Lockdowns in Arkham never lasted very long. Since most of the inmates were governed solely by their psychoses, it was largely pointless to institute any kind of long-term punishment. By tomorrow, the little voices whispering 'riot!' may have switched to whispering 'eat that floor tile!' or 'demand a frilly tutu!' And of the inmates who were theoretically sane enough to know better, a round of medication and restraints would hopefully knock the crazy right out of them.
Of course, Sorrow didn't know any of this. She had assumed that the lockdown would last a few days, maybe a week - and yet she found herself being hustled off to the cafeteria not twenty-four hours after the riot. She sat at her little, smelly table, slowly picking at her limp turkey sandwich.
The inmates in the cafeteria were subdued today. If the lingering tranquilizers in their systems weren't the cause of it, then the bevy of guards stationed around the room certainly was. Everyone was muttering to one another about the riot and its aftermath. Since everyone was fairly distracted, Sorrow felt that it was safe to sneak a quick peek at her fellow inmates.
Unlike the rest of them, the rogues seated at the main table looked pretty much the same as they had yesterday. A few were missing - the Scarecrow had obviously been separated in order to teach him that all-important lesson: stick a fork in people and you're done - but she was surprised to note that some of the other major players in the riot were there. She distinctly remembered the Riddler braining a guard with a lunch tray...but there he was, fastidiously flicking bits of brownish tomato off of his sandwich. Maybe no one else had seen him...
Or maybe no one wanted to punish him. Ah! That made a lot of sense. Did the rogues get special privileges? Obviously the ones in charge couldn't overlook everything the rogues did, but it certainly would explain how they managed to get in and out of Arkham so easily.
The Riddler glanced up and met her eyes. Dammit! She ducked her head and stared at her sandwich, embarrassed to be caught staring. When she finally worked up the courage to glance his way again, he was still looking at her, only now with 100 extra added smirk. Dammit!
The end of lunch couldn't come fast enough for Sorrow. She almost cheered when the guard by the doorway announced that lunch was over and it was time to go. She bolted from her chair and turned in her tray, bouncing impatiently as the lady counted and re-counted her silverware to make sure she hadn't taken any of it. Was he still looking? She hazarded a glance backward.
The Riddler was whispering to the Mad Hatter, who was grinning cheekily in her direction. Oh, this was bad. People did not survive when the rogues took an interest in them. She melted into the line of inmates and tried to keep out of sight in the endless years that it took for everyone to turn in their trays and fall into line.
The line slowly shuddered into motion, guards on either side verbally goading the inmates along in the required direction. They missed the turn to the hallway that housed Sorrow's cell. Well, maybe they were starting to drop inmates off in their cells at the other end, or something?
But then she noticed that the line was being fed through a pair of dark, heavy double doors. The guards, clustering outside, shooed their charges in like farmers herding chickens. She looked around, wide-eyed, hoping to determine what kind of weirdness was up next.
The room was full of furniture. Chairs, tables, couches...a television blared electronic babble over the crowd as they slouched into their accustomed spots.
Oh, god, it was a recreation room! And everyone from lunch was going in! And they were certain to stay for at least an hour...she was locked in a room with the rogues' gallery and no guards and...
Now, calm down! she ordered herself, slinking over to the wall and pressing her shoulder blades hard against it. Showing fear was bad, right? She had to look like she belonged here or she'd be eaten alive.
She rearranged herself into something like a casual pose and fixed her gaze on the TV. In theory, ignoring the stream of inmates as they stumbled past her, but in reality, aware of every thudding footstep and musky whiff of unwashed insanity. The last inmate wobbled in and settled on the floor as the heavy doors slammed shut with a clang.
Sorrow lounged in nerve-wrenching quiet for a full five minutes. Then - "Hey…new girl," came a throaty voice from her right. Sorrow turned and saw Poison Ivy resting at a tiny table for two set by the door. "Harley said I should talk to you. Come on over and have a seat."
Great. Fantastic. Sorrow eased up from the wall and approached her, wincing as her brand new laceless shoes squeaked noisily on the tile. She settled herself in the empty chair and regarded Ivy with suspicious eyes. "Yes?"
"Do you know why Harley wanted me to talk to you?" she inquired, her voice slathered with boredom and ennui.
"She mentioned you after I told her I was...well, poison," Sorrow muttered.
Interest sparked in Ivy's green eyes. "And?"
Sorrow shrugged. What did she want from her, anyway?
Ivy frowned. "You know," she purred, "I'd hate to have to make you tell me anything..." She flicked a finger at a cheerful fern in the corner. It wrapped its fronds around a nearby exposed water pipe and throttled it meaningfully.
Sorrow swallowed hard. Her first death threat from a major rogue. Now there was a moment for a scrapbook. "What do you want to know?" she asked guardedly.
"Who you are. What you do."
Sorrow glanced away for a moment, only to find that the Riddler, the Hatter, and Two-Face were each shooting little interested looks in her direction. Harley Quinn was openly staring with a curious look on her face. "And they want to know too?"
"It's always interesting to meet someone new," Ivy said offhandedly. Sorrow knew very well what that translated into: fresh meat was fun to torment.
"And I'm going to end up telling them anyway, right?" Sorrow uneasily shifted in her seat.
Ivy merely smiled.
"Can I just tell everyone at once?" Sorrow asked.
Ivy considered her for a moment. "I don't see why not." She beckoned Harley over with a regal wave of her slim green hand. Harley shot to her feet as if she was leaving the starting blocks and scampered over. "Get the others," Ivy ordered.
"Sure thing, Red!" Harley skipped around the room, tapping rogues on the shoulder and pointing them toward the table. Sorrow looked fixedly at her pink-gloved hands until the scraping of moving chairs had ceased. When she looked up, seven of the top-tier rogues in the city had clustered around her.
This was going to take some seriously fancy footwork. She ducked her gaze back down to her hands and slowly began extracting the glove from inside her sleeve.
"Well?" growled Two-Face. "We want to hear this."
"Hush," whispered Edward, "let her talk." Two-Face, irritated, glanced sideways at him and flipped his coin. When it came up unscratched, he muttered something obscene to himself regarding Eddie's parentage.
"My name is Sorrow," she said, gently folding the long cuff of the glove down over her wrist.
"What's yer real name?" Harley piped up.
Sorrow paused, her glove half-off. "What?"
"Yer real name! Like that's Eddie, an' Harvey, an' Pammy..."
"My real name is Sorrow." She shrugged. "No one's called me anything else for years." The glove slipped off of her hand with a muted snap of stretching latex. "Like I told Harley, I'm poisonous." The circle of rogues looked at her bare, black-smeared palm. It glistened ebony in the harsh white lights of Arkham, as if she'd been petting a penguin fresh from the oil slick.
"What's it do?" Harley asked, cocking her head to one side.
Ivy shot her an exasperated look. "If she's named Sorrow, what do you think it does?"
Harley stuck out her tongue in reply.
"She's right," Sorrow said, slowly inserting her hand into the glove again. If she wasn't careful, the black stuff would get on the inside of the wrist and get smeared up her arm, and she hated when that happened. It always left her arm feeling itchy. "This stuff makes people sad. Really sad. Suicidal, even." She wriggled her fingers into place and folded the wrist of the glove back up. The mild tension that had briefly gripped the group - the sort you feel when something deadly may be about to happen to someone else - melted away.
"Is there any antidote?" asked Edward.
"My tears. They contain the polar opposite of the chemical in my hands. One cancels out the other."
Within the privacy of their own minds, each rogue put together the necessary information. Her toxins made people cry, and Batman was crying, and her toxins were lethal...Naturally, Eddie got there first. "Did you cry on the Batman?" he demanded. The group, developing solemn, stony faces, watched her carefully.
"Um," Sorrow started uncertainly.
"Did you or didn't you?" Two-Face growled.
She couldn't tell them what had really happened. In fact, she didn't want to tell them anything about that night.
She had expected him to cry. Everyone cried when she touched them. Actually seeing it, though, was unsettling. He was openly sobbing as Sammy and Sorrow had wrestled him up onto the bed and secured him in place. After he was down, Sammy had gone, and Sorrow had nestled quietly at his feet and waited.
It didn't take too much longer for him to start reliving his tragedies - shouting warnings and regrets into the creaky, echoey darkness of Sorrow's warehouse. She'd sat and listened to him crying for his parents, and his dead foster son, and his alienated foster son. Heroes that were dead died again. Lovers betrayed him, over and over in an endless parade of misery.
Not that he remembered telling her any of this, of course. Thankfully. If he knew that she knew about the little demons of sadness lurking in his mind, he'd probably smear her across Fifth Avenue. It was definitely in her best interest to keep her mouth firmly closed on the subject of the Batman.
She had eventually cried on him just to shut him up. No one should have that much horror in their past. Hearing it was making her sick.
Even remembering it now was sending little prickly stabs of sympathy up her back. The rogues were waiting for an answer, and it had to be something that wouldn't piss them off, and it had to be logical, and it had to avoid any hint of letting out Batman's secrets.
A lie, in other words. So she looked them right in the eyes and lied like a rug. She told them that Batman had cried like a brokenhearted schoolgirl (which he had) and that, wailing hysterically, he'd clung to her leg like a toddler (which he certainly hadn't). She couldn't hope to move him, so she'd had to cry on him to get him to let go.
Unfortunately, she'd underestimated his ability to spring back from toxins and he'd gotten to his feet before she'd been able to get to the door. The rogues that dealt in toxins nodded thoughtfully - it had happened to them, and more than once at that.
"And that was pretty much that," she concluded, fiddling with the elastic on her gloves. Oh, please let them be satisfied with that, she thought. She didn't know if she could come up with any more lies on this short notice.
"But then why'd ya let the Bat take ya?" Harley chirped, cocking her head to one side.
"Huh?" Sorrow said, startled.
"We saw ya on the news," Harley reminded her. "No cuffs, you weren't fightin' back...You gave the Bat a hanky an' you were blowin' him kisses."
Oh, damn. "I, uh...I don't like being hit," she mumbled to the tabletop. "And I guess...well...maybe since I was nice to him last time, he'll go easier on me next time?"
No one came out and said it, but the words Yeah, right, and then he'll take you out for ice cream and buy you a pony were written on every face in the circle.
It's hard to entertain yourself when all you have is your mind. Sorrow was using hers to take a short little vacation to the Bahamas. Tropic sun, a cool breeze over her face, the sound of the ocean roaring...never mind the fact that the 'sun' was a flickering fluorescent bulb, the breeze was the malfunctioning heater, and the ocean roaring was an inmate down the way howling the word "Fish!" at someone. She was in the Bahamas, dammit, at least for an hour or two.
A steel drum turned into someone beating on the plexiglass at the front of her cell. She sighed and sat up, meeting the eyes of a fat little orderly. "Come on, time for your session," he said irritably.
"I don't have a shrink," she informed him coldly. "I'm not crazy."
The orderly, who had been briefed on this particular patient when he got in to work that day, looked for the right words to say. Somehow, saying "We got a note from Batman saying that you're nuttier than a fruitcake" didn't seem to be the best idea in the world, particularly since he felt like living for another few decades. He opted for refuge in ignorance. "Don't look at me, lady, I'm just supposed to take you there and take you back."
She sighed and got to her feet. She'd get this ridiculous session over with, and then she'd get back to the islands. Besides, did it really matter if they thought she was crazy? It's not like they were ever going to let her out.
As the orderly led her by all the cells, she smiled in a friendly fashion at the inhabitants. Not many smiled back, though the Riddler did give her a saucy wink as she strolled by. She took particular care to wave at Harley Quinn, who was singing a love song as she toyed with a stuffed jester doll. After all, Harley had been the only one to be openly friendly to her so far, and Sorrow really didn't want to piss off the Joker's girlfriend. (There were rules in Arkham, she'd discovered. On a list of them, if there were such a thing, Rule 1 would be 'Don't Anger the Joker', written in big letters with neon ink, underlined twice.) Harley waved back and even chirped "Hiya!" before returning to her toy.
The little section of offices that housed the psychiatrists for the Rogues Gallery was located just around the corner behind a series of three solid steel doors. (Just because they were brave enough to try to pry open the rogues' minds didn't mean they were brave enough to chance escaping rogues prying open their office doors.) Sorrow took note of the names as she passed them - Carlson. Torres. Jackson. Lily. Bartholomew.
They stopped at the door with no label. The orderly led her inside, to a tiny waiting room barely big enough to hold a secretary at a desk and a pair of chairs. One of them, Sorrow saw with unease, was rigged out with all kinds of restraint clips and straps. The secretary tapped a button on her desk, presumably letting the doctor know that they were there, and went back to her paperwork.
They didn't have to wait long. Another orderly breezed in. "Hey, June. Horace," he greeted the two other employees, ignoring Sorrow. He knocked politely on the office door before opening it.
"Don't worry so much," the new doctor was advising whoever happened to be in there with him. "You'll get it back tomorrow, and you'll see - you'll be absolutely fine."
The orderly went into the room and returned walking backwards, pulling a straitjacketed Two-Face in a reverse conga line. Sorrow and her orderly did an awkward little shuffle around the imposing rogue, who at the moment looked as if he couldn't decide whether to fall into catatonic depression or incandescent fury. The orderly, obviously not wanting to be there when the upcoming emotional storm broke, tugged Two-Face out of the room as fast as possible.
"Come in!" the doctor invited. Horace, seeing Sorrow hesitating on the threshold, applied a helpful elbow into her spine.
With an undignified "Oof!" she stumbled into the room, colliding with the strap-covered chair bolted to the floor in front of the desk. When she raised her eyes to the thin Asian man seated behind the desk, she saw him playing smugly with what appeared to be...no, it couldn't. No one would be stupid enough to...
"That's his coin," she blurted, seeing the distinctive scratches in the back of it catch the light. "You took his coin?"
"Temporarily," he said, examining it once before dropping it into his pocket.
"But doesn't he need that?" she said. "I heard he can't decideanything without it..."
"Well, we'll soon see that theory proved false," he smiled at her.
Jerk, she thought.
"Have a seat," he invited, waving at the little chair. She fastidiously swept the straps off of the seat before sitting down. "Now," he said, taking up a pen, "let's get started, shall we?"
"Okay," she said cautiously.
"What's your name?"
He gave her a disdainful look. "Your real name."
"That is my real name."
He shook his head sadly and noted it down. "And where are you?"
She stared at him like he was an idiot. "Your office."
He returned her stare, packing even more disdain into it. "And where is my office?" he hinted.
Sorrow was baffled. She'd never been asked questions this ridiculous before. "Right here," she said slowly and patiently.
"Hmm," he said, adopting that sad look again briefly as he scribbled something else down. "Do you know the date?"
This was beyond ridiculous. She pointed at the back of a page-a-day desk calendar sitting obviously on the corner of his otherwise empty desk. "Can't you read?"
"That was not the question," he said sternly. "Do you know the date?"
"It's, um..." She took a moment to think. "It's the nineteenth of April, isn't it?"
"Are you certain?" he said.
"Well, let's see," she said, picking up the calendar. "It's...now I know that's wrong," she said, pointing at the current page which proclaimed it to be the third of September. "Why do you even have this thing if you're not going to keep it on the right day?"
He ignored her. "And do you know who I am?"
"Should I?" she said, slamming the calendar back down onto the desk.
"Yes." He waited for her response.
Her first instinct was to scream something obscene at him. But, with the vivid memory of straitjackets and restraint straps dancing in front of her eyes, she forced calm into her voice and said "I have no idea who you are." We've never met, how the hell would I know your name? she thought angrily to herself.
"Dear, dear," he muttered to himself, taking more notes. "Now, do you know why you're here?"
Because the forces of the universe decided it was time for me to meet the world's biggest idiot? she thought. "Because this is where Batman brought me?" she hazarded.
"And why do you think he chose to bring you here?" he asked.
"Because I'm doomed?" she said without thinking. His eyes lit up as he carefully inscribed her words onto his paper. She groaned internally. "I didn't mean that," she protested.
"Now, when you say you're doomed-"
"I said I didn't mean that!"
"-how exactly do you think you're doomed?" His eyes glowed with the avarice of a hunter on the trail of the Big One.
"Hmmm," he said, clearly not willing to believe her but letting it go for now.
The next hour was one of the most frustrating and baffling that Sorrow had ever lived through. The doctor (he hadn't even told her his name!) had asked her all sorts of personal questions, which she flat-out refused to answer. She wasn't particularly proud of her past, and she'd be damned if she let this little weasel sniff through her private business. He'd tried to get her to admit to everything from being suicidal to hearing voices to believing in telepathy and government cover-ups and aliens in her brain.
"Well," he sighed at the end of his interrogation, "I can see we have a long way to go."
"What?" Sorrow said, totally confused. "What do you mean?"
"Well, there are so many problems to cover," he said cheerfully. "You're obviously in severe denial of major issues. You believe that you're a being comprised of sadness and yet you claim never to have tried suicide-"
"That's not what I said," she tried to defend herself.
"-you exhibit violent tendencies-"
"Like what?" she demanded. He ignored her.
"-and you believe that you're doomed and that your life is not worth thinking about, let alone worth a mere half-hour's discussion," he finished happily. "My dear, I got here just in time!"
"Now wait a minute," she protested. "I never said half that stuff!"
"Psychiatry is about reading between the lines, dear," he said smugly.
"Then you need new glasses!" she snapped. "I can't believe you actually believe that...that nonsense about me! Who the hell do you think you are?"
The door behind them opened and Horace stepped in. The doctor tented his fingers and gave Sorrow a long, slow grin. "I'm Dr. Teng, your psychiatrist," he said with an air of reminding a simpleton that we eat with spoons, not fingers. "I'll see you again tomorrow."
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" she said as Horace tugged her out of the room. The door swung shut behind them.
"Fortunately, you don't," Teng murmured to himself as he looked over his notes. Truth be told, he didn't believe that nonsense about her. Well, most of it, anyway. He'd clearly sniffed out a trace of despair about her, particularly when she was forced to think about her childhood. Oh, yes, even though she hadn't given away any details he was certain he'd caught hold of some very poignant memories.
And, of course, if she was depressed that meant he'd finally found the perfect subject...no one cared about the health or well-being of rogues, after all, and given the right excuse he'd be able to go ahead and start testing his new medicine right away. Surely if he needled her enough she'd do something really entertaining to another rogue, and then they could begin.
Dr. Teng sat back in his chair, a satisfied grin on his thin face. This was going to be such fun!
Author's Note: Sorry this was late. I've been sick and busy, never a good combination.
I suppose now would be a good time to point out that this takes place a little farther back in history than you may have been expecting. Nightwing is still gloriously rebellious, Barbara has not quite yet relinquished the title of Batgirl, and Jason is newly deceased. Ah, for the heady days of 1988!
Tune in next Monday for part two of Sorrow's story - sadly, it has no title as of yet - and Thursdays still belong to 'Green Eyes'. Thanks for reading!