From The Inside
"Where's my makeup? Where's my face?
On the inside."
It was hard to imagine a worse situation, really. She hadn't wanted to work at the new Arkham building and certainly hadn't wanted any high profile cases, but someone had had to fill the void left by Crane. Doctor Quinzel just wasn't sure if she was the right choice. Still, she had a way with the loonies—she gave them a lot of freedoms and they gave her a lot less trouble for it. No point in being too strict, it only encouraged them to lash out. Her methods were strange and had stirred up a lot of controversy, but she'd gotten results and that was the important thing.
Didn't mean she had to enjoy her position though, especially when it brought her into close contact with someone like The Joker. He'd been transferred from the police unit just that morning and had been confounding his evaluators ever since. They couldn't get a handle on him, which wasn't surprising. Still, she had rather hoped they would have, because then she wouldn't have had to get involved. But, as things stood, they didn't understand him, which meant she was now trudging her merry way to the room he was being held in.
It was a bleak place, despite how new the room was. The walls were a sterile white and there was little furniture in the room, save for the table that was bolted to the drab tile floor and the four chairs that surrounded it. Usually, she preferred to hold meetings like this in her office, but until someone could figure out what was going on in The Joker's mind, that was simply out of the question.
Which was strange because, looking at him now, she would almost say it was a safe bet to let him out of the room. The makeup was gone, though the deep scars still pulled at his lips, and if it weren't for those scars or the glint in his eyes she would have said he looked like any other man. Dressed now in the Arkham uniform, without all those layers of clothes to hide underneath, she could tell that he was thin but muscular. He was also incredibly bored—it radiated from every line of his body. Seemed he'd grown tired of confounding everyone. Just well, really; what was the fun in interviewing one of the most interesting men in Gotham if he wouldn't give her the proper responses?
Doctor Quinzel carefully shut the door behind her, listening for the twin scrapes of the lock before she moved to sit down. She set her briefcase under her chair and took a minute to arrange her skirt as he assessed her. His eyes were dark and unreadable, though; whatever decision he came to, he kept it to himself. She turned to the guards when his gaze started to move elsewhere. "Un-cuff him," she commanded.
"What?" one of them stammered. It was amazing how one man could so thoroughly intimidate a group of armed and trained guards. "Why?"
She turned back to her new patient. "We're going to play a game—Chase The Joker. Have you heard of it?"
When he didn't answer she pulled a deck of cards out of her coat pocket. That drew a smile out of him—a dark, twisted smile, but that was progress, nonetheless. Still, he didn't say anything.
She glanced at the guards. "You can't very well expect the man to play when his hands are shackled together," she told them, carefully beginning to shuffle her deck. She was taking a huge risk by letting him partially free, but she'd always put her faith in the saying, 'No risk, no reward.'
The Joker's smile widened as he silently held his hands out to the nervously approaching guard. His cuffs came off in a flash, and though they must have chaffed his skin, he didn't rub at his wrists like most people would have. Instead, he slipped the deck out of her hands and began shuffling, his fingers moving expertly over the cards, fishing one of the jokers out to lay to the side. "Whoever's left with the joker in the end loses, right?" he finally spoke. His voice was unique: deep and shrill at the same time, as though he was purposefully making himself speak in a range outside what was normal for him. What would his real voice sound like, she wondered?
"That's right," she answered as he dealt the cards. "Up for some witty banter as we play," she asked as she straightened out her hand, "or are you the type that needs to concentrate?"
"What's your name?" he countered, letting her pick one of his cards.
She paired the card with a matching rank in her hand and discarded both of them. "Doctor Harleen Quinzel," she answered, a little surprised that she hadn't introduced herself already—that wasn't like her at all, but then this wasn't really a normal case. "I'm head of Arkham these days—temporarily, I hope."
"Not a fan of the Asylum?" he asked, reaching for one of her cards, quickly discarding it with one of his own. "The prestige too much to handle?" his words were mocking and his smile grew.
"More like the crazies are too much to handle," Harleen snorted. "No offense." Her second turn and she immediately drew the joker from his hand—that didn't bode well.
"None taken," he shrugged. "It's practically an epidemic in Gotham." His eyes didn't stray from the card they both knew was the joker.
Nervously, she shuffled her cards around; he was a better player than she had thought he would be. "So what do you do? Besides the obvious, I mean."
Joker finally raised his eyes from the game, pinning her with his dark gaze. His full concentration was disturbing, yet there was something playful about him. He took a while to answer, playing his turn slowly. "I disturb people, make them uncomfortable." He began to rearrange his hand. "I like to show the people of Gotham that no matter how bad things have gotten, I can always take it a step further and no one, not even Batman, can save them from it."
"I said besides the obvious," she rolled her eyes, though listening to him speak was fascinating.
He laughed, and the sound was so manic it bordered on hysterical. "I think of bigger and better ways for things to explode."
"I don't think you're grasping the concept of obvious," Harleen replied, shuffling her hand again. She was starting to do that every turn now, but he always seemed to know where the joker was. "Tell me something I don't know."
"I helped drive Dent insane," he said offhandedly, "but that's not really an achievement."
She frowned. "Harvey Dent? The D.A.? I heard that he died in the hospital after he got caught in a fire or something."
"The Commissioner gives a great speech," he chuckled, "almost had me convinced. But, no, the truth is that Dent went out looking for some old-fashioned justice and came head to head with The Bat. Guess how that worked out for him?"
"You arranged that?" She could tell that the guards were becoming more nervous by the minute, but she ignored them. Right now there was nothing but her, The Joker, and their game.
"I don't arrange things," Joker replied with half a sneer. "I just gave him a gun and a little motivation, then stepped back and watched him fall like the rest of us." He discarded his selection; he'd barely kept any at all, which meant he was winning.
"The rest of us?" Harleen echoed. "You're assuming we're all crazy."
"We are," he nodded, his smile returning. "Some of us are just more obvious about it than others. All it takes is one good push, and today's average Joe ends up tomorrow's big villain."
"Can't argue with that," and she really couldn't; she'd seen it too many times to pretend it wasn't true. The only thing separating the inmates at Arkham from the people of Gotham was one extraordinarily bad day. "The human psyche is a delicate thing." She paused, biting at her lip; she didn't want to overdo it on the interviewing, lest he suddenly decide to go silent again, but she was making more progress than anyone had before. "So, other than making people discover their inner insanity, what do you do with your time?"
"Not a hell of a lot, Doc," he replied, turning his attention back to the game. "What about you… what do you do, aside from hope that your job is temporary?"
She hid a bemused smile. "You're not going to make this easy for me, are you?"
"I'm not that complicated of a man," The Joker chuckled lowly. "It's not my fault that you're all looking for something that isn't there."
"So you're completely without reason then?" she asked mockingly, raising a brow. "You just do things?
"Exactly," he answered. For a brief moment, his fingers brushed over hers and he almost took the joker from her hand, but his eyes slid back up to her own and he took out a queen instead. Humming a little, he discarded a pair, his dark gaze never leaving her. "Hobbies?" he prompted, obviously not in the mood to explain himself.
Harleen found his easy admittance surprising; she'd never met someone who claimed to do things just for the hell of it before—at least, not someone as high profile as The Joker. Still, she knew better than to press her luck right now; he obviously didn't want to talk about it, so she would save that conversation for later. "No hobbies," she replied after a minute. "I sink most of my time into the Asylum, making reforms and whatnot."
He mouthed 'whatnot' bemusedly, but didn't comment on how unprofessional it sounded. "Soft spot for the criminally insane?"
"Not particularly," she shook her head. "It's just that Arkham has never been an effective healing environment. A lot of the measures we use to subdue patients simply compound their problems. I think if we give them more freedom, we offer more room for improvement." She discarded her selection, but she still knew he was winning. "I mean, just look at us! If I had come in here with a paper test or a barrage of questions, you would have had me beating my head against the walls by now; instead, we're having a nice game and a perfectly civil conversation."
He made his selection slowly, his fingers ghosting over the joker once more only to pull out a different card entirely. "Does that mean I can have my face paint back?"
She was silent for a moment; she had the power to allow it, but should she? It wasn't like it would make much of a difference to anyone; they all knew who he was anyway. "You don't need the makeup to scare people, you know," she replied, still mulling the thought over.
"It's not about scaring people," The Joker shook his head. "It's about showing everyone what's really inside. The human mind is a dark place, Doc—few people know that better than someone like you." His black eyes glittered and he ran his free hand over his exposed face. "A lot of times, the mind looks very different from the man; when you really think about it, I'm just being honest."
Harleen gave him a small smile. "I'll think about it," she told him. "Personally, I see nothing wrong with a few indulgences."
"But?" he raised a brow.
Her smile turned rueful. "I'm already in trouble with the Board of Directors and a plethora of lawyers." She sighed heavily as she made her selection from his hand. "It doesn't seem to matter to any of them that I get results—they'd all rather see some suffering."
His hand curled around her wrist, making the guards edgy. "But you wouldn't, hm?" His thumb ran lightly over her vein. "You know why they worry, don't you?" His eyes were intense and he leaned forward, crowding her, but let go of her wrist before the guards could panic, and made his selection.
She shivered; she wasn't sure about his reasons for touching or crowding her, and that was disturbing—but not unpleasant. "They're worried that one day I'll come across an inmate I won't be able to say no to."
"They're worried that, one day, you're going to become one of us," he replied. "It's funny how they always let the madmen run the madhouse." He discarded his last pair, a sly smile curling his lips.
She was stuck with The Joker.
A/N: This was just a little oneshot I pulled out in an afternoon while listening to Alice Cooper. I kinda wanted to title it after Nurse Rosetta, since that's my favorite song on the album, but it didn't really fit… maybe next time. Anyway, like I said, this was just a oneshot, not connected to anything I've previously written.
Disclaimer: I do not own Joker, Harleen Quinzel, Arkham, or Gotham. Also, From The Inside is an Alice Cooper song from an album of the same name—not mine.