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And Sign Up With Evil

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Neither Batman nor Bruce Wayne had heard from the Joker in weeks.

When Wayne did finally catch up with the man it was in the basement of another run-down motel, and both the Joker and the room he’d holed up in were covered in days and days of grime.

 

Wayne only began to worry when he noticed the three pill bottles lined up on the table next to the bed, one empty and two full and all three labeled vicodin

How many of these did you take? Wayne demanded shoving the empty orange container into the Joker’s pale face

Fucking. The Joker squinted his reddened eyes. All? Wayne clenched the little pill bottle until the plastic cracked

All? Was it full?

Nope. The Joker blinked slowly. Hey you know those magazines?

...Sure.

We shouldorder pizza. i got coupons in the...the Joker’s voice wavered and trailed off, and his gaze lost focus again. Wayne could hear odd clicking noises when the Joker spoke that meant his mouth was dry, that he was dehydrated on top of everything else

Sure, Wayne sighed again. Whatever you want. Just hold still for a moment. He reached out to tilt the Joker’s head back, get a look at his pupils, but the Joker made a little growl in his throat and scooted away until he tipped over

and off the side of the mattress hitting the hardwood with a soft thump.

Oops.

You’re lucky i have narcan with me, Wayne remarked as he rounded the bed. The Joker’s low rusty chuckle echoed up from the dusty floor.

i have some. i never leave...home without it.

Wayne rolled his eyes for the sixth time that day,

and went over to pick him up.

 

Later that morning Wayne paces in his bedroom while Alfred tries to dress him for his charity event.

Are you sure you’ll be okay?

He’s sleeping, Master Bruce. He’ll likely do so for the next few hours. If there’s an emergency i’m sure you can come up with an excuse to leave early but skipping your own charity auction really is bad form, Sir.

Alright, Wayne sighs as Alfred catches his hand to fix his cuff. Alright.

In the end Wayne does leave but it’s to change into Batman’s suit, and by noon his nerves are frayed.

 

At half past seven he pulls into the cave overheated from the midsummer humidity even though the sun is setting now

and the temperature has dropped.

He fumbles a bit with taking the suit off; his fingers are sweaty and shaking and Alfred hasn’t come down to help him. Wayne’s pretty certain he knows why.

 

Instead of showering he takes a gatorade from the fridge a granola bar from the pantry and a handful from his candy drawer to ply the Joker with later, and heads for his bedroom.The curtains closest to the west wall are open and letting in a spill of red setting sun. The rest of the curtains are drawn tight leaving the room mostly dark. The television is on but Wayne’s bed and the chair beside it are empty, though the bedsheets are crumpled and the pillows strewn. The screen across the room casts a gray glow over the profile of Wayne’s butler where he’s sitting on the sofa.

Where—Wayne starts as he approaches the sofa, but a moment later he realizes Where—the Joker is asleep, curled into a loose ball in his soft pajamas that had definitely been in the laundry hamper when Wayne left, with his sweaty head on a pillow that’s half-propped against Alfred’s leg where he’s sitting now holding a heating pad to the Joker’s abdomen and looking up at Wayne

with his gentle impassive eyes.

 

Wayne takes a breath to speak but nothing comes so he lets his breath out in a huff through his nose

and just looks at them.

The Joker’s twitching faintly in his sleep but his color is better, and he seems far more comfortable than he did when Wayne left that morning. Alfred looks as tired and composed as he usually does at the end of a difficult day, but right now Wayne can feel a gentle warmth emanating from him: that same quiet strength that Wayne has always found himself enveloped by,

whenever he is the one in need.

 

Alfred clears his throat softly, and speaks first: He’ll never admit it but his pain was out of control, and there was very little i could do for him.

Clearly, Wayne replies. Is he drugged.

Marginally. Alfred shrugs his available shoulder. Even with the phenergan it’s been difficult for him to rest. Anyone else would be in tears, in the face of this much pain. He glances down at the Joker again. i’ve witnessed many, many people in tears, facing this much pain. He badly needed to be in someone’s arms.

Wayne nods and bites his lip,

and has to look away for a second. He was ill, he murmurs. He was hurting. He didn’t mean to do it. The words come out as a whisper, and Alfred smiles sadly.

i know.

That’s still no excuse, Wayne says, louder.

It’s debatable Master Bruce, Alfred sighs. He adjusts the pillow under the Joker’s head, then his eyes flick over the areas of Wayne’s body that are smeared with dirt and blood. If you’d like to clean up and get ready for bed then we can settle down for the evening. i’ll give him his medication later tonight. There’s something about the old man’s tone that means his offer

is a gentle command disguised

so Wayne reaches down to stroke the Joker’s hair before he turns away, to go do as he’s told.

(For once, the Joker would say.)

 

Someone's always coming around here
Trailing some new kill
Says "I've seen your picture on a
Hundred-dollar bill"
What's a game of chance to you
To him is one of real skill
So glad to meet you, Angeles

Picking up the ticket shows there's
Money to be made
Go on, lose the gamble that's the
History of the trade
Did you add up all the cards left to play
To zero
And sign up with evil, Angeles?

Don't start me trying now
Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh
'Cause I'm all over it, Angeles

I can make you satisfied in
Everything you do
All your secret wishes could right
Now be coming true
And be forever with my poison arms
Around you

No one's gonna fool around with us
No one's gonna fool around with us
So glad to meet'cha, Angeles

—Angeles: Elliott Smith