A/N: Yes, this has been edited again, this time with a post-epilogue preview of the coming sequel! Mostly it's the same, just with some tightening and editing where the writing was a bit weak before.

I'm trying to stay as true to Heath Ledger's Joker as I can because he was amazing.

I don't own the characters and the artwork belongs to to i-D Magazine


The Harlequin

Part 1: Dr. Quinzel

1.

Dr. Harleen Quinzel tapped her pen against her patient's chart as she read through the court psychiatrist's notes. Her blue eyes were troubled as she read through the list of sedatives currently being pumped through the the former Dr. Jonathan Crane's veins, and she released a low hum of disapproval, before looking up at her senior colleague, Dr. Blakely, who appeared memorized by the incessant drumming of her pen against Crane's chart.

Harley cleared her throat to get his attention. "Dr. Blakely," she said lightly. "What exactly is the purpose of keeping Crane in a near vegetative state?" She started clicking her pen open and shut in the pocket of her white lab coat as she awaited his response.

Blakely struggled to keep from rolling his eyes. Harley knew he despised these ethical discussions regarding treatment of the criminally insane, but that didn't stop her from continuously raising the point. "Jonathan Crane is a very dangerous man," he told her patiently. "I think it best if we keep him sedated for the time being, so he cannot cause any further damage to himself or others."

Harley clicked the pen shut, releasing it in her pocket. The drafty corridor they occupied was suddenly quiet aside from the usual screams of patients in the far corners of the asylum. The screaming was something you got used to the longer you worked at Arkham. She sighed and tucked Crane's chart under her arm. "Come on Neville, surely we should also be treating him for his condition?"

"I should think even you can see he's beyond the benefits of therapy," Blakely replied pointedly.

"He's so sedated we wouldn't be able to treat him if we were to try!" Harley scoffed.

Blakely threw his hands up at the younger woman. Harley was a remarkably bright young woman, and had quickly proven herself as a competent psychiatrist at Arkham in the year since she'd been hired. Her curling, honey-blonde hair, wide blue eyes, and heart heart-shaped face gave her an unthreatening quality that Blakely had quickly realized was deeply deceptive. Unlike some attractive women working in a male dominated field, Harley made no attempt to conceal or exploit her looks, normally wearing simple tailored trousers with a basic shirt under her lab coat, and flat leather shoes.

There was a strangeness about her that Blakely didn't quite trust... It was hard to put into words, but something about that doll-like face contrasting with the way she would sometimes grind her jaw or lash out at her colleagues sat badly with him. And he was frequently given the impression that despite what she claimed, she cared less about patient recovery, and more about exploring the destruction of the psyche to satisfy her own morbid curiosities.

In the time since Jonathan Crane had been locked up in his own asylum, a reformation of the institution had taken place under the new director, Dr. Murphy Walsh. He took a much more political approach to the treatment of inmates, allowing doctors to prescribe as many drugs as they deemed necessary.

Blakely, who very much approved of sticking to the book, followed this policy to the letter. However, despite ranking much higher than Harley after ten years at Arkham, he knew this was another battle she would inevitably win. Take Crane off the sedatives and get him to talk about his childhood.

"Fine," he mumbled, snatching the chart away from her and making some scribbled notes for the nurses. "He's all yours."

Harley beamed and pushed past Blakely towards the thick steel door graced only with a small rectangle window lined with bars. A sign reading J. CRANE 02118 hung on the wall to the right of the steel door and directly to its left stood a burly orderly who had been watching their exchange with vague interest. He glanced down at Harley's ID tag, acknowledging the orange stripe that afforded her access to Crane's cell, and swiftly moved out of the way so she could swipe herself in.

Crane was sitting on a dirty cot with his head in his hands. Upon hearing Harley and Blakely his head jerked then lolled upwards to face his doctors with a glassy yet striking blue gaze that contained both fury and disbelief - at least what he was capable of projecting with the muscles of his face straining to work against the sedatives.

"Good afternoon, Jonathan." Blakely moved directly into Crane's line of sight, speaking to him in a slow simple way as one would speak to a child or a dog. "This is Dr. Quinzel. She will be coming to see you every now and then for a little chat. Doesn't that sound nice?" Crane stared back at him hollowly.

Harley pushed past Blakely impatiently and held her hand out to Crane. "Hello Dr Crane, I'm Harley Quinzel," she said with a kind smile. "I don't believe we met while you were working here before."

Crane made an attempt to lift his hand towards her but it seemed the sedatives had other ideas, and it fell back in his lap.

Harley proceeded to sit down beside him on the cot, still allowing him a fair amount of personal space. Blakely tried not to let his frustration be seen - she was supposed to sit in the chair, not on the bed. Crane wasn't as dangerous as some - only level 3 - but he wasn't restrained and there wasn't an orderly in the room. Foolish girl, he thought bitterly. She was going to get herself hurt one of these days.

"I was hoping to speak with you about your psychopharmacological study of fear-inducing toxins," she continued enthusiastically. "I've read some of your files... what you discovered is absolutely fascinating."

Blakely nearly rolled his eyes. Of course she would use flattery on a diagnosed narcissist to get something out of him. He became further irritated when he realized Crane was falling for it, trying to draw himself up to his full height and managing to slur, "Which aspects?"

When they left the cell over an hour later, Blakely was unsure what to think about the session he had witnessed. He was unable to disassociate the feeling of anxiety from respect at Harley's ability to get Crane to talk. They strolled into the hallway and the orderly re-locked the heavy steel door with a loud, resounding clang, trapping Crane inside.

"That wasn't so bad," she grinned mischievously, and Blakely's stomach clenched with apprehension. He was getting to old for this job.

"Just what do you intend to do with all of that information about the nerve gas he was peddling?" he asked stiffly, "You know—"

Before he could finish the thought a nervous-looking nurse came skidding around the corner with several clipboards and folders bundled up in her arms. Her eyes were wide and frightened as she came rushing up to them.

"Oh good, I could do with a nurse," Harley said flippantly, and began scribbling in Crane's file. "We are changing Dr. Crane's treatment plan. We now need him on 10 milligrams ambian once nightly and two 5 milligrams of diaze—"

"I'm sorry to interrupt," the nurse pleaded, cutting Harley off. "Dr Blakely, we need your help in D Wing, Can you come with me now... please?"

Blakely glanced at Harley and could tell she was irritated at being ignored, but successfully keeping it to herself for a change. He took a step towards the nurse. "What do they need me for?" he asked her gently.

D Wing was the maximum security wing at Arkham, containing only the most brutal and psychotic patients in the institution. Generally, you had to do something pretty terrible to get in there, and only doctors with level five access were allowed to treat those patients. 'Treatment' being used very loosely in this case. D Wing patients were usually left straitjacketed on their own. No therapy. No drugs unless they tried something. Food slipped under the door three times a day and what could loosely be considered a "shower" once every three days.

They were left in D Wing to rot.

"What happened?" Harley asked, her pale forehead creasing with concern, though Blakely suspected she was trying to hide her excitement.

The nurse worried her lower lip. "They've just admitted the Joker," she told them uneasily. "He was sentenced last week. Criminally insane."

Blakely moaned aloud at this information. "Wonderful," he muttered to himself, shaking his head. Why couldn't they just send him to death row where he belongs?

"Dr Walsh was going to take on the case but the Joker managed to get out of his handcuffs and broke Dr Walsh's wrist while they were admitting him." She winced. "Then he just laughed. We need someone to admit him. He's been sedated but it doesn't seem to be doing much good..."

Blakely ran a hand through his thinning gray hair and sighed in resignation. "Alright, lets go take a look at him."

The nurse nodded and dumped the collection of police files, legal documents and court psychologists' notes into Blakely's waiting arms before leading them towards the dreaded D Wing.

"I don't know how he's still lucid after the dose of Haloperidol we gave him," the nurse continued, chattering over her shoulder. "There doesn't seem to be any affect at all!"

He wondered when this nurse would realize fear and frustration were the most unproductive ways to cope with criminals. They thrived off of it. Especially this one if he remembered the media's take on him correctly. A violent, psychotic terrorist who dressed up like a clown.

Harley was following them closely, and Blakely decided he didn't have the energy to argue with her about whether or not she would be joining him. He handed her half the files which she began flipping through eagerly.

They stepped into an elevator and Blakely read the court psychologist's assessment in a tired voice. "Has shown extreme signs of Anti-Social Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder..." he skimmed a few pages and continued, "Name, age, place of birth and exact number of victims unknown." He glanced over at Harley whose eyes were jumping around the documents in the police file she held with rapid enthusiasm.

The Joker's trial had only lasted a month while the courts tried to decide if he should be declared insane or sentenced to death row. Some were even calling for him to be sent to Guantanamo Bay after the destruction he'd wrought in Gotham.

The Batman was supposedly to blame for his capture, which was slightly at odds with the fact that Batman was also supposedly to blame for Harvey Dent's death. But people didn't bother to ask questions about this anomaly. The Joker was finally off the streets, and though the city mourned the loss of Harvey Dent, the future looked bright for Gotham.

The elevator came to a jarring halt at the highest tower of the asylum and the old doors creaked open to D Wing. Unlike the rest of the building, D Wing was remarkably silent. No screams came from the depths of the heavily padded and locked cells, and there were far more burly orderlies patrolled the hallways here than anywhere else in the building.

Harley forced Blakely to swap paperwork with her so she could get a look at the court psychologist's notes and began to read voraciously, her lips moving silently as she flipped the pages. "Higher than average intelligence is clear," she said, flipping to another page. "Frequent outbursts of physical and verbal violence though generally seems in control of his emotions." Another page. "Pathological untruthfulness also present, shown in conflicting recollections of childhood and later life events. Schizophrenia is possible - attention span is very short, easily distracted, et cetera - but not likely as patient displays a sense of humor regarding his ability to control and manipulate events during psychological evaluation sessions."

Harley looked at the nurse. "He sounds fascinating."

"He's terrifying," she retorted, eyes wide.

"That's exactly what he wants you to think," Harley replied dryly, doing very little to keep the patronizing tone out of her voice.

They advanced upon a heavily guarded session room with armed guards posted on either side of the entrance; their arms crossed, their feet planted, they were staring dedicatedly ahead. Former military, Blakely guessed.

The asylum director, Walsh, stood nearby speaking with an orderly in harsh tones while he cradled his wrist to his chest. Walsh was a small, piggish man with a receding hairline and a short temper. He wore round wire framed glasses, sneered a lot, and always stank of antiseptic and sweat.

"If we give him a higher dose it could stop his heart and I don't want that on my hands," Walsh snapped at the orderly, spotting Harley and Blakely. "Hello Neville, Harley." He nodded briefly in their direction.

"I thought he broke your wrist," Harley asked, indicating the arm the director held to his chest. "Shouldn't you go to the infirmary?"

"Not broken, sprained perhaps," Walsh sighed melodramatically. "You've read the file and you've seen the papers so you know what we've got here. He doesn't want to talk to me, something he made abundantly clear after nearly ripping my arm out of socket. Dr Corrigan has already already said she wants nothing to do with him, so that leaves you, Neville." he cocked a finger at Blakely. "As the only one qualified to speak to this nutcase." Walsh looked at Harley, "And what about you Harley, what can I do for you?"

She raised her chin defiantly, "I want to work with him."

Walsh laughed shortly and pushed his glasses up his nose, "Sure," he said, giving her a pat on the shoulder. "We'll just see if Blakely's more experienced approach will work first. Then we can try yours. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really should go to the infirmary." Walsh turned on his heel with the nurse scampering after him.

Blakely heard Harley exhale loudly through her nose and offered her a weak shrug. "Shall we go see him?"

She raised an eyebrow, glaring at him. "I thought I wasn't qualified."

"Look, I'm doing you a favor," he sighed, his patience growing thin. "You want to see him? You come in with me and watch. But do not say a word to him."

She mumbled her acquiescence and they returned to the heavily guarded session room. One of the burly orderlies explained that they would be watching through CCTV, and if anything went wrong they'd immediately enter the cell and sedate the patient. Blakely nodded, agreeing to this while Harley stood unusually silent at his side... silent, but he could almost feel her vibrating with excitement.

The orderly swiped a key card against the lock and typed in a code. There was a loud buzz and three heavy bolts slammed back, allowing the door to swing open.

The room, technically a room for therapy though none of the maximum security prisoners received it, was bathed in blinding fluorescent lights that reached every corner. It was furnished only with table and two chairs, all bolted to the floor. In the chair usually occupied by the psychologist, a man sat hunched with his back to them. Over gray, Arkham-issue scrubs he was restrained by a straight jacket; matted, dark blonde hair with a green tinge at the tips curled over the jacket's collar. He was humming happily to himself, ignoring their entrance.

"Hello," Blakely cordially greeted the man who styled himself as the Joker, circumnavigating the table to take the other seat with Harley following close behind, nearly stepping on his heels. He shot her a look before he sat down, focusing on stacking the files instead of looking straight at the Joker. Over thirty years he'd been working with the criminally insane, and he had yet to let a patient truly get to him.

"Hello," the Joker purred, his syrupy voice sending a chill through the room.

Blakely could tell Harley felt it too - she became very still, as if she were holding her breath. He glanced at her again and saw she was gazing openly at the Joker across the table, her blue eyes wide and alert as she observed him, drinking him in.

Frowning, Blakely shifted his gaze to his patient, and was startled to find the Joker staring back at him intently, head cocked to the side as he simply watched.

Without his face painted, the Joker was a different creature from what had been shown TV and in the papers. The paint turned him into a ghoul, a mask not meant to shield him, but a tool to frighten with it's dramatic blacks and reds, bringing the troupe of the horrific clown to life. Blakely had been counting on the man behind the paint losing some of that horrific other-worldliness when he was scrubbed clean - but it was not so. In the clown's place was a young creature with keen, intensely intelligent eyes, each blink reminding you of the horrors he was capable without saying a word.

The Joker's lips twitched into a smirk.

Unnerved, Blakely turned to look at Harley to see if she was faring any better than he was. She was still staring, her eyes huge and her lips parted slightly. There was something more than fear there that he couldn't quite describe. Something entirely more dangerous.


A/N: Reviews very welcome - especially if you read the original version.