AN: This is a sequel to my fic The Doctors and the Nurses They Adore Me So. It's not absolutely necessary to have read the first fic to understand this one, and I'll provide a brief recap in the opening chapter, but I would recommend reading the first. A short summary: The Joker went to Arkham after the events of TDK and became a target of abuse by the orderlies, which cumulated when one orderly killed a dog he cared for and the Joker retaliated by killing the orderly and breaking out, bringing Jonathan Crane with him.
To those who have read TDATNTAMS, I'm sorry this sequel took so long to get started! The transition to summer took much longer than it should have, and completely sapped my writing inspiration/motivation.
Note: This is a story about an angry, bloodthirsty Joker out for revenge. It will be violent and unpleasant, and if that isn't your cup of tea, this won't be something you'll enjoy.
His hands were bleeding.
The Joker laid the roses on the ground. There were a dozen in all, white as bone. "White as snow" might have been the normal—the boring—expression, and among the type of degenerates he attracted, "white as cocaine" would be more fitting, but Gilda would have appreciated bone more. Dogs, last the Joker had checked, did not use cocaine—or didn't live to tell the tale if they managed to get into it—and while a house pet with a nice warm bed to return to might have the time of its life romping around a snowy yard, the stuff was less fun and more potentially fatal to those without a dog house over their heads. No, Gilda would have preferred bone.
He should have gotten her a bone while she was still alive.
The Joker pulled his hands away, blood squishing between his skin and the lining of the glove. There wasn't enough to cause concern, not yet. It wouldn't be a hindrance unless he became lightheaded or heard angelic voices compelling him to go toward the bright light, and given that the cuts, while plentiful, were all about as shallow as Arkham Asylum's interest in its patients' recovery, that wasn't about to happen any time soon. For damage inflicted by holding shards of glass in his hands and sawing through an orderly's fingers with them, it was so mild it was almost humorous. Almost. It just figured. Murdering Hadley had been completely unsatisfying on an emotional level, so why should it have provided any pleasure through pain?
I should have killed him slower.
There was no sense in dwelling on it now. No sense in dwelling on it at all; his anger and hatred were akin to his own personal raincloud, and the more he contained it within, the worse the downpour became. The only solution was to dissipate the force by directing it onto others, which had the added benefit of providing entertainment along with the catharsis. People would die until he was satisfied. That was a given.
But not at the moment. Here and now, the only thing that mattered was paying his last respects. That, and not getting caught.
He'd left the taser with Jonathan Crane, and he'd left the scarecrow with his back alley doctor friends.
Looking back, that hadn't been his wisest decision. At the time, he'd been distracted. Between the escape, the showy but painfully unsatisfying murder, stowing away in Hugo Strange's car and beating the doctor senseless against the dashboard, and convincing his seamstress to let him back into her apartment despite the time he'd tried to run her fingers through her sewing machine, it had been easy to forget that he hadn't reclaimed Sparky from Jonathan. Come to think of it, Jonny might well have left the taser in the car. The Joker hadn't seen it in the apartment, unless Jonathan had been storing it in a pocket.
And if that was the case, he'd hopefully remembered to turn it off first. Not that electrocution wasn't hilarious, but if the scarecrow sparked the straw in his ass or crotch, the Joker wanted to be there to see it.
"I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye while you were still here."
Where was Gilda now? What did the asylum do with puppies that had been brutally murdered by orderlies to get back at the patients? The Joker imagined they'd called Animal Control, or whoever dealt with road kill in the city. But then what? Was the body cremated? Buried? Used by veterinary students or ground up into pet food? Wherever the body was, even if he could track it down, it didn't matter. That wasn't Gilda, not anymore. Just a reminder of what she had been and what Hadley had done.
Yes, the Joker definitely should have killed him slower.
"You were the only thing that kept me sane, Gilda, you know that?" Christ on a bike, that sounded sappy. It was like something from a made-for-TV movie, and the only thing those were good for was giving him an excuse to empty one of his guns into the television. But saccharine as it was, it was true. Gilda was—had been—the only one in the asylum who hadn't been analyzing him, beating him, correcting his grammar, or committing any other number of grievous, punishable by death offenses. She was the only one who hadn't scorned or shrank back from him and she was the one spot of color in his painfully monochrome life in Arkham. Until Hadley—an orderly, an ordinary person who shouldn't have had the ability to inflict this kind of pain—had strangled her because beating the Joker didn't produce the desired effect and the bastard wanted to twist the knife as deep as he could.
It didn't matter how slowly the Joker had killed him; nothing could have atoned for this loss.
"I wanted to be able to take you with me when I left. I should have done it sooner." Life in a shack populated with criminals and mental patients wasn't ideal, but it was miles ahead of being homeless and getting one square meal a day from an orderly threatened into feeding her. At least with the Joker's henchmen he could make it perfectly, lethally clear that his dog was off limits to anyone who wanted to avoid being disemboweled. "I never thought anyone would be sick enough to turn this onto you. I'm sorry."
Apologizing wasn't something he made a habit of. He couldn't remember the last time the words had left his lips without being tinged with sarcasm or outright deceit. It ought to feel strange now, but it didn't. Gilda was worthy of his apology, as she was worthy of the dozen roses.
This time, he'd been recognized when he'd gone to collect the flowers.
Well, in the interests of accuracy, the Joker wasn't sure if he'd been recognized or if the cashier at The Stalk Market had just decided that a man with drying blood on his face was bad news. The Chelsea grin and the purple suit would indicate the former, but that might be putting more faith in the observational skills of the Gothamites than the citizens deserved. Whatever the reason for the panic, the woman behind the counter hadn't liked what she'd seen. His first trip to a florist's shop earlier in the evening when he'd retrieved Abigail's apology rose likely would have gone the same if the man operating the cash register hadn't been geriatric and developing cataracts. This time, he hadn't been so lucky and found himself on the receiving end of a shotgun.
Of course, shotguns tended to be less effective when their wielders didn't know what the hell they were doing, and as the nice lady trying to shoot him didn't realize there was a safety directly in front of the trigger guard, it had been depressingly easy to wrestle it out of her hands and make it the first item in his arsenal. The Joker did feel a twinge of regret at stealing Gilda's memorial roses—more because it seemed disrespectful than because it was illegal—but to his credit, he had tried to make an excuse about a sudden death in the family and forgetting his wallet before the screaming and attempted shooting started, and that was the best he could do in such circumstances. Besides, Gilda must have broken into a few garbage cans in her time on the streets. She would understand.
She would understand that he'd had to take the woman's car as well. He couldn't head back to Arkham on foot, after all. Not after his unpainted face had been broadcast nationally during his trial. Between that and the purple suit, someone was bound to recognize him and he didn't feel much like fighting his way through to pay his respects. Not tonight. He wasn't sure Gilda would agree with knocking the woman out and leaving her unconscious on the floor, but it was out of respect for the dog that he hadn't just killed her to tie up a loose end.
"You were my only real friend here, puppy." The Joker patted the ground as though he were stroking her fur. As though he had a real grave to say goodbye at, instead of a patch of grass by the edge of the asylum yard, where he'd found her body. "And I don't make friends easily."
The police had arrived by the time he returned with the roses.
It was to be expected. Incompetent as Arkham Asylum was at everything, from curing patients to protecting them from abuse to keeping puppies from being strangled, even they must have noticed that two orderlies were missing and two more were lying dead in the security room. Maybe Linda had woken up and managed to free herself from her bindings enough to call for help. Maybe Ruthie had dropped by to make sure the Joker wasn't trying to kill himself and raised the alarm. The method of discovery or what the police had discovered so far wasn't important. What mattered is that they were there, that some of Gotham's finest had been positioned outside of the asylum, and that he'd have to make his way past them to say his goodbyes.
Luckily for him, the woman at the flower shop had all the equipment at hand to survive in Gotham City, even if she didn't have the brains to use it correctly. In a city like this, everyone with an IQ over that of a turnip—at least, those who weren't living in the Palisades—followed the Boy Scout motto and came prepared. Especially in the Narrows. He'd checked the trunk before he'd taken off. There was a prepaid cell phone in the glove compartment. There was a crowbar and a gallon of water, in case of carjacking or kidnapping and subsequent imprisonment in the trunk. There was a jack and spare tire as well and, most importantly, a gas can. And the car was equipped with a cigarette lighter.
The Joker wasn't sure what he'd done to get on Lady Luck's good side, but it must have been spectacular to keep him in her good graces for all these years.
From there it had been a simple exercise in fire setting. Make sure the car is a far enough distance away that you'll be able to set up the situation without detection, but not far enough for the flames to be missed, douse the interior and exterior with gasoline, introduce the lighter, and run for cover. Of course, the flames weren't as impressive as in the movies, especially since this was only a fire, not an explosion, but aesthetics took a back seat to function tonight. The police ran to investigate, the shotgun took care of them—and the orderly at the gate booth—before they could radio for help, and their weapons were added to his arsenal.
Which left him open to make his farewell, and armed in case anyone else should mosey on out. The Joker considered that highly unlikely. They were probably running inside like chickens with their heads cut off in search of his handy dandy hiding place—after all, no one but Strange could confirm that he'd left the premises, and Strange was currently unconscious and probably concussed—or for Zachary, Hadley, and Jonny. And that left him with all the time he needed.
Now if only he knew what to say.
"I could bring you Hadley's femur or something," he offered. Hadley deserved it. It wasn't as if Gilda would be there to gnaw on it, but if anyone deserved to have his grave remains desecrated and used as spiritual puppy chow, it was Hadley. But no, Gilda wouldn't have wanted that. Starved as she was when they first met, she'd never nipped at the Joker or even at the orderlies trying to chase her away. She'd barked almost as often as she'd breathed, but never in a bad-natured way. Just to say "Hey, I'm a puppy and I want to be your best friend forever!" She wouldn't have wanted to chew on a person, no matter how evil that person was.
She probably wouldn't want the Joker inflicting pain on the other orderlies involved in the nightly beatings, or anyone else who crossed his path either, but he couldn't please everyone all the time.
"I hope the last few weeks of your life were happy. Before…Hadley." She'd still been dirty and infected with lice and fleas and probably worms after Zachary started feeding her, but at least she wasn't emaciated. And really, lice and fleas weren't that bad. He knew from experience. "And I hope you didn't suffer for long."
He didn't say goodbye. Partly because he wasn't sure what to say—he couldn't imagine telling her he'd tortured a man to avenge her would make her tail wag—but mostly because his way out had presented itself.
Steven. The Joker didn't know if that was his last name or his first name. Either way, it was irrelevant. What was relevant was that he was one of the orderlies that made nightly visits to the Joker's cell and made sure that the clown's ribs were on a close, personal basis with their batons. Even more relevant than that was that the man was currently slipping out a side door, presumably having realized that the most dangerous patient was out of the box and out for revenge, and rushing for the parking lot as though he had a clown at his heels.
He did. He just hadn't noticed yet.
Technically, the Joker didn't need to stow away in a car again. He had the officers' keys and the idea of cruising the city aimlessly in a police car was tempting. Playing with the siren, making some false reports over the radio, maybe even conducting a few citizen's arrests. It would be fun on any other night. But not now. Now, he was pissed. Too pissed to enjoy it, too pissed to enjoy anything but tearing someone's throat open. Besides, eventually someone would radio in demanding to know why he'd left his post, and in a mood like this, his skill in deception and putting up with boring conversations was about on par with Han Solo's. He'd rather not have Gotham's finest on his back all night.
Besides, he'd managed to reopen the cuts on his hands when he'd taken the shotgun, and before that, he'd exposed the open wounds to Hadley's blood. The Joker had no way of knowing how many pathogens—if any—were contained there, but given that he'd gotten so up close and personal in the man's fluids that he'd had to intubate the orderly to keep him from choking on his own gore, chances were he'd caught something. It had only occurred to the Joker that he should have had Adrian disinfect the cuts after he'd left the apartment. It was in his best interest not to grab onto a steering wheel and irritate the wounds further. And that wasn't even taking into account all the hard labor he'd put in tearing Hadley apart with broken glass, and the emotional sucker punch he'd been subjected to with Gilda's murder. No, he deserved a break today, so Stephen would have to serve as his chauffeur.
The Joker pulled a Glock pistol he'd scavenged from the cops off of his belt and pressed it into Stephen's back. The other hand covered the orderly's mouth before he could scream.
"You're gonna undo your belt. You're gonna drop your radio, and your nightstick, and everything else, and you're not gonna fight with me while you do, got it?" He pressed the barrel harder into the man's back, and Steven's struggles ceased. "Do anything else with your hands, or try to scream, and you'll bleed from places you didn't know had blood vessels."
And just like that the belt was off. It occurred to the Joker that if he ever needed a second job, he ought to look into directing strip shows. He lowered his hand from Stephen's mouth. "Got anything else?"
"Oh God—p-please don't—"
"It's a yes or no question, unless you, uh, want me to fill your spine with lead."
"I—I have a k-knife—"
"Correction." The Joker held out his free hand in Steven's line of sight, beckoning. "I have a knife."
A shaking hand disappeared into a pocket. It reemerged a moment later and dropped the knife into the Joker's gloved palm. A buck knife, not particularly elegant or high quality, but it looked sharp enough, and blades were the instruments he'd missed most of all in his captivity. "That'll do, Steve. That'll do."
"You can call me Joker."
He could feel the blood boiling and bubbling in his veins. The Joker imagined that under the gloves, his cuts were steaming. Steven wasn't sorry. He didn't know what sorry was. Not yet. He was getting an inkling now, but he wouldn't fully understand it until his own knife was embedded in his skin. The Joker gave a loud, exaggerated yawn. "Sorry. When I get bored, I fall asleep. I get those jerks though, where, uh, your muscles tighten up before you're all the way out? My fingers, especially." He pushed again with the Glock. "Those twitch like crazy. Sure would be a shame if—"
"I'm sorry!" It wasn't quite a shout. Just enough of a distinction to allow Steven to keep his spine. "I'll do wh-whatever you w-w-want!"
"Good. Because otherwise, my finger might slip."
It wasn't his finger that slipped, but it his whole hand, and it wasn't on the trigger. Rather, it was on the knife that just happened to slice across Steven's throat, and it didn't slip until the ride was over. But to give credit where credit was due, Steven did manage to be interesting all the way up until his car was safely parked in his garage.
Well, to be truthful, he'd been boring for the last five minutes before they reached Steven's house, but the Joker imagined his wife would appreciate knowing he'd gotten home in one piece.
AN: The sword of Damocles refers to a Greek legend in which a courtier by the name of Damocles asked a tyrant what his life was like. The tyrant responded by letting Damocles experience a day with all of the luxuries and comforts of royalty—but with a sword hanging by over his head by just a horse's hair. "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," and all that. Colloquially, it can refer to either unsecure power, or simply a situation where you know the other shoe is about to drop.
It's also a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show: www. youtube. com/ watch?v=x7AoGZ7_HOs (For those who haven't seen the musical, the audio track contains a character having a yelling fit in the background that won't make any sense to you). To those who read TDATNTAMS and are wondering why I didn't do a music quote at the top, I've decided not to do that this time around, because I pretty much exhausted my knowledge of music with the last fic.
There's a flower shop in Seattle called "The Stalk Market." I just had to steal a name that great.
In A New Hope, when Han and Luke have infiltrated the Death Star to rescue Leia, there's a bit where Han tries to pretend to be an Imperial soldier over the radio, but ends up failing at bluffing and just shooting the communicator, calling it a "boring conversation anyway": www. youtube. com/ watch?v=uqyLA74gmPQ
"That'll do, [pig], that'll do" is a line from Babe.