The gray walls of the asylum seemed to drain all color from the room. Alex stretched before getting out of the bed. The doctors had said that a psychiatrist would be evaluating her today. Well, the words they had used were actually "checking in" on her, but she knew what they'd meant. She took a seat on the window nook and glanced down on the town below. Iron bars framed her view of the desolate city around her. Gotham and its Arkham Asylum.
Part of her wanted to believe that this was all part of a strange dream. Only as few days ago, she had awoken in a stranger's body in the world of a comic book. Catching sight of her new body's reflection in the window, she raised her hand to her face… Elizabeth's hand… Elizabeth's face… A sudden movement in the reflection caught her attention, and she turned to see a familiar face walk into the room. Her breath caught in her throat. Forcing herself to relax, she adjusted her position on the nook.
"Good morning, Miss Arkham. The doctors have informed me that you appear to be suffering from amnesia," the doctor said with a fake, polite smile that didn't meet his ice blue eyes. "My name is Dr. Jonathan Crane… although we have quite a few times… Have you regained any memory of your life?"
"No, sir," Alex replied and held her head down. Memories of who this doctor truly was made it hard for her to calm down, but she needed his cooperation to have any chance of getting out of this place. A quick breath helped her compose herself. "I still don't remember anything… The doctors told me that my name is Elizabeth Arkham, but I don't know any more than that."
"And how are you feeling?"
"Confused… but better," Alex replied with a sheepish smile, but after a moment, she let the smile fall from her face. "Do you think… Is it possible I'll never remember who I was?"
Dr. Crane seemed to think it over before replying, "It's possible… but let's try to stay positive. After all, you don't seem to be having any difficulties with new memories, am I right?"
"Well, I'm not sure I'd be the most reliable person to answer that question, doctor."
A small, surprised laugh came out of Dr. Crane, and he gave her an amused look. "I suppose not. I guess that means we'll have to see more of each other, so I can be sure."
"How long will I need to stay here?" Alex blurted out before slightly regretting it. Some people probably never left this place. At least not alive. "I overheard that I had jumped out of a window, but… I don't remember anything about doing so. I understand it's necessary to make sure I don't try again, but if I can't remember what caused me to jump, then how can I consider myself 'fixed' enough to leave?"
Dr. Crane sighed and asked, "May I take a seat?"
Alex nodded, and he took a seat on the chair by the wall.
"My concern is that you may regain your memories after spending time in your home and might attempt to harm yourself again. Your family has a history of mental illness, and… this is certainly not your first time in this facility."
"So will I need to stay here until I get my memories back?"
Doctor Crane took a moment to clean his glasses, and Alex felt her heart race. Thankfully, he didn't have a briefcase with him.
"Due to… your prior behavior, you are under a conservatorship. Your brother is in charge of your estate and can make decisions for your well-being. If he chooses to take care of your treatment at home with his doctors, then there's nothing I can do but hope for the best."
Alex's hand reflexively gripped the side of her shirt tightly. She didn't like the sound of that.
"What was I like? Did I seem like a danger to myself before?"
Dr. Crane put his glasses back on and said thoughtfully, "Your brother never allowed you to stay this long before. The judge ordered for an extended stay due to… a concerned citizen's request. All I can say is that you seem to be much livelier than before."
Alex gave him a confused look, so he elaborated, "The Elizabeth I've worked with… or at least attempted to work with was much more withdrawn. I don't know much about you because you never really spoke much. If anything… you almost seem like a completely different person."
Alex could feel her heart in her chest but hid her fear with a confused smile. "How would I get out of this 'conservatorship'? It doesn't appear to me that my brother is making the right calls about my welfare."
Dr. Crane's eyebrows rose for a moment in surprise, and Alex wondered if she'd said the wrong thing to the wrong person. It hardly mattered now. He'd already realized the difference between her and Elizabeth, since Alex hadn't know enough about Elizabeth to pretend to be her. Even Alex herself didn't know if she was truly crazy. The last thing she could remember as her former self was a shining set of headlights. Perhaps this was all in her head. Maybe she was truly Elizabeth, and this was all a coping mechanism for an insane girl in an insane world. "Alex" could be just a story in Elizabeth's head, but Alex didn't feel like that was the answer. But then again, do crazy people know that they're crazy?
After a moment of thought, Dr. Crane put his glasses back on and replied, "It would be a simpler matter to change the conservator in charge, but I suppose without your memories it's hard to know which people to trust."
Alex nodded thoughtfully. The only person she could think of trusting would be Bruce Wayne, but from what she'd heard from the nurses Mr. Tall, Dark, and Brooding was still MIA. Probably finishing his training to become Gotham's Dark Knight.
"If you'd like to commit to breaking free from the conservatorship, then I'd be willing to help. However, there will be some evaluations and tests that I'll need to administer first."
Chills went up Alex's spine, but she nodded in confirmation. What other choice did she have?
Dr. Crane's eyes lit up with excitement, and he stood up to leave. With a second of hesitation, he turned back to her to say, "Well, I'll prepare the documents and contact the DA's office. Do you have any more questions for me?"
"Yes, actually. Could you include math tests as well? I want to prove that I'm capable of handling my own finances. I know it's not a necessity, but if I could…"
"Very well. Basics or more advanced?"
"Starting from basics to as complicated as you can reasonably make it. I want to test myself."
Dr. Crane smirked and asked, "Any other requests, Miss Arkham?"
"A hidden camera? Maybe two?" Alex asked sheepishly, and Dr. Crane laughed in surprise. "As you said yourself… without my memories it's hard to know who to trust, and it seems like my brother needs to be tested as well."
"So… you want me to 'let it slip' that you're trying to get out of your conservatorship?"
"If you could, that'd be great, but I'm sure he'll find out soon anyway."
"I'll be back to install some cameras before the end of the day… but do be careful. If your brother is as untrustworthy as you think, then he may try to harm you."
"And you'll have proof."
Dr. Crane tried to hide a smirk by turning it into a smile and walking to the door. As his fingers touched the doorknob, he hesitated and said, "It would be a good idea to join your fellow patients for lunch today. Socializing and showing good behavior would look particularly good to the judge."
"Will do. Thank you, Dr. Crane."
After he left the room, Alex noticed his smile finally turn into a smirk. No doubt he'd be playing the field. If her brother turned out to be a terrible person taking advantage of his poor, helpless sister, then Dr. Crane would be known as the helpful, handsome doctor who "saved" one of his patients from an unjust system. And if she failed, then her brother would think of Dr. Crane as the reliable snitch who'd been on his side.
Alex moved back onto the bed and laid down for a few minutes. Lunch would start soon. She needed to be relaxed and ready to pretend to be a sane, friendly person. Dr. Crane had been correct; she needed to make a good impression on the staff of the asylum. She may need them to come to her defense later. The sound of the door opening made her bolt up in bed to see a nurse standing at her doorway.
"You ready for lunch, Miss Arkham? Dr. Crane said you were free to join the others today," the nurse said while giving her a prying look.
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you," Alex replied and jumped out of bed.
The nurse gave her a bewildered look but led the way to the cafeteria. Alex was going to have to work hard to undo whatever damage Elizabeth had done. Judging by the nurse's reaction, Elizabeth was not the most reasonable person to deal with. No wonder Dr. Crane had looked at her earlier as though she'd sprouted a second head.
The nurse left Alex at the lunchroom, and Alex walked over to the lunch line. A touch on her shoulder from behind her made her jump. Swiveling around, she found a blonde-haired young woman smiling at her.
"Sorry to spook yah, darlin'. I haven't seen you around here before and wanted to introduce myself. The name's Franny. Nice to meet yah."
"Nice to meet you too. I'm Elizabeth," Alex replied somewhat warily as the lunch lady slapped something white and mushy onto her plate. Alex made a silent prayer that it was just mashed potatoes.
"We've got room at our table if you wanna join us," Franny offered and tilted her head in the direction of a table occupied by an angsty-looking redhead. "Don't worry about Pam. She's much nicer than she looks. I promise."
"Okay… thanks," Alex replied after some initial hesitation. It was probably better than sitting alone… or so she hoped.
Franny happily led her to the table. Pam greeted her with a small wave as Franny introduced them. As Franny chatted happily, Alex took a moment to check around the room. Other patients had trickled in and were completely uninterested in their group. That was probably for the best.
"Elizabeth!" Franny called out, bringing Alex's attention back to the table. "Earth to Lizzie! Oh, is it okay if I call you 'Lizzie'?"
"It doesn't really matter whether she agrees because you'll do it anyway," Pam snarked as she pretended to check her nails.
"Oh, Pammy whammy, don't be silly! I always respect my friends' wishes," Franny said, innocently batting her eyes.
"You can call me 'Lizzie' if you want," Alex replied as she turned her attention back to the food on her plate.
"Inedible garbage," Pam murmured under her breath as Alex poked the meatloaf with her spork.
"Don't be so negative, Pamster. Tilda tried her best," Franny said with a wave to the lunch lady.
Pam rolled her eyes and took a bite of her salad with a grimace. Alex took a daring bite of the mashed potatoes. They weren't bad, just bland.
"So… what'cha in for?" Franny asked cheerfully. "I'm here because I broke a cheating bastard's windshield. And Pam is here for anger problems."
Pam gave Franny a frosty look but explained, "I had an… episode. I worked for a flower shop, and some asshole came in and pissed in my flowers. Needless to say… he won't be doing that again."
Franny giggled, and Alex stopped herself from asking more. Morbid curiosity could get her into trouble here.
"Well, they told me that I jumped from a window. Unfortunately, I don't remember anything… The only thing I remember at all is waking up here."
Franny gasped and said sympathetically, "That must have been terrifying!"
"Yeah… Dr. Crane is doing his best to help, but he doesn't know if I'll ever get my memories back. The nurses though… I'm pretty sure they don't like me."
"They don't like anyone," Pam scoffed. "Not even each other."
Pam subtly pointed over to a hallway where two nurses looked like they were about to fight each other.
Franny clicked her tongue and said forebodingly, "I'd be wary of getting too friendly with that Doc, hun. A pretty face like that can cause some… friction."
"Oh, I have no intention of that," Alex said quickly.
"Oh?" Franny asked playfully. "And why not?"
"I don't even know the first thing about myself. I've got to get myself sorted out before I start getting involved with other people. And aside from that even if I was Dr. Crane's type… which I very much doubt… there's still the fact that I'm his patient."
"Oh, doesn't that make it a little hotter?" Franny asked with a dramatic swoon. "Forbidden love… Held apart by the standards of society."
"And the standards of basic human decency," Pam said, and Alex couldn't help but chuckle.
Alex tried to shift her attention back to her food as Pam and Franny playfully argued.