He wakes up laughing that horrible laugh.

He laughs until he can't and he realizes where he is. In his apartment. Not a warehouse. All of his things are still here, everything is still here. It takes a bit as he struggles to sit up, apparently passing out on his bed, sweatpants on, shirt off, not even sure what movie he was watching. The TV in front of him is still static noise, not turned off on its own yet (and he thinks that he really needs to fix the energy settings on that TV). It doesn't matter now, why the TV is still on, why he's only half dressed; he knows enough of what is going on to know he's been passed out for two days straight, and he doesn't feel exactly great. There's a kink in his neck, and he still has a desire to kill everyone he knows -- a feeling left over from the dream, that he's trying to fight off with every single breath that he takes. He inhales sharply, and exhales just as hard. He struggles to push himself up, as he sits up and then leans his arms forward, stretching out his back in an almost yoga-like pose.

The scars and cuts from various black out weeks adorn his back like a painting, and he's aware of each and every scar, even more so now after waking up from feeling as though he had finally gone insane. That he had finally let Joker take over and win. As each scar tells a story, so does every bruise he has, every movement he makes as he tries to fix his awareness. He's home. He's home, he's alive, he's not Joker. He has to repeat this over and over in his head, closing his eyes, practicing breathing as if there was nothing left for him to hold on to. Truth is, there really isn't anything left for him to hold on to, and he knows he's just grasping at straws at this point, but it's all he can do to not fall into the pit that's trying to pull him down.

When he feels centered, he slowly opens his eyes and looks around his bedroom, or as much as his tired eyes are willing to let him see. Things look to be in order. Or, as order as they can be. He's not sure if there are any booby traps this time, he's blacked out but it doesn't seem like one of those times. He was stuck in a dream that he was very much aware wasn't real. Or...at least now he was aware. Then, it had felt so damn real. Like he was really taking over all the crime families. Like he really was at the top of the game. Once upon a time, he had actually wanted that. Long before Joker reared his ugly head, Joe had gone down a rather dark path. Joe had history with this, Florida proved that much, Miami proved it more, and the ties he held in the South would eventually come back to bite him. So, it had been a weird twisted fantasy that had come true, and it had been too much.

Because somewhere, in an alternate universe, Joe became exactly as the dream was, though perhaps without the influence of Joker. Which, of course, makes it that much worse. It's why Joe swears off relationships, he swears off attachments. At the end of the day, he'll end up killing someone or himself, and since he can't seem to kill himself, there's one option left and Joe isn't exactly okay with it. He doesn't want to become this man, but if things keep going how they are, it's just what will happen. He struggles at the life he has, and he knows it. Teaching is fulfilling, but not as much as it used to be, not when some students were privvy to his other side (and then some). He's got more money than he can handle, but yet somehow after each blackout, he ends up with more. More money. More guns. More suits that aren't exactly to his taste but he knows whose taste it is for. Living in an apartment that turns into a death trap each and every month. Threatening letters. Bombs set to go off if he doesn't put in the correct combination. Comics and videos littered around the apartment because "You need to watch these, Joey. They're important.".

At the very edge of his mind, parts of the dream still play. Power. He had power. Power over people, had power to do whatever he wanted. And he had liked it. He was perfectly insane, making him perfectly sane in this day in age, and was literally untouchable. Nothing could stop him. No one could stop him. All he had to do was just remove the people that knew him before he changed. And he did. He had killed each and every single one of them, and when he was done, he hadn't washed the blood completely off his hands or his clothes. He had enjoyed it. He had triumphantly returned to his warehouse hideout, sat on his chair, and chatted happily about his next plan. Because he had gotten rid of all his ties to his old life. Because he had felt free.

Joe closes his eyes again, feeling himself panic, feeling his heart beating too fast, and once more he goes into a meditative state. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. It lasted a few moments before he felt that calm wash over him. Eyes still closed, he moved a hand to rub along his side, a recently scar from a week before, and on his chest was a scar disappearing that had represented a gunshot from a friend. Things that had to be done. Things that would be done again. Sometimes, it was to much to handle. But he survived them before, he'd do it again. He had to. Right?

So, he breathes in. He breathes out. He opens his eyes once more and adjusts to the dim lighting, the moon shining through the blinds of his apartment. The silence outside. The world unaware of what battle everyone was fighting on their own. It was easier that way. He preferred it that way.

He rubs at his eyes and moves himself to the edge of the bed, and just as his feet hit the floor, he hears a sound to the left of him. He quickly reaches for the gun he now keeps under his pillow, and grabs it. He doesn't make sure it's loaded (because he knows that it is) and he immediately aims the gun towards the sound, and sees an intruder sitting in the corner of the room. His eyes go wide and surprise, and anger cross over him, because he could have killed them. Hell, in his dream, he did, and he enjoyed it. The timing and irony of it all wasn't lost on him. If this is supposed to be a joke, he's not laughing. He's tired of the world playing games with him.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"