any attention to him at all.
i hate seeing you hurt, Joker. i hate it. Sometimes i wish we could just leave that we could take off to my island or Paris or New Zealand and drop all of our arch nemesis bullshit
Don’t you put that on me, Bruce Wayne. Don’t you put that on us. i don’t even remember the drive here, i was in no fit state to give consent for you to bring my sorry ass to your house and you know that. Ah—hey, stop. Relax. i’m not saying that i don’t appreciate you stopping Bane from turning me into a hamburger but i’m just—
i care about you. i wanted you to be here with me.
You didn’t ask me. And i’m fine with that Bruce, but i feel bad seeing you tear yourself up like this.
They both fall silent for a moment, and then the clown lays a hand on Bruce’s knee.
You’ve never seen them argue. Of course this hardly counts as arguing, this quiet exchange between them, but it’s something. Then the tiniest sliver of guilt settles into you for listening in, but it happens more often than Bruce thinks.
What’s going on with him, the clown asks you. Did i forget his birthday or something.
i can see he’s never told you what happened twenty four years ago today, has he.
What, you think he tells me everything, the clown replies flatly. He winces as you tug the bandage gently across his wrist. i mean i don’t really care one way or the other if he doesn’t want to tell me, but he does seem to want me here. A lot.
He does, you agree, but you don’t say anything more. There is a look in the Joker’s eyes that you don’t recognize as being a part of him.
Listen, he continues, just don’t let him rope you into waiting on me okay. You do enough around here. You nod.
You finish bandaging him.
You leave the room.
You open the refrigerator, you make them breakfast.