A/N:

To my sweet Joker,

Hello, love. I told you I would find you, and today is that day. How'd you like my little story? Good? Well, trifles, as long as I have your attention. Seriously, what's a girl to do when she's left out in the cold? Be a sweet and send me a message, hm? I'm missing my handsome pet.

Yours, until I kill you,

Bellatrix

PS- Lots of love and thanks to 'ittle madame Lyn Harkeran, my dearest legal vamp, cuz, and editor. Couldn't have done it without you, vampy! :)

Of Lipstick, Blood, and Lunacy

"...What a shame, what a shame; beautiful scars on critical veins..."

-Kids in the Dark (All Time Low)

Was the smear across his forehead lipstick or blood? He couldn't tell, for it was all the same shade of russet red. Footsteps clipped their way around him in the dim light of the abandoned subway tunnel, and a high-pitched cackle echoed right in his ear. An hour ago, or two, or ten, he would have flinched, but he was numb to it by now. Dark curls tickled his neck as she leaned in to kiss his temple, sending shivers down his spine that had nothing to do with pleasure or the cold. But it was involuntary and couldn't be helped, any more than his screams as she whispered, "Crucio."

He fell to the cement, the chair he was tied to doing nothing to support him, and in fact furthering his pain. His insides burned like ice, and fire, and ice again; contorting on themselves and demanding an end; shriveling and hissing as they melted onto the floor. Sweat seeped from his pores, dying his vision red, which deepened until the world was bathed in a thick sheen of crimson. His mind was swirling, scrambling, flickering with memories as they flew to the forefront and out through his mouth in a puff of silver smoke. There was so much noise, too much, as his shrieks blended with her laughter and the voices tumbled from the past. But another voice, lower than the others and singsong, whispered through them: "You're going to lose it. Why don't you just give up and die?"

No, no. I'm not. I'm not going crazy. I'm not going to die.

"Why so certain, hm? She's been at it for hours. You think she's gonna give up now?" it chuckled darkly.

"No, no, no!" he moaned, the last word becoming vocal as the pain split down the center, and he found himself panting into a drainage grate.

"'No?' Did you say, 'no?' Look who's being feisty."

The cackling had cut off, and the footsteps drew closer until a pair of black leather heels stood inches from his face. A pale hand reached to grab his chin, her nails cutting into his flesh. She craned his neck until he could see her, her heavily-lidded eyes dark with mirthless pleasure, her teeth bared in a smile.

"Tch tch tch," she tsked from where she was crouched next to him, her gaze roving over the contours of his face. In the tone one might use playing hide and seek with a child, she leaned in and called, "Anybody in there?"

He said nothing, fighting back the urge to wretch just long enough for her to finish her perusal and let his head slam to the floor. Bile shot from his mouth and through the holes in the grate with a sickening splat, and over his own heaving he could sense her smirking.

"Good aim, pet."

He rolled over as best he could with a chair strapped to his back, wiping his mouth on the shoulder of his sweatshirt and staring across the tunnel.

For a moment, the only sound was his heavy breathing, which nearly overpowered him with the rotten stench of refuse and the woman's perfume. She was giving him a bit to recover, and he couldn't say he was grateful. A reprieve would only make it worse when she started up again.

"So, would you like me to try and lift you, or should I leave you this time? Wouldn't want you to die of blunt force trauma if you're gonna keep falling. That wouldn't be much fun."

A funny sort of feeling itched in his chest, and he chuckled bitterly. "No, that wouldn't be fun at all."

"Again, then?" she simpered, amusedly.

"Why not?"

"Crucio!"

This time, the initial pain passed faster, hurrying him along to his memories. He settled on one, his screams honing in on their brothers, recalling the last time he'd screeched like that. Someone was lying on the floor, but it wasn't him that time, and it wasn't dark. She was sprawled, limbs resting where they'd clawed at the dirt in an attempt to get away, the veins in her eyes bloodshot beneath the summer sun. Lipstick was smeared on her face, but it was her own, and blood bloomed from the jagged knife wounds in her torso. In a deserted alley, just as in the tunnel, he was screaming the screams of the damned.

"Oo, that was better, wasn't it? You kept going after I stopped," the woman said as the darkness returned and he wretched again. "What's it like, pet, having your brain leak out?"

That was rich coming from her, he thought, watching the glee flitting on and off her expression. His lips swung on their hinges, and his words slurred as he grinned up at her. "You oughta know, you've felt it."

He expected another jolt of pain, another shot of light to electrocute him when it jumped from the witch's wand, but she laughed again, and he felt the ropes binding him loosen. The wand lodged itself under his chin, and she ordered him up. He obeyed, hefting himself to his feet and immediately plummeting into a sitting position on the cement.

He leaned back against the wall, his hunched shoulders fitting nicely with the curve of the tunnel and his eyes rolling up to take her in fully, his stringy brown hair slightly obscuring the image. There was a gaunt air about him, the woman thought, gazing at his sunken cheeks and bony frame, and he'd be almost attractive if he didn't look like he'd already died.

"You're a wreck, handsome," she sneered, deciding to say it.

"Ouch. Let's not blow things out of proportion," he said, coughing rawly. There was something about him she hadn't seen in a muggle before, something manic, something strange. Muggles were so dull and predictable, begging and blubbering until their bodies, minds, and souls went dry. He screamed when she tortured him, like he should, but he didn't hate it, didn't cry. He fought it, the inevitable, but not with the same waterworks and pleading words used by most of his kind. With distaste, she recognized the curiosity within her rising, and she stepped back from him in repulsion. She turned on her heel and began to pace.

His head lolled from side to side, following her footsteps, and he began humming. His deep voice reverberated pleasantly, the haunting melody riddled with frequent, breathy pauses that carried into the night.

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word... daddy's gonna buy you a mockingbird… and if that mockingbird won't sing…. daddy's gonna buy you a diamond ring…"

The witch stopped and turned to him, wearing a curious expression at his choice of a children's rhyme, and he trailed off.

"Don't stop now, pet. It might be the only thing keeping you alive."

He chuckled weakly, then continued, eyelids fluttering.

"And if that diamond ring won't shine... daddy's gonna buy you a landmine… and when the mine takes off your head… you'll look pretty when you're dead…"

This time, both of them burst into gales of laughter, tears streaming down their faces and freezing as they drip, drip, dripped through the air.

"You're clever for a muggle," the witch said presently, dropping to the floor next to him, and cooing as she used her wand to trace the line of his jaw. He regarded her warily, his stubble prickling where the wand rubbed his unshaven face.

"You're beautiful for a murderess," he half-smiled, but his mouth only reached a grim line. "So where does that leave us, hm?" he said, and he wasn't sure when the voice in his head had taken over him. "Hm?"

The witch ignored him for a moment, glancing at a clock that was barely readable from the beneath the grime on the glass, and casing the perimeter. Though it was well past three a.m., not a soul breathed in the nocturnal city, for which she was thankful. She'd come to Gotham not long before for a bit of fun, where people were unlikely to save anyone's skin but their own, and where lawlessness was the law. The only problems she'd encountered so far when she'd popped by for a weekend were the criminal night-dwellers, who seemed to think they were welcomed to join the fun. Raggedy buffoons toting muggle firearms and tattoos kept intruding on her torture sessions, breathing drunkenly in her face and asking if the pretty little whore wanted assistance or a nightcap. It only ever took her a moment to deal with them, but she preferred one-on-one time with her intended targets. Tonight, at least, it didn't look as though there was anyone to get in the way.

"It leaves us, sweet," she said, cuddling into the man's side and twirling her wand through his unkempt hair, "With a little time to talk. Couldn't hurt to get to know you, before I have to kill you. Let's start with the basics. What's your name?"

She fully expected him to recoil at her touch; most men did, and with good reason. But chuckling again, the man curled his arm around her, cradling her chin and neck in a mix between drawing her nearer to him and strangling her.

"Ah, ta ta ta ta," he scolded, shaking the pointer finger on his free arm. "The first thing you ask, and the one I can't answer. Let's start with a magic trick. You break your neck, and I disappear."

"Naughty boy!" the witch laughed, digging her wand into his ribcage. "'Ittle bitty popkin, we must play nice." She kissed his cheek and licked the blood off, scrunching her nose at the tangy taste. "How about I go first. What a gentleman, realizing I am a lady after all. My name is Bellatrix Lestrange, mistress of the noble house of Black, and heiress up until my marriage to my wretched husband, Rodolphus. Never liked him much, and the only man I… admire... is above such petty cares. We've had some fun, though, haven't we? Always loved the look of torture on a handsome face. And now, as you know me, I'll ask you again: who are you?"

"I'm none of your concern. A phantom of your imagination. You're going to kill~ me, Bella," he sang, finally fixing his averted eyes on hers and brushing away stray strands of her hair. "What does it matter?"

His refusal was beginning to irk her, and she snapped, shoving him away and clambering to her feet. She rounded on him, aiming her wand and sneering.

"Everyone's a joker, then? Everyone's a tease! Filthy little muggle playing his filthy, loathsome games. I really should have broken you further so I wouldn't have to deal with this charade. In fact, I think I will, sweet. I think I will. Crucio!"

The curse shot from her wand, and every muscle in his body constricted. He screamed and writhed, just as he had before, but she was angry. Unlike the other times, though, he was finally crying, tears spouting from his squinted eyes like fireworks. She lowered her wand, and he kept shaking, slumping to the floor and rolling in the dust, creating a blood-splattered mosaic. And he was laughing, chortling with glee and kicking his legs with uncontainable mirth.

"Bella, Bella, please, it tickles! Don't you see, Bella? You've nothing to do with all your power and beauty; nothing to threaten me with. See the funny side? See it?!" He was practically hooting, pounding his fists until his knuckles cracked, bone colliding on bone, and Bellatrix was completely at a loss for words. When his laughter finally subsided into hiccups and coughs, he sat up and smoothed his hair, smiling calmly at the witch. She was silent for a moment.

"You're mad. Bloody mad!" She cackled, incredulous. His expression went serious.

"No, I'm not," he said, enunciating the 't.' "I'm not. I'm angry, and tired. So, so very tired. I see the funny side of things, because I've fought the thing- death, insanity, sanity- for so long, only to have it end like this." On the word "this," he raised his arms and gestured around him, stumbling to his feet and twirling around feverishly. "Do you wanna know how I got this way, Bella? I won't tell you my name, but I'll tell you who I am. I was a drinker, a drinker and a fiend. One night, I went off crazier than normal, and my wife said she was gonna leave. I didn't try to stop her, or at least I don't remember it. Next morning, I get a call, see. They found her, dead, not a block away. I couldn't take the heat- everyone thought I'd done it- and I took to the streets. I've been living down here ever since, and what do I get? The first pretty girl to remind me of her is a psych-o-path~, lookin' to kill a sucker like me."

The tunnel was silent. Bella's mouth kept gaping open like a fish and snapping shut, and for perhaps the first time in her life, she couldn't think of anything to say. The man took a step towards her, until her eyes were level with his chin and his hand was wrapped around her wand arm.

"What was that you called me, a tease? A joker? I like it; I really, really like it. The Joker. The tease. That's who I am. I'm not crazy, I'm mad. Mad mad mad mad mad! Weeee!" He shrieked, hugging her waist and spinning her around the room. He set her down, and in that time a wry smirk had settled on her lips, one of her dark eyebrows quirked at him.

"So… how'd you like my little story, doll-face?" The Joker said, staring daggers with his venomous eyes. Her smile fell, twisting with rage.

"Did you just… lie? To me?!"

"Meh," he said, shrugging. "Maybe I lied, maybe I didn't. Truth, lies, they're all just stories anyway, a silly little mind game. Live as long as I have, and you'll see the only things that're real are the scars these…. figments….leave behind." He tilted his head, and relinquished his hold on her, plucking her wand straight out of her hands and fiddling with it, shaking it until a few sparks shot out and singed his arm hair. Bellatrix snatched it back and he let her, shrugging again and starting to walk away. Realizing what was happening, the witch shrieked, mincing after him and calling, "And where do you think you're going? Stop and face me, coward, or I'll kill you where you stand."

He didn't turn around as he called back to her, "By all means. We're all just gonna end up dead anyway." She huffed as he kept walking, incensed, but found in that moment that she didn't want to kill him. He was too much fun, and she had never met anyone like him. But she couldn't let him get away. She raised her wand and shouted; "Stupefy!"

The Joker stopped abruptly, as if he was turned to stone, and he fell flat onto his face. Bellatrix strode over slowly, trying to collect herself, and fixed on a lofty expression. She pointed at him and muttered the counter curse, and he returned to normal, oomphing as he collapse onto the floor.

"You know, a gentleman always faces a lady when she's speaking to him," said Bellatrix testily. Joker rolled over and propped his head on his elbow.

"You know, a lady doesn't seat her guests on the floor."

Before the witch even had a chance to respond, the man's leg flung out to clothesline her, hitting the spot right below her kneecaps and bringing her down next to him in a wave of flying robes and black curls. Her wand flew into the air and clattered a few feet away, and the next thing she knew he'd pinned her. His breath was rancid and his eyes bulged, the veins visibly pounding beneath the sockets. His skin was clammy from the cold and blood loss, and a bit of it trickled onto her cheek. Disbelief was fast replaced by shrill, hollow laughter, as she fruitlessly tried to wrench herself free.

For a moment, anger replaced the Joker's manic state, and he began shaking her until her arms were bruised and she winced in pain. "You think it's funny, do you? You like this, hm? See how hilariously, awfully funny this is, now that you're the one about to die all alone?"

He stopped abruptly, the blood that rose to color his cheeks draining again, and his arms relaxing against her rapidly-beating veins. He let out a low whistle, and catching sight of the tears that he'd squeezed from her eyes, he leaned down and whispered directly in her ear.

"You are beautiful, you know. Just like she was. Just. Like. Her." He pulled back, and Bellatrix slumped against the cement, still shaking with mirth. The voices were buzzing in his head again, louder and more persistent, and it was just occurring to him what he'd been doing. Of course she deserved it; she was a murderess. But that wasn't who he was.

"But it is who you are," said the deep voice. "The Joker, that's who you are."

"I'm not. I'm NOT!" his mind screamed, and he rolled up in a ball, clutching his head in his hands. Bella's voice seemed far away when it called to him, and he flung his arms at her when she tried to get close, her simpering smile the last thing he wanted to see, her taunting face the embodiment of both of his biggest fears. She was the one he'd lost, and the one who'd tortured him. He had lost his mind to her when he first saw her, and once again. He crawled to his knees and clawed the earth, digging and digging at the impenetrable surface, as if he could dig his own grave from the stone. He wanted to. The voice jeered, louder and louder and louder, and he could hear Bella laughing, still lying injured on the floor. The voice was consuming him now, asking him what he thought he was doing, and if he really thought he could get away, from the truth, from Bellatrix, from his own mind. And then the laughter was coming from his mouth, the words pouring out and obscuring the clarity from an instant before as he muttered to himself.

"Why so serious, why so serious? Are you scared? What are you so afraid of, Joker? Are you a coward? Are you afraid? Why so serious, why so serious? WHY SO SER-I-OUS~!"

Spittle flew from his mouth, the last phrase ripping from his lungs and releasing the last shard of sanity clinging to his mind. The Joker bellowed like a raging hurricane through the tunnel, tearing at the walls, hacking at the metal and stirring up the dust, swirling the fire inside into a blazing inferno. The lightning was in his eyes, the cold breaking through his skin and penetrating his heart, destroying the broken man whose corpse of a soul would be left behind. He laughed, chortled, chuckled, bellowed, shrieked with screams of joy as all that he knew and hated was vanquished, lost in the catacombs beneath the reach of the light that dazzled the starry sky. He stood, flinging his arms wide and singing his song, changing the words to suit him and be damned with those who just couldn't understand. He smiled, whirling on Bellatrix, the face of insanity, and lifting her into his arms. She cried out when he touched the bruises he had caused, and he kissed her temple with a sicking pop. She lashed out at him, trying to escape his grasp and peppering him with insults, but he held her tighter. He pressed her head to his chest and stroked her hair, hissing a cold whisper into her ear.

"Thank you, thank you, Bella, thank you. You've done it; you've really, really done it."

"What have I done?" She said, no longer squirming. The instant he relaxed his hold, she rolled out of his arms and onto the floor, landing on the chair he'd been tied to and splintering it with a crack. She scrambled from the wreckage, lunging for her wand and rising triumphant. "Down on your knees," she ordered, aiming it at him. He grinned.

"I not gonna hurt you, Bella. Not one bit. How about you put down the stick?"

"Sorry, sweet, but I'm not inclined to believe you," she said, not sounding sorry at all. In fact, her eyes were alight with a strange kind of pride, as she continued. "Unfortunately for you, you're one of my better results. Never had one turn out quite like this."

He quirked his head and raised his hands in surrender, stepping towards her despite the unspoken command to stay back. "You seem," he said gently, until the wand was an inch from his eye, "To be laboring under the delusion that you caused this. Madness, Madame Lestrange, was already imminent. It just needed a little… push."

With reflexes like lightning, he slapped the wand aside and kissed her, his lips colliding with her sneer and choking her breath away. He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand furiously and smiled- oh what a loathsome smile- and just as quickly, he pulled away. "Are you mad at me?"

Her eyes were filled with a strange mix of hatred and obsessive need as she regarded him, and her high-class breeding screamed for her to get a grip. He was a muggle- a filthy, manic muggle- and he had snogged her!

He smiled. "A ta ta. Why so serious, Bella? Why so serious? Come on, come on, Bella. I want you to do it. Curse me. Pretty little Bellatrix. Let's put a smile on that face, hm?"

Her chest rose and fell rapidly, the cold causing steam to issue from her flared nostrils and into the night. "No," she said silkily. "Let's put a smile on yours."

Her wand slashed in a horizontal motion across his face, a curse sizzling from the tip of her wand. A long, deep, jagged cut severed his lips, creating a crimson smile clear up his cheeks. He chortled, wincing as his skin was torn open, and flicking his tongue out to run along the corners of his now-cavernous maw.

"Hm, iron," he spluttered, as blood spewed everywhere and onto everything- onto his clothes and into his hair, and adding to the dried smears that were on the ground. But the wounds were already closing, the blood coagulating faster than was possible without the use of magic.

"Smooth," he muttered, stumbling to the wall as the agony continued to overwhelm him. He reached up to finger the ravine and raced around until he found a semi-reflective patch on the tunnel wall. He studied his image in it, painted red and pale and ghoulish in the dim light. Though he scowled, the upturned corners of the gouge gave him a gleeful look, and with the streaks of blood, lipstick, tears, and dirt he appeared almost clownish.

He turned back to Bellatrix, who was watching him intently, her dark eyes illuminated with a malevolent glow. She seemed to be questioning him, asking if he liked his new scars. It was all a game to her, and she wanted to see how far he was willing to go, to see if this "mudblood" would stoop to her level. He had no choice but to smile at her now, no matter how deeply anguish and hatred pierced his insides at these realizations. He turned away.

"Ta, ta, ta," he said quietly, his hands crossed behind his back as he began to circle her, his gaze locked on his feet. "I've gotta say I'm disappointed. I've played your little game, waited for you to kill me, and what do I get? A flesh-wound and a moment's pain, hm? You think you know what I'm thinking, but you don't. Joke's on you, doll-face; it's my move."

She'd been following his motions, turning as he turned, but with her attention trained on his profile she hadn't seen what he'd been walking towards. In a split second, he dove for the remains of the broken chair, snapping off a leg and sinking the sharp end into her side. She doubled over, eyes wide and glassy as a scarlet rose bloomed on her obsidian robes. She hugged an arm around her torso, and her hand came away covered in blood. Her other hand held her wand loosely, shaking as she crumpled backward. Joker caught her as she fell, cradling her head and shushing her as he laid her on the floor.

"Shhh, shhh, there's a good girl. There you go. Sheesh, that's gonna leave a mark. But don't you worry, don't you worry, you won't have to die down here."

His gaunt image blurred above her, his handsome face grim and ghostly as he smoothed her hair once more. She cackled weakly, coughing up blood and fighting for consciousness. Joker lifted her once again, and her stomach lurched. She wrapped her arms limply around him as he sprinted the length of the tunnel, his heartbeat fluttering in her ears. With a gasp of delight from the Joker, they emerged into cool, early morning air.

The sky was a deep periwinkle, but there was a hint of pink tickling on the edge of the city skyline. Charcoal clouds overlaid the stars, their outlines etching shadows on top of shadows on the land below. They were on the outer rim of Gotham, close enough to hear the car alarms hailing the morning's hijackings, and the gunshots of a few brawling mobsters, but far enough to be alone. A medical helicopter flew overhead, casting a brief glow on the rocky highway before them. There was a large boulder some fifty yards away, and it was there that Joker laid the dying woman in his arms. A pair of headlights appeared at a distance, growing larger by the second, and Joker knew they didn't have much time.

"They're coming, and hopefully they'll be kind," he said, peering over her. She shuddered, her body convulsing, but even as she fought to stay awake, she rolled her eyes. "Don't give me that look, Bella. You're too sick to die. These... civilized people- they just love to help a girl out, don't they? We should do this again sometime." He glanced quickly over his shoulder, knowing he should leave but unwilling to go. The dust beneath her was already swimming in a pool of B-positive, and his footprints were trailed by crimson polkadots. He surveyed the scene, making sure there was nothing to tie him to it, not that anyone would have cared anyway. But if they did, as she was the one barely breathing, they would have put him at fault. Satisfied that he'd left nothing, he turned back to her, sparing her sweat-soaked face one final stare.

"Bub-bye, doll-face," he said, smiling with both of his masks and planting a gentle kiss to her forehead. He laughed, a maniacal, bitter laugh, one last time.

"I'll find you… sweet..." she breathed heavily, cackling as the world vanished from before her vacant, cruel eyes.

She slumped just as the cruiser pulled up, the door clicking open as a man in a gray tweed suit climbed out. The Joker looked up, the headlights glittering gold in his orbs, shattering as they glanced off of the windows to his twisted mind. The man ran towards him, alarm written on the lines of his face as he caught sight of the woman's body in the watery moonlight. The man yelled at him, and he smiled back, turning tail only when the man got too close. As the Joker danced away, shrouded in darkness and embraced by the night, Detective Gordon dialed 9-1-1, blanketing the woman in his suit coat. He didn't dare leave her to chase the psychopath who'd done it, but he would catch him, he vowed, one day. He knelt beside the woman, checking for a pulse and taking her hand, just in case she could feel it and found it comforting. He could hear the sirens, but a calloused, haunting voice was singing above it all.

"Hush, my sweet doll-face, don't say a word… daddy's mad, or so I've heard… but don't you worry, rest your head… cause I'll still love you when you're dead…"

A/N:

My dear Madame Lestrange,

Why, hello, beautiful! I wondered when I'd be seeing you again. You know I hated to go. How many attempts to find me is this, hm? Seven? Eight? Don't worry, love, I'll come. But not yet. I've got a little bit of tricky business over here with some nutcase called the Batman, and he's just too much fun. But just you wait, doll-face. Just you wait.

See you in hell,

The Joker

PS- Send my girl a review, won't you? She's crazy for 'em.