Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Batman the Animated Series. Written for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: Inspired greatly by the graphic novel Slayer Interrupted, but it doesn't follow those comics. So, it's not necessary for you to have read them. Setting for BtVS is pre-series. Written for a prompt by Patricia de Lioncourt. This is a one-shot.
"See the Man With the Winning Smile"
Being committed to a psych ward by her own parents wasn't that great of a shock to Buffy Summers. After all, she was a slayer of vampires. Demons, too—which was totally not covered by the job description. It sounded crazy, especially in context, that is to say, not in a horror novel but from a teen's diary. So, no, Buffy couldn't blame her parents or little sister for thinking she was bonkers after reading what she'd been up to lately.
She thought she was crazy, too. But, insane or not, that didn't make the monsters any less real.
The night the nice men in white coats came to get her, she was covered in blue demon goo. Wait—not entirely accurate. There were no white coats. There was just a man in a suit with an overly-polite-pediatrician voice who was nice enough to not comment on what he must have believed to be an accident of the raspberry Jell-O variety.
Buffy didn't feel like giving her mom or dad or Dawn a hug when she left. These days, she didn't feel like much of anything. She figured that was probably the reason her parents were putting her through a "rehabilitation program" in the first place. Well, that and the vampire-talk.
She was quickly given a pill to help her travel better. Buffy didn't realize sitting quietly, staring out a window could be improved upon. Whatever was in the pill left her head swimming and the colors of the world merging.
Her heavy lids blinked, watching the transport van pass the city limits. The flat strip of land looked familiar…An airport? Maybe. Only it was tiny, the type private planes landed at—oh, and, also, not so much a rehabilitation center.
"Where…?" Her tongue felt too thick.
When the doors opened, someone with a British accent said, "Up the dosage." She felt a pinch in her arm.
Something was wrong, Buffy knew, but she couldn't work up the will to care before she collapsed.
Victor Lichtermann sneered at the young woman before she was wheeled away. It wasn't necessary that he be there, but he was of a mind that, if one wanted a job done, one should do it oneself.
Satisfied that his role was finished, he stepped back to the passenger's side of his rental and slid inside, eyes glued on the small plane about to take off. He regretted that his own funds were being used for part of the transport; it was the only tie to prove his involvement. Not that anyone would be looking too closely. He'd make sure.
"She's unworthy of her birthright."
The driver, a large man with a matching accent, dabbed sweat off of his brow with a napkin. "And you wish to prove it the Council?"
Victor snorted. "No, Hamilton. I wish to get her killed."
"This girl is incompetent, untrained, and a mental case. We can't sit about, waiting for her eighteenth birthday. There is great evil stirring in the world, and we require a mighty weapon to defeat it." Victor glared at the other man. "I apologize," he spat, "if this is not as eloquent as the Cruciamentum, but it is just as necessary to weed out the weak links."
Hamilton frowned. "And that weapon, you believe it to be the Potential you've been training?"
"I have no doubt Rebecca will be the next Chosen, but that is beside the point…" His smirk said otherwise. "The point is, this girl's life must be forfeit for the greater good."
"But, if the rest of the Council—"
"They won't find out, Hamilton. Until it's too late. They're all too busy on their retreat, trying to determine which of us poor saps gets stuck with that…undeserving little girl as their slayer. By the time they return, she will be dead, and a new, more capable Potential will have taken her place. No one will question the mix-up, I assure you."
Hamilton shook his head. "Why are you so confident she won't make it back?"
"A drugged Slayer put in the most dangerous asylum in the most dangerous city outside of a Hellmouth? She'll be buried before the week is out. I'll see to it."
So not a rehab center. Also? Not a normal psych ward.
Buffy had been grasping at consciousness since the plane landed, and the sounds of a city had tugged at her mind, demanding attention, but she'd kept her eyes closed, hoping not to confirm her new reality.
When she sneaked a peek, she saw the transport pass beneath a sign that announced in iron letters, "Arkham Asylum."
Something wasn't right here. This wasn't the place where the nice man without a white coat had said she'd be going. This wasn't where her parents had been told she'd be.
But she kept her head down, her mouth shut, and hoped, maybe, if she didn't acknowledge her life as it was, it might go away.
The common room.
After walking down those dark, foreboding stone walls—who the heck designed a hospital to look like this? Dr. Frankenstein?—and taking her first few "orientation" days in a tiny room with a tiny cot and a tiny bathroom area, the common room was a breath of fresh air. It had a nice red sofa—nice was pushing it, but still—and a small table and chairs, with a game board set up for entertainment. And, oh, a television—Buffy would never admit the sight of the TV made her heart do a little flip. Numb, depressed, and resigned to her fate? Yes. Dead? Not yet.
Also weirdly normal? A potted plant. Yup. Right there in the middle of the room. There was currently a woman stroking it.
Speaking of a woman, there were only three other people in the small room, and two guards armed with rifles on either side of the entry door. Apparently, the other patients, herself included, weren't trusted to socialize in very large groups. This wasn't exactly the type of activity room she'd seen in movies about insane asylums, but, hey, Arkham wasn't exactly a normal asylum. They took their crazy seriously, and always with a side of nuts.
How could she tell? Well, so far, she'd heard rumors of men talking to dummies, evil clowns, and giant crocodile guys—Buffy was hoping that guy wasn't demonic, because she was certain that decapitating your fellow inmate was considered a bad thing.
All in all, though, something about the place was oddly…comforting.
Buffy knew, from a logical standpoint, this should be terrifying. The meds the orderlies were shoving down her throat were keeping her weaker than usual, she was apparently in an asylum for extremely dangerous criminals, and now she was being released amongst the other crazies for rec time. And, yet, she couldn't quite let loose of the conclusion: she was normal. Here, in this place, she was the most normal person ever, Slayer history included.
"Get out of the light, new girl."
The woman's voice was grumpy. Buffy hopped aside, realizing she was creating a shadow over the potted plant and its lover, err, female friend. The red head gave her a once-over, fingers still caressing the dark leaves.
Buffy raised a brow. "Ohh…" She'd heard about this one. "You're Ivy, right?"
Ivy's gaze narrowed in on her, but the woman on the other end of the sofa slid down, crashing against Ivy playfully, a huge grin stretched across her round-cheeked face.
"Hiya, I'm Harley!" she said, her voice loud and the accent strange. East coast, Buffy reminded herself—because this wasn't her first clue that she was nowhere near her home in Cali. The other woman had thick blond hair pulled into pigtails and was smacking bubble gum. There was something oddly sweet and innocent about her; no way was Buffy trusting her.
"You must be Buffy." She held out a hand, a devilish twinkle in her blue eyes. "Put 'er there, pal!"
Ivy huffed, going back to her plant, and Buffy took a deep breath. Here's to making new friends.
The medicine had made her weak, but it hadn't affected her enhanced senses. She could still hear the conversation taking place outside the office.
Buffy sunk down in the chair, trying to stare at the empty desk in front of her, instead of cocking her head to look at the door, where a security guard with a weapon stood, watching her as if she might suddenly sprout knives and use him for target practice. She figured working in a place like this must make people paranoid…
"Dr. Bartholomew, this request for her transfer was ridiculous—even with her violent history, there's no reason she should be placed here instead of Williams Medical Center—"
Buffy raised a brow. "Violent history?" she muttered. Then she remembered that she wasn't supposed to be able to hear the doctors and zipped her lips.
"I know, Joan. It seems odd to me, too, but the paperwork checks out. I think—"
"She's barely more than a child!"
Buffy had to give her that—no one else in this place was a teenage girl. Of course, none of the criminals were at all alike, either. She could see the pamphlet now—"Commit your loved ones to Arkham Asylum, where we pride ourselves on being the most diverse looney bin in existence."
"I agree completely, and I assure you that I'm looking into an alternate means of treatment, but for now, just continue what you're doing."
Buffy straightened when she heard the door open. Dr. Leland strode in, looking flushed, despite her dark skin. She gave Buffy a strained smile.
"Hello, Buffy. Are we having a good day?"
Buffy shrugged. "Okay I guess, but Mr. Tetch is back to calling me Alice again…"
Buffy kinda liked Dr. Leland. Big emphasis on the "kinda". It wasn't that she was a particularly bad woman, but Buffy had been a bit peevedwhen the good doctor asked her about her last violent outburst, which had apparently happened when she went on a mall rampaged and stabbed multiple people.
"Funny, you'd think I'd remember something like that," Buffy muttered, then tossed her head back against the wall.
Weren't those things supposed to be padded? Or was that just for when you were considered a threat to yourself? Buffy was pretty sure the straightjacket she was currently wearing wasn't for her own protection but for punishment for not talking about those multiple cases of attempted murder. In her defense, it was hard to describe something in detail when you weren't there—she'd said as much and then decided it would be more fun to talk about real things. Like vampires. Hence the cool jacket accessory.
Buffy pushed herself off the wall so she could stare at the glass at the newcomer being dropped off. "Huh," she breathed. "You know you're in crazy town when the guy in the bat costume is the one handpicking the citizens…"
"You never heard of Batsy? That's craaaazy!" This wasn't the first time Harley had made the announcement. Buffy tilted her head so that the other woman would have a better angle to work with—she'd been determined to put Buffy's hair up in pigtails, too. "My Mista' J is the Bat's arch-nemesis," Harley said proudly.
Buffy had also heard of "Mista' J" a few times, too. Scary clown guy? Apparently, that was him. Harley's "love muffin." She'd been here for a week, and she hadn't met the guy yet; she didn't look forward to it.
"Nope, never heard of him," Buffy confirmed. "But, does he seriously wear that outfit when he's fighting crime?"
Harley nodded sagely, opening her mouth to continue when she suddenly sucked in a breath and let out a squeal of excitement, jerking Buffy's head to the side in the process. Buffy eased herself free and turned around to find Harley clapping her hands together.
Buffy frowned. So much for not meeting scary clown guy.
Two guards marched beside him, gesturing him into the room, "Twenty minutes," one of them announced.
Buffy could tell by the way Harley jumped up that the clown fan-girl was about to hug her Puddin' to death when the guards reached forward, pulling her away.
"Your activity time's up, Quinn," the tallest announced, ushering her with his weapon. "You'll share the common room in tomorrow's shift."
Harley pouted and let her head hang in disappointment.
"Better luck next time, Harl," the Joker called.
Buffy almost felt bad for her. Until she realized that, with Harley being marched back to her room, Buffy was now left alone with the Joker. Which was odd, as usually there were at least four inmates in the common room at a time.
Buffy slid up off the floor and onto the sofa, watching the clown turn the channel on the tv with a chirped, "oops."
When she didn't comment, he frowned, which looked utterly strange on a face meant to be smiling. Buffy swallowed hard, but stayed in place. Something about this situation was rubbing her the wrong way.
"What, no complaints?" he asked. "Why, you're no fun at all!"
"That's what they put me in her for—my lack of fun-having," Buffy said, her eyes drifting back to the guard.
That's when she realized what was tweaking her senses. Normally, there were guards on either side. Today, there was one guard—inside the room—and, past the window in the door, she couldn't see the usual security.
Buffy blinked. Seriously?The highest profiled baddy of the bunch was just locked inside the room with fresh meat and the guards were all taking a smoke break? She narrowed her eyes, watching the remaining officer. He was pale, sweating, his hands shaking around the base of his rifle.
Buffy recognized the expression on the man's face: guilt.
And suddenly, it made sense why the guard would look that way. This was a set-up. Her body tensed in anticipation of a fight—Dr. Leland had lowered her dosage, and Buffy had been able to feel the strength returning to her, but she wasn't sure if it was enough…
The Joker grinned at her as the guard casually slipped past the door to stand outside the common room. The clown raised a white gloved hand, cupping his mouth for a stage whisper, "Boy, that guy isn't very good at his job, is he?"
Ten minutes later, the guard slipped back inside to the sound of laughter. Buffy was leaned forward, clutching her side, her body convulsing as the Joker took a bow in front of her.
"An underwear factory?" she gasped, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The Joker nodded, entirely pleased with himself. "Oh, yes, and there Batsy and his boy bird were, trapped in a giant box of boxer shorts, threatening me through heart-clad crotches…"
The Joker's laughter joined hers. After a few minutes, Buffy snorted and took a calming breath, slowly turning her attention back to the door. Even though her smile was still in place, her eyes had hardened.
The guard was even paler, licking his lips like might die of thirst.
"Take a little break?" Buffy asked him.
"Why, you'd think he expected us to get into some sort of…troublewhile he was, wouldn't you?" the Joker asked, his voice teasing. If Buffy had been on the receiving end of that jab, she would have shivered, but, as it were, his terrifying smile made hers widen in response.
"You mean, he didn't expect us to be on our best behavior?" Buffy gasped in mock surprise. "Perish the thought!"
The Joker chuckled and plopped down on the couch, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Why, officer," he said, blinking up at him through his lashes, "you didn't think I'd harm this dear, sweet girl, did you?"
Buffy tapped her finger against her chin, musing, "Say, Mr. Joker—you'd know the answer to this question…What do you think the kind of people who'd want to kill a teenage girl would do to someone hired to do the job for them?"
The guard made a move forward, but the door to the room opened, the next two guards arriving to take Buffy back to her cell. Behind her, she could hear the Joker answering in a sing-song voice, "I know what I'ddo…"
Victor looked up from his desk and tried to hide his alarm when he saw two familiar men standing across the room. "I…" He frowned, recognizing the tallest of the two. "I didn't call for a Special Operations Team."
The other men smiled. "No, sir. You didn't. But, Mr. Travers would like a word with you…Something about Gotham City. Know anything about that, Mr. Lichtermann?
Buffy walked down the corridor, zipping her sweatshirt as she moved. It was good to be back in her own jeans instead of the white patients' uniform. Dr. Leland babbled on at her side about a paperwork mix-up, the potential for a lawsuit, and of course, she apologized. Again.
Buffy wasn't listening, her eyes on the glass front of the door they'd just passed, where the Joker was standing by his cot, shaking his head in disappointment.
"Not one of us, after all?" He pouted. "Too bad. We could have had such fun."
She smiled back, shrugging. "I'm not costume-gal," she noted.
And, it was the truth. In her world, she didn't need a costume to be a villain or a hero. Or a Slayer.