A/N- Another long wait, right? Like I said, this story is on a weird rotational. Plus, with all the new things going on in my life, I sort of took an accidental break from everything. A super long break. But now I'm trying to get back into the swing of it, even signed up for some new LJ challenges. I hope you enjoy this one!
Chapter 18- Disturbia
Another cell, another crazy inmate. This one had been Nightwing's suggestion. And, much to the Scoobies relief, The Riddler was definitely the saner of Batman's collective Rogues' Gallery. Xander stood in the corner of the cell once again, but this time it was a little more than a restrictive space issue. His eyes were glued to Nightwing, and they were shining like he was an anime character in love. He had not spoken for a little while, and Willow generally thought that was best.
"You've seen Dawn, the orderly that the Joker kidnapped?" Nightwing asked, his eyes locked on Riddler's.
The villain, his own red hair slightly mussed, seemed unimpressed by the imposing figure. Willow's eyes flew between the vigilante and the villain, waiting with baited breath for the answer to Nightwing's question.
"Yes. Quite an intelligent young woman. You don't see that much anymore. Intelligence in the young. I liked her."
A sound like the rustling of some very heavy leaves took place behind Giles—who stood in the doorway of the cell—and all of the Scoobies turned. Xander let out a strangled squeak as the silhouetted, but unmistakable, forms of Batman and Robin appeared. Willow rolled her eyes, throwing up her hand in a tiny wave.
"Hi. Willow, Giles, Xander," she said, pointing to each in turn.
"I know," the Dark Knight said, his voice like polished gravel.
Xander squeaked again. Willow sighed as Batman maneuvered into the cell, stopping to tower over the seated Riddler.
"You said that you've seen her? Tell us everything you know about the days leading up to her kidnap."
Riddler shrugged. "Not much to tell, honestly. Not much to see in this dank, cramped little cell."
"What about when you got to go to the Rec Room? Did you see her there?" Robin, his voice just on the other side of puberty—unlike what Xander's sounded like at the moment.
Willow had always heard that Batman's companions tended to be young, but she had never thought them to be that young. Robin could only be fifteen, maybe sixteen, years old. Wasn't that like… child endangerment or something? Then again, when she thought about it, they had young slayers with them at HQ. But that was safer for them, since monsters just seem to be magnetized to slayers. Batman just had these kids out fighting maniacs like the one they were looking for now. Something about that had always seemed unfair, or not right, or something about that to the witch, but she brushed it off to focus on the task at hand.
"I saw her in passing. She gave me meals a couple of nights. But the Joker talked about her often. He asked all of us if we saw the… oh, what did he call her? Ah, yes, 'the glowing girl.'"
Batman's head cocked to the side, just a hint toward Willow. Willow nodded back, muttering only, "Explain later."
The Dark Knight pressed on. "What else?"
"She bothered the clown, young Miss Winters did. He was raving one day, about how she had tricked him. Lied to him or something like it. I knew then, Batman, that she was in the Joker's sights. I wonder… if she's even still alive."
"That's enough," Giles said, his voice gruff.
"Is that all?" Nightwing asked.
Riddler nodded. "Sorry, kids. This is the one riddle I'm afraid I'm not much good at solving. After all, I never knew why Joker called her 'glowing.'"
The group turned collectively, exiting the room single-file. But, just before Batman could leave, Nigma called out.
"I hope you save her, Batman. She was far too clever to lose to the clown."
Batman turned around, his only acknowledgement of those words, before he finally left the room, closing the door behind him. Giles straightened his glasses as the group began walking slowly up the stone corridor lined on either side with cell doors.
"That was most peculiar," Giles stated simply.
"I agree," Batman said.
"You all should have Riddler re-examined or something," Willow noted.
Nightwing raised a brow. "Why?"
"He couldn't see Dawn glowing."
"Wait," Robin said, pulling the group to a stop. "So this girl actually glows?"
"Only if you're crazy. Like, really, really, really off your rocker," Willow explained.
"Why?" Nightwing asked.
"Long story. She's a Key. A mystical one. That's the shortest version we have, I'm afraid," Giles answered.
"Doesn't really tell me much," Nightwing responded.
Giles, Willow, and Xander all shrugged. Suddenly, Xander threw up his hands, holding them up so that the group knew not to move another step quite yet. He shook them once, a grin dancing across his face.
"I'm sorry. I know this is totally inappropriate timing, but I gotta get it out. Freakin' Batman! It's Batman! I can't believe this! How awesome! I've met the freakin' Batman!"
"Xander!" Giles admonished.
"I know! I know! I've already said sorry!" Xander huffed.
There was a pause before Robin finally said, "O-kay. Moving on."
And they did that literally, coming to a stop at the end of the corridor now, where the villain known as Poison Ivy resided currently. The Scoobies turned to face the Batman crew head on, ready to give the explanations they all knew were desperately needed.
"The Key… tell us more," Batman said.
Behind him, Ivy was leaning a bit on her bed, trying to glance around at all the people congregated in front of her cell. She even threw a bit of a wink toward Xander, who Willow watched jump before focusing back on the group with him.
"Some time ago, a hell god was trying to get home. She needed the mystical energy known as the Key to get there. But getting her there would've destroyed us all. The monks guarding the Key gave it a human form and sent it to the slayer," Giles said. With a shrug, he added, "Dawn."
"The slayer?" Robin asked.
"I've heard of the slayer," Batman said. "It was in the government file I cracked."
"Oh, hey, they don't like us… but we're totally the good guys," Xander put in.
"I know the feeling," the Dark Knight replied.
"Okay," Nightwing groaned. "I guess you'll explain that slayer thing to me and Robin later, then, Batman. But that still doesn't mean we can automatically trust them. Everything about the girl we're trying to find was a lie."
"Not everything," Willow said, her ire rising. Nobody was going to insult Dawn when goddess-knew-what was happening to her right now. "She's a good kid who was just trying to help her sister. That's all."
"And we can trust Miss Rosenberg. Zatanna has mentioned her. Had a few rough patches," Batman said, eyeing her for a moment.
Willow giggled nervously. "Yeah… um. Yeah."
"But," the Bat concluded, "she can be trusted. Zatanna said she's one of the good ones."
"That still doesn't mean we can trust Dawn when we find her," Nightwing sneered.
That seemed a little personal. Willow and her collective friends raised their brows as Batman turned to his partner.
"Drop it. Now."
Nightwing said nothing, and another small pause happened. Finally, with a very kid-like grin on his face, Robin clapped his hands together once.
"Now that that's cleared up, we still have no idea where to start searching for Miss Summers at."
From behind them, Ivy laughed, and all eyes turned to her. She had a dreamy look on her face as she gazed back and forth from the group staring at her to the single plant she was allowed to have in her cell.
"The green girl," she said. She sighed happily as she added, "That's who you're talking about?"
"Do you know anything?" Giles asked.
"Not a thing," the plant-woman laughed.
Batman growled softly as they turned back to the problem at hand. Nightwing shook his head.
"Still nothing then."
"And Buffy is fading fast according to the slayer I spoke with a few moments ago," Giles added.
"Fading fast?" Robin asked.
Willow frowned, nodding. "Buffy was poisoned. That's why Dawn came here. It's a long story we really don't have time for, but Buffy is dying. And the only cure is the Joker's blood. We kind of need a couple of vials of it when we find him, by the way."
Batman smiled. And this time, Willow had to agree with Xander. It was kind of awesome.
"I don't have a problem with that."
Another bout of silence as the same, singular thought floated through everyone's mind. They still were at square one. Here they were, in the middle of Arkham Asylum, the last place Dawn was seen at… the last place the Joker was seen at… and still nothing. The inmates that had had contact with either one were all singing the same song. So much for the Age of Information. Right now, Willow was pretty sure she's give her left arm for just a drop of something useful on either Dawn or Joker.
"Can you search for Dawn? Like… Zatanna mentioned something once… a way to use magic to find someone," Robin suggested.
"You mean scrying? No, I can't," Willow groaned. "When Giles hid her from us to send us here—seriously, there are a lot of these long stories—he hid both her and the spell on Dawn's body. So, as long as it remains there, she's hidden from me, and oh my goddess, I can just scry for the damn clown!"
Faces instantly lit up. Why, oh, why had she not thought of this before? Dawn was hidden from her… but the Joker wasn't! She reached out, grabbing Batman excitedly by both arms.
"I need a sturdy ceramic bowl, clear water, and something personally connected with the Joker. I have the scrying crystal I need in the car."
"Easily obtained," Batman said, breaking the witch's grip on him.
"Then let's hustle, folks!" Willow said, turning and sprinting toward the exit.
Face firmly planted in her palm, Dawn groaned. She did not even care about the gun that the Joker seemed absolutely keen on keeping on her now. She lifted her head, watching the clown pace back and forth in front of her, his free hand cupping his pointy chin in thought.
"What if you conjure a giant cream pie that we drop on Cane as soon as we lure him out in the open? Only, instead of being an actual pie, it's a round piece of cement with whipped cream on top!"
The Joker started cackling, and thus Dawn was once again reminded of her newest problem. For the better part of the last twenty minutes, she had been trying to make some sort of plan of attack with the Joker in case Cane found them. Which, as far as Dawn was concerned was entirely possible. After all, he had found her several times before it seemed. However, instead of coming up with anything practical, the Joker was busy insisting that his vengeance be funny.
"I can't conjure a cement block with whipped cream on it!" Dawn growled.
"What about a giant rubber chicken filled with bricks?" the maniac inquired.
"Seriously, what is wrong with you? I mean, for real. No. I can't."
"You can conjure a rose, but not a cement block? Why don't I drop you with Pammy then."
"That would be wonderful."
"Aww, Dawnie," Joker said, now clutching his heart. "That hurts my feelings."
Dawn's face went directly back into her palm, after a good bit of wincing. After all, her wounds were still fairly fresh and beginning to heal. She hurt. A lot. And on top of that, she knew her time had to be running out. She had no idea what condition her sister was in, she now had two maniacs to deal with, and she still didn't know if Giles had sent up any sort of alarm. Her time with the Joker was limited, though this was not a fact that they were speaking of. And all of plans took time… or she just couldn't do them.
And she was not stupid. She knew that the longer she was with him, the more dangerous it was. After all, she could see it in his crazy green eyes. She was going to die if she stayed with him. She was nothing but something that could be used as a weapon. He was interested in only what she could do for him, either as a magic-user or as the Key. A malleable poison… he thought she had not seen him muttering those words, over and over, considering their meaning. But she had. She knew that hanging over her head was an axe just waiting to fall. She needed to speed things up. Come up with a plan for Cane that Joker could agree to, and then she would work from there.
"Hey, what if I look up a spell to trap Cane. Then you could do whatever you wanted to him," she offered.
Joker turned, wagging a gloved finger at her. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. And how would I know that you wouldn't use it against moi?"
Good point. He didn't know. But Dawn shrugged it off as Joker went back to his pacing. She watched him for a moment, like a spectator at a tennis match, only her eyes moving. Finally, he sighed, almost defeated, and turned toward the very old television set that Joker had dug out of the junk here. He had also managed to get it plugged up and attached rabbit ears to them. He gave the dial on the front a turn, and it switched on with ease.
"Let's see if our little gas attack got the press's attention," he said gleefully.
Dawn had to admit that she was a little curious about this herself. As it turned out, the news was indeed covering the scene. They were reporting that no bodies had been found within the factory. Joker snapped his fingers in a sweeping motion downwards.
"Well, one can hope," he said, and Dawn nodded in agreement.
"In other news," the unseen, female anchor was saying, "there is still no news concerning the kidnap of the Arkham orderly, Dawn Winters, by notorious criminal, The Joker."
Dawn blinked, making herself sit a little straighter—which hurt more than she let on. A shot of Arkham Asylum was being shown as the anchorwoman was catching up anyone who might just now be joining in on Dawn's little escapade. Suddenly, her eyes widened. She couldn't give two shakes about the asylum as it stood right now. However, it seemed to be a live feed as the front doors were clearly visible, and they were opening. Shooting out at them at speeds that Dawn didn't know she was even capable of was the Key's favorite red-head, Willow. If Willow was here, in Gotham… well, that only meant one thing. There were others. And they were looking for her.
Dawn's heart swelled, joy filling her from head to toe. She could make it through this. She saw the light at the end of the tunnel now. Willow and Giles and whoever was coming for her, and all she had to do was stall the Joker into thinking that revenge was her number one goal. Surely that would be easy enough.
But then, another figure was shown, clearly following Willow out of Arkham. Even the anchorwoman took notice, whispering "is that?" into the mic. And Dawn saw a mischievous spark in the crazed clown's eyes. As high as her hopes had soared for that one moment, they now came crashing back down to the hard earth.
"Lookie, lookie," Joker chuckled. "Look whose attention you've caught, m'dear."
Dawn's eyes were already glued to the television set as Willow, followed by the unmistakable Batman, re-entered the Asylum. Joker stood, shutting off the television. He turned on heel to grin down at Dawn. And the look of it made her shudder.
"Now I've got a Bat coming after my shiny Key as well… oh, the fun."
His laughter was building in both volume and length, and Dawn knew it was all but over. She was nothing but bait for him. Bait, magician, or poison. Nothing but a means to an end. She should have expected nothing more, but hope was a tricky thing.
For a minute there, she thought she had seen a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel. But it turned out to be nothing but a passing reflection.
Under the guise of Alisha, William Cane entered Arkham. He (She) threw the doors shut behind him, his (her) growl hidden amongst the crash the doors sent sounding through the halls. Tramping through the long corridors, he (she) had only one destination. And he (she) was pissed.
The gas the Joker had left for him (her) back at the factory had done little. Though a potent concoction, he (she) was a master poison maker. An antidote took no time. But it took enough to ensure that the clown and the brat made a clean getaway. Now Cane had to find them all over again.
Turning down hall after hall, he (she) finally came to a storage room. Reaching for his (her) card key, he (she) paused. The door to the room was already ajar. He (she) pushed the door open, only to find a thin, red-haired woman standing with the Dark Knight himself. And held between them was one of the Joker's many purple suits. Cane knew the red-head. Every magic user did. She was the slayer's best friend, and one of her most powerful soldiers, Willow Rosenberg.
"Oh, um, hi," Willow said. "We need to borrow this, okay?"
Alisha laughed, waving her hand nonchalantly.
"No problem. I'm sure my workers went through the proper channels and everything. I was just making sure this wasn't left open for no reason."
Batman said nothing, only brushing past her as he exited. Willow muttered some word of thanks as she followed in the Dark Knight's wake. Once they were gone, he (she) rolled his (her) eyes. He (she) approached the rack of clothes and removed another of Joker's suits.
Willow was most certainly conducting a scrying spell. Now, Cane just had to beat her to it, and claim his (her) Key. He (she) would teleport to the warehouse where he (she) had last seen Joker, the easier to assure that no one would interrupt his scrying. And then, the clown and the girl would be his (hers).
End Notes: I hope that was worth the wait. The end of this fic is within my sight, I swear. Again, I say, weird rotational. But, please review! They are much appreciated.
Last chapter's title was inspired by "Where the Lines Overlap" by Paramore.