The TV's noise is unexpected, too weird to ignore. You are quick to find the baseball bat before going to the living room. Heart’s beating hard while you’re pursing your lips.
Can't believe this is happening.
Then again, you remind yourself that Gotham is a horrible city, and its people is quite the same. On top of that, your cheap building isn't the nicest one out there. Only desperate people - the poor ones - pursue a place like this. They don’t have another option. Sadly, you’re one of them.
You take your time to light the living room, since you’re already seeing the dark silhouette on the sofa.
You take a deep breath.
To the count of three.
You exhale silently.
One. And you search for the switch on the wall.
Two. Right hand clenches the bat.
Three. The lights are on.
Lastly, where you expect to find a robber or a creep, you only find Arthur. Your shy neighbor and friend who's sitting on your sofa, in front of the TV.
"Oh my God! Art, you scared the hell out of me!" You whine in relief, letting the bat slip from your hand to hit the ground.
But he isn't reacting at your shocked words. He's not even laughing anxiously or shaking his legs, and while you're grateful for that, it rubs you the wrong way. He’s just sitting there. A pale, motionless face looking towards the screen.
You know that's a bad sign.
"What happened?" You inquire nervously.
The answer doesn’t comes.
This is bad. Really bad.
Taking a doubtful step, you expect to see him better with the additional help of the pitched light that comes from the TV. Once your distance is reasonable, your vision notices his body.
Blood covers his face and neck, especially the nose, a small detail that seems like a fake clown nose. It does combine with his raiment in general. Green, yellow and bright red; all threatening in dust and sweat.
Your eyes open in horror.
Oh no, no, no. I knew it!
"Shit. Art, Art please..." your voice trembles. "Who hurt you? What-?" the sentence gets trapped in your throat, incapable of keep going.
He takes his time to raise his sight and savor your honest concern. Blue diamonds melt around his eyes, and they don’t waste their time to observe you - deeply, without blinking - as the corners of his lips expose his prominent, ruby dimples; dry and still cracking over the white base.
You can’t find anything familiar in him, just indifference. No resignation, no innocence, no fear. And the last one should feel nice, but it doesn’t. You’re taken aback.
The chills running down your nape are inevitable.
He's smiling like a child who’s having the best birthday party ever, he’s smiling with a satisfaction that you can’t conceive with his actual appearance, is something else, something completely different and sinister. The smile reaches the irritated green like you've never seen. And one thing is for sure; it’s not a good thing. He’s happy, yes, but he looks so broken.
You find the courage to call his name, and he laughs painless, genuinely; supporting his head on the sofa headboard, allowing the green messy locks to spread on it.
Dry throat swallows, mind tries to think. This is unexpected, even terrifying. You need to know what is happening to Arthur. On the contrary, the neglected screen wants your attention. A soft call, generated by the discomfort of silence and uncertainty. Your head turns unconsciously. Its colors shine on the stage of comedy, but they pale when compared to the presence of Arthur, sitting next to Murray Franklin. Same clothes, same makeup, just cleaner. The show you refused to witness earlier that night, because you hate when people mocks on Arthur and his condition.
Fuck. He didn’t listen to me, he really went there.
Before you see it, the bad feeling gets stuck in your rib cage, digging its place inside your heart. Arthur’s speaking and—no, he's more like screaming out his lungs. You don’t miss his teary eyes, nor the intense pain in his voice as he bares his teeth, right in the verge of transgression.
"What you get, when you cross a mentally ill-loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I'll tell you what you get. You get what you fucking deserve!"
Bang! Then screams. Crude horror in live TV. A nightmare that begins and ends in Arthur’s facial features. First, it’s the well-known desire of feeling understood, the pure image of loneliness. Then, it’s a radical transformation. Someone who brings out the dangerous frustration of years being trampled. You know it better than anyone. Like Arthur, you also share a record of negligent parents. The impulsivity, the yearning to snap. You recognize them too well.
His book of jokes rests on the set floor - sadly forgotten as he dances to the camera like the excited child you already have next to you, so close - and you bet its cover has some criminal blood, just like Arthur’s face. Blood is everywhere. And Murray Franklin’s body isn’t all that dies there. His broken dreams and hopes, his humanity, his sanity. All of it is dead. The last string of composure breaks there.
You don’t listen anymore, and you don’t want to attend the reporter's voice saying how a crazy clown killed a famous broadcaster. The intense heaviness in your chest is maddening in both, shock and disappointment. Silent tears run down your face as your head turns to other side. Your heart breaks as the scene repeats over, and over again, deep inside your head. So well-planted in your brain to never be disremembered from your hippocampus. Another painful statement from Arthur, who’s audibly laughing as he turns off the television, then proceeds to throw the remote in some corner of the room.
“You were right, Y/N,” he starts and you tremble. “He just wanted to make fun of me. He-he. But in the end it didn't go so bad, huh?” he sing-songs like he’s proud of his carnage.
Of course he is.
And deep down, you can’t help but feel guilty.
“Ar-Arthur,” you whimper, voice breaking at the end. You need to exhale to continue. “Why did you do it? Why?”
Immediately, you feel his fingers slide under your chin and you close your eyes, unsure of how much more you can stand.
“Don’t worry, Y/N. I’m not going to hurt you.”
You bite your lips to hold a distressing groan, refusing to look at him.
“Oh, you shouldn’t do that. It’s better if you let it happen.”
Your hand is faster than your mind then, and you’re smacking his hand to shake your head uncontrollably. Still not wanting to digest what just happened.
“Why did you do it?!” You shout, crying impossibly harder.
Unpleasant contractions happen in your nose and, in a way, you follow his advice to stop resisting, just to give into ugly tears and sobs. Your legs can’t take another second - they’re ready to crumble - but he’s there to support your weight between his arms, and you hate it, you fucking hate it, but still allow it, since it’s too much to take alone.
“Shh, it’s fine. Let it happen.”
Warm upper body is against yours. His pulse, quick as yours, dances over your skin to soothe your sorrow. And it’s wrong. The way he accommodates his arms around your waist to keep you closer, or the way you respond instinctively, with hands tangling in his curls, and face over his shoulder. The crying doesn’t stop, and he doesn’t release you. At some point, you’re murmuring his name, and the occasional why and how. He caresses your back, up and down, wordlessly telling you it’s okay. No sign of lies, just incredible trust. No traces of angriness, just mutual consolation. A natural connection. And it’s wrong, but you can’t bring yourself to back off.
It’s the first hug you two share. Intimate and comforting. A line is being crossed, when the opposite should occur. But your mind is so tired to think about it. After all, you’re a loner, just like him. It’s the main reason you decided to talk to him in the first place. Who else’s going to hug you like this? The rest of your neighbors are heartless, unfriendly, just like the vast majority of the population. Aside from Arthur, you have no friends or familiars. All of them are long gone. As soon as the middle school was over, they left you by yourself to root in Gotham. That’s your bitter reality.
No one, no one but Arthur, even if he did what he did.
Such a truth is scary. Dangerous empathy gnaws your sense of morality, keeps tainting your heart and feelings, and you let it be. Because the mere thought of stopping it, annoys you more than embracing a murderer that happens to be a friend.
“I’m sorry,” you mumble. Face rearranges sideways to breathe and talk better. “I could have stopped this. I could have make a difference.”
“You did nothing wrong, Y/N,” and to prove it, he takes your face with imaginable gentleness, no place for disdain.
When he talks again, you’re finally looking at him; finding the indifference long gone. Now, in its place, lays an indescribable compassion. “This was meant to happen. This is the real me,” he guarantees, resting his left index on your lower lip.
“The real you?” your voice queries, feeling disoriented for the closeness.
While limiting to nod a couple of times, his forehead leans on top of yours, and you bat your eyelashes in astonishment, enjoying his pleasant gaze. Like you’re the only one for him. Almost like being hypnotized.
What is left of your sense of well-being, permits you to be lucid enough to make a kind of confession.
“I’m not sure if it’s okay for me to… to accept this.”
Arthur merely chuckles, teasing your finger against your mouth.
“Sounds fair,” he agrees excitedly. “I don’t want you to. I like you this way. It adds some fun.”
You sigh deeply confused, feeling, to some extent, annoyed with his general vagueness.
“What do you-?”
Then occurs, tricky and fast. The magnetic invitation to start a dark path. The resignification of pain and joy combined.
Blood invades your sense of taste, oxide and salt are the main ingredient, with rests of greasepaint as the cherry on top. A twisted show of affection. Ravaging lips mark a constancy - a promise - over yours. Fervent determination and dripping saliva makes you think he’s not accustomed, but you fucking return it anyway. The ache of his teeth - chewing, owning - on your mouth is everything. Running out of air is predictable, and perverse satisfaction invades you when he breaks the kiss first.
“As I was saying,” he breathes out, still gasping, “It adds some fun,” another pause to click his tongue and lean dangerously close, the final punchline to push you down this fucked up new reality of yours, “and I assure you, Y/N,” he drags your name seductively, as if he wants to make you feel crazier, “it’ll be fun to see how you surrender to me. Now that you’ve seen what I did. Oh, it’s going to be so fun.~”
Formerly, he doesn't add anything else, it's not necessary. He leaves you alone in the living room, with makeup, tears and blood on your face, and a new obsession that now cohabits inside your head, and quite possibly, your heart.
He has you wrapped around his finger, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s too late.
What have he done to me?