~Baby cried the day the circus came to town
'cause she didn't want parades just passin' by her
So she painted on a smile and took up with some clown
While she danced without a net upon the wire~
The girl came to the circus three times.
The first time Jerome saw her, he had just been thrown out of his mother's trailer. Technically it belonged to both of them, but she much preferred her stinky suitors to her son, and this was proven by the new bruises that he was sporting around his arms and ribs.
He was only 5 years old.
He pushed in between the throngs of people, finally darting around to the back of the big top when there was too many of them to get past, running towards the towers of hay bales that covered a loose flap of the tent. This was his place to run to when Lila treated him like her personal punchbag. No matter how many cities and town they traveled to, he could always count on the circus crew to stack the extra hay the exact same way every time.
Jerome laid his head on the straw, ignoring the sounds of trumpets and the ringmaster's yell inside the tent. This was Haly's circus after all, and it's sounds had been his lullaby since he was born. The oohing and aahing of the crowds, the same sounds were elicited from the people's mouths every time they saw the same old boring routine the circus gave them every day. The routine had burned into Jerome's mind and he knew if he watched it again he'd just end up picking out all of it's flaws. Where was the theatrics? The humor? The flair? So he just didn't bother.
For a long time instead of the show he would watch the people, trying to learn more about the world outside of the circus. Trying to learn what made them tick.
In the end he just stopped, because it soon became all too easy to learn what made them tick. Money, labels, food, sex, drugs, it seemed that people didn't really vary from each other. And kids his age were just simple, they could never keep up with Jerome's wild ideas and fantasies. They didn't get his games. And if they were too dumb to understand his games, he didn't want to play with them anyway.
But that didn't explain the hollow feeling in his chest.
He didn't know what it was, it was like a piece of him was missing. It hadn't been found yet. He chalked it up to having an absentee parent and no real home. At least that's what he told himself as he snuggled down into the hay. The beating had taken a lot out of him and it was late. Darkness crept into the corners of his vision and he was so tired...
Jerome shot up. He thought that he may have imagined it. But then he heard it again. It was inside the tent.
Now to just call it a laugh was an understatement. It was the most wondrous sound Jerome had ever heard. He had learned that a laugh can tell you a lot about what someone was feeling. Loud rambunctious laughter often rang out through the circus, the sound of drunken men about to get laid. There was the sharp, strained laughter of the wives of these men, when they laughed to mask their pain and the fact that their hands were sliding into their purses towards the packet of pills they kept with their wedding ring. There was the squealing laughter of their kids who didn't get the joke but laughed along with their parents anyway.
And then there was this laugh. Sparkling like the stars above them. It sounded joyus, almost awed, the laugh of an audience unburdened by their own problems and completly swept up in the show before them.
Never in all of his years at the circus had Jerome heard a laugh like that.
Cautiously, he lifted the flap of the red and white tent and peeked inside.
His eyes scanned the masses of every color imaginable and yet he couldn't find where the sound had come from...
There it was again.
As soon as he spotted her, Jerome found he could not look away.
It was from a girl in red and blue fuzzy sweater and jeans, blonde hair tied in two pigtails on each side of her head. She was completly transfixed by the preformance. She giggled as the dancers twirled down from the celieing on the silks.
"Can you show me Mama? Can you show me how to do that when we get home?"
The golden haired women next to the girl chuckled, putting an arm around her and pulling her close. "Of course honey. Of course I will." And the litle girl laughed, she laughed that whimsical laugh again and Jerome was overwhelmed. She couldn't have been much younger than him and yet unlike the other children their age, she completly understood everything going on around her. She was smart. She was beautiful.
The girl chose that moment to look his way.
Their eyes met and time stopped.
She had the bluest eyes he had ever seen, and they twinkled with knowlege and something else. The same thing he saw in his own eyes every time he looked in the mirror. A darkness.
She smiled at him.
Jerome felt his skin prickle with heat, spreading from the roots of his ginger hair. He ducked under the flap again and ran.
He ran hard and fast right into the woods, not caring for a moment about the shadows cast by gnarled trees. He stopped when he reached the old, forgotten playground he had found in the woods last year when they came to Gotham. He collapsed on the roundabout, panting as he looked at the sky filled with stars above him. He thought about what had happened.
He couldn't believe he'd run off like that, ran away like he was scared. But when he looked into her eyes, when he saw the same darkness that was in his eyes he couldn't help but run. Because that meant there was someone out there like him. That he wasn't alone anymore. He hated to admit it but...
That scared him.
He had always been alone until now, and he wasn't sure how to handle having someone else that understood him. He didn't know what to expect.
Another thing he noticed was that when they locked eyes, when he searched her face, he couldn't find anything. He couldn't find any of the base desires that motivated her to live. He couldn't find the emotions that made her tick.
He couldn't figure her out, and she was the first person he'd met that could do that.
She was certainly interesting.
She had such a beautiful smile...
He felt the sleepiness slowly coming back, and he was too tired to find his way back to the circus. Oh well. His mother was too busy boning someone to realise that he hadn't come back to the trailer that night. No, that wasn't what bothered him.
As the stars blurred in his vision, he picked the brightest and made a wish.
"I wish to see her again."
The second time the girl came to the circus, There was a boy waiting for her.
She didn't know this of course. She had come back to the circus with her mother, as she had continued to nag her mother about it the whole week. But now they were here she couldn't find her mother anywhere. She had been swept away with the crowd and she didn't know where to go or what to do.
She didn't feel particulay scared or bothered about this situation. But she did not like the uneasiness of not knowing what to do. She wasn't allowed to talk to strangers, as her father said she might scare them if she went up to someone she had never met before and call them by there name. She couldn't help it if people threw those important words around, not caring who was listening. She couldn't help it if she had a habit of remebering these things and accidently using them in conversation.
She was lost in thought, until she heard footsteps approaching behind her.
"Are you lost?" Inquired a cheerful voice.
She turned around to see a young boy with ginger hair, carrying a bunch of red and blue balloons with smilely faces drawn all over them. He was wearing jeans that looked a bit worse for wear, and a shirt feautring the logo of some band called The Misfits, which was at least two sizes too big for him. But the smile that streched across his freckled face suggested that he didn't care very much about it, and that he was apprantly delighted to see her.
She wondered for a moment if she should put on her best "scared little girl" voice, or maybe even lie to him, but then decided against it. She was tired of pretending. She wanted someone to talk to.
"I believe I am." She proclaimed rather matter-of-factly. "I appear to have lost my mother."
The boy's grin grew wider. "That was rather irresponsible of you wasn't it?"
She frowned and shook her head. "I wouldn't say so. It was the crowd that took her away."
The boy made a disapproving noise. "Ah, those crowds. They are a bother aren't they?"
"Yes indeed." She said.
"That's why I never go along with them."
"I feel the same way."
The boy's head tilted sharply to the side. "Why, isn't that interesting."
It was a statement, not a question and they both knew it.
But then his head was upright again and he was beaming. "Well milady!" He gave an extravgent bow, his hand gave a flourish filled wave before landing before her. "I am the prince of the circus, and it is my royal duty to show lovely princessess from visiting lands around my kingdom."
He looked up at her, still smiling that wicked grin.
"Unless of course, you're afraid."
She thought she saw something in his blue eyes, a touch of something dangerous, but in a flash they returned to normal. She paused and considered her options. Wait for her mother or go on an adventure with a boy she had never met before? The answer was obvious.
"Of course I'll come," She said, baring her teeth in a smile that was meant to mimic his, but she wasn't sure if she did it right. She was not used to expressing emotions, due to her condition, but sometimes she felt like she felt everything, before it was gone again.
"That would be..." She thought about the word that the little boy had used before. "Lovely." She murmed, rolling the letters around her tongue. The smile that came to her face was genuine this time.
She placed her hand in his.
He took off almost immediately, dragging her from tent to tent, pointing out the main attractions of the side show and explaining which ones were real and which were hoaxes. As they walked past the fortune telling tent her eyes locked with the milky white ones of the old man seated out the front. Well at least they seemed to, she could tell instantly that he was blind. And yet she could feel his eyes following her as the boy led her down an alley between the attractions.
The boy suddenly dug his nails into her hand. "What do you think you were looking at blondie?" He growled, all the cheer dissipating from his voice.
The girl frowned and yanked her hand from his grasp. "Don't call me blondie. I dislike the term."
The boy scoffed. "Dislike the term?" He said, voice high pitched and mocking. "You're only what, five? Do you think you're a grownup, talking like that?"
Her blue eyes widened. "No I don't think I'm a grownup. I don't like grownups very much. They all cheat and lie to get their own way, and they think that they can treat kids however they want just because they have lived more years and are a bit closer to death that we are. I don't like them at all."
The ginger haired boy's face softened. "Yeah, me neither."
Then his face brightened again. "Well I have to call you something. Otherwise we can't be friends."
The girl's forehead wrinkled with confusion. "Friends? I don't think I've had one outside of my family before."
The boy chuckled. "Well that's alright, because I've never had a friend ever! So that means neither of us know the rules of friendship, which is awesome because then we can make our own rules. It can be like a game!"
He cocked his head in thought, his expression serious all of a sudden, but in an exaggerated kind of way. "Now now, what to call you? We need something that describes your awesomeness in ways never heard of before. How about..." He clapped his hands together sharply.
"Pudding! How about I call you Pudding? I don't think I'ver ever heard someone called Pudding before!"
The girl considered it. "Puddin...?" She queried, her accent making it sound a little different from the way the circus boy said it.
He nodded enthusiastically.
"Well then what do I call you?" She asked. "I need a name for you too."
He hesiated. He didn't want her to call him by the name his mother had given him, a name tainted by Lila's mouth. He wanted something that would make her view him as the dazzling star he was certain he was going to be.
"J." He told her. "You can call me J."
The corner of her mouth quirked up. "Alright then Mistah J." She let out a breathy giggle, that made the boy go weak in the knees. "Hey if you call me Puddin, does that mean you think I'm sweet?"
The boy blushed as red as his hair. "N-no way. I've never even eaten pudding before. If I wanted to call you sweet I would have called you... cotton candy!" He perked up. "C'mon let's have some now!" He puffed out his chest. "I can get it for free."
She giggled and let him wrap his hand around her's again and they both ignored the bleeding half moon shapes indented near her knuckles. They went to the stall where indeed they got the soft cones of pink fluff for free. The little girl could not get enough of the sweet sugary taste, and didn't notice until it was too late when the boy grabbed a piece and stuck it on her nose. "Mistah J!" She said and laughed, before whacking the back of his head with her cone, which of course did not cause him pain but it did get considerable amounts of the cotton stuck in his copper hair. He chortled before chasing her with his candy, and they ran together through the circus, the balloons he had in his hand were released and floated away into the night.
He taught her how to twirl plates on a stick, showed her how to make a flower appear from thin air and brought her into the back area were they kept the elephants and tigers where she petted them and inspected them with almost a greedy interest, like she wanted to see what they looked like on the inside.
The boy noticed this, and asked her if she wanted to play a game. She did and so he brought her towards the outskirts of the circus, up on a hill where the stars were clear against the skyline of Gotham, which was so rare in the smog filled city. He told her to wait for a moment before running off into the circus. She lay back and looked at the stars, and she thought about how everyone was just little specks against the Earth, while the stars beamed so bright. You could get rid of half the people on the planet and that would still not affect the way the stars beamed down upon those still there to look at them.
"How lovely." She whispered into the night.
Jerome found her there a few minutes later, sleeping softly in the grass. She must have been worn out, it was rather late. He sat down quietly beside her, not wanting to disturb her rest. He observed the way her blonde hair fanned out behind her, having fallen out from her pigtails. He looked at the way her little red pinafore clinged to her frame and her black stockings underneath her skirt which at the start of the night, were impeccable, but now had at least four holes in them.
He fantasized for a moment, that her mom had just left her here, abandoned her to the circus. He thought about her staying here forever, growing old with him until it was time for him to leave this place and enter the world were his opportunities of fame awaited him. He would take her with him, because by then they would be the bestest of friends, and he would trust no one else.
He looked at the Swiss Army knife in his hand.
He could kill her.
It would be easy, right now. While she was sleeping. He could see the way chest rose and fell, lightly up and down. He could slice her throat...
He looked down at her, with her blue eyes wide open and fixed on him, apprantly not worried about the knife in his hand.
"You asked me if I was 6 before. I'm not. I'm 4 years old."
He stared at her. "That makes me a full year older than you then. But you seem much older than 4, Pudding."
"You seem much older than 5. What's in the bag?"
The boy slung the backpack off his shoulder. He had almost forgotten it was there. "Oh yeah! I have a suprise for you!" He unzipped the bag and displayed the lack of contents inside, with all the finesse of a born showman. He then zipped it up, shook it around a bit before opening it up again and pulling a white rabbit out by the ears.
The girl clapped delightedly. "Wow! Is that the game?"
The boy shook his head. "Nup! It's way more exciting! I wouldn't let my favorite girl be entertained by anything but the funniest things!"
He leaned in towards her.
"Have you ever seen a rabbit smile?" He whispered, raising his eyebrows conspiratorially.
She shook her head.
He beamed with joy, enthusiastically grabbing the creature. It's pink eyes darted around and it's whiskers twitched in fear as if it could sense it's fate. The boy roughly placed his hands around it's throat, and squeezed with all the might in his five year old body. It's eyes grew wider and wider and the poor thing struggled within in his grasp, but in a moment ceased to move. The boy chuckled at the limp body of the rabbit and picked up his knife.
"Ya see Pudding? All it takes is a little push. Now, you proceed like so-" He brought the knife to the edge of the rabbit's mouth, before cleanly slicing through it's tender flesh, stopping halfway up it's left cheek. When he had cut through the other side, leaving a gaping hole to match the other, he poked his fingers through the gaps and stretched the skin out as far as he could without it breaking.
"Ta-da! Look Pudding, it's smiling, it's smiling!" He broke into a series of guffaws, dropping the rabbit in his lap and rolling around on the grass. As he did so he carefully listened for a frightned gasp or her footsteps rushing away. This was the part where she was meant to be scared.
Instead the girl stared at him, her face an undisturbed blank slate. "Why did you strangle him before you made him smile? I'm sure the result would have been the same either way." She paused, considering her own words. "But perhaps it might have died from bloodloss anyway. Even so, the sounds it would have made might have made the game more entertaining."
The corner of her mouth crept up, as though a puppeteer was pulling her strings."Not that it wasn't entertaining. It was a wonderful trick. May I please have a try?"
The boy was surprised, but handed her the knife all the same. He was even more so startled when she picked up the rabbit corpse and raised the the tip of the knife to the nape of it's neck, pressing gently down before neatly creating an incision that ran almost all the way down to it's tail.
It was bleeding out everywhere but she was seemingly unbothered by this instead putting down the knife and calmly exploring the inside of the rabbit with her hands. After a few minutes of rummaging it seemed she found what she was looking for, as she removed a small piece of crimson meat from it's chest, that gave little twitches as she severed the sinews and aortas that were attached to it and cupped it in her little hands, examining it with a look of curiosity in her azure eyes.
It was the rabbit's heart.
After a moment she turned to him and smiled, giggling lightly before smoothly taking his hand and dropping the rabbit heart in it.
"This is yours now. I give you a heart, as a thank you for tonight." She blushed, almost like she was embarrassed. "I've never had a real friend before. I couldn't have had, because tonight I have felt more than I have in 4 years. And Mama and Papa say that's a really big deal." She looked at the ground, expression sullen, hands tightening around the rabbit organs. "They say that it's important to feel. It's what makes us different from animals."
The boy blinked at her, this girl who didn't run from his games, this girl who liked dissecting animals as much as he did, this girl with darkness in her eye. She had called him her friend. He thought back to the others, when they had said the same thing. He had just been empty then. Indifferent.
But this time, he thought as he clutched the heart in his palm, there was a happiness when she said that.
He was happy to make her happy and he didn't know why.
I like her sm-
He changed the subject before anymore bothersome thoughts popped into his brain.
"Animals can talk in books. If they can talk and feel in books, why can't they do the same in real life?"
Her eyes rolled over to meet his. "Because this isn't a fairytale Mistah J."
Her quiet voice saying words that should have been sarcastic but came out sad, struck a chord in the boy.
"But is this not Wonderland and are you not Alice?" He jokingly said.
She shook her head. "This world maybe Wonderland, but I am not Alice."
She gestured to the dead animal in her lap. "This is the White Rabbit, and I am the Red Queen."
He grinned excitedly. "Does that mean I'm the Mad Hatter?"
The girl paused, turning to look at him as if seriously considering the question.
"No. You would have to be mad, and you are not mad Mistah J. You are the Cheshire Cat of course."
He burst into laughter.
"I'll take that as a compliment." He tilted his head. "But you are so sweet and polite Pudding. Why would you make yourself the villain of the story?"
She cast a glance towards the rabbit corpse. "We're all red on the inside."
She smiled then and leaned towards Jerome, mussing his ginger hair with her bloodied hands. "Some people are red on the outside too. You are. I am."
She giggled. "You just can't see it yet."
The girl darted foreward, kissed his freckled cheek, and pulled back, blushing a deep red.
The boy was thrilled. A kiss? Who would have thought? This girl was fascenating! She was way more fun than the others.
She wouldn't meet his eyes now, as she searched through the grass for her hair ties. "I-I'm sorry," She stuttered as she picked up the red one. "If th-that was impolite." She found the blue one and grabbed one side of her golden hair, pulling it into a pigtail. "I just wanted to make sure-" She murmered as she did the same to her left side. "That you were my friend, and that you didn't need anyone else in the world now."
She looked up at him, doe eyes almost scared. " I'm the only one you need right? You won't leave me for another friend?"
The boy laughed at the idea. "Another friend? My Ma is too drunk to know who I am half the time, and my father died at sea. The other kids don't like me. Having someone as friend would mean that they love me, and Pudding, no one loves me. Everyone leaves, but no one comes back." Shocked at his own words, he bit his tongue and looked away. Damn, those were meant to be private thoughts!
He felt a hand touch his.
He looked up to see the girl and her wonderful smile, right by his side. "I will always come back for you Mistah J. We're friends now remember?" He smirked and lifted her hand smoothly to his lips, and pressed them against her skin. "Indeed, milady."
The girl grinned before looking over her shoulder to the circus down below. She spotted a glimpse of what looked like her mother near one of the trailers. Her neck swung back towards the boy. "I have to go find my Mama. But you guys will still be here next week right? I'll come back then for you. We can more games then can't we?"
He nodded. "Of course Pudding. I'll wait for you." The girls pearly whites made themselves known again. "Buh bye Mistah J!"
And so the boy watched her run, bloody hands and all, into the chaos of the circus.
The third time the girl came to the circus...
Jerome Valeska shot up from his position, where he had been laying next to Harley on the floor of her cell. He turned to her, eyes wide and face pale.
"I know you, don't I Pudding?"
DUN DUN DUN! I'M BACK BITCHES!
Ok yeah I'm sorry, this chapter was long, I kept running out of insperation, life has been hectic af blah blah blah. But I've worked so hard here on all the Easter Eggs. This whole chapter is basically Easter Eggs, Here's a list, some were obvious, others subltely woven in. I am proud if you got them all.
Harley's sweater is Blue and Red, a reference to her hair in Suicide Squad
The dancers on the silks are an inspiration from Suicide Squad, this is something we will see again soon later in the story
The roundabout in the woods, is from a Criminal Minds episode starring a certain Cameron Monaghan...
The Red and Blue balloons with smiley faces that Jerome is holding, these are again a Suicide Squad Easter Egg and also the smiley faces are just a dead giveaway to his alias
The T shirt that Jerome is wearing with the Misfits Logo, the logo is a ghastly smiling face and the band has lyrics the Joker would defintely approve of
The flower magic trick that Jerome shows Harley is the same one he preforms at the Gala with the Maniax
The hill that Jerome and Harley are sitting on is the same one that Jerome will kill his mother on several years later
Harley's obsession with the word and concept of Lovely is a reference to Cassie Ainsworth, a character from a show called Skins who is often compared to Harley Quinn
The Red pinafore and Black tights that Harley is wearing is a reference to the orginal Harley Quinn's iconic colors
Jerome's mutilation of the Rabbit, is an Easter Egg for the Joker's Glasgow smile
"All it takes is a little push" is one of the Joker's lines in The Dark Knight
The Rabbit's heart is an Easter Egg for later in the story...
The whole conversation about Alice In Wonderland, if you wonder why I did not make Jerome the Mad Hatter and Harley Alice, hello that's been done so many times before, and we already have Jervis Tetch as the Mad Hatter. And the Joker has always reminded me of the Cheshire Cat with his whole smiling thing. Also I've never seen Harley portrayed as the Red Queen before, and now "we are all red on the inside" is one of my favorite quotes that I've ever written.
The "I'm the only one you need" line is sublte reference to Yuno Gasai in Mirai Nikki, also is an Easter Egg for later on in the story...
Harley's hair ties are Red and Blue, yet ANOTHER Sucide Squad Harley reference
The fact that Amanda Quinzel was near the trailers and not near the tents, is yet another Easter Egg for later in the story...
So like I said, I'm so glad if you got them, look out for more later on and also re read some of the older chapters for more in case you missed some. If you guys have any theories for what the foreshadowing means (I do so much foreshadowing) then pop them in to comments below. I always love reading reviews and opinions.
I must admit that everytime I write these I try to make it as visual as it can get as shown by all the Easter Eggs with the colors. It's because I keep imagning this as a tv show or movie, which would be the best thing ever if it did.
ALSO ONE OF MY READERS MADE A VIDEO WHERE SHE HAD PHOTOSHOPPED SASHA PIETERSE AS HARLEY QUINN ON YOUTUBE! Oh my god I am legit so proud and amazed. Also did you guys know that Sasha cosplayed as Harley Quinn last year on Halloween? Interesting...
Anyways I've been getting SO MANY REQUESTS to edit another Love You Just A Little Too Much video, which I will do but I'm working on a different video at the moment so please bear with me a little longer.
ALSO IF YOU ARE A TRUE FAN OF LOVE YOU JUST A LITTLE TOO MUCH FOLLOW MY ACCOUNT! Please download the app if you don't have it BECAUSE I am constantly talking about this story, I've been reading out sneak peeks of this chapter for ages now and I will do the same for upcoming chapters, and I give sneak peeks of the actual word documents on my computer so you can see behind the scenes (and all the spelling mistakes lol)
To be honest, when I started writing this I was writing it for myself because I thought that no one would want to read this crap, and this pairing where both characters are as strong as the other and both have such in depth backstories and personalities was something I personally wanted to see, and just wasn't seeing in the Fanfiction/AO3 community. But this (for me at least) has gained such a large following and such devoted readers that I actually want to cry, because these characters are like my children and you guys keep praising it and I'm just so happy.
And guys if you want to draw fanart please send some! It would be literally the sweetest thing!
I've also been getting guest reviewers on here asking for the video adaption of this story, I'm sorry that I couldn't reply won't let me reply to guest reviwers. I will leave the URL here watch?v=RRooixVxUqc&t=20s. WARNING! DO NOT WATCH IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE STORY! This of course doesn't have all the plot twists and stuff in the middle BUT it does have the definete ending.
I'm hoping to get the new video I'm working on done soon but I dunno, it's Rick and Morty video and the feels will kill you. I'm not joking. I've seen a lot of Sad Rick and Morty videos but I'm going to make it EVEN SADDER. But not as sad as this will be. Like this will have a good ending but that doesn't mean it won't be sad, and possibly disturbing :)
So Gotham on, and remember folks you ain't seen nothing yet!