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on a midsummer's night

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His eyes were heavy and slow when he eventually blinked up at Bruce. It wasn’t a hateful look, thankfully, which was an improvement on how things had been of late, but it wasn’t a look Bruce was used to either.

It didn’t judge and it didn’t accuse and it was clear that Joker didn’t hate Bruce at all and that was all Bruce knew.

“This is the end of it, isn’t it,” came the faintly-slurred declaration as Bruce gently worked a hand underneath Joker’s arm. “Fine- finally, aa-after all these years, just like-like” the hiccup that interrupted him there was almost big enough to shake his whole frame, jolting his thin body against Bruce like a car scraping against brick before he sighed. “Pity, really.”

“There is nothing wrong with moving forward,” Bruce said quietly as he managed to haul the Joker to his feet. “Nothing wrong with change.” And he looked away at that, frowning into the dark where the clown couldn’t see. “It might do you some good.”

It sounded like a foul lie, and still he said it and the clown heard it. The laugh that hiccuped and coughed its way out of the Joker was bitter in return, like they were both mouthing the words to their roles with no real feeling.

It was a very warm night, the air heavy and sticky against their skin and the Joker’s flushed body almost painfully hot against his side. There was a part of Bruce - a deep, buried part that had been doing its best to crawl its way out of Bruce in recent months - that wanted to peel off a glove and see what the Joker’s skin felt like beneath his fingers and another part that very much wanted to slam the clown silly against the nearest wall.

And if that thought was more often than not followed by another thought of mouthing his way along the Joker’s throat- well, he never said it aloud, so it didn’t count.

And yet tonight, for all the heat and the tension and the strange antics that had followed the Joker around and around recently like children upon a maypole, he knew he wouldn’t. They had come close - painfully close - and every time one of them had skittered away like mice running from the light.

It wasn’t the right time yet. But soon, Bruce knew, it would be soon.

“Soon,” murmured the Joker, as if he had heard Bruce’s thoughts. “Soon, my dear, we will be together,” and his smile was more like a snarl, full of bared teeth and the sharp scent of cheap liquor. “We can have a tea party.”

“If you would like.”

“An-andd- and I want flowers, you never get me anything.”

“I could manage that.”

“And a puppy,” came the sleepy mumble from as Bruce handcuffed him to the door’s rail and got into the driver’s seat. “Aan-uh, a jacket, a ‘ew one, not-” his jaw seemed almost to crack as he yawned, and whatever he was going to deny faded away.

When Bruce looked over, the clown had curled himself up against the door, sound asleep without a single care.

And for a moment, Bruce almost regretted what they were going to do to him.