The world is simple when you're a prisoner. When someone else holds the power to make all of your decisions, when someone plans every moment of your day - indeed, when someone holds your life in his hands and might choose to extinguish it on a whim, life becomes extraordinarily simple.
There are two paths to take in a situation such as this. The first, to run screaming into the night, is immensely tricky. Someone would have to be exceedingly lucky and cunning to manage escape from even an average prison. This, however, was not an average prison, and the chances of escape were somewhere in the vicinity of the chances that a magical winged tuna fish would come and sing seven choruses of "La Bamba" at Sorrow.
That left her with only one option - submission. She didn't want to - in fact, obeying Teng made her want to bite through her tongue in frustration - but after the last little incident that had displeased him, it was probably the only way she was going to stay alive long enough to kill him later.
In spite, Teng had snatched the most spectacular of his failures from the discard bin and sprayed nearly double a normal dose into her veins. It had been a remarkably bad decision. She'd almost immediately started laughing, gasping out hilarity at nothing in particular as Teng watched with a smug little smirk on his face. Her stomach muscles had shoved themselves inward as she choked on the laughter boiling out of her throat. Pain had thumped through her abused body like electricity arcing on a Tesla coil.
And then the laughter had wheezed to a halt. Sorrow, arched against the straps that held her to the table, had felt her lungs straining to crumple themselves into tiny, useless balls of tissue as the drug demanded more laughter with no time to inhale. It had been hilarious, and she struggled all the harder to laugh with no air. The thought of her face turning purple with oxygen deprivation had been a joke so funny that Emo Philips himself might have uttered it.
Teng, with a look of disappointment, had grudgingly withdrawn a vial of something clear from the nearest drawer, barking orders for the man in green to come and assist him as he filled a syringe. With the man in green's meaty hands wrapped around her twitching, spasming elbow, unconsciousness had slammed her between the eyes and she'd gone out cold.
That had been earlier this morning. At least, she was fairly certain it had been this morning - there was no way to mark time's passage in the land of the forcibly unconscious - but it certainly felt as if hours had passed. The stabbing ache in her muscles had eased a bit, just like it used to during the long dark nights in her cell.
Sorrow lay on the bed, exhausted, as a vicious headache jackhammered behind her closed eyelids. Cold air from the vent blew gently on her face, setting stray strands of her hair dancing across her forehead. The lingering scent of unwashed, dedicated scientist grew a little stronger as the unseen madman leaned over her, checking to see if she'd woken up yet. She fought to keep her breathing shallow and undisturbed. He let out a small grunt of irritation and settled back into his chair.
"Submit to the High Clan Kolnar, scumvermin!"
Sorrow's eyes jerked open as she reflexively tried to scramble away. What in the hell...Teng sat at her bedside, grinning, waving a tiny black remote control as he pointed to a new addition: a television with a DVD player.
"So, you are awake," he chuckled. "Good, good. Any problems?"
Her instinctive response, bred from years of hiding her true feelings from the authorities, was to simply say 'I'm fine'. However, since 'fine' had ended up almost killing her last time, she settled for carefully smudged honesty. "My head hurts, and my stomach," she said tentatively. "And I can't feel my legs."
Teng frowned, considering her complaints as if he actually cared about them. Then, shrugging, he dismissed them and gestured toward the television. "I thought that a night off might be appropriate." With a pleasant smile on his face, as if he was watching a movie with a friend instead of his own personal lab rat, he turned the movie back on and settled comfortably in his chair.
The huge, muscled alien invaders onscreen menaced the puny humans in their control room as Sorrow tried not to look like he'd just told her that he was a fish. What was he doing? He'd never once in their entire history together done anything remotely nice for her. Had he completely lost whatever was left of his mind? Why was he -
He turned and looked pointedly at her, raising an eyebrow. "You're not watching," he accused lightly. Underneath that shell of a quiet, polite scientist, though, she could sense his black fury at - at what? At merely not watching a movie?
"Sorry!" she muttered, turning her eyes to the screen just as an alien did something unspeakable to a pretty blonde. What would Teng possibly have to be angry about? In all fairness, she should be furious at him. Hadn't he kidnapped her, and tortured her, and almost killed -
Oh. Oh. She was his "perfect subject", wasn't she? Mad scientists didn't like it when they couldn't play with their toys. The thought that he'd have to wait to try again until she recovered from his little accident with the drug earlier probably wasn't making him happy at all.
Teng let out a chuckle. "You didn't laugh," he said, shooting a glare at Sorrow.
"What was funny?" she asked.
"The movie was!" He frowned. "You're clearly worse off than I thought, if you can't manage to laugh at a movie..."
She wasn't in the habit of laughing at brutal alien invasions, but hey, he was the guy in charge...for now. Sorrow obediently squinted at the television, wincing as the odd angle of her neck sent the headache elephants moshing in her brain again, and tried to focus on the movie.
Her efforts mostly failed. When there was a genuine joke, she laughed - and was ordered not to laugh at such ridiculous tripe. When the illustrious Channa Hap outwitted the head alien in a war strategy game, Sorrow tried to look happy - and was immediately told that it was a ridiculous thought. Clearly, the man whispering the moves into her ear was the true hero of the scene, and she was just eye candy.
Two long hours later, Sorrow's brain was numb from the effort of trying to react exactly as Teng wanted. As the three main female protagonists were flash-bombed into blindness, Teng giggled with absolute happiness. The giggles cut off abruptly as Sorrow wearily chimed in.
"You're not fooling me, dear," he said lazily, hitting the pause button. "It just wouldn't be right of me to make you keep pretending." Sorrow, drained from both the effort of playing Let's-Make-Teng-Happy and almost dying, didn't realize what he meant until he turned around with a loaded syringe in his hand.
"No, wait," she said dully. "Don't." But by then, the needle had already gone in. She drew in a long, shuddering breath, and waited. And waited. Sure enough, her lungs started to twitch inside of her like a pair of hyper guinea pigs. Breath exploded from her mouth in a long, whistling wheeze. She wheezed faster, and faster, until she was almost panting - but she wasn't laughing.
Teng's face fell in a scowl. "You can't do anything right, can you?" he snapped at Sorrow, who ignored him in favor of gasping for more air. "Diego!" he called through the open door. There was no answer. "Diego!" he yelled. No answer.
Teng stomped out of the room and dragged the man in green inside, ripping out his earbuds and throwing the man's iPod into the nearest biohazard bin. "Watch her. She's having another reaction to the medication. And keep her quiet - I'm going to sleep." With that, Teng swept out, presumably too disgusted with the entire situation to even bother shutting off the television.
Sorrow wheezed, and panted, and stared with angry eyes at Diego. How could he just stand there and let this happen?
Diego Eriksen was not a bad man. He babysat his sister's kids, he fed the stray dog that lived behind his building, and he had been known to drop the occasional ten-dollar bill in a beggar's lap.
Unfortunately, the desire to do good is often thwarted by a lack of common sense, a fault which Diego had in abundance. At the moment, he found himself facing a wheezing, desperate patient who looked about as threatening as a sleeping kitten - and yet, she was wrapped in more restraints than he'd ever seen on anyone, even the really violent men in the back wards of the nearby hospital for the mentally unwell.
It occurred to him, as it had more and more frequently these days, that the boss was messed up. This couldn't be legit. Yeah, the money was good, but something wasn't right here. Maybe the money was so good because there wasn't something right here.
"You okay?" he asked uneasily.
With panting, raspy breaths making her sway forward and back, she managed to give him a look of utter, hopeless irritation. She shook her head emphatically No.
Again, she speared him with a look of derision. "Can't...breathe," she gasped. "Help...please?"
He frowned. Well, that stuff he'd given her this morning had worked fine. Diego pulled a vial of the stuff from its drawer and filled a syringe, remembering to tap out the bubbles as his nursing instructor long ago had taught him. "Uh...let's try this."
Unlike every other patient in restraints that he'd ever seen, she actually twisted her arm so that he could have easy access to her scarred inner elbow. Yes, there was definitely something not right here. As the drug gradually kicked in, her breathing began to slow down. Cheered by the thought that he'd done something right, he wandered over to the nearest file folder and took a look inside. The least he could do was make sure his boss wasn't doing anything wrong!
Tiny, scribbly text filled the pages inside, running off the lines in the author's haste to commit his thoughts to paper. "Patient S is adjusting slowly to my medication. I'm confident that I'll find a variation that is, at the least, quieter than the current doses. And, in time, my medication will succeed in transforming this thing into a healthy human being."
Diego dropped the folder and stepped back. Patient S...why not a name? Why not refer to her at least by her own initials? The boss had assured him that this girl, this Mary Johnson, was incurably schizophrenic and would rage hatefully against anyone but her trusted doctor - thus why Diego had been encouraged to wear the headphones and tune out whatever she said - and that she'd been placed in Arkham simply because of her violent tendencies. Why call her Patient S, unless...
Unless he'd been lied to. Unless this wasn't Mary Johnson, who needed to be removed from her toxic surroundings in the name of health.
The girl's breathing had slowed to a normal level. Diego turned from the counter and stood by her side, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot as she glared at him. "Who are you?" he asked bluntly.
"My name's Sorrow," she said, licking dry lips.
Not Mary Johnson, then. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it. "So your family didn't lock you in Arkham just to get rid of you?"
Sorrow rolled bloodshot blue eyes at him. "Is that what he told you?" She squirmed under her straps. "Figures. I don't have a family. I'm not going to have anything, soon enough. He's going to kill me."
"He's only trying to help you," Diego protested.
"Kill or cure, that's Dr. Teng," she sighed. "Why am I bothering? You work for him. You're like him. Why don't you just kill me now, save your boss some effort?"
"He's not trying to kill you!" Diego said.
"He's certainly doing a good impression of it!" Sorrow shot back. "It doesn't matter what he wants. One day, he's going to get pissed off, and stick me full of that stuff, and I'll die. It's going to happen. It almost happened today," she added, glaring at him. "Or didn't you remember that?"
"He made a mistake," Diego said uneasily. "He's still trying to help."
"Help!" Sorrow blew a disgusted sigh up her face. "What kind of doctor tests a drug on a patient that he's stolen out of the asylum? He's a nutcase, and as far as I'm concerned, you're a moron if you keep working for him." She turned her face away and glared impotently at the wall.
Diego didn't read the papers. He didn't know who Sorrow was, and he didn't know what kind of drug his boss would be testing on her, but it didn't really matter. The girl was right - real doctors didn't work this way.
Real doctors, come to think of it, didn't pay in cash. Real doctors didn't lavish the sort of singleminded attention that his boss had shown Sorrow in the past week. Real doctors didn't operate out of a basement.
Diego, not for the first time in his life, felt the sick realization that he'd been duped hit him in the gut. This guy, this Teng, wasn't really helping anyone but himself...and there was no reason for him to stick around any longer. "It's not right. He's flipped." He started to unbuckle her straps. "I'm getting you out of here."
Sorrow's head snapped back like a toy on a spring. "Seriously?" Tears streamed down her face as he unwound the straps around her abdomen. Diego examined her wrists, wondering where Teng might possibly keep a handcuff key, and dismissed the thought. If he couldn't find a key, he could probably saw through the cuffs with a hacksaw.
"Hey, don't cry," he said consolingly as he undid the last strap. "You're gonna be okay. Come on, I'll help you." He held out an encouraging hand.
Sorrow shoved herself into a sitting position. "You're...going to have to carry me. I can't feel my legs."
"Sure." He crept to the door, listening intently upstairs for any hint of noise, and trotted back to her bedside. "Up we go. C'mon." She obediently wrapped her arms around his neck and held on tight as he scooped her up like an oversized infant.
The lab disappeared behind them as Diego trudged up the narrow stairs. "I'm going to write you into my will," the girl muttered into his chest.
"Shhh," he cautioned. As quietly as possible, Diego and his quivering new benefactor sneaked out the front door and disappeared in the direction of the nearest parking garage.
He'd done it. He'd actually taken her out of that nightmare! Sorrow could have kissed him. Hell, she could have covered him in diamonds and named him King of the Universe, if it would have made him happy.
"You got a place to go?" he asked as he settled himself in the driver's seat. Shoving the hospital gown down over her legs, she nodded. She had several places to go - none of them hers.
She had to believe that Teng knew where her hideout was, so she couldn't go home. Fortunately, she'd been paranoid enough in her early days to find out where the biggest names in roguedom lived so that she could purposefully avoid them. Hopefully, one of them still lived at one of their old addresses...
Ivy had three greenhouses in the outskirts of the city. All of them were deserted, with misters fogging the windows when they tried to peer inside. Since the Joker was still in Arkham - something that every Gothamite kept close tabs on, even if the other news bored them stiff - they tried the Ha-Haciendas next. They were all as empty as Ivy's places.
As a last-ditch effort, Sorrow pointed them toward the Riddler's hideouts. She wasn't exactly friends with him, not in the way that she was with Harley or Ivy (and even those friendships were debatable), but he had broken her out of Arkham. There had to be some kind of fellow-feeling there, or why would he have bothered?
Diego's beat-up old blue car lurched to a halt outside the Puzzle Palace. It was completely empty, like all the rest. Sorrow, in total desperation, was about to ask Diego if she could stay at his place when a sleek green car met them coming from the opposite direction. The green door opened to reveal-
"Eddie!" gasped Sorrow, gloved hands colliding with the dashboard as she leaned forward for a better look. The man in the dapper green suit ignored the presence of another car on his street and sauntered toward his door. "Catch him!"
Diego obligingly leaned on the horn. A chorus of sleepy yells rang out from a nearby apartment building. The Riddler turned, raised an eyebrow at the sight of the unfamiliar vehicle, and cautiously approached. "And who, might I ask, are - Sorrow!" he gasped, noticing a familiar face in the passenger seat. His question-marked cane clattered to the ground as he jerked the car door open. "Where the hell have you been? Everyone's been looking for - oof!"
Absolute joy at seeing a friendly person who wasn't going to immediately try to kill her overwhelmed Sorrow. "Eddie!" she grinned, latching on to his abdomen like a toddler cuddling a teddy bear. Then, realizing that one probably shouldn't tacklehug their criminal superiors, she pulled back, blushing. "Sorry."
"That's...okay," he stammered. "What happened?"
She raked a gloved hand through her matted hair, grimacing as the rough latexed fingers caught in a tangle. "Teng," she said simply.
"What? But he's in jail!"
"Not anymore." Sorrow shivered as the night breeze crept up her gown. "Can I...I mean, he might know where I live, now...I can't go home..."
Realizations clicked into place. "You want to stay here?" the Riddler asked, slightly taken aback.
"If it's a problem, I can - " Sorrow started miserably.
"No, no, it's just...um...give me two minutes," he said, collecting his cane from the asphalt and dashing inside. The sounds of frantic tidying-up - dishes clattering into the sink, laundry baskets skidding over linoleum, and the constant slamming of the doors of overstuffed closets - rang into the street as Sorrow fidgeted with a loose thread on her filthy hospital gown.
The Riddler reappeared in the doorway. "Okay, come on in," he beckoned, holding the door wide. Diego bundled Sorrow back into his arms and plodded inside, laying her gently on the couch next to a towering stack of notebooks. "You can stay in the extra bedroom, and your..." Eddie paused, blinking as he processed the appearance of a strange man in his living room. "Who is this?"
"This is Diego," Sorrow introduced, massaging a cramped arm muscle with one hand. "He got me out of there." She stretched her arm, scowling at the constellation of scars dotting her skin, and felt a massive yawn split her face in half.
"C'mon, you need some sleep," Diego offered, scooping her back off of the couch. With Eddie pointing the way, he deposited Sorrow in the chosen bedroom and quietly closed the door behind him. In the soft, safe darkness, Sorrow wrapped her complaining arms around her pillow and immediately fell asleep.
The Riddler watched the strange man tucking Sorrow neatly into his spare bed, thanking the fates that he hadn't had a henchgirl on hand at the moment. This was fantastic! His latest plan, involving the theft of a rare and ancient scroll, would go so much easier if he had someone with powers backing him up. True, he'd have to wait until she got better - or did he? Maybe her new henchman would be willing to cart her around for him. Or no, she could be a decoy! Oh, yes, even if she couldn't walk she'd be an excellent trap, looking frail and helpless right up to the moment that she sent whoever was in touching range into fits of depression on the floor.
Diego closed the door and stepped back into the living room. "How long have you been working for her?" Eddie asked. If Sorrow trusted him, and everyone knew how impossible that was, then surely he was a man you could count on.
Diego shrugged. "Um...a couple hours?"
Eddie's grand plans came to a screeching halt. If he wasn't a henchman, then what did he want with Sorrow? "You'd better tell me who you are," he said quietly.
Diego haltingly obliged, peppering his story with ums and ers as he fumbled his way through the explanation. "...and I only wanted to help her. I still do," he added. "I want to make it up to her somehow. Could I come back tomorrow and give her a hand with...things?"
Eddie slipped his hands into his pockets. "Who said anything about leaving?" he inquired pleasantly. Purple-gloved fingers tapped rapidly on the remote control in his right pocket. Puzzle traps obediently sprang out of the woodwork, lacing themselves firmly over windows and doors.
"What the hell?" Diego said, stumbling backward and sitting down heavily on an ottoman stacked high with newspapers.
"You worked for him," Eddie pointed out. "Do you honestly believe that I'd let you trot over and tell him where she is?" His eyes narrowed. If Teng had come here..."Was that the plan? Two for the price of one?"
"What?" Diego shoved himself to his feet. "Look, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but I'm going home!"
Eddie sighed and massaged the bridge of his nose. The man was standing in a green living room, talking to a man in a green suit with a question-marked cane, while electrified puzzle-traps hummed quietly over every possible exit. Who did he think he was? Poison Ivy? His fingers caressed another button. The couch came alive with question-marked streamers, whipping around the man and pinning him firmly to the furniture. He'd really have to thank the clowns for that idea one day...
"Let me go!" Diego screeched. "Let me out of here, you lunatic!"
The man really was dumb as a rock. The temptation was there to crack him across the face with his cane for that lunatic remark, but if he gave in to that temptation every time he was called a lunatic, he'd never have time for anything else.
Besides, he was Sorrow's - and part of surviving as a rogue was not touching other people's toys. Eddie sighed and settled down on the ottoman, trying to form an explanation with the smallest words possible concerning his identity and Diego's place in the grand scheme of things.
Most people in Gotham dealt with rogues in one of two ways: Obeying or Resisting. Generally, option 2 ended up dovetailing with the never-popular option 3, which usually involved the Gothamite in question being turned into a corpse in a variety of colorful and unusual fashions.
Diego had, unsurprisingly, volunteered to stay inside like a good little civilian and play nursemaid to Sorrow. It hadn't actually taken that much talk to get him to agree with the plan. The man really did want to make things up with Sorrow, a desire that only intensified when he learned that she would nonchalantly kill him if the mood took her, and so he spent his days tending to her while Eddie planned for the inevitable Bat-visit. He'd disappeared from the halfway house a little less than a month ago, and so far, no Bat had darkened his doorstep. Since he was in one of his oldest lairs, that meant it was only a matter of time until they did.
They had been there for about a week. After the first day, a busy time of negotiations, threats and quite a few hours in the workroom with her gloves being sawn off by one of Eddie's endless supply of small sharp things, Sorrow spent most of her time alone in the bedroom, grumbling epithets under her breath as she fought to re-train her stubborn legs into moving again. Diego, with nothing better to do, had been cleaning the lair, making the food, and doing all the other trivial things that Eddie couldn't be bothered with. In fact, even now he was in the kitchen, frying something that smelled like instant artery-death while Eddie relaxed on the couch with a crossword.
The window, and the puzzle-trap over it, shattered inward with a massive sizzling of sparks. Eddie, used to such things, rested a fingernail casually on the little switch that would turn the pen into a tiny firebomb and regarded the caped crimefighter.
"Where's the girl, Nygma?" the Batman graveled.
"Girl? Ah, you're referring to my old flame. Sadly, she went sane. A tragedy, wouldn't you agree?" He feigned wiping a tear from his eye.
"Sorrow," Batman growled. "Where is she?"
Edward shrugged casually and settled back against his cushion. "I've no idea. Should I know?"
"Oh, you mean that girl with the gloves?" came a voice from the kitchen. Diego strolled out, wiping his hands on a small green towel.
The Riddler, robbed of his game, turned and glared at him. "Quiet!"
Batman grabbed the man by the collar and slammed him up against the wall. "Where is she?"
"I…she…Teng! 56 Park Street!"
Batman dropped the man and left without looking at Eddie, who smirked at his back. "He's on a bear, Mr. Worst," he called after the receding cape.
The Batmobile purred to a halt three blocks away from his target. Batman climbed out, twitched his cape into position, and stalked down the street.
The original plan had been to interrogate the Riddler and turn him over to Arkham. That plan had been discarded the instant that the other man had mentioned Teng. He couldn't afford to take the time to personally hand them over to the cops - and leaving the Riddler alone in handcuffs was just about as secure as leaving a squirrel alone in the bottom of an open barrel. By the time he got back, the Riddler would be gone, a thought that did nothing to calm the growling surge of anger in the back of his mind.
56 Park Street was an old brownstone building with rotten boards nailed across the windows. One blow from a heavily booted foot gave Batman an entrance, and he shoved his way inside. Dust coated the debris on the floor. In the dirt, a few scuffed footprints pointed the way to the staircase. Batman crept down them and stood disapprovingly in the doorway.
Lab equipment lay in pieces throughout the room. Teng, sitting crosslegged and sullen on the empty lab table, was pitching broken test tubes at the crumpled remains of a cheap folding chair.
Batman unceremoniously snatched him by the back of the neck and propelled him up the stairs. The thin man wailed with heartbroken frustration and tried to kick backward. Batman ignored him until they got to the street, where he slammed him into the asphalt. "Where is she?" he growled, out of patience with the whole situation.
"Who?" Teng whimpered.
Ugly hate twisted Teng's features. "I-I-I don't know where it is!" he wailed. "Someone stole it from me! And I was almost finished with the experiment-" He didn't even get to finish his sentence as his head slammed into the pavement.
A lone police car screeched to a halt at the edge of the scene. Batman handed the bleeding madman over to the cops, an action he'd performed so many times that it had become routine, and swung away into the night. What was the taunt the Riddler had thrown at him as he left…He's on a bear, Mr. Worst?
Sorrow's here, Batman, he realized with a scowl. Damn it. Damn everything.
The plan, such as it was, had worked marvelously. A mere minute after Batman had departed, Sorrow, Diego and Eddie had made tracks toward a new lair. Diego's miniscule car wouldn't fit three people and a wheelchair, so Eddie had volunteered to find his own way to his other lair.
At least, that had been the plan.
He hadn't shown up that night. Sorrow, glued to the lair's tiny television set, finally found out what had happened to him thanks to a report on Gotham Tonight.
He'd had the misfortune to get chased halfway from Reatton to Gainsly that first night thanks to an eagle-eyed cop who'd spotted him running a stoplight. Somewhere in Gainsly, he'd made a brief stop to hijack another car and was off again - only to find that he'd not only stolen a car, but a very large and loving St. Bernard as well. The last the cop had seen of him was a large, pink tongue being thoroughly applied to the back of the Riddler's head. The car - and the dog - had later been found parked crookedly behind City Hall.
Eddie himself had been found a few hours later. From what the newspeople had managed to gather about the situation, the Riddler, exhausted, sticky, and reeking of dog, had slumped onto a park bench in his disguise to rest for a moment. He'd promptly fallen asleep in the golden summer sunshine. A park guard, on the lookout for vagrants, had almost shooed him away before he saw the little green question marks all over the man's black necktie. Eddie had woken up, cranky and befuddled, to find a news crew standing over him as a squadron of cops ratcheted a pair of handcuffs firmly around his wrists.
Gotham Tonight had gone on to briefly mention the capture of one Reginald Teng by the Batman - news that sent Sorrow into a gleeful fit of ecstasy for the rest of the night. She was almost tempted to hire some guys and finish the job the Joker had started...but no, she wanted to do this right.
And since Teng was no longer a threat, it was probably safe to go home for a while. Not permanently - Batman, after all, knew where she lived, and no one was going to be throwing him into jail any time soon - but long enough to check around and evict any troublesome passersby that might have had the wrong idea about moving in.
First, though, she'd have to find something else to wear. Eddie had gladly lent her some spare outfits that his previous girls had left behind - but they all tended to be rather...distinctive for daytime wear. At the moment, she was dressed in an eye-searingly-green sequined minidress with violently purple question marks. Eddie's girls had no taste.
Diego, not really wanting to stroll around town with someone who looked like a cross between a toad with the flu and a disco ball, agreed to help her look for new clothes in the tiny lair. One brief search of the closets later, they'd turned up one (1) plain green t-shirt, two (2) pairs of question-print boxers, and one (1) bright green, question-mark coated, spandex sequined unitard. After the laughter died down enough so that they could speak again, Sorrow said "Maybe I should just turn my dress inside out."
With plan Inside-Out in motion, they made their way down to the docks the next morning. They kept to the waterfront, acting like tourists and laughing happily with one another. Eventually, they broke free of the happy-laughing-idiot crowd and hurried down a filthy alleyway, ducking quickly into the secret entrance to Sorrow's old warehouse.
Diego whistled as he looked around the enormous empty building. "And this is yours?"
"Fair 'n' square," she nodded absently, wheeling over to the little room where she kept her possessions and her money. "I'll be right back."
She checked the inside of the wall safe first. Her share of all those jobs from so long ago was still there, packaged up neatly in all those bright little wrappers. She turned to her closet next and frowned. Her clothes, her real clothes, were locked away at Arkham. The only clothes left here were street clothes, disguises, incognito stuff...and a winter costume, but it was far too hot for wool. Still, being in street clothes had to be better than Swamp Thing meets the Princess of Punctuation. She reached into the closet, frowned, and pounced on her winter costume. The cheap latex gloves caught on the wool as she pulled her prize out of the pockets - a brand-new set of her own gloves. The stupid latex ones ended up in a pile on the floor as she lovingly slid her hands into her gloves. Then, with a lot of wriggling and not a few muttered curses against her numb legs, she changed herself into some jeans and a t-shirt and threw a few more outfits in a bag, along with the green dress Eddie'd lent her.
When she wheeled herself back out, the main room was deserted. "Diego?" she called. "Hey, Diego!" There was no answer. Concerned, she wheeled into the safest room in the whole place - the kitchen. "Diego...oh, there you are. All the food's gone bad by now…"
He was holding a vaguely familiar piece of paper. She blushed furiously and snatched it out of his hand. "Y'know, it's not proper etiquette to read suicide notes that aren't addressed to you, Diego."
"When?" he asked softly.
"A...a while ago. The first time that Teng..." She shook her head. "It doesn't matter." With short, jerky movements, she balled up the thing and threw it in the trash.
"It matters!" he protested. "You wanted to kill yourself!"
"Yeah, well, you would have too," she muttered.
"No! I mean, you've gotta have hope," he said. "You didn't think that maybe it'd get better?"
Sorrow stared at him as if he had declared the world to be made of pudding. "Hope is for people who don't know anything about life," she informed him flatly. "You can't trust hope."
"But it did get better," he insisted. "You're here, aren't you?"
She slammed a fist down onto her wheelchair. "Oh, I'm here all right," she spat venemously. "Here in this chair. That's where hope gets you. Things never get better, Diego, they just keep going until you die."
"Oh," he said quietly.
"Let's go," she said, turning herself toward the door. "I don't want to be here anymore."
"Whatever you say," Diego agreed, wheeling her back out into the hot, smoggy sunshine of a Gotham afternoon.
That night, while she slept, Diego made a phone call.
There were some things that Sorrow had never done. Going for a walk in the park at sunrise was one of them - but Diego had insisted, and he'd even volunteered to treat her to breakfast afterward. He was being incredibly nice. Sorrow had suspiciously examined that thought for a while, and then shrugged it off. People who had been tied up and threatened by one of Gotham's rogues often tended to be extraordinarily polite and eager to please. Besides, it had been partly his fault that Teng had gotten her in the first place. A week of almost slave-like devotion wasn't nearly enough to make up for the pain he'd caused her, no matter how nice he'd been acting.
Most of the flowers had bloomed and died, now, and green leaves dominated the park as they strolled along. Squirrels, who had evolved a startling disinterest in trees ever since Poison Ivy came to town, skittered back and forth across the grounds. The clear, green scent of the plants was almost enough to block out the constant tang of sweaty garbage that most Gothamites took for granted with every breath.
Branches shook as if a tornado was whipping the air around them into a frenzy. "Run!" Sorrow ordered, fighting to pry off a glove as Batman and Robin burst from the foliage. Diego obediently took to his heels, leaving Sorrow alone. "I meant with me!" she screamed after him.
Robin pounded down the path, chasing her errant caretaker. As she caught a trembling finger under the wrist of one glove, a pair of solid black hands locked themselves around hers. "Stop it," Batman ordered calmly.
"You stop it!" she snapped. "Where were you when I needed you, huh? What's the matter, is catching criminals while they're actually hurting people too boring for you now?" She tried to wrestle out of his grip. "Let me go!"
"You need help."
"The only help I need from you is for you to let me go!" She tugged on his arms again. "Hint, hint," she said exasperatedly. "I let you go, remember?"
"When you had no other option," Batman reminded her.
"I had an option! I could have killed you! Is that what you wanted? Let me go, we'll try again."
Batman carefully pulled her hands apart and lifted her out of the chair by the wrists. "Hey!" she protested, wriggling helplessly in midair. "Put me down!"
He obliged by dropping her straight into the seat of her chair. Instinctively, her hands went to the arms of the chair to catch herself. Rattlesnake fast, the Batman lashed out with a set of cuffs and pinned them together.
"You're such a jerk," Sorrow muttered. "How'd you know I was going to be here, anyway?" Her eyes narrowed with pure fury. "Diego," she hissed. "He told you. That's why he wanted to come here." He'd been so upset when he found that stupid suicide note and he hadn't talked to her all the way back home. He must have thought she still wanted to kill herself, particularly when she'd said all that stuff about hope...the idiot.
Batman disappeared behind her and wheeled her down the path to the park's exit. As they turned the corner, they could see a police van with a slowly flashing set of lights parked outside. Sorrow wasn't watching the lights, or the cops waiting outside dressed uncomfortably in full biohazard gear.
No, she was picturing that little rat Diego, and planning just what she was going to do to him for this. Arkham could only hold her so long. Once she had her legs back, she was going to tell him just what she thought of his concern for her well-being.
She was going to be awfully busy once she got back into Gotham, that was certain. It was going to be messy, and it was going to be exhausting.
It was also going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Author's Note: Teng's movie, which doesn't exist on film, is really the book 'The City Who Fought' by Anne McCaffrey.
Tune in next time for 'Reciprocity', or if you prefer some non-Sorrow stuff, 'Freak Accidents' is always available as well. Eddie and Jackie will return in a couple of weeks, if everything goes according to plan. Thanks for reading!