With the last of the boxes finally unpacked, and put away, he was done. He was done moving his whole life over from his old apartment in the South End to his new townhouse in Back Bay, and Joe found himself looking around his place with his hands on his hips, finally seeing everything in place. With Greene running around playing with his various toys, Joe moves into the living room, and settles down on the couch, feet up, hands behind his head, stretching out. For the first time in a long time, it feels as though things might actually be okay. As much as they can be, anyway. Because living life where a homicidal maniac comes out once a month is never really okay, but he's learning to live with it. He's learning to live with the guilt of the things that Joker has done, but there are darker sides of Joe that no one really knows, and so it makes it easier to deal with. It doesn't make it okay, but it makes it easier. Knowing what strings to pull, knowing what places to hide, knowing who he can depend on helps with trying to clean up the messes that Joker leaves behind. There are plenty of blue contacts to cover up his now bright green almost inhuman looking eyes, there are ways to test out his now super strength, as he does his best to learn how not to fully showcase all that he's capable of. He avoids hospitals, due to his healing factor, and he knows well enough how to act 'drunk' even though he can't get drunk anymore. He does what he can to make life manageable. Sometimes, that's all it takes. Make things close to normal as you can get, and hope that everything falls back into place.

And it's been a long year of trying to get things back into place. A year since the memory losses and realization that he held a murderous alter ego within him. A year of denials. A year of struggling with relationships that he should have never tried to get back into for a variety of reasons, and relationships that were just too pure and good to last. Realizations on who was actually a "good influence" in his life (as good as an influence he could get these days), and who he needed to cut out completely due to selfishness -- sometimes his own, and sometimes theirs. A hard year of struggling with this new way of life, and trying at times to give up on that life, only to have proven that he couldn't. That, despite everything he hated about this new life, he was stuck this way for better or for worse. There was always going to be clashing of personalities now, of people who didn't mesh well with his other side, trying to manage and maintain his sanity in ways that he didn't know he had to do before. Sure, he had moments where he had felt he had been close to losing it before all of this started to happen. But now? A lot had happened in a year. A lot of pain happened in a year. Some of it was hard to move past, because when he closes his eyes, he sees it all. Not anything that has happened in the missing weeks, because thankfully Joe isn't that lucky. He's got friends that are around all the time, and he's thankful that hasn't happened to him. He doesn't want to know what happens in the weeks, because his guilt is already heavy from what he does remember -- and remembering forces him to avoid those he's harmed. But he has the memories of Joker himself, of when Gotham was still something he could go to, and all the memories that came with that. So when Joe closes his eyes, he sees it. And it's in the middle of the night when he wakes up screaming, it's due to something awful he's watched through Joker's eyes. And it's the times that he wakes up laughing that scare him most of all.

Isolating himself had become a second nature thing. Getting out of a highly populated apartment building was the first step. Quitting his job as a Professor, a job he had held since 2003, was a harder thing to do. But, it was something that once more had to be done. Because the further he got from the general populace, the easier it would be to protect them. Right? It was a weird thinking, and he was aware of it, but he needed to do something. Joker couldn't just keep destroying his life, and Joe had to take measures. He had already lost more than one thing he cared for due to him, he didn't want to be responsible for more. Self-isolation, it had to be done. And life was...manageable. Enough. And it wasn't exactly interesting, but it worked. No one was getting hurt, and though he was still losing weeks, he wasn't waking up to booby traps everywhere. Yet. Somehow, Greene was still around too and never seemed upset or bad, so Joe was starting to wonder if the "Crowned Prince of Crime" had a softness for dogs. Or, just Joe's dog.

Still, Joker was still finding a way to get into Joe's every day life. The constant reminder was there when he looked in the mirror in the morning before he had put in his blue contacts. Green eyes looking back at him, reminding him that this past year had changed him in ways that he would have never imagined, and in ways that would never be reversed. Each and every day, he was losing a little bit more of himself, and Joe wasn't so sure there was anything that he could do to fight it. Or, if it was even worth fighting, though that thought was one that came and went, when Joe was at his worst, when he was at his most vulnerable, feeling weighed down by all the errors of his ways in the past, even before Joker had come around. Being weighed down was something he was growing accustomed to feeling. But if he was some how protecting those he cared for, why was it such a bad thing? He knew there were many things he would never be forgiven for, regardless if it was him that did it or him, so why not just keep distance?

It was an easy thing in practice, of course, until November came around. Until a new neighbor came to knock on his door asking for sugar, and when he opened the door, it was his past staring right back at him. A long time love from his college days, from before anything else that had mattered at the time, and she had been someone that no one could ever really live up to. Not that he ever really told anyone of the comparison, but he had done his best to move past her, only to fall back into her again. So this 'neighborly' visit quickly turned to anything but, and for the first time in months, he found himself conflicted again. To fight to protect her from him, not knowing what was coming around the corner, not knowing if she was a shifter or not. Not knowing if she was someone that Joker would try to murder, to leave in the rubble...or if she was someone else entirely. He didn't need to remember that lost week to realize that things were drastically different with her. Because of course it was, because everything was always different with her, no matter how much he tried to fight it every step of the way.

He didn't want to believe it, he didn't want to believe that she was also a shifter, but when she came over to surprise him, dressed in...something that more than explained who she was, how could he not react to that? And then, how could he not understandably freak out? Who knew what this meant, who knew what this would do in the future, when he couldn't control his other side? He tried to push her away, but she pushed back, they fought, they screamed at each other, and realistically talked about what this meant. There was a lot he wasn't telling her, of what he had done since a year ago but...she knew him before all of that. She knew who he really was, all of his past, because she was there for most of it. He didn't have to pretend to be someone else with her.

He didn't have to fear that she needed to be protected, because with her he actually believed she could protect herself against Joker if she needed to. It was the first time in a year, that he felt that about anyone he had been seeing. Anyone that he had cared for.

So that was it, then. They were all in. Because being the age he was, what was the point in holding back anymore? What was the point of trying to please anyone other than himself? Life was fucked up these days. He needed these moments to feel sane. He needed this time to feel alive, not frightened about what would come next.

A knock on the door brought Joe out of his thoughts, his eyes opening up as he sat up on the couch, watching Greene bark and happily go over to the front door. The knock persisted, and he got up, with a smirk on his lips, and opened the door to his favorite devious redhead, who was wearing a similar smirk as she simply just walked past him and into his home.

And he happily shut the door, in that moment, on the past behind him, because fuck it. Those people never did anything but destroy him and guilt him, he was tired of feeling that way. This year, this year was going to be about his own life, taking control of what he wanted. And it all started and changed with her.