He paced restlessly, his eyes darting about the hangar, watching every one of his guys' moves like a cornered animal. He could kill a man without even bothering about the consequences. He could patiently wait for a bomb to explode, or for the police to show up. He could even take a beating from Batman and laugh his head off in the process. Nothing was torture to him…
…except waiting for Shadow to return. That seems to be the one thing he couldn't take.
The Joker jumped as one of his men dropped a heavy box of tools, and he spun and shot the man dead before even realizing what he was doing. His face was stoical as he turned around again and headed for the stairs to the catwalk, but inside his head, his thoughts and worries for Shadow's safety were whirling restlessly.
It hit him without warning. He fell forward, collapsing at the top of the stairs. Black explosions went off under his eyelids as his head connected with the metal catwalk. Convulsions stole his control, making him thrash wildly. A burning tide of vomit surged up his throat, filling his sinuses, his nose, his mouth…he heaved, choking on the vomit as it escaped him.
It was worse than taking medication in Arkham Asylum. He flopped onto his back, and involuntarily, his back arched, his rips creaking painfully.
"Boss!" Someone grabbed him under the arms and dragged him off the stairs and onto the catwalk. The Joker gasped, his throat constricting like someone was choking him. He moved a hand, grabbing onto his henchman's jacket but suddenly turned as he heaved, red vomit bursting from his mouth.
His henchman pushed him onto his side, and he fought him, bringing his hands up. "No, boss, it's me, Bleak!"
The convulsions hit again, and as his muscles flexed, he slammed his head down on the catwalk, causing darkness to take him.
It seemed like mere moments.
The Joker opened his eyes, groaning with the remnants of the pain. It had been from the inside out, something he couldn't just laugh off.
He was sitting, propped up against a wall, near the door on the catwalk. Moaning, he forced himself to a kneeling position and then pushed himself to a standing position, leaning against the wall for support. From that vantage point, he could see down to the ground floor, where his henchmen seemed to be scattered below, some holding bars while the others had raised fists.
The Joker moved toward the railing, gripping it to support himself, squinting down at his guys, not comprehending.
Then, a black form moved from under the catwalk and knocked down two of his guys in one hit. As the form proceeded to the next man, the Joker blinked with surprise. Batman was here!
Any other time, this would have excited him, would have caused him to run down there and jump into the battle, to face-off with his archrival…
The Joker collapsed to his knees, his muscles involuntarily giving up. What was going on? He growled as he gripped the railing with both hands, willing his legs to move. Slowly, and shakily, he came to his feet and turned for the stairs. The simple movement brought on a wave of nausea, and the hangar spun.
He was only aware of the falling sensation, and then, as his vision went black, he heard something hitting the metal stairs, falling and falling down them. He came to, lying on the ground at the bottom of the steps.
His body hurt all over, but he forced himself to his feet, staggering sideways and falling to the ground.
"No, boss!" The Joker pushed himself to his feet again, ignoring Bleak's yell. He stumbled a number of times as he headed in his henchmen's direction, where Batman would be. Batman knocked out the last of his men and turned to face him, ready to fight.
But the Joker didn't make it.
His body failed him, unable to hold his weight and to keep moving. He simply crumpled, landing on his side and then rolling onto his back. Spasms racked throughout his body. Liquid surged into his throat again, and he choked on it, aspirating the burning liquid. The tiny black explosions came back, and he tried turning his head against the spasms, but couldn't.
Then, abruptly, someone turned him over onto his side, and the liquid came out. The Joker coughed on it and then opened his eyes as he gasped for breath. The liquid that could have killed him was his own blood…
"Batman, step away from him!" The Joker wheezed as he looked up painfully, spotting Bleak as he pointed a gun over him. "He's not well. He'll go back to Arkham!" Bleak said. "I can hear the police sirens now. He needs an ambulance, not a-."
"Shadow," the Joker coughed suddenly. His eyes widened as he spotted her across the hangar. There was something different about her; she looked…see-through, melted into the shadows but he could still see her outline. She wasn't looking at him.
His hand twitched, and breathing heavily, he moved his arm, reaching in her direction. But a black gloved hand grabbed his wrist, stopping him. The Joker frowned as he slid his tongue over his lower lip, tasting a mixture of blood and vomit.
"I told you to step away from him!" Bleak yelled.
"Shadow…I shouldn't have let you go…" he whispered, his voice cracking. She wasn't solid; he could tell. That could only mean one thing…and it hurt. "I'm…sorry. I wasn't…there." He closed his eyes tightly, feeling a lump form in his throat, but he wasn't going to free it. Instead, he would find whoever had done this to her.
The police sirens were echoing inside the hangar, but the Joker didn't care. He gave no reaction as two EMTs heaved him off the floor and onto a stretcher. With cold fury burning in his chest, the Joker left the conscious world, giving into a darkness where no feeling existed.
Drifting…simply drifting. Lost in a world of whiteness. A dull pain throbbed in the head. An ache in the chest. No breath taken in. Nothing moved.
A shock ran through her, causing her to jump on the table, but still she rested without taking a breath.
Oxygen forced into her. The charge recharged. Yet another shock.
The heart monitor jumped with her, but didn't keep.
The annoying beeping from a heart monitor awoke him, but he didn't move. They were strapping him down to the table, preparing for him to remain still so that he didn't hurt himself, or anyone else. His head hurt – when had he hit it? – pounding painfully until a liquid was poured onto it, causing the pain to sharpen.
Unwillingly, he stiffened, pushing against his restraints as he sucked in air sharply through his clenched teeth. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, trying to block out the pain, but it only hurt more when someone wiped the liquid and blood from his head. The right side of his face felt stiff, hard to move because of the layer of dried blood on it.
"With a wound like this, someone would be dead already," one voice said, probably an EMT.
"I hope he'll be paralyzed on his left side," another voice said, the other EMT. "One less criminal to deal with. Maybe they'll be able to keep him in Arkham for good!"
"I'll have none of that," a familiar voice snapped. "He's criminally insane. The Joker will die when he has to, or if he escapes again, and the order happens to be to get him either way."
The Joker opened his eyes slowly to adjust to the bright light he knew that would be waiting for him. He narrowed them as one of the EMT flashed a flashlight over his eyes, checking his response. "Dilating response is quite rapid for a normal person," the EMT remarked.
The other EMT probed the Joker's head wound gently. "No reaction to touch," he reported, "I don't know if he feels-." He cut himself off as the Joker's right hand twitched. The EMT looked confused. "Isn't it supposed to be his left?"
There was a shift as the EMT touched the Joker's left temple. The criminal mastermind gave no reaction.
"Breathing's normal," the other EMT reported. He pressed his gloved fingers against the Joker's throat for a few seconds. "Pulse is slightly faster than the norm." He went down the list. "Any more reactions?"
"His foot twitches every once in awhile," the familiar voice said. The Joker tried to place it and recognized it as the Commissioner's voice. "Can a hit to the head cause that?"
"Might be nerves," one EMT answered.
Someone entered the room, and the Joker saw a cream-colored folder being passed over his head. "This is all that Arkham has on his physical conditions."
"I wonder how he got out of that place," the other EMT mumbled.
The Joker blinked, feeling his eyes tear from the bright light. He looked away from it, shutting his eyes and then an involuntary groan escaped him.
"Hey, he's awake!"
"No need to, ah, to yell," the Joker mumbled, irritated.
"Joker." The Joker turned his head again, this time looking at the Commissioner with a hard look. The Commissioner didn't back down. "Don't cause any trouble."
The Joker scoffed and looked away, straining against his restraints as one of the EMTs started cleaning his head wound again.
He tried to remember what had happened, but no recent memory came to mind. He flinched under the painful sting from the EMT working on his head, but made no sound. Focusing again, he backtracked to when he had woken up beside Shadow. From there, as much as he wanted to linger, he pushed forward, gradually remembering various details of discovering that Peter and Hawkins were gone. Shadow had gone after them…and had never come back.
"Ya know, I kinda feel bad for the woman," one of the EMTs said.
The Joker had closed his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. The EMTs must have thought he had fallen unconscious again, especially since he wasn't reacting farther to the stinging that had simply turned numb.
"Yeah, Hawkins called, and they found her handcuffed to an arcade game and a metal bat beside her. Someone had given her a good whack with it."
"I'm just surprised she's still alive."
"Barely, is what I heard."
The Joker's hand slowly curled, unnoticed by the EMTs.
"I doubt she'll survive the night, honestly. Her skull must've broken, caved in."
Red lights burst behind the Joker's closed eyes, and he felt his heartbeat quicken.
He forgot that they had linked him up with a heart monitor. The monitor's beeping sped up, matching the beat of his heart, instantly alerting the EMTs.
To keep himself from losing it, the Joker focused his energy in his hands, clenching and unclenching them, turning them into fists and tightening them until he started trembling.
"Whoa, this guy's-." The heart monitor's beeping continued to quicken until it was almost constant.
As fast as it had come, the Joker relaxed, slipping into semi-consciousness.
"-Had to have been some kind of spasm," one of the EMTs explained.
"Any idea what might have caused it?" Gordon's voice echoed.
"We thought he was unconscious, but we think he heard us talking about the, um, the woman he was with. Like he was having a panic attack over what we said about her condition."
There was an uncomfortable silence, and then, the Commissioner asked, "Is he conscious?"
The Joker opened his eyes and turned his head, looking directly at the Commissioner. His eyes stung, but he kept them on Gordon as the man pulled up a chair next to him. He licked his lips, finding them dry, before he said, "You don't…know what condition she's in?"
"Your…friend, as far as I know, is in intensive care," Gordon said.
"I can't tell you."
"I need to know!" the Joker shouted, suddenly before breaking off into a fit of coughing. It hurt as he turned his head away, spitting out bloody phlegm.
More oxygen, more recharging, yet another shock.
The beeping sound came back on the heart monitor, and even though it started out slow, it had started and would keep for the time being. The woman still lay on the table, motionless, but slightly, her chest was rising and falling, enough to give her oxygen on her own.
Still, they watched over her, just to be sure that her heart didn't stop again. She had a twenty-four percent chance of living when they had found her in the arcade. When they had brought her to the emergency room, she had twelve.
Now, as she laid motionless on the table, even when her heart had started beating again, though slowly, she still had a low chance of survival…
…four percent, to be exact.
He had waited until after the EMTs had cleaned his mysterious head wound – one that an EMT had said was almost identical to the woman's – and stitched it up. He had waited until they had taken his restraints off. He had waited until they had searched him and taken his knives and jacket from him, leaving him with nothing that would help him escape. He had waited until they had started to lead them to his holding cell for the night before he made his attempt.
The Joker threw himself at the Commissioner, but the EMTs pulled him off easily as he couldn't get a firm hold on the older man. He screamed as he was dragged to his holding cell, demanding that Gordon tell him where they were keeping Shadow. Even when a few cops came to help hold him off, he was angry and had a burst of adrenaline keeping him going.
They tossed him into the holding cell, and only then did he quiet down. He sat down on the metal bench, waiting for all the cops to leave the room before he leaned back, resting his head against the bars. A few of the lights shut off for the night. Minutes ticked by.
Then, three cops hurried into the room, struggling with a young man. The Joker watched with little interest as the cops shoved the young man into the holding cell across from him. "Now get in there and be quiet," one of the cops ordered.
"You're not the boss of me!" the young man yelled, and the Joker recognized the voice. The young man huffed and sat down on his own metal bench, glaring at the cops until they had left the room.
"Ever been caught-ah by the cops before, Bleak?" the Joker asked.
The young man started and then stood up, moving toward the bars, clenching them with his hands. "Boss? Is that you?" he asked.
"I told you-."
"I don't care what you told me, Bleak," the Joker snapped.
"You wanted yourself caught? Again? You were supposed to escape and get Shadow!"
The Joker narrowed his eyes but didn't say anything.
Bleak calmed down and said, "Did you hear about her?"
He hung his head. "Yes," the Joker said, his voice quiet. "I don't think she'll survive…" He lifted his head and looked directly across to Bleak. "But in case she does, I know there's only two places they can put her once she's out of the hospital…"
"Blackgate Penitentiary or Arkham Asylum," Bleak said, knowingly. "It's guarantee that I'm going to Blackgate, and you to Arkham. Whenever she appears, one of us should try to contact her."
The Joker nodded and then slipped off the bench to lie down on the ground, placing his hands behind his head. In spite of his inner turmoil, a smirk stretched across his scarred mouth. "Arkham…it's going to be a par-ty when I return."
She was breathing easier, at the normal speed for one who was unconscious. The doctors had cleaned her up, but she still wasn't in good shape. Stitches, bandages. Her right leg had popped out at the knee. Hands were cut badly, the left was a mess. Blood, cuts, bruises…the worst was her head; her head was bandaged heavily.
The hit with the metal bat had done major damage. The skull was broken and bruised. Her brain was damaged, where the memory was kept. They believed that when she came to – if she came to – she wouldn't remember anything that happened in the past few months. She'd be kept in intensive care for months, allowing her body to heal before they decided where she would go after that.
Dressed in Arkham's color of light blue with his hands cuffed to a thick belt around his waist and with a chain around his ankles, the Joker was led toward his room. The guard slid his ID card through the slot. The door clicked, and the guard pulled it open.
"Ah, my home sweet-ah home," the Joker exclaimed, widening his eyes with mock wonder.
"Yeah, yeah, get in there," the guard said, giving the Joker a shove in the back.
The Joker allowed himself to be pushed into the room, and he half-turned back to the guard. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you again," he said with a grin.
The guard flashed him a grin back and then scowled before slamming the door shut.
The Joker laughed as he bounded toward his cot, jumping onto it and then dropping. He seated himself and pulled his legs up like a little kid, looking about the room and inhaling sharply. He sighed, throwing his arms out wide, or as wide as he could with his hands still cuffed to the belt. "Oh how I missed this place!"
It was amazing! Incredible! Unbelievable!
Even with only four percent chance at survival, the woman pulled through. The doctors couldn't explain it better than with "It's a miracle!" Strangely enough, she seemed to be healing quite rapidly. Within a month, the only damage that showed was her head wound.
She was conscious when her lawyer came in to talk with her about how he would defend her case. The confusion was evident in her eyes; the brain damage hadn't healed and probably wouldn't ever. Her lawyer said it was possible for her to avoid Blackgate because there had been a witness at the scene. Even though she asked politely, the lawyer wouldn't tell her who her witness was.
The trial took place a week later. The woman appeared to be acting normal, with only a bad tremor to her hands that rested in her lap. She clenched and unclenched them, paying perfect attention to the District Attorney as he took the court how dangerous she was, how she knew what she was doing, and why she should be going to Blackgate.
The woman asked her lawyer for a rubber band, and her lawyer looked at her questioningly. "It's just something to play with," she replied. She lifted her trembling hands and explained, "I feel better when I have something to do with my hands. I promise not to shot someone with it."
Her lawyer consented and handed her a rubber band, which she immediately started weaving her fingers in. The shaking seemed to vanish completely as she busied her hands, her attention still focused on the D.A.
It took two hours. Her lawyer got up and told the jury of her story, given by an eyewitness. The woman looked down as the witness was called; she didn't want to see him. Her lawyer also provided information about her having some kind of special power, like the other criminals who weren't insane. He rambled off two names: Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze.
He only spoke for thirty minutes, after the D.A. had spoken for an hour. The last thirty minutes was left to the jury to decide her fate, in which they came back and said, all though she was clearly sane, because of her special ability, she would go to Arkham Asylum.
There was a knock on the door, and the Joker giggled softly. "Come in," he said in a sing-song voice.
Two guards waited just outside the door. "C'mon, clown, time for you to meet your doctor."
"I'm excited," the Joker said, rolling his eyes. He walked out and held out his wrists, allowing one of the guards to handcuff him. They led him down the hallways of Arkham.
The Joker and his guards passed another patient with a guard. The Joker did a double-take as he realized that the patient had what looked like a black bag over their head. His eyes wandered the body shape, and a grin appeared on his face.
"So you are here," he murmured.
"What was that?" one of his guards asked.
"Oh, nothing, just talking to, ah, to myself."
The guards brought him into the interview room. He sat down at the table, and the guards removed his handcuffs, putting his wrists in restraints connected to the metal table that was bolted to the floor. The Joker watched them pull it tight, and he licked his lips as the door opened to reveal his doctor.
"Oh, Doctor Quinzel!" the Joker exclaimed, happily. "Aren't I glad to see you?"
She smiled as she seated herself across from him. "Are you?" she asked, and he winked. "How are you feeling today, Mr. J?" Harleen asked.
The Joker grinned widely. "I'm feelin' great-ah. What about you, Doc?"
"I'm well. Back to you. Why is it that you're feeling good?"
"I said 'great', not-ah 'good'."
"My mistake. What makes you feel great this morning? A change in the routine? A sudden thought?"
The Joker looked off to the side. "I just-ah confirmed something that's been on my mind since I came back here." He narrowed his eyes, knowing that behind the walls, other doctors were watching him. He could just imagine them shifting their feet uneasily.
He shrugged as he leaned back. "If you want me to tell you, you'll have to try harder."
She smiled as she leaned forward, clasping her hands and placing them on the table. The Joker licked his lips quickly, turning his head to give her a sidelook. It didn't matter to him. He wasn't going to tell her, not everything at least.
He was happy for one reason, not for her, but for the one he thought he had lost, permanently. It made him content that Shadow had been sent to Arkham Asylum, with him, rather than to Blackgate.
Oh, boy, did it make him happy!
Lordlink13: So, that's the end of "Joker's Shadow". Who liked it? Who hated it? I wouldn't know, that's your job to decide. And obviously, I left the story had an evil cliffhanger. Will I continue the story in a sequel? Maybe, maybe not. It seems to me to be a good place to end it all, to leave the Joker and Shadow in Arkham Asylum rather than…what? You don't like that idea. Who said you were in charge? I'm the writer, not you…but isn't it part of the writer's duty to make the readers happy? Boy, don't I fail at that? Fine, if you beg me, I'll write a sequel, but only if you get down on your knees and bark like a dog!
Don't know when, but look for "Shadow's City". *hint hint*