AN: Well, this is it. I'm starting on the sequel tomorrow, and should have it up either then or Wednesday, so keep a look out!
It's been an amazing journey, and I really never expected to get to forty chapters, given my chronic inability to finish things I write. Thanks to all of my reviewers for providing support and feedback, as well as my real life friends, for doing the same and forcing me to read the first reviews I was too afraid to click on. You all rock.
It wasn't like falling asleep; it was more as if a piece of Jonathan's memory had gone missing, like a segment cut out of a cassette tape. One minute he was screaming in agony, the Batman hovering over him, and the next he was lying back on a bed, bright fluorescent light overhead and the pain blissfully gone. He didn't bother to wonder how for a few minutes. Why question miracles? Besides, he realized after a moment's reflection, he didn't have to question it. He knew how.
He was back at Arkham.
The familiar scent of disinfectant gave it away, even before the visuals did. Though that wasn't too surprising, given that his glasses were off. Jonathan managed to raise his head. It wasn't painful, just tiring. His broken leg was lifted before him, casted, in traction. He couldn't feel it. He imagined it was the morphine; that would explain the drowsiness. He knew he should be concerned, be it about his injuries or more importantly, how Harley was at the moment, and he felt vaguely guilty about his nonchalance, but he just couldn't feel it. Maybe it was the drugs, or exhaustion from his injuries and life on the run. Whatever it was, no issue seemed pressing enough to hold his interest at the moment, so he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
Again, it wasn't so much like sleep as it was a black out. He supposed it was an effect of the morphine, or whatever else they had him on.
Coming to a second time, Jonathan felt a little more put together and took to examining his surroundings. From what he could make out, he was in the infirmary, which seemed to be otherwise unoccupied, besides a nurse on the opposite end of the room, flipping through a magazine. He couldn't tell what time of day it was, as he wasn't facing the windows.
Jonathan tried to sit up and came to the rather annoying realization that he was strapped to the bed. A standard precaution, he supposed, for a patient with a habit of breaking out, but he saw no sense in immobilizing his arms when one leg was in traction. How far could he possibly get in that state?
At least they seemed to have bandaged his hands again. And most of his body, from what he could feel. If it weren't for the straps, it would be comfortable. That, and the worry about Harley that seemed urgent now. The drugs must be wearing off.
The nurse, alerted by his movements, he guessed, stood and made her way toward him. Jonathan noted, in the few steps before she got too close for him to see clearly, that it was the same nurse who'd drugged him the night Joker had broken his arm. He vaguely recalled that she'd worked here when he was administrator, though her name escaped him.
"Are you all right, dear?"
"Why am I strapped to the bed?" he asked, trying to keep the irritation from his voice. Ridiculous as the situation was, alienating the one person he could question about his friend didn't seem wise. "It's not as if I'm going anywhere."
She shrugged, or at least he assumed she did. It was hard to make out the finer points of movement. He was starting to feel an ache over his body, a sure sign that the morphine was weakening. Jonathan tried not to show signs of it. The last thing he wanted was to be drugged before he could find anything out.
"Standard procedure with escapees," she said. "I'm sorry." Though she didn't sound sorry, her tone was more disapproving. Like a disappointed schoolteacher. "I have to say I can't understand why you'd break out in the first place. What's so appealing about living in the streets, Doctor?"
"I was kidnapped," he said, defensive. "If the Joker wanted to take you somewhere, would you say no?"
"I'd run for my life," she said, shaking her head.
"Well then, you'd end up dead instead of just injured," he pointed out, wondering why he'd answered her in the first place. As if he cared what some nurse thought about his reasoning. Besides, the pain was worsening, fast. There was no use in pointless banter. "Speaking of which, did the Batman have Dr. Quinzel and the Joker when he brought me in?"
"Batman didn't bring you in," she said, sounding surprised. "Your friends did."
"They left you at the front gates," she explained, pulling something from her pocket. From the sound, it seemed to be a piece of paper. "The guards couldn't get near them. The Joker was brandishing some sort of…I think they called it a makeshift chainsaw, or a battering ram? Or both. And they left this with you."
She unfolded the paper and held it to Jonathan's face.
"I can't read it," he said, after a moment's pause.
"Oh," she said, flustered. "Of course you can't. I'm sorry, dear, I'll get your glasses." She crossed the room back to the desk, shoes squeaking against the floor, and returned a moment later, sliding the frames onto his face.
The note was in Harley's handwriting, which he realized he'd never actually seen until now. She had thin, elegant penmanship that leaned backwards, managing to look graceful despite the fact that the note was written in what appeared to be strawberry-scented magic marker. Somehow, it didn't surprise him.
I'm really sorry about leaving you like this, and please don't think it's because I don't care. If we could, we'd keep you with us, but Mr. J says that you're too injured for us to treat you, and I'm sorry to say I think he's right. I suggested we hold up a hospital, make them bandage you up and then go on our way, but the Batman didn't lose that much blood and he'll be after us again soon, and if we wait too long to get you help the bones might not set right.
Mr. J wants you to know that he saw the whole fight and he's glad to see you've learned to lighten up. I didn't see all of it—spent a lot of time cowering with my eyes closed—but you're one of the bravest people I've ever met, and I'm proud to have a friend like you. Please don't feel that we're abandoning you. I love, Jonathan, and so does Mr. J, even if he isn't sure how to express it. This isn't goodbye, it's more of a see you later. I will see you again, and I'd write more, except Mr. J's about to turn off the paved roads and it's hard enough making this legible as it is.
Underneath that was scrawled a line of crude XOXOXOXOs, and he couldn't tell if the hand was the Joker's or Harley's, attempting to write once the truck had gone off the road. Neither had signed the letter, though there were two lipstick stains against the paper, one black, one red.
"So they got away," he said, mostly to himself. "Good for them."
The nurse clucked her tongue in disapproval, folding the letter back up. "Did you have any other questions, Doctor?"
She still called him doctor, he noted. Well, that raised his level of respect for her about a hundredfold. "Could I be drugged again, please?" he asked, giving over to the pain now that Harley's safety was assured.
The needle burned as it went in, the morphine cold and horribly unpleasant in the seconds he felt it race through his veins, but after those seconds it went mercifully black.
When he next awoke it was to find Isley and Nigma sitting at the foot of his bed, talking in low tones. Tetch was beside them, drawing on Jonathan's cast what appeared to be the Mad Hatter's tea party, from what he could make out.
Well, that meant it was daytime by now. Hopefully the night had passed without Harley being caught. He sat up, as much as he could with the restraints still in place, drawing the attention of his companions.
"Jonathan!" Isley's arms were around him at once, knocking Tetch out of the way as she dove toward him. Jonathan noted that being hugged while strapped to a bed felt rather awkward.
"Where do you come from and where are you going?" Tetch asked, sitting back up. Jonathan supposed it was his form of a greeting.
"Going nowhere, currently," he said, tilting his head toward the straps.
"We've missed you," Nigma said, briefly placing his hand over Jonathan's. "How are things in the outside world?"
He tried to shrug, then realized shrugging did not work when tied down, especially with a super villainess on top of him. "I didn't see much of it, honestly. We spent most of our time either attacking things or hiding from the Batman."
"We heard you fought him," Nigma said, sitting back down. Isley still hadn't moved. The pressure from her arms was almost painful, but not quite.
"Tried to, anyway. You can see how well that turned out."
"If you weren't seriously injured already, Jonathan," Isley said, finally leaning back. "I'd smack you again. What were you thinking, fighting him? Do you realize what a small person you are?"
"Am I?" he asked drily. "I hadn't noticed."
"Don't interrupt. He could throw you around like a rag doll if he wanted, stupid."
"Keep your temper," Tetch muttered, earning a light slap across the face for it.
"I didn't plan to fight him," Jonathan protested. "It just…happened. Besides, I had to do something. It's not as if I was going to leave Harley vulnerable."
Isley sighed, looked as if she were struggling not to roll her eyes, and ruffled his hair before moving back to the foot of the bed. She took Nigma's hand in hers as she did so, Jonathan noticed, trying not to smirk. He wondered when they'd admitted their feelings for each other. That was the bad thing about breaking out; he always missed the most interesting developments. "Look, Jonathan," Isley was saying, "it's really sweet of you, wanting to protect your friend, but promise me you won't do it again unless you have fear gas."
"Promise." He wondered if all redheads had the gift of becoming terrifying when the mood struck them, or if it was just her.
They spent the next half hour or so discussing the events after the breakout, both in the city and at Arkham, until visiting time was over and his friends were escorted out of the room, and Jonathan drugged again.
This time he awoke to find the Commissioner Gordon standing over him.
Well, that was unexpected. Were it not for the morphine, he expected he'd be absolutely bewildered. As things were, the situation was only mildly off-putting. "Can I help you?"
"Crane." He paused, looking unsure. Whether it was about what to say next, or the situation in general, Jonathan didn't know. "What do you know about the Joker's plans?"
He blinked. Was Gordon honestly expecting to get any answers of value from this conversation? He could see what Harley had meant about the futility of life reflected in this man, a cop trying to save the cesspool that was Gotham from itself, so desperate he'd looked to man dressed in a bat costume for help. The pointlessness of it all didn't strike him as funny, however. He wasn't the type to feel much sympathy, but in a way it was sad.
"The Joker doesn't make plans," he said. "Or, if he does, he never shared them with me."
"Nothing?" Gordon persisted, and though his voice stayed strong the eyes behind his glasses looked defeated, drained.
"All I know is what you know. He wants proof that Harvey Dent is alive and he will kill without discrimination until he gets it. If he's right, Commissioner, I'd suggest you give into his demands, spare a lot of lives."
The Commissioner glanced down, looking as if he was trying not to sigh. His composure slipped for a second, making him look less like the fearless leader of the GPD and more like a tired, aging man, pulled to the limit by a psychotic clown's sick games. And really, it was sad. Jonathan had nothing against the man personally, they'd have gotten along fine if it weren't for Gordon's attempts to keep him from poisoning people.
"He was planning to kill a school with chloride gas," Jonathan said, the words out of his mouth before he realized he was speaking. "At least, last we spoke. The Batman interrupted him on his way to get the necessary supplies, though, so I don't know if he'll still try it." He stopped, blinking, surprised at himself. Did I just cooperate with the law? Lovely. Harley would be happy to know that some of her therapy had taken effect. Or not, given her current state of mind.
Gordon looked as taken aback as he felt. "What school?"
"Hadn't decided. He was leaning towards an elementary, I think." He could not fathom why he was still talking. Was this sympathy? From him, of all people? Or maybe just a side effect of the drugs, that he could wrap his mind around.
The Commissioner nodded, composed once more. "Where are they staying?"
Ah, now there was the line he wouldn't cross, sympathy or not. Not if it meant Harley could be captured. "They'll have moved by now."
"Well, where were they staying, then?"
He gave his best attempt at a shrug.
"I'm not betraying Harley, sorry."
Gordon sighed, his expression a mixture of exasperation, disappointment, and something that might have been pity. "You're a psychiatrist. Don't you think it's better that your friend be treated than left cohabitating with a terrorist?"
"Yes," he said, honestly.
"Do you think your Bat friend is mentally stable?" he asked, trying to keep the scorn from his voice. "How can you, really? But you let him protect the streets for you, though I'm sure deep down you think he'd be better off in a place like this. That's how things are. I'm sorry, but I can't tell you."
Gordon's expression remained the same, but he nodded, resigned. "Well then, there's no point in carrying on this discussion. Thank you." He turned, headed toward the door, keeping the slump out of his shoulders despite his air of defeat, but stopped before stepping out. "Good luck." And then he disappeared into the hallway, out of sight.
Police commissioners and super villains feeling sympathy for each other, Jonathan thought wryly, laying back down. What has this world come to?
He was a much a prisoner as ever, strapped down in the asylum he hated so much, and bandaged near head to foot. His best friend was on the run with a homicidal maniac, risking arrest or a battle with the Batman at every moment, and maybe killing little children right now. His other friends were as captive as he was, and each mad in their own way. The situation should have been frustrating, but lying there, counting the ceiling tiles, everything seemed right with the world.
Good luck Harley, he thought, before drifting off. I'm sure you'll get caught, but I'll be here for you when you come back.