Arthur was late, you found yourself thinking as you glanced at the clock for what felt like the hundredth time. It was a little strange; usually Arthur was punctual, home at 6pm on the dot. The clock inched closer to eight, though, and your chest was itchy and achy in all the wrong ways and your worried breathing pulled at the bandages around your torso that needed changing.
It was at 8pm on the dot, however, that the apartment door swung open and Arthur Fleck trudged inside.
“Sorry,” was the first word out of his mouth. His tone was so flat, and you wished you could actually stand up without pain to gather him into your arms. “I ran into trouble on the subway.” His shoulders slumped with the words, and something in your gut felt heavy. Why couldn’t people just leave Arthur alone? He was a little odd, but then again who wasn’t a little odd? Just because Arthur’s quirks were a little more obvious didn’t make him any less deserving of human decency.
“Are you okay?” you asked, trying your best to sit up on the couch. A hiss of pain escaped you as you moved, and Arthur’s body language changed almost immediately.
He kicked the door shut behind him and hurried to the kitchen, dropping down the paper sacks of groceries onto the empty counters. And then his eyes were on you. He shed his hoodie on the kitchen floor and rolled up his sleeves in one smooth motion as he crossed out of the kitchen and to the couch in a few long steps.
With a smile that was as natural as Arthur could muster, he carefully pressed one hand to the small of your back and one to your belly to help you sit up without hurting yourself.
“You know better than to move without help,” he chided, shaking his head a little. You couldn’t help but smile as some of his hair fell into his eyes, and you brushed it back on top of his head. And if you took a moment to run your fingers through his hair a couple of times, who could blame you? The way the corners of his eyes softened made it worth it, even as he tried to keep a stern expression on his face.
“I was worried,” you told him honestly. “I know you can handle yourself,” your mind briefly flashed to the gun he’d brought home one day and hoped he’d never find a need for it, “but I still worry.”
The way his smile dimmed just a little wasn’t lost on you, but he also didn’t give you a chance to push it and instead said, “Well I’m home now, and I bought you a little something at the store!”
You couldn’t help but perk up in curiosity at that. A gift? Money was tight, even with the two of you living together and pooling your income -medication didn’t come cheap, and Penny still had to eat as well. So a gift was, well… You didn’t need material things to know Arthur loved you, but a gift was such a pleasant surprise.
“What is it, Arthur?” you asked.
“Ah, ah,” teased the other man, the smile brightening back up and the corners of his eyes crinkling in genuine joy. “First thing’s first.” He gently tapped the side of your chest on the bandages. “Let’s get these changed. It’s passed time.”
It took a little bit of time for Arthur to help you lean forward, and once you were comfortable he took a few more moments to get a bowl of warm water and a clean wash cloth. He was careful as he unwrapped your bandages, not wanting to pull at the stitches still in place.
“Tell me if I press too hard,” he told you, making eye contact to make sure you nodded before he started to dab at your scars gently. Watching him delicately clean up your top surgery scars was fascinating. His eyes were so intense and his teeth were gritted, and it was clear he was giving your care his full concentration. It was… nice. Having someone this dedicated to helping you, and having someone be this in love with you was one of the nicest feelings in the world. “There!” Arthur chirped suddenly, drawing you out of your thoughts with a little jerk. He smiled up at you, looking particularly pleased with himself. You glanced down and couldn’t help but smile. He’d wrapped your still healing chest in bandages already, but had sneaked in bandages that had cute little versions of your favorite animal on them.
“You’re getting good at this,” you told him, and he bobbed his head in agreement before holding out his hands to help you get comfortable on the couch again.
“I have to!” he informed you. “I want you to have the best care possible while you’re recovering.”
He was careful as he tucked the sheet up over your chest before settling your favorite blanket over your lap. The look on his face as he stood over you, admiring his handiwork of getting you comfortable and wrapped up in blankets, sent warmth throughout your entire body. That look… You knew you had a similar look on your face whenever you looked at him, and you only hoped he knew just how much you loved him too.
“I give you this care,” Arthur began, dropping to his knees on the carpet beside you. He took your hand in his, threading your fingers together. His thumb rubbed over your knuckles almost immediately, and he continued speaking. “I give you this care because… Everyone deserves to be taken care of when they need it the most.” Your free hand found a place running through his hair, hoping maybe you could sooth the hurt he was remembering away.
You had never pried into Arthur’s past, but you knew it was bad. Whatever happened to him before you met him had done a number on his self worth, his self esteem, his… His everything. You had your own problems, past and present, but it only made it easier to relate to him, and it made it easier to want to help him heal from those past hurts. Even if it would take a while.
The kiss you pressed to his forehead was sudden, and Arthur jerked away for a moment before leaning back into you with his eyes closed.
“I’ll take care of you too, Arthur,” you promised him. With a little laugh, you added, “When I can move without it hurting, that is.”
He let out a small laugh at your words and leaned back to look you over. It was Arthur who initiated the next kiss, just a light peck against your lips that had you smiling. As soon as your damn stitches dissolved, you were pulling your Arthur into the tightest hug he’d ever experience.
Before you could convince yourself that damn the stitches, he needed that hug now, Arthur leaped to his feet. “Your present!” he exclaimed.
With a laugh, you asked, “This wasn’t it?” as you gestured to the cute bandages he’d wrapped you in. Arthur shook his head and moved off to the kitchen.
You smiled after Arthur, watching him pull out groceries from the paper sacks. His leg started bouncing the longer it took him to sort through the bags, the longer it took him to find the present for you.
“Okay!” he announced after what felt like forever. “Close your eyes.”
Of course, you obeyed. You didn’t even peek to see him walking toward you. Something soft was set on your lap, and as soon as he gave you the okay, you snapped your eyes open.
Sitting on your lap was, arguably, the cutest little clown plush you’d ever seen. You picked it up delicately and brought it closer to your face to inspect it. It had green hair, like Arthur’s Carnival, but otherwise didn’t particularly look like him. But it was still adorable.
“I thought-” Arthur began, before a nervous laugh bubbled out of his mouth. Your eyes snapped up to him as he slapped a hand over his mouth to muffle the laughs.
Instantly, you patted the couch next to you. “Sit,” you encouraged as the laughs continued to spill, still muffled, from behind his hand. Arthur shook his head but at your insistent gaze he perched beside you and choked as he tried to swallow the laughter.
“S-sorry,” he gasped out. “I thou- I thought-” the laughs cut him off again and you set the clown plush down on your lap and pressed one hand against the small of his back, the other one resting on his knee.
“Breathe,” you told him. “Breathe with me. Take your time.” You took a deep breath and began to breathe in a conscious, simple pattern that Arthur was able to follow after a few long moments of laughter and choking and tears. The laughter faded off into awkward chuckles, but Arthur’s breathing was easier. “Hi,” you said when he finally met your gaze again. “Tell me about the clown and what made you nervous.”
Arthur audibly swallowed and another laugh slipped out. “I thought… The clown looked a little like me and,” a laugh cut him off and he swallowed around it, “I thought that he could protect you when I’m at work.” He dropped his gaze and laughed again, but this one wasn’t from his condition. It was a self deprecating laugh that made your heart ache.
“Thank you, Arthur,” you told him sincerely, giving his knee a squeeze. You kept your hand on his knee and withdrew the other to touch the plush’s neon green hair. “He has your hair. I love him.” You looked back up at him. “I love it, Arthur. Thank you.” He seemed hesitant as he looked back up at you. “I love you, Arthur. This is … This is amazing.” You grinned at him, and the hesitant smile that he gave back warmed and hurt your heart all at once. “Kiss me again?” you asked.
Before he could oblige, a different and more tired voice called out from the master bedroom, “Happy…? Are you home?”
You let out an exasperated laugh as Arthur redirected his kiss to your forehead.
“Yes, Mother,” Arthur called back. To you, he whispered, “I love you too.”
Your heart swelled with happiness as Arthur stood and headed to Penny’s room to tend to her needs. As soon as you were healed, you were going to sit Arthur down and shower him in affection and not let him do a single thing. And you were going to do it shirtless, just because you could.
You picked up your clown plush and gave it a hug, smiling at the thought.