Title: The Lotus Eaters (1/1)
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Disclaimers: DC Comics, Cartoon Network, Bruce Timm, the JL animated series, etc, etc. No profit intended from my infringement.
Spoilers: Up to the JL episode "A Better World".
Summary: Lex Luthor would only be the first of many villains whose lives were changed forever by the Justice Lords. This is the story of how Poison Ivy became the woman the Flash saw on the grounds of Arkham.
Ivy attempted to concentrate on her work, but that proved as difficult as sleeping.
Giving up, she pulled her glasses off and tossed them onto the desk, grumbling. She was too distracted. There had been strange rumors floating around the underworld. People were saying that Killer Croc had gone up against the Bat the other night, and no one had heard from him since.
Personally, Ivy wasn't worried - Croc was known to disappear for a week at a time into the sewers he preferred. And she didn't care - he was a big, dumb brute, and beneath all the scales and muscles he was just a typical male.
Still, the rumors bothered her nonetheless. Some were saying the Bat had taken the gloves off. That people were going to Arkham in body bags. If the Batman was more like the Rogues of Gotham - it galled her to admit it, but he could have killed her a half-dozen times by now.
Ever since President Luthor had died trying to blow hundreds of millions of people sky-high . . .
Her musings were cut short by a frantic banging on the door to her hideout. Languidly the red-haired beauty rose from her chair, knowing it could be only one person. Undoubtedly Harley's "relationship" with the mongrel the Joker had hit yet another bump.
"Come on in - Harley?"
Ivy stared at the shaking woman in front of her as her head turned left and right, eyes impossibly wide. Harley was prone to becoming emotional, and the Joker had put the fear of God into her more than once, but this was different. Harley appeared to have lost her wits completely.
"Red," she whispered pitifully, cheeks still running with tears, "can you hide me?"
Poison Ivy wasted no time in taking Harley by the shoulder and pulling her inside, casting a wary eye into the alley before closing the door. She coaxed Harley over to the bed, unnerved when Harley curled into a fetal position and began rocking. "Harley? What - what did he do this time?"
Harley burst into fresh hiccoughs of tears, and Ivy rolled her eyes. This was more like it. "Oh, Red, he's gone, my Puddin's gone!"
Until he crooked his finger in three days and Harley came running, Ivy thought wearily. "He threw you out again?"
The blonde girl startled Ivy by bursting into frightened laughter.
"Harley?" Ivy asked, growing alarmed again.
"He did something to him," Harley whispered, "and Mistah J won't ever be the same."
"Did - who? Harley, who? The Bat?"
Harley slowly shook her head. "Not the Bat, but he was there too. No, it was . . . the big blue Boy Scout."
"Superman? He's in Gotham?!"
"He - he grabbed Puddin by the shoulders and his eyes got all red, and then - he did something to Puddin's forehead, and then Puddin wasn't laughing any more," Harley whispered, evidently still horrified by the memory. "Then he was just standing there."
Ivy stared for a moment before she grabbed Harley by the arms, scaring her. "Wait a minute. You're saying that Superman used his heat rays on the Joker's head?"
"But - but that would - " Kill him were the next words that came to her lips, but Ivy couldn't say them. The Bat never killed. Superman NEVER killed.
"What, kill him?" Harley asked, trembling in Ivy's arms. "He's not dead, Ivy. Not exactly."
"What do you mean 'not exactly'?"
"I mean I went to school, Ivy. I took the classes. Superman was doing something to Puddin's brain, and I know what it was." Harley looked utterly hopeless. "I think it was a l-l-l-lob - "
"A lobotomy," Ivy finished for her, seeing that Harley was too upset to even get the word out. Gaia. This wasn't possible. "How did you get away?"
"They weren't looking at me anymore. They were looking at - at whatever it was they turned Mistah J into. I snuck out, and I ran." Harley's eyes brimmed with fresh tears, and she wrapped her arms around Ivy. "Oh, Red, they took my Puddin away!" She sobbed like her heart was broken, which it probably was.
Ivy thought she would have taken pleasure at news of the Joker's demise. True, he wasn't actually dead, but he might as well be. The Joker they knew had ceased to exist. And if this had been any other situation, she would have exulted in his defeat.
But if this had happened to the Joker - if Batman had let it happen - then what might happen to the rest of them? Could they escape Superman AND Batman - Goddess, perhaps even all the Justice Lords - if jail was no longer considered good enough for their kind?
And there was another thought that chilled Ivy's bones. Superman had super speed and hearing. Batman was frequently impossible to surprise. How likely was it really that Harley could have given them the slip?
How likely was it that they had known Harley would lead them right to Ivy's door?
Suddenly it was Ivy's turn to tremble. They would be here any minute. There was no way she could escape. They would come for her, come for them both, and . . .
"No," Ivy whispered.
Harley looked up. "Red?"
"They're not going to get you," Ivy decided.
"Harley, any minute now, those two caped morons are going to come crashing through my door," Ivy said.
Harley looked at her blankly for a moment before stricken realization entered her eyes. "Oh no, Red, they wanted me to run to you!" she gasped, horrified.
"It's not your fault, Harley," Ivy said gently. "You were frightened out of your mind. You didn't know where else to turn. I'm - I'm glad I mean that much to you." She looked away. "I'm going to make sure they don't do to you what they did to the Joker."
Ivy began rummaging through her stores of plant extracts. "I have something here that I'm going to inject you with. It will put you into a deathlike state. You won't be dead, just unconscious, but the Bat won't be able to find a heart rate or a pulse. You'll come to in a couple hours. Hopefully, by then you'll have been taken somewhere that you can escape from."
Harley just stared at her, transfixed. "But what about you?"
"Harley, if you wake up, forget about me. Just run like hell, and don't look back," Ivy said quietly. "Got it?"
"Red, no," Harley whispered. "I can't lose you too. You're my best friend."
Ivy sighed and nodded. "You were my friend too, Harley."
Before Harley could protest further, Ivy swiveled around in her chair and stabbed Harley in the neck with a syringe, injecting the chemical into her body. The pitiful smaller woman stiffened, then tried to reach a hand up to Ivy's face.
But her hand fell back down, and gently Ivy lowered her to the floor.
Ivy looked sorrowfully down at Harley. "I never got to tell you how much I love you," she whispered.
Before she could even turn away and put the syringe down, there was an earth-shattering crack, and her front door was smashed to splinters. Ivy raised her hands defensively in front of her face and took two steps back. Cautiously she looked to see who had made such a mess.
The ultimate symbol of truth, goodness, and justice, sickening as it was, was not twelve inches from her face. A red S on a yellow triangle in a blue background. Superman's face loomed over her, expressionless.
A dark, shadowy figure filled the space behind him. Funny. Superman had never seemed scarier than the Bat before.
Ivy glared at Superman. "You frightened Harley half to death tonight," she said.
He blinked, then frowned. "You villains never do grasp the consequences of your actions, do you?"
She certainly grasped what she'd done for Harley tonight. "You're just noticing this now?"
"What happened to Quinn?" Batman growled.
"As I was saying, the Boy Scout scared her half to death. I just finished the job for him."
"You're lying," Superman said.
"She told me what you did to the Joker," Ivy hissed back. "I saved her. Death is better than what you did to Laughing Boy. What's the matter? Did he shoot your dog? Kill your precious reporter?"
Superman had his hand around her throat before she saw it move. "It's the threat you pose to people like Lois that forces me to do this." He looked at Batman. "Is she dead?"
The Dark Knight was already pressing a finger to her neck. "No pulse," he said. "No heartbeat either."
"She could be lying."
"Giving her the treatment won't get you an answer."
"Better just to be sure," Superman replied. "After all, some appear to think that she'd be happier dead."
He let go of Ivy, reached down, and with a quick and efficient motion, he snapped Harley's neck cleanly.
The sight of Harley's death hit Ivy like a physical blow. She swayed for a moment, disbelieving what she'd seen - not possible, he didn't, it couldn't, they didn't kill - before her legs became utterly unable to support her and she collapsed. "Harley," she whispered, extending a hand.
"She was lying."
"Apparently," Batman said, perhaps a bit uneasily. "Maybe we've gone far enough for tonight. The police won't accept a dead body as easily as they'll accept the Joker. Perhaps we should just deliver Ivy to Arkham the way she is."
"Really," Superman replied, amused. "You don't think she won't escape?"
"Maybe she's learned her lesson. Finally."
Ivy lay on the floor, clutching her stomach. The normally prepossessed woman had completely lost it, not caring that she was crying her eyes out in front of the Batman, much as Harley had been sobbing in this room not five minutes ago. Her heart felt like it had disintegrated. She'd always feared that she wouldn't be able to save Harley from the Joker.
As it turned out, Harley met her end at the hands of someone unexpected, but that made her failure no less agonizing.
I never told you how much I loved you.
Despairingly she looked up at Superman. "What?"
"Have you learned your lesson?" Superman asked. "Has it finally sunk in that you can't win? That your only choice is to submit?"
Ivy vaguely realized they were offering her the chance to be taken into custody without the "treatment" the Joker had received. She could keep her mind. Evidently she would be staying at Arkham for the rest of her life, but . . .
She looked again at Harley, and she realized how empty and lonely the rest of her life would be.
Then Ivy somehow managed to pull herself up. "Do me," she said, her voice raw with tears.
"I want you - to do to me - what you did to the Joker," she said slowly.
Superman and Batman both appeared surprised. "What?"
"Do it," Ivy said. "Or I'm warning you, I'll escape, and I'll kill again." A shaking hand went up to her temple, and she saluted Superman. "To the first person to murder someone in Gotham, and get away with it, I salute you," she added grimly. "Who knew Superman would be the greatest Rogue of all?"
Batman looked away and gathered Harley up in his arms. He stood up and carefully walked out of the room.
Ivy watched Harley go, her head lolling about at an unnatural angle. She felt like her chest would explode.
Superman took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes briefly. "This is for everyone's good. Including your own."
"I know," she said.
Ivy saw a brief flash of red in his eyes.
"I'll never forgive myself," she thought.
But in a moment, it wouldn't matter.
Then there was great pain, and her world went black.
Author's Note - Some of you are no doubt wondering, "WTF?!" This story was inspired by a Merlin Missy piece titled "To Every Woman a Happy Ending", which dealt with the Justice Lords universe. Anyone who saw "A Better World" may remember how changed the Arkham inmates were, thanks to Superman. Such as Poison Ivy, calmly cutting the blossoms off rosebushes.
I guess this story was intended to be an answer to two questions - how did Ivy get that way, and where was Harley? A very dark story, to be sure, but the Justice Lords' world was a pretty dark place. Most people focus on how the Lords deprived Earth of its freedom. I decided to focus on those perhaps least deserving of sympathy - the criminals - and the fate they suffered. Personified, of course, by my two favorite characters in the DC universe.
"Lotus Eaters" is a reference to the people in the Odyssey who ate the lotus blossoms and lost all interest in home and family, wanting only to go on eating for the rest of their lives.