A/N: All anonymous reviews will be answered via my LiveJournal, a link to which can be found on my profile. Enjoy.
WARNING: This fanfic will include, but is not limited to: abuse, character death, mild language.
Overarching Disclaimer: I own nothing but the ideas and my little OC.
He was the talk of the asylum—the biggest laugh any of us lunatics had had since Crane had gone and flown the cuckoo's nest. He was the very thing we idolized, a god in our eyes, and we were drawn to him like moths to a flame.
Moths to a flame—we couldn't help ourselves, even though we knew he'd do us more harm than good.
I saw him as the guards walked him in. He had six escorts, one covering him from every angle. He seemed lucid enough, his head bent down and his eyes on the floor. He never made a single effort to escape, didn't even look up to get a good look at his surroundings. I thought he seemed bored, but then again what do I know?
He was headed for his own padded cell, I'm sure. I only saw him for a second or two, but I could see that his hair was soaked and that the greasepaint was dripping down his face—they must have shoved him in the showers before letting him anywhere near the rest of us. I had heard rumors that outside these whitewashed walls he had sported a purple suit, but in here he had been stripped of that, too. Instead, he wore the white scrubs characteristic of every Arkham Asylum inmate.
The thing that stood out to me—that stood out to everyone—was his scars. They spread from the corners of his lips like lightning bolts across a dark sky. They were bright, accented by that red paint, made sharper by the white and black makeup that paled the rest of his face in comparison. Even from our cells we could sense he was something special, unique, a different kind of crazy altogether.
The kind of magnetizing, "moth to a flame" crazy that we liked.
Before he came to Arkham, I don't think any of us realized just how much we craved someone like him. Before, we were all our own assorted kinds of crazy. But his kind of crazy took the cake, and we recognized that. We would be only too happy to let him tell us what to do, to have him order us around. After all, it was one thing for a warden to give us orders—a warden who was so superior to us, so much more sane and normal and better than we were. But that crazy, chaotic soul was the best of our kind, and we'd dive off Wayne Tower if he told us to.
I know I would have, anyway.
Days passed, then weeks. Every day he passed by my door on his way to an hour of solitary yard time. Believe it or not, even Gotham's most feared and reviled got yard time—if you could call that mausoleum of a room a "yard." It was an enormous room, white walled and stone floored, with high up windows made of iron bars and bulletproof glass. It was a "yard" for special cases and high profile solitary patients.
When I had first been admitted to Arkham, I had spent my "yard time" there, too. It was only after proving I wasn't all that much of a threat that I was finally admitted into the yard with the rest of the general population. But regardless of where I spent my free time, my cell was a lonely one found on solitary row—a long hall of padded cells, each a small living space barely fit for whatever one person was forced to reside in each.
Some days I peeked out to catch a glimpse of him, some days I didn't even bother. After a while I figured out he had a cell across the hall and four doors down from little old me. It wasn't all that hard. I just listened for the close of his cell door is all. Only took a week or two of really dedicated listening, but I figured it out. I mean, I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid.
The longer he stayed, the more rumors I heard about him. About what kind of trouble he'd caused in Gotham before his admission to Arkham, about how he'd given the Batman a run for his money. I heard that every day he spent his yard time sitting in the middle of the room, legs crossed, mouth shut, almost catatonic. In fact, I heard that if it weren't for what little conversation he had with his shrink, the staff would have taken him for a catatonic—he was so quiet, so reserved, never made a threat, never even made a move towards any of the workers, so well behaved, you would hardly think he'd ever caused an ounce of trouble in his life let alone been responsible for the deaths of all those people...
Speaking of shrinks, I heard that one of the feelgood doctors, Harleen Quinzel, was the one analyzing and treating him. Harleen Quinzel? Ha, now that was a laugh. We called her a feelgood doctor 'cause she didn't exactly make any progress with any of us patients—yeah, she asked a lot of questions, and sure, you could tell she was trying, but she was a bit of a rookie when it came to our kind of crazy, and we were the professionals.
And, hell, if we were professionals, then what did that make him? A freakin' doctor of crazy, that's what.
One day I saw the "doctor" walking back down the hall, on his way to his cell after his hour of yard time. I was feeling pretty good (my medication normally came round about the same time they took him out to the yard, so by the time he was back I was usually pretty high in the sky), and while most of the other patients were rattling their doors and shouting at him and the guards, an idea occurred to me.
When I was a kid, my twin brother and I used to talk to each other through the walls of our bedrooms. We might get in trouble and get sent to our rooms, or we might be made to go to bed early. But we were really close (I guess most twins are, but I wouldn't know a lot about "most" twins, I just know about us), and so after a while we thought we'd be clever and started teaching ourselves Morse code.
Now, I don't remember a whole lot of it, but that day a particular letter rang out in my head. I suppose it stuck out 'cause my brother's name started with that very same letter (funny little word, with all these coincidences and such, huh?), so it didn't take long to remember. Only a minute or two, but by the time I heard his cell door slam I had it in my head as clear as day. And once the noise of the others had died down and the guards had retreated to their posts outside the door at the end of the hall, I gave it a shot.
Dot. Dash. Dash. Dash.
The letter 'J.'
If you heard it, it would go something like: tap, a pause; a second tap, a longer pause; another tap, that same longer pause; a final tap.
The sounds were hollow, floating in and out of each cell as they traveled down the hall—the sound of my knuckles rapping against the metal door of my own little room. I held my breath for a moment or two, very much aware that I had literally stopped breathing in the hope that I would hear the faintest of replies. I thought it'd be awfully special to be the first patient to communicate with him—if nothing else, I'd have a story to tell out in the yard the next day. But, and I was sad to admit it, no return sound came. So I walked to my cot and plopped myself down, dissolving into a fit of giggles. What a stupid idea.
Then I heard it: the single, soft, hollow sound of a fist knocking against the metal cell door. And, although I couldn't be sure, I was almost certain it had come from across the hall, four doors down. And after a moment of breathless listening, the giggles took me over once more.
Dot. Dash. Dash. Dash.
Since I'd first tapped out the little message a few months had passed. I kept sending the very same letter about once every week or so. Every time I did there would be a brief pause, a moment of thought I guess, and then a soft knock in response.
That was it. He never looked at me as he passed my cell door, never tried to tap a longer message back. I couldn't even be sure if he knew it was me tapping out his letter. All I had, all I would ever get, was that single tap; a soft "hello" from across the hall.
It made me laugh every time. I bet he could hear me laughing, too. Some days I would just shake my head with a soft chuckle; other days the giggles that shook me were formed of full blown madness. Sometimes my fellow solitary inmates would yell at me to shut up. Once I laughed for so long that a guard came over and banged on my door, told me to "cool it or else."
Or else what?
There wasn't all that much left to threaten me with in here. I mean, I had been here for about a decade and a half, and I had seen it, witnessed it, felt it, taken it all. I knew just as well as anyone else that Arkham Asylum is not a happy home for the touched in the head. Guards can be cruel, doctors can be sadistic, and then we have to deal with whatever crazy kind of crazy is rattling around upstairs. Whatever happens in Arkham, stays in Arkham, except for those who escape, but nowadays they usually end up right back inside. And who in their right mind has the time to stop and listen to us, anyway?
After all, the B-man is probably our biggest fan, and he only takes the time to put us back in the hole we crawled out of before moving on to the next schizo or paranoid on his long list of who's who in the seedy underworld of Gotham City.
I used to think that, if I was good enough, I would get out of Arkham. I used to think that was all it would take—a little good behavior here, some sanity there, and I'd be as good as new and ready for the great outdoors. But as the years ticked by, I began to realize that I wasn't getting out. There was never gonna be an out for someone like me. 'Cause I should never have been here in the first place, and when you have problems like that it's best to just sweep 'em under the rug.
Never gonna be an out for... someone like me. An innocent, in the wrong place at the wrong time, a case of self defense, a lost cause, someone who shouldn't be out there squealing and talking and letting all the little secrets out of the bag.
Until, one day, on his way to his time in the solitary yard, something changed. His head was turned down like usual, his arms hanging limply at his sides with the cuffs binding them together. But as he passed my cell door, his scarred lips slowly parted and I heard him say,