The Joker yawns, repositioning his head in your lap.
“You want a small pillow?” you pause the movie you’re both watching and he refuses.
“No,” J stretches on the couch. “These are soft enough,” he pokes your thighs and you squirm, ticklish to his touch.
Suddenly, the cell phone chimes and J reaches his hand to grab it from the table.
“Arthur is here,” he announces. “He wasn’t in a hurry, hm?” The Joker mumbles while getting up.
You decline to comment and do the same because you can hear the elevator going up to the Penthouse. You could say the anticipation is making you a little bit nervous: you’ve been with J for about 10 months but you’ve never met Arthur. Probably it’s safe to assume they are not very close yet soon after finding out about the illness, The Joker contacted his sibling to let him know and sure enough he agreed to come over and help.
Although Mr. Fleck is three hours late, it doesn’t mean he is trying to back out on his promise.
The elevator opens and Arthur emerges dressed in one of his red suits, anxiously passing his fingers through his curls. J wants to criticize and his brother is in no mood for a lecture:
“Before you lash out, I was delayed by an unexpected issue!” he keeps talking and walking in your direction. “My apologies.”
“What issue?” J growls and Arthur extends the palm of his hand, firmly shaking yours, definitely not waiting for an introduction: “Hello there,” he smiles. “I’m the older, smarter, funnier and more charming version; you must be the better half.”
“Riiiiiight…” The Joker rolls his eyes, annoyed.
“Y/N,” you smirk at the man’s remark and he lets go of your hand, explaining his delayed arrival:
“Don’t get worked up, kid. One of my projects required immediate attention and I had to sort it out.”
You expect The Joker to protest the nickname but he doesn’t mention anything: Arthur always called him that since they were teenagers and your boyfriend is used to it. Doesn’t bother him at all.
“Do you want a drink? Are you hungry?” you offer and he nods a no.
“I’m good; thanks,” he takes a sit on the nearest armchair and the couple reprises their position on the sofa.
A few moments of silence before Arthur decides to talk about the reason why he’s at the Penthouse.
“Sooo… What did the doctors find out? How bad is it?” he inquires and you unconsciously cling to J’s arm, not willing to hear about it again.
“The brain tumor is too big, I can’t have surgery yet. I already started with lower doses of medication 20 days ago, I have to gradually build up to the higher doses so my body can handle it. Soon I’ll have chemo every 3 weeks, then every 2 we…”
A low chuckle and Arthur covers his mouth in horror.
“Sorry…” he has a chance to whisper before bursting out laughing.
“Here we go…” The Joker crosses his legs, patiently waiting for his brother to finish his outburst. The King of Gotham may not be an accommodating individual, but his sibling’s condition is something he has always tolerated without any problem.
“I’m very…” Arthur tries to speak but the strenuous sounds he makes at the end of each cackle prove how much he’s struggling to control his inappropriate amusement. “…s-sorry,” he continues to snicker while digging in his pocket for a small piece of laminated paper. He finds the item and hands it over to you; you curiously inspect the writing: it basically explains his neurological disorder in a few words.
“It’s fine, J told me,” you return the information to its owner.
“I can’t believe you still have that,” The Clown Prince of Crime huffs as Arthur is slowly regaining his composure.
“I’m very sorry,” he emphasizes his regrettable outpour. “You were saying?”
J deeply inhales and reprises the briefing:
“I’ll have to do chemo every 3 weeks, then every 14 days until the tumor shrinks enough to be operable. I guess I have a 50/50 chance of surviving the whole thing, that’s why I asked for your cooperation in helping Y/N oversee my affairs. I will get worse before I might get better, thus here we are.”
Arthur pulls tissues out of the box next to him and gives them to the devastated Y/N: The Joker didn’t notice you are quietly sobbing by his side.
“Please stop crying,” he kisses your temple, avoiding your emotions like he regularly does. The best option is to divert the gathering towards another topic. “We got ready one of the bedrooms upstairs for you; I hope that’s up to your standards.”
“My standards are normal,” the truth is blurred out. “You’re the fancy one, kid. That’s why you’re The Joker and I’m Joker; I don’t need any glorification. Plus, I didn’t oppose when you picked this half of town and left me the other.”
“You’re an idiot!” the green haired man stands up from his spot, wanting nothing more than to retreat to the master bedroom after an exhausting day.
“Runs in the family,” Arthur nonchalantly hints and you snort, blowing your nose in a tissue.
“Keep your mouth shut!” J advices and you have no clue he’s referring to more than just the constant bickering going on between them. “I’m calling it quits, are you coming?”
“I’ll have a smoke on the terrace first, “Arthur searches for his pack of cigarettes and you believe this is the perfect chance to chat with him:
“I’ll stay with our guest, alright?”
“Suit yourselves,” The Joker grumbles and you follow his brother outside on the huge patio.
“I forgot how nice this is from the 30th floor,” Arthur stirs the conversation while lighting up a cigarette.
“Yes, it’s a lovely view,” you wipe your tears and he resentfully mutters:
“I fucking hate this town…”
You sigh, not wishing to interrupt in case he has more to add and the plain inquiry catches you off guard.
“How are you holding up?”
The question resonates in the awkward stillness and Y/N elects to bring him up to date.
“I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances. He’s not doing well…” you sniffle and Arthur pays attention to your confession. “The medications may be in low amount, but they are strong; they make him very confused at times, plus the side effects of the tumor… he forgets things, he has no idea where he is or… or… who I am. The doctors advised that when it happens we have to go with the flow and not push for him to recall details. His brain is under a lot of pressure and this is only the beginning.”
Arthur blows smoke up in the air, displeased with the news about his younger sibling.
“Shit, that’s rough…”
That’s surely the understatement of the year for the heartbroken Y/N.
“When he doesn’t recognize me, I tell him I’m nobody, just a person taking care of the place and he doesn’t even know the difference. I suggest you avoid any type of confrontation while he’s like that; please generalize everything you articulate and don’t complicate the situation.”
“Of course… Yeah, yeah, of course,” he is fast to agree with your guidance.
“Thank you,” you sincerely show your gratitude because you appreciate his presence. “I think I’ll join him upstairs; tonight he’s beginning higher dosage on his pills and he might have a reaction.”
“I’ll stay and finish my cigarette,” Arthur scratches the scar above his lip. “Which bedroom is mine?”
“Fourth one on the left.”
“Perfect, I’ll find it,” he waves as you return inside, eager to check up on The Clown Prince of Crime.
“What the … t-the hell?” The Joker stutters, groggy from the strong medications swallowed a few hours ago.
You barely distinguish his wobbly silhouette standing by the bed.
“What’s wrong?” you turn on the lamp on the nightstand, instantly aware of his wet boxers.
“I d-didn’t make it to… to the bathroom,” J seems out of it, yet at least he realizes that much.
“Oh, it’s totally fine,” you maintain your cool and jump off the sheets, rushing to help him. “The doctors warned accidents could happen since the drugs are making you dizzy and super drowsy. Let’s step in the bathtub, shall we?”
You take his hand and lead a compliant boyfriend to the master bathroom; sometimes it’s easy to deal with him in this state, sometimes it’s not.
Luckily tonight he’s obedient.
You turn on the water and he tightly holds his boxers while you attempt to yank them off him.
“Who…who are you?” The Joker sulks, unhappy with your movement.
“I’m nobody,” you reply and manage not to cry at his disorientation. “I’m here to help you, ok?” you calmly try to reason with his baffled mind.
“I… I… I don’t want you to see me naked,” he complains and Y/N has an easy solution for the apparent controversy.
“I’ll close my eyes, deal?”
You do as vowed and J lets you undress him, finally ending up in the bathtub for a quick, relaxing soak.
“You want bubbles?” you glance at him once the body is submerged under the warm water.
“No…” he yawns and you fold a towel, placing it under his head in case he’ll pass out.
“Where… where am I?…”
A faint knock at the door and Arthur talks in a low tone:
“Yes, we’re fine,” he distinguishes your reply; he just returned from the underground garage with his suitcase and discerned the commotion: made him wonder if his assistance was necessary.
“Who was that?” The Joker enjoys being pampered by the stranger he doesn’t recognize for the moment; apparently forgot about shyness also because he has no objection to the sponge bath now.
“The maintenance guy,” you lie without blinking while pouring more shampoo over J’s toxic green locks.
Arthur joined you and The Joker in the kitchen less than 5 minutes ago; he positioned himself against the counter, this way he has a broad perspective of the whole space. He sips on the fresh coffee, observing the scene unfolding at the table:
J is reading a magazine and you feed him breakfast, caressing his hair every few seconds. You didn’t mention anything about last night; he woke up feeling a bit better and it’s safe not to agitate him with useless facts.
“Are you hungry?” you address Arthur and he lifts his shoulders up, undecided.
“Maybe… I’ll munch on something shortly.”
“Hurry up before it gets cold,” you encourage him and The Joker is already as crabby as he can be.
“Stop bugging him! If he wants to eat, he’ll eat!”
“I’m not bugging him,” you defend your action, upset at J’s feisty attitude.
“She’s not bugging me,” Arthur tucks a rebel curl behind his ear, disapproving of his brother’s assumption.
“I’m not,” you sweetly smile and The Joker slaps your fingers away from his hair.
The cheerfulness dies on your face and you get up, kicking the chair in the process.
“I’ll bring your morning meds,” you enunciate and leave the kitchen in a hurry.
“Goddamn irritating,” J hisses at your behavior and Arthur can’t zip it.
“Are you stupid?” he sucks on his cheeks and that definitely gets your boyfriend’s attention.
“What did you say?!”
“I’ve been here for minutes and she didn’t take a single bite out of anything, too preoccupied with making sure you eat. Do you even notice how she looks at you?” he raises his voice. “So I’m asking you again: are you stupid?”
“Excuse me?!” J abandons his seat and the threatening demeanor queues Arthur about the imminent scuffle, not that he’s willing to avoid it.
“I wasn’t clear enough?” the latest provokes his sibling. “ARE. YOU. STUUUUPID?” he repeats, cracking his neck with anticipation.
You are coming downstairs with the meds and the ruckus happening in the kitchen makes you speed up.
You are certainly not disappointed at the show: J and Arthur are wrestling on the floor, relentlessly hitting one another.
“Stop it!!” you shout and your plea is ignored. “Stop it!” you insist when you detect Arthur’s bloody nose and J’s busted lip. “Are you deaf?! Stop it!!”
This is the last drop: after another shitty night and the stuff you endured recently, you are completely lacking any kind of patience for anybody’s nonsense.
You toss the vial with The Joker’s tablets on the counter, snatch the ice bucket from the freezer and fill it out with water. The ice cubes float in the clear liquid: the 8 gallons metal container is pretty large since it’s used for J’s grape juice cans.
You thud on the marble floor and dump the freezing concoction on top of the two heated fighters, the sudden shock from the unexpected impact being enough to halt the brawl.
“Ugg!!” J rolls on his back while Arthur crawls by the stove. “What are you doing, Y/N?!” he yells and you storm out, firmly squeezing the ice bucket to your chest without realizing.
The loud bang of a shut door bears witness of your justified rage concerning the altercation; how can you not get mad at such crap?!
Arthur seeks for his beloved cigarettes in the interior of his orange vest, triumphantly lightening one after failing the first trials.
“I like her,” he puffs the fumes out, leaning towards his brother because J is gesturing for the bud.
The Joker takes a deep drag, admitting for once:
“I thought you quit,” Arthur points out.
“I did,” his brother answers, glaring at the ceiling. “Clean up this mess!” he orders and continues to smoke.
“Nope, we should let fate determine,” the older sibling suggests and J falls into the little trap.
“Rock, paper, scissors?”
“Ready?” Arthur smirks and counts. “1…2…3!”
“… … … Dammit!” The King of Gotham cusses.
“Have fun, kid!” the winner plucks the cig away from J. “Gimme, these are bad for your health!”
“Are you in here?” The Joker sneaks in his office and watches you patrol around the desk, still vigorously attached to the infamous ice bucket.
The lack of reply makes him approach the distressed woman; you avoid gazing his way at all costs.
“I need my pitcher,” he sniffles and Y/N disregards his sentence. “You’re aware I like to use grape juice on ice for those bitter capsules. There’s no bucket and no ice in the freezer so… what am I supposed to do? Skip my morning remedy?”
A hint of lowered resistance and he’s taking advantage of it.
“My lip hurts,” he rubs the swollen, red spot. “I need ice for this too.”
You place your precious bucket on top of some folders, cautiously examining the superficial cut.
“Stitches won’t be necessary,” the obvious result updates a pouting J.
“Are you sure?” he plays dumb and wraps his arms around your waist. “Take a closer look, I can’t afford to walk around with chipped dignity.”
You peck the unharmed corner of his mouth, mad you’re giving into such flimsy amendments.
The Joker grins and kisses you, entirely convinced it wasn’t hard to get under your skin.
“You’re not going to leave, are you?” he rests his forehead on yours and Y/N is speechless at the question. “This is the tumor talking, obviously,” J fixes the tiny mistake when he sees your reaction.
“Obviously…” you whisper, sadly reckoning he purposely avoids any type of sensitive debate about your future together.
The Joker though is carefully listening to Arthur mumbling on the hallway, suspicious at the meaning.
“Is he eavesdropping?!” you focus on the faint words also and it clicks for J.
“Cut it out!!!” he screams while Mister Fleck is not phased, joyfully concluding the ceremony the couple didn’t agree to.
“By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you Nobody and Joker!”
“What was that?!” you crinkle your nose, puzzled.
“He has a minister license and never used it; he tried to hitch me with my ex too,” J clarifies his brother’s odd conduct.
“You may now kiss the bride!” Arthur shouts and The Joker had enough:
“Shut the fuck up!!!”
“What am I supposed to do with my license then?!” the wavy hair pops in the door frame.
“I don’t care!” J snarls, fed up with his sibling’s persistence. “Go pester someone else!” the door is slammed in Arthur’s face; fortunately the 42 years old is not the type of man to be easily offended.
He adjusts the pieces of tissue sticking out of his bloody nose, proudly holding the minister accreditation at eye level.
“I got myself a sister-in-law,” Arthur chuckles at his achievement, impatiently searching for a pack of cigarettes in the pocket of his red jacket.