Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to "Batman" or any of its characters, nor do I own any rights to the comics or the films. I own nothing save for any original characters I have created.
A/N: This was inspired by a prompt I received on Tumblr regarding group therapy in Arkham Asylum with various members of the Rogues Gallery.
"Alright everybody, quiet, please—quiet—now, let's begin..."
Group therapy at Arkham Asylum was by no means a simple, uneventful affair. The hour-long sessions required no less than ten guards, each one equipped with an electric baton and a canister of mace, and covered head to toe in riot gear. No sharp objects were allowed in the room—no pencils, no pens. Crayons had previously been approved for use in art therapy, but after Joker drove a waxy stick of Tickle Me Pink into a therapist's eye the privilege had been revoked.
Finger-painting had been the next logical step and had lasted for precisely two sessions before Joker—who else—began to paint obscene drawings of Batman onto the walls with his fingertips, depicting the Dark Knight's demise in a variety of imaginative and colorful ways. The therapist at the time had encouraged this behavior, assuring the guards that the act was not one of defiance, but of expression and an eagerness to work through very complex and very hurt feelings. Joker had turned his bottom lip downwards into an innocent pout, solemnly nodding along as the therapist prattled on and on about creating a nurturing environment full of acceptance and caring and if that meant a little paint on the walls, so be it.
He'd been so caught up in his spiel that he barely had time to react before Joker grabbed him by his hair, jerked his head backwards, and poured a cup of blue paint down his throat. Harley Quinn had thought that was a real hoot, and jumped up and down enthusiastically as the man sputtered beneath his blue liquid mask; she was then struck with the idea to celebrate by scooping up a handful of paint and flinging it towards a guard rushing to the therapist's aid, hitting him square in the face and causing him to stumble head-first onto the floor. The guard suffered a concussion, the therapist never stepped foot in Arkham again, and art therapy was banned.
Now Joker only attended individual therapy sessions, and always in a straightjacket, but it was still quite some time before the warden was able to find a therapist willing to preside over a group setting, and the self-suggested candidate was a rather...unorthodox choice.
Dr. Jonathan Crane had approached the warden with his offer to administrate group therapy sessions on several occasions, and each time the warden had declined. True, Crane was a highly-gifted, experienced psychiatrist and more than qualified for the position—unfortunately, he had also been imprisoned in Arkham for the past two years. But the warden was getting desperate—asylum regulations mandated a certain amount of group therapy hours per patient—and with no other potential candidate in sight, he had little choice but to appoint Crane. At best, it could be considered a progressive form of rehabilitation; at worst, an unprecedented disaster.
"Good afternoon," Crane began, sitting in his chair with much pride and dignity (never mind that he was still wearing his handcuffs), "today I thought we'd discuss a common source of adversity in our lives, and how we can overcome that obstacle in order to become healthier individuals." He smirked. "Now, does anyone know who or what I may be referring to? Raise your hands to answer, please."
Instantly several hands shot into the air; Crane tapped a finger against his chin in a gesture of exaggerated contemplation before pointing towards the Ventriloquist. "Arnold, why don't you tell us?"
"M-me?" The timid man gulped. "Well—"
"Hey, I was da one with my hand in da air!" The nasal voice of Scarface interrupted Wesker, who visibly recoiled from the puppet in his lap. It was true—the dummy's stubby, wooden arm had been pointed upwards—but Crane had purposefully selected Wesker, knowing it would cause strife between the man's personalities.
"I think we should give Mr. Wesker the chance to speak, Scarface," Crane said reproachfully. "Arnold, please continue. You're among friends."
Wesker tugged at his jumpsuit collar nervously. "P-perhaps you are referring to...to..."
"Gatman, you moron! He's talking about Gatman!" Scarface's hand swung towards Wesker's face, connecting with his glasses and sending them flying across the room.
"Gentleman, please," Crane said, gleeful at the mayhem unfolding before him, "lets try to control ourselves. However, Mr. Scarface is correct—Batman is the common denominator I was referring to. Would anyone like to discuss how Batman makes them feel?" His eyes traveled across the room, assessing the patients for potential chaos.
"Miss Isley, would you like to share with us?"
Poison Ivy narrowed her eyes. "No, I would not," she replied icily. "What is there to say that hasn't been said already?"
Crane shrugged. "That's perfectly fine with me, Miss Isley—I just thought that perhaps you had some strong feelings regarding Batman's treatment of your poor, helpless plants during the events that led to your current incarceration here in Arkham."
Ivy bit her dark green lip in anger; she had been in the process of robbing a charity ball, enjoying the sight of Gotham's rich and famous dangling precariously from large, slithering vines when Batman arrived and sprayed her precious, innocent babies with industrial-strength weed killer.
Crane smiled as Ivy seethed, her green-tinged skin flushing a darker shade with rage. "Another time, then," he said gently. He turned to survey the room again; he'd set the beginnings of his trap, and all it would take was a couple of more steps to spring it.
And speaking of twos...
"Mr. Dent, I believe we would all be very interested in hearing your thoughts."
Two-Face flipped his coin through the air before catching it and slapping it against the back of his heavily-scarred hand. Evidently, the coin spoke in Crane's favor; Two-Face straightened in his chair before glaring at Crane with an appraising stare and asking "what do you wanna know, Doc?".
"Whatever you're comfortable sharing with us, Harvey," Crane said innocently. "We could discuss the many times Batman has foiled your hard work and brought you to Arkham, or we could discuss his rather annoying propensity for predicting your plans due to your fondness of the number two, or..." Crane snapped his fingers suddenly, as if a thought had just occurred to him. "I know! Let's talk about how he failed to shield you from the accident that resulted in your current, er, condition."
Two-Face gritted his exposed teeth, anger etched into both sides of his damaged face. He gripped the sides of his chair so hard that the metal began to bend and fold underneath his hands, and Crane knew that he had hit a nerve. "I'm so sorry Harvey, I had no idea that was such a sore subject for you," Crane said with false, exaggerated concern. "Will you ever forgive me?"
Before Dent could reply he had turned away to search for his next subject. Just one more spark, he thought, and the whole place will ignite.
Eeny, meeny, miny...mo!
"Miss Quinn! I'm particularly interested in your thoughts, given your...impressive background in psychiatry."
Harley rolled her eyes. "Eh, I gave that up years ago, Jonny, and you should too! That stuff is so boring." She spoke the last word with obvious disdain, as if the very taste of it in her mouth disgusted her.
"Fair enough, Harley—may I call you Harley?"
She shrugged noncommittally, clearly uninterested in the conversation.
"Well, Harley, why don't you tell me what you think about Batman? After all, when I learned what he did to our good friend Mr. Joker the last time he brought him here I was absolutely horrified, I can only imagine how you—"
"What was that?" Harley's voice was flat, completely devoid of her usually bubbly edge.
"Oh, you mean you don't know?" Crane brought a hand to his chest, as if scandalized. "Oh, that's right, the warden has been keeping you two separate—a most unwise decision, if you ask me, although I suppose I shouldn't speak poorly of my employer—"
"What's wrong with Mistah J?"
"Well, I certainly don't want to upset you...perhaps it's best if we move on to another—"
"Spit it out, Scarecrow!" Harley's blue eyes were wide and crazed, her hands balled into angry fists and her chin wet with spittle. Out of the corner of his eye Crane could see the inmates seated next to her begin to slowly scoot their chairs away, fearful of her next move.
"Oh, if you insist—it seems that Batman was unnecessarily brutish with poor Joker; I overhead some of the attendees say that he broke his nose, one of his ribs, and knocked out three teeth." Crane clucked his tongue disapprovingly. "Shame, and he had such a wonderful smile..."
He hung his head sadly and brought a hand to his mouth to disguise the smile that threatened to creep across his lips; when he trusted himself not to laugh, he looked back up at Harley. Her face was contorted with rage, her teeth gnashing, and a small trickle of blood flowed down each of her wrists from where her nails had pierced the skin of her palms.
"Last I heard, he was still in the infirmary ward," Crane offered politely.
It was the exact push Harley needed to make her fly from her seat and bolt towards the door, her handcuffs rattling frantically as she ran. A guard dove towards her, but she evaded him with a quick jump; he crashed onto the floor, knocking over a few chairs and their occupants. Another guard had more success with an electric baton, prodding her in the leg and causing her to yelp in pain before falling into a crumpled heap.
"Stupid beast!" Ivy yelled angrily, jumping onto the offending guard's back and wrapping her cuffs around his neck. One of his partners struggled to restrain the green woman as she roughly dug the chains into the guard's throat, twisting as his face reddened. Unable to separate her from the man's back, he was forced to spray her with mace; unfortunately, this resulted in her victim also inhaling a cloud of the gas, and he gasped as tears streamed down his face. The spray had little to no effect on Ivy, who turned her attention toward the now-trembling guard clutching the mace canister.
"Ladies, please," Crane protested halfheartedly, enormously pleased with his results.
A swift kick from Ivy sent a guard flying into Two-Face, who responded by pummeling his fist into the hapless man's face. A fine spray of blood decorated the front of Dent's orange Arkham jumpsuit, and Crane wondered absentmindedly if he would continue to beat the guard or consult his coin first. Regrettably, Dent was incapacitated by an electric baton before Crane received the answer to his question, much to his chagrin.
The other inmates began to swarm the guards, as if spurred by the actions of their fellow patients; soon the room was filled with the melody of pain-ridden shrieks, the crunch of breaking bones, and the frantic voices of the guards as they shouted into their radios. Throughout the chaos Crane remained in his seat, covering his nose and mouth with his hands to shield them from the mace gas permeating the room. He observed the pandemonium through watering eyes, barely able to make out the tiny figure of Scarface dancing through the air underneath Wesker's outstretched arm, nearly as ecstatic as he.
He briefly considered making a run for it; it was possible that he would be able to slip out of the room undetected—the guards were otherwise preoccupied—and he might be able to grab a set of keys off a fallen guard's belt. Ultimately he decided against it, choosing instead to remain seated and bask in the bedlam he had caused. After all, he'd come to realize that Arkham did have its charms, however hidden they may be. Perhaps he'd stick around a little longer and see what other delights the asylum could offer him—and what he could offer it.
And who knows—maybe he'd even get a chance to lead group therapy again.