Now the dark begins to rise
Save your breath, it’s far from over
Leave the lost and dead behind
Now’s your chance to run for cover
I don’t want to change the world,
I just want to leave it colder
Light the fuse and burn it up
Take the path that leads to nowhere
Watch the end through dying eyes
Now the dark is taking over
Show me where forever dies
Take the fall and run to heaven
All is lost again, but I’m not giving in
I will not bow, I will not break
I will shove the world away
I will not fall, I will not fade
I will take your breath away
And I’ll survive, paranoid
I have lost the will to change
And I am not proud, cold blooded fake
I will shove the world away
~ I Will Not Bow (Breaking Benjamin)
“Dr. Tanner said to stop it, freak.”
Joker sighed. “Dwight, is it? You had your fun, didn’t you – not so sorry I broke your finger anymore, hmm? This game is ‘Lady’s Choice’, boys.”
Grinning, enjoying how he shut the goon up, Nurse Alice reached out to pick at and toy with his hair.
“Doctor should’ve washed you again.”
“You like me dirty; it’s the clothes you object to.”
Her eyes narrowed. “It’s not about getting you off; it’s about my fun.”
“Of course it is. Bring your fun within reach, then.”
The Joker laughed with delight when she did, stepping right up to the table next to his hand. It was low, she was tall – with a bit of a stretch and strain, he crooked two fingers and slipped them across her wet flesh, wriggling them back and forth. The labia minora were slightly swollen and he assumed that was the good doctor’s fault.
She arched, thrusting her hips closer. “Get it, damn it,” she muttered, utterly uncaring if she was caught again.
“I’d rather suck it, pretty little cunt like that. Lift the skirt – lemme see it.”
Without hesitation, she grabbed the front of the white skirt and hauled it up to her belt. The third giant moved so he could watch with his buddies, none of them intending to stop him.
“Mmm, yes … the things I could do to that would be … criminal. You enjoyed Charlie’s lessons, didn’t you?”
“He didn’t yell enough, for me.”
Joker threatened real injury to his wrist in order to shove the fingers inside her. “Some of my best tricks would make you writhe. Ever been fucked while watching a man get cut up?”
“No…” The word was half moan.
She was easy to peak; with less restricted movements he could have made her come several times with just a hand – or a fist.
Cursing a blue streak when she came, she nearly stumbled away from his glistening fingers. A breath later, the door opened to admit Dr. Tanner, who was neither fooled nor amused.
“Haven’t learned yet, have you?”
“Just priming the pump, Doc – keeping it warm for you.”
“I’m authorizing a new course of treatment – electroconvulsive therapy.” With a thin smile, he clicked the pen he held. “Gentlemen, please take your places. George, if you would bring in the ECT machine.”
Creeping through his veins was a cold dread mingled with a lurid curiosity. Viciously controlling both, he kept his tone even, indifferent.
“So it’s a thiopental and succinylcholine cocktail, is it, with a lightning chaser?”
“No, it is not. You’ve proven you can achieve immunity to a surprising amount and variation of drugs; therefore, I will not be administering an anesthetic or muscle relaxant prior to the treatment.”
Mind racing, Joker fell silent and still, letting his senses draw in all the data possible in the room.
A cart brought in the machine, wires, and electrodes. The nurse’s breathing had gone short and sharp just at the thought of what was about to be done.
Flashes of information gleaned from many sources crowded in. Widespread pinpoint hemorrhages, scattered cell death – memory loss, adverse cognitive effects…
Before George wheeled the machine above his head, he caught the word ‘Mecta’ scrawled on it. Straps were tightened and as he opened his mouth to speak, William inserted a thick square of rubber between his teeth.
When the apparatus was in place, the electrodes fixed to both sides of his head, Joker closed his eyes. Muscle by muscle, he strove to force his body to relax, to mime the state of lax haze that the drugs they were skipping should have given him.
Controlling his thoughts was not as simple. Calm was out of reach, so he settled for revenge.
Each of you, he promised, will get back a measure of what you do – multiplied by how many blades I have when opportunity knocks.
As a final defense in a defenseless plight, he allowed his mind to sink into the dark depths of the dream the bat had woken him from.
Like Sleeping Beauty, hmm? he mused, trying to ignore the strange twist of unfamiliar fear in his gut. Maybe he’ll wake me with a kiss. Maybe I’ll remember who I am…
As if he knew his patient was attempting to escape him in his own mind, Dr. Tanner began to speak. The voice, as if lecturing his staff, was outside data – the very thing he knew the Joker couldn’t ever stop receiving.
“This is a bilateral electrode placement and we are utilizing sine-wave stimuli to induce a therapeutic clonic seizure. The patient should lose consciousness, with convulsions, for approximately fifteen seconds – longer, if I deem it warranted for his … benefit.”
The voice of William spoke, fascinated and eager: “What about those drugs he wanted?”
“The use of both anesthesia and muscle relaxants is universally recommended in the administration of ECT, but given this patient’s history, I’ve determined it would be minimally effective at best. This is called an unmodified ECT and it’s exactly what this monster deserves.”
“Are you ready to start?” Alice asked, coming closer for a better look.
“Ready, yes – but first, we must determine his seizure threshold. I’m reasonably sure he’s male, but having no idea of his age, I shall have to try different doses and durations.”
“Can this kill him?” she whispered, lust riding her words.
“Hopefully not – I’m prescribing a full round of treatments and I’d prefer it if he survived to experience all thirteen.”
Sinking, sinking into the blackness, he retreated from the voices. They dimmed, but couldn’t be blocked out. The first current jolted his control, the next shattered it. Denied the ability to scream, he focused on the brutal sound of the guttural moans that escaped his throat.
His hands fisted, but then the fingers of his right hand uncurled just enough to mime holding a blade. Desperate to preserve an abruptly precarious sense of self, he played out depraved acts of mutilation in his thoughts, each image in the mind’s eye chased by stabbing lightning pain.
When his body erupted in convulsions, muscles straining and thrashing against the straps, the blood-drenched fantasies dimmed. For one instant, he stood in the eye of the storm – and in the next, the midnight sun in his mind exploded in fire.
~ ~ ~
Joker snapped awake internally without moving or giving any outward indication of his returned awareness. He had been wet and cold, but cold, at least, had faded. Something, of a rather strangely familiar texture, was wrapped around him. What it was had been a mystery with his eyes closed, until he realized what – or whom – he was sitting on.
The slightest movement brought pain, a wince on his face giving him away. Moving had also told him that he was naked – again.
With a sigh, he muttered, “We simply must stop meeting like this, Bats.”
“Joker! What did they do?”
What indeed? He saw his fingers, the wrist aching, slipping free of a wet cunt – after that, it all got misty and blurred, leading straight into black. “A session, the nurse … I … I don’t know…”
“I’ve read what Dr. Wilson put into your file – how you draw in everything around you, to the point of emotional sensory overload at times; he called it ‘involuntary’. How could you not know?”
“Good question – believe me, precious, I’m vastly more interested in the answer than you are but still coming up empty.” Looking at the odd black material that was wrapped around his body, he smiled as he recognized the cape. “You care – I’m touched.”
“I found you naked and wet on the floor – no clothes, no blanket. I’ve sent the guard after both.”
“In the meantime, you’ve opted to cuddle? He’s going to wonder if he sees us like this.”
He started to move, to struggle, disliking the feeling of being confined by another body – but the pain that shot through every muscle made him gasp and collapse.
“Be still,” the bat whispered, a strange note of real worry in the voice.
“Let me go, damn it!”
“You’ll catch your death; be still, I said. You’re in pain, worse than just bruises. Where are you injured, do you know? It could be something internal.”
“Broken heart. If I had any idea of where, do you think I’d be an utter blank on how?”
Trying to calm down, he forced himself to sink back into the bat’s awkward embrace. He was lying across his armored lap, his back against the barrel chest. Twisting his torso, hissing at the pain, he laid his head on the chest instead.
“Sitting on a dirty stone floor canoodling with your nemesis. What will all the other heroes think?”
“You really don’t know what happened, do you?”
“No,” he murmured. “Bit upsetting that, don’t mind admitting it.”
“What’s the last thing you do remember?”
“Fingering the nurse.” He chuckled when he glanced up and saw the shock in the dark eyes, the frown of the lips, but it didn’t last – it hurt to laugh. “Daily session … the nurse, the goon trio…” Wincing again, he snuggled into the hard chest plates and stopped trying to sort out how to rise. “Devil below, it all hurts…”
“I should get you out of here, but I can’t. No one at Blackgate Penitentiary would be safe with you there, and I can’t sit on you forever to make you behave.”
“Mmm, too bad – sounds like fun.” The dark fingers brushed at his hair, surprising him. “Petting me, now? Don’t start something I’m too fucked up to join in on, hmm?”
“I’m not petting you – there’s a mark here, at your temple.”
“You’re supposed to kiss me awake – did you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“No … that’s … I was thinking that. Like Sleeping Beauty – to wake me… Fuck!” Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, he tried not to tremble but couldn’t seem to stop it. “Blank, gone … nothing. I don’t like that, Batty. Not. One. Bit.” A light knock on the glass made him twitch.
“Open it,” the bat ordered.
“I found clothes, sir – what he should’ve had … and the blanket.”
“Can you find out what happened?”
“I can ask around, pretend I’m after gossip, but Dr. Tanner considers his sessions private – patient-doctor privilege.”
Joker fell into studying the guard. He knew most of them but this one was newer and had never shouted through the glass to taunt or brag. Tilting his head slightly, his eyes narrowed as they stared.
A long pause, the man’s breathing short and uneven – he was nervous. “Does he … want anything? Like, water? Food?”
“I’ll be right back.” The door clunked shut.
“I’m gonna recommend this fine establishment to all my friends.”
“Technically, you did, giving me their secrets.”
“Those aren’t friends.”
“Clothes – let’s get you in them.”
“Oh, just roll me in the blanket and put me on the bunk; it all hurts too much for anything else.”
The cape was opened. “Your injuries are worse – those look like strap marks.”
“Force is sexy but not always. Oogle me later, hmm? It’s cold, yes? Pantomime of the Pieta, Michelangelo would be so proud. You make a dower Virgin Mary and I’ve misplaced my perizoma along with my halo, alas.” He gasped when the bat moved, biting his lip to avoid crying out as he was lifted in his arms. “Gently, please or I may throw up on you.”
The process of replacing cape with blanket and being lowered to the bunk was excruciating.
“Don’t wanna lie down,” he protested. “Can’t drink lying down, only gonna move once, damn it.”
“Just sit still, then. The clothes are folded under the bunk when you want them.”
“Where are you going?” Joker concentrated on breathing until the pain lessened, watching as the bat began to pace.
“I can stay another hour, maybe two.”
“Sit – you’re making me dizzy; besides, I need my leaning post back.”
Batman moved to the door when it was knocked on again and took a paper cup of water from the guard before the door closed. Sitting next to him, he started to hand him the cup. Seeing how the Joker’s hand shook, he held it to his lips instead.
He drank. It soothed the fire in his throat, but didn’t make his stomach any happier.
“Whatever the hell they did, I resent it; we should be grappling by now, lost in the throes of yummy lust.”
Holding the cup ready, the bat frowned. “That isn’t why I’m here.”
“Bullshit. Why else would you come back?”
“You keep threatening to find ways to harm people if I don’t; since you proved you can in spite of being locked up, here I am.”
“You’re a terrible liar, do you know that?”
“I don’t make a practice of it, but I’m not lying.”
Lifting a trembling hand to his lips, he sneered. “Precious, you tense every time I touch you but you keep letting me touch you. Admit it – you came back looking to get your wick wet.”
“Are you capable of speaking without vulgarities?”
“Yeah, but what’s the fun in that?”
Joker took the cup from him and downed the rest of the water, ignoring his stomach’s protest. Crushing the cup, he pitched it across the room before turning to face the bat. He stroked his fingertips over those frowning lips, smiling when the man leaned into it just a fraction.
“Kiss me, you broody Pteropus.”
“So be gentle.” When the bat didn’t move, Joker sighed. “You know, you’re far too ugly to play hard to get – just a bit of friendly advice.”
“Why … do you want that?”
“Want?” One eyebrow arched up at him.
The frown curled lower. “Why do you need it?”
Joker thought about dissembling but didn’t see the point. “It’s this place – solitary; I’m starving for sensory input and getting a fraction of what the world normally throws at me is hard to get used to. Oh, there was this whole notion of luring you in with carnal temptations, forbidden fruit, all that – but then you turned out to be worth the go and it became a means to its own end, I suppose.”
“Now and then, you make no sense.”
“Nature of the beast. You’re a worthwhile fuck, precious – at least I’m assuming, since you balked last time. Not many worth the bother, truth be told. It’s been a long time, you see – a man gets lonely.”
“Never mind the nurse, the orderly…”
“They don’t count.”
Placing both hands on either side of the bat’s face, he tried to draw him in. The movement opened the blanket, making him shudder. The bat reached to retrieve the edge of it and Joker stole a kiss. He expected the man to pull away but when he didn’t, Joker moved one hand to his armored neck and deepened the kiss.
As it broke, he murmured against the parted lips, “There are many places to hide in this pile of rocks, secure as this cell and worse – if you were serious about moving me out of Dr. Tanner’s clutches.”
“I can’t risk letting you out.”
“You’d let him kill me? He’s aiming to, I can always tell – had enough practice with that look on other mugs. If he does, I’m gonna call it your fault.”
“If he kills you, you’ll blame me? You are crazy.”
Smiling, Joker flicked out his tongue and licked the bat’s lips, nipping at them with his teeth.
“The more people think that, the more I get away with. Mmm, Batty … wish I was up to rolling over for you.”
That made him pull back. “I’m not … like that.”
“Your words say ‘no, no’ but your mouth and dick keep saying yesss. So damn stuck on labels. It’s about need, lust – and opportunity, of course. You’re starving, can’t turn to anyone else, I assume; I’m willing and you have opportunity. None of this slaps a label on you, Lamb Chop; it just is.”
~ ~ ~
He tensed at the touch on his shoulder and curled into a tighter fetal ball on the stone floor.
“Don’t,” he whispered, his mind refusing to make sense of the gibberish it was pulling in from brutalized senses.
Time was a pile of stones laid in an intricate pattern that made no sense – because some of the stones were missing.
“Put ‘em back,” he said to no one.
“Joker? Put what back? Can you sit up?”
The hands tried to move him and he screamed, shrill and short. “Stop it. No. No, no, no, I don’t … can’t… Ssstop it!”
“Hush, I won’t… You’re safe.”
“No, not … never … never again…”
The humming voice buzzed with anger but it was turning away from him. “What the hell is going on here? He’s worse than last night!”
“I don’t know –”
Air moved, cold on his bare skin. “Don’t.”
“I won’t touch you. Do you know where you are?”
“Stones. Pile of stones. It’s time, but they keep taking ‘em away. Gonna tilt, gonna fall. Fall … fallfallfaaallll. Stop it!”
“No one is hurting you. Stop … what?”
“Stop breathing so loud.”
“Joker … do you know who I am?”
He opened his eyes slowly, peering over the arms he’d flung around his face. A massive shadow crouched beside him. Beyond it, a man in uniform waited, his face a mask of fear. The shadow’s face was a terrifying black mask.
Black mask … Black Mask? No – not this one. He took a deep breath, let it go. “You’re … the Batman – ‘scourge of the underworld’ himself. Why are you here?”
The mass of darkness rose, turning on the man. “Out.”
A door shut and the shadow sank to the stone beside him again.
“Joker, listen … I’ve found Dr. Arkham. He was in Boston and someone shot him – no idea how or why. He knows you’re here now. When he’s released from the hospital up there, he’ll come back. Commissioner Gordon has started the process of legally making Dr. Tanner stop ‘treating’ you. We’ll get him turned over to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology for a full investigation, too.”
“Time … no time…”
“It might not be quick, I know.” The man made a noise like a creature growling before it sprang. “Here, lie quiet but let me cover you up, all right? You’re freezing.”
“Don’t! Don’t touch me… Don’t…”
~ ~ ~
The room was bright and the bat was angry. All of it wore him out. The pain was worse and the gaps in his memory were wider.
He’d watched the shadow move like a wrathful pendulum until sense limped back to his mind enough to recognize the Batman. Over an uncounted span of either minutes or years, he began to remember things – words, acts; the taste of the man’s cum in his mouth. Yet he didn’t know anything in between that and this, not since the morning.
Mornings … how many? No clue. Morning ritual: the goon squad arrives with a gurney and takes me to the treatment room. The treatment … isn’t in my head anymore. Cold and weary, he shivered. “Hello, Bats.”
Crooking an eyebrow at him hurt. “Obviously.”
“You know who I am?”
“I think we’ve established that I’ve got no idea who you are, precious. As for what you are, permit me to elaborate. You are an excessively melodramatic weirdo in an armored suit with funny bat ears – did I miss anything? Oh, yes – crime fighting job, moonlighting as my recalcitrant fuck buddy. Blow job buddy, anyway. Devil, I hurt. What the hell?”
“You’ve been out of your head for two nights. This is the first time you’ve sounded either sane – by your standards – or really awake since then. Last night, all you did was scream. Still no memory of what happened, what they’re doing to you?”
“What is that?”
“I’ve no idea; it just popped in there. Why do I keep waking up naked in a blanket on the floor? If you aren’t taking advantage of me, which would be a shame, then … any ideas?”
“They must be pitching you back in here after cleaning you up – you’re usually still wet when I’ve gotten here. It seems they don’t think you need clothes or any way to keep warm in this icebox. The guard keeps finding the blankets for you.”
“Touching. Odds are they’re hoping I’ll catch pneumonia and keel over; think of all the taxpayer cash they’d save.”
He struggled up into a slouch, hissing at the pain in muscles and joints. The blanket fell to pool around his back and in his lap. Joker drew his knees up beneath it and encircled them loosely with aching arms.
Registering the bat’s stare, he frowned and asked, “What?”
“You’re not… I’m not used to seeing you without … something on your face.”
Wilting, Joker let his forehead drop to his knees. The posture hurt his ribs and neck, but he didn’t care. “Don’t suppose you’d return the favor? Fair’s fair, right?”
“Wrong. You’ve never tried to find out who I am, in spite of your complaints about identities; why start now?”
“That you know of. Ask your lapdog.” Sighing, he slumped farther into himself, hiding his naked face. “I guess I don’t care – knowing would take all the mystery outta our relationship, after all.”
“You remember … those things … now?”
“‘Those things’?” he repeated, mocking his reluctant tone. Joker raised his head just enough to lift a hard stare up at the bat. “Thiiings … like licking your cock? Sucking the taste outta your mouth? Vividly. The rest, not so much.”
Typically, he sidestepped the crude words, ignoring them. At least he had the guts to return the stare.
“I will figure this mess out – find a way to stop them from doing this to you.”
Shaking his head, Joker let it sink down onto his knees again. “Just find Dr. Arkham – that’s all I need. He … knows me.”
“I did find him; you were out of your head before when I tried to tell you. He was shot in Boston; Commissioner Gordon said he claimed he was mugged. It’ll be a week or so before he can return to his practice here.”
“At this rate, in a week or so … I’ll be dead.”
~ ~ ~
A long moan tore its way out of his throat. Thoughts spinning, melting, he panted – desperate to get free.
“Run … can’t run, can’t stop…” Something held him down and it hurt. Struggling, shocked that he could scream, he howled until he choked. “Voices, breathing, voices, breathing – they won’t stop! Stop, ssstop, stop!”
The voice, the hum over his head: “Damn it, get the nurse, now!” Metal clang, rhythmic steps, fast, receding. “Joker? Listen to me, it’s over – no one is hurting you now.”
“Stop,” he whispered, “make it stop.”
“It’s stopped, it’s over. What was it? Can you remember? Try…”
Metal again, and then there were three.
“You!” The voice was female, shocked and afraid.
“Helen, he’s here to try and help the patient. Can you help us with him?”
“Why do you care about him?”
Writhing, struggling, he tried to bite but something hard held his head back.
“A human with rights is being harmed, tortured somehow, by your Dr. Tanner; that’s why I care. What do you know and can you help at all?”
“That’s dayshift and Dr. Tanner doesn’t share information about anything. I’m only here at night for medical emergencies.”
Giving up on biting, he began to thrash. The pain choked him but he ignored it. Sucking in a ragged breath, he screamed again.
“This qualifies, damn it!”
“Do you want me to sedate him?”
“He’s going to hurt himself. Yes! Do it!”
“I’ll be right back.”
“I’m getting him out of here.”
“Sir, no, you can’t! He’s a psychotic killer –”
“I’m not setting him free! It’ll be days to a week before we can force that monster to stop legally – he knows we’re trying, so he’s working to kill him before we succeed. Joker has to be moved.”
“I don’t know.”
“I do.” The female had returned. Her voice was cold, without the endless hunger of the other one – the one who liked to watch.
“Give that to him first – what is it?”
The dry-wet hot feel of alcohol on skin drove him wild. Whipping and thrashing, he screamed when hard fingers forced him to be still. The feel of a needle, push of the poison…
“No! Fucking cunt! I’ll cut you – kill you! Deaddeaddead!” Excruciating pain assaulted him, everywhere, and then the taste of blood burst in his mouth.
“It should act fast, just hold him still!”
Creeping in burning veins, it stole what was left. Siren song, it called up the breathing dark only to dash it on the rocks.
Rocks … stones … missing… “Give ‘em back,” he whispered, swallowing blood and choking on it. “Give ‘em … back…”
It all began to dim, but the voices sifted through the growing dark, settling on the sightless bottom of his mind.
“It’s nothing, he’s only bitten his tongue.”
“Talk. Where can I take him? I want him safe from Dr. Tanner. Dr. Arkham is coming back to take over his case, but I have to get him away from that monster now!”
“I know a place, down in the catacombs.”
“Sounds bad … is bad – but it’s a place the founder, the original Dr. Arkham, built for special patients they couldn’t easily control. It makes this wing look like Disneyland. I’ll take you there and bring supplies.”
“That doesn’t sound safe – for him.”
“If you have the key to it, no one else can get in; he certainly won’t be able to get out.”
“Where is the key?”
“Down there, hidden – but I know where. The current Dr. Arkham had me assist him with a patient there last year, when the assigned nurse was killed.”
“Why are you so willing to do this?”
The humming voice had turned harder. It was the voice that held him … not the straps, not the wires.
“The Joker is the most dangerous psychopath I know and he’s already got it in for me. Let’s just say I’ve decided to change his mind. Between him and Dr. Tanner, I could run far enough to get away from the doctor. Besides, if Dr. Arkham is coming back, he’ll want to help him – and he can deal with Dr. Tanner just fine, too, trust me. He’s done a poor job of running this place in the director’s absence and disciplinary action around here is … harsh.”
“Wires … burning…”
“Joker? Are you remembering something?”
“He’s gone, will be for a few hours.”
“He kept saying ‘Mecta’ before. What does that mean?”
A gasp of breath. “That’s what he’s doing to him.”
Growling, the voice answered, “What? Tell me!”
“Electroshock – they call it Electroconvulsive Therapy, now. Mecta is one of the manufacturers of the ECT machines. Dr. Tanner must be giving him shock treatments.”
The cold dropped and he shuddered. The voice that held him thrummed, hurting him as it tightened, like wires. “He’s going to regret that.”
Author’s Note: Created in marble by Michelangelo (1475-1564), the Pieta depicts the Virgin Mary holding her son, Jesus Christ, in her arms. A perizoma is the linen cloth wrap Jesus is wearing. A Pteropus is a type of very large bat.
Electroconvulsive Therapy is a nasty and very dangerous practice that is unfortunately still used on millions today, though generally with a patient’s consent. It often ruins lives by destroying memories and eroding cognitive function. Dr. Tanner’s use of bilateral electrode placement, using largely outdated sine-wave stimuli, combined with longer pulses of current and no anesthesia or muscle relaxants is nothing short of torture and the most dangerous way to administer an ECT. Basically, he’s stacking the deck for boiling the Joker’s brain inside his skull. At this point, he’s had five out of an intended thirteen shock treatments. Joker doesn’t remember the treatments due to amnesia, both retrograde (loss of events occurring before the treatment) and anterograde (loss of events occurring after the treatment). The vast majority of these effects are short lived, with some memories returning in hours, days, or weeks, although some may be gone forever.
The Joker may not be technically insane; according to canon, in the graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, a doctor said he might be a new form of “super sanity”, like a leap in evolution of the human mind. She also explained his sensory overload problem, which I’ve borrowed for this story. I imagine for a man with a hyperactive sensory intake, let alone a man used to surviving on his wits, shock treatment inducing memory loss and the danger of adverse cognitive effects would be quite horrific.Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic, anongrimm-blog.tumblr.com)