AN: This story occurs a few weeks after the events of TDK; just long enough for the Joker's attorney to plead insanity and have him sent to Arkham for evaluation. As mentioned in the ending author's notes of my last story, it does not follow the continuity of my other fan fiction series.
This fic is about the Joker's first experiences in Arkham, which is not a happy place, hence the M rating. If you are offended by language, violence, depictions of physical/sexual/emotional abuse, or otherwise disturbing imagery, this won't be your cup of tea.
Reviews are always appreciated, and thanks to all readers.
"I can't control myself because I don't know how,
And they love me for it, honestly, I'll be here for a while."
—"Blood," My Chemical Romance
There was blood on his face and it wasn't his own.
The Joker licked his lips; the flavor still strongly metallic despite the blood drying hours ago. Gotham's finest had likely violated some health regulation by leaving it there—silly little rules taking all the excitement out of life—but then, considering that getting too close to him had caused this particular incident, it only made perfectly boring sense not to risk it again. As for himself, he was far more bothered by the lack of his characteristic greasepaint than any chance of developing AIDS.
Though that might be for the best, considering that the lacerations on face from his last encounter with the Bat had become infected. The pain didn't bother him, but he could have done without the smell, and he doubted the makeup would have done much in the way of disease prevention.
Ahead of him, the administrator—Jeremiah Arkham, he'd called himself—was doing a spectacular job of displaying all mannerisms of a shouting fit without raising his voice. "He should have been here hours ago."
"We've been cleaning up this mess for hours; the incident reports took more than—"
"Everyone who was expecting to deal with him is already gone—"
A smirk spread across the Joker's features as he walked—easier said than done, tight as the ankle fetters were—zoning out the bickering. The first time he'd even stepped foot inside this place, and the administrator was seconds from an aneurysm. True, that was most anyone's reaction to his presence, but the laughs at County had been few and far between, and the Joker was willing to take what he could get right now. There was plenty of time to introduce his own brand of comedy—at least ninety days, and longer if they found him a few French fries short of a Happy Meal—and he figured the delivery would be best if he didn't start while septic.
Jumping Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, were they still going at it?
"—don't appreciate how much we've had to deal with ever since Loeb's funeral—"
"And you don't realize how things have been here since word got out that Crane had—"
Aren't I supposed to be the center of attention here? He'd barely been offered a "welcome to Arkham" before they'd turned their focus to bitching at each other. Whatever. They were too busy playing "More Persecuted than Thou," and he wasn't about to waste quality comedic material on the behemoth orderlies to his sides and back. They looked about as thick as the walls.
And speaking of the walls, apparently Arkham's funding was not going to its design budget. Why was it that every hospital in the world went with painted cinderblocks? It was never an interesting color, either, always light and faded as if they'd diluted the paint to avoid buying more. Arkham had chosen the old standby of off-white, dirtied by age and God knows what else, which trumped piss-yellow—though that would go nicely with the odor—but suggested a bleak mindset with its presence alone. At least cabbage green or faded salmon offered some variety.
"If he was careless enough," Arkham continued, rounding the corner, "to lose his fingers, then that shouldn't be made into our problem—"
"Finger," the Joker corrected, following them through the doorway to the infirmary, judging by the number of beds. "It was only one finger. And he didn't lose it; they handed it right back after I, uh, spat it out."
There was a moment in which everyone turned that cabbage-y color he'd been thinking of. And they say honesty's the best policy. Really, if the good doctor insisted on whining like a three year old with a dropped ice cream cone, he ought to get the facts straight.
Nobody said anything, averting their eyes as they recovered from the brink of vomiting, or pants-wetting, or any of the other fun things the human body did when scared shitless—there was another—until a nurse with an unfortunate dye job stepped out from behind her desk, clutching her clipboard against her chest as if that would defend her from senseless violence or kinky clown molestations. Dr. Arkham took that moment to mutter "I'll let you get started, then," as he all but fled the room, the cop on his heels the minute the cuffs and leg irons were back in his hands, without a glance back. That's taking pride in a job, right there. Between this and the finger-biting incident, the Joker was beginning to lose his faith in Gotham's boys in blue.
True, they'd never demonstrated competence during his reign of chaos either, but he'd been willing to give that the benefit of the doubt. Running off like a scared little girl, though, that was unforgivable. He hadn't even bothered to say goodbye, unless he'd spoken at a pitch only audible to dogs. And as the Joker hadn't seen him taking shots off a helium tank any time in the past few minutes, that was unlikely. So that's the thanks I get for making their jobs exciting. People could be so ungrateful.
The remaining orderlies had hold of his hands, swapping the cuffs for a wrist belt as the nurse watched, silent. It allowed for movement of his elbows and shoulders, and left his legs entirely free. He considered kicking out of principle—it would be irrational of them to get angry at constructive criticism—but opted against it, letting them stew in their own discomfort until someone was forced to speak. The Joker instead took the time to survey his surroundings. The walls here, to his displeasure, were that charming shade of piss. Two exam tables, both with curtains to pull around, and one for women's health, judging by the stirrups. The walls were lined with cabinets, some with biohazard warnings and some without, all with locks. There were around fifteen beds, or maybe closer to twenty, in two rows, one along the east wall and one down the center. Two of the beds were occupied.
His fellow patients were sleeping. Either drugged, or he'd delayed the transfer far longer than he'd thought. The one at the far end of the centered row, by the nurse's desk, was a woman, brunette and sick with something, judging by her labored breathing and the blankets pulled up to her chin. The other lay facing away from him in the middle bed along the wall. The Joker's guess was another girl, given the slender frame, but with the short hair—like a pixie cut done with safety scissors and grown out a bit—and the way the patient was facing the opposite wall, it could go either way.
"What happened to your face?"
The Joker turned to find the nurse staring at him, color draining from her face as their eyes met. He tried for a smile, though, going by her reaction, he might as well have bared his teeth. The blood across his chin probably wasn't helping matters. "You wanna know about the scars?"
"No, that's—I didn't—"
"See, I had a friend. My best friend." He found himself unable to gesture in the wrist belt, apart from shrugging. That's not happy-making. It was less effective than a straitjacket and far less stylish, so why did they use it? More comfortable, maybe, less interruption of blood flow, which made it all the more annoying. The discomfort would have been fun. "Blonde, like you, except her roots weren't as obvious. Now, she had a boyfriend. A jealous one, the type of psycho who'd, uh, whip out a switchblade to intimidate people whenever a conversation wasn't going his way. One day, he gets drunk—"
"I meant the cuts." Spoken so quickly it might as well have been one word. She was hiding behind the clipboard again. "The ones above the—the scars."
His eye twitched. The Joker was lenient toward most faux pas—arson, murder, jaywalking—but interrupting one of his stories was just rude, with the sole exception of the time Batman did it. Still, there was no sense in getting off on the wrong foot, so he resolved to let it slide, for the time being. "Oh. Those. I, uh, took the grime off the floor of the jail cell and rubbed it in."
She looked dumbstruck as a pistol-whipped cow.
"They're mine." As great a part of him as the smile etched in his face, and no one was going to take that away, even if they were inflamed and oozing pus. The last person who'd tried to clean them had lost a finger, after all.
Blondie, as he'd decided to call her as long as her nametag was obscured by the board, stared a bit more before scribbling something down. "He has to sleep here tonight."
Oh, so the orderlies did have the capacity for speech.
"He needs penicillin." She paused, pointing at his cheek with her pen; resumed writing. "Dr. Brandt has to prescribe it, and I can't release him until it's treated. Health risk. Here, bring him over."
Blondie was calmer in her element, he noted, as the orderlies grabbed his arms and half-dragged him toward the nearest exam table. "Are we playing doctor? 'Cause I'd be more than happy to drop my pants."
Color—fluorescent pink, to be specific—came to her face for the first time as she moved toward the sink, while the orderlies lifted him onto the exam table that wasn't made for vaginal viewing.
"I can walk, ya know."
Blondie—who would henceforth be referred to as Linda, now that he could read her nametag—walked to the table, a damp washcloth in hand. "Those need to be cleaned."
Hell no. True, it was seeping, contaminated flesh, but it was his seeping, contaminated flesh. From his Bat. "It's a fashion statement."
"If you don't clean it out now, it will—"
"I like scars." He was all too aware of the orderlies flanking him, and his current, restraint-induced disadvantage. Still, he could kick, and that might be enough. It would have to be enough.
Linda had the audacity to sigh, as though he was being unreasonable. "It's going to scar."
The Joker, halfway through surreptitiously lifting a leg to give her a good kick in the ovaries, stilled, tongue darting across his lips. "Come again?"
"Look how far the infection's progressed." With the hand not holding the Washcloth of Destruction, she pointed at his cheekbone, directly under the eye, stopping right before she touched his skin. "Scarring is a given, at this point. But if it goes any farther, it could affect your vision, or become too widespread for us to stop."
He considered it. If she was lying, he could still wait for the infection to go, and aggravate the wounds again. And they'd be bandaged, concealed, so he might get away with it. A risk, but even he had to admit that blindness—or his face coming off, a la Harvey Dent—wasn't his idea of a good time, no matter how much fun it would be to frighten children with his exposed skull. He licked his lips again, nodded. "If you must."
Linda pressed the washcloth to his face, the water warm and, judging by its faint sting, mixed with salt. She had an orderly hold it in place, retrieving her clipboard. It occurred to the Joker that he'd yet to learn the orderlies' names either; deciding on Bobo, Snowflake, and Gargantua as she returned.
"Can you give me a name? For your file?"
"Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley."
Her pen, which had been poised at the ready, bobbed down to the clipboard only to come straight back up, like a sewing needle.
He smirked, the washcloth brushing his lips. They still hadn't wiped the blood off. "It's Joker."
She wrote something, though he had no idea if it was "Joker" or "uncooperative" or "Christopher Rupert Windemere Vandermere Karl Alexander François Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James." He liked to think it was "Christopher Rupert Windemere Vandermere Karl Alexander François Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James."
"Your date of birth?"
"August thirty-first, twelve."
Again, Linda started to write only to stop at once. "Twelve?"
A sigh. "Is there a history of any particular illness in your family?"
The Joker sucked on his scars from the inside of his mouth, giving it a moment's consideration. "Er…leprosy. And ,uh, sudden infant death syndrome, both of my parents had that. And eczema."
This time, she didn't bother to write. So much for trust.
"Have you had any surgeries?"
"Hemicorporectomy, a few years back."
"Are your vaccinations up to date?"
He smacked his lips. "Dunno. Do ya need Gardasil ever again after the third shot?"
Was it his imagination, or was a vein in her forehead pulsing? "Any allergies we should know about?" Linda's posture tightened, as though bracing herself. She hadn't written a thing down past the first question, to his knowledge.
"To food, or what?"
She met his eyes for the first time since the questioning started, doing a poor job of hiding surprise. "To anything."
"Ah. In that case, hydroxyethyl cellulose."
Linda did that stopping and starting thing again, giving him a confused glance.
"It's a, uh, thickener, like in makeup? Or K-Y Jelly. Or a lot of lubricants, actually." His tongue hit the washcloth as he licked his lips, and he wrinkled his nose before continuing. "That's how I found out, see. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find lube that doesn't—"
"Are you able to use a toilet without assistance?" Again, spoken as if it was all one word.
The Joker's mouth twitched. "Is this a medical exam or a fetish survey?"
"I'm going to assume that's a yes." She moved the pen with such force that he expected to hear paper tearing.
"You know what they say about assumptions—"
"Can you eat independently?"
"This is a fetish survey."
"Any difficultly chewing, or other dietary needs?"
He fell silent, now biting at the inward portion of the scars. The washcloth shifted against his skin with the movements of his cheeks, itching horribly.
She cleared her throat. "Is that—"
It wasn't clear if she'd had more questions, and his tone had frightened her out of asking, or if that was the end of the list. Either way, her next act was to shove a thermometer in his mouth—roughly, and if it had been glass instead of plastic, he'd have been tempted to bite down out of spite—and proceed with the majority of the examination while he was unable to speak. He was docile for the most part—to his amusement, the simple act of touching him had her visibly frightened, especially when she finally wiped the blood off—though he couldn't help but jerk when she touched the stethoscope to his skin. Did those things not work if they weren't freezing, or did medical professionals keep them that way for the fun of it?
Linda didn't share his temperature with him when the thermometer beeped, though she took a long time in writing it down. Given the infection, the Joker was fairly certain it was a low grade fever, and also fairly certain as to what the reason was in her delay. The medical exams for psychiatric institutions, if they were anything like the ones for prisons, had to be thorough, not just for the sake of the prisoner, but for the wellbeing of everyone they'd come into contact with. She'd been awkward enough taking his pulse.
"Help him down."
The Joker found himself standing, the washcloth still pressed against his face. It was cool now, though whether that was pus or just time at work, he couldn't be sure. He could be sure that Linda had examined his upper body when she'd raised his shirt for the stethoscope, but not—
"I'm going to need to remove your pants."
"That would be my pleasure." A pause. "And your privilege."
AN: Most fan fiction I read with the Joker in Arkham goes one of two ways: He's dragged in kicking and screaming, leaving a trail of blood in his struggles and shouting "You'll never take me alive!", or he finds the place to be a great vacation home when he needs a break from villainy. I love both story types, by the way, so don't take that as an insult. However, I thought it'd be interesting to see the Joker as ambivalent toward the institution the first time around, forming his opinion as he goes, and thus this fic was born.
The story and chapter titles come from the song in the quote, "Blood" (www. youtube. com/ watch?v=9CB4obgXtw4), which is actually the only My Chemical Romance song I've ever heard. I hesitated to put it as the opening quote, since, at least among my circle of friends, it's a polarizing band, and I didn't want to put off potential readers who weren't fans of the band. I ended up keeping it for two reasons: First, that I liked the whole quote better than the snippet that fit for a title, and second, because I've decided to give this fic a theme of quoting particular songs/poems/etc. that provide the inspiration for chapters. And also simply because I like the song. It reminds me of A Clockwork Orange for reasons I can't explain.
By the way, alternate titles for this fic as suggested by readers trying to decipher TDATNTAMS include "Tap Dancing Around Town Naked To Alfred's Magical Saxophone," from Lily Mae Ray, "The Dreadful Action 'Twas Never Told And Mentioned Since," by the anonymous "TDATNTAMS," and "Today Dent and Tetch Navigate Through Angry Mobs Silently," by AZ-Woodbomb.
The cuts on the Joker's face are the ones Batman gave him with the armor spikes at the end of TDK, if that wasn't clear.
Yes, I was referencing that Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley: www. youtube. com/ watch?v=lFZc3gyBEOA Much like I was referencing that His Royal Highness Christopher Rupert Windemere Vandermere Karl Alexander François Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James: www. youtube. com/ watch?v=teN77F3sAik The idea of the Joker watching musicals (and singing along to them) amuses me entirely too much.
August 31st, 12 AD is the birth date of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known as Caligula. I can never decide if it amuses or disturbs me that I share my birthday with him. A hemicorporectomy is a last resort medical procedure that amputates the entire lower half of the body, and Gardasil is a vaccination for women against some strains of HPV. Bobo, Snowflake, and Gargantua are all names of famous gorillas.
Again, reviews are always appreciated, and I promise this is the last time the author's note will be so massive.