Redemption of the Joker

By C.W. Blaine (

DISCLAIMER: All characters contained herein are copyright (c)2000 by DC Comics Inc. and are used here without permission for non-profit, fan fiction entertainment only. No copyright infringement is intended. This original piece of fiction is copyright (c)2000 by C.W. Blaine. All comments and questioned should be directed to the e-mail address above.

"Where is the girl?" the Batman asked, standing nose to nose with the white faced devil known as the Joker. The only reply he got was a giggle.

"Commissioner Gordon, I renew my objection to this questioning!" the Joker's lawyer exclaimed from his seated position at the table. The man smelled of cheap cigars and cheaper women.

The Joker reached down and patted his lawyer's balding head. "Easy there, counselor; Bat-Dope is trying to intimidate me and I don't want to interrupt him." The Joker grinned widely, showing off his pearly white teeth. "Please, do go on trying to scare me!"

James Gordon, Gotham City Police Commissioner, cleaned his glasses on his shirt, but said nothing. Two days earlier, the Joker, with his associate Harley Quinn, had kidnapped the eight-year-old daughter of the local state senator. A manhunt ensued in which Gordon had called in his secret ally, the Batman, who, in turn, unleashed his "knights" into the bowels of the city. After 36 hours, a tip from a drug dealer interrogated by the Huntress had turned up the Joker's location.

By the book, the police, assisted by the Caped Crusader, had arrested the madman, and, as usual, his partner had gotten away. Probably already planning to break him out, Gordon thought to himself. The Joker had immediately requested his lawyer and was so far refusing to cooperate.

Of the three men in the room with the Joker, James Gordon had the most reason to hate him. Though he was sure that the Batman was very close behind him in that regard. The Joker had kidnapped and assaulted the Commissioner, shot and paralyzed his daughter, and killed his second wife, his beloved Sarah. No one in all of law enforcement would blame Jim Gordon if he pulled out his service revolver right now and killed the Joker. He would never be convicted of the crime, he was sure of that, just as the Joker was. It was one of the Joker's insane desires to break Jim, to make him a cold-blooded killer and therefore betray everything he believed in.

As the Batman continued to question the prisoner, Jim found himself wondering why his friend had never killed the Joker. Jim Gordon was sure that the Batman actually thought about, and was probably capable of it. Then he realized that the Batman knew if he ever crossed that line, it would be up to Jim Gordon to bring him to justice. That was a situation that neither one of the men wanted to face and so he let the prospect wander off into the darker recesses of his mind.

The moon was up full this dark night, and Jim found himself reaching into his shirt pocket for the pack of cigarettes that once inhabited that space. He cursed silently to himself, ashamed that he had the moment of weakness, but thankful that there were no cigarettes there. Still, he had the craving, as he always did during cases like this.

The Batman's allies, Robin, Huntress and the Black Canary were scouring the city, rousting every single den of thieves that inhabited the urban jungle called Gotham. He suspected that the enigmatic Nightwing would make his presence known as well, coming up river from Bludhaven. It was a gallant effort on the part of the costumed heroes, but Jim knew it would be a wasted one if the Joker didn't crack soon. He had alluded to a sealed room with only enough air for a few more hours.

The Batman grabbed the Joker by the shirt. "I don't think you understand how serious I am," he said in cryptic voice.

The lawyer loosened his cheap tie from around his filthy neck and blew out. "Commissioner Gordon! Enough already! I don't care if he deputized by the governor, he's assaulting my client!"

Jim walked across the room and laid a reassuring hand on the Batman's shoulder. The Batman turned his head to the man he considered his best friend, his most trusted ally and then turned back to the Joker. "Bastard."

The Joker flopped back down into his seat, giggling even more than he had before. His lawyer leaned over and whispered something into his ear. The Joker nodded, then shook his head and then crossed his eyes. "Sounds like a plan, my man," The Joker finally said.

The lawyer looked over at Gordon. "My client is willing to make a deal."

"I don't have the authority to make one," Jim answered. "He tells us where the girl is and I'll put in a kind word with the district attorney."

The lawyer shook his head. "Not good enough; my client is requesting a psychological evaluation from someone outside of Arkham. He claims that the treatment he is receiving there is not helping his condition."

The Joker put on his unhappiest face and wiped an actual tear from his eye. "This is all just a cry for help," he sobbed.

The Batman's gauntleted hand grabbed a fistful of lime-green hair and pulled the Joker's head down to the tabletop. "You'll be crying for a lot more if you don't start talking! Where's the girl?"

The lawyer stood up, calling for Gordon to call the Batman off. The Batman released the Joker, but not before bouncing his head off of the table. "I want him out of here now! He's violating my client's civil rights! I want a goddamn video recorder in here now!"

Jim pushed the Batman outside of the interrogation room and closed the door. "You mind telling me what this is all about?"

"Its one thing when he threatens you or me or Barbara or some other adult; but when he goes after children, he crosses the line," The Batman said, pulling back into the shadows of the corner of the hallway.

Jim saw the look, the way the eyes moved slightly to the right indicating that the mind's eye was working for the caped crusader. For some reason, and deep down inside, he could guess why, the idea of the Joker hurting a child was especially infuriating the man behind the cowl. Some distant memory had been triggered; almost as if the man before him had witnessed the Joker harming a child before. Jim decided not to push the subject.

"You're too emotional right now to be effective. I'm looking at an I.A. investigation as it is; remember, its only because Superman vouches for you that the governor doesn't have me put you behind bars and the mayor is just looking for an excuse to rescind your deputization. Go home or wherever it is you go; coordinate the activities of all these super-heroes running around our city, but stay away from the Joker for right now!" He pointed a finger at the Batman, and then went back into the interrogation room.

Katar Hol picked up the Midway Gazette and examined the headline, which read: GOTHAM'S JOKER HOLDS CHILD HOSTAGE. He rubbed the stubble on his chin as his wife, Shyera, poured him a cup of coffee. To the outside world, they were Carter and Sheira Hall, museum curators in Midway City, USA. To the super-hero community, they were Hawkman and Hawkgirl, police officers from the planet Thanagar who had come to Earth to observe the law enforcement measures employed.

In the 1940's, there had been another Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and several times reporters had asked their relationship to the World War 2 heroes. Each and every time they had declined comment. It was a tale for another time.

Right now, the police officer inside Katar was absorbing the news about the latest shocking crime to come out of the recently rebuilt Gotham City. Hawkman and Hawkgirl were not well-known heroes, preferring to remain close to Midway City and protect it, just as the beat cop patrols his or her area of jurisdiction. They had formed a good working relationship with the local police and many times Katar saw himself as a contemporary of the mysterious Batman. They had never worked together formally, but they knew of him, and Katar was especially interested in him.

He seemed to work right inside the limits of the law, but maintained a friendship with the local head of police. He was an Earthling, but was "feared" by even the mightiest of the alien visitors to Earth. Over the years, Katar had made it a point to seek out the alien citizens that called Earth home, especially Superman and the Martian Manhunter, to get their perspective of these rather unique offshoots of the human race that inhabited this one small planet all by itself in a tiny galaxy. Superman had the kindest and harshest words for the Batman, always tempered with respect for the man's deductive abilities and sworn oath to uphold the law.

As he read the story, downing his morning caffeine, he barely heard his wife trying to speak to him. "What was that, dear?" he said without looking up.

His wife, ten years his junior, repeated her question. "Isn't it awful the types of criminals that seem to congregate in that city? You would think that after the earthquake last year, the crime rate would have dropped. From what I heard on the news yesterday, Gotham City still has the highest murder rate per capita in the entire country."

Katar smirked. "Yes, well did it bother to mention that the statistic is based on dead criminals, not dead innocents?"

She rolled her eyes. "You're too hawkish, you know that?"

He smiled at her joke and held out his coffee cup for her to refill it. She did so without comment; she had long given up explaining that she wasn't his maid. If she didn't fill the cup, the stubborn man would keep his well-muscled arm outstretched with the cup for days until she gave in. Some battles simply weren't worth fighting. "Look, Shyera, if a bunch of criminals want to kill each other, who am I to stop them?"

"Maybe we can help somehow," she said as she spread butter on her toast.

His expression remained unchanged. "I doubt it; from what I've gathered, the Batman does not like other super-heroes intruding on his territory. I'm not in the mood to get into a fight today."

"Katar," she said putting the toast down and laying a hand on his forearm. "There's a child's life at stake here."

He took in a deep breath through his nose and let it out slowly, turning with the exhaled breath to his wife. He knew that her mind was already made up and that they were going to try to help in this one situation. Some battles weren't worth fighting.
"What do you suggest? As I understand it, the Batman has his own little army crawling all over Gotham City looking for this lost child. It's pointless for us to help since we don't know the territory."

His wife took a bite of her toast, wiping jelly from her lips. "I wouldn't go that far, Katar; we could cover a lot of ground."

He thought for a moment. "Maybe we could offer the Joker a little Thanagarian persuasion?"

She rolled her eyes. "You can't go beating prisoners here, Katar, and you know it. This isn't Thanagar, it's Earth. They have laws against things like that."

"Stupid laws," he mumbled, taking a sip from his coffee.

She stood up, knotting the draws of her robe. "Well, I'm calling in sick to the museum today and going to Gotham. The Black Canary operates there and I'm going to ask her if she needs any help. I can't sit back while a child could die." She started for the bedroom. "Can you, Katar?"

He didn't answer her; instead he was mentally going over the options available to him that weren't open to the Batman. He knew that the Batman wasn't stupid, but he also was just an Earthling and there may be some remedies to the situation that he didn't know about.

He set the paper down and went over to the Thanagarian computer they had set up in the living room. Though it looked very much like any Earther's personal computer, it was far more. It had a direct microwave link to his starship in orbit over the Earth, which was cloaked against the prying eyes of Earth. He ran through the basic inventories and then looked behind him. His wife, nude, was stepping into the bathroom that adjoined their bedroom. Satisfied she was in the shower, he typed in his personal password that gave him access to a hidden inventory of items.

Though they were husband and wife, they were also police officers from Thanagar, and Katar was the senior officer. In reality, the rank he held gave him access to crime fighting tools that his wife would never have clearance to even know about. He hated hiding them from her, but it was his duty to do so. Above everything else, Katar Hol would not shirk his duty.

As he surveyed his inventory, one item stuck out. He hadn't been sure if he had brought it. He had, apparently.

He had the answer to the Batman's problem.

The Batman stood atop the WGBS building in Metropolis, waiting for the man who was to meet him. He didn't like the idea of being taken away from his search for the little girl; she only had 6 hours of air left according to the Joker. Nightwing and Robin were both looking for Harley Quinn, but she had gone deep underground. The Huntress had "questioned" Poison Ivy, and associate of Quinn's, but had gotten nowhere. Oracle had not yet found anything on the internet, no e-mails or postings on any of the pedophile message boards. Black Canary had yet to report in.

The sound of wings caused him to turn around slowly as the hero known as Hawkman descended from above. The Batman took him in. He was a big man, bigger in size than himself, which was impressive. He was bare chested, except for the straps that held his wings on. Batman would have enjoyed a few moments to inspect the wings, to see if there was any technology he could use, but he doubted that the alien super-hero was about to give him the opportunity.

Strapped to his belt was a mace, which looked to be authentic. Batman knew pretty much everything there was to know about Hawkman, having paid several informants from Midway City. Hawkman and his wife steered clear of the super-hero scene, but they were noble and good people who worked very closely with their local police department. It was for that reason only that the Batman had agreed to meet him.

"Batman, thank you for meeting me on such short notice," Hawkman said as he landed.

"You have five minutes."

Hawkman held out a glass vial. "Here."

Not worried about this being a trap, the Batman reached out and took the vial. It contained a lime green liquid. "What is it?"

"On Thanagar, its called Solmetrium; it's a chemical used on my home planet for dealing with persons who have certain forms of insanity. It cures it by regulating the brain chemistry."

"What do I need it for?"

"It will cure the Joker. Once he's cured, he can tell you where the girl is at."

The Batman shook his head. "I don't think so. He won't voluntarily use this."

Hawkman laughed silently. "So make him take it. It cures; it doesn't harm."

"His lawyer will never allow it."

Hawkman took a step closer to Batman. "It's only the two of us up here, Batman, so don't preach to me. We both think alike. We both want to protect the innocent and sometimes the guilty..."

"Have to be made to pay? Is that what you were going to say? I'm not a judge..."

"Neither am I, but I am someone who has great respect for life. If that means that I have to go and cure an insane person so a child is saved, then that's what I will do. What's the greater crime, Batman? Violating a serial killer's civil rights, or allowing a child to die so that your precious Constitution is upheld?" Hawkman's wings began to flap and he started to rise into the air. "It's your choice, of course, but let me ask you a question: have you ever seen a dead child?"

The Batman's mind flashed immediately to the broken and bloodied body of Jason Todd, the second Robin, immediately after the Joker had killed him.

As Hawkman disappeared out of sight, the Batman threw a line to the next building and started his trip back to Gotham.

It had been two hours since his meeting with Hawkman and the Batman hurried from the Batmobile over to his chemistry lab, deep in the Batcave. Nightwing was there looking into a microscope. "I'm checking the soil from the Joker's shoes to see if I can get an idea of where he had been before we caught him," Nightwing said without looking up.

The Batman set the vial down, uncorked it and withdrew a sample to put in his electron microscope. As he looked over the chemical at the enhanced magnification, checking for biologicals, Nightwing stepped over. "What's this," he said picking up the vial.

The Batman relayed the story of his meeting with Hawkman as he began to perform other tests on the chemical. None of his instruments could tell him anything except that it was 95% water. The other compounds were unknown.

"You're kidding, right?" Nightwing asked, his jaw hanging. "You can't be serious?"

"Don't worry about it, it doesn't concern you," the Batman replied, looking for his pneumatic hypodermic.

"Bruce," Nightwing said, removing his mask. "It's's immoral..."

"It might be necessary."

Nightwing grabbed the Batman by the arm. "Bruce..."

The Batman looked down at the hand holding him fast. "What are you going to do, Dick? Arrest me?"

Nightwing let go. "I think I've got something here on this soil sample. I'm sending Tim out to check it. We can do this using the basics, Bruce, just like you taught me."

The Batman turned around. "I have a unique opportunity here; I can end this once and for all, without having to kill him."

"I can find her..."

The Batman didn't answer and turned back around. Nightwing cursed at himself as the Batmobile roared out of the Batcave.

The Joker sat in his cell at the Arkham Asylum, humming a tune from Mary Poppins while torturing a cockroach with a ballpoint pen he had smuggled in. He was enjoying this, imagining that the cockroach was the Batman and he was an omnipotent god, exacting just punishment on the wicked. "Scream for mercy!" he cried. "Repent! Repent!"

There was a sound outside the cell, but the Joker ignored it. He was used to strange sounds. When the door opened, he didn't even bother to look up. He was hoping it was Jim. Jim had been by every three hours, trying to reason with him, and the Joker would regale him with stories of the Commissioner's wife and daughter and every single thing he had done to them. Watching the old man trying to restrain himself brought the Joker great joy.

"Last chance," the Batman said.

The Joker smashed the cockroach. "Why, Bats; I was just thinking of you," he said, getting up. "You here to beg for the child's life? Just like old poopy-poop Jimmy?"

The Batman made no sound, only moving his hand underneath his cape, which has covering him in the front as well as the back.

"Whatsamatter? Catwoman got your tongue? Oh, you naughty, naughty boy!" the Joker said, waving a single finger at the Batman. "Personally, I enjoy redheads, but don't tell Harley!"

The Batman remained unaffected. "Where's the girl?"

The Joker made a stern face and scowled. "'Where's the girl'?" he mocked. "Forget it, Bat-brain! I know you won't kill me. Oh sure, you might beat me up, knock me on my noggin with a baseball bat," he began to giggle at the pun, "but that dark-terror-of-the-night routine doesn't phase me, old boy. You want to know where the girl is? She's about three hours away from the pearly gates!"

Like a shadow falling across the landscape, the Batman moved in one fluid motion. The Joker was down, on his stomach, with an arm behind his back. He gave a small cry and then started laughing. The Batman pulled out the pneumatic hypodermic.

His radio crackled in his cowl. "Batman....this is Robin...Nightwing was on target! We found..."

"Radio off," the Batman said.

A thousand thoughts raced through his mind; scenes of friends and comrades being shot, beaten and raped. In the background, there was that evil grin and that maniacal laughing. He knew that one day, perhaps not far in the future, he and the Joker would have that last battle, much like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Mortiarty. He did not want to plunge over a cliff grappling with this madman.

He put the hypodermic to the Joker's arm and pulled the trigger.

"It's incredible, Commissioner," the staff doctor said, barely able to contain his excitement.

"Too incredible if you ask me, " Jim Gordon said as they walked through the halls of Arkham Asylum. It had been two weeks since Robin and Nightwing had found the little girl. In that time, he had received several reports from Arkham that there had been an immediate change in the Joker's behavior. He had become...normal.

Gordon didn't believe it and had come here to see for himself. He knew the Joker about as well as the Batman and there was no way that madman would be able to keep up his act in his presence.

They made their way to the familiar cell that had been the Joker's home for so many years when he wasn't running loose. There was another man standing there. Jim approached him. "Who are you?" he asked.

The man, wearing a white lab coat over an expensive suit turned and held out his hand. "Dr. Peter Johnson."

Jim took the hand. "The Dr. Peter Johnson? Of the F.B.I. Behavioral Sciences Unit?"

The man smiled and pushed his glasses up. "I see my reputation precedes me."

"I've read your books, they were fascinating."

"Thank you, always happy to get a compliment. However, I'm in private practice now. I've been retained to examine the Joker."

"By whom, may I ask," Jim said, pulling out his notebook.

"I'm afraid I can't answer that, Commissioner, without a court order. Needless to say that someone other than you remains skeptical about his condition."

Jim put the notebook away and then looked in the small window in the cell door. Inside, with his back turned to them, sat the Joker. He was silent, his head hung low. "Open the door," Jim ordered.

The staff doctor was about to protest, but a single look from Jim changed his mind and he fumbled for the keys. The door swung open and Jim walked in. He immediately heard sobbing. "Stop the act, it doesn't impress me," he said.

The Joker turned around. Tears were streaming down his face and his eyes were red and puffy. His hair was unusually unkempt and he looked more pale than normal. "Go away," he whispered, drool running down his chin, as if he had lost control of his jaw muscles.

Jim walked up to him and looked into his eyes. "Come on, you piece of filth! Tell me about how you violated my daughter or about how my wife slowly bled to death from a gunshot wound!"

The Joker screamed and put his hands up to his ears. "Leave me alone! Oh, God, I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...."

"I'm not falling for it," Jim said, grabbing the Joker by the front of his gown.

"I'm sorry..." was all he could say. Jim noticed that he was trembling, violently shaking in his grasp. He let him go.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned to see Dr. Johnson indicate with his head they should leave. Jim wasn't sure what to do. He reluctantly obeyed the doctor.

When the cell door had been closed, he questioned the psychiatrist. "What happened to him?"

Johnson shrugged. "Tests indicate that he has had something physically done to his brain chemistry. I compared tests performed on him six months ago to test done last week. You know that his condition was caused by exposure to some volatile chemicals, as well as trauma. In most people, we deal with the trauma in time and there will be changes to our behavior. His behavior went well beyond normal adjustment, suggesting outside influence."

Jim nodded. "I know, I've read all of the reports."

"Well, he's back to the way he was, physically. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like he ever truly dealt with the original trauma and now its compounded with the revelations of everything he's done the past few years. You know he tried to commit suicide last night? We have him sedated, but it's barely working."

"Are you saying he's sane?" Jim asked, instinctively feeling his jacket pocket for the cigarettes that weren't there.

"No, I'm saying that he's changed. His sanity will have to be determined over time by the staff here. I was only asked to review his current condition."

Jim thanked the doctor and left with the staff member to get copies of the current evaluation of the Joker. When they were gone, Johnson pulled out his cell phone and punched in a phone number. It rang twice and then it picked up. "Mr. Grayson, it's Doctor Johnson..."

The Batman sat at the computer in the Batcave, typing in notes about his recent mission with the JLA when he Alfred and Nightwing came down the stairs. "Master Dick to see you, sir," Alfred said in monotone. Batman knew he had sided with Nightwing on this issue. "Should I prepare refreshments?"

"No, he won't be staying long, Alfred," the Batman said, swiveling in his chair.

When Alfred had left, he spoke to his friend. "It won't work, using Alfred against me."

Nightwing shrugged. "Who said I'm using him, maybe he's as disgusted as I am."

"Sometimes extreme measures have to be implemented."

"That's sounds like Jean-Paul," Nightwing said, referring to the hero known as Azrael. He had once, for a brief time, been the Batman. He had employed violent methods, extremely violent, against the criminals of Gotham City before Bruce Wayne had taken back the mantle of the Batman.

"Maybe he's right."

"That's bull, Bruce, and you know it. I've had a private doctor look at the Joker..."

"I know, Jim Gordon met him today and then told me what he had said."

"You changed him, Bruce! You physically turned him into someone else!"

The Batman stood up. "I made him sane."

"Sane? Have you spoken to him since you strong-armed your will upon him? Maybe you had good intentions, but that doesn't excuse the fact that forced him to take drugs he didn't want!"

The Batman remained expressionless, but folded his arms across his chest. "You've used truth serum on people before."

Nightwing hung his head down. "And you decided, eventually, that it was wrong. After you decided it was wrong, we stopped, Bruce."

"I decided that this was right. It was my decision."

"It's not your decision to make! You can't do things like this just because nobody can stop you!" Nightwing brought his head up as he exclaimed. He then looked sternly at his mentor. "Has Clark heard what you've done?"

"I personally don't care what Clark or anyone else has to say," the Batman answered, walking over to his worktable, where his utility belt sat.

"Really? So my opinion doesn't matter?"

"Not in this case. This was my problem..."

"You called me in on it!"

The Batman whirled around. "Maybe that was a mistake!"

"Damn you! What? Are you going to try and tell me that I can't be Nightwing anymore, huh? Just like you made me give up being Robin after the Joker shot me? Well, good luck, Bruce! I'm not a child anymore!"

The Batman picked up his belt and started putting it on. "Quit acting like one then."

"You better think long and hard about this, Bruce."

Nightwing stormed back up the stairs leading to Wayne Manor. The Batman turned to the worktable and saw the vial sitting there. He grabbed it and threw it against the wall. He cursed and picked up the table and overturned it.

"I raised him too damn well," he mumbled.

She wasn't sure about this, but that little voice inside of her told her she had to find out if it was true. She had requested this interview on a lark and had been surprised it had been granted. In fact, she was told, he had wanted it very badly.

Barbara Gordon expected that this would be about five minutes long, and then the Joker would begin asking her lewd questions about the night she was shot and raped by him. She gripped the armrests of her wheelchair, the lasting reminder of her near-fatal encounter with the Joker.

She sat at the table in the meeting room of Arkham Asylum. Her father didn't know she was here, or else he would have forbidden it. He would have, undoubtedly, locked her in a holding cell at police headquarters if necessary. She looked up at the clock and realized she had been here for twenty minutes. She was about to just give it up and leave when the door opened.

Shackled at both the legs and wrists, the Joker shuffled in with two burly orderlies escorting him. They sat him down in the chair opposite of Barbara and one whispered something into his ear while making a fist. The other looked to her. "If he gets out of line, ma'am, just holler."

The orderlies left the room and the door closed. The Joker held his head down low, hiding his face. They said nothing and she found herself waiting for him to start laughing. She imagined him breaking free of his restraints and jumping across the table, his chalk-white hands reaching for her throat.

Finally, he spoke, barely in a whisper. "I had a wife once."

She shook her head. "What did you say?"

He looked up. Though his mouth was in a permanent grin, it looked sad when accented by his eyes. The look of madness was gone. They looked dead. "I had a wife once. I loved her. I wasn't much of a husband, though."

"I see," was all she could say, stunned by the revelation.

"She was pretty. Not as pretty as you, but she was pretty to me. I had a son, too."

"Where are they now?"

"They died."

She didn't say anything, so he continued. "I wanted to be somebody, you know? I wanted to be a comedian." He gave a weak smile. "You want to hear a joke?"

"I don't think so," she replied.

"Neither did anyone else," he said glumly. "I was a real loser and then..." he broke off the thought. "Uh, I just wanted to tell you I was sorry for what I..." he tried to finish the sentence, but he started trembling and tears poured down his face.

Barbara felt a slight pang, but remained resolute in her determination not to be taken in. She didn't care what Dick's $1000.00 per hour shrink said. "Why?" she asked.

"Why did I do it?" he asked, a shocked look on his face.

"No, I know why you did it. I want to know why you're sorry."

"It wasn't was wrong...what I did was so wrong... I'm so sorry, Ms. Gordon..."

He had never addressed her so formally before and the tears wouldn't stop flowing. She reached into her chair's pouch and pulled out a Kleenex and threw it across the table. He picked it up with shackled hands and applied it to his face. He mumbled a thank you.

"So, now that you're sane, should you just be forgiven?"

"I want to die," he whispered. "I can't deal with the guilt...all of the people I hurt. I never wanted to hurt anyone, I just wanted to provide for my wife..."

Barbara forced herself not to start crying. She was angry because she knew that the man who had violated her was gone, only to be replaced by this sniveling shell of a man. She wanted the Joker to pay for what he had done. In reality, she reasoned, the Joker was dead, but there was no finality, no closure. "I don't care. You've made your say; I hope you're happy."

"How can I be happy? I can't ever be happy."

"Not my problem."

He nodded. "Uh, I have something to tell you, about your step-mother. I wanted to tell your father, but he scared me."

Here it was, the proof she needed that it was an act. He had killed Sarah Gordon and now he was going to slip back into the madman's shoes and provide all of the gory details. Good, she thought, then she could call the orderlies and they would beat the snot out him in front of her.

"When she was dying, " he said, wiping away a tear, "she asked me to tell you and your father that she loved you both very much and how thankful she had been for the time she had spent with the two of you. She said it had been like a real family, despite everything that all of you had been through."

Barbara's tears began to flow and the Joker pulled a fresh tissue from the box and handed it to her. "I never said anything before because, well, you know..."

All of the anger in her melted away and the pain that had been locked up deep inside of her for so long poured out. She found it difficult to breathe and her eyes wouldn't stay open as she relived the last few days of Sarah Gordon's life.

The Joker stood up and shuffled to the door and pressed the call button. "Ms. Gordon, I really am sorry. If I thought for one second I could trade my life for hers, or take your place in that chair, I would."

The door opened and the orderlies grabbed the Joker and yanked him into the hall, leaving Barbara alone with her grief.

They met once again on top of the WGBS building.

"You have to give him another dose. I checked in with our Police Sciences Unit on Thanagar and Earthlings require double the normal dosage, or else the effects wear off," Hawkman said, holding out a new vial.

The Batman took it. "Is this considered moral on your world?"

Hawkman smiled. "We have some people who are against using it, so we don't advertise the fact very much. I t has, however, had tremendous effect in dealing with our psychopath problem. I've used it several times myself."

"Don't you worry about the consequences of your actions, that you're forcing your will upon others?"

"No," Hawkman began. "But, I come from a different place, Batman. That's a question you have to answer for yourself. I won't be so foolish as to try and debate it with you. The one thing I've learned in law enforcement is that if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't."

"Would you use this chemical here?"

Hawkman began to rise. "I suppose I'll have to answer that question if the situation arises."

He sat alone in his cell, keeping his feet up on the bed, lest a cockroach would cross over them. He shivered in the cold of the cell and wished he wasn't in a strait jacket so he could try to strangle himself. He would drift in and out of sleep, memories long buried suddenly free to ravage his senses. He would wake, wanting to scream, but afraid the orderlies would come back in to give him another beating.

One had even threatened to sodomize him.

He heard the door open and hid his head under his blanket, silently praying to God that whoever it was here to kill him, to end his torment. "How are you feeling?" Batman asked.

He slowly pulled the blanket down. "Are you going to kill me?"

"No. I don't kill."

"Then go away."

The Batman pulled out his hypodermic. "I need to give you another shot."

"Please, don't...I can't deal with this! Let me be crazy again, let me just forget the guilt."

"You know, one of us is going to end up dead if this keeps up."

The Joker sat up. "God, I hope its me."

The Batman pursed his lips. He knew that someone, somewhere down the road of time was going to regret his decision. In the end, though, Nightwing had been correct.

He owed his son an apology.

He owed someone else one too.

"I'm sorry," the Batman said, putting the hypodermic away.

"You were trying to do the right thing," the Joker answered. "There's no harm in that. Maybe, if I hadn't been such a screw-up I could have been a super-hero. What do you think?"


"How long?"

The Batman sighed. "By morning you'll be insane again."

The Joker nodded. "Want to hear a joke?"

The Batman paused and then nodded. The Joker began. "A little boy is at school and has to use the bathroom. He gets in there and realizes he doesn't have any toilet paper, so he uses his hand. He goes back to class with his hand in a fist and covered with the clean one. The teacher asks him what he has in his hand and he says 'a leprechaun'. The teachers asks him again and he says the same thing, so the teacher sends him to the principal's office. The principal asks what is in his hand and the boy responds 'a leprechaun'. The principal gets really angry and yells at the boy, who then shows his hand and says 'look at that, you scared the crap out my leprechaun'."

The Batman didn't react. "See, the Joker is my leprechaun, and he's crapped all over my life," the Joker said.

Commissioner James Gordon walked up to the cell door and looked in to see the Joker, with his back turned again. His daughter had told him the night before of her encounter and what he had confessed. He wanted to hear it with his own ears.

An orderly opened the door and he walked in. "What did my wife tell you?"

The figure shuffled slightly and then stood up. The Joker shuffled over, his head down. "Well, sir, if I remember correctly..."

Jim Gordon waited to hear the dying words of his beloved Sarah as the Joker stopped in front of him. He waited a few moments and then popped his head up. "She said 'I need to feel a man once more, Joker-baby, so give it to me like you gave it to my Barbara'!"

The Joker began laughing hysterically and Jim Gordon, completely out of reflex, punched him in the stomach. The Joker doubled over. "Oh, she gave me a wild ride right before she expired, Jimmy-Boy!"

Jim turned around and exited the cell, the Joker laughing and giggling so loudly that he could swear he heard it all the way back to Gotham City.

The End