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of clowns and hypocrisy

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The Harlequin pauses, one hand holding a key up to a locked door, the other tapping against the knife tucked into his waistband. A beat passes, and he turns in one swift, fluid motion, smile stiff and sharp, like a warning.

Ecco looks smaller in the night, her dark clothes blending into the shadows of the alleyway, but no less intimidating. Her weapon is brandished visibly, and her intentions are written clearly in her expression, tight and stoic, as always.

He sighs, deflates, twirls the key around his finger. “What’s he want this time, doll?”

Ecco doesn’t so much as blink. “You know what he wants, Harley.” A beat. Harlequin raises his eyebrow. “He wants you to come home, and stop acting like a child.”

His laugh sounds more like a choke than anything, raspy and ruined from one too many knives to the throat and a couple too many inhalations of his own toxin. His smile is still strained, but the way it widens almost feels natural, stretching his scars and distorting his face-paint. “Hypocrite. Ah well, doll,” his fingers wrap securely around his knife’s handle. He tucks the key back into his coat’s pocket. “Yer gonna have to drag me back kickin’ and screaming.”

The Joker doesn’t so much as flinch as his twin is thrust towards him, still scowling and yapping like a rabid dog, collapsed on the ground. He sighs, leans back in his chair, folds his hands in his lap.

“How many times are you going to do this, Jerome?” His voice is calm, stern. Harlequin snarls, rolling to his stomach and crawling to his knees, rubbing at a tender-looking bruise that’s slowly forming on the side of his face. “We’re thirty-one. We can have disagreements without you going off and stropping like a child.”

Jerome rises slowly, scowl crudely turned into a smile by the curve of his scars. The black diamonds painted around his eyes were smudged in the struggle, leaving two shapeless blobs around them instead, like little black holes.

“Fuck you too, Miah,” he spits, and slinks dejectedly into his room, closing the door with a meaningful slam. Jeremiah sighs, sinks further into his chair, and closes his eyes.

“Nice of you to join me, brother.”

Jerome jumps, swivels on his heels - Jeremiah’s lips are quirked very slightly into a smile. He’s staring wistfully out of the tiny porthole they pretend qualifies as a window, and he looks a mess - his lip is split, and a mixture of blood and lipstick is smeared across his chin and cheek, rivalled perhaps only by the throbbing bruise around his left eye. His brother wheezes out a halfhearted laugh, snatching the vodka bottle from his hand and taking a swig.

“You look like shit, princey,” he mocks, grinning. Jeremiah’s smile twitches minutely into a frown, until his gaze meets his brother’s, and his eyebrows raise.

“Hypocrisy at it’s finest, Jerome.”

The Harlequin looks away, gnawing at his lip. The familiar throb of a freshly-opened scar is pulsing across his forehead, and another at his cheekbone, right under his eye. He doesn’t need to see himself to know his face is stained crimson. He sniffs, takes another swig, and thrusts the bottle back into his brother’s hands.

“Yeah, well. Couldn’t leave all the fun to you.” A pause. “Got a reputation to uphold.”

“As what? The city’s favourite punching bag?” Jeremiah’s sips are small and delicate, nothing like his brother’s overzealous chugging. Jerome flinches. “Melee was never your strong suit, Jerome. You know that. If you must make a point, do something you’re actually good at. Make a scene.”

Jerome scoffs out a laugh, rises to his feet. “Oh, fuck off, Miah,” he smiles, venomous. “I was tearing this city up years before you ditched the good-boy act. I know what I’m doing.”

With nothing more, he leaves.