Chapter 13: The Progress

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Over the course of the next couple of months I saw a dramatic change in the Joker. The game we had established managed to correct his behavior and he seemed to be making progress psychologically. He had been out of the dark room for a while, yet his time in solitude had seemingly corrected his behavior. When I received a good report from the guards that he had behaved all week, he was rewarded a luxury of his choice. He typically wanted blank blueprints or books on architecture, and I found an odd comfort in the fact that he still enjoyed engineering as much as he did when I first met him. Sometimes he would want a kiss, but he was far more restrained than the last time we kissed. He had a calmer demeanor, very similar to the one I had become so accustomed to before his death. It was an eerie calm, a coldness towards the world yet he was always so polite to me. I suppose it was because I was on my best behavior as well, as I had decided to be more gentle with my treatment because he seemed to respond negatively to aggression on my end. Besides, I had already gotten the information I wanted out of him. Now I was just working on helping him, and I swear it was working. I could tell that he was using the tools I gave him to manage his anger or bring him back to reality. He opened up to me like he never had before, he told me the gory details of growing up in the circus with Jerome. He didn't sugar coat his narrative this time, as he no longer had a reason to hide the truth from me. "I always knew that there was darkness inside of me. It tends to happen when you share the womb with a psychopath. My brother was impulsive and reckless. He made no effort to conceal his insanity and I was his favorite target to play with... As a result of his carelessness, he was often subjected to beatings from my mother. She was not a particularly pleasant woman." The Joker revealed, staring off into the distance until he abruptly turned towards me, staring me down. "But I had what Jerome never could have. My intelligence... I knew that in order to avoid my mother's rage I had to play the part of the perfect child. I would do my chores, help out with the show, stay away from the mobile home when she had partners over. Jerome always hated it when she had men over... The idiot actually believed the lie our mother had told us that our father was lost at sea, and some part of him always thought he would come back and rescue us from this life." He continued, "But quickly I learned that the circus was no place for an intellect like myself, and I knew it would only hold me back from my true potential. So I told my mother that Jerome had been terrorizing me and she shipped me off to live with my aunt and uncle until college. In retrospect I had subjected my brother to a solitary life of misery, but I did what I had to do." The Joker finished and I made notes on my clipboard. I had never heard the real version of the story until now, and it amazed me that he could have done such a thing to his brother. He felt no remorse and looked to serve only his needs, the typical characteristics of a psychopath. I believed that he shared the same insanity as his brother, but Jeremiah was smart enough to hide it. It made me wonder just how much the insanity gas had affected him, or if he had already been like this. "How about you Doctor?" The Joker broke me from my thoughts, and I looked up from my clipboard in question. "What about me, Mr. J?" I inquired and a smile spread across his face. "Any dark childhood stories to share?" He asked me and I was taken aback. It had been so long since I had thought about my family, let alone talked about them. "There's not much that you don't already know..." I revealed, my thoughts retuning to the first time I had opened up to Xander Wilde, one of the many alias of the man before me. "Try and dig deeper." He prompted me, and for a second I was confused who was the psychiatrist between  the two of us. I searched my mind for anything I had missed, and all I could remember was my little brother. "Do you remember when I told you that my brother was sick, and that's why he died?" I asked, my body becoming numb as I was forced to face my own complicated past. He nodded in response, and I took a deep breath. "He wasn't sick. He died because of me..." I revealed, and the Joker leaned forward, intrigued. "We were playing at a public playground. You see, my parents never paid much attention to him because they were so busy working... So I thought he deserved to be a kid for a while." I continued, the scene playing back in my head. "I turned my back for two seconds... And he was gone." I choked out, my emotions constricting my throat. "Your brother was abducted." The Joker confirmed and I nodded. "His body was found two weeks later in Gotham City Lake. They never discovered who did it... We didn't have the money to pay for an investigation. After that, my parents never looked at me in the same way again, so I left. I was living on the streets before I dormed at Saint Ignatius." I revealed to him, my eyes glued to my hands in shame. He sat there in silence for a second before the Joker finally spoke. "Lilly." He said, surprising me. Hearing my former name always served to surprise and calm me. I looked up, a tear falling down my cheek but I was quick to catch it. "What happened to your brother was not your fault. You were a child, there's no way you could have anticipated that." He comforted me, and for a moment it was as if we had gone back in time to the night I had first told him about my family. I remembered it so clearly, sitting on the lawn underneath the stars. I was too afraid to tell him the truth that night, but now I knew that he wouldn't judge me. We both had done terrible things, as we were both broken people. I understood now that he was the only person in the world who would truly accept me. Then the Joker said something I didn't expect. "I wish I could hold you..." He said. It always amazed me just how many dimensions there were to this man. He could be so cruel and yet sometimes so loving. Since the Joker had been on good behavior, his straight jacket had been removed but the handcuffs remained. I remembered the way he used to embrace me, shielding from the world and chasing away my sorrows. "I wish you could too." I replied honestly, and I saw a flash of realization in his eyes. We had come to the end of our session, and regretfully I had to part with him. We said our goodbyes before I called the guards to take him back to his cell. It physically hurt to part with him, which confused me. I sat in the counseling room for another thirty minutes, thinking the session over. Our relationship had somehow evolved since his coming here. It was as if each therapy session for him became a therapy session for us. We were beginning to understand one another on a level we couldn't before. Because we knew that there was no reason to hide who we truly are anymore. But why did my skin feel electrified? Why was my stomach queasy? I took a step back and tried to look at our situation objectively. I was horrified at my discovery. Somehow I had fallen back in love with the Joker.

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