The arrest of the Joker was naturally a source of great rejoicing among the citizens of Jump City
The arrest of the Joker was naturally a source of great rejoicing among the citizens of Jump City. No sooner had they returned to their homes but spontaneous block parties erupted throughout the city. People were relieved and happy to be alive, especially once news of the Joker's nuclear threat filtered out. The mayor declared the next day to be a civic holiday, as he put it, "In honor of this great victory for the forces of law and good". The newspaper headline summed up the city's mood best: "It's Over! It's Finally Over!"
A smaller story went unnoticed by most of the city: Titans rush Beastboy to Hospital.
The doctors had been examining Beastboy for hours, and the Titans were becoming very worried.
"It has to be bad news" Raven said, as she paced the waiting room in an uncharacteristic display of nervousness "If there were no problems they would have finished inside of an hour or two. We've been here six hours now, and still no word"
Starfire, as always, was the voice of optimism. "Do not worry, friend Raven. I am certain that all will be well- Beastboy is most resilient, and seemed to be most healthy when we fought the Beast."
The alien girl was currently seated beside her new boyfriend, who had just finished his own treatment. Periodically, she would caress or stroke him, reassuring herself that he was indeed all right. She had nothing but sympathy for her friend, who could not be so sure of her own boyfriend.
Robin cleared his throat. "I'm more concerned with what the Joker may have done to his mind. I don't know what that monster actually did, but my guess is it was nothing pleasant. Did you see the way he clung to Raven the whole way over here?"
Raven blushed, slightly. In truth the green boy hadn't stopped holding her the entire time. He'd clung to her as though he was afraid to let go- indeed, he had been giving off wave after wave of pure fear and horror ever since his return.
Cyborg, who'd been sitting quietly until this point finally spoke. "Listen, guys. There's something we need to consider. What if…what if the Joker's permanently damaged Beastboy? I mean, what if the guy's been so traumatized he can't fight crime anymore? We need to decide what to do if he can't be a Titan anymore."
Everyone in the room glared at him- but it wasn't because they were offended. Rather, it was because they hadn't wanted to think about that. Finally, Raven sighed.
"Cyborg's right. Much as I hate to think about it, we have to be ready for all possibilities. First, no matter what, he stays with us"
Cyborg nodded "We're his family- and he's ours. That means we stick with each other no matter what."
"Right" Robin said, wincing as Starfire's grip on his hand tightened "But we have to be ready to bar him from active duty. Maybe set him up as a coordinator- like what Oracle does in Gotham. I'll send Cassie a message to ask Oracle for some ideas on that"
Batgirl had returned to Gotham, citing the ongoing crisis caused by the huge number of active lawbreakers. No one doubted that this was true as far as it went, but it was plain that the young woman was hurting badly from Beastboy's choice, and needed to leave town.
Starfire raised a hand "Please friends, I have no desire to be the damp blanket but what if Beastboy is so ill he CANNOT return home? Does it not sometimes occur that someone can be so damaged they require a commitment?"
"You mean be committed?" Cyborg asked, uneasily. In truth, he hadn't even thought of that possibility. Could he really confine his best friend to a mental home- to the same fate that awaited his tormenter? "We might have to. I mean, if the green bean is a danger to himself…"
"NO." Raven's voice was flat and unemotional, but it didn't take an empath to see how badly this discussion had unnerved her "We can't just ship him off to Arkham or wherever. We can't abandon him like that."
Cyborg put a hand on the dark girl's shoulder. "Rae, I don't like the idea anymore than you do, but you know as well as I do that it might be necessary. If Beastboy has become a danger to himself or others, it's our responsibility- as heroes and as his family- to make sure he can't hurt anyone."
"Besides" Robin added "we wouldn't be talking about Arkham anyway. That's for the criminally insane; we'd be looking at something like that sanitarium they have just outside of town. What's it called?"
"Sunnyvale Rest Home" Commissioner Whyte answered from the doorway "Sorry to interrupt, but we finally found the Joker's hideout. It was a private home in Jump City's wealthier area. Well-maintained, quiet; no wonder no one ever suspected. While we were there we found this" The older man held out a small DVD "It seems the Joker decided to record his antics. I think you guys need to see this."
Behind him came a doctor "I think you might as well" he said, his voice weary "I'm afraid your friend won't be able to see you until tomorrow."
Back at Titans Tower, the young champions of Jump City sat on their sofa, and began the Joker's home movie. The Dvd began playing, showing the interior of what looked like a combination dining room and dungeon. The camera swung around to a close up on the Joker. As usual, he wore a huge smile. He also stood before a chained and naked Beastboy, and held a scalpel in one hand.
"Hello Hello hello whoever you are. I record this for the future. The way I see it, if I win this will help me while away the tedious nights in Gotham.- those nights when for whatever reason , I have to lie low. If I lose, then the Teen Titans are probably watching. Hi Robin!" The Joker waved maniacally. "I hope the next few hours are as entertaining for you as they will be for me. And if I'm watching this, then enjoy you handsome devil you! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!" With that, he plunged the blade into Beastboy's hand.
The brutality continued as the film progressed, a seemingly endless assortment of painful tortures and procedures. There was, however, one constant feature. Audible the whole time- over the screams of pain and the whimpers of fear, over the whine of drill and the roar of power tools, over the hum of tazers and the crackling of flames- could be heard the Joker's hateful demonic laughter. Sometimes it was accompanied by the childish giggling of Harley Quinn, often it was clear only the Joker was laughing. But always, always that ghoulish screaming cackle was there, underlining just how much pleasure the Joker took from the proceedings.
By the end, the Titans realized just how badly their friend had suffered. Robin sat stock still, his mouth a thin line. Starfire was quietly weeping, her head leaning against Robin's shoulder. Cyborg was simply numb, rendered so by the sheer horror of what he'd seen. Raven rose to return to the waiting room, but said one thing, which summed up their feelings.
"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here"
Raven was the first to enter Beastboy's room the next morning- and by agreement she came in alone.
"hey Rae" the changeling said weakly "Where's everyone else?"
"Uhm, they decided to give me some time alone with you. Beastboy…did you really mean to choose me? Or was that just the Beast?"
Beastboy sat up straight in bed, wincing as he did so. Superhuman healing or not, he'd been through a LOT of pain. "Rae, I was planning on making my choice clear that day I got kidnapped. Rob told me to look in my heart, so I did- and saw you"
Raven felt like she was floating and melting at the same time. She didn't know what to do- so she listened to her heart. She leaned over and kissed the green boy on the lips. The kiss went on for a long time…until raucous applause interrupted them.
Raven turned to glare at Starfire and Cyborg, who stood in the doorway applauding madly.
"Woohoo! Go Green Bean!"
"May your romance be long, happy and produce many many offspring friends!"
Beastboy smiled, and sheepishly rubbed his neck. Raven blushed and muttered "Shut up. Just…just shut up."
As the other Titans helped Beastboy get ready for his return home, Robin pulled the doctor aside for a quiet talk. "Level with me doc. No one can go through what he did unaffected. Have you seen any signs of problems?"
The doctor, a middle-aged man with curly red hair, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He began ticking things off his fingers, raising one for every problem they'd discovered "First off, he's terrified of being alone. If we left him for five minutes, the results were predictable. First, fidgeting and sweating. Second, elevated pulse and blood pressure. Third, calling for a nurse- just to have someone there, but of course he always had some excuse. Secondly, he's having nightmares- not unexpected, but these are real night terrors. His EEG is way outside of the normal range during REM sleep, and he wakes up sweaty and screaming. Another thing is his hygiene- he's constantly washing his hands, tidying up, and checking his clothes for stains. He showers two or three times per day. Finally, loud laughter seems to set him off as well- it causes panic attacks, although ordinary noise seems to have no effect. And remember, these are only the things we've noticed- he could be having any number of other problems we don't know about."
Robin silently digested this. Not as bad as he'd feared, but not as good as he'd hoped- he made a note to keep a close eye on his green friend in the future. Right now, though, he'd just enjoy his friend's return.
If the Joker's rampage was a horror show, then his trial was a farce. The Joker and Harley Quinn made jokes through the entire affair and disrupted the trial every way they could. Their antics ranged from stage-whispered comments about the judge and the spectators, to stealing the prosecutors toupee off his head, to slipping a whoopee cushion onto the witness chair. The Joker persistently referred to Judge Maxwell as 'Judgie-Wudgie', while Harley seemed to prefer Maximum Justice as a nickname.
They gave testimony one day that they contradicted the next. One day the Joker would admit to having murdered the audience of Quizzle Me This, the next he would deny ever having heard of the show. One day he refused to answer to any name other than Mister Saunders. Another day, Harley told the bailiff that no, she did NOT swear but assured him that she "knew all the words", which set the Joker into such peels of laughter that court had to be adjourned for the day.
Finally, the judge had enough and asked the Joker straight out why he was doing this. The reply? "The law is the biggest, most ridiculous joke there is, and I want everyone to enjoy it as much as I do! HAHAHAHAHAHAAA!"
Meanwhile, the Joker's high-powered legal team worked to have him and his girlfriend declared insane. This was not a real challenge- any psychologist who spent ten minutes in the company of either one was generally convinced that they were mentally ill. The trouble came in obtaining that elusive prize- a ruling of Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity. This was difficult now, because no one wanted to see the Joker walk for the crimes he'd committed regardless of what the law said. The judges and lawyers were officers of the law, but they were only human and sometimes the law didn't seem to go far enough.
Finally, though, the judge had to recognize that the Joker was in no way competent to stand trial for his crimes. He and Harley Quinn were sentenced to resume treatment at Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The Joker laughed all the way out of the courtroom.
"Friend Cyborg, I very much wish that we did not have to do this. I do not want to spend several hours in close contact with that…evil woman!"
Cyborg jus shook his head "Count your lucky stars, Star. I get to spend five hours with the Joker, do ya think I'm happy? Do you want to trade? Yeah, I didn't think so. Anyway, you know we have to do this. The city doesn't trust anyone but the Titans to make sure these loonies get back to their bin. Robin can't set foot on the asylum grounds without setting off a riot, Beastboy's been traumatized enough, and Raven would be useless around a place with so many crazies. Like it or not, and believe me I like it NOT, it has to be you and me. Or, rather- you and Harley, and me and the Joker, since those nuts aren't allowed to travel together."
The two heroes split apart with a last farewell and headed for their respective transports. Because of the extreme danger he posed, the Joker was being flown to Gotham- the only prisoner on the plane. Just him, two guards, and Cyborg. Harley, meanwhile, would be riding the express train with Starfire. The two would arrive in Gotham several hours apart. Cyborg would return home on the plane (first class, a gift from a grateful city) while Starfire would fly home on her own.
At first, Starfire had no wish to speak to her charge. But Ms. Quinn ("Call me Harley! Everyone does!") was so agressively friendly that she found it hard to remain aloof. Finally, Harley asked the alien girl why she was being so mean to her.
"Mean? No. What you did to my friend was mean.!" Starfire said coldly. "I see no reason to speak to you any more than is needed."
Harley gave the girl a puzzled but hurt look "It was just a joke. We were only playing"/ Suddenly, Starfire understood how the clown girl could be so pleasant- she truly did not see that what she had done was wrong.
In truth, Starfire had not understood why the Joker and Harley were being sent to a hospital rather than a prison. On Tamaran, justice was simple. The guilty were found, the guilty were punished. There was no talk of mental illness or mitigating circumstances. It had seemed to her that the Joker and Harley were being allowed to get away with what they had done. Now she understood why prison had not been an option- punishment served no purpose unless the criminal understood why he was being punished. If not, it was no more than revenge or pointless cruelty.
"You truly do not see" she murmured, her anger dissapating. "I am sorry, Miss Quinn. I was wrong to treat you as I did. Still, we are not friends- I cannot forgive you for what you did to my friend. But I will endeavor to be less mean."
Harley gave a broad smile and chirped "Okey-Dokey! Hey, if Ivy's red, can I call you Or? Y'know, short for Or-ange?"
Over the course of the trip, Starfire learned two things that the Rogues of Gotham had known for a long time. First, that it was impossible to not like Harley Quinn. She was too friendly, and possessed of a curious innocence- despite all the things she had done. For some reason when Starfire told her friends about this, they had just started laughing- and Raven had commented that she was sure Robin understood better than any of them.
The second lesson was never ever play Candyland with her. She always won.
Cyborg's trip was, predictably, far less pleasant. The first hour passed easily enough, with the Joker doing nothing but looking at Cyborg. That should have been unnerving in the extreme, but it didn't bother the metal man very much. He'd been stared at everyday of his life since his accident, and the clown wasn't any worse than the strangers on the street.
Then the Joker started singing Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On the Wall. At about bottle eighty-seven, Cyborg snapped.
"What are you ding? That's a children's song, you freak!"
"HAHAHAHAH! The tin can calls me a freak! Oh that's rich! HAHAHAHA! To answer your question, Rust-Nuts, I have to do SOMEthing to keep myself entertained, and with this lovely coat on " he indicated his straight-jacket "I can't do much else. Now, where was I? Lost my place. Oh well… Ninety-Nine Bottles of beer on the wall…"
Cyborg endured it in silence for a time. The Joker had a right to speak, and even to sing he supposed. But after an hour of the song, repeated over and over, he decided that the Joker didn't deserve any rights.
"Stop singing, clown! Do you want me to gag you?!"
The Joker's eyes went wide, before his smile turned from deranged to lecherous. "Oooo kinky. I suddenly feel all vulnerable- I mean here I am, bound and defenseless at the mercy of your depraved mechanical lusts."
"What?! You- I- Trust me you are SO not my type!" Cyborg tried desperately to banish the sick images conjured forth by the Joker's words.
"Well, what is your type, Cybore?" the monstrous mountebank asked "Do you even have one? I mean, it's obvious to all that you've got no…hardware. Or even SOFTware! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"SHUT. UP" the metal teen growled.
"No, I don't think I will- this is even better than singing, though less fun than I had with your green buddy whatshisface. Now, Starfire told Harley- that is Miss Peggy Liacci- that you were single. She also said that you, and I quote, seemed to have the greatest of difficulties in attracting girls unquote. Wonder why that is?"
"Shut up" Cyborg said, but his heart clearly wasn't in it. Is that what his friends all thought?
"Now, obviously the problem isn't the metal. I mean, look at me. Bone white skin, ruby-red lips, green hair and I have a twenty something ex-gymnast squirming to get in my pants. So what could it- OH! I know! Let me make a few guesses about your love life here, Cyborg"
The young hero snorted "why should I tell you anything, Joker?"
"Because if you don't I'll make this trip ten times more unpleasant, and will do everything I can to escape. Now, you've had a couple of brief relationships, am I right? Physical ones, I mean?"
Cyborg nodded, remembering his brief fling with Bumblebee and his short affair with Jinx.
"They broke it off, I presume?"
"Let me make a guess, you spent more time in bed than on dates, correct? Well, then the answer is simple. You're basically a sex toy. Oh don't look so shocked, it must have occurred to you before. You were just a talking vibrator that didn't need batteries- a way of getting off that was slightly better than jilling off. So, you see? It's not all bad. You're a sort of sexual superhero, saving desperate girls from their right hands! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAA!"
Cyborg said nothing. The Joker made a lot of sense, and had described his past relationships to a T. Was that all he was to women? Just a fancy dildo?
Satisfied at a job well done, the Joker leaned back in his chair and began to hum 'Greensleeves'.
After far too long, the plane landed in Gotham. The ride to Arkham was free of incident, and at last the Joker looked out over the closest thing to a home that he could remember. The dreary Victorian building squatted on its small hill adding a pallor of gloom to an otherwise beautiful winter day.
"AH!" The Joker cried as they lead him off the ambulance "Home Sweet Hell! Cash! You came to greet me in person!"
The security chief of Arkham Asylum nodded "Damn right I did, clown. I'm making sure you get to your cell safe and sound. And that this time you stay there!"
The Joker laughed uproariously. "Oh, Cash. Sweet, naive, stupid Cash. I'll leave here when I want to- no sooner and no later. Nothing you, or this brat, or Batman himself can do to stop me. Now, take me home"
Cyborg returned to the airport, waiting for the flight back to Jump City. They'd done it. They'd beaten the Joker and sent him to Arkham- soon to be joined by his side-kick. They'd saved the city and saved their friend. So why didn't it feel like a victory?
As he boarded the plane, the flight attendant handed him a note. On it was written:
I congratulate you and your team mates. You stopped the worst monster humanity has ever produced, and you did it by the book. You should all be very proud of yourselves.
Suddenly, he felt a bit better. Whistling, he took his seat, and prepared to return home to his family.
Whoa. This was a longy, huh? Not just this chapter, either. Fact is, this is the longest story I've ever written. I'd like to thank all those who reviewed my work for their kind words and encouragement, which helped motivate me to finish this puppy. There will be a sequel –once I get it all planned out. In the meantime, I'm starting work on a new Batman story, which I have high hopes for. Please come and read it- it may not be Titans but I think it'll still turn out pretty well.
Oh, and the R that began most of my chapters was my guesstimate of the Republican Party's chances in the election. R! meant I thought they had a good chance. R? meant I thought they had none. Please keep politics out of reviews, though.
Flying Frog, you can start that story now. Everyone else, make sure to read it.
So, what did everybody think of the story? If you like it, why? If not, why not?